Gleanings In Genesis

44. Joseph The Savior Of The World

Genesis 41

55. Joseph has a wife given to him. "And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnath-paaneah (the Egyptian meaning of which is ‘Savior of the world'); and he gave him to wife Asenath, the daughter of Potipharah priest of On" (Gen. 40:45). It is with some hesitation and much reluctance that at this point the writer finds himself differing from other students and commentators. Many whom we respect highly have regarded Asenath as here prefiguring the Church. Their principal reason for doing this is because Joseph's wife was a Gentile. But while allowing the force of this, we feel that it is more than counterbalanced by another point which makes against it. Believing that everything in this inspired narrative has a definite meaning and typical value, and that each verse has been put into its present place by the Holy Spirit, we are confronted with what is, to us, an insuperable difficulty if Asenath prefigures the Church, namely, the fact that in the very next verse which follows the mention of Pharaoh giving a wife to Joseph, we are told, "And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt" (Gen. 41:46). Had this statement followed immediately after Genesis 41:14, which records Joseph being brought out of prison to appear before Pharaoh, and after this we had been told Joseph received his wife, we should be obliged to regard Asenath as a type of the Church; but as it is, we believe the typical application must be sought elsewhere, as we shall now proceed to point out.

The Holy Spirit has here (we are assured, with definite design) made mention of Joseph having a wife before his "age" is referred to, and before his life's work began. That the age of Joseph at the time his real work started, pointed to the age of the Lord Jesus when His public ministry commenced, is too obvious to admit of dispute. The fact, then, that the Holy Spirit speaks of Joseph's wife before the mention of him being thirty years of age, suggests to the writer that the typical significance of Asenath must be sought at some point of time before the Lord Jesus entered upon His life's mission. And that, of course, takes us back to Old Testament times. And there, we do learn of Jehovah (the Lord Jesus) possessing a "wife," even Israel. From the various Scriptures which bring this out we select two verses from Jeremiah 3. There, God's prophet, when expostulating with His wayward people, said, "Turn, O backsliding children, said the Lord; for I am married unto you" (Jer. 3:14); "Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord" (Jer. 3:20).

But against this it will be objected, How could Asenath, the Egyptian, wife of Joseph, typify Israel, the wife of Jehovah? Formidable as this objection appears at first sight, it is, nevertheless, capable of easy solution. The difficulty disappears if we go back to the time when Israel first became Jehovah's wife. Upon this point the Scriptures are very explicit. In Ezekiel 16, where the prophet is outlining the sad history of Israel, and where he says, "How weak is thine heart, saith the Lord God, seeing thou doest all these things, the work of an imperious whorish woman; in that thou buildest thine eminent place in the head of every way, and makest thine high place in every street; and hast not been as a harlot, in that thou scornest hire. But as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband;" here, at the outset, the prophet declares, "Thus saith the Lord God unto Jerusalem, Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother a Hittite" (Ezek. 16:3). Here, then, we learn the origin (the moral origin, no doubt) of Israel, and how fittingly did Asenath, the Gentile, prefigure Jehovah's wife at that time! It was not until after Israel was redeemed from Egypt's bondage and corruption that they became separated from all other nations. If further confirmation be necessary it is found in Jeremiah 2:2, "Go cry in the ears of Jerusalem, thus saith the Lord; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after Me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown." Israel, then, became Jehovah's in Egypt, when redeemed by blood, and after by power.

The issue from Joseph's marriage appears to us to fit in with the interpretation suggested above much better than with the common application of the type of Asenath to the Church. "Unto Joseph were born two sons" (Gen. 41:50), and does not this correspond with the history of Israel after she became Jehovah's wife? Was not the issue of that union the two kingdoms in the days of Rehoboam, and does not the meaning of the names of Joseph's two sons well describe the two kingdoms which, ultimately, issued from Israel? "Joseph called the name of the first born Manasseh" (Gen. 41:51), which signifies "Forgetting," and was it not that which, peculiarly, characterized the ten-tribed kingdom! "The name of the second called he Ephraim" (Gen. 41:52), which means "Fruitful," and such was Judah, from whom the Lord Jesus came!

56. Joseph's marriage was arranged by Pharaoh. How perfectly this agrees with what we read of in Matthew 22:2! "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for His Son." The fact that Asenath is mentioned before we are told that Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh and began his life's work (type of Christ as He began His public ministry), and that the birth and naming of his sons occurred afterward, suggests (as is so often the case, both in types and prophecies) that there is here a double foreshadowment. This Gentile wife of Joseph points backward, first, to Israel's condition before Jehovah separated her from all other peoples and took her unto Himself; and, second, the type seems to point forward to the time when the Lord shall resume His dealings with her, see Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 16:62, 63; Hosea 2:19-23; Isaiah 54:5-8[1]). Then, too, shall the names of Joseph's two sons be found to possess a double significance, for God's will "forget" Israel's past, and Israel shall then, as never before, be found "fruitful."

