Joseph, like no other character in the Old Testament, clearly foreshadows Jesus. Theologian Arthur W. Pink details one-hundred ways that Joseph’s life prefigures and foretells the life of the Messiah. For starters, consider Joseph’s famous “coat of many colors” (Genesis 37:3, KJV). Jesus’ coat, though not multi-colored, was special, “seamless, woven in one piece from the top”(John 19:23), indeed, so special that the soldiers cast lots to determine who would receive it as a prize.
When Joseph’s jealous older brothers “conspired against him to kill him” (Genesis 37:18), they “striped him of his robe”(Genesis 37:23) and “threw him into a pit” (Genesis 37:24, John 19:38-42). When a caravan of Midianite traders came by, the brothers saw an opportunity for financial gain and sold him for a few silver coins (Genesis 37:27), so Joseph was raised from his would-be-grave (Genesis 37:28). Similarly, Jesus was stripped of his robe (Matthew 27:28), sold for a few pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15), cast into a pit… the grave (John 19:38-42), and came out, alive (Luke 24:1-5). The typology is remarkable!
But today, consider the grace of God that is so remarkably illustrated in Joseph’s life.
When the Midianite traders arrived in Egypt, they sold Joseph to “an Egyptian named Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and the captain of the guards” (Genesis 39:1), no doubt a ruthless and merciless man. But “the Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, serving in the household of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made everything he did successful, Joseph found favor with his master and became his personal attendant. Potiphar also put him in charge of his household and placed all that he owned under his authority” (Genesis 39:3–4). “Joseph found grace in Potiphar’s sight” (Genesis 39:4, KJV). Grace!
Even when Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of wrongdoing, God’s presence and grace was evident. Tossed into the rankest and raunchiest of Egyptian jailhouses, “the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him. He granted him favor with the prison warden. The warden put all the prisoners who were in the prison under Joseph’s authority, and he was responsible for everything that was done there. The warden did not bother with anything under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him, and the Lord made everything that he did successful” (Genesis 39:21–23). God’s grace and mercy shine brightest in the darkness!
After Joseph had been in Egypt for thirteen years (Genesis 37:2; 41:1; 41:46), much of that in the dungeon, God’s grace again took center stage. When Pharoah’s cupbearer, once a fellow-prisoner with Joseph, learned of Pharoah’s dreams, he reported his own dream and Joseph’s God-given ability to accurately interpret it. “Then Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and they quickly brought him from the dungeon. He shaved, changed his clothes, and went to Pharaoh” (Genesis 41:14). Amazingly, Joseph interpreted the king’s dreams too (Genesis 41:15-36). In the short span of a few hours, Joseph went from rags to riches, from incarceration to coronation (Genesis 41:39-45) and Pharoah gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-paneah (Genesis 41:45), “a name above every name” (Philippians 2:8). Oh, God’s grace!
In the years that followed, God’s grace was again prominently displayed as Joseph, the Prime Minister of Egypt, the sole dispenser of stockpiles of grain, became the savior of the world by sharing the bread of life (John 6:35)!
God’s grace is amazing!