The story of Joseph in Genesis is, in part, the story of God’s sovereign control of history. God alone knows the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10), so He alone knows where this arc of history is heading. Even those with no faith, who talk about history having a direction, often admit this truth: we are not stuck in the pointless meanderings of a cold dead universe or the endless circles of some Eastern mystical religion. No, history has a goal, a direction, a purpose.
Robed to Rule
As we first meet Joseph in Genesis 37, we see a young man of seventeen with everything going for him. He’s the favored child of the patriarch Jacob, son of the beloved Rachel. Though Joseph is sometimes portrayed as an arrogant young upstart, pleased with himself and lording it over his brothers, I’m not convinced this is right. The evidence to prove this view of him usually boils down to his robe, report, and revelation. The famous robe (likely a robe of many colors, though the word is somewhat tricky to translate) was given by his father, who we’re told “loved him more than all his brothers” (Gen. 37:4). Favoring one child over the others is certainly foolish, a lesson you might have thought Jacob would have learned from his own experience, as his father Isaac preferred tough-guy Esau to the gentler Jacob. But that’s hardly Joseph’s fault. Nor, I’d suggest, does he do anything wrong when reporting back to his father that the brothers aren’t behaving themselves while out tending the sheep. Before this story in Genesis, we’ve seen Reuben sleep with his father’s concubine Bilhah, and we’ve seen Simeon and Levi slaughter a whole town in retribution for one man’s attack on their sister. Soon we’ll see all the brothers conspire to beat up Joseph, sell him into slavery, and lie to their father. It’s hard to think of any of the Ten Commandments they haven’t broken. Joseph, in contrast, maintains his integrity even when tempted by Potiphar’s wife or when abandoned in Pharaoh’s jail. Rather than inventing tales to get his brothers into trouble, Joseph is simply giving his father the truth when he gives a bad report.
Which brings us to Joseph’s dreams, his revelation. The key thing to realize is that they are just that: revelation. The dreams come from God; they are not the ambitious fantasies of a power-hungry young man. All the way through the Joseph story, dreams come in twos: the butler and the baker, Pharaoh’s cows and crops, Joseph’s harvest and heavenly bodies. Throughout Scripture, a matter is confirmed by two or more witnesses (Deut. 19:15, 1 Tim. 5:19). Here, the double dreams confirm the truth they reveal—that Joseph is destined to rule.
Joseph and Jesus
Although we’ve barely begun the Joseph story, already we are beginning to see ways in which Joseph foreshadows Jesus. Joseph is the beloved son, robed in glory, hated by his brothers but destined to rule over them. Similarly, Jesus is the eternally beloved Son of the Father, as the Father announces at His baptism (Mark 1:11). He is hated by His brothers, the descendants of the sons of Jacob who so hate Joseph. In time, we’ll see how they send Him to the pit before He’s raised in glory to feed the world with the true Bread of Life, Himself. But for now, we’ll concentrate on Joseph, Jesus, and revelation.