Saturday, November 16, 2013

Finally remembering

There are some men who cannot forget their darkest times, who replay the misery and despair of those events over and over again as they lie on their beds, restlessly afraid that the shadows shall pursue them all the days of their life. But some men are of another kind, when they return to a pleasanter place, they would rather live as if there were no gloom behind them, and never had been. They never look back over their shoulders, and if you detect any nervousness or tentativeness about them, they will deny all knowledge or cause.

Such a man was the king’s cupbearer. Others in the king’s service might recall the time when he, along with the chief baker, was imprisoned, but he had made it very clear, within a few days, that he had no intention of ever talking about it, so they soon learned not to mention it to him. And, in truth, there was so much else to gossip about in Pharaoh’s palace, a new scandal every week at least, that it was soon forgotten in preference to far more recent and exciting things. And, apart from his immediate family, no one remembered the baker at all, who had been imprisoned at the same time and condemned to death instead. But the cupbearer was doubly careful not to offend again.

Two years passed, and never once did the cupbearer give a thought to that difficult time, or to that Hebrew in the prison whom he had promised to mention to Pharaoh. It was all swept away behind a wilful curtain of forgetfulness. Then, one night, Pharaoh had a dream, a very strange dream, about gaunt, ugly cows devouring fat cows, and fine heads of grain being swallowed up by ones that were meagre and scorched. Everyone was bewildered, and the wisest in the land could find no meaning in it. That was when the cupbearer remembered ...

He and the chief baker had been thrown into prison after angering Pharaoh, and they had both been terrified. Their very lives hung on the king’s whim, and who knew what would become of them? Life... death... rotting their lives away as forgotten men? Anything was possible! Their only solace was the Hebrew, Joseph, who attended them, a fellow prisoner like themselves, but given a lot of responsibility. He was a kind man, and as they were to discover, a man gifted with more-than-human wisdom and insight. For one night the cupbearer and the baker both dreamed potent dreams which they could not understand. But Joseph could, and as gently as he could, he explained to them that in three days time (which was Pharaoh’s birthday), the cupbearer would be restored to his position, and the baker’s life would end. And so it had come to pass, and Joseph had specifically asked him to mention his case to Pharaoh, since he was an innocent man wrongfully imprisoned. Until this moment the cupbearer had totally forgotten.

But now he remembered, and stepped forward, and spoke to Pharaoh, telling him about the young Hebrew he had met in prison, and how this man had the ability to interpret dreams. So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and listened to him, and because of this Egypt was saved from the famine which was to come.

Many years later, the cupbearer would reminisce about his own tiny, but so important part in saving Egypt from famine. But, alone on his bed, he sometimes wondered if the whole ordeal he went through, way back then, his imprisonment and strange dream, didn’t  all happen just so he could know about Joseph, and bring him to Pharaoh’s attention at the crucial moment. But that would mean that Joseph’s God, who had neither temple or statue, really did rule over every detail of the world ...

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