Joseph-A Type of Christ

Wheat, a Type of Grain

Heads of Grain

 

The life of Joseph, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham whom God chose and found faithful (Gen 15:6; Neh 9:7; 8; Rom 4:3), is echoed in the life of Christ. Joseph was not and is not Christ; he is a type of Christ.

Some will question, “What do you mean, when you state that Joseph is a type of Christ?” Let us begin by defining types or typology in the Bible.

“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. The initial one is called the type and the fulfillment is designated the antitype. Either type or antitype may be a person, thing, or event, but often the type is messianic and frequently related to the idea of salvation.”

“Typological interpretation is specifically the interpretation of the Old Testament based on the fundamental theological unity of the two Testaments whereby something in the Old shadows, prefigures, adumbrates something in the New. Hence, what is interpreted in the Old is not foreign or peculiar or hidden, but arises naturally out of the text due to the relationship of the two Testaments1.”

That is a very succinct and accurate definition of Biblical Typology. However, there are two distinct schools of thought at opposing ends of the spectrum concerning typology.

One school maintains that only the writers of the New Testament can identify types, which were determined by God the Holy Spirit, Who inspired the authors to record them. Thus, types are only used to prefigure the Messiah, Jesus. Accordingly, those writers identified every type found in the Old Testament and there are no more types to be discovered in those Scriptures. An explanation for this concept is that typology is only determined in Scripture when the writers of the New testament were inspired by the Holy Spirit to record those types. Additionally, those that follow this school of thought, assert that shadows, prefigures, correlations, illustrations, analogies, etc. are the result of man’s study and are thus not actual types.

Using this doctrine, Joseph is not considered a type because no New Testament author identified him as such under inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

The other school is apt to find many types where there are none. They find types in the most insignificant incidents in the Old Testament. For example, those that adhere to this school have found types in the most minute of places in the Scriptures. Those adherents go overboard in finding types in almost every passage. Accordingly, anything in the Old Testament can be the type of anything in the New Testament. Types, in concurrence with this doctrine, need not necessarily be only of Christ. Under this interpretation, Joseph is a type of Christ.

The writer of this study, along with many others, does not observe either of those extreme schools. This writer falls somewhere in between, following the definition of typology from Theopedia, above. Trivial things are not considered types, however, legitimate types in the Old Testament have not been exhausted.

Admittedly this is somewhat objective. Bible commentators/teachers are held to a higher standard than others (James 3:1; 2 Tim 4:2), and as such, are dependent on the Holy Spirit in their attempts to expound the Scriptures (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:20, 21). This author abundantly understands being held to such a standard and the consequences of not doing so, and is determined to observe the Apostle Paul’s admonition to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15).

Certainly there are examples of types that proceed only from Holy Spirit inspired writers. There are many of them in the New Testament. Here are some examples of types from Spirit inspired New Testament writers:

  • Col 2:16-17 “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.”
  • Heb 8:4-5 “… there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: (5) Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.”
  • Heb 10:1  “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.”

Nevertheless, shadows, prefigures, correlations, illustrations, analogies, etc. are possible synonyms of the word, ‘type.’ Thus we can find types in the Old Testament that are in addition to the types catalogued in the New Testament Scriptures.

In our study, we understand that Joseph the son of Jacob is the type and Jesus Messiah is the Antitype. Adherents to the first school would not consider Joseph to be a type, but an illustration, or a shadow that prefigures a New Testament occurrence. This author disagrees and concludes that, under the definition of typology above, Joseph is an actual type of Christ.

There are several ways at that Joseph is a type of Christ. What follows are examples of the type:

Death, burial, and resurrection.

Joseph’s brothers had gone to Shechem to pasture Jacob’s flocks. Jacob sent Joseph to Shechem, to find his brethren, see how they were doing, and report back to Him. Joseph followed his father’s direction donned his coat of many colors and left for Shechem.

Jacob was living at Mamre, in the Hebron Valley. Shechem is about fifty miles north of Hebron as the crow flies and even longer away by road. When He arrived at Shechem, he found that the brethren had moved to the Dothan Valley to pasture the flocks, which is an additional twelve miles north of Shechem, sixty-two miles from Jacob.

When he found his brethren, they saw him coming and decided to kill him. Reuben, Jacob’s first-born, talked them out of killing him and imprisoned him in a cistern, or pit dug to hold water. This cistern was dry. Reuben wanted to find a way to take Joseph safely back to their father.

Reuben was not present when the other brethren saw a caravan of Midianite traders2 coming from Gilead and headed for Egypt. They sold Joseph to these traders for twenty shekels of silver, who took Joseph to Egypt. Note that Judas sold out Jesus for 30 pieces of sliver, both were the price of a male slave. Older male slaves were sold for thirty to fifty shekels of silver (Exo 21:32); younger slaves for twenty shekels of silver (Lev 27:5).

When Reuben found out that Joseph was gone, he and the other brothers took Joseph’s coat of many colors, killed a young goat, and dipped the coat in its blood. Then they sent the coat back to their father, who immediately believed that Joseph had been killed by a wild beast. (Gen 37:12-36). In Rev 19:13, Jesus’ robe, or coat is also dipped in blood.

