Giant of the Bible


Section 12 - Joseph.
(Chap. Xxxvii. 2 - i.)

The Dispensational Application. Joseph, whose touching history closes the book before us, is so well known as a type of the Lord that there is no need to insist upon the reality of the application. It is one of the longest, fullest, and clearest to be found in Scripture; and here, as we have seen before in another case, the inward, individual application seems almost to be absorbed by and make way for the outward. Nor need we wonder: for in these stages of the divine life in man we have now reached that in which finally the fruit of the new nature, its proper and characteristic fruit, is found, and here it is no longer I that live, but "Christ liveth in me".

The first view that we have of Joseph is at seventeen years feeding the flock along with his brethren. How ever the typical ruler for God is the shepherd! Of Moses and of David both we find this; and in Matthew (the kingdom-gospel) we hear the scribes quoting Micah to the king: "Out of thee shall come a Governor who shall rule My people Israel." In the margin this is "feed;" it is literally "be a shepherd to" My people Israel. Jacob’s prophecy at the close of this book connects this character of Christ’s rule with the type of Joseph (xlix. 24).

It is with the children of the bondmaid too that we find him, - a significant expression of Israel’s condition, politically perhaps as well as spiritually, when the Lord came in flesh; but separated from them morally far, the ground of the after separation upon their side, not on His. "Me the world hateth," said the Lord to His brethren, "because I testify of it that its deeds are evil."

Special object of his father’s love, and prophet of his own coming exaltation, he incurs through all this an intensity of enmity which finds its opportunity in his mission of love as sent of his father to them. He seeks them in Shechem, finds them in Dothan, and there in brethren after the flesh, in will and intent, murderers. But these names, like all others in Scripture, are suggestive; and it is surely in place to inquire what they suggest.

Now Shechem we have already had twice before us, and it seems referred to again in chap. xlviii. 22. It is here translated "portion" a meaning which in Scripture it never elsewhere has: its undoubted uniform sense is "shoulder," which is usually considered to refer to the "position of the place on the ‘saddle’ or ‘shoulder’ of the heights which divide the waters there that flow to the Mediterranean on the west and to the Jordan on the east." * There is no need to exclude this significance, any more than to stop here as if it were the whole matter. The natural typifies the spiritual; and so it may be in this case.
*Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible.

Figuratively the shoulder finds its place as the burden-bearer, and this with the thought of service and subjection as in the blessing of Issachar afterward: "He bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute" but the burden may be one of a very different character, as it is said of the Lord, "The government shall be upon His shoulder:" the place of service and the place of power being here one. How truly so of Him whom this declares!

In the first case in which we have to do with Shechem, I have sought to show that we have the forrmer thought. The oak of Moreh (the "instructor"), at the "place of Sichem," Abraham’s first resting-place in the land, gives beautifully the fruitfulness of subjection to divine teaching; and here Jehovah Himself appears to him. We need seek no further for the significance of Shechem in the history of Joseph’s brethren. From Abraham’s place Abraham’s seed had but too far wandered when the Lord came as seeking them. Zealous law-keepers they were, and to this Dothan, if I mistake not, very exactly points. It means "laws" in the sense not of "precepts" (moral, spiritual guidances such as the divine law) but of imperial "decrees."
* To Israel, away from God and from the path of their father after the flesh, such had the divine word become.

At Dothan,* then, Joseph’s brethren are found, and at once they counsel to slay him. In fact they cast him into a pit, but which holds no water - "It is not Lawful for us," the Jews said to Pilate, "to put any man to death" - and out of this they draw him to sell him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. So by Israel was the Lord transferred to the Gentiles.
How striking is that touch in this terrible picture, "And they sat down"- with Joseph in their pit -"to eat bread"! How much more terrible in the case of the pharisaic persecutors who "would not go into the judgment-hall, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the passover"! History does indeed repeat itself, because each generation but repeats the one before it: as Ahab, Israel’s worst king, was but after all what his name signifies, his "father’s brother."
*"Dothan" is generally held to mean "two cisterns" or" wells;" some, however, prefer the meaning "laws," from dath, a very different word from torah, (akin to Moreh above,) the usual word for Jehovah’s "law."

Thus Joseph is brought down into Egypt; but before his history is proceeded with, that of Judah, terrible record as it is, is continued through another chapter (xxxviii). That it is simply Judah’s history is itself significant. Israel (the ten tribes) have for long had none; the Jews for us represent the whole people. Here at the outset Judah separates himself from his brethren and connects himself with the Canaanite - the "merchantman" - marrying the daughter of Shuah (or "riches"). Surely these names give us in plain speech the characteristics of the nation for these centuries since the cross! His seed is thus, however, continued upon the earth, although God’s wrath is upon the first two sons, (whose names speak, Er, of "enmity," and Onan, of "iniquity,") while the third son, Shelah, ("sprout"?) speaks of divine power in resurrection bringing out of death.* Thus is a remnant preserved.
* "Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for He bath torn, and He will heal us; Ho hath smitten, and He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us: in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live In His sight." (lbs. vi. 1,2.)

The history of Tamar shows us in God’s own marvellous way how Christ comes into connection with Judah, and thus it is her name appears in the Lord’s genealogy in the gospel of Matthew, first of those four women’s names, whose presence there demonstrates the grace which has stooped to take up men. Each of these four has its own distinctive gospel-feature to bring out, as has been elsewhere shown.*It is Tamar’s sin that is insisted on, as it is Rahab’s faith; while for Ruth to come in, the sentence of the law has to be set aside, and Bathsheba shows us grace triumphing even over a believer's sin. A salvation for sinners, - a salvation by faith, - a salvation from the sentence of the law, an eternal salvation: this is what the simple insertion of these names declares. And in this chapter of Genesis, whatever else may be contained, we are assured, as everywhere, for Jew first, and for Gentile also, sin it is which through the infinite pity of God connects us with a Saviour. Tamar’s sin alone brought her into the Lord’s genealogy; and God has taken pains to record, doubly record, this striking fact. Even so as simply sinners have we title to rejoice in a work accomplished for the need of sinners. Judah shall find in a coming day his title, not in legal righteousness, nor in Abrahamic descent, but in what God has emphasized for us here.
*"The Women of the Genealogy," first published in "The Present Testimony."

