Images of the Savior (17 -- The Life of Joseph)
Although the promise of the coming of the Messiah, in whom Israel and all the world should be blessed, had devolved upon Judah, of the twelve sons of Jacob, who thereby obtained a very prestigious position of ascendancy over his brothers, as we observed in the last lesson (cf. Genesis 49:8-12); yet, at this time, the possessors of the Messianic blessing had already begun to expand, whereas before they had been ever more restricted with each passing generation: for the promise had been made first to Abraham and his offspring; then to Isaac and his offspring alone, of Abraham's children; then to Jacob and his offspring alone, of Isaac's children; but now, the promise would not be to Judah alone, but through Judah would come the Messiah who would belong to all of Jacob's children alike, and all of them would have some role in preparing the way by which he should come into the world, and in signifying and foreshadowing his advent. The next episodes we encounter in our journey through Genesis serve to confirm this point; for hereafter, the entire book is devoted to an account of the life of Joseph, the eleventh and most beloved son of his father Jacob, whose history would foreshadow the entire earthly ministry of the promised Seed far more exactly and minutely than any other history had done up to this point in time, and more exactly indeed than the life of any other person until the coming of David himself.
In order to substantiate this sentiment, let us walk through the notable details of Joseph's life, as they are recorded in our text, and then show how precisely those details show forth the ministry and accomplishment of Jesus Christ, the promised Seed of Abraham.
We notice first the meaning of Joseph's name, â€œMay he add,â€ which his mother gave to him in the hopes that God would add to her more sons yet (Genesis 30:24); and also, we see at that time that he had come in response to the desperate prayers of Jacob's wife, Rachel, and that his coming had taken away her reproach (Genesis 30:22-23). Then, we see that, from the beginning, Joseph was notable among his brothers by virtue of the fact that he was the uniquely beloved son of his father, who ceaselessly honored him above his brothers, and gave him fine things, and a splendid robe of many colors (Genesis 37:3). We see that, because of his pre-eminency, his own brothers hated him (Genesis 37:4); and that, it was prophesied of him that they all, together with even his parents, should bow down before him (and this through a dream in which the sun, moon, and stars were worshipping him), so that they hated him yet the more (Genesis 37:5-11); and also, they hated him because of the evil report that he brought of them to their father (Genesis 37:2). So then, because of their hatred, they conspired against him to murder him, and cast him into a pit, and sold him for a few pieces of silver (Genesis 37:12-36).
Then, after Joseph had been sold by his brothers, he went down to Egypt, where he filled the lowly role of a menial servant, and brought much profit to those whom he came to serve (Genesis 38:1-6); there, he was constantly assailed by many fierce temptations, but resisted them all; and therefore, he was hated, and lied about, and even though he was unreproachable, he was cast into the dungeon for the jealousy and wrongdoing of those he came to serve (Genesis 39:7-20). But even though he was in the dungeon, Joseph gained much favor with God (Genesis 39:21-23); and by virtue of his time there he was able to speak for the free acquittal of one guilty man and the just condemnation of another guilty man (Genesis 40:1-23).
After his time in the dungeon, God saw fit to raise Joseph up to the right hand of the Pharaoh, where he reigned over all the world, and gave many good gifts to men, and saved the lives of many from a fierce famine; and furthermore, he was given much wisdom and knowledge, and deep prophetic understanding, so that the Pharaoh exclaimed in admiration that the Spirit of God was upon him (Genesis 41:1-43). At this time, the Pharaoh gave Joseph a wife, who was the daughter of Potipherah, the pagan and satanic priest of On, which is to say, being translated, â€œthe priest of Sorrowâ€; and of this wife, he had two sons, â€œForgetfulnessâ€ of all his sorrow (that is, Manasseh), and â€œFruitfulnessâ€ out of all his affliction (that is, Ephraim) (Genesis 41:44-52).
