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Discover the Amazing Parallels Between Joseph and Jesus – Were They Just Coincidence?
There are many spiritual parallels between Joseph and Jesus. Many things Joseph did in the physical realm foreshadow what Jesus did or will do on a much larger scale in the spiritual realm. Let’s take a look at some of them. (If you are not really familiar with the story of Joseph, you might want to read the article titled Joseph and the economy first).
Before we start looking at their lives, let’s look at their names. The Hebrew name of Joseph is Yoceph, which means “that he adds”. 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 the kingdom of God, which he does every day.
The early years
When we consider the birth of the two men, they were both born by miracles. Jacob’s wife, Rachel, was unable to have children. It was only after Jacob had already had ten sons by other women that God opened Rachel’s barren womb and Joseph was born (Gen. 30:22-24). Likewise, the birth of Jesus was an even greater miracle because he was brought into the world by the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit.
In their youth, 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 and under in accordance with the time he learned from the Magi that Jesus might have been born. Joseph, on the other hand, was sold into slavery by his brothers and taken to Egypt when he was around seventeen.
Dreams were an important part of the life of Joseph and Jesus. Joseph had dreams in his youth showing God’s purpose for him. He also interpreted the dreams of the cupbearer, the baker and the pharaoh which led to a change in the whole way of life of the Egyptian nation. The interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams saved many people from misery and death. Jesus’ earthly father had a dream in which he was told to bring 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 mankind will be changed and a great multitude of people’s lives will be saved from misery and suffering.
When Joseph was about seventeen, he was told to fetch his brothers who were tending the sheep and see if all was well. Jesus is looking for all who are ready 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 pit and said that a fierce animal had devoured him. In the same way, the religious leaders hated Jesus. Jesus’ statements such as “before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58) provoked incomparable hatred and envy. Fellow Jews, Jesus’ own parents, also plotted to kill him.
Their works, their ministry
God sent 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 of Potiphar and, in a sense, a servant of all Egypt and Israel later in his life. Jesus did nothing. The God and Creator himself became human and took on the nature of a servant. Jesus told us that the greatest of us would be our servant.
Both Joseph and Jesus began their intense ministry or life’s work when they were thirty years old. They were both despised because of their righteousness. Joseph’s brothers responded very harshly when he told them about his dreams of grain sheaves and stars. When Jesus came to his hometown, people’s response to him was also not kind:
“So they laughed, 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 He learned all these things? And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him. So Jesus said to them: ‘A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own country and among his own family.’ And so he only did a few miracles there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:55-57).
Joseph, through his wise counsel, saved multitudes from starvation and suffering. Jesus miraculously fed five thousand people. Joseph has stored grain that is used to make baked goods. Jesus told the crowd that it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven but his Father who gave 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 untouched by the glamor and wealth that might have been theirs. They showed love and compassion towards Jews and Gentiles.
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 turned down without question. She also made malicious false accusations against him, which resulted in his imprisonment. It was all part of God’s plan for Joseph, Egypt and Israel and worked out for the best. After fasting for forty days, when Jesus was at his physically weakest point, he had the strength to resist and overcome the tricks and temptations of the devil. Jesus was falsely accused by the chief priests and 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 stood before Joseph in Egypt, fearing for their lives, Joseph told them not to worry or be angry with themselves. He forgave them upon realizing that everything was according to God’s purpose. Regardless of the pain he had to go through, he forgave. Jesus, as he hung on the cross near death, cried out “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NIV). Joseph married an Egyptian woman. The bride of Jesus is His Church, made up mainly of Gentiles.
Both Jesus and Joseph prophesied freedom. Joseph told his brothers that God would come to their aid and lead their descendants out of Egypt to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jesus also 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 VIN). Jesus also prophesied that his disciples would be taken to a better land.
While being persecuted, both Jesus and Joseph were stripped of their robes. Joseph’s beautiful coat of many colors made by his father was torn from him by his brothers. The governor’s soldiers stripped Jesus, put a scarlet robe on him, and twisted a crown of thorns to put 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 tomb. 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. A goat is sacrificed for the atonement of sins at Passover.
During Joseph’s period of imprisonment, he was placed near two other prisoners, the butler and the baker. The cupbearer’s life was spared and the baker’s life was lost (Gen. 40:1-18). When Jesus hung on the cross, there were two criminals with him, one on his right and the other on his left. One of the criminals shouted insults at Jesus while the other repented. Jesus said that whoever repents has been forgiven and will live with him in paradise.
Even though both were mocked and criticized, Joseph and Jesus eventually rose to great positions of power and majesty. They both inspired confidence in those around them and in those who read them. They both became a lord (Lord). Joseph became second in command and sat at Pharaoh’s right hand. Jesus is seated at the right hand of God the Father.
The last days
Jesus was betrayed for thirty pieces of silver. Joseph was sold twenty. Both were given up for the price of a slave. The lives of Joseph and Jesus are both examples of a “rags to riches” story. Joseph was taken 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 rich. He was taken to Egypt as a child to stay alive. He was admired by some and hated by others. At the end of his physical life, he was whipped, beaten, cursed, spat on, and crucified. The lowest form of death. Yet God “raised him to the highest place of honor and gave him the name above all other names, that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven, on earth and under the earth, and let 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 amazed and did not believe it. Joseph was practically dead for Jacob. When Mary announced the resurrection of Jesus to the disciples, they did not believe it either, “they [the apostles] did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them nonsense” (Luke 24:11).
Joseph and Jesus were not recognized by their own family and friends. Joseph, after being promoted in Egypt and Jesus, after his resurrection. After everything was done, from punishment and ridicule to the joy of saving people’s lives to personal relationships with God, they both became people of royalty.
Joseph lived the life of a servant. A servant of Potiphar, the citizens of Egypt, his family, and God. He preserved the nation of Israel and the lineage of Jesus. There are truly many amazing parallels between the life of Joseph and that of Jesus. Joseph prefigured Jesus Christ. Many of the things Joseph did for Egypt and Israel on the physical plane illustrate what Jesus has done or will do on a much larger scale, on the spiritual plane, for all mankind.
The parallels in the lives of Joseph and Jesus are no coincidence for speculation purposes only. God the Father has a plan for mankind which He elaborates in 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.
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