Joseph is one of the most striking types of Jesus in the Old Testament. In Jewish thought, the Messiah was pictured as the son of David, but also as the son of Joseph. As the son of David he would rule upon David's throne bringing glory to Israel and peace to the world. Yet they also pictured him as the son of Joseph - someone who would suffer at the hands of his brothers before being exalted. So let's look at some of the clearer pictures in Joseph's life that have their fulfilment in the life of the true Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Greater than His brothers
Gen 37:5-8 'Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, 'Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.' His brothers said to him, 'Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?' And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.'
Even from an early stage Joseph was different. Genesis 37:3 tells us that Joseph was Jacob's most loved son. And from the dreams he had it was clear that he would one-day rule over his brothers and for this they hated him. Jesus encountered the same reaction both from those in his hometown as well as from his actual brothers. After trying to teach and minister in His hometown He was met with the following response -
Matt13:55-57 'Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary, and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren't all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?' And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, 'Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.'
While the nation's leaders called Jesus possessed, even some of those in His own family wouldn't acknowledge Him. We read in John 7:5 that His own brothers were asking for more signs because
John 7:5 '...even his own brothers did not believe in him.'
Conspired to kill Him
Gen 37:18-19 'So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him. 'Here comes that dreamer!' they said to each other. 'Come now, let's kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we'll see what comes of his dreams.'
Because of jealousy and envy, Joseph's brothers conspired to kill Joseph. What they hated most were the dreams that elevated Joseph above themselves. They also hated the fact that their father Jacob dearly loved Joseph and their jealousy and anger led to a plan to destroy him. In like manner the leaders of Israel hated Jesus because He didn't submit Himself to their rule but showed through word and deed that He was above them. His claims to be from heaven, to be greater than Abraham, or to be the one of whom Moses wrote, met with venomous reactions and culminated in a plot to take His life.
Matt 26:3-4 'Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him.'
Betrayed for measly silver coins
Gen 37:26-28 'Judah said to his brothers, 'What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let's sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.' His brothers agreed. So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.'
The anger and jealousy reached its peak and Joseph was sold and betrayed for 20 measly pieces of silver! And note also who it was that lead the betrayal - Judah! This is translated from the Hebrew name 'Yehuda', and it is the same name which can be translated Judas! No surprises then that Jesus, like Joseph, would be betrayed by one of those closest to him - this time for a great total of 30 silver pieces!
Matt 26:14-16 'Then one of the Twelve - the one called Judas Iscariot - went to the chief priestsand asked, 'What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?' So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.'
This was of course, a fulfillment of the great prophecy in Zechariah where God himself is priced at 30 pieces of silver!
'And the LORD said to me, 'Throw it to the potter' - the handsome price at which they priced me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD to the potter.'
While Joseph didn't understand it, God had other plans and would use this betrayal to exalt Joseph and through him give the means by which both Gentiles and Joseph's own Jewish family would be saved. I'm sure you see the picture of Jesus!
Falsely accused though he did no wrong!
Gen 39:17-20 'Then she told him this story: 'That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.' When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, 'This is how your slave treated me,' he burned with anger. Joseph's master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king's prisoners were confined.'
After being betrayed by his brothers and led to Egypt, Joseph soon finds himself being accused of a crime that he didn't commit. The slander and lies presented lead to Joseph being thrown into prison. He had no say in the matter even though he was innocent. In like manner, after His betrayal, Jesus was falsely accused and slandered in a series of one-sided trials. Like Joseph He had done no wrong but that didn't stop His accusers!
Mark 14:55-64 'The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death , but they did not find any. Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree... Again the high priest asked him, 'Are you the Christ, the Son of the blessed One?' 'I am,' said Jesus. 'And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.' The high priest tore his clothes. 'Why do we need any more witnesses?' he asked. 'You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?' They all condemned him as worthy of death.
The two fellow prisoners
Gen 40:4-5 'After they had been in custody for some time,each of the two men - the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison - had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own.'
Joseph wasn't alone in prison though. Two other servant of Pharaoh, the cupbearer and the baker, where shortly thrown in there with him. Each spoke to Joseph about a dream they had had which Joseph interpreted for them. This pictures Jesus in His prison, upon the cross, and the two thieves that were crucified with Him.
