Joseph and Jesus – Lessons From a Comparison Between Them

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The story of Joseph and his multi-colored coat is perhaps one of the most well-known and beloved biblical narratives. I admit it is one of my own favorites. Joseph’s story is not only full of great intrigue and drama but many see a prophetic aspect to this narrative that foreshadows our own Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). But in reality, were there more similarities or more differences between the two? Join me as we look at a comparison between Joseph and Jesus.

Comparison Between Joseph and Jesus – Similarities

When we look at Joseph and Jesus, we DO see many parallels.

Mocked and Ridiculed

Joseph was mocked for being a “dreamer” and he was ridiculed by his brothers because they were jealous and felt he was a bit of a braggart. And, if we are being honest, he was.

He was Jacob’s favorite son and oh, he knew it. Joseph’s dreams were shared with his brothers and they always seemed to paint Joseph in a position of authority or superiority over them. He was not the most popular young man in the family outside of his father’s affections, put it that way.

Jesus was mocked and taunted by others at the end of His life.

an image of an Egyptian man like Pharaoh and the Worth Beyond Rubies logo at the bottom with a text overlay that says Joseph and Jesus - Lessons From a Comparison Between Them

Luke 23:36-37 says:

The soldiers likewise mocked Him, coming up and bringing Him sour wine, [a37 and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.”

TLV Bible Gateway

Matthew 20:19 shows that Jesus knew He would be mocked during his trial, scourging, and ultimately his crucifixion:

and hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify. Yet on the third day, He will be raised up.”[a]

TLV Bible Gateway

They Were Both Sold Out

Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, which at least saved his life.

Jesus was sold out and betrayed by one of his most trusted disciples, Judas, for 30 pieces of silver. This betrayal not only led to Jesus’ death but Judas’ own as well to suicide.

They Were Both Raised Up

Joseph was in prison for being falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife.

Jesus was in a tomb.

Interpreting a dream for Pharaoh, king of Egypt, raised Joseph from his pit.

A resurrection raised Jesus, King of Kings, from His.

So now that we have covered some of the typical comparisons people make between them, let me speak about their differences because contrary to popular opinion (and love for Joseph thanks to movies and childhood stories about the life of Joseph) they are vast.

Comparison Between Joseph and Jesus – Differences

So now we will look at what makes Joseph and Jesus so different and they are very different.

Haughtiness vs Humility

Let’s face it. Joseph was haughty and prideful. He was an arrogant kid and relished in the favor of his father.

He was, as I mentioned earlier, a dreamer and an interpreter of dreams and he certainly loved to share his with his brothers and even his father grew rather annoyed with him.

Genesis 37:10-11:

Then his father rebuked him and said to him, “What’s this dream you dreamed? Will we really come—your mother and I with your brothers—to bow down to the ground to you?” 11 So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the speech in mind.

TLV – Bible Gateway

In contrast, Jesus was humble and never took his divine stature for granted. He even remained silent while facing public shame.

Corrupted by Power vs Servitude to Others

Joseph rose to power in Pharaoh’s court and was absolutely corrupted by power (more on this in a moment). Joseph was not the altruistic leader he is often painted to be.

Jesus on the other hand sat down and washed the feet of his followers. He taught and was Himself a great example to us of how a good leader serves people and His ultimate act of servitude was giving His own life to save ours.

The Corruption of Joseph

When we look at Joseph and Jesus we have to look at the fact that they were both powerful leaders but in very different ways.

Jesus led by example. He led people to God. He led people to righteousness and to loving others and treating people the way we ourselves want to be treated.

There were two Jewish sages Hillel and Shammai and they and their followers made up the two major schools of exposition of Oral Law that existed from the first century BCE to the second century CE. These were Pharisees.

Hillel was President of the Sanhedrin and Shammai was Vice President so they worked together quite closely.

We often find them in dispute with each other over issues of Torah law and Beit Hillel was usually victorious in these disputes. But every indication was they were friendly with each other.

Beit Shammai is often thought to be the Pharisees that tended to get into disputes with Jesus.

There is a story told in Talmud Shabbat 31a that I will share because Hillel’s response will sound quite familiar to you.

‘…a certain non-Jew came before Shammai and said to him, ‘Make me a convert, on condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.’ Thereupon he repulsed him with the builder’s cubit that was in his hand. When he went before Hillel, he said to him, ‘What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah, the rest is the commentary; go and learn it.’

Shabbat 31a

An image of a person holding another's hand and a quote from a story about the student who asked to be taught Torah on one foot from Talmud Shabbat 31a

Jesus summarized the whole of the Torah in the same way. He led his followers in love and He served as the ultimate example of love to us all in giving His life for us.

Then we look at Joseph. Again, we have romanticized the story of Joseph because of movies and childhood stories of his colorful coat!

But we need to look at what the Bible has to say about his leadership after he entered into Pharaoh’s court.

Moses gave up his position as an Egyptian to identify with the Hebrew people…his people. By contrast, Joseph gave up his identification with the Hebrew people to become an Egyptian.

Moses gave up his position as an Egyptian to identify with the Hebrew people. By contrast, Joseph gave up his identification with the Hebrew people to become an Egyptian. #biblestudy #joseph Click To Tweet

He became fully engrossed in Egyptian life and in making Pharaoh more powerful.

Joseph had stored up plenty of food in Egypt during the years of abundance. The Bible tells us in Genesis 41:47-49:

During the seven years of abundance, the land produced in heaps. 48 So he gathered all the food in the land of Egypt during the seven years, and put food in the cities; the food from the city fields surrounding the cities he put in each city. 49 So Joseph stored up grain like the sand of the sea, vast amounts, until he stopped keeping record because it was beyond counting.

TLV – Bible Gateway

We then go on and read about how the famine begins and Joseph’s family in Canaan suffers and how Joseph reunites with his family. I will skip that part of the story for our purposes here because I want to focus on Joseph’s corruption (although one could make the point that torturing his father by imprisoning Benjamin was cruel enough as well when his father was already distraught and suffering).

So Joseph brings his family to Egypt and settles them and then, in chapter 47, we read more about his leadership.

We read in verses 13-15:

Now there was no food in all the land because the famine was very severe. Both the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished because of the famine. 14 Joseph collected all the money that could be found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan for the grain that they bought, and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house. 15 Then the money of the land of Egypt and of the land of Canaan ran out and all of Egypt came to Joseph saying, “Give us food. Why should we die in front of you because the money is gone?”

TLV – Bible Gateway

So Joseph took all the money from the people and enriched Pharaoh and then the people ran out of money. Joseph had plenty of food. He could have easily distributed food to all the cities and kept them all fed. But he didn’t. He had the people coming to buy from him to make Pharaoh wealthier and, no doubt, himself as a result.

Joseph becomes corrupted by power in Egypt by taking advantage of the famine – not to gain for the nation as a whole (because he was also selling to others) but to gain money for Pharaoh by then taking their livestock, then their land and then ultimately making the people indentured servants.

Genesis 47:20-21 says:

 So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh because the Egyptians, each one, sold his field, for the famine overcame them. Thus the land became Pharaoh’s. 21 He made the people slaves from one end of Egypt’s border to the other.

TLV – Bible Gateway

The priests were spared from Joseph’s greed for Pharaoh’s wealth but it seems Joseph’s own family also prospered in Goshen:

Meanwhile, Israel settled in the land of Egypt in the land of Goshen, acquired property in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly.

Genesis 47:27 TLV- Bible Gateway

The irony here, if one could call it that, is that the reason there were later Hebrew slaves in Egypt in the first place was that this former Hebrew slave, Joseph, brought them there when, perhaps, he could have done something else to help his family while they remained outside of Egypt as he gave food to others outside of Egypt. He wanted to bestow the “best of Egypt” upon them (Genesis 45:20).

I think he did this partly out of love for his family but I do believe it was due, in part, out of arrogance and a desire to see the dream of his youth come to fruition.

Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

Attributed to 19th century British politician Lord Acton is the proverbial quotation “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” and Joseph had absolute power.

This Hebrew slave turned second in command of the most powerful empire in the world had all the power of the world at his fingertips and, rather than act in a way that helped others through famine, he took advantage of them to further Pharaoh’s wealth and ultimately his own.

We often say the Lord placed Joseph where he was in order to save Israel and I believe that to be true.

Even when we go astray, the Lord’s plan is still carried out. But Israel had to suffer over 200 years of slavery as a result before Moses, the most humble man on earth other than Jesus Himself would come on the scene to save them as God answered their fervent prayers.

Joseph and Jesus do have some similarities but we cannot ignore their contrasts.

What are your thoughts about Joseph’s potential corruption?

Tree of Life (TLV) – Scripture taken from the Holy Scriptures, Tree of Life Version*. Copyright © 2014,2016 by the Tree of Life Bible Society.  Used by permission of the Tree of Life Bible Society.

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