It is evident from a careful study of the record that Joseph is one of the fullest types of the Lord Jesus. Yet significantly, there seems no explicit statement in the New Testament that Joseph did typify Jesus. This is interesting, seeing that Joseph must be one of the clearest and most detailed types of Christ. Surely this should inspire us to search for types in all Old Testament characters without being put off by the lack of direct reference to those types. It is sometimes argued that we can go too far in seeing types of Christ if we only rely on inferences rather than explicit New Testament indication that we are to see a type. Yet the type of Joseph rests solely on inferences put together, rather than on any explicit statement. We can therefore conclude that we may observe valid types of Christ from inferences, without explicit New Testament reference to it.
The following points suggest that almost every detail of Joseph's recorded life is prophetic of some aspect of the Lord Jesus. Joseph is simply one of the clearest types of Christ. There are many echoes of Christ which seem to have no specific purpose apart from to confirm us in our enthusiasm to constantly see the spirit of Christ in this record (e.g. 46:30 = Lk. 2:29,30). So we have in the life of Joseph a richness of instruction concerning our Lord Jesus. And this is exactly why we sit here before the emblems; to be instructed concerning the exquisite beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to wade through the types in order to persuade ourselves that Joseph's life really is typical of Christ. A desire to enrich our appreciation of the Saviour should be our motivation for going through the types in detail; it is not just an academic exercise, performing intellectual tricks with Scripture. The following could perhaps be skim-read before you break bread, pausing to follow up any particular themes that catch your interest.
Joseph A Type Of Christ
1. The seed of Abraham, in whom the promises of fruitfulness and blessing upon all nations were fulfilled (47:27; 46:3 cp. 12:2; Dt. 26:5; Ps. 105:23,24).
The seed of Abraham.
2. The beloved son of his father.
3. " The servant" (37:2 Heb.)
The suffering servant (Zech. 3:8; Is. 42:1 etc.)
4. Loved and exalted above his brethren
5. " They hated him" because of his dream that one day he would reign over them (37:4,8).
Christ had problems with His brothers (Jn. 7:3); the Jews hated Christ and would not have him reign over them (Lk. 19:14)
6. Joseph was likened to a sheaf (37:7)
Christ was the wave sheaf (Lev. 23:11,12)
7. A progressive growth in hatred of Joseph (37:4,5,8)
The Gospels give the same impression concerning the Jews and Christ
8. Rebuked by his natural father (37:10)
9. Israel would bow down to Joseph, although they refused to believe this at first and tried to kill him because of it (37:10)
Ditto for Christ
10. " ...but his father observed the saying" (37:11)
As did Mary , mother of Jesus (Lk. 2:19,51)
11. " Let us slay him...and we will see what will become of his (prophetic, inspired) dreams" (37:20)
Christ's inspired prophecies of His death and resurrection must have motivated the Jews' slaying of Him (1).
.12. One of his persecutors tried to save him at the last minute (37:21)
As did Nicodemus and Pilate.
13. Cast into a pit with no water in it (37:24)
Ditto for Jeremiah, another type of Christ; pit = grave (Zech. 9:11; Ps. 69:15)
14. " They stript Joseph out of his coat" (37:23); was Joseph naked in the pit?
Same LXX word in Mt. 27:28; was Christ naked on the cross? See Heb. 6:6 " open shame" .
15. " And they sat down" after symbolically killing him.
Sold him for pieces of silver.
Ditto for Christ. Jesus was “him…whom they priced on the part of the sons of Israel” (Mt. 27:9 RVmg.). The reference to “the sons of Israel” is surely an allusion to the sons of Jacob selling Joseph for his value.
16. His brothers said: " He is our brother and our flesh" (37:27)
" We are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones" (Eph. 5:30)
17. " Let not our hand be upon him" (37:27). They thought that the rigours of slavery would be enough to kill him.
The Jews handed Jesus over to the Romans. Does the type indicate some of them thought this fact would absolve them of guilt?
18. At least 2 of his 10 persecutors were unhappy about what they were doing , and said so (37:22,26). Perhaps the whole group egged each other on to adopt an attitude none were totally happy with in their conscience.
Ditto for first century Israel?
19. A blood drenched coat
Is. 63:2; Rev. 19:13.
20. Sent on a mission to his brethren, on which they symbolically killed him.
Christ sent first and foremost to redeem Israel (Gal. 4:4,5).
" Go...see whether it be well with thy brethren" (37:14)
Same Hebrew as 1 Sam. 17:18, also typical of Christ.
21. Symbolically killed by the shepherds of his father's flock (37:12).
Christ killed by the Jewish priests, the shepherds of God's flock.
