If the story of Joseph has been an inspiration to later generations, it is not because he was given a privileged insight into the future — but because he overcame repeated trials, persevering in faith and hope. His trust in God and his boldness in action are all the more inspiring, in fact, in view of his dreams — which might easily have led him either to despair of God in anger and bitterness, or to forsake his obligations in indolence and complacency.
And even in the fulfillment of his dreams there is no “happily ever after” for Joseph. One of the features of the story that gives it such enduring power is the fact that Joseph’s struggles continue to the end. His story is as much about adversity and family dysfunction as it is about success and family harmony (two of our own society’s idols). It’s about the growth of a brat into a statesman — and it is significant that the dreams were part of his youthful immaturity, not his mature adulthood. (There are no dreams at all in the whole second half of the narrative — not for Joseph, the cupbearer, the butler, nor Pharaoh….)
Where the musical offers a romantic myth, the Bible affirms something altogether more realistic. Life is seldom “happily ever after”, even for dreamers.
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