Summary: This article was written and published Oct. ’14. Like Jacob, Joseph’s life is an interesting study. Like his father, Joseph has many experiences and circumstances worth our attention. And similar to Jacob, Joseph serves as a type and shadow of a greater reality. Now all types are shadows – they have similar shapes to the objects casting them, but are more obscure and less exact than the substance itself. All types prefigure – they precede in time the substance they represent. Joseph’s life and experiences are a remarkable type of the Lord Jesus Christ. You will see that he represents Christ in both humiliation and glory. His life is a comprehensive reflection of Jesus Christ, His first and second coming to Israel, as well as all the time in between.
First we’ll start with a friendly discussion of the misrepresentations of Joseph’s story. Many ministers will teach the life of Joseph, making difficult, if not forced, attempts to apply to us certain human lessons and qualities. This is only appropriate if it is the truth and the lessons are accurate. If we are guilty of reading between the lines, creating narrative, and embellishing human character and emotions, then our lessons will only serve the flesh and the devil’s purposes. Satan is the author of the leaven that corrupts all of Christendom (Mat. 13:33). Often we are guilty of coming to Scripture with preconceived ideas of what we should find there, and what we think we do find is only support for continuing these ideas. This isn’t the way the Spirit of God teaches the things of God. It isn’t divine instruction. But it is what Christendom has settled for and has become comfortable with.
As a young boy Joseph didn’t have pride and arrogance. So many want to add this to Joseph’s story, yet these things simply aren’t there. You have to make them up; you have to embellish. They want to tell us that the bad that happened to Joseph was Joseph’s fault – he should have never told his brothers about the vision; he should have told his father to stop treating him so special; he should have insisted that his father make multi-colored coats for everyone, or don’t make any at all! How unspiritual is this kind of thinking and teaching? The character of these thoughts is humanism, and by this leaven we become skilled in teaching humanistic lessons of comfort and self-improvement.
When we add the humanistic leaven to our doctrine, we are denying the sovereignty of God and robbing glory from Him. Humanism is man-centered. It is not God-centered or Christ-centered. It is an obnoxious brew of human attainment, where the good outcomes are a result of human character and efforts. It is never a focus on what God is for us, but rather always what we are for God. For the most part Christendom teaches a Christless gospel and has embraced a Christless experience. Christianity has become the religion of humanism. And this is what the doctrine teaches by all its misunderstandings and error – the redeeming of fallen man by the improvement of the Adam nature. This is so wrong. This is not the believer being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:24). Nor is it by our redemption being able to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).
Joseph’s story pictures for us, by types and shadows, both the humiliation and glory of Christ. What it doesn’t depict is the process of humanistic learning and improvement through life lessons that the carnal mind thinks Joseph so desperately needed. When we add this to the story we lose Joseph’s life as a reflection prefiguring Christ. All he ever is then is some ordinary Joe. Yet this is hardly the case! Joseph is a remarkable type of Jesus Christ. His entire life and all his experiences are a type of Christ.
By adding the leaven to the story we also completely lose sight of the sovereignty of God. Yes, it was the hatred of his brothers that put Joseph in the pit (Gen. 37:4-5, 8, 18-24). They wanted to kill him. Their evil actions sold him to the Gentiles, and got him out of their sight and out of their lives (Gen. 37:25-28, Acts 7:9). But do we not see the hand of God in this? Do we not see this as the determined counsel of God? Is He not ordering these events? I am not saying God is the author of the hatred and sin of Joseph’s brothers – this can never be true. But I see God’s use of the evil to accomplish His own purposes. God is a workman. God is working. He was working then, and He continues to work today. By concentrating on ourselves we completely lose sight of this awesome truth. And this is what Joseph in type shows so beautifully. Except in the scope of its importance, how is this any different from what Peter says to the Jews on Pentecost concerning the crucifixion of Christ? – “Him, being delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death.” (Acts 2:23) Joseph’s story is the same. The things that happened to him were not his own doing, nor were they his fault. The sovereign God was working to accomplish His purpose in His counsels (Gen. 45:4-8). Yet the brothers remained guilty in their actions (Gen. 42:21-22) – so also does the nation of Israel concerning Christ (Acts 3:14-15, 17, 4:10-11, 7:52).