" The anguish of his soul" and pleas for deliverance (42:21), ignored by the brothers.
" The travail of his soul" (Is. 53:12), ignored by Israel (Is. 53:1-4). Did the Lord shout for deliverance in His pit?
22. " When they saw him afar off...they conspired against him to slay him" (37:18)
" When the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves (i.e. conspired), This is the heir; come, let us kill him" (Mt. 21:38) (2). Mt. 21:38 is quoting the LXX of Gen. 37:18.
23. " Joseph is...rent in pieces. And Jacob rent his clothes" (37:33,34); Jacob shared in Joseph's death .
This is a fine prefigurement of the (sadly ignored) pain of God.
24. Judah disgraced after the condemnation of Joseph (Gen. 38)
Ditto for Judah as a nation after their rejection of Christ.
25. His master committed all that he had into his hand (39:8)
The Potiphar: Joseph and Pharaoh: Joseph relationship reflects that between God and Christ.
He " prospered" , s.w. Ps. 1:3 concerning the righteous man prospering because he meditates on God's word.
Did the Lord's carpenter business likewise flourish, for the same reasons? He was in favour with God and man.
26. Joseph lost his garment before he went into the pit and before he went to prison (39:13) (3).
27. Falsely accused of adultery, but with no remonstration on his part; cast into prison.
Christ dumb before his shearers. In the 'Joseph as a type of Christ' story, prison = death; the ideas of prison and darkness are often associated (e.g. Is. 49:9). There was darkness at the death of Christ.
28. All the prisoners in the prison committed to Joseph's hand; " and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it" (39:22)
An eloquent echo of Christ's relationship with us?
29. " The Lord...gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison" (39:21).
Christ in favour with God and man (Lk. 2:52) (4).
30. In prison with two malefactors (one good and one bad?)
Christ on the cross with two thieves (one good, one bad)
31. " Remember me when it shall be well with thee" (40:14)
" Remember me"
32. Great pain in Joseph's heart because he knew his innocence (40:15); therefore the shame of a righteous man suffering as a sinner (cp. Christian AIDS victims).
Ditto for Christ- even more so.
33. The shame of Joseph in the dungeon (40:15); the lowest of the low, according to Ex. 12:29.
A type of the supreme degradation of Christ on the cross.
34. " They made him run hastily out of the dungeon...and changed his raiment" (41:14 mg.).
The energy of Christ's resurrection; change of clothing = change of nature, Zech. 3:3,4.
35. Because he knew Pharaoh's mind, he was exalted over Pharaoh's house and people (41:40).
Christ knew God's mind; now over both Angels (God's house) and us (natural & spiritual Israel)
36. " According unto thy word shall all my people be ruled" (41:40). Egypt would have been intricately obedient to his word.
The supremacy of the word of Christ in our lives; obedience to his word has a sense of urgency about it.
37. " Only in the throne will I be greater than thou" (41:40)
Christ rules on God's behalf, but God is still King.
38. " I have set thee over all the land of Egypt" (41:41)
Christ given all power in heaven and earth (Mt. 28:18). All Egypt ruled by his word, therefore 'Egypt' = the church now, and also the future Kingdom.
39. " Bow the knee" (41:43).
Bread laid up in preparation for the famine.
Laying up the word as a foundation against the judgment (1 Tim. 6:19).
40. Given a new name: " Zaphnath-paaneah" : 'Saviour of the world', or 'bread of life'
Christ given a new name on ascension (Phil. 2:6-9; Rev. 3:12).
41. A Gentile wife from a pagan king-priest background (41:45).
Marriage of Christ to us, king-priests (Rev. 5:10). Psalm 45 is full of allusion to Joseph (vv. 2,4,5,7,10,14, 16 etc.). Yet it is also a prophecy of the marriage of Christ to His bride, modelled on the marriage of Joseph.
42. " Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt" (41:45).
Christ's active involvement in our working out of our salvation.
43. Joseph's (half-Gentile) sons were counted as the twelve tribes of Jacob (41:51)
We are Christ's sons (Heb. 2:13). Joseph was called " tender father" (41:43 mg.) as Christ will be called 'Father' in the future age (Is. 9:6 Heb.)
44. Pharaoh's total confidence in Joseph and the power of his word (41:55)
God's attitude to Christ.
45. " According unto thy word shall all the people be ruled" (41:40) suggests a change in Egypt's legal system when Joseph came to power (cp. Ps. 105:22).
The changeover between the law of Moses and the word of Christ.
46. Throughout the record there is the unwritten sense that the brothers had a niggling conscience that Joseph might be alive.
