Essay, Research Paper: Joseph As Christ Figure


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The story of Joseph is a two-fold demonstration of the Christian idea of an
omniscient and omnipotent God with a master plan for the life of each human
being and for the universe as a whole. Every circumstance in Joseph’s life is
turned around to lead to his ultimate position as an Egyptian ruler, which
allows him to save his family. In addition to the predestined events that happen
within Joseph’s life, the story as a whole foreshadows God’s plan for
salvation through Jesus Christ. Joseph is a shadow who has remarkable
similarities to Christ and the events of his life. Both Joseph and Jesus are
unlikely candidates for their positions and are mocked when they tell people
God’s plan for their lives. Joseph is his father’s second-youngest son, yet
God chooses him as the savior of his older brothers and his father. When Joseph
tells his family his visions that he will rule over them, they ridicule him. His
brothers “hated him even more for his dreams, and for his words.” While the
Jews were expecting their Messiah to come as a rich and mighty king, Jesus comes
as the son of a carpenter. His authority is questioned by people who are
astonished at his miracles and asked, “Whence hath this man this wisdom, and
these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son?” The fact that Joseph
and Jesus achieve the things they do from the places they start suggests a
master plan constructed and carried out by a powerful God. Both Joseph and Jesus
are loved by their fathers. Joseph is given a special coat by his father because
“Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his
old age…” Jacob’s favoritism toward Joseph causes the jealousy in his
brothers that starts Joseph on his destined road. God, Jesus’ father, declares
his love for his son upon Christ’s baptism, saying, “This is my beloved Son,
in whom I am well pleased…” Joseph’s jealous brothers sell him into
slavery to Ishme-el-ites for twenty pieces of silver. What appears to be a
horrible situation is actually an essential part of God’s plan for Joseph’s
life. His brothers have no idea that the boy they are angrily selling will later
save their lives. Joseph’s betrayal by his brothers parallels Judas’s
betrayal of Jesus Christ for thirty pieces of silver. Joseph is a servant who
becomes exalted. He is a slave and a prisoner , and through this becomes a great
ruler. Similarly Jesus Christ takes on the conduct of a servant and is exalted
because of it. Christ “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the
form of a servant…” , until “God also hath highly exalted him, and given
him a name which is above every name.” Joseph’s submission to Potiphar is
part of the road that leads to the fulfillment of God’s plan. This fulfillment
includes Joseph’s promotion above Potiphar. Similarly, Jesus Christ becomes
mortal, submitting to death in order to overcome it. Joseph is tempted by
Potiphar’s wife and resists temptation just as Jesus does during his forty
days of temptation in the wilderness. The temptation illustrates that God can
implement his plan only if people are obedient. Joseph and Jesus must live
righteously in order to fulfill the dream that God has given them. Although
Joseph resists Potiphar’s wife, he is condemned and sent to prison. Joseph’s
prison sentence parallels Jesus’ death and burial. Both come out of their
confinement exalted as princes over foreign lands. Joseph becomes a prince of
Egypt, while Jesus becomes a prince over the Earth. After being exalted, Joseph
takes a Gentile bride, Zapthanathpaaneah. Similarly, the church, which is
predominantly Gentile, has been “espoused…to one husband, that [God] may
present [it] as a chaste virgin to Christ.” Joseph saves Egypt and Israel from
starvation during the seven-year famine, when “…all countries came into
Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all
lands.” Just as Joseph provides food for many nations, Jesus Christ becomes
the “bread of life” for the entire world. He says, “I am the bread of
life: he that cometh unto me shall never hunger…” God has Joseph sold into
slavery so that he can save his family. Joseph understands God’s scheme and
explains it to his brothers, saying, “Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry
with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to
preserve life.” This foreshadows the sacrifice that God has Jesus make to save
mankind. This sacrifice is that “…while we were yet sinners, Christ died for
us. Much more than, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from
wrath through him.” Joseph is reunited with his brothers and forgives them,
saying, “…but as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto
good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”
Likewise, Jesus Christ forgives his brothers who crucified him, saying
“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” God gave Joseph a
dream as a young man and Joseph lived in a way that allowed God to accomplish
that dream. God sent Joseph through a long period of tribulation, Joseph proved
faithful in every situation, and God exalted him because of his devotion and
righteousness. The similarities between the lives of Joseph and Jesus Christ
seem to point to an ordained plan by a Supreme Being. Joseph’s life is the
most extraordinary of many shadows in the Old Testament of the Messiah.
Christians often point to this shadow as confirmation that Jesus Christ is the
Messiah whose incarnation was foretold by the ancient prophets.
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