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…
- Joseph (Ephraim & Manasseh)
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 and favored son of Jacob (Israel).
Jacob, fleeing from his brother Esau’s wrath because he had claimed the birthright blessing for himself, went to live with his uncle Laban. When Jacob arrived at his Uncle Laban’s house, he fell madly in love with beautiful Rachel. He asked Laban for Rachel’s hand in marriage. Laban agreed, but there was a catch. Laban required that Jacob “earn” his daughter Rachel’s hand by working for him for seven years. Jacob agreed to the proposal and prospered Laban during those seven years.
After the seven years were complete, 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 Laban’s oldest daughter Leah, Rachel’s sister. Once done cannot be undone. Jacob stayed married to Leah but was understandably upset.
This was an under-handed trick by Laban, who desired that Jacob remain and continue prospering him (helping him get rich). Laban therefore agreed to allow Jacob to marry his beautiful, young daughter Rachel (the one who had originally been promised to Jacob ANYWAY)… but ONLY after Jacob HAD WORKED ANOTHER SEVEN YEARS!
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, it was not long that they discovered beautiful Rachel was infertile, and had great trouble having children. This was a really big deal in those days. The Bible says that the Lord opened Leah’s womb (unloved Leah), 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 Joseph. 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 KILL JOSEPH, but then backed out of the plan because oldest brother Reuben STOPPED THE PLOT. Instead, they stripped Joseph’s of his fancy coat and threw him into a pit. They then killed an animal and put blood all over the coat. They told their father Jacob (Israel) that their brother had been killed by a wild animal.
Jacob (Israel) went into deep mourning for his son!
But what really happened, is the brothers literally left Joseph in a 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 / Ishmaelites later sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt.
During his time as a slave in Egypt, Joseph, a very handsome young man, was thrown into prison for a sexual crime that he didn’t commit. Joseph was falsely accused by Potipher’s wife who did not like the fact that Joseph had rejected her advances.
During his time in the prison, Joseph was given 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 Jesus and Joseph were shepherds.
- Both Jesus and Joseph were most loved by their father.
- Both were prophesied to be rulers.
- Both Jesus and Joseph 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 offered forgiveness to those who wished 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).
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 pharaoh 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.