Old Testament Portraits of Christ: Joseph: Loved, Hated, Exalted Over All

July 2, 2019
Bob Upton

The story of Joseph is a favorite Bible story for many of us with one-fourth of Genesis about him. Perhaps the best reason for this is that he is telling us a bigger story. His life reflects the life of the Lord Jesus in so many ways. In fact, the whole Old Testament is a picture book of Jesus Christ, He said so: “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Lk. 24:27) The best summary of Joseph’s life is spoken in Stephen’s passionate preaching before his accusers, “And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him, and delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.” (Acts 7:9-10) You can picture the crowd getting angrier and angrier as he spoke. Although his words were said in haste, they were deeply convicting. Stephen illustrated that Joseph was a picture of the Lord Jesus. He showed that deliverers sent to Israel were always rejected by the nation. Joseph, Moses, David, and the prophets were all rejected the first time, but then later accepted. His conclusion was that the Lord also was sent as their Deliverer, but they rejected him too. The picture was so obvious that they rejected Stephen and killed him. Let’s consider now three comparisons of Joseph and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Joseph was loved by his father

“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.” (Gen. 37:3) Joseph was a special son of his father Jacob. He was the father’s favorite. He was given that unique coat, which made him stand out from the others. This type of garment was only worn by special people and set him apart from his brothers. Everything that happened in his life was rooted in the fact that he was his father’s beloved. And that reminds us of the Lord Jesus: “And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mt. 3:17)

Joseph was hated by his brethren

“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.” (Gen. 37:4) That hatred is stated three times in Genesis 37: hatred for his father’s love, his special coat, and his dreams. The coat showed that Jacob intended his son to be the leader of the family and his brothers resented that. They were already angry at him because Joseph told his father when he saw them doing wicked things. To top it off, Joseph revealed his dreams to his brethren, which showed he would rule over them. This motivated his brothers to action. Here’s how Stephen says it: “And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him,” (Acts 7:9) Envy wants what someone else has, but it also wants them not to have it. So being moved with envy they sought to get rid of their brother. Their solution was to sell him as a slave down in Egypt. Joseph did what was good and he spoke the truth. But he was hated by his brothers. The same hatred moved the “brethren” of the Lord Jesus, the nation of Israel, to get rid of Him too. But as a slave in Egypt, Joseph found favor in the eyes of his master Potiphar and then later in the eyes of the prison keeper. And both of these men noticed something about Joseph: “The Lord was with him.” Imagine these godless men recognizing the Spirit of the Lord in Joseph. So, Stephen says, “But God was with him”. The Lord was with Joseph both in his prosperity and his affliction.

Jesus was hated by his brethren

“They hated me without a cause.” (Jn. 15:25) Remember what Pilate noticed? “For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.” (Mt. 27:18) He saw that the religious leaders of Israel were motivated by envy in their hatred of the Lord Jesus. Joseph was in the lowest spot of his life, shackled with iron chains in prison, but things changed in an instant.

Joseph is exalted over all

“And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.” (Acts 7:10) Joseph was brought out of prison to interpret Pharaoh’s troubling dreams. And because of his wise prediction of seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine, Pharaoh exalted Joseph to be ruler over all the land. Notice that Stephen again mentioned Joseph receiving favor. So, we’ve seen favor from Potiphar, the prison keeper, and now Pharaoh. Pharaoh proclaimed that all the people had to bow the knee to Joseph. That would later include his brothers who had sold him into slavery. When they made a trip to Egypt to find food during the famine, they were driven to Joseph as their only hope of salvation. When Joseph finally revealed himself to his brothers, they were greatly troubled and fearful of what Joseph would do to them. But instead of revenge he showed forgiveness to them when they admitted their wrongs.

Jesus is exalted over all

So just like Joseph’s brethren had to bow before Joseph, likewise, the whole world will someday bow before the Lord Jesus Christ and He will be exalted over all. “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;” (Phil. 2:9-10) Joseph knew that all his struggles worked out for good and said this made him “fruitful in affliction”. He named his son Ephraim, meaning “fruitful” and said: “For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (Gen. 41:52) In that short summary of Joseph in Acts is the bigger story of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us exalt our “Preserver of life” and know that the Lord is with us too, in affliction and prosperity. And may we keep telling the story of “our Joseph,” because as Stephen mentioned there came another generation, “Who knew not Joseph.” (Acts 7:18) •