There are many spiritual parallels between Joseph and Jesus. Many of the things that Joseph did in the physical realm foreshadow what Jesus has done or will do on a much larger scale in the spiritual realm. Let’s take a look at some of these. (If are not real familiar with the story of Joseph you may want to read article titled Joseph and the Economy first).
Before we begin to look at their lives, let’s look at their names. The Hebrew name for Joseph is Yowceph, which means “let him add”. Jesus full name was Yeshua ben Yowceph; Jesus, son of Joseph. Jesus purpose for His sinless life, crucifixion, burial and resurrection was to add souls to God’s kingdom, which he is doing every day.
The Early Years
When we consider the birth of the two men, they were both born through miracles. Jacob’s wife Rachel was not able to bear children. It wasn’t until after Jacob already had ten sons by other wives that God opened Rachel’s barren womb and Joseph was born (Gen. 30:22-24). Likewise, Jesus birth was an even greater miracle as he was brought into the world through the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit.
In their youths, both went to Egypt. After the Magi came to visit Jesus an angel appeared to Joseph (Jesus earthly father) in a dream and told him to take his family to Egypt. Herod, king of the Jews, had devised a vicious plan to kill all boys two years old and under in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi that Jesus may have been born. Joseph, on the other hand, was sold into slavery by his brothers and taken to Egypt when he was about seventeen.
Dreams were an important part in the lives of both Joseph and Jesus. Joseph had dreams in his youth showing God’s purpose for him. He also interpreted the Cupbearer’s, the Baker’s and Pharaoh’s dreams that led to a change in the entire lifestyle of the nation Egypt. The interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams resulted in the sparing of misery and death for many people. Jesus’ earthly father had a dream in which he was told to get his family out of Israel so that their lives would be saved. Jesus also had visions of the future as recorded in Matthew 24. By His life, the course of all of humanity will be changed and a grand multitude of people’s lives are spared from misery and suffering.
When Joseph was about seventeen he was told to go and search for his brothers, who were out tending sheep and to see if all was well. Jesus searches for all who are willing to accept Him and receive salvation.
Joseph’s own brothers conspired to kill him. In Gen. 37:18-34 we read how they threw him into a cistern and said that a ferocious animal devoured him. In the same way the religious leaders detested Jesus. Jesus’ statements such as “before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58) caused hatred and envy beyond compare. Fellow Jews, Jesus’ own kin, plotted to kill him as well.
Their Works, Their Ministry
God sent both Joseph and Jesus to save people. Joseph saved the Egyptians as well as his own family from starvation – physical life. Jesus offers eternal life to people of all genealogies. They both became servants. Joseph became a servant for Potiphar and in a sense a servant for all of Egypt and Israel later in his life. Jesus made himself nothing. The very God and Creator became human and took on the nature of a servant. Jesus told us thatt the greatest among us would be our servant.
Both Joseph and Jesus began their intense ministry or life’s work at the age of thirty. They were both despised because of their righteousness. Joseph’s brothers responded very harshly when he told them of his dreams of the sheaves of grains and the stars. When Jesus came into his hometown the peoples response toward Him was not kind either:
“Then they scoffed, He’s just the carpenters son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers-James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things? And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him. Then Jesus told them, ‘A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his own family.’ And so he did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief” (Matt. 13:55-57).
Joseph, through his wise advice saved multitudes from starvation and suffering. Jesus miraculously fed five thousand people. Joseph stored grain which is used to make bread products. Jesus told the crowd that it was not Moses that gave the bread from heaven but His Father who gives the true bread of life. “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry” (John 6:35 NIV). They both remained humble and unspoiled by the glamour and wealth that could have been theirs. They showed love and compassion to Jew and Gentile alike.
Both Joseph and Jesus were persecuted by false witnesses and overcame great temptations. Potiphar’s wife, who laid an intriguing trap of adultery in front of Joseph, was denied with no questions asked. She also made malicious false charges against him which resulted in his imprisonment. This was all a part of Gods plan for Joseph, Egypt, and Israel and worked out for the best. After fasting for forty days, when Jesus was at his weakest point physically, He had the strength to resist and overcome the wiles and temptations of the devil. Jesus was falsely accused by the chief priests and the elders. Both, though persecuted and hated by some returned evil with good.
