Although Jews are usually described as the descendants of “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” there is nearly as much information in the Bible about Joseph as there is about Abraham. I believe that this is because the life of Joseph paints a prophetic picture of the coming Messiah. Joseph happens to be a very significant person in the Bible, as well as a great source for inspirational stories for children and adults.

     Joseph wasn’t perfect. However, more than almost anyone else in Scripture, Joseph had much in common with Yeshua. Unlike many other men of the Bible, Joseph comes through as someone who often had difficult moral choices, yet always tried to do the right thing, even if it resulted in tsuris [1] for himself.

     One of Joseph’s problems was that his father, Jacob, favored him above his brothers, cre­ating instant problems of jealousy and even hatred. Another problem was that he had these prophetic dreams. It might not have been so bad, except that in these dreams Joseph was exalted over his brothers. Again, it might not have been so bad to have the dreams if he had kept them to himself, but he blabbed them to his brothers, which only intensified their anger and jealousy.

     You all know the story: Joseph went to check up on how his brothers were doing. They threw him into a pit, with intentions to kill him, then decided to sell him instead. “Then there passed by Midianite merchantmen, and they pulled Joseph up out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ish­maelites for 20 shekels of silver, and they brought Joseph into Egypt.” [2]

     This is a somewhat confusing passage. Was Joseph sold to Midianites or Ishmael­ites? The Book of Jasher helps to clear this up a bit. This is one of the “forgotten” books mentioned in Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18.[3] According to Jasher 42, the Midian­ites pulled Joseph out of the pit, intending to make him their servant. Joseph’s broth­ers caught the Midianites with Joseph, and demanded a payment of 20 shekels. They paid the amount demanded, and pro­ceeded on their way.[4] Then the Midianites met a band of Ishmaelites, and sold Joseph     to them for 20 shekels. The Ishmaelites brought Joseph into Egypt and sold him to Potiphar.

      As you may know, Joseph’s brothers killed a goat, and smeared the blood on Joseph’s robe, as evi-dence to give to Jacob that Joseph was killed by a wild beast. This was only the beginning of a period which could be called “The Time of Joe’s Woes.” Things were going well for Joseph in Potiphar’s household. The only problem was that Potiphar’s wife wanted Joseph. What I mean is, she really wanted him. Joseph refused her advances, and tried to escape from the temptation. Unfortunately, in his haste to escape, Potiphar’s wife grabbed hold of his garment. She started screaming that he had tried to rape her, and she had his garment in her hand as evidence! This was the second time that one of Joseph’s garments was used as false evi­dence about him.

     It would have been far simpler to give into temptation. The world might have for­given him, but Joseph knew that he would have to answer to YHWH if he had sinned with Potiphar’s wife. Instead, he was thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

     Joseph did quite well in prison, even­tually becoming in charge of all the other prisoners, under the supervision of the chief jailer. Eventually Pharaoh got mad at his cupbearer and baker, and had them cast into prison. They each had a prophetic dream, which they could not interpret. They told Joseph their dreams. He gave them both accurate interpretations, which was good news for the cupbearer, but bad news for the baker. The cupbearer promised to remember Joseph to Pharaoh, but like many well-intentioned people, he forgot. Joseph languished in prison for two more years.

     One day, Pharaoh had a prophetic dream, but could not interpret it. Suddenly the cupbearer remembered Joseph! Joseph was brought from prison, and interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, which predicted 7 years of bountiful harvest and 7 years of famine. Joseph advised Pharaoh to store up grain during the good years to ensure having grain for the bad years. Right away, Phar­aoh had Joseph promoted. Joseph was made the Prime Min­ister of all Egypt!

Joseph: A Forerunner of Messiah

It is interesting that the Torah portions about Joseph are read in the month of December, the time of year in which Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. Our readers are fully aware that Yeshua was not born on December 25. Any good encyclopedia, including even the Catholic Encyclopedia, will verify that the December 25 date came to Christianity from “Saturnalia.” Another holiday celebrated on the same day is Natalis Solis Invicti, or the “Birth of the Unconquered Sun.” Both were pagan holidays. Many of the traditions associated with Christmas came into Christianity from paganism. The most likely date for the birth of Messiah is early October, coinciding with Sukkot (Tabernacles). However, it is interesting to note that the conception of Yeshua most likely occurred during Hanukah, which also occurs in December.

Yeshua was initially rejected by his brethren according to the flesh. Yeshua was also falsely accused and pun­ished – crucified – for things He didn’t do. Likewise, Joseph was rejected by his brethren according to the flesh, and later punished for crimes he didn’t do.

     For the most part, the “Bride” of Mes­siah is Gentile. Sure, there is a small percentage of Jewish believers. But the overwhelming majority of those who believe in the Jewish Messiah happen to be Gentiles. Likewise, Joseph had a Gentile bride.

     Joseph began serving as Prime Minister at the age of 30, the same age Yeshua was when He began his ministry.[5]     Joseph was Number Two man in the kingdom, next to Pharaoh. Likewise, Yeshua is Number Two in his Father’s kingdom. Quoting Yeshua, “My Father is greater than I.” [6]

     Years later, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to purchase grain, because of famine in Canaan. They had to go to Egypt’s Prime Minister. Joseph now had a Gentile name (Zaphenath-paneah). Yeshua also has a Gentile name given to him by the Gentiles - Jesus. Joseph had an Egyptian wife, Egyptian clothing, and he spoke fluent Egyptian. Joseph purposely chose to conceal his identity, to see what was in the hearts of his brothers. Needless to say, his brothers did not recognize him.[7] Likewise with Yeshua: At his first coming, his breth­ren according to the flesh (for the most part) did not recognize him as being the Messiah. At his second coming, the Jewish people will recognize him.

     Joseph eventually found that his broth­ers had great remorse over what they had done to him. At this time, he sent all the Egyptians out of the room, so that he could be alone with his brothers. Then he wept loudly, and announced to his brothers that he was indeed Joseph.[8] In similar manner, I believe that a day is coming when true believers will be “raptured” out of here, at a future Rosh HaShanah, or Feast of Trum­pets. Several days later, on Yom Kippur, Yeshua will reveal himself to His people - the Jews - as the Messiah,[9] on Israel's national day of salvation. HaShem has designed it so that there won’t be true Gen­tile believers to say to the Jews, “See, I told you so.” It will be just Yeshua and the Jews, just as Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers only after the Egyptians were asked to leave.[10]                  

The following comparisons of Joseph and Yeshua were compiled by Hannah Nesher. She produces excellent teachings via email on the weekly parashah (Torah portion):
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A Comparison of Yoseph & Yeshua:
One of the most beautiful aspects of the story of Joseph is seeing the amazing parallels between his life and the life of Yeshua Hamashiach (the Messiah).  The similarities between Yoseph and Yeshua are striking:

u They were both shepherds of their father’s sheep. Yeshua said,  “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11)

u They were both their father’s beloved sons. God said of Yeshua,  “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased…” (Matthew 3:17)

u They were both sent by their father to their brothers. Yeshua said,   “I was sent to the lost sheep of the House of Israel….” (Matthew 15:24)

u They were hated by their brothers, rejected, and treated with injustice.

u Others plotted to harm them.

u They were both tempted (Joseph by Potiphar’s wife and Yeshua by the devil)

u They were both taken to Egypt:  “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” (Matthew 2:15)

u They both had special robes that were taken from them

u They were both sold for the price of a slave

u They were both bound in chains

u They were both falsely accused but were innocent

u They were both placed with two other prisoners, one who was saved and the other lost

u They were both thirty years old at the beginning of their public recognition.

u They were both exalted after suffering. (Philippians 2:9-10)

u They both forgave those who wronged them. Yeshua said, “Father forgive them….”

u They both saved their own people as well as other nations.

u They both brought bread to the people. Yeshua said,  “I am the living bread.” (John 6:51)

u The evil men did to them God turned to good – even salvation of many people.

u They were both considered dead but later found out to be alive.

u Joseph’s brethren vow never to bow down to him but eventually do bow before him. The Word of God promises that at the name of Yeshua every knee will eventually bow.

u Joseph’s brothers at first don’t recognize him, but later do come to understand who he is. Many Messianic Jews do recognize Yeshua as the Messiah today; and the Hebrew prophet, Zechariah, wrote that one day all the Jews will recognize him.

[1] Yiddish for “problems, troubles, misery.”

[2] Bereisheet (Genesis) 37:28.

[3] I happen to have a copy of it. We cannot be sure this is the same Book of Jasher referred to in the Scriptures, but it does contain many of the midrashim (Rabbinic stories) that are included in Talmud and Midrash.

[4] Centuries later, Yeshua was betrayed for 30 shekels.

[5] Beresheet 41:46; Luke 3:23.

[6] Yochanan (John) 14:28b. See also John 5:19, 30;  1 Cor. 11:3.

[7] Bereisheet 42:8.

[8] According to the sages, at this time Joseph showed his brothers the marks of his circumcision, to prove that he was indeed their brother.

[9] Zechariah 12:10

[10] I can’t take credit for this idea. I “stole” it from William Lowe, a really great scholar and friend who passed away several years ago.