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Throughout the Bible, God uses foreshadowing and “typology” to teach us spiritual truths.  Typology is a method of biblical interpretation whereby an element found in the Old Testament is seen to prefigure one found in the New Testament.  In this case, a person from the Old Testament “prefigures” the fulfillment from the New Testament.  Joseph, one of Jacob’s twelve sons, turns out to be a “type” or foreshadowing of the Messiah Jesus.

Jacob, renamed Israel, became the father of twelve sons, known as the “twelve Tribes of Israel”.  These are the 12 sons (tribes) of Israel found in Genesis 49…

  1. Reuben
  2. Simeon
  3. Levi
  4. Judah         
  5. Zebulun
  6. Issachar
  7. Dan
  8. Gad
  9. Asher
  10. Naphthali
  11. Joseph (Ephraim & Manasseh)
  12. Benjamin

Reuben was the first born, and was the one who would have had the birthright blessing; however, we find out later in Genesis that Reuben dishonored his father and lost the birthright .  We also discover that the Birthright went to Joseph, and was later passed to Joseph’s two sons (Ephraim and Manasseh). However, all of Jacob (Israel’s) sons received a blessing.  Judah’s blessing would be that the scepter would not depart from him, meaning that the rulership would come from the line of Judah.  This is important because Jesus descended from the Tribe of Judah. Jesus is both King and Priest. 

Here is the story of Joseph, a “type” of Jesus from the Old Testament.  When Jacob arrived at his Uncle Laban’s house, he fell madly in love with beautiful Rachel.  He asked Laban for her hand in marriage, and Laban had Jacob “earn” his daughter Rachel by working for him for 7 years.  After 7 years, there was a wedding ceremony and Jacob THOUGHT he was marrying Rachel (she must have had a veil over her head the entire time).  In reality, Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah, Rachel’s older sister.  Once done cannot be undone.  Jacob stayed married to Leah, but was understandably upset.  Laban then had Jacob work another 7 years to earn Rachel’s hand in marriage…again.  During this time of work and “courtship”, Jacob fathered 6 sons with Leah, and one daughter.  Busy....Jacob finally was permitted to marry his beloved Rachel; however, Rachel was infertile, and had great trouble having children.  The Bible says that the Lord opened Leah’s womb (unloved Leah), so to help her win Jacob’s heart.  There was always competition between the wives.  Much later in Jacob’s life, the Lord finally blessed Rachel with a son….Joseph.  Rachel and Jacob (Israel) were ecstatic.  Leah was jealous.  Jacob’s older sons, through his wife Leah and through his two concubines, also became jealous of their younger brother Joseph.

When Joseph was only 17 years old, he dreamed that his older brothers would some day bow down to him.  This didn’t go over too well with his jealous brothers, who devised a plan to get rid of Jacob.  It also didn’t help that Jacob (Israel) had given Joseph a fancy coat, his “coat of many colors”.  The brothers devised an evil plan to have Joseph killed, but then backed out of the plan because oldest brother Reuben would not let them kill Joseph.  Instead, they took Joseph’s fancy coat, shoved him in a pit, killed an animal and put blood all over the coat, and then told their father Israel that their brother Joseph had been killed.  Jacob (Israel) went into deep mourning for his son!  

But what really happened, is they literally left Joseph in this pit..to die.  They didn’t kill him, but they didn’t rescue him either.   After they left, a band of Midianites pulled him from the pit.  The Midianites later sold Joseph, as a slave, to the Ishmaelites, who sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt. During this time, Joseph, a very handsome young man, was thrown into prison for a sexual crime that he didn’t commit.  During his time in the prison, Joseph had some very prophetic dreams.  Remember, he had already had the dream about his brothers bowing down to him.  Joseph also showed himself excellent at interpreting dreams.  This was a gift from God!  Joseph became sort of “famous” for this, and the Pharoah of Egypt had Joseph interpret a very important dream that had been sent to Pharoah by the Lord.  Even though Pharoah did not worship the God of the Bible, God can use whomever He wants, for His purposes. In this situation, God used the Pharoah of Egypt to rescue and save His people.  

Joseph interpreted a dream for Pharoah, that there would be 7 years of plenty in the land, followed by 7 years of famine.  Joseph devised a plan to have the farmers put away some grain during the 7 years of plenty so that they would have enough food for everyone during the 7 year famine.  The Pharoah was so impressed with Joseph, that he literally took him from prison, gave him a job, and made him his second in charge of Egypt.  Joseph was in charge of the grain storage, and became very powerful in Egypt. After the 7 years of plenty, the 7 years of famine began.  Joseph’s brothers, sensing that they would likely starve, came to Egypt to buy some grain because they had heard that there was grain in Egypt.  Also remember, his brothers actually thought that Joseph really had died all those years earlier. They didn’t know what happened to him, but assumed that he had been eaten by a wild animal.  The brothers BOWED down to Joseph, just as he had seen in his dreams, not recognizing that he was their long lost brother.  But Joseph, in his extreme kindness and forgiveness, forgave his brothers, and asked them to move to Egypt so that he could take care of them, making sure that they had plenty to eat.

This is how the Israelites came to be in Egypt.  Joseph was a “type” of Jesus.  Both were firstborn (Joseph was firstborn of Rachel), Jesus’ Father was YHWH God.  Both were shepherds.  Both were most loved by their father.  Both were prophesied to be rulers.  Both Joseph and Jesus had brothers who were jealous of them.  Both were stripped of their coat.  Both of their coats were dipped in blood, Joseph’s in animal blood, Jesus’ in His Blood, the Blood of the Lamb. Both were sold by one of the 12 (Tribes/Apostles) named (Judah/Judas).  There was a plan to kill both of them; however, only Jesus was actually killed. Joseph was sold as a slave to Egypt, Jesus was betrayed for a price.  Both were exalted as rulers.  Both were given a Gentile Bride by the King. (Jesus’ Gentile “Bride” is the Church given to Him by His Father YHWH God).  Both offer forgiveness to those who wish to destroy them.  The evil that Joseph’s brothers intended, ended up saving them.  The evil that the Jewish leadership and Jesus’ “brothers” intended, ended up “saving” humanity (from eternal death).

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You can see how Joseph was a “type” of the Messiah, the Christ, Jesus.  Isn’t it amazing, how God uses these old Testament stories to point to His Son Jesus, the Prophesied Messiah?  It’s really remarkable.

As we saw at the end of this story, the Israelites ended up in Egypt, where they lived for many years.  But, after the “good” Pharoah died, an evil pharoah took his place, who did not know or remember Joseph.   The Israelites remained in the land of Egypt, and were very prolific (they had many, many children). The twelve sons became twelve Tribes numbering around 2 million people by the time Moses comes on the scene!   The new evil Pharoah grew concerned that they would become too powerful, and made the Israelites slaves. This is why the Israelites were in Egypt, as slaves, at the time of Moses.