Dr. James T. Naismith of Scarborough, Ontario, a retired physician who presently devotes his full time to Bible teaching, continues his series on Genesis.
Copyright by Everyday Publications inc.; used by permission.
[2. Pictures of Christ in Genesis] cont.
[A. Typical Persons] cont.
Of all the Old Testament types of Christ none is more varied, more beautiful, more complete and more instructive than Joseph. While it is true that the New Testament nowhere indicates that Joseph is indeed a type of the Lord — as is the case with Adam, Melchizedek and Isaac — it has been truly said that “the analogies are too numerous to be accidental.” Over one hundred resemblances to the Lord Jesus have been listed.
Joseph’s history may be epitomized in two phrases from Psalm 105:17, 21, He sent a man … He made him Lord. How appropriately applicable to the Son of God, whom, when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth, Gal. 4:4, and whom He hath made … both Lord and Christ, Acts 2:36! God did send me before you to preserve life, declared Joseph to his brothers, Gen. 45:5. Similarily, God sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him, 1 John 4:9.
“Through pit and prison to palace” — thus we might summarize the story of Joseph’s life. “By cradle and cross to crown of glory” might equally describe the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow, 1 Pet. 1:11. When considering the story of Joseph earlier in our studies, we noted that he exemplified the significant message given by the man of God to Eli, Them that honour Me will I honour, 1 Sam. 2:30. The supreme example of this, of course, is the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone could truthfully say, I do always those things that please Him (the Father), John 8:29, and I have glorified Thee on the earth, John 17:4, and whom God raised up from the dead and gave Him glory, 1 Pet. 1:21.
An adequate presentation of the analogies between Joseph and Jesus would occupy many pages — even volumes — and is beyond the scope of this book. The following points of comparison may, however, suggest material for further study of this interesting subject:
A. Loved By His Father
Israel loved Joseph, Gen. 37:3. Repeatedly in the New Testament —frequently from the lips of the Son of God Himself — is declared the love of God the Father for His “beloved Son,” Matt. 3:17; 17:5, “the Son He loves,” Col. 1:13, NIV — for example, John 3:35; 5:20; 15:9, 10; 17:23, 24, 26.
The provision of a special coat for Joseph by his father was a mark of special honour and distinction — as were the declarations from an open heaven by God the Father of His delight in His Son. Indeed, the Father loveth the Son and hath given all things into His hand, John 3:35.
The visions of Joseph, Gen. 37:6-10, were doubtless God’s revelations to him of his future glory when father and brothers would acknowledge him. Prior to His birth, the future greatness of the Babe of Bethlehem was revealed by an angelic messenger, Luke 1:32, 33, and, on the eve of His death, the Lord made known to those who hated Him and were demanding His death that they would one day see the supreme glory and authority of the One whom they were then rejecting, Matt. 26:64.
Joseph’s mission to his brothers (Gen. 37:14), sent by his father, surely prefigures the mission of God’s beloved Son, who became the willing servant, and who frequently reiterated that He was sent by the Father (John 4:34; 5:30, 36; 6:39, 40, 44; etc.)
B. Hated By His Brothers
They hated him. Three times this is noted in Genesis 37. There were reasons for their hatred, but our Lord could say prophetically, They that hate Me without a cause are more than the hairs of My head … I am become a stranger unto My brethren, and an alien unto My mother’s children, Ps. 69:4, 8; see also John 15:18, 24. Yet there was a similar basis for this hatred. Joseph incurred hatred because he told the truth about his brothers — he brought unto his father their evil report, Gen. 37:2. Ye seek to kill Me, Jesus said, a Man that hath told you the truth, John 8:40. In both cases, envy was at the root of hatred — Gen. 37:11; Matt. 27:18. note the evidences of hatred.
1. “They conspired against him to slay him,” Gen. 37:18. compare Matt. 21:38, “They said among themselves, ‘this is the heir; come, let us kill him’”; Matt. 26:4, they “consulted that they might take Jesus by subtlety, and kill Him”; Matt. 26:59, they “sought false witness against Jesus, to put Him to death”; Matt. 27:1, they “took counsel against Jesus to put Him to death”; v. 20, “the chief priests and the elders persuaded the multitude that they should … destroy Jesus”; v. 22, “They all say…let Him be crucified.’”
2. “They stripped Joseph out of his coat,” Gen. 37:23. Compare Matt. 27:28, “They stripped Him.” Not only was Jesus stripped literally; He was also stripped of His honour — of which Joseph’s coat was a mark — by being given the shame, ignominy and dishonour of a criminal’s cross, and having to endure the indignities and mockery of His creatures, even to the extent of being spit upon — see Matt. 27:29, 30.
3. “They cast him into a pit,” Gen. 37:24. Literally, our Lord was “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth,” Matt. 12:40. Figuratively, He could say prophetically, “I sink in deep mire where there is no standing,” Ps. 69:2. There was no water in the pit into which Joseph was cast, but, in the same verse of this Psalm, the Lord added, “I am come into deep waters where the floods overflow Me.”
