Genesis 37–41 The Life of Joseph—A Foreshadow of Messiah Ben (Son of) Yosef
The spirit of Antimessiah (Antichrist) is on a dramatic rise in our day. It is even rampant among those who are returning to the Hebraic, Torah-centric roots of the Christian faith where some people are losing their faith in Yeshua the Messiah. A few are even converting to Rabbinic Judaism, which denies the messiahship and deity of Yeshua and the divine inspiration of the Testimony of Yeshua. Some of the blame for this can be laid at the feet of a few of the modern-day descendants of the non-believing Pharisees (i.e. the Rabbinic Jews), who use clever arguments to beguile unstable and unlearned souls into humanistic reasoning devoid of a living faith in Yeshua their Savior and the Redeemer of man. Because of a spiritual blindness that Scripture prophesied would come upon the Jews producing a hardness of heart toward Yeshua the Messiah, unbelieving Jews ignore the numerous prophetic shadow-pictures pointing to Yeshua the Messiah contained in their own Tanakh.
May the following study strengthen your faith in Yeshua the Messiah, in his divine origination in the very heart, mind and essence of Elohim, and in the fact that he was foreordained to come to this earth to reconcile sinful man to his Heavenly Father through his self-sacrifice on the cross. All this was prophesied long ago in the Tanakh. The ancient Jewish sages speak of a messianic figure coming called Messiah son of Joseph (Mashiach ben Yosef), the Suffering Servant, whose life and ministry would parallel that of Joseph, yet these same Jewish sages fail to see the connection between Joseph’s life and that of Yeshua. Let’s now chronicle the striking and uncanny parallels between Joseph and Messiah the son of Joseph, the Suffering Servant. (Many of these comparisons come from the book, Gleanings in Genesis, by Arthur W. Pink ).
- Joseph had two names: Yoseph meaning “to add, increase, do again,” and Zaphnath-panaaneah meaning “revealer of secrets” (Gen 41:45). How do these names point to Yeshua’s mission? To answer this, consider the first Adam who because of sin caused the depopulation of YHVH’s eternal kingdom, while Yeshua, the Second Adam, came to gather in and be a shepherd to the lost sheep of Israel, so that the kingdom of Elohim might be full of spiritually regenerated sons and daughters.
- What was Joseph’s occupation before being sold into slavery (Gen 37:2)? What was Yeshua’s spiritual “occupation”? (Not sure? Read John 10:1–18.)
- Joseph’s father loved him more than all his brothers (Gen 37:3–4). What was the relationship between Yeshua and his Father? (Read Matt 3:17; 17:5 and John 10:17.)
- Joseph was the son of his father’s old age (Gen 37:3). Relate this to Yeshua’s Father. Remember, old age is a metaphor for eternity. (Read John 1:1; 17:5; Mic 5:2; 1 Peter 1:20; Rev 13:8.)
- Joseph wore a multicolored robe of distinction and honor (Gen 37:3). What did the Roman soldiers place on Yeshua at his beating (Luke 23:11; John 19:24), and what multicolored, glorious phenomenon surrounds and adorns him while he sits on his heavenly throne (Rev 4:3)?
- Joseph’s brethren hated him and spoke ill of him because of the evil intent of their hearts (Gen 37:4). What about Yeshua? (John 7:7)
- Joseph dreamed and foretold of his future sovereignty (Gen 37:6–10). Did Yeshua ever speak of his future glory in his Father’s kingdom? (Matt 26:64)
- Joseph was envied by his brethren. (Gen 37:11)? How about Yeshua? (Read Matt 27:17–18; Mark 12:6–7; John 12:18–19.)
