Thursday, June 09, 2005
The Patriarch Joseph as a Type for Christ  

One of the interesting parts of the story of the life of Joseph the Patriarch (Genesis 37-50) is how his life is a type for Christ. Of course, the entire Old Testament points to Christ, and we are to read it in light of Him. The many figures whose lives are recounted are types for Christ, and they help us to better understand some aspect of who our Lord is. For instance, Moses prefigures Jesus as the new lawgiver who presents the Sermon on the Mount as the new Moses.

Joseph prefigures Christ who saves His people through suffering. In the beginning of his story, we find Joseph, through a couple of dreams, presented with some inkling of what will happen in his life. Then his life takes a serious turn for the worse when all of his ten older brothers agree to first kill him. Later, they decide to sell him into slavery instead because it would not be so messy.

After being sold into slavery, Joseph is taken from the land of Canaan and sold again to an Egyptian official. Joseph undergoes years of suffering in Egypt. Although he initially finds favor with his Egyptian master because of his abilities to manage his master's household, he winds up in jail after being falsely accused of going after his master's wife.

Again in jail, Joseph finds favor. In this case, the jailer recognizes his management and people skills and puts him in charge of all of the rest of the prisoners. He interprets the dreams of the Pharaoh's butler and baker who had found themselves in the prison. The baker is executed as Joseph indicated by the interpretation of his dream. And the butler is restored to his position in accordance with Joseph's interpretation of his dream.

Years go by as Joseph languishes in jail. It would be very easy to expect him to become bitter and disappointed. Far from his homeland, without a sense that anyone from his family even knows he is alive, he is wasting his life in a prison.

Finally, as you know, through the butler's recommendation, he interprets the dreams of Pharaoh which predict seven years of agricultural abundance followed by seven years of famine. Since dream interpretation was considered a divine gift given to wise people, the Pharaoh appoints Joseph to administer a program to handle this coming crisis.

As much in life comes full circle, in one form or another, Joseph's brothers reappear in his life. During the regional famine, the brothers have come from Canaan to get grain in Egypt which has stores of grain due to Joseph's plan to save the people by storing up the additional grain during the seven years of abundance.

This is where the story becomes very interesting. Joseph receives his brothers. He does not turn them away. He also provides them with grain. However, he also is used by God to teach the brothers a lesson and to bring about their true reconciliation. Through a series of events orchestrated by Joseph, the brothers end up offering themselves to be Joseph's slaves. In the midst of these events, the brothers recognize that they are experiencing retribution for having sold Joseph into slavery although they do not yet realize that they are dealing with Joseph himself. Finally, Joseph identifies himself to his brothers, forgives them, and has his family, including is father, move to Egypt.

In understanding Joseph as a type of Christ, we see that like our Lord he was falsely accused and sentenced, he was tempted but did not sin, he was envied, he suffered patiently, he forgave his enemies, and he saved his people. He also is an example of admonishing the sinner.

When the brothers came to Egypt and Joseph recognized them, he did not run over to them and start hugging every one of them in a family reunion. Instead, he actually is fairly rough on them in a couple of their visits to Egypt which took place over a number of years. He does this because it brings them to a point of repentance and conversion after they examine their consciences. Our Lord does the same with us.

When we are walking in sin, Jesus calls us to conversion. He does not run over and start acting chummy with us as if there is no issue between the two of us. Instead, He wants us to realize what we have done and how it has damaged the relationship we have with Him. He brings about all kinds of circumstances to get us to that point of amendment of life. We would rather not experience the circumstances. We want the false friendship we would have if Jesus acted as if nothing had happened between us. The key is to come to the point, as Joseph's brothers did, of recognizing the problem and making a change by repenting and returning to God.

Posted by David at 8:45 AM  |  Comments (0)  | 


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