Fast forward to the time more than thirty years later when Joseph was grand vizier of Egypt and moved his father and his family into Goshen in Egypt. In Gen 45:28, Jacob acknowledges that Joseph is alive. In Gen 46:30 Jacob meets Joseph face to face and said, “Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive.” When Jacob met Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, he said, “I had not thought to see thy face: and, lo, God hath shewed me also thy seed (Gen 48:11).”

This is a type of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus in several ways

  1. From Jacob’s perspective, Joseph was taken from him and killed. In Jacob’s heart, Joseph was truly dead, killed by a wild animal (Gen 37:32-34). Jacob mourned a long time for him (Gen 37:35) and went many years believing Joseph was truly dead. Thus, when He heard that Joseph was alive, it was like the resurrection. Jacob was surprised his son was still alive (Gen 45:26-28). For 3 days and 3 nights after his Crucifixion, Jesus’ followers believed Jesus was Dead (Mat 12:40). On the third day they were surprised that he was alive (Mar 16:14; Luk 24:37).
  2. Joseph’s brothers did not believe him (Gen 37:8,10, 11); neither did Jesus’ brothers believe Him (John 7:5)
  3. Joseph’s Father sent him to his brethren (Gen 37:14). Jesus was sent by God, His Father to the house of Israel (the 12 brethren/tribes—Mat 15:24)
  4. Joseph’s coat was stripped from him (Gen 37:23). Jesus’ tunic was taken from Him (Mat 27:35; Mar 15:24; Luk 23:34).
  5. Both Jesus’s and Joseph’s coats were dipped in blood (Gen37:37; Rev 19:13)

Authority

When Joseph appeared before Pharaoh, and was able to interpret Pharaoh’s dream of the cattle and the heads of grain, he told Pharaoh:

“Both of Pharaoh’s dreams mean the same thing. God is telling Pharaoh in advance what He is about to do. The seven healthy cows and the seven healthy heads of grain both represent seven years of prosperity. The seven thin, scrawny cows that came up later and the seven thin heads of grain, withered by the east wind, represent seven years of famine. This will happen just as I have described it, for God has revealed to Pharaoh in advance what He is about to do. The next seven years will be a period of great prosperity throughout the land of Egypt. But afterward there will be seven years of famine so great that all the prosperity will be forgotten in Egypt. Famine will destroy the land. This famine will be so severe that even the memory of the good years will be erased. As for having two similar dreams, it means that these events have been decreed by God, and He will soon make them happen. Therefore, Pharaoh should find an intelligent and wise man and put him in charge of the entire land of Egypt” (Gen 41:25-33 NLT).

Pharaoh’s response was:

“And Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?’ Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.’ And Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.’ Then Pharaoh took his signet ring off his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand; and he clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck.” (Gen 41:38-42 NKJV)

Pharaoh gave his signet to Joseph and clothed him in royal apparel and made Joseph ruler over all Egypt. Pharaoh told Joseph that he was second in command over all Egypt and only in the throne would he, Pharaoh, would be greater than Joseph. Pharaoh gave Joseph authority over all things in the kingdom. We see the similarity in Christ the antitype.

Just as Pharaoh put all things in the kingdom under Joseph’s control, so God the Father has put all things in Christ’s control.

Mat 11:27 “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

Additionally, Joseph had authority over all things in the kingdom, only Pharaoh, the king on his throne, was greater than Joseph. It is the same with Christ. God the Father has put all things under the authority of Jesus, God the Son and only on His throne is God the Father greater that Jesus:

1Co 15:27-28 “For ‘He has put all things under His feet.’ But when He says ‘all things are put under Him,’ it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted.  (28)  Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.” (See also, Luk 10:22; Joh 3:35; Joh 5:21-29; Joh 13:3; Joh 17:2; 1 Cor 15:25-27; Eph 1:20-23; Php 2:10-11; Heb 2:8-10; 1 Pet 3:22)

These are the major ways the Joseph is a type of Christ. There are several others. Some of them are:

    • Joseph’s brothers did not believe him but later found out he would save them from starvation. Jesus’ brothers did not believe him, but later found that He was the Messiah, their Savior.
    • Judah, one of the twelve brethren sold Joseph to the Midianites; Judah (Greek Judas) sold, or betrayed Jesus to the Romans.
    • Both Joseph and Jesus were the same age, 30, when they began their ministries.
    • Joseph’s coat, or robe, was dipped in blood as was Jesus’ coat, or robe (Gen 37:31; .

The similarities here between Joseph and Jesus are many and astounding. Search the Scripture to see how many other similarities there are between Joseph and Jesus.

Lastly, remember that Joseph was a man used mightily of God who eventually passed away and his bones were taken to Shechem (modern Nablus) and buried there.

Jesus was not merely a man, but God in the flesh, Immanuel. Jesus died but His tomb is empty because God the Father, Yahweh, raised Him from the dead and he is alive today. He is the Savior of the world and those that believe on Him will also be raised from the dead just as He was and will have eternal life.

Do you know Jesus Christ as your Savior? He is going to return to the world soon. Are you ready? When He does if you do not know Him as your Savior, you will join all those who do not know Him in “Outer Darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mat 22:13-14).

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Mark S. Oaks, 4/23/2020

  1. Theopedia, Article on Typology, https://www.theopedia.com/biblical-typology, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Content may be copied, distributed, transmitted, and adapted, provided that attribution is given to Theopedia.com and the license terms are made clear.
  2. These Midianites were also Ishmaelites (Gen 37:28).
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