In this article, guest author Susan Zurcher will share 22 parallel or similarities between Joseph and Jesus. You will be amazed to learn that Joseph is a type of Jesus or as some say a shadow. So, grab your Bible and let’s dig in…
Joseph: A Type of Jesus
Throughout Scripture God gives us many examples of those who have gone before us and endured trials and tribulations. These examples serve to sustain and encourage us in our own trials. But if we look closer, we can see how they foreshadowed people and events that later took place.
Joseph is one of those examples. Most of us think of him as the boy favored by his father, given the multicolored coat, and later sold into slavery by his brothers. He endured extremely difficult circumstances but was later exalted to second in command in Egypt under Potiphar.
Joseph is said to be a type of Jesus. Jesus is our Lord and Savior, King of kings, Redeemer, Defender, etc. So, what do Joseph and Jesus have in common?*
The Similarities Between Joseph and Jesus
While Joseph was a shepherd to his physical flock, Jesus is our heavenly shepherd. Psalm 23 beautifully describes Jesus as the ultimate shepherd – His protective gaze never drifting and never leaving or forsaking His beloved people. (Joshua 1:5).
Neither of these beloved sons led a life of leisure. Both had physically demanding jobs, Joseph a shepherd and Jesus a carpenter, probably from a young age. Their fathers knew an idle life would only hinder the future greatness they were destined to fulfill.
Has anyone ever shared news about their impending success only to feel like you have been punched in the gut? I’m guessing this is how the religious leaders felt as tempers flared at Jesus’ predictions of His divinity and impending glorification. Joseph’s brothers – who probably treated him as their servant – hated him for his dreams they would one day serve and bow down to him (Genesis 37).
Both Jesus and Joseph were loved and honored by their fathers. They each had a close relationship with them. Even though Joseph was one of Jacob’s younger sons, he loved Joseph more than the others (Genesis 37:3). And in Matthew 3 after Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, the Lord said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Both Jesus and Joseph were sent by their fathers and agreed to do their will. Joseph was sent to check on his brothers tending their flocks and report back to his father. Jesus was sent by His father to the “lost sheep” in need of a Savior, later to return to His father as well (John 16:5).
We cannot think of betrayal without thinking of how Judas betrayed Jesus. Not only as one of the twelve disciples, but also as a friend (Psalm 41:9). Joseph was also betrayed by his brothers when the sold him into slavery.
Nakedness is one of the most humiliating things we can think of. Both men were stripped of their clothes prior to being given up to impending death. In art, Jesus is always depicted with some sort of loin covering, but it is easy to forget He most likely hung on the cross completely naked and exposed – even in front of His mother and other loved ones (John 19:24-26).
Joseph was thrown in a pit and left for dead but was physically taken out alive. Jesus was also left for dead in “a pit” but rose bodily and walked out alive.
Jesus rose from the grave on the third day, Joseph was humbled three times and lifted up.
Jesus and Joseph gladly shared their good news with those they cared for. Unfortunately, Joseph was rejected by his brothers and Jesus was rejected by those He came to save (John 10:31-39).
Scripture tells us after Joseph’s second dream, his brothers were jealous, most likely due to his favored position with his father, and now predicting they would bow to him (Genesis 37:11). Likewise, Jesus “brothers” were also envious of Him (Matthew 27:18).
Neither Joseph’s brother Reuben or Pilate wanted to take the blame for Joseph’s or Jesus’s death. So each “washed their hands” of innocent lives they could have saved (Matthew 27:24, Genesis 37:22).
Potiphar’s wife tried to get Joseph to sleep with her. He held fast and rejected her advances, resisting temptation. Satan tried to tempt Jesus while He fasted in the desert for 40 days. Both resisted temptation, remained true to their Heavenly Father, and therefore were able to fulfill their ultimate purpose (Matthew 4).
Jesus humbled Himself and became a servant for us (Philippians 2:7). Potiphar purchased Joseph as his servant.
Jesus suffered between two thieves while on the cross and Joseph suffered in prison among two other prisoners. One lived, one died.
Joseph was thirty when he entered the service to the king. Jesus was thirty when He began His ministry.
Jesus and Joseph predicted their impending royalty. Both endured horrific pain and sorrow prior to being exalted to their final God-given positions of dignity, honor and authority (Genesis 40:40-41, Philippians 2:9).
Pharoah gave Joseph a new name and Jesus is given the name above every name (Genesis 41:45, Philippians 2:9).
Both Joseph and Jesus provided ‘bread’ for the world. Joseph provided grain to a desperate and dying world. Jesus is the Bread of Life who saves all starving for salvation (John 6:35).
Evil for Good
Evil was perpetrated against both Joseph and Jesus. While man meant it for evil and destruction, God used it for good to save His people both physically and spiritually (Genesis 50:20, John 3:16-17).
Jesus prayed the Lord would forgive those who crucified Him along with forgiving all who would turn to Him and confess and repent (Luke 23:34, Romans 10:10). Joseph forgave his brothers and spoke kindly to them (Genesis 50:21).
God used Joseph to save His people by providing food during the famine. Jesus was sent by God to save us from the famine of our own spiritual depravity. Without His saving work on the cross, we would be lost for eternity (John 3:16-17).
The Difference Between Joseph and Jesus
Joseph was a man God used in mighty ways. But first he had to be humbled and refined in order to mature and totally depend on God. God used Jesus mightily as well. The difference is Jesus was 100% God and 100% man while He walked the earth. He chose to be obedient to His Heavenly Father.
He chose extreme suffering to save you and me. His willing obedience to die a criminals death on a cross means freedom for all who accept His gift of eternal salvation. He paved the way for us to live with Him forever in heaven and be delivered from the dominion of darkness (Colossians 1:13, John 3:16).
While all “bowed the knee” to Joseph after he was elevated to second in command of Egypt (Genesis 41:43), not all currently bow the knee to Jesus, the King of Kings. But one day we know every knee will bow and tongue confess Jesus Christ is Lord when He, the Righteous One, returns to rule and to reign forever (Philippians 2:10).
*Some examples are from Gleanings in Genesis by A.W. Pink
About the Author
Melissa is a passionate minister, speaker and an ongoing learner of the Bible. She has been involved in church and vocational ministry for over 18 years. And is the founder of Think About Such Things. She has the heart to equip the saints by helping them get into the Word of God and fall more in love with Jesus. She also enjoys family, cooking, and reading.
She has spoken in churches in California, Oregon, Texas, and Mexico and has been featured in Guidepost Magazine and All Recipes Magazine. Read More…