"And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks. And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan. And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him." (Gen. 37:16-18)
Throughout the whole of the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament there are many beautiful historic stories or accounts, such as the life of Abraham, and the life of Jacob, of Moses, David, Samuel, and countless others; but none come near to portraying the great depth and fullness of the coming Messiah, Christ Jesus our Lord such as does the story of Joseph. The life of Joseph is singular in many respects. One of the chief points to consider is that from Genesis 37 to the conclusion of the book in Genesis 50, the whole of it is taken up (with the exception of Chapter 38) with the life of Joseph. The reader will see too, that not one word or statement is recorded as a blemish on his character. His conduct is without recorded blemish. We doubt not that Joseph too was a sinner like we all are, yet there is nothing recorded against him, even in the slightest, and the only other person in scriptures that can be said of is Daniel. There are displayed across the pages of God's word many other points of great interest concerning his intriguing life which must be passed over at this time, for the sake of brevity, as we compare Joseph and his anti-type, Jesus Christ; a comparison that we believe will be extremely beneficial to the reader.
The record of the life of Joseph begins thus with the second verse of Genesis 37. "These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren." This is the very first thing the Scriptures say of our grand subject, Joseph. It is indeed very, very striking to see that the generation of Jacob takes us directly to the lad, Joseph, who was at that very moment feeding his little flock as would any good and faithful shepherd. He at once then, is a figure, or type of our Lord the Good Shepherd. Could anything be clearer than the typification here set forth? As Joseph feeds the flock according to the will of his father, so our dear Redeemer has ever led His little flock, according to the will of His Father too; and so the history will go, when we view Joseph, step by step in the exacting progression of his life. Each incident, with a very few exceptions, brings out in vivid detail, a preview of the Life of our Lord and Saviour. Joseph's life clearly portrays to us the coming of our beloved Messiah in His life of service to and for His children, who are the lambs of His flock.
It is written that old Father Israel, or as he was first known, as Jacob, loved Joseph more than all his other children, because he was the son of his old age. It must be remembered however, as we consider the train of events, that though it was not mentioned in the text, Benjamin also was the son of Jacob's old age, and he will figure prominently in the account of Joseph's life later on. Old Father Israel made for Joseph a coat of many colors, and his brothers despised him for this, as well as other obvious shows of affection toward him. The text says "they could not speak peaceably unto him." It surely was not a question of their inability to speak peaceably from the physical, or natural standpoint, but rather they could not converse normally with him because they hated him in their heart, particularly when they saw Joseph as the favored one of their father. And so, because their malice was directed toward him from their heart, they were rendered helpless to conduct themselves toward him in a warm, or brotherly fashion, as should become kin. And cannot we see from this episode of enmity something of the relationship between the Saviour and His brethren before they become reconciled to Him by the renewing of the Holy Ghost? Is there any possibly way they can sit down in harmony and peace with Him, or have sweet fellowship with the Redeemer, until such time as He was manifested Himself to them; humbling them before Him, that they might begin to see themselves as the great sinners they are? And then they will see Him as the great Saviour of sinners that He is. Neither they nor Joseph's brethren, have power to speak peaceably to Him who is exalted above others by the will of the Heavenly Father, until such time as there is a spiritual work wrought in them.
"And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren; and they hated him yet the more." (Verse 5) And again in this verse, as in the previous ones, we see how the wrath of man is vented against those, such as Joseph, naturally, and against the Saviour in the spiritual sense. As long as there is a Lord, there are those wicked underlings who will despise Him; and so long as a sinner remains unhumbled, they will have no affection or kind feelings toward the Saviour of sinners. Joseph's brethren lived their early days in a very malicious and vehement behavior toward their younger brother, even though their father loved him to such a degree that he would display open shows of affection towards him before them. When Joseph related his peculiar dreams to his brothers, and spoke to them of the coming superiority he would possess over his family, the brothers were incensed and bitterly enraged. The scriptures say the brothers also envied him, but Father Israel simply observed his sayings. The time came, then, that his father sent Joseph out to observe the brothers welfare, and to see how they did. And so, Joseph goes; this being the incident in the chain of events that leads us to the text above.
In verse 16 we find first recorded the words of Joseph where he says, "I seek my brethren". Could there be anything more spiritually associated with these words than the clear intent of the Son of God to come from glory to seek His brethren in a manner like Joseph sought his? From the far and lofty regions of Heaven in eternity past, Jesus the Saviour stood in covenant relation with the Father for, and in behalf of His brethren, and in their behalf he would seek them out, just as Joseph sought out his brethren. He would come to seek them out as the sheep of His pasture, and in so doing fulfill the figure of Joseph, who centuries before sought his brothers according to the will of his father. Joseph's brothers would ultimately fall into a terrible morass of transgressing by thinking evil against him. So too, the elect would fall in the horrible pit of sin; and Jesus (our Joseph) is dispatched on a mission by His Father, to lift them up, and establish their goings; to set their feet upon the sold rock; and to deliver them from the wrath to come; to cleanse them; to wash them white as snow; to make them whole, from the crown of their head to the sole of their feet; to give them a new song to sin. All of these things were done for His brethren because it was His good pleasure to seek them out. The type then, is thus far plain to the eye of faith.
