This weekend I watched Joseph: King of Dreams (Ben Affleck’s greatest role, aside from Gigli) with my girls, and we also happened to read the Joseph story in the Jesus Storybook Bible. In both of these interpretations of the Genesis 37-50 narrative, Joseph is portrayed in his youth as more than a bit prideful, even singing in the movie a song with the refrain “I am the miracle child!” When this passage is preached, taught, and commented upon, many times there is an implicit or explicit condemnation of Joseph’s arrogance, seemingly founded upon the statements in Genesis 37 that Jacob loved Joseph more than his brothers (Gen. 37:4 passim) and Joseph’s relaying of his dreams to his brothers.
It’s possible that this interpretation of Joseph’s actions in Genesis 37 is correct, but I wonder if we’re being fair to Joseph and to the author’s portrayal of him. Nowhere is Joseph portrayed as having pride in relation to his father’s love; the action is always on Jacob (“Jacob loved Joseph more”) and his brothers (“because Jacob loved Joseph more, they conspired to kill him”).
Additionally, it seems to me that having dreams and the ability to interpret them is a sign of wisdom and even authority in the Old Testament, and so I wonder if it’s fair to say Joseph is arrogant in relaying them to his brothers. The onus to seems me to be clearly on the brothers who, rather than acknowledging this wisdom and authority from God, reject it and conspire to kill their brother (now where have I heard that before…?). Of course no contemporary interpretation of this passage that I know of excuses the brothers’ actions, but they certainly are given a reason to hate Joseph based on the interpretive portrayal of him as prideful.
What do you think? Should we see Joseph as prideful in Genesis 37 or not?
4 thoughts on “Joseph’s Pride”
I thought similar thoughts when we arrived at the story this year in our reading plan. I feel like this is frequently taught but I do not think it has enough backing to declare it as fact.
I had the same question after watching Joseph, King of Dreams and while preparing to preach on Joseph. I think at the very least that being a “miracle child”, being the oldest son of Jacob’s favorite wife, being his favorite son, being given a special colorful robe, and being given dreams where his family were all bowing down to him, would have strongly tempted Joseph to be prideful. The fact that Joseph shared his dreams with his brothers (when they probably were already jealous) and the fact that on one occasion he brought his father a bad report about his brothers, very likely are hints of some pride in Jacob’s heart. Also, even the Apostle Paul was at risk of becoming proud because of God’s special revelations to him and for this reason he was given the infamous “thorn in the flesh”. All throughout the Bible, there is a lot of emphasis on God humbling the proud. So, I think that it is legitimate to see God humbling Joseph (or at the very least guarding him from pride) as part of the reason (but clearly not the only reason) for allowing his suffering before he is lifted up to a high position. The same pattern appears to occur in the life of Moses and in the life of David.
The original brother’s quarrel does not seem to implicate Abel in any way. I see no explicit accusation of pride in Joseph’s biography. On the other hand, there are several occasions recorded in scripture where people became jealous of the blessing of God on someone else; Rachel became jealous of Leah, Saul became jealous of David and both Aaron and Miriam were jealous of Moses. I’m not sure why people read pride into the account of Joseph and not the others. Some preacher somewhere probably started the idea and those things seem to spread. So, Joseph might have been proud, but I don’t see anything in the scripture that indicates that to be true. Would like to hear the opinion of others.
Absolutely he was prideful. This is why God had him experience being sold as a slave, wrongfully accused of attempted rape/adultery and years in prison. I have always wondered why so many what to portray him as almost a faultless person.