The character of Joseph: Introduction

Character is a funny thing. I think that the character of a man does not mean what it used to mean. Less that one hundred years ago, people fought and died to save the character of themselves and the character they had built for their families. In our day manipulation and scheming runs rampant. Anything a man can do to get ahead, more than likely he will do it. The same thing applies to the opposite side. A man will do anything he can to stay out of trouble. Being a student and also working full-time has taken it's toll on me phyically and mentally. The thought has crossed my mind to cut corners here and there, to not put this much time or that much time into a particluar assignment, to make things easier for myself. I came to the conculsion after wrestling with these thoughts for some time that I would be sacrificing my own character if I were to do such things. The thoughts I was having were not of the Lord. Things like this have been a struggle for me especially as a student. If I did the bare minumum and kept my head down, that would keep me out of trouble and I can just keep moving. Again that is a huge sacrifice of character. People I work with have had this mentality their entire lives. Thinking in the back of their minds anything I can do to get ahead of my fellow employees, anything I can do to make myself look better in front of my superiors, I will do it, even if it costs me relationships and having to sacrifice my own character. Some people strive and struggle to grow their character and develop it into something to be respected. They do this to better themselves, to achieve perhaps a fleeting sense of self-worth or importance. It is good to strive to be a good person of good character, it is even a noble thing. Godly character is much different. In this series of posts I would like to look at the life of Joseph. As I started thinking about character I was immediately drawn to the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife. This is a great example of holding fast to Godly character in the hardest of circumstances. Upon further reflection I found that there is much more than just this ine story in Joseph's life where he exemplified extreme amounts of Godliness and integrity. Joseph's life was not an easy one. I tend to look at only the good things that happened to Joseph when I think about his story as a whole. I must admit that when I look at his life as a whole, there is a completely different side of the story and a completely different model to follow. It is easy to follow someone when things are going well for them. This includes our savior, Jesus Christ. It is easy to follow Christ sometimes, but when things get tought and the rubber meets the road so to speak, that is when our character and integrity must stand. And that is why this example is so important to study.

When the Bible introduces Joseph this heroic example of integrity and character I expected it to be a rather elaborate and beautiful introduction of a hero of the Bible. In fact it is just the opposite, as the Bible tends to do. The great and glorious introduction says:


Genesis 30:23-24

English Standard Version (ESV)

23She conceived and bore a son and said, "God has taken away my reproach." 24And she called his name Joseph,[a] saying, "May the LORD add to me another son!"


Joseph doesn't really burst onto the scene as I would have expected, but rather enters in with humilty. Joseph remains rather hidden away from the main story of Genesis for another five chapters. In the next few chapters we even see Joseph and a kind of "momma's boy", especially in chapter 33:2, 7. Joseph is comfortable in the midst of his parents and siblings. I assume that Joseph had a certain level of trust with his family as a whole, this foreshadows an ominous event that would change his life forever. Up until this point however Joseph's life is going rather well. There is a hint of favoritism seen here with the meaning of Joseph's name. I have seen many "only childs" in my day. These kids tend to be on the spoiled side of things, and I guess that isn't such a bad thing in moderation. However when you have twelve other brothers and you are still treated with this kind of exclusivism and preferential treatment, things might get "old" for the other siblings, really fast. I assume this treatment of Joseph was pretty common as explained in the following verse:

Genesis 37:3

English Standard Version (ESV)

"3Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors."


This must have been hard for the other brothers to see. I have two brothers and two sisters of my own. If I ever heard either of my parents say this about any of them, I would be deeply hurt. I found myself a little sympathetic with Joseph's brothers, but I was reminded after studying this verse and re-reading the account of Joseph's early life, he never asked for any of this. Joseph was born to Israel or Jacob, toward the end of his life, the reasons for his feeling could have been many, but nonetheless Joseph never asked to be treated any differently, but he was. However through intergrity and great character I never saw Joseph holding this above the heads of his brothers. This is also another great example of character. Many of us are in the position of being "better off" than someone else. I endeavor to follow Joseph in this character trait as well. As I studied verse 2 of Genesis 37, I found that when Joseph brought a "bad report" to his father of his brothers this showed his father the contrast of a man with good character opposed to men with questionable character. This did however alienate Joseph from his brothers in a way. As I said before I tended to sympathize with his brothers and this little story was no different. As I thought about it though, I came to a different conclusion. When I am exhibiting poor behavior and integrity I tend to alienate the people who are showing better traits than myself. I think if many of us were honest we all tend to have this type of attitude. We see someone who is acting better than us, and being frutiful in their work, and relationships, and we get jealous and angry. This type of behavior is way off base. We instead should be looking at these people and saying to ourselves, what is this person doing right? And how can I do the same. I understand that this is easier to say because Joseph isn't my brother or friend but I hope and pray that I have this attitude from now on. Let's endeavor to emulate Joseph's humility in his character, as I close this introduction to Joseph.