The character that Joseph displayed, even in his youth, was the fear of God. This is seen by his unwavering dependence on God, regardless of the evil done to him. Joseph doesn’t survive because of some wittiness or cleverness that he had learned and developed. He doesn’t know the interpretation of certain dreams because of some human wisdom he acquired along the way. No. It is the fear of God. Joseph depends completely on God. And everywhere you see Joseph and in all the circumstances you find him, he is always in the absolute center of God’s will. God was ordering all the circumstances and all the events in Joseph’s life so that this remarkable type of Jesus Christ could be found in the revelation of God’s word.
What is the fulfilment of this aspect of the type? Although He was God in the flesh, as the Son of Man Jesus perfectly showed the fear of God. What marks the life of Christ is His total dependence on God. It results in His perfect obedience to Him. He only speaks the Father’s words (John 7:16-18, 14:10, 24); He only does the works He sees His Father doing (John 5:36, 10:32, 37, 38). In Gethsemane He prays, “…nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Jesus never does His own will (John 5:30). “But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do.” (John 14:31) And again we read, “…though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things He suffered. (Heb. 5:8) In this last thought the type is similar but not exact – Joseph shows dependence and obedience through the things that he suffered; Christ had to learn dependence and obedience by the things He suffered. But it is probably this passage that shows things best:
“Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come – In the volumn of the book it is written of Me – To do Your will, O God.” (Heb. 10:5-7)
Joseph was the beloved son of his father Jacob (Gen. 37:3); Jesus is the Beloved Son in the bosom of the Father (Matt. 3:17, John 1:18, Eph. 1:6). Jesus says this of His Father’s love, “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life…” (John 10:17) It is remarkable that this is the only place in all Scripture where we are given an object outside of God Himself that becomes the motivation and reason for His love. All other places where we see God’s love shown, the motivation for its display is always God Himself – God is love (I John 4:8). It is one of two essential attributes of God. Therefore the reasoning for God showing love is Himself, or at least the reasoning is hid in God Himself. But this verse is different. The object that motivates God’s love is Jesus Christ His Son. The reasoning for the love shown by the Father is the Son’s obedience to the cross.
What about Joseph’s dreams that made his brothers so angry? (Gen. 37:5-11) I must ask you this – did Joseph make up his dreams or were they given to him by God? They were in fact all from God. Why would we accuse Joseph of evil because he tells the dream? Did God tell him to be quiet? He did not. We take the Scriptures into our own hands and teach things that are not there. We do this to promote our popular humanistic form of Christianity. The evil leaven of Arminian and Judaized teachings provides us with plenty of pre-conceived notions to take to the Scriptures to find our support. When we don’t find something that seems to say what we want it to say, we’ll just imply that it does. No one will ever question what we’re teaching, the Scriptures we’ve found are close enough – a little spiritualizing does the trick every time. This kind of teaching should be forsaken; yet I know this type of doctrine is so popular in Christendom; it will not be given up (II Tim. 4:3-4).