When man first fell in Adam's original transgression there was no seeking out God for mercy or grace; there was no looking to a Redeemer for relief or cure; but rather, Adam and Even hid themselves in the garden, foolishly and feebly attempting to cover themselves and their nakedness with fig leaves. And so has man ever since in his sinful propensity sought refuge in fig leaf religion as a result of the darkness of his mind. He will seek to hide himself in the clefts of the rocks, the caves, or wherever else he might be able to hide himself from the Righteous Judge. Not one then, and not one since, has ever sought after their God for mercy or deliverance. Rather, Jesus has come to seek and to save that which was lost. May we never lose sight of this truth, that we seek not Him, but rather, He seeks His brethren. We fully believe that all with spiritual eyes can see then in this text, that Joseph seeking his brethren is a beautiful emblem and figure of Jesus coming to seek and to save His lost sheep, and to redeem them from their sins.
We see next in the text these words, "They are departed." And truly, as the brethren of Joseph had departed, so have all the brethren of Jesus. They have departed from the presence of God; from that which is high and holy, from the law of commandments, from the precepts, and from all other things that are just, to seek out their own considerations, and to consume themselves in their own lusts. We make reference previously to Adam and Eve in the garden, how they seemingly departed the fellowship and openness God had provided them, to seek a refuge in hiding from the face of their creator. And have not all their offsprings done the same? Yes, they have departed in their sins. They attempt to hide out from the presence of God in their shame, ignorance, blindness and carnality. And were it not for the kind mercies of their Heavenly Father, who has chosen them in Him from the foundation of the world, they would not only depart in this life, but eventually, at that last day, hear the terrible words of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords saying, "Depart from Me, ye workers of iniquity." They would thus depart everlastingly. Departing is the nature of sinners. Leaving their first estate; always unstable; they are every shifty. As with Joseph's brethren, so with us today. The sad and doleful testimony concerning them and us, is "They are departed."
Thirdly, the text says they conspired against him to slay him. How complete the figure is, then. Not only did Joseph seek his brethren, and they departed, but their evil mind was to destroy him for their own satisfaction and carnal peace. And so, poor sinners, (though their names were written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,) have ever sought to be rid of their spiritual Joseph, in whatever fashion they could; even if it meant that he himself must be slain. There can be no question that among that mob that cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him", there were some of the Lord's chosen there. For even in the book of Revelation it is recorded, "They looked upon him whom they have pierced." So, though all cried against Him, a remnant was saved. Though they would seek to slay Him, and seek to bring Him to a final ruin in the grave, He came forth conquering and to conquer, that His slayers and crucifiers would find plenteous grace; even His great redemption at His feet, when He calls them by name, and makes Himself known to them. Though they would evilly design to slay Him; in the eternal wisdom, and wise plan of the Heavenly Father, all these things would work together for good to those who love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. Joseph's brethren could have no knowledge that their plans against him, would at some future date bring about their deliverance, and bring about also a restoration of the family ties. Their thoughts and intents were only evil, and self serving in the extreme. Their purpose was to be rid of Joseph, little knowing that the ridding themselves of Joseph would work in such a marvelous fashion years later down the road for their good.
So Joseph's brethren did the terrible deed. They took him, and put him in a pit; and but for the pleading of Reuben they would have killed him outright. But rather, in the superintending providence of God, they stripped Joseph of his coat of many colors, and they put him in a pit where there was no water. They spread blood upon his coat; Ishmeelites came by at that particular time, (in God's perfect order and time) and the deed was done! How sweet, however, to see that it was no passing chance that this company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead at this particular time. It was not simply "lucky circumstances" that Joseph, on this very day, was taken by his brethren to be slain. No! No! We rather see the grand providence of God in all things, to bring Joseph, and his brethren, and the Ishmeelites on their way to Egypt, together at this place, at this time, with such exacting detail and precision. None of the pieces of this great circumstances could go wanting. All must work out their appointed lot as God had before determined. The greedy Ishmeelites see an opportunity to turn a profit. Joseph's cruel brethren see the prospects of being rid of one who shamed them, and discomforted them with his presence. But Joseph, certainly having no knowledge of what his dreams portended, and what his future would be, was but the pawn in their hands. And yet, God viewed all this with infinite wisdom, and exacting purpose; and all of these circumstances and details, evil as they appeared, were but the fulfilling of the deep designs of God. This so great a deliverance would bring His people up as a great nation from that dark land of Egypt many centuries in the future.
If the Lord wills, in future numbers we should like to trace out the events that follow Joesph's early days, after he has been sold into Egypt. We shall view the unique circumstances this young lad endured in the house of Potiphar and with his wicked wife; how he was cast into prison, though innocent; and, how under an unusual and unique circumstance he was delivered therefrom to later be exalted as head over all Egypt; only Pharaoh being his superior, and view then ultimately the reunion of Joseph and his family, and the great redemption that is seen in the types and shadows that follow.
Volume 4, No. 1