4. “They … sold Joseph … for twenty pieces of silver,” Gen. 37:28. Compare Matt. 26:15, “They covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.”
“Thirty pieces of silver for the Lord of life they gave:
Thirty pieces of silver — only the price of a slave,
But it was the priestly value of the holy One of God:
They weighed it out in the temple, the price of the Saviour’s blood.”
5. They forsook him. “The Ishmaelites … brought Joseph into Egypt,” Gen. 37:28. Compare John 1:11, “His own received Him not”; Matt. 26:56, “All the disciples forsook Him, and fled.”
6. They “saw the anguish of his soul,” Gen. 42:21. Compare Ps. 22:6-21; 69:1-21; Matt. 27:47-49. “I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters but I found none,” Ps. 69:20.
C. Humiliated By Men
Gen. 37, 39, 40
After being sold by his brothers, Joseph “was brought down to Egypt,” Gen. 37:28; 39:1, where he maintained his personal purity, honouring God and bringing blessing to men, both in Potiphar’s house and in Pharaoh’s prison — thus prefiguring the Perfect Servant (Is. 42:1; 52:13; Phil. 2:7). In his home in Egypt, he was the subject of Satan’s attacks (Gen. 39:7-13) — as was the Lord in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11); and of false accusations (Gen. 39:14-19; compare Matt. 26:59-62), but no real charge could be brought against him. So, in spite of the false witnesses against Him, the perfect innocence and purity of the Man of Calvary was attested, during the hours of His trial and death, by the judge’s wife (“that just Man” — Matt. 27:19), the judge himself (“this just Person” — Matt. 27:24), the thief on the cross (“This was a righteous Man” — Luke 23:47), and even the traitor (“innocent blood” — Matt. 27:4). Just as Joseph the servant prospered in the land of Egypt, both in the home of Potiphar and in the prison (Gen. 39:2-6, 21-23), so God has declared concerning His perfect Servant, Behold, My Servant will prosper, Is. 52:13, NASB. The imprisonment of Joseph reminds us of Him who “Was taken from prison and from judgment,” Is. 53:8. With him in the prison were two malefactors — the butler and the baker — one of whom, the butler, was subsequently exalted and restored to his position, the other, the baker, being condemned and hanged (Gen. 40). Our Lord also, while on the cross, was “numbered with the transgressors,” Mark 15:27, 28; Is. 53:12 — the two thieves, one of whom heard words of infinite mercy from the centre cross and went to Paradise, while the other, persisting in his railing and rejection, went to perdition, Luke 23:39-43.
D. Exalted By God
At length, God’s sovereign and wise purposes for Joseph were brought to fruition. The one who honoured God in Egypt was honoured by God in Egypt and “set over all the land of Egypt,” Gen. 41:41, “made ruler over all the land of Egypt,” v. 43, all of whose inhabitants were made to “bow the knee” to him. Joseph could later say to his brothers: “God hath made me lord of all Egypt,” Gen. 45:9. Already, “God hath highly exalted Him” who, to glorify God, “humbled Himself,” and has given Him a name which is above every name.” The day is soon coming when every knee shall bow to Him “and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,” Phil. 2:5-11. “He is Lord of all,” Acts 10:36.
In his exaltation, Joseph was given by Pharaoh (Gen. 41:45):
1. A name — Zaphnath-paaneah, which has been variously interpreted as: “Revealer of secrets,” “God spoke and he came to life,” and “the one who furnishes the sustenance of the land” or “the Saviour of the world” — and all of which were true of Joseph, but even more so of the Lord Jesus.
2. A wife — Asenath. While still rejected by his brothers, a Gentile bride was provided for the exalted ruler of Egypt — suggestive of the bride, the Church, given by God the Father to His Son in His exaltation —but still rejection — to share His name and His glory.
The exalted Joseph was the provider of bread for a needy world. Pharaoh’s command was: “Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do”; “and all countries came into Egypt to Joseph to buy corn” (Gen. 41:55-57. “I am the bread of life,” said the heavenly Joseph. “He that cometh to Me shall never hunger,” John 6:35. Those who ate of Joseph’s bread — as of the manna in the wilderness — are dead, John 6:49, but “This is the bread that cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat of it, and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever,” vv. 50, 51. So the command goes forth to all who would have their eternal need satisfied: Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it, John 2:5.
Finally Joseph was seen and recognized by his brothers, who had previously despised and rejected him and sold him into Egypt. In the end, the one whom they had despised became the means of their blessing. In a day soon coming, every eye shall see Him, and they also who pierced Him and His own nation who rejected Him will be blessed through Him.
In the meantime, as we wait that day when the Lord’s glory will be displayed to a wondering world, we can discern, in Joseph’s command to his brothers, “ye shall tell … of all my glory,” Gen. 45:13, the responsibility entrusted to us to proclaim His glory to those who, like Jacob, are unaware that the One who was slain (see Gen. 37:33) is “Yet alive,” Gen. 45:28. The same command, “ye shall tell my father of all my glory” may be applied to the privilege we have of worshipping His Father, who delights to hear His people speak well of His Son.