Joseph’s dreams reveal the purpose of God in His counsels. By his dreams he is heir of the glory and chief of all the family. Joseph was exalted above his brothers and receives the double portion of the inheritance (Gen. 48:21-22, Ez. 47:13). Now how will this type be fulfilled? Jesus Christ is Messiah, Son of David, and King destined to rule over the twelve families of Israel. In the end the saved remnant of Israel will form the nation. They are 12,000 chosen and sealed by God out of each of the twelve families – 144,000 total. They are the physical descendants of Joseph and his brothers (Rev. 7:1-8). And they will all bow down and acknowledge Christ, and He will reign over them (Gen. 36:8, 10, Matt. 19:28, Luke 22:28-30). When the Lord’s own people, along with the world, crucified Him and put Him to death, this was written on the cross – THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Joseph was sold to the Gentiles by his brothers and basically left for dead. Jesus was handed over to the Gentiles by His brethren, their intention being His crucifixion and death (Mark 10:33). Joseph is humiliated among the Gentiles by false accusations (Gen. 39:13-20). The chief priests and elders of Israel sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death (Matt. 26:59, Mark 14:55-59). During his time in prison (humiliation) Joseph’s interpretations reveal the thoughts of God. When he is exalted, Joseph administers in power. These are both types of Jesus Christ – His humiliation and exaltation. Joseph rises out of prison to be exalted to the right hand of the throne. Jesus rises out of death and is exalted to the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb. 1:3, Eph. 1:19-21). Joseph’s exaltation occurs away from his brothers and unknown to them. He is exalted among the Gentiles. Christ’s exaltation is apart from His own. The Jews denied that Christ was raised from the dead. They lied about it and paid money to the Roman guards watching the tomb to do the same. Israel denies that Jesus is the Christ and so join in with the spirit of antichrist (I John 2:21-23, 4:3). The administration of all power over the Gentiles is committed to Joseph. Jesus is given power over the nations – “He shall rule them with a rod of iron; As the potter’s vessels shall be broken in pieces.” (Rev. 2:26-27, 12:5) Joseph is the suffering Christ glorified among the Gentiles, who takes a Gentile wife. Being exalted to the right hand of God, Jesus sends down the Holy Spirit to gather in the church – His bride taken out from among the Gentiles. Joseph is responsible for bringing all things under the immediate authority of him who sits on the throne.
“Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”
The similarities in type continue. Joseph was the one his brothers hated and rejected when he was among them and connected to them. Jesus came to His own, but His own did not receive Him (John 1:11). Joseph’s brothers are led in the way of repentance and humiliation, to acknowledge him in glory. Their repentance is in direct connection with their rejection of Joseph – it weighs heavy on their consciences (Gen. 50:15-18). After a long time of being separated from his family, and now they are in desperate need, Joseph reveals Himself to them (Gen. 45:3-4). This revelation is for the saving of Israel, his sons and their families (Gen. 45:7, 50:20). In the end when the Jewish remnant is under the most desperate of circumstances, during a time known as Jacob’s trouble, Jesus will make Himself known to His brethren. They will look on Him whom they have pierced and they will mourn with great sorrow (Zech. 12:9-14, Rev. 1:7, Matt. 24:30).
One aspect of the work of the cross is that Jesus died specifically for the nation of Israel (John 11:50-51). His shed blood is the blood of Israel’s new covenant (Matt. 26:28) and Jesus is the Mediator of it (Heb. 8:6-13, 9:15, 12:24). Israel will be saved as a people, as a nation (Jer.30:22, 31:1, 32:38, Ez.11:20, 14:11, Rom. 11:26). This will be at the beginning of the coming millennium.
Joseph represents Pharaoh. Jesus represents Jehovah. Joseph brings in everything as subjected to Pharaoh. All is placed in order under his authority. Jesus is the Messiah of Israel, the Anointed of Jehovah.
“Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, And distress them in His deep displeasure: “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.”
“…ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
As the Son of Man, Jesus will reign over the earth until He has put all enemies under His feet. He will put an end to all other authority and rule and power. Then He will deliver the kingdom to God. It will be the last kingdom of man. Then God will be all in all (Matt. 25:31-32, I Cor. 15:24-28). In the dispensation of the fullness of times, Jesus will exercise a universal headship over all things created, visible and invisible, things in heaven and on the earth (Eph. 1:10, Col. 1:16-17, 20). All these things and more are prefigured by Joseph as a type of Christ.
One last figure to share with you from this story. Jacob and his people are placed, as a people set apart, in the most favored country of all under the power of the throne (Gen. 47:6). It is the fulfilment of God’s counsels concerning Jacob. It was because of Joseph. After he revealed himself to his brothers, and all the glory God had given him, he immediately promises to provide abundantly for all of Jacob’s family (Gen. 45:9-13). This is what God will do for Israel through the Lord Jesus Christ. He will be the Melchizedek priest representing the God Most High for Israel’s blessing. He will bring out bread and wine for them, after the defeat of all their enemies (Gen. 14:18-20).