57. Joseph was thirty years old when he began his life's work. "And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt" (Gen. 41:46). Every line in this wondrous picture has its own beauty and value. There is nothing here without profound significance. The Holy Spirit has a definite design in telling us what was Joseph's age when his public service began. He was thirty years old. How perfectly does type and antitype correspond! In Luke 3:23 we read, "And Jesus Himself began to be about thirty years of age." This was the age of the Lord Jesus when He commenced His public ministry, as it was Joseph's when he began his life's work.

58. Joseph went forth on his mission from Pharaoh's presence. "And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh" (Gen. 41:46). In this chapter Pharaoh—as the one who ruled Egypt, who delighted in the excellencies of Joseph, who set Joseph over all his house, but who retained the position of supremacy as to the throne—pre-figured God the Father. Viewed in this light, how blessed is the typical force of the last-made quotation. It was from Pharaoh's "presence" Joseph began his life's work! How marvelously this corresponds, again, with what we read in Luke 3! The words which immediately precede the mention of the Lord being thirty years old when His public service began, are the well-known utterance of the Father at the time of His baptism, "Thou art My beloved Son; in Thee I am well pleased" (Luke 3:22). So little is told us about the Savior before His active ministry began. The years spent at Nazareth, save for that one brief statement which covered the period of His boyhood, are passed over in silence. But as He came up out of the waters of baptism, the Father bore public testimony to the perfect life which His Son had lived here on earth, for, without doubt, the words, "In Thee I am well pleased," not only affirmed the excellency of Christ's person, but witnessed to the Father's approval of the thirty years which His incarnate Son had spent in obscurity. That which we desire to call attention to here is, just as Joseph went forth to his work from Pharaoh's "presence," so the Lord Jesus started out on His public service from the Father's presence, there manifested at the Jordan!

59. Joseph's service was an active and itinerant one. "And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt" (Gen. 41:46). Joseph was no idler. He did not betray Pharaoh's confidence in him, but faithfully discharged his duty. He did not remain in the place of ease and comfort, but "went throughout all the land of Egypt." How well these words remind us of what we read in the Gospels concerning that One whom Joseph foreshadowed. Of Him we read, "And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness" (Matthew 4:23). And again, "And Jesus went about all the cities and villages" (Matthew 9:35).

60. Joseph's exaltation was followed by a season of plenty. "And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls. And he gathered up all the food of the seven years, which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities: the food of the field, which was round about every city, laid he up in the same. And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left numbering; for it was without number" (Gen. 41:47-49). Concerning the typical meaning of these verses we quote from Mr. Knapp: "These seven years of great abundance picture, if they do not typify, the present dispensation of grace in which it is our happy lot to live. ‘Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation' (2 Cor. 6:2). There were seven years, not of plenty merely, but of ‘great plenty.' And during those years, we read ‘the earth brought forth by handfuls.' It was a time of extraordinary abundance. And there was never a day like the one in which we live. Never before the present dispensation did God send His messengers out into all the world to proclaim to every sinner a free and a full salvation through faith in the name of His own exalted Son. There never was a time of such ‘abundance,' such ‘great plenty,' at any former period of God's dealings with the earth. And it is a remarkable fact, which I have not seen previously noted, that of all the distinct dispensations of time referred to in Scripture, the present is by far the longest. And oh, what a tale of grace this tells! God is indeed ‘long suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish.'"

We doubt not that the saved of this dispensation are far in excess of any previous one. How few were saved during the centuries which passed from the days of Abel up to the Flood! How few appear to have been saved during the times of the patriarchs! How few among Israel, from the days of Joshua onwards, gave evidence of being born again! How few seem to have been saved during the public ministry of Christ—but a hundred and twenty were found in the upper room waiting for the Holy Spirit. How evident it is, then, that in contrast from all that has preceded, the earth is now bringing forth "in abundance"! It is the "much fruit" (John 12:24) which our Lord declared should issue from His death.

61. Joseph's exaltation was also followed by a period of famine. "And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended. And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said; and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread" (Gen. 41:53, 54). Just as the "seven years"—a complete period—pointed to the present interval of Grace, during which the great spiritual harvest is being garnered, so the "seven years" of famine (another complete period) look onward to that which shall follow the present dispensation. After the going forth of the Gospel of God's grace has accomplished its Divine purpose, and "the fulness of the Gentiles be come in" (Rom. 11:25), the Holy Spirit will depart out of the world, and there shall come that season which Scripture denominates "the great tribulation." Many are the passages which refer to that season. It is termed "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jer. 30:7), for then will be the season of Israel's darkest hour. It was to this Daniel referred when he said, "There shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time" (Dan. 12:1). Concerning this same period the Lord Jesus spake, when He said, "For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved" (Mark 13:19, 20). It will be the time when Satan is east down to the earth, when the Antichrist shall be here in full power, and when the storm of God's judgment shall burst upon the world. Morally and spiritually, it will be a time of "famine," and, like that which typified it in the days of Joseph, it shall be" very grievous" (Gen. 41:31). Moreover, the sphere encompassed by God's sore judgments in that day will be no local one, but just as we are told that the dearth of old was not confined to Egypt, but that "the famine was over the face of all the earth" (Gen. 41:56), so in Revelation 3:10 we are told, the "Hour of Temptation" comes upon "all the world, to try them which dwell upon the earth." It was of this same period that Amos prophesied, "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. And they shall wander, from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they shall run to and fro to seek the Word of the Lord, and shall not find it" (Amos 8:11, 12). At present the world is enjoying the years of plenty, and how little it believes in the coming time of "famine," now so near at hand! Be warned then, dear reader, and "Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near" (Isa. 55:6); for, if you are left on earth for the coming Day of Wrath, it shall be said, "the harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved" (Jer. 8:20).