After Joseph had been raised up from the dungeon to sit at the right hand of the king, his brothers, who had before despised him, were brought before him in desperate straits; and there, they were made to feel their own despair, and the great sinfulness of what they had done against Joseph (Genesis 42-44). After this, Joseph yearned for them with great compassion, and freely forgave them all their wrongs, and brought them into his own presence, where he could provide for them and for their families, and satisfy them with every good thing Egypt had to offer, placing them in a position superior to that of any people in all the rest of Egypt (Genesis 45-47). And finally, at the end of his life, when his father Jacob blessed his twelve sons, Joseph received the double share of the inheritance that ought to have gone to Reuben, the firstborn: for Jacob gave two tribes in Israel to Joseph, blessing both Ephraim and Manasseh together with his own sons (Genesis 48-49).
Now, let us see how remarkably these things correspond to the life of the greater Joseph, the Messiah, whom the Jews at times called â€œMashiach ben Yosef,â€ that is, â€œThe Messiah, the son of Josephâ€: not because he would be descended from Joseph, but because his life as the suffering servant of God (about which Isaiah would later prophesy in much detail, most notably in the fifty-third chapter of his book of prophecies) would be very much like Joseph's life.
First, we see that, even though Jesus was the unique and eternal Son of God, yet through his life would be added many sons to God's family, which would be his own brothers and sisters (Isaiah 8:18; Romans 8:29; Hebrews 2:10-13); which thing was signified by Joseph's name. Second, Jesus' coming was in answer to the fervent prayers and hopes of his people, and took away their reproach (Psalm 74:9-12; 102:8-22; Isaiah 54:4; Luke 1:54-55; 67-75; 2:25-32; 36-38), just as Joseph took away Rachel's reproach. Third, Jesus was altogether beloved of the Father, as Joseph was the most beloved of his father (Isaiah 42:1; Matthew 3:17; 17:5). Fourth, it was said of Jesus that he would be clothed with fine garments, clothed in righteousness, etc. (Isaiah 61:10; Zechariah 3:4-5), which things were signified by Joseph's being clothed in the many-colored robe of honor. Fifth, Jesus' own brothers hated him (Isaiah 53:3; John 1:10-11; 7:5), because he was good (John 7:23; 8:36, 40, 42-47), because he exposed their evil deeds (John 7:7; 3:19-20), and because he could lay claim to a position of honor and authority over them all (John 8:54-59; 10:30-31; 5:38-44). Sixth, Jesus' kindred conspired to kill him (John 11:45-53), and his own close companion sold him for a few pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 26:14-16). Seventh, it was prophesied of Jesus that all his brothers would bow down before him (Psalm 72:9-11; Isaiah 45:23; 49:7, 23; Philippians 2:9-11), and even his earthly mother Mary and his greatest earthly forefather, David, would be subject to him (Psalm 110:1; Matthew 22:41-46; Luke 1:38, 46-48; John 2:4-5; Acts 1:14), and in fact, the very heavens and the sun and moon and stars would worship him (Psalm 96:11-13; 69:34-35; 50:6; 97:6; Isaiah 44:23; 49:13; 24:23; Hebrews 1:6).
Eighth, Jesus came into the world as a servant, even as Joseph came into the land of Egypt, a place always symbolic of the world, as a servant; and he came for the good of those whom he would serve (Isaiah 42:1; 49:7; 52:13-53:12; Mark 10:45). Ninth, he was fiercely tempted, but came through his temptations above reproach, even as did Joseph (Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 4:15). Tenth, he was therefore hated and lied about, and given over to judgment by those who were wicked; and he was silent and unresisting in it all, as was Joseph before him (John 19:1-16; 1 Peter 2:21-24). Eleventh, he descended into the grave, for a time, just as Joseph descended into the dungeon (John 19:38-42; Ephesians 4:9-10). Twelfth, through his death and descent into the grave, Jesus gained favor with God, and earned his position as the Lord of the living and the dead, and the one who should pronounce free mercy upon one man and just condemnation upon another, just as Joseph pronounced the butler's good and the baker's evil (Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Corinthians 15:25-28; Acts 10:42; Romans 14:9; John 5:22-23, 27-29).