If the ministry and works of Joseph and Jesus could be summed up in two words they could be forgiveness and reconciliation. When the eleven brothers were standing before Joseph in Egypt, fearing for their lives, Joseph told them not to be concerned or angry at themselves. He forgave them with the realization that it was all according God’s purpose. Regardless of the suffering he had to go through, he forgave. Jesus, as he was hanging on the cross near death cried out “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NIV). Joseph married an Egyptian wife. The bride of Jesus is His church, which is comprised of mostly Gentiles.
Jesus and Joseph both prophesied freedom. Joseph told his brothers that God would come to their aid and take their descendants out of Egypt to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jesus likewise prophesied freedom for His people. In John 8:32 He told them “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (NIV) and “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever” (John 14:16 NIV). Jesus also prophesied that His followers would be taken to a better land.
While being persecuted, Jesus and Joseph were both stripped of their robes. Joseph’s beautiful coat of many colors made by his father was tore from him by his brothers. The governor’s soldiers stripped Jesus, put a scarlet robe on him and twisted together a crown of thorns to set on his head. They were both placed in a pit for three days. Joseph was thrown into an empty cistern and Jesus was put in a grave. Joseph’s brothers smeared his robe with the blood of a goat in order to blame Joseph’s death on wild animals. Jesus death was on Passover day. A goat is sacrificed for the atonement of sins on Passover.
During Joseph’s period of imprisonment he was placed in close proximity with two other prisoners, the Cupbearer and the Baker. The Cupbearer’s life was spared and the Baker’s life was lost (Gen. 40:1-18). When Jesus was hanging on the cross there were two criminals along with him, one on His right side and the other on His left. One of the criminals shouted out insults at Jesus while the other repented. Jesus said that the one who repented had been forgiven and would live with Him in paradise.
Even though both were scoffed at and criticized, ultimately both Joseph and Jesus reached great positions of power and majesty. They both inspired confidence in those around them and in those who read of them. They both became a lord (Lord). Joseph became the second in command and sat at the right hand of Pharaoh. Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father.
The Latter Days
Jesus was betrayed for thirty pieces of silver. Joseph was sold for twenty. Both were given up for a slave’s price. The lives of Joseph and Jesus both are examples of a “rags to riches” story. Joseph was brought up out of the pit, the empty cistern; sold into slavery and demoted to prison. Yet God the Father brought him through it all to one of the highest positions on earth. Jesus was certainly not born into wealth. He was shuffled to Egypt as an infant to stay alive. He was admired by some and hated by others. At the end of His physical life He was whipped, beaten, cursed, spit upon and crucified. The lowest form of death. Yet God “elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names,that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:9-11).
When Joseph’s brothers told Jacob that he was still alive, Jacob was stunned and didn’t believe it. Joseph was as good as dead to Jacob. When Mary announced Jesus’ resurrection to the disciples they didn’t believe it either, “they [the apostles] did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense” (Luke 24:11).
Both Joseph and Jesus were not recognized by their own family and friends. Joseph, after he was promoted in Egypt and Jesus, after he was resurrected. After all was done, from the punishment and ridicule to the joy of saving people’s lives to the personal relationships with God, they both went on to become people of royalty.
Joseph lived the life of a servant. A servant to Potiphar, the citizens of Egypt, his family and God. He preserved the Israelite nation and the bloodline of Jesus. There are truly many astonishing parallels between the lives of Joseph and Jesus. Joseph foreshadowed Jesus Christ. Many of the things that Joseph did for Egypt and Israel in the physical typify what Jesus has done or will do on a much grander scale, in the spiritual, for all of humanity.
The parallels in the lives of Joseph and Jesus are not a matter of coincidence for speculation purposes only. God the Father has a plan for humanity that He is working out with intricate and precise detail. The Tanakh (Old Testament) points directly to Jesus Christ and the life of Joseph is a prime example. Joseph was a true servant of God.