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Christ in Genesis, Part 3

December 11, 2006


So the suffering of Joseph prefigures the suffering of Jesus.  Let’s consider now how the exaltation of Joseph prefigures the exaltation of Jesus.   I’ll read now Genesis 41:37-45.  Joseph has just given his counsel for the stockpiling of grain to provide for the future famine and verse 37 says…(read)

II.   “Savior of the world” 

The Exaltation of Joseph and the Exaltation of Jesus


 Genesis 41:39-45 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are.  You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.”  And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.”  Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck.  And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt.  Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.”  And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphenath-paneah. And he gave him in marriage Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On. So Joseph went out over the land of Egypt.



The meaning of the name that Joseph is given, Zaphenath-Paneah, is debated.  And I am not qualified to evaluate the arguments because Zaphenath-Paneah is not Hebrew, it’s Egyptian (Coptic) and I don’t know any Coptic.  But I do have the great OT commentary by Keil and Delitzsch in my library, and they know Coptic, and they tell me that Zaphenath-Paneah is Coptic for “Savior of the world”, which gave me goose bumps the first time I heard that.


Joseph did save the world of his generation from famine and that was the reason for this high exaltation.  And this translation of his name seems consonant with the many other Christlike features of his exaltation.  Besides being called the Savior of the world, I see in this paragraph at least four other ways that Joseph prefigures Jesus.


1) in verse 38 Pharaoh says of Joseph “Can we find anyone like this man in whom is the Spirit of God?”  Even as in Isaiah Jesus is the one on whom the Spirit rests and God says of Him “Here is my Servant, I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations”


2) Joseph is given Pharaoh’s signet ring.  The signet ring was used by a ruler to put his seal on a legal document or royal decree.  So this ring is a symbol of the king’s authority.  Pharaoh is giving this authority to Joseph, even as God has given all authority in heaven and earth to Jesus.

And the signet ring will become an important symbol in Messianic passages in the prophets.  For example, in Jeremiah 22, just before the exile, God says of the king of Judah that even though he were the signet ring on his right hand he would tear it off and give it into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.  But then after the exile God says in Haggai 2:23 that he would make Zerubbabel like a signet ring.  Zerubbabel was a descendant of David and an ancestor of Jesus.  God is saying that the line of the promised Seed survived the exile to Babylon and the Messianic King who will wear God’s signet ring and rule forever from Sea to Sea is still coming.


3) Pharaoh commands that people “bow the knee” to Joseph.  So God has commanded that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.   Psalm 2 says “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you perish in the way”  If you want to know the Father, you must bow the knee to His Son Jesus the King.


4) Joseph, on the day of his exaltation from prison, receives a bride.  And so too Jesus, when he is raised from the dead receives as the reward of his suffering, a bride.  And we are that bride.  The church is the bride of Christ, purchased by his blood shed on the cross to atone for her sins.  Coronation ceremonies and wedding ceremonies were often linked in the ancient world, even as many of us saw portrayed in the fantasy world of Tolkien this week.  We are the bride of Christ, and upon the real Return of the King, there will also be the wedding supper of the Lamb.

I want to conclude by showing you one final and important way that Joseph prefigures Jesus.  Joseph forgives his brothers.  Can you imagine what the brothers first reaction must have been when they find out that their brother Joseph is alive and ruling over Egypt?  You don’t have to imagine, because the text tells us that they were dismayed and terrified that he would pay them back for all the evil they did to him.  And if we really understand the implications of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, this will be our first reaction as well.  Do you remember how Peter preached the resurrection of Christ in his first sermon at Pentecost?  He said “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”


Whoa!  This is not good news.  The man we nailed to a cross is now risen from the dead and he is returning as the King of glory to sit on a throne and judge the earth!   It should make us cry out in dismay, “What shall we do to be saved?!”  But here is the good news.  If you will come before Jesus and confess your sins to him as Joseph’s brothers came and fell down before Joseph and said “please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you, behold we are your servants”  then Jesus will speak to you with words like those of Joseph, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” (Gen 50:21)

6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 11, 2006 11:46 am

    This is soooo awwwesome!

  2. December 11, 2006 8:31 pm

    You beat me to saying that… I totally agree. God’s word is incredible! I LOVE the list of parallels between Joseph and Christ; so cool. This is part of the reason why the kingdom of God is a treasure hidden in a field… and why it’s our greatest food and joy =). Thanks for the great insights into the word.

  3. martian koolaid permalink
    December 16, 2006 7:08 pm

    Does this have anything to do with your distinction of Messianic prophecies describing two Messiahs–Messiah ben Joseph and Messiah ben David? Does Messiah ben Joseph refer to this Joseph specifically, or does “Messiah ben ______” just use those names generically? Is the use of the same names of Joseph and David significant beyond their relationship to these character’s lives?

  4. December 17, 2006 1:24 pm

    Some of the Jews before Jesus believed that there would be two messiahs, Messiah ben Joseph, which means the Messiah who would, like Joseph, be a suffering servant, and Messiah ben David, the Messiah who would, like David, be a conquering King.

    What God, of course, did was have His Son be one Messiah in two comings, rather than send two Messiahs at one coming.

    I think this is a very salty way to share the gospel with your Jewish friends.

  5. martian koolaid permalink
    December 17, 2006 11:06 pm

    That answer was to his question about unfulfilled prophesies in the OT. I don’t think it was salty at all.

  6. December 18, 2006 9:22 am

    I wasn’t thinking of your friend, but of previous conversations I’ve had with others.

    Are we using the word salty the same way? I mean it like this…

    Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

    Salty speech is gracious speech that creates thirst to know God.

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