Joseph was Jacob’s eleventh son. Jacob loved him more than his brothers, so his brothers hated him. They hated him more when he had dreams that someday they would bow down to him! So they sold him to Midianite merchants who took him to Egypt.
He entered the service of Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials. Because God was with him and made him successful, Potiphar put him in charge of his entire household. But Joseph was thrown in prison when Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him of trying to take advantage of her.
But God was with Joseph even in jail. He granted Joseph favor in the eyes of the warden, who put him in charge of the entire prison. He also gave Joseph the ability to interpret dreams. When Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker were also put in prison, he correctly interpreted their dreams.
Two years later, Pharaoh had dreams he couldn’t understand. When he shared them with the court, his cupbearer remembered Joseph. Joseph appeared before Pharaoh and interpreted his dreams to mean there would be seven years of famine. So Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of all Egypt to store grain and prepare for the famine.
Even Joseph’s brothers came from Canaan to buy grain from him. They didn’t recognize him, but after a series of encounters he revealed himself to them. He told them to bring their father and their families down to Egypt, and he provided for them there. He died in Egypt at the age of 110.
You can read Joseph’s story in Genesis 37, 39 – 50.
Joseph and Jesus
Joseph is an example of faithfulness and perseverance for Christians enduring difficult situations. His life repeatedly bears out the promise, “God works all things together for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).
More importantly, he is a preview of Jesus’ life and ministry. There are several parallels between him and Jesus:
- Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son (Genesis 37:3). In the same way, Jesus is God’s one and only Son (John 3:16).
- Joseph was thirty years old when he entered Pharaoh’s service (Genesis 41:46). In the same way, Jesus was thirty years old when He began His ministry (Luke 3:23).
- Joseph was betrayed and sold by his brothers (Genesis 37:28). In the same way, Jesus was betrayed and sold by the Jews (Matthew 26:14-16).
- Joseph resisted temptation (Genesis 39:10). In the same way, Jesus resisted temptation (Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13).
- Joseph was exalted from prison to the highest position of authority (Genesis 41:41). In the same way, Jesus was exalted from the grave to God’s right hand (Acts 2:31-33).
- Joseph forgave his brothers because God used their evil actions for good (Genesis 50:20). In the same way, Jesus forgave the Jews who crucified Him because God would use their evil actions for good (Luke 23:34).
- Joseph’s brothers recognized him on their second journey to Egypt (Genesis 45:4). In the same way, all will recognize Jesus when He comes a second time (Revelation 1:7).
New Testament Perspective
Joseph is an Old Testament person, but we must see him from a New Testament perspective. His vindication gives hope to persecuted Christians who are mistreated for the gospel. And his entire life shows how God intended Jesus’ death (the ultimate act of harm) for the salvation of all who believe (the ultimate good).