- Joseph was sent forth by his father on a mission of love to ascertain the welfare of his brothers (Gen 37:14). Was Yeshua sent by his Father to this earth for a similar mission? (John 3:16–17; 1 John 4:10; Matt 15:24)
- Joseph’s brothers rejected him. Did Yeshua’s brethren reject him? (John 1:11; Isa 53:3)
- Joseph wandered in the wilderness seeking his lost brothers until he found them (Gen 37:15–17). What about Yeshua? (Matt 15:24; Luke 19:10)
- Joseph was conspired against by his brothers (Gen 37:18). Yeshua? (Read Matt 12:44; Mark 14:1; John 7:30, 32; 10:39; 11:57.)
- Joseph’s words were disbelieved and he was insulted (Gen 37:19–20). Did Yeshua’s brethren accept his words? (Matt 27:39–44)
- Joseph was cast into a pit (Gen 37:24). What happened to Yeshua after his crucifixion? (Matt 27:60)
- Joseph was taken out of the pit alive bodily (Gen 37:28). What happened to Messiah Son of Joseph after being in the tomb for three days and nights?
- Joseph was sold for silver. This was Judah’s idea (Gen 37:28). Was Yeshua sold? What was the name of the one who betrayed him for silver (Matt 26:14–16)?
- Joseph’s coat was sprinkled in the blood of a goat as if the blood was his and presented to Jacob (37:31). Who also shed his blood before his Heavenly Father? Whose vesture is dipped in blood? (Rev 19:13).
- Once in Egypt, Joseph went from being a prince to becoming a servant and a pauper (Gen 39:1). What happened to Yeshua when he came from heaven to this earth (spiritual Egypt)? (Phil 2:6–7)
- Joseph prospered in his master’s house. His master was well pleased with him (Gen 39:3–4). Was the Father well pleased with Yeshua? (Matt 3:17; 12:18; 17:5; John 8:29).
- Joseph was greatly tempted, yet without sin (Gen 39:7–12). And Yeshua? (Heb 4:15)
- Joseph was falsely accused (Gen 39:16–18). What about Yeshua? (Matt 26:59–60).
- When falsely accused Joseph did not defend himself. What about Messiah Son of Joseph? (Isa 53:7; Matt 27:12, 14)
- In prison, Joseph won the respect of the jailor (Gen 39:21–23). What did the Roman centurion say of Yeshua? (Luke 23:47)
- Joseph was thrown into prison with the transgressors. Who was crucified along side of Yeshua? (Isa 53:12; Mark 15:28).
- Compare what happened to the two imprisoned with Joseph with the two thieves hanging on each side of Yeshua at the crucifixion. Joseph was the means of blessing to one (Pharaoh’s cupbearer) and the pronouncer of judgment to the other (Pharaoh’s baker; Gen 40:13 and 40:19). What happened to the two thieves who hung with Yeshua? (Read Matt 27:38, 44; Mark 15:27; 13:24–30; Luke 23:32–33; John 19:18).
- Joseph was delivered from prison by the hand of Elohim (Gen 41:14). How did Yeshua get out of his “prison” of the grave? (Acts 2:24, 32; 10:40)
- Joseph was exalted from prison (death) to throne—to number two in command at the right hand of the king (Gen 41:14; 45:7–9). What happened to Yeshua? (Acts 2:33-34; 5:31; 7:55–56; Eph 1:20; Phil 2:6–9; Heb 1:13; 1 Pet 3:22) If you are “risen with Yeshua the Messiah” and are “in Yeshua” what will likewise happen to you? (Eph 2:5–6)
- Joseph is seen as a revealer of secrets (Gen 41:16, 25, 28). What was Yeshua’s mission on earth? (John 17:8; 8:28; 12:49)
- Joseph warned of a coming danger, and urged his hearers to make suitable provision to meet it (Gen 41:27). What did Yeshua warn his hearers about? (Matt 11:11–24; 12:36; 15:13; 21:44; 25:31–46; John 3:15–21, 36; 5:24–30; 15:2, 6)
- In his new royal position, Joseph was publicly recognized. He wore royal garments, a gold chain and a ring of authority. All were to bow to Joseph (Gen 41:42–43). Read the description of the glorified Yeshua in Revelation 1:12–16 and 5:13. Every knee must likewise bow to the exalted Yeshua. (Phil 2:10)
- Joseph started his life’s work and was given an Egyptian wife when he was 30 years old (Gen 41:45–46). What happened in Yeshua’s life when he was 30 years old? Yeshua started his ministry and was (re)married (literally, betrothed, in a Hebraic sense) to Israel, his spiritual bride (made up of those who have the faith of Yeshua and keep his commandments, Rev 12:17; 14:12), when he and his disciples drank the third Cup of Redemption (which corresponds to the Cup of Acceptance in the Jewish wedding ceremony) at the Passover Seder just prior to his crucifixion (Matt 26:27–29). Who arranged Joseph’s marriage? (Gen 41:45) Who arranged Yeshua’s marriage? Who arranged Yeshua’s wedding? Read the Parable of the Wedding Banquet in Matthew 22 starting in verse two.
- Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh to carry forth his mission in Egypt (Gen 41:46). In Scripture, what does Egypt spiritually represent? From whence did Yeshua come when sent on his earthly mission to spiritual Egypt? (John 13:3; 16:28)
- Joseph traveled throughout the land of Egypt fulfilling his ministerial responsibilities (Gen 41:6). Did Yeshua also have an itinerant ministry? (Matt 4:23; 9:35)
- Joseph alone dispensed bread to a perishing and hungry world and to his own brethren (Gen 41:55). Did Yeshua’s ministry fulfill this prophetic shadow-picture as well? (Read John 6:48–58.)
- Joseph became a savior to those who were famished in all the surrounding countries (Gen 41:56-57). Who did Yeshua come to save? (John 3:16; 2 Pet 3:9; Rev 5:9). Who was and is the Savior of the whole world? (John 4:42; 1 Tim 4:10; Tit 3:4; 1 John 4:14)
- Joseph had unlimited resources to meet the need of the all those who were hungry (Gen 41:49). Are the resources of Yeshua limited to meet the needs of all those who would come to him? (Eph 1:7; 2:4; 3:8; Col 2:9; Rom 10:12; 1 Pet 1:3)
May your faith be strengthened immensely to know that in the sovereign and all-knowing foreknowledge of Elohim, your Heavenly Father, were the details of the life of Yeshua, the Savior and Redeemer, long before he came to this world in human form. YHVH had his plan of redemption all laid out, chronicled and precisely detailed well in advance of the actual events, and this divine plan was hidden all along within the very heart of the Hebrew Scriptures as a prophetic shadow-picture and ante-type waiting to be fulfilled in the fullness of times. No amount of clever reasoning on the part of those who deny the deity or redemptive work of Yeshua the Messiah can bury that fact! Yet it has been revealed to your mind and heart, by the Spirit of Elohim to know and understand these truths. May your spiritual walk be blessed and be fruitful in these understandings! And may you encourage and strengthen others with these truths!
Additional Comparisons Between Yoseph and Yeshua
Regarding the life of Joseph being a prophetic shadow-picture of the upcoming Messiah, the Jewish sages have some interesting thoughts. In The ArtScroll Bereishis/Genesis Commentary we read the following,
In the future, too, it will be necessary for Joseph to lead in order to introduce the era of the Judean king. In Messianic times, the redemption [or Final Redemption, a rabbinic term describing various events that will occur prior to the return of Messiah Son of David (or Messiah Yeshua Son of David, King of kings and Master of masters) including the regathering of the exiled lost ten tribes of Israel, the resurrection of the righteous dead, the coming of Messiah and the establishment of the Messianic Age (or Millennium)] will be inaugurated by a Messiah descended from Joseph. He will die and be succeeded by the Messiah from the house of David ([b. Talmud] Succah 52a). Then, too, Joseph will be the necessary transition to make possible the eventual reign of Judah. (p. 1578)
What are the Jewish sages talking about here? Throughout the pages of Scripture we see a dynamic tension between the tribes of Judah and Joseph (Joseph includes the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh) starting with Judah’s suggestion of selling Joseph for money to Ishmaelite slave traders, to Judah’s change of heart and drawing near to Joseph and evidencing a reconciliatory (Gen 44:18ff) demeanor, followed by Joseph’s redemption (salvation) of his brothers in their time of need.
This same tension existed after the split of the united kingdom of Israel into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms in the time of King Rehoboam, and between Yeshua, Messiah Son of Joseph when the Jews, interestingly enough, in a curious repeat of history, through another man named Judah (or Judas), were willing to sell their Messiah Son of Joseph, to the Romans for 30 silver shekels.
The Jews relate the above-quoted passage in the Talmud to Zechariah 12:10 recognizing this figure to be the Messiah Son of Joseph and that eventually they, the Jews themselves, will rejoice in this Messianic figure just prior to the coming of Messiah Son of David.
Why are the Jews, though their sages of the past talk openly about these things, blinded to the reality of who Messiah Son of Joseph is and to the role the Messiah of the house of Joseph (i.e. Ephraim and Manasseh) will play in the fulfillment of these prophesies? And why are there so many Bible believers blinded to who Joseph and his descendants are prophetically and spiritually?
Let us not forget Jacob’s prophecy over the sons of Joseph in Genesis 48:14–16 where he crosses his arms and makes the sign of the Paleo-Hebrew letter tav (which pictographically symbolizes “the sign of the covenant”) or cross over them. In the same passage, Jacob speaks of the Messenger of Elohim who redeemed him from evil and where he likens Joseph’s descendants to fish. Now we are compelled to ask you, dear reader, what group of people on earth today speaks of a Messenger from heaven who redeems them and has the cross and fish as their symbol? (See my study notes on this passage in Parashat Vayechi, Gen 47:28–50:26). Does there still exist a similar tension between the descendants of Judah (the Jews and those who align themselves with Judah) and the descendants (physical and spiritual) of the sons of Joseph (the Christians) today? If so, what are the spiritual and the end-time prophetic implications of this? How is history repeating itself and can we forecast how it will repeat itself just prior to the return of Yeshua so far as relations between the Jews and Christians are concerned?
Were Joseph and Judah aware of the prophetic roles their lives were playing out while they were acting the parts? The brothers sought to shatter the ambitions of Joseph the dreamer, and it was Judah’s idea to sell him to slave traders. Likewise, Joseph must have felt that indeed his dreams were dashed when he found himself in the pit and then a slave in Egypt, and then a helpless prisoner far from home and family. Yet it was all part of YHVH’s perfect plan and design. Greater purposes were being fulfilled on the macrocosm level of which no one on the microcosm level could possibly be aware. What lessons are there here for us? Though none of us are a Joseph or Judah, YHVH still has a plan and purpose for each of our lives. Do you have a vague sense of his destiny for you, as did Joseph? Have you allowed those around you to deter you from that course? Are you walking in YHVH’s perfect will so that he can bring to pass his plans and purposes in your life? What refining processes have you been going through, as did Joseph, to prepare you for YHVH to fulfill his plan for your life?
Joseph had some enormous tests to pass: false accusations, near death experiences, crashed dreams, enslavement and imprisonment. What tests are you presently enduring: broken marriages, wayward children, financial duress, other family issues or health issues? Are you losing faith, or like Joseph, refusing to lose sight of the promises YHVH has given to you and despite all persevering onward?
Let’s note a startling statement from Orthodox Jewish sources: Mesorah Publication’s The ArtScroll Bereishis, vol. 1(b) states in its commentary on Genesis 48:19 regarding Ephraim:
“R. Munk explains: ‘while it is true that the dispersion [of the descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh] was caused by the unfaithfulness and sinfulness of Ephraim’s descendants (Hos 7:8ff), Jacob’s blessing was not in vain for “they will return to God” and will have their share in the world to come (Sanhedrin 110b).’ And R. Eliezer adds: ‘Even the darkness in which the Ten Tribes were lost will one day become as radiant as the day’ (according to the version of Avos d’Rabbi Nosson 36). And in the perspective of history, did not these exiled children of the Patriarchs enlighten the nations among whom they were scattered? They did so by teaching their conquerors the fundamental ideas of the knowledge and love of God, ideals they had never forsaken. Hence they too have a messianic vocation and their Messiah, the Mashiach ben Yosef, Messiah son of Joseph (Succah 52a), also called Messiah son of Ephraim (Targum Yonasan on Exodus 40:11), will play an essential role in humanity’s redemption, for he will be the precursor of the Mashiach ben David, Messiah Son of David. It is therefore not surprising to find that the prophet Jeremiah (3:12) speaks affectionately of Ephraim. In this light, Jacob’s words, ‘his offspring’s fame will fill the nations nation,’ assume the significance of a blessing” (pp. 2121–2122). (emphasis added)
What the Jewish sages are saying here is that Messiah the Son of Yosef/Joseph—the Messiah whose coming precedes that of Messiah the Son of David—is the Messiah that causes the house of Ephraim (that is the ten northern tribes of Israel, many of whose descendants are currently found within the Christian church) to return to YHVH. Yeshua (Jesus), the son of Joseph, of whom the life and ministry of Joseph, the son of Jacob, was an antetype or prophetic shadow picture, is the very Messiah, unbeknownst to them, of whom they speak.
The Scriptures Reveal Two Messiahs Are to Come—
One Who Will Be Like Joseph and One Who Will Be Like David
In Jewish literature, the Messiah whose life would resemble Joseph was referred to as the suffering servant or “Messiah Son of Joseph” (Mashiach Ben Yoseph), while the Messiah whose life and ministry would resemble David was referred to as warrior king or “Messiah Son of David” (Mashiach Ben David). The Jewish sages came to this conclusion because when reading the messianic prophecies in the Tanakh they saw two different, even conflicting Messiahs whose roles were very different from each other. What was not known by the ancient Jewish sages, and was a subject of much debate, was which Messiah would come first, when he would come, would he be the same person or two different individuals, and how much time would separate the two comings.
For believers in Yeshua, this does not seem like a dilemma, for we look back in time and can see clearly that Yeshua fulfilled the Suffering Servant role at his first coming, and will fulfill the Conquering King role at this second coming. But two thousand years ago, without the benefit of historical perspective, this was not so easy a matter to figure out. Even the disciples were at times in a quandary as to which mission Yeshua was to fulfill as evidenced by their last question to him before his final ascension, “Will you at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 2:6).
Let’s review some of the passages in the Tanakh that point to the two different Messiahs:
Messiah Son of Joseph
- The Suffering Servant will die a martyrs death for the sins of his people (Isa 52:13–53:12).
- In the end of times, the Jews will look upon him whom they pierced and mourn for him as one mourns for his only son (Zech 12:9–10).
- Verse one of Psalm 22 are some of the last words to come out of Yeshua’s mouth while he hung dying on the cross. This psalm predicts certain aspects of the Suffering Servant Messiah’s ministry.
- John 1:45 may be a double entendre allusion to Yeshua as being not only the (adopted) son of Joseph, the husband of Mary, but to his being Messiah Son of Joseph as well.
Messiah Son of David
- He will restore righteous government in Jerusalem (Isa 1:26).
- He shall judge the nations (Isa 2:4).
- All on earth shall worship him (Isa 2:17).
- He shall rule the earth and destroy the wicked (Isa 11:4).
- Under his rulership, all Israelites will be restored to their homeland (Isa 11:12).
- Matthew 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30, 31; 21:9,15; 22:42 are references to the expectations of the Jewish followers of Yeshua that he was Messiah Son of David.