A portrayal of Joseph in Genesis : the problematic nature of his claims to knowing God's intentions
The ambiguity of Joseph's image is due mainly to readers' different (or even contradictory) evaluations of his actions. This thesis attempts to provide a portrayal of this character by scrutinising his speeches in order to expose the problematic nature of his claims to knowing God's intentions. Judah is forced by Joseph's test to choose slavery for the sake of his father's survival (44.33-34); the ironic reversal of his role as a victimiser to becoming a victim of his rationale to sell Joseph in order to save him (37.26-27) is unmistakable. Unwittingly, Joseph mistakes the rationale for a divine principle to explain his suffering and dreams of domination and subordination for the same purpose of survival (45.5-11). To complicate the matter further, his repeated pronouncements of the God-sent famine (45.25,28,32) portray God as the source of destruction and deliverance, the same role Judah played in his betrayal. His final declaration of divine good overriding human evil (50.20), intended to draw a radical distinction between God's intentions and those of his brothers, would make it harder for him to explain the remarkable similarity between God's actions and those of Judah. However, he is unaware of the anomaly his speeches yield due to his ignorance of Judah's excuse. This double blindness calls into doubt any certainty about the coalescence of perspectives of Joseph and the narrator. It is also Joseph's assertion of domination over Egypt (45.8-9) instead of over his brothers that exposes its link with his subsequent policy of enslavement of a whole nation (47.13-26). However benevolent his measures are, his ambiguous behaviour clearly derives from his belief in his right to subjugate others in order to save them. It is undoubtedly an ironic and tragic ending that the protagonist would repeat the enslavement (which he has suffered, abhorred and condemned as evil) on such a grand scale.