The story of Joseph has always been one of my favorites, but I had no idea before I began researching that his life can be directly paralleled with Jesus. In fact, I found over 60 parallels on the web. For the sake of brevity, I’ve included some of the highlights, but you can review the whole list in the “Sources and Resources” links at the bottom of this blog post if you are looking for more information. Here are the highlights…
- Jesus and Joseph are both referred to as the first-born and “beloved son” (or a closely related synonym from the root Hebrew words “ahebh” and “agapao”) (Genesis 37:3, Matthew 3:17). Joseph was the first-born for his wife Rachel. Jesus was the first-born of Mary.
- According to Bible Hub, “beloved” is used in the Old Testament 42 times. The word is used in both testaments and are derived from primarily two main Hebrew words and their derivatives. “Ahebh” is primarily found in the Old Testament and means “to breathe” or “long for.” “Agapao” can be found in the New Testament and means “to prefer.”
- Joseph frequently tended to his father’s sheep when he was a teenager.
- Jesus is called the “Good Shepherd” (Genesis 37:2; John 10:11).
- A shepherd cares for the sheep and fiercely protects them from dangers like wolves and other animals threatening the flock(s).
- Rachel was unable to have children and Jacob was an old man. However, God heard Rachel’s prayers for children and intervened (Genesis 30:22-24; 37:3).
- Jesus was born to Mary who was a virgin (Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:31-33).
Foretold Sovereignty and the Promise:
- Joseph had a prophetic dream that one day he would rule over his brothers. Years later, he became the highest Egyptian official under Pharaoh (Genesis 37:7-9; 41:37-41).
- Jesus’s sovereignty was foretold in the Old and the New Testament (Daniel 7:13-14; Isaiah 9:6-7; Matthew 26:64; and Luke 1:31-33).
Hated and Rejected by His Own:
- Jacob loved Joseph more than his other sons because he and Benjamin were the only sons born to his favorite wife Rachel. Joseph’s half brothers knew he was the favorite, became jealous and consipered to murder him (Genesis 37:4,18).
- Jesus’s brothers were jealous and did not believe He was the Son of God (John 7:3-5).
- Jesus was despised by the religious leaders and by His own people, eventually leading to His death on the cross (Mark 15:10; Luke 23:21 and John 15:25).
Stripped His Clothing:
- Joseph’s brothers stripped him of the coat of many colors (Genesis 37:23).
- The roman soldiers removed Jesus’s clothes prior to his crucifiction (Matthew 27:28).
- Instead of murdering Joseph, the eldest brother Reuben convinced the brothers to throw him into a cistern (Genesis 37:21-24).
- After Jesus died on the cross, He remained rejected and alone in the ground for three days (Matthew 12:40).
Sold for the Price of a Slave:
- Joseph’s brother Judah suggested selling Joseph into slavery. They sold him to the Ishmaelites as a slave for twenty pieces of silver (Genesis 37:28). Interestingly, Judah’s name translates to “Judas” in Hellenized Greek.
- Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (the price of a slave) (Matthew 26:15; 27:24).
Raised to Life:
- Joseph was pulled up from the pit which began his new life as a servant and eventually a ruler of Egypt (Genesis 37:28).
- Jesus rose from the dead on the third day (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; and John 20).
- Joseph became a servant to an Egyptian official named Potiphar (Genesis 39:1-2).
- Jesus “gave up His divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born a human being (Philippians 2:7a).”
- Potiphar’s wife tempted Joseph to sleep with her, but he never acted upon the temptation (Genesis 39:7-9).
- Satan tempted Jesus to do wrong, but He did not sin (Matthew 4:1-11).
- Joseph was falsely accused of trying to take advantage of Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:7-9).
- Two false witnesses accused Jesus of wrongdoing, but he remained silent (Matthew 26:60, 62-63).
Became a Prisoner Among Sinners:
- Joseph was thrown into prison with other prisoners after being falsely accused of a crime he didn’t commit (Genesis 39:20).
- Jesus was crucified beside two thieves for a crime He didn’t commit (Luke 23:33).
Promise to the Condemned:
- Two other men, who were imprisoned with Joseph, were condemned to die. Joseph promised one of the prisoners his life would be restored to his position (Genesis 40:13).
- Jesus promised one of the thieves who was crucified with Him that he would go to paradise (Luke 23:43).
Honor and Glory:
- Joseph eventually became Pharaoh’s highest advisor. This position of authority gave him the second highest level of power in Egypt. Every knee bowed to Joseph (Genesis 41:41-45).
- God exalted Jesus and gave Him a name above every name. Every knee will bow to Jesus (Philippians 2:9-10).
- Joseph was responsible for ensuring all Egyptians and people in the surrounding lands had food during several years of famine. If Joseph decided not to allow someone to buy grain, they would likely starve to death. During that time period, he was the source of life (Genesis 41:57).
- Jesus is the “bread of life.” Those who go to Him will never thirst or hunger (John 6:35).
They didn’t Recognize Him:
- Joseph’s brothers didn’t recognize him when they approached him for grain. By this point in the Genesis account, many years had passed and Joseph was likely dressed in Egyptian style clothing and makeup that signified his level of authority, making it difficult for his brothers to identify him (Genesis 42:8).
- Jesus was not recognized as the Messiah by His own nation (John 1:10).
- When Jesus resurrected from the grave, He went to His disciples; but they were afraid and didn’t recognize Him (Luke 24:13-35).
Reconciliation and Family Restored:
- When Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, they feared he would have them killed or seek revenge for the terrible wrong they had done to him. However, Joseph wept when he saw his brothers, and he chose to show them mercy even though the didn’t deserve it (Genesis 45).
- Jesus chose mercy over judgment and restored us when He died on the cross and resurrected from the grave. Through His wonderful gift of redemption, He restored the nation of Israel and adopted the gentiles although none of us deserve it.
Sources and Resources: