Some time ago, John Hartley wrote an article that provided a good explanation of the meaning of “types” in scripture. In case some missed it, I will attempt to explain the use of types before describing the features in Joseph that pointed to Christ.
A type is an example, a model, a prototype, a pattern or a foreshadowing of something or someone to come. As an example, a manufacturer makes a prototype to give the customer the general idea. It has many of the key features that the final product is to have. David in his sufferings is sometimes seen as a type of Christ; at other times he appears as a type of a repentant sinner. Some of Israel’s sad history is recounted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:5-11, and we are told twice there that all these things happened to them as types of us, that we may learn from their mistakes. Further use of types is explained at the conclusion of this article.

If anyone has any thought that the idea of Joseph being a type of Christ is made up, just look at the name given to Joseph by Pharaoh in Genesis 41:45. In Hebrew it meant ‘Revealer of secrets’ and in Egyptian it meant ‘Saviour of the world’, or ‘Sustainer of life’. Some 1,800 years or so later, the Samaritan woman in John 4:29 said of Christ: “Come, see a man who told me all things I had ever done: is not he the Christ”? She had learnt to know him as the ‘Revealer of secrets’. After spending two days with the Samaritans, the men proclaim in 4:43, “We have heard him ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world”.

Joseph:- was loved by his father; was given special recognition - the coat of many colours; had a special destiny - as indicated by his two dreams; came to serve his brethren; was hated by his brethren without a cause and through envy; was in desire and in figure “put to death” by his brethren (there was no water in the pit so it was only in figure); was sold by his brethren for pieces of silver; resisted temptation; was misrepresented among the nations – in the house of Potiphar; was a ‘Revealer of secrets’ (in interpreting dreams); was acknowledged as being “God’s wisdom”; was given a gentile wife during the time of his rejection by his brethren; was given a wife before ruling over all Egypt - the marriage of the Lamb occurs before Christ rules among the nations in the kingdom; was made ruler over the land; was honoured with the command for every one to “Bow the knee”; was recognized as Saviour of the world; recovered his brethren by way of bringing them to repentance – the faithful remnant of Israel will be restored via the tribulation; made himself known to them when they repented – they shall look on him whom they pierced and a spirit of grace and supplication [repentance] will be given to the remnant; invites Jacob to see his glory in Egypt; implemented Pharaoh’s suggestion that wagons be used to bring his people – the nations will have their part in gathering the scattered ones of Israel to Jerusalem at the beginning of Christ’s millennial reign; settles them in the best part of the land – Israel will have a pre-eminent place in the millennium. Yes, there are some more.

Although he is a very full type of Christ, as with every type, it falls short. He did not die at the hands of his brothers - there was no water in the pit. He was sold for 20 pieces of silver. He could not be the sin bearer. I see only one mistake, and one disappointment. His father Jacob was blessing Ephraim (the younger) above Manasseh, as that was according to the mind of God in this case. Joseph tried to intervene – he thought that custom should be observed and that the firstborn should have the pre-eminence. The disappointment – he primed his relatives to say that they were “men of cattle” rather than admit to being shepherds, as the latter were greatly despised by the Egyptians. Was that guile? When five were presented to Pharaoh, they said they were shepherds and there were no repercussions. Only Christ was the perfect servant.

There are numerous important uses for types. For one, they can help to confirm what we might discern in the New Testament. For example, if I am uncertain as at what point in the future that the marriage of the Lamb will occur, the type of Christ as seen in Joseph helps me to see that it is before he begins to reign over the earth. Joseph was given his wife before he reigned publicly. Her place was union with him in the palace, while the privileged family (Israel) was settled in the best of the land. In that sense the gentile wife is a type of the church. The church has been largely formed from the nations. “Known unto God are all his ways”.

MM November 2007