Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Joseph's dream

Joseph's bloody coat is brought to his father Jacob, Rembrandt (c. 1633)

I have been reading through Genesis and noticed a few things about the account of Joseph.
Chapter 38 appears to be "out of place" because it interrupts the account with a description of  the incest of his brother Judah with his daughter in law, Tamar. However, this horrific account makes a striking contrast with the following chapter where Joseph resists the advances of the wife of his employer, Potiphar in Egypt. For his integrity ["How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?"] Joseph ends up languishing in prison for many years. During this time he could have become very bitter towards his brothers who sold him into slavery. However, when at the end of his life he has power over them he allays their fear of his possible revenge with the statement (Genesis 50):
"Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?20As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
Yet it is interesting to see that the writer of Hebrews did not commend Joseph for either of the above commendable acts but rather:

22By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.
I love the Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. My family and I were fortunate to see a London West End production several years ago. However, it completely misses the point about Joseph. It does not mention God. And the lyrics of Joseph's song, "Any Dream Will Do" imply that Joseph was concerned with his own glorification.

Joseph's dream was God's: deliverance of his people from slavery.


  1. I think you're eventually right about Joseph. At the end of his life he saw rightly. But he did seem to have a rather unhealthy dose of narcissism when he was younger. I'm not denying his dreams and visions were from God, but what God intended versus his own understanding I bet were quite different, at least initially. His brother's antagonism towards him was based on his self aggrandizing attitude. If I had a little brother like that I'd be pretty perturbed too! I think a larger redemptive message is seen with not just God using Joseph to save his people, but of God also redeeming Joseph's arrogance. God saved them all through their brokenness. I've often said that the utter humanness of the "heroes" of the Bible is its greatest apologetic for me. These are real men and women that God deals with, and that ministers to me.

  2. thanks. those are good points. i had overlooked the young Josephs hubris.