Matt 27:38 'Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.'
The result of the two prisoner's dreams meant death for one, and release and exaltation for the other. This is a type of one of the most amazing salvations to ever happen -
Luke 23:39-43 'One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: 'Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!' But the other criminal rebuked him. 'Don't you fear God,' he said, 'since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.' Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.' Jesus answered him, 'I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.'
Like Joseph, one prisoner with Jesus would die, but one would find real life and be released and exalted into the greatest place - Paradise!
The exaltation of the suffering servant!
Gen 40:39-41 'Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.' So Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.' Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph's finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in a chariot as His second in command.'
Joseph went from being condemned in prison to being exalted to Pharaoh's right hand in a single day. Apart from Pharaoh, there were none above Joseph! What a picture of the Lord Jesus, who through the resurrection, went from the cross to His exaltation back at the right hand of the Father. After the resurrection Jesus said 'all authority on heaven and earth has been given to me...' And as the Egyptians bowed at the feet of Joseph, so the entire world will one day bow down at the feet of the Lord. Philippians explains it all -
Phil 2:8-11 'And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.'
The Gentile Bride
Gen 41:45 'Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife.'
Upon his exaltation to the right hand of Pharaoh, Joseph was given a gentile bride for his wife. This is a picture of the Lord Jesus who, upon His exaltation, took a bride for Himself (the church) from among the gentile nations.
The Seven Year Hardship
Gen 41:54 And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands...
This is where our study moves from the present, and into the future. Currently, the Lord Jesus Christ is taking for Himself a bride from the gentile nations (predominantly). But scripture reveals that God has set aside one final seven year period, after the removal of the church, where He will again deal with the nation of Israel to bring them to repentance, and acknowledgement of their Messiah, Jesus. (See Dan 9:20-27). This is what we also see here in the life of Joseph. God used a seven year period of famine and extreme hardship to force Joseph's brothers to seek out aid and help. This Jesus' natural brothers, the Jews, will do but again it will only be a time of extreme hardship that forces them to do so. Speaking of that last seven year period, the Bible declares -
Jer 30:7 Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.
The reconciliation of Joseph and his brothers
Gen 45:1-5,14 'So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh's household heard about it. Joseph said to his brothers, 'I am Joseph! Is my father still living?' But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, 'Come close to me.' When they had done so, he said, 'I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you... Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping.'
One of best pictures has got to be the reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers who had betrayed him. The great famine had struck the area and Joseph's brothers had come seeking provision. On their first visit to see Joseph they didn't recognise him, but all was revealed when they met the second time! There was great weeping as they realised that the one who they had betrayed was not only alive, but ruled over the entire land. Like Joseph's brothers, Israel didn't recognise Jesus at His first coming, but oh the weeping and reconciliation that is to come at His second coming. The prophet Zechariah spoke of that day and said
Zech 12:10-12 'I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great, like the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land will mourn, each tribe by itself.'
What Israel meant for evil, God meant for good!
Gen 50:18-20 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. 'We are your slaves,' they said. But Joseph said to them, 'Don't be afraid... You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish... the saving of many lives .So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.' And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
Joseph's brothers, upon their reconciliation with Joseph, were extremely repentant of the evil that they had done in plotting and betraying Joseph. Yet Joseph didn't hold the grievance against them but with grace stated that 'what they meant for evil, God intended for good, to save many lives!' What an awesome picture of Jesus! Yes, Israel betrayed Him, planning to do Him harm. Yet God intended it for good, to save many lives! And that He has done, and continues to do, throughout the entire world!
Look also at Joseph's kindness to his brothers. Not only did he not hold anything against them, but he assured them that he would provide for them. The millennial blessings that will come to the Jewish nation after they have returned to the Lord are the fulfilment of this type. Speaking of the blessing that will come upon that nation after their acknowledgement and acceptance of Jesus, Paul writes,
But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!
Joseph is truly one of the greatest types in the Bible of the Lord Jesus Christ. From his betrayal at the hands of his brothers, to his exaltation and authority over the Egyptian empire; from his taking of a gentile bride, to his final reconciliation with his Jewish brothers; all is a glimpse from God of past, present and even future history!