Joseph, whose story is told in the second part of the book of Genesis, is one of the key Old Testament figures that is regarded as a ‘type’ of Christ. A type is a figure or an example of something that will one day occur. From our biblical perspective it is a real happening in history which was divinely ordained by God to be a prophetic picture of what he would do through his son, Jesus Christ. Without delving into the theory too much, let me illustrate this with the life of Joseph by highlighting just some of the parallels between him and Jesus.
Joseph was the beloved son:
Genesis 37:3 (NIV)
3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him.
Joseph was sent to those he would one day save:
Genesis 37:13 (NIV)
13 and Israel said to Joseph, “As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.” “Very well,” he replied.
Joseph was ‘killed’ (stripped. beaten and left to die) by those he was sent to:
Genesis 37:20 (NIV)
20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”
Joseph was ‘raised’ to a new life:
Genesis 41:14 (NIV)
14 So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.
Through Joseph’s ‘death’ and ‘resurrection’ many lives are saved:
Genesis 50:20 (NIV)
20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
When Joseph had every right to exact revenge and judgement on his brothers he chose the way of forgiveness:
Genesis 45:15 (NIV)
15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.
There are many of these types in the Old Testament, and not just people. Let me just sneak one more example in before finishing today’s blog. Consider the bronze serpent that was lifted up on a pole. This took place during the years of desert wandering that we read about in the book of Numbers. As judgement for their sin, the people were being bitten by venomous snakes but God provided a way for them to be saved:
Numbers 21:8-9 (NIV)
8 The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”
9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.
It is Jesus himself who tells us that this bronze serpent was a picture of what he would do. These are Jesus’ own words:
John 3:14-15 (NIV)
14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,
15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
But hang on, don’t you think a serpent was a weird symbol for Christ? The serpent was the tempter, the symbol of the devil, of sin and of judgment. That’s the point. When Jesus was lifted up he became our sin and took our judgement.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)
21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.