The story of Yosef represents a break from the earlier parts of Bereshit. In the stories of Avraham Yitzchak and Yaakov there is the constant guidance of Nevuah. Suddenly in the Yosef story this stops. God is involved but the participants don’t know in what way. Only in hindsight can Yosef explain it as a method of saving Yaakov’s family from the famine. As readers we are explicitly informed of divine involvement, but in a form limited to punishing the wicked, such as Er and Onan, or helping Yosef find success in all of his pursuits – but, critically, without explicit communication of its meaning.
What happened? It seems that Yaakov no longer served as a prophetic leader of his family.
Chazal mention that Ruach hakodesh left Yaakov during the 22 years that he mourned for Yosef. When a person is overcome by grief they are unable to find the peace of mind needed to have prophecy.
However, perhaps this problem started even earlier. Chazal criticize Yaakov for seeking to live in peace. They view the story of Yosef as a way of shaking him out of complacency. Yaakov decided to step out of his leadership role and hand it over to Yosef. But unlike Yaakov, Yosef was not a Navi. (Perhaps if he had the opportunity to train with Yaakov for longer he would have become a Navi, but unfortunately we will never know how the story would have gone if Yosef had become a prophet instead of merely a righteous dreamer). The problem was not only that Yaakov lost prophecy, but that even earlier he abdicated his leadership position.
In a sense the brothers themselves rejected prophetic guidance, Chazal mention that even God was included in their oath to not inform Yaakov of what had happened, and God respected that oath. God allows a person to follow the path of their choosing, and in this case they were certain in their judgment of Yosef and rejected divine involvement and instead chose to blind Yaakov to the truth.
In the absence of prophetic leadership – governing the people in the way of Hashem to do rightness and justice (as taught by Avraham) – all that was left was the applying personal wisdom to the degree possible and interpreting dreams. While better then foolishness, such a method is subject to grave error and missteps. Unlike the brothers, who were influenced by jealousy, and Yosef who was influenced by immature arrogance, a prophet is not guided by their emotions and can respond accurately to a situation without blindness.
While the lack of prophecy was a grave problem for them and led to the tragedy of the story, it has a benefit for us. It is hard to apply the lessons from the lives of the Avot to our lives since we lack prophecy and manifest divine providence. But since the story of Yosef lacks these things it can serve as a paradigm for us of how to live in a world where God’s plan is hidden. A world where we must apply our wisdom grounded in Yirat Hashem, and only sometimes gain a glimpse of God’s plan in hindsight. It serves as an exemplar that God’s ways are completely unlike ours, and that they follow a complex and, sometimes, a seemingly backwards method.