(Gen. 37-50) What are the parallels between Joseph and Jesus? Does this story prefigure Jesus?

There are a number of parallels between Joseph and Jesus. Joseph’s job was to preserve the messianic line –even though he wasn’t in this line (Gen. 45:5-7). Because of his crucial role in the messianic line, we notice a number of similarities between Joseph and Jesus.

First, Joseph and Jesus were rejected by their own brothers (Genesis 37). This could either be symbolic of the Jewish nation as a whole (Jn. 1:11), or it could refer to Jesus’ biological family rejecting him (Mk. 3:21; Jn. 7:5).

Second, both Joseph and Jesus were rejected, when they tried to rescue the Gentiles and the Jews (Genesis 41). Joseph’s rejection by his brothers led him to become the Pharaoh’s leading figure, and he was able to save the nation of Egypt from starvation. The survival of this Gentile nation led to the rescue of Israel. Paul said that God used the Gentiles, so that the Jews would be provoked to jealousy (Rom. 11:11). In Joseph’s story, the Gentiles were rescued through Joseph, and the nation of Israel came to Egypt for deliverance, too.

Third, both Joseph and Jesus were not recognized by their brothers, when they first saw him (Genesis 42:7-8). In the same way, Jesus was not recognized by many of his people the first time he came (Is. 53:1), but he will be recognized in his second coming (Zech. 12:10ff).

Fourth, God foreordained Joseph’s rejection, so that he could save all people in the end. Joseph said, “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance” (Gen. 45:7). In Jesus’ case, God’s plan worked through both the Jews and the Gentiles “so that He may show mercy to all” (Rom. 11:32).

Because a NT author never picks up on this theme, we need to tread softly on these parallels at the risk of allegorizing. However, at the very least, we can point out that God worked similarly through Joseph and Jesus. Put another way, while God’s plan through Jesus might seem bizarre at times (“Why two comings of the Messiah?”), we need to remember that God worked in a similar way through Joseph.