For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough


Joseph is such a clear and comprehensive type of Christ that it is doubtful whether anyone will have difficulty in recognizing him as such.  The first detail in the typological picture has to do with his birth, which like that of several others who are types of Christ, was a miracle, for his mother Rachel was barren, see Ge 30:1,22, the miracle of his birth pointing to the miraculous birth of his great Antitype, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The next mention of him is seventeen years later in Ge 37, where the detailed description of his life begins and continues through the remaining chapters of Genesis.  The gap between his birth, and the beginning of the detailed account of his life, points to the scriptural silence relative to the time between Christ’s birth and the beginning of His public ministry.

Ge 37:2 presents him as a shepherd “feeding the flock” with his evil brethren, a typological picture of Christ, the good Shepherd, feeding the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” with the spiritual food of the Word of God, “with his brethren” the evil leaders of Israel.

His bringing “unto his father their evil report” points to Christ’s denunciation and exposure of the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders; while his father’s greater love for him (because of his virtuous life) than for his evil brethren, is but the foreshadowing of the Father’s love for the Lord Jesus Christ.  The coat of many colors or pieces, the symbol or evidence of Jacob’s love for Joseph, had its counterpart in God’s opening the heavens on two occasions to declare of Christ, “This is my beloved Son,” Mt 3:17; 17:5.

His brethren’s intense jealous hatred of him recorded in Ge 37:4 was the symbolic anticipation of the same jealous hatred of the evil Jewish leaders against Christ, see Mt 27:18; Mk 15:10.

Joseph’s foretelling his future exaltation and glory, as revealed in two dreams, and recorded in Ge 37:5-11, had its fulfillment in the Lord’s use of the Scriptures to declare to the Jews His own future exaltation and glory - and with the same result: “they hated him yet the more.”

Ge 37:12-17 records Jacob’s sending Joseph out of the vale of Hebron (meaning communion, and being a type of heaven), to “see whether it be well with thy brethren,” corresponds to God’s sending the Lord Jesus Christ out of heaven (where they had enjoyed eternal communion) to seek the welfare of His Jewish brethren.  (The nameless man, incidentally, who directed Joseph, is a type of the Holy Spirit who directed all the activity of the Lord’s earthly life.  Other examples of the same type are the nameless servant sent by Abraham to seek a bride for Isaac; and in the NT, the nameless man bearing the pitcher, who led the disciples to the upper room where  Christ ate the last Passover and instituted the Lord’s Supper).

And surely not even the dullest spiritual perception will fail to read the ominous significance of its being recorded that instead of being where they were supposed to be, at Shechem, meaning shoulder, and representing strength and security, the evil brethren had gone to Dothan, meaning double decree: double sickness.  There could be no more fitting symbol of the state of the nation to which Christ came.  They too, departed from the place appointed by God, were living under the “double decrees” of law weighted down by additional restrictions of their own making, with the result that there was “double sickness” in their midst: their disobedience had robbed them of the blessings God meant them to enjoy in Canaan; but worse, it had robbed them also of eternal blessings in heaven.

“And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him,” Ge 37:18.  This is the symbolic announcement that Israel’s attitude to Christ had long been foretold by the prophets.

Ruben’s attempt to deliver him out of their hand points to the attempt of the few godly amongst the Jewish leaders to deliver Christ, see Lk 23:50-51.

Since garments represent righteousness (either the filthy rags of self-righteousness, or the righteousness of Christ which clothes the believer), their stripping Joseph of his coat of many colors, foreshadows the Jews’ stripping Christ of righteousness by attributing His miraculous power to Satan, and accusing Him of blasphemy.

Their casting him into the pit which had “no water in it” is the typological figure of their consigning Christ to death, but the absence of water in which he would have drowned, is the symbolic announcement of the truth that Joseph was delivered from death, that deliverance being a figure or type of the Lord’s being raised up out of death.

It is significant too that while Joseph was in the pit his brethren “sat down to eat bread,” Ge 37:25.  While Christ fulfilled the type of Joseph in the pit (the intended place of his death), His brethren the Jews also ate bread: they kept the Passover.

The sale of Joseph for twenty pieces of silver, in response to the suggestion of Judah, reminds us that another of the same name (Judas is the Greek form of Judah) sold the Lord for thirty pieces of silver.  The pretense that he had been killed by a wild beast, had its fulfillment when the Jews had the Romans carry out the actual execution of Christ, see Jn 18:31.  His being carried down to Egypt is the symbolic announcement of the Lord’s turning to the Gentiles after being rejected by Israel; and the blessing of Potiphar’s house under Joseph’s management, speaks of the blessing of the Gentiles through the gospel in the early days of the apostolic age.  In connection with this, it is instructive to note that Potiphar means my affliction was broken.

Since imprisonment in Egypt was almost invariably tantamount to a death sentence, Joseph’s imprisonment resulting from the false charge brought against him by Popiphar’s evil wife, seems to be the symbolic announcement of the truth that Christ’s death was to make atonement for the sins of the Gentile as well as the Jew, so that the Gentile was therefore also responsible for His death.

The prosperity enjoyed by the jailor who had entrusted Joseph with all his affairs, seems to portray the spiritual blessing of the Gentiles who trust Christ as Savior, and who commit their lives to His control.

Passing over details which would take us beyond the purview of these brief studies of the types of Christ, we have in Genesis chapter 41 the promotion of Joseph to be ruler of Egypt, and his being given a Gentile bride; events which point to that soon coming day when Christ will reign as King of kings, having by His side His bride, the Church, the Gentile bride given Him by the Father during this present age of His rejection by Israel.

In Genesis chapters 42 through 45 we are presented with a typological preview of the coming seven-year Tribulation era in which Israel, Christ’s brethren according to the flesh, will be brought to repentance, reconciliation, and blessing; and in chapter 46, which records the settlement of Joseph’s whole family in Goshen, the best part of Egypt, we are being pointed to the coming blessing of Israel, and of the whole earth, in the Millennium.

Joseph, the fullest, most comprehensive, and most beautiful type of Christ, was still, however, only a man, only a type, and as such must die, as recorded in Genesis 50.  The One he typifies, however, is He who lives in the power of an endless life, and whose dominion will be without end.

Those interested in a more detailed treatment of Joseph’s life, may consult the relevant chapters of Genesis in the Bible Studies section of this website.



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough