TYPES OF CHRIST IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
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
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
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
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
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.