The history of Joseph in the book of Genesis (popularly called “Joseph and the Technicolor Coat”) is a well-known Bible account about the lives of the 12 sons of the Patriarch Jacob (renamed “Israel” by God, for whom the nation is named after) who would become the forefathers of the tribes of the nation of Israel, and their brother Joseph, who out of jealousy was plotted against by his brothers and sold into slavery. The historical account shows that many events of Joseph life would foreshadow the life of Jesus Christ on Earth as well as the prophecies of Jesus’ Second Coming.
This article is a part of our series on “Types and Shadows.” The purpose of this series is to demonstrate how God communicates many of the important ideas, themes and events of the Bible. Many of the accounts in the Old Testament are foreshadows of future events that have either occurred during the life of Jesus, will occur or at his Second Coming, or are happening in the interim period known as the “days of the Gentiles” (the current era we are living in). We can know God speaks this way from the Bible itself:
Ecclesiastes 1:9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. 10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.
Colossians 2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
Hosea 12:10 I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets.
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines a ‘similitude’ as: 1. Likeness; resemblance; likeness in nature, qualities of appearance; as similitude of substance.
The Lord has used much of the historic events of the Old Testament to provide a preview of future events. Whether it be the Passover of Exodus foreshadowing the crucifixion of Christ on the cross and His shed blood which provides the remission of sins or the 12 tribes of Israel and the twelve disciples, there are many similitudes throughout the Bible. What will happen in the future has happened already in some form or fashion. This is also the case for prophecies of things to come. Thus when reading the Bible any future prophetic event should have a type or shadow in a prior part of Scripture.
The Life of Joseph
Joseph was one of the 12 sons of Jacob, the father of the nation of Israel. Joseph was righteous and God-fearing. He was also Jacob’s favorite, as evidenced by the coat of many colors that was given to him. From early on, there are parallels to the life of Jesus Christ:
37:3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colors. 37:4 And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him. 37:5 And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. 37:6 And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: 37:7 For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf. 37:8 And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.
Joseph received prophecy of God through his dreams, in which he saw his brothers and entire family one day worshiping him. His brothers despised and envied Joseph for his favored position in the family and for the fact that he was destined to rule over them. Jesus Christ came to Earth with The Word of God as well and delivered his message first to his brethren, the Israelites. He proclaimed that He was the way to Heaven. He forgave the sins of others. He stated that He and God the Father were one. Like Joseph foreshadowed, Jesus was the Annointed One, chosen by God the Father. And what was the response? The book of John explains the treatment that Jesus received: John 1:11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not. Jesus was rejected by the Israelite religious leadership who constantly questioned His authority and sought to undermine Him. They were jealous of His influence and hated Him for his goodness.
The Plot Against Joseph
Soon the envy felt by Joseph’s brothers turned into full rage. They were so driven by their hatred of Jospeh that they conspired to kill him:
Genesis 37: 37:18 And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him. 37:19 And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh. 37:20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams. 37:21 And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him. 37:22 And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again. 37:23 And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stripped Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colors that was on him; 37:24 And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it. 37:25 And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmaelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt. 37:26 And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? 37:27 Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content. 37:28 Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.
Just as Joseph’s brothers were driven into homicidal rage by their anger at him, so too were the Jewish leaders moved to conspire against Jesus to have Him killed:
Mark 3:6 And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.
John 5:18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.
Ten of Joseph’s brothers betrayed him and sold him into slavery for twenty pieces of silver. And as a proper foreshadow, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, Judas, betrayed the Messiah:
Matthew 26:14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, 26:15 And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.
Judas was willing to sell Jesus out to be killed for 30 pieces of silver. And as Joseph was thrown into a pit, so too was Jesus put into a tomb. But for both of them, the pit was not the end of the story.
Rise to Glory
After being sold into slavery Joseph finds himself falsely accused of a sexual assault on the wife of Potiphar the captain of the Egyptian Pharaoh’s guard. Jesus too was falsely accused by witnesses who stated that he was planning to overthrow Cesar and destroy the temple. Joseph was thrown into prison on the basis of the false accusation just as Jesus was sentenced to death on the basis of false testimony. Interestingly, the bible also mentions Jesus going to preach to the angels in prison during the 3 days He was dead:
1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 3:19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
It was Joseph’s dream interpretation ability that led him to be released from prison to help Pharaoh with his troubling dream. Joseph’s success (due to God always being with him) led Joseph to be promoted to second-on-command over the entire Egyptian Empire:
41:38 And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? 41:39 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath showed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: 41:40 Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou. 41:41 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.
Joseph’s spiritual blessings from God elevated him to being put in charge of the greatest superpower on the planet, in ancient Egypt. And just as God had foretold, his brothers did indeed bow before him and worship him. Jesus after His resurrection was similarly restored to His true position as ruler over all of the universe:
Matthew 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 28:17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
Jesus in His resurrection had now rightfully been placed by God the Father in authority over Heaven and Earth. And He sits at God The Father’s right Hand awaiting the time of His return when He will not come back as the suffering servant, but as the ruler of All. Just as Joseph’s brothers did not initially recognize Joseph, who no doubt was no longer in his childhood clothes, but now wearing the regal apparel of an Egyptian prince, so too will Christ Jesus be revealed at the end times with a markedly different appearance:
Revelation 19:11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. 19:12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. 19:13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. 19:14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
Jesus will return in dynamic fashion, in a manner that the entire world will see. No doubt this will be a stunning event.
God’s Ultimate Plan of Salvation
The beauty in the account of Joseph’s life is that in his position of rulership in Egypt, he was able to save all of his brothers and family from a devastating famine that was affecting the whole world. Joseph realize that everything he had been through in his life – his brothers’ betrayal, being sold into slavery, the false accusation and prison, were all a part of God’s plan to put Joseph position where he could be elevated to ruler and save the entire nation of Israel. When Jacob, after being reunited with his long long son in Egypt, died, Joseph’s brothers thought that the brother they turned on would now have them killed in revenge. But Joseph knew better:
But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. (Genesis 50:2)
Jesus too knew from the beginning of His life on Earth that He was on a mission: to die for the sins of humanity. Jesus knew it was the only way that mankind could be saved from our sins. He would be betrayed, suffer on the cross, take God’s wrath, die, descend into the spiritual prison in the Earth and rise again in glory, so that those who put their faith in them could be “alive” eternally.
Matthew 26:55 In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me. 26:56 But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” (John 12:24)
Jesus knew that His death was the ultimate event in prophecy — the sacrifice that would bring salvation for the whole world. He knew that in His death, others could live. And that it was God’s great plan all along.
Joseph’s life while not an exact copy of the life of Jesus Christ, was certainly a foreshadow of the First and Second Coming. Joseph, just being a man, did not sacrifice his life, but his suffering did save his family and a nation. Jesus, who is the Son of God, did indeed give His life, that the whole world would have a chance to receive eternal life. These types and shadows can be found all throughout the Old Testament and point to future events. Just as Joseph was enthroned as a ruler over a great empire. Jesus sits now as ruler over the entire world and He is indeed coming a second time. Joseph’s brothers did not expect to see Joseph when their lives were hanging in the balance. But he indeed had returned to their lives with the power to determine their fate, just as Jesus will. Studying the Bible, getting closer to God and understanding how the many verses and accounts in the Bible are all in harmony with each other will help you grow spiritually and when Jesus does return at His Second Coming, in His full glory, you will be able to recognize your Savior right away, and bow to Him.