Analogies Between Joseph and Jesus

Throughout the Old Testament, we can read of various shadows and types that represent things that were yet to come. For example, in John 3:14,15, the "bronze serpent" of Numbers 21:4-9 is cited as something that prefigured our Savior's death on the cross. For Jesus states in this former passage, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life." With the bronze serpent, there was a cure for those who had been bitten by deadly serpents, if they would look to it. In the cross of Christ, there is a cure for those who have been affected by the deadly sting of sin, for those who will look to Jesus by faith and submission to His gospel plan of salvation.

Even some people in the Old Testament have been used to foreshadow others who were yet to come. Elijah, for example, is used to figuratively represent John the Baptist, when we read Malachi 4:5,6 coupled with Matthew 11:12-14. For John the Baptist was that "Elijah" whom the Lord had promised to send. It is also said of John that he had come "in the spirit and power of Elijah" (Luke 1:17). So there were similarities in these two servants of God.

In the life of Joseph (as recorded in Genesis 37, 39-50), we see many events that tend to remind us of similar occurrences that took place in the life of Christ. Let us consider some of these.

First, notice how they were both treated by their own brethren:

In the case of Joseph, it appears that his brothers were very jealous and embittered toward him. They hated him (cf. Gen. 37:3,4), and hearing his prophetic dreams caused them to hate him even more (vv. 5-8). Let us also remind ourselves that Joseph's brothers were the children of Israel -- literally. For they were the sons of Jacob (who was also given the name "Israel") and the great grandsons of Abraham to whom the nation promise was given (Gen. 12:1,2; 13:16).

As we think on these things, let us also now reflect upon similar treatments that Jesus experienced.

One of the first things that the apostle John brings out concerning the life of Christ, in John 1:11, after expressing the deity of the Lord and His role in the creation, is that, "He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him." Though it is true that all of us owe are existence to the Lord Jesus Christ -- regardless of race or nationality -- the "His own" in this passage is referring specifically to the Jewish race that Christ was born into, which was that same race that Joseph had been part of (though the term "Jew" did not come into use until hundreds of years after Joseph's time). How sad that this rejection is what characterized so many individuals toward the Lord.

In the beginning, not even the Lord's half brothers were believing in him (John 7:3-5). Of course, later, we do read of some of them not only believing in Him, but who had also become Christians and servants of the Lord. Jude, who wrote the book of Jude, was one of the Lord's half brothers. And so was James -- not the apostle James, but the writer of the book of James who had also become a prominent member of the church in Jerusalem, as the Bible shows.

We also can see a change in attitude of the brothers of Joseph after he revealed himself to them in Egypt many years later. So that is another similarity.

But who appears to have been the most opposed to Jesus were the highly religious leaders of that time. Matthew states in 26:3,4: "Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together in the court of the high priest, named Caiaphas; and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill Him." So their intentions toward the Lord were murderous. Consider also John 19:14-16, in which many Jews had cried out for Jesus to be crucified. This rejection had been prophesied by Isaiah 700 years before Jesus was born in the manger. Isaiah 53:3 states, "He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him." Isaiah goes on to foretell the crucifixion of Christ in this same chapter: "...He was pierced through for our transgressions..." (v. 5). Psalm 22 is also another Messianic passage of Christ's suffering at Calvary, about a thousand years before the actual event: "...They pierced my hands and my feet" (v. 16). Notice specifically verses 6-8 and 11-18.

What are some other similarities between Joseph and Jesus? Both were betrayed and sold to others.

Genesis 37:23,24,28 records this event in Joseph's life. It's difficult to imagine family members doing this to one of their own. What an intense hatred they had toward their brother Joseph; and had it not been for Reuben and Judah, Joseph would most likely have been killed (Gen. 37:18-22, 26,27). But it was bad enough that they actually sold their own brother to some Ishmaelites for "twenty shekels of silver" (Gen. 37:28).

Matthew brings out, in Matthew 26:14-16 and 47-49, a similar event in the life of Christ. Judas betrayed Jesus for "thirty pieces of silver" (v. 15). Judas, of course, was not the only one guilty of delivering up the Lord. For many of the Jews also did a similar thing when Pilate gave them a choice to release either Jesus or Barabbas (Matt. 27:15-26). Barabbas had been "a notorious prisoner" (Matt. 27:16), a "robber" (John 18:40), an insurrectionist (Luke 23:19), and a murderer (Mark 15:7). The "chief priests and the elders had persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death" (Matt. 27:20). Consider what the apostle Peter says about this: "The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses" (Acts 3:13-15).

Both Joseph and Jesus had been falsely accused.

We read about this event in Joseph's life in Genesis 39:12-15. The false charge of Potiphar's wife led to Joseph being imprisoned for 2 years -- and which would have probably been much longer, if it were not for his interpretation of Pharaoh's dream.

Though it was only Potiphar's wife who had falsely accused Joseph, Jesus had various false witnesses; and that was exactly what many of the religious leaders of that day wanted. For example, Matthew 26:59 states, "Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death." Verse 60 states that "many false witnesses came forward."

So both Joseph and Jesus suffered -- even though they were innocent.

As we noted in the case of Joseph, he was incarcerated -- though having not committed any crime (Gen. 39:19,20).

In the case of Jesus, various sufferings were inflicted upon Him. According to Luke 22:63-65, He was mocked, beaten, and blasphemed. Matthew 27:26 speaks of the scourging that Jesus underwent. It was performed as a preliminary to crucifixion; but was so severe that it would sometimes lead to death. For it is said that the whips used had about three strands at their ends that included chunks of metals that would gouge into the soft flesh, causing terrible lacerations.

Jesus was also spit upon and slapped in the face, according to Mark 14:65.

In addition, though not mentioned in the New Testament, Isaiah 50:6 foretells that the Lord's beard would be plucked; and this verse also shows the Lord's willingness to submit to all of that. It says, "I gave My back to those who strike Me, And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting."

All of this suffering was inflicted upon Jesus, yet He was completely innocent. As the Hebrew declares, "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15).

Of course, Jesus had to be innocent in order to make the atonement as the spotless Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world (Heb. 9:11-14) -- and that was the kind of life He maintained. Even Pilate had to confess to the Jews, who were intent on seeing Jesus put to death, that, "I find no guilt in Him" (Jn. 18:38).

So far, we have seen similar trials in the lives of Joseph and Jesus; let us now briefly consider how they were able to endure such unfair treatment.

According to Genesis 39:2-4, the Lord was with Joseph, which indicates that he had maintained a right relationship with God. So that is the key! Even after being falsely accused and serving time for it in prison, Joseph still strove to maintain a right relationship with the Lord; and, as a result, God blessed him (Gen. 39:21-23).

Jesus, too, maintained a harmonious relationship with His Father -- and always did so to a perfect degree. It is in John 8:28,29 where the Lord explains why He was continually with the Father. Jesus says, "...When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.'"

Not only did Jesus speak His Father's message, but He also performed miracles that indicated that He was in the Father and the Father was in Him (Jn. 14:10,11; Jn. 3:2).

Because of the Lord's obedient life -- even to the point of death on a cross -- God the Father exalted Jesus to His right hand in heaven, where He now has all power in heaven and on earth (Phil. 2:5-11; Eph. 1:18-23; Rev. 17:14).

As we near the end of our lesson, consider the similar purposes we see in God's use of Joseph, and in God's use of Jesus.

According to Genesis 45:5-8, God used Joseph to preserve life. For by interpreting Pharaoh's dream, Joseph was able to inform of the seven years of plenty that would be followed by seven years of famine. With that knowledge, they could now stock up and prepare for that time to come.

But while the life Joseph preserved, with the food that was made available, pertained to just the temporary, physical outward man, Jesus also has a "food" to give -- but that which will enable a person's soul to live forever in heaven. He states, in John 6:51, "I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh." We eat of this "bread" by taking heed to God's word (cf. Matt. 4:4; Jn. 4:32-34), and the Lord did come that we "...may have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn. 10:10).

God is a caring and merciful being who is very concerned for every person.

As God's children strive to be more like their Father in heaven, they also develop more of these traits. Joseph, for example, was very loving, concerned, and forgiving toward even his brothers who had treated him so wrongfully (Gen. 45:1-5,14,15). What a wonderful and magnanimous disposition he had.

How much more so we see these qualities in the life of Jesus Christ. While pouring out His life's blood on the cross of Calvary and being mocked by the spectators, Jesus prayed, "...'Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing'" (Luke 23:34). Over a people who had rejected Him and were heading for destruction, Jesus had wept because He knew what their outcome would be; and He had longed to gather them together the way a hen would its brood, but they were unwilling to come to Him (Luke 19:41-44; 13:34). The Lord truly wants none to perish, but all to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9); but that is a choice that only the individual can make.

It was because of Joseph's maintaining a right relationship with God that the Lord was with Joseph and blessed him -- even providentially having Joseph exalted to the very high position of authority that Pharaoh gave him. For Joseph was given authority over all the land of Egypt that everyone would be in subjection to him (Gen. 41:40-44). The one exception to that would be Pharaoh himself, whom Joseph was made second to.

This now brings us to a final comparison. For because of His obedient life, His sacrificial death, His resurrection, and His ascension back to the right hand of God, Jesus was given a supreme position of authority over all things in heaven and on earth (Col. 1:18; Eph. 1:18-23; Dan. 7:13,14). Of course, the One who is exempt from this is God the Father (1 Cor. 15:27,28).

May these glimpses of Joseph and Jesus be an encouragement to us in our own walk with the Lord. May we also always maintain a right relationship with Him, regardless of how the world might treat us. For it is in faithful service that we show our love to God, please Him, and make our "calling and election sure" (2 Pet. 1:10,11). And if you have not yet begun this kind of relationship with the Lord, won't you do so today?

By Tom Edwards via the Gospel Observer

Return to the General Articles page

Home / Bible studies / Bible Survey / Special Studies / General Articles / Non-Bible Articles / Sermons / Sermon Outlines / Links / Questions and Answers / What Saith The Scriptures /Daily Devotional / Correspondence Courses / What is the Church of Christ / Book: Christian Growth / Website Policy / E-mail / About Me /