This typifies the underlying Jewish conscience towards the Lord Jesus. They knew Christ as Messiah, but blinded themselves to the fact (Jn. 6:36; 9:41; 15:24 cp. 14:7). When Nicodemus secretly informed the Lord Jesus that "We know that you are a teacher come from God" (Jn. 3:2) it seems he was speaking of the situation he knew existed in the hearts of Israel's religious leaders- hence the Lord replied: "You [plural] receive not our witness" (Jn. 3:11).
47. Joseph's brethren fulfil his predictions without realizing it (fully, at any rate) by bowing before him (42:6).
Latter day Israel likewise?
48. Even under pressure, the brothers came out with the same old lie (42:13). They kept repeating it so much that they believed it.
Exact replica of the Jewish attitude towards Jesus of Nazareth.
49. The brothers suffer in prison for three days to prod their conscience about Joseph (42:17).
Three year tribulation of Israel in the last days to bring them to accept Christ?
We get the impression that Joseph changed his plans for them several times; he recalled them when already on their journey etc.
Does this show that he hastened the day of revelation to them from purely emotional considerations- and will the Lord do the same with His Israel?
50. Joseph wept (this is recorded seven times in the record) (42:24). He must have found it hard to prolong the agony of not revealing himself to them immediately; he was motivated by a desire to make them see the enormity of their sin, for their spiritual good rather than his own vindication.
Joseph as a type of Christ makes his story prophetic. This is a stunningly deep prophecy of the intensity of Christ's feelings, as the mighty Son of God, towards wayward Israel in the last days. He was a man of sorrow in his mortal life, and will still have an element of this characteristic in the future.
51. The brothers delay in their return, doubtless because of the struggle with their conscience; never spoken of together, but operating on each man individually (43:10)
Will there be a 'delay' in Israel's repentance, and therefore in the full manifestation of Christ? Every Jew in the last days will go through the silent struggle of conscience about Christ.
52. Joseph celebrates their repentance with a meal together, at which they sit in their proper places (43:16)
The marriage supper of the lamb, with each in his proper place (Lk. 14:10; 22:30; Rev. 19:9)
53. " Slay and make ready" (43:16) for the meal.
This is the basis of the prodigal son parable (45:14,15 = Lk. 15:20); father = Christ; prodigal = repentant Jews, wanting to be servants and nothing else.
54. " The men marvelled" at his discernment.
Ditto for Christ- it is emphasized (Mt. 8:27; 9:8,33; 21:20, 42; 22:22; 27:14; Lk. 2:33; Jn. 4:27; 7:15)
They were merry with him (43:34)
He would fain have them enter into the joy of their Lord.
55. Joseph's cup is how he discerns (44:5)
The cup of the Lord likewise.
56. " Then Joseph could not refrain himself..." (45:1) implies he planned to drag out the process of spiritually refining his brothers, but his love for them caused him to cut it short.
" For the elects sake the days shall be shortened" by Christ (Mt. 24:22).The same Hebrew word is used in Is. 42:14 about how God can no longer refrain Himself in the last days.
57. " All them that stood before him" not present at his revelation to his brethren (45:1)
The Angels who accompany Christ will not be present at his meeting with Israel (Zech. 3:4; Is. 63:3)?
Communication without an interpreter.
A new paradigm of relationship with the Lord Jesus, face to face.
" Fear not: for I am in the place of God" (50:19 Heb.); " thou art even as Pharaoh" (44:18)
Joseph as a type of Christ reveals the revelation of God's essential love through the face of Jesus Christ.
The struggle to make the brothers believe the extent of his grace.
Our difficulty at the judgment (see The Lord Of Judgment).
58. " A great deliverance" (45:7).
Heb. 2:3 " that great salvation" .
Israel saved, all the surrounding world also blessed with deliverance from the famine.
Ditto for the last days; the nations around Israel blessed materially to overcome the problems of the latter day judgments. These judgments are to make Israel repent, but in that time of trouble the whole world suffers.
Joseph As A Type Of Christ: Finer Details
In the light of all this, the following points give extra insight into our Lord's experience. Taken by themselves they would be stretching a point; but in the context of the above typology they take on a powerful validity:
- It must have taken Joseph quite some courage to explain the dreams to his brethren. " He dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren" (37:9). There was quite likely a certain bucking up of courage in the spirit of the Lord Jesus at age 30, when he 'came down from Heaven' and started preaching the glories of his future Kingdom to a cynical Israel.