62. Joseph is now seen dispensing bread to a perishing world. "And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do" (Gen. 41:55). "It was a wonderful thing that the despised and rejected Jew should be the passport to the favor of Pharaoh; a wonderful thing that the rejected Jew should be exalted into the place of a Savior for a famine-smitten world; it was a wonderful thing that this rejected Jew should be the only Savior for that starving world. Equally true and wonderful is it today that Jesus the rejected Jew is the passport to the favor of God; that He is ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life,' and that ‘no man cometh unto the Father but by Him'; wonderful that this rejected Christ should be exalted into a Savior for a famine-smitten world; wonderful that this rejected Christ is the alone Savior for a starving world.

"Joseph was sent by his father to his brethren that he might be a blessing unto them, and they refused; then God turned their sin so that while it should remain as a judgment to them, it might become a blessing to others. In sending His Son to fulfill the promises made to the fathers, God would have brought covenant and numberless blessings to Israel; they refused, and God has made use of their blindness and sin to turn salvation to others. He has made the very sin and blindness of the people to be the occasion of grace and mercy to the whole world. ‘ Through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles' (Rom. 11:11)."—Dr. H.

63. Joseph alone dispensed the Bread of Life. It is beautiful to observe here how Pharaoh directed all who cried to him for bread to go unto Joseph: "And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians: Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do" (Gen. 41:55). May we not say this was the Gospel for Egypt, the good news that Joseph was the appointed Savior, the glad tidings that whosoever was hungry might go to Joseph and obtain relief. How perfectly this foreshadowed the present Gospel of God's grace! When a guilty and convicted sinner, with a great hunger in his soul, cries unto God, what is His response? Why, does He not refer all such to the person of His blessed Son! Only in Christ is salvation to be found, for "neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other Name under heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Just as of old Pharaoh said to the Egyptians, "Go unto Joseph: what he saith to you, do," so, upon the Mount of Transfiguration the Father said to the disciples of Christ, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him" (Matthew 17:5), and this is what He is still saying to men.

64. Joseph became a Savior to all peoples. "And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands"(Gen. 41:57). Joseph was raised up by God to meet a world-wide need. The "dearth" was in "all lands" (Gen. 41:54). But God, through Joseph, made ample provision to supply the wants of all. There was nothing provincial about the bounties which Joseph dispensed, he readily gave to each alike, no matter whether it was the Egyptians, his own brothers, or strangers from distant lands, all were fed. And how blessed to know this is equally true of the Antitype! God's Savior for sinners is no provincial one. He is for both Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, educated and illiterate, old and young, men and women—all, alike, may find in Him that which can satisfy their deepest need, the Gospel is for every creature, and its terms are, "Whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." And just as peoples from "all countries came to Joseph," so those who will sing the new song in heaven shall proclaim, "Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase unto God with Thy blood men of every tribe, and tongue, and people and nation" (Rev. 5:9).

65. Joseph had illimitable resources to meet the need of all. "And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left numbering; for it was without number" (Gen. 41:49). How abundant was God's provision! He provided with no niggardly hand. There was to be amply sufficient for every one that applied for the alleviation of his need. And how this reminds us of those blessed expressions which we meet with so frequently in the Epistles! There we read of" the riches of His grace" (Eph. 1:7), yea, "the exceeding riches of His grace" (Eph. 2:7). There we read of God being "rich in mercy" (Eph. 2:4), and, again, of His "abundant mercy" (1 Pet. 1:3). There we read of "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Eph. 3:8), for "in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9). And again we are told, "The same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him" (Rom. 10:12).

Thank God, the Savior He has provided for us is possessed of illimitable resources. There is no shortness or strainness in Him. There is infinite value in that precious blood which He shed upon the Cross to make an atonement for sin. There is infinite pity in His heart toward sinners. There is infinite readiness and willingness on His part to receive all who will come to Him. There is infinite power in His arm to deliver and keep that which is committed unto Him. There is no sinner so depraved that Christ's blood cannot cleanse him. There is no sinner so bound by the fetters of Satan that Christ cannot free him. There is no sinner so weary and despondent that Christ cannot satisfy him. The promise of the Savior Himself is, "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). O, sin-sick soul, put Him to the test for yourself, and see. Come to Christ just as you are, in all your wretchedness and need, and He will gladly receive you, blot out all your iniquities, and put a new song into your mouth. May God, in His grace, cause some despondent ones to prove for themselves the infinite sufficiency of His Son.


[1] The spiritual and dispensational condition of Israel at the moment when God shall resume His dealings with His ancient people, is, again, aptly figured by a Gentile, for they are termed by Him now, and until then “Lo-ammi” (Hosea 1:9), which means “Not My people.”

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