Thirteenth, after Jesus descended to the grave, God raised him up to his right hand (Daniel 7:9, 13-14; Acts 2:29-36; Hebrews 1:13), where he sat down to reign, and to give gifts to his brothers (Acts 2:33; Ephesians 4:7-8). Fourteenth, he saved his people from a spiritual famine of the words of God, even as Joseph saved his brothers from a physical famine (John 6:25-59). Fifteenth, at that time, God gave to Jesus a bride, who had formerly been a daughter of Satan, that priest of Sorrow (Isaiah 54:5; 62:4-5; Ephesians 5:25-27). Sixteenth, Jesus was anointed with the Spirit of God (which thing is signified even by that title, â€œMessiahâ€) (Isaiah 42:1; 61:1; Matthew 3:16); and also, he was endowed with a spirit of wisdom and knowledge, as Pharaoh so wonderingly noted of Joseph (Isaiah 9:6; 11:2-3; Luke 2:47; Psalm 78:2; Matthew 13:34-35). Seventeenth, Jesus produced forgetfulness of all the sin and misery of the fallen world of mankind out of his sufferings (Jeremiah 31:34; Isaiah 43:25; John 16:21-22; Hebrews 10:2), and he brought forth an everlasting fruitfulness in peace and righteousness from his afflictions (Isaiah 53:10-12; John 12:24; Ephesians 2:10), just as Joseph begot Ephraim and Manasseh after his sufferings; note particularly the order of these sons: first comes justification, that is, the forgetfulness and freedom from all sin and guilt, and then sanctification, that is, fruitfulness in righteousness. Eighteenth, Jesus first makes us to feel our innate wickedness and hopelessness, through his Spirit and his law (Zechariah 12:10; Luke 5:31-32; Matthew 19:16-22), before then comforting us with free forgiveness and the knowledge of himself, through the quickening of the Spirit and his gospel (Hosea 2:14-15; Luke 7:48-50; John 5:25-26); just as Joseph made his brothers feel their guilt, and then yearned for them in a sincere and forgiving compassion. Nineteenth, Jesus takes us, his forgiven brothers, and brings us into his own presence, where we will enjoy every good thing and be exalted above all the world (John 17:24; Ephesians 1:3; Matthew 19:28-30; Revelation 20:4), even as Joseph so dealt with his brothers. Twentieth, when Jesus arose from the dead, he received the exalted position of firstborn (Psalm 89:27; Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 1:5), and an inheritance to share with his brothers (Romans 8:17), even as Joseph received the inheritance of the firstborn. Finally, and very poignantly, the very solemn mystery which Joseph derived from his own history, viz., that God is pleased to bring his own good ends out of man's evil purposes, was displayed never so clearly as when he brought free salvation and forgiveness to the killers of his Son, by the very cross which they wickedly hanged him upon (Acts 2:22-24; 4:27-28).
So you see, then, how precious and staggering a glimpse of the Messiah's manifold glory may be obtained from a careful enquiry into the life of Joseph. As we turn to these accounts in Genesis, let us marvel at how wonderfully God prepared the way for his own Son, turning Abraham into a mighty nation, preparing to deliver that nation from sin and slavery, always advancing the line from which his Messiah should arise with the most minute and flawlessly designed progressions, and foreshadowing the nature and work of this Messiah through the lives of his servants, the history of his people, and the words of his prophets. As we remember the patriarch Joseph, may our hearts be inflamed with love and gratitude for our Savior, Mashiach ben Yosef, who suffered for us, and because of us, and at our hands, only so that he could arise victorious and satisfy us with free forgiveness and the blessings of every good thing that heaven has to offer!