- Joseph readily responded to his father's desire that he go to his brethren: " Here am I" (37:13). Isaiah, another type of Christ, uttered similar words before his mission to Israel (Is. 6:8). Yet in both Joseph and Isaiah there must have been a sense of apprehension, sensing the persecution that would come. There was a point when Christ said to God: " Lo, I come..." (Heb. 10:5-7). This would indicate that in line with the typology of Joseph and Isaiah, there was a point when Christ received and responded to His Father's commission. This may have been some time in His teens; perhaps 17, as with Joseph? Or at 30 when he began His ministry and came " into the (Jewish) world" ?
- " See whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again" (37:14). Christ was sent to the shepherds and the sheep of Israel. This accounts for the special effort he made to appeal to the Jewish religious leaders, even when it seemed he was wasting time with them.
- " Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured" (39:6) clearly means he was good-looking (like his mother, grandmother and great-grandmother). The record seems to stress that the family was good looking. Perhaps this gives another angle on an old chestnut: Was Christ good looking and handsome as the Son of God, or weak and ugly as the suffering servant? On the cross, " his visage was so marred more than any man...there is no beauty that we should desire him...despised...we hid as it were our faces from him" (Is. 52:14; 53:2-4). Yet Joseph was strong and good looking, pleasing in the eyes of men (and women). So may we suggest that Christ too was naturally strong and attractive, but he lost this due to the mental trauma of his life, resulting in his repulsive physical appearance as he hung on the cross.
- The woman who tempted Joseph seems to be the prototype of the temptress of the Proverbs. Her reasoning that the good man of the house was absent (Prov. 7:19) seems a direct allusion to Potiphar's wife. We have shown elsewhere that the Proverbs are largely a commentary on Old Testament historical incidents, and that the warnings to " My son" are also prophetic of God's instruction of His Son Jesus(5). If this is the case, it is reasonable to think that Christ too was tempted by a similar woman.
- The sensitive reader will perceive that Joseph had a strong fatherly image, even from a young age (40:7; 41:43 mg.; 45:8). The Lord Jesus likewise; hence He referred to the disciples as His children when they were in the same peer group. This is understandable in that He is the supreme manifestation of the sovereign Father.
- So many aspects of human weakness were tested in Joseph: pride with his brothers, lust with women, bitterness in prison, the meteoric rise to success in a career, the glamour and glory of the high life. And the Lord Jesus likewise went through it all, absolutely all- for our sakes.
- Two changes of clothing for Joseph; immediately on release from prison, and also when he was made ruler over all Egypt (41:14,42). This looks forward to the two stage glorification of Christ in both resurrection and ascension (or ascension and second coming in glory?).
- Joseph's wife had to forget all about her pagan past (41:45 = Ps. 45:10 = Dt. 21:13), especially her father's house. Joseph alluded to what she had gone through when he spoke of how he too had forgotten all his past suffering and his father's house (41:51). What a pair they were! Both had broken free of their pasts and were dedicated to the new life together. As such they typify the relationship between Christ and His bride.
- God (this is important) made Joseph forget all his " toil" , his mental sufferings (42:51). This was a miracle; no amount of steel-willed suppression of his past could have made Joseph paper over all the pain. But God did a psychological miracle upon him. Has God done the same to Christ now in His glory, as He will to us one day soon (Rev. 21:4)? Yet Christ will be factually aware of His sacrifice and the associated pain. God presumably did not obliterate Joseph's memory cells, but He made him " forget" the pain. This is surely what God has done to Christ, and what He will do to us: take away the pain on a psychological level whilst still leaving a factual awareness. Is it too much to suggest that even now, God is ready and willing to do something like this?
- Joseph as a type of Christ means that his brothers also have significance. The brethren meeting Joseph at the end has many echoes of the judgment seat of Christ. The whole purpose of the painful process which led up to that meeting was for the benefit of the brethren, to make them realize the enormity of their sin and the greatness of Joseph's grace. Likewise the judgment is for our benefit; the outcome is known to God beforehand. Does the (emphasized) emotionalism of Joseph at this time indicate anything about Christ's attitude then? " What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves?" strikes a chord with Dan. 10:17, where even righteous Daniel in his figurative judgment finds it hard to speak. Our awareness of our sinfulness will doubtless have a like effect upon us. The moral desperation of the brethren (" how shall we clear ourselves?" ) will then be seen in us. Speechlessness is a characteristic of the rejected (Mt. 22:12); the brothers slunk away from Joseph's physical presence (45:4), as the rejected will (1 Jn. 2:28 Gk.). This all suggests that those accepted at the judgment seat will go through all the emotions of the rejected; they will realize that rejection is what they deserve. Those who judge (condemn) themselves now in their self-examination will not be condemned then.
- The intellectual and psychological ability of Joseph as the brothers stood before him was quite something. Joseph was indeed a type of Christ as he stood there. It seems to me that he cooked up his whole plan with them in a split second. He recognized them, remembered his dreams, and then started the process of accusing them of being spies, etc. His accusations seemed designed to draw out of them true news about their family affairs back home. The Lord's piercing vision and ability to elicit our ultimate truth from us in our own words will be manifest at the day of judgment.
- The desperate desire of Joseph for them to relax with him and accept his forgiveness led him to make them drunk so as to ease their relationship (43:34 AVmg.). This otherwise unethical act reveals the earnestness of his desire for them to be relaxed with him and open themselves to him. The Lord will have the same basic desire with us at the judgment.
- The news that Joseph was alive and glorified was received rather like that of Christ's resurrection: initial disbelief, but then the family of Jacob who believed it rose up and left all they had to go to be with Joseph; Israel in AD70 and the last days are likewise bidden leave their stuff and go to be with Christ (45:20 cp. Lk. 17:31). The brethren went forth on this journey with the admonition not to fall out with each other by the way (45:24). The wonder that was ahead of them should have made petty differences disappear.
- The Joseph:Jesus typology would have been surely understood by the Lord. It could be that the way Joseph was saved from the pit and then from slavery in Egypt, when it seemed to all others he had died, may have encouraged the Lord to think that somehow he would have been saved from the actual experience of death- hence His pleas for deliverance and the actual cup to pass.
Closer To The Cross
And so the study of Joseph as a type of Christ leads us closer to the cross, to knowing the Son of God hanging upon it. We know that Joseph in prison was typical of Christ's death. Ps. 105:17-23 is the Spirit's commentary upon the sufferings of Joseph: " He (God) sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant; whose feet they hurt with fetters; he was laid in iron: until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him...Israel also came into Egypt" . In the context of the Psalm, God is comforting Israel that all their sufferings had been experienced by Joseph. Israel as a nation are often spoken of as being in prison in a Gentile world (Ps. 79:11; 102:20; Is. 42:7,22; 49:9); just as Joseph was. Prison and death are often associated because a spell in prison was effectively a death sentence, so bad were the conditions. Israel being in prison is therefore a symbol of a living death. On the cross, Christ was the great, supreme prisoner (Ps. 69:33- this is an intensive plural, referring to a singular great prisoner). Like Joseph, He went through all the emotions of the prisoner; the shame, depression, introspection. As Israel were comforted in their living death by the fact that there was an individual in the past who had gone through all they were going through as a group; so the new Israel ought to take comfort together in contemplating the experiences of Christ. He bore our communal sorrows, griefs and sins; this is why we as a community rather than purely as individuals need to be bound together in remembering Christ.
The sufferings of Joseph were supremely in His mind. They had to be so varied and yet also intense so as to include the traumas of each of us. Ps. 105:18 highlights the mental aspects of Joseph's suffering. The verse is badly translated in the AV: " Whose feet (the same word is translated ability, endurance, journey) they hurt (Heb. 'to browbeat or depress') with fetters: (i.e.) his soul (AVmg.) came into iron" . His very soul was in iron, trapped, oppressively boxed in as he lay in the darkness. As Christ hung in the darkness He too was depressed by the weight of His mental burden, a burden so great it must have pushed His brain to maximum neurological capacity. The spirit of the crucified Christ is in Ps. 142:7: " Bring my soul out of prison...the righteous shall compass me about" (cp. Ps. 22:22). Christ poured out His soul unto death; " he was taken away by distress" (Is. 53:12,8 AVmg.) suggests that it was the mental crisis in the brain of Christ on the cross which resulted in His death. This is why Pilate marvelled that He died so quickly. It is evident from this that the physical process of crucifixion did not kill Christ, but rather the heartburst (both figurative and literal) which it brought upon Him. Do we not sense that striving in our minds as we fellowship His sufferings? Surely we do, but from a great distance. Yet we should sense it more and more, it should make us get out of this sense of drifting which we all too often have, day by day drifting along with very little stirring up our minds. Here is the challenge of the Joseph record and seeing Joseph as a type of Christ; to just begin to capture the mental anguish of the Son of God as He hung there.
(1) They crucified Him because they rejected the words He spoke from God (Jn. 12:48). The language of rejection is used both about the Jews' crucifixion of Christ (Lk. 17:25; Mk. 12:10) and their rejection of His words. Thus Heb. 6:5,6;10:28,29 connect despising the word with crucifying Christ afresh.
Excerpt from Bible Lives