With chap. xxxix. we come back to Joseph - in type, to see Christ among the Gentiles. It is evident that thus viewed there is no direct continuity with the thirty-seventh chapter, but in some sort a new beginning. Even the position of Joseph under an Egyptian master may remind us of Zechariah’s words, which I believe with others to be intended of Christ: "Man acquired me as a slave from my youth" (ch. xiii. 5, Heb.). Here, notice, it is not Israel: the lowly service to which He has stooped has the widest scope. Of course He is at the same time, and always, Jehovah’s perfect servant: the one thing, far from being inconsistent with the other, involved it. But what response did this service receive from man? "What are those wounds in Thine hands? Those with which I was wounded in the house of My friends."

With Joseph in it, the house of the Egyptian is blessed of God; but with Christ ministering in it, how unspeakably was the world blessed! All the power was there, and manifesting itself, which could have turned, and will yet turn, the need of man, however great and varied, into occasion for the display of the wealth of divine loving-mercy. But it availed not to turn man’s heart to God: false witness casts Joseph into Pharaoh’s prison, where, however, all things come into his hand; while under false accusation the Lord descends into a darker prison-house, in result to manifest Himself as Master of all there.

A higher power than man’s was working beneath all this in Joseph’s case. The path of humiliation was to end for him in glory; the sorrow of the way was to issue in the joy - love’s own joy of service in a higher sphere. "God did send me before you to preserve life," he says to his brethren afterward; and he who in prison reveals himself as the interpreter of the mind of God, is as such qualified to administer the resources of the throne of Egypt for the relief of the distress which is at hand for the world. All this is easily read as typical of the Lord, only that the shadows of the picture are immeasurably darker here, as the lights are inexpressibly brighter. From the humiliation and agony of the cross, in which He is the interpreter of man’s just doom on the one hand and of the mercy for him on the other, the lowly Minister to human need comes forth to serve as Wisdom and Power of God upon a throne of grace. Shechem is the portion of our Joseph’s inheritance, for a better kingdom than any kingdom of the nations is that He receives. (Mark x. 42.)

Seven years of plenty to be succeeded by seven years of famine which shall devour them up - such is the prophecy of Pharaoh’s dream. Even yet is the world enjoying its plenteous years, and little it believes in its plainly predicted future. The time of famine is nevertheless surely not far off which is to manifest the resources of Him who will then be seen alone competent to meet its terrible exigencies. In that sore time of trial both Israel are to be brought back to Him whom they have rejected, and the world to be subjected to the throne whose provision of grace He ministers. These things are now in our type with some detail set before us.

But first, and as soon as ever he is exalted, we hear of new relationships for Joseph: "And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnath-paaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On; and Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt." The name given we may take as Hebrew,* and the meaning anciently given to it, "Revealer of Secrets." How precious a title for Him who has indeed revealed to us the secrets of the heart of God! And especially is it appropriate typically in connection (as the text suggests) with Joseph’s Gentile marriage. To Christianity belongs, above all, the revelation of the divine "mysteries." The "mysteries of the kingdom," the "great mystery" of "Christ and the Church;" the "mystery of His will . . . for the administration of the fullness of times, to head up all things in the heavens and earth in Christ" (Matt. xiii. i i; Eph. v. 32, i. 9, io) are given to us for the first time in these Christian days; while He Himself is, in His own person and work, the "mystery of godliness." Even the false church appropriates (only to pervert) this idea of "mystery" (Rev. xvii. 5); while the apostle desires no better estimation for himself and others than "as ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God" (i Cor. iv. i). For us, even the stored treasures of the past dispensation are revealing themselves, and things which happened unto Israel happened unto them for types, and are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the ages are come (i Cor. x. ii). All these things are pledges of new relationship, confidences (how unspeakably precious!) of the heart of Christ (Jno. xv. i5). Revealer of secrets indeed is He; no truer or sweeter name for Him who has been pleased to take, in these plenteous days before the time of the world’s famine, a Gentile bride.
* The absurdity does not follow which Grove suggests (Smith’s Dict. of the Bible) that it makes Pharaoh speak in Hebrew. If it has pleased God to speak to us in Hebrew why should not the Egyptian name be translated into this to make it intelligible to us? I am not convinced of the wisdom of seeking the meaning of these words in ancient and little known tongues, and these "Shemiticized;" at least when the Hebrew furnishes a satisfactory one nearer at hand.

As to Asenath, if the meaning of her name is conjectural only,* yet those of her two sons are very significant. Born before the famine, and while Joseph’s brethren are yet strangers to his exaltation, he "called the name of the first-born Manasseh: "For God hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house;" while "the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath made me fruitful in the land of my affliction." Here, clearly, is our place and relationship with our blessed Lord; and how blessed to realize the value to Him of which these names speak. For His Church, His heavenly bride, He has been content to be as if He remembered not His relationship with His people of old. The thread of prophecy lies unwoven on the shuttle of time, as if its wheel had stopped forever. What means this attittide of forgetfulness on the part of Him who neither slumbereth nor sleepeth? Surely no change, but the pursuance of eternal purposes, which accomplished, Israel shall look upon the face of Him whom they have pierced, and a fountain be opened to them also for sin and for uncleanness.
So "the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended. And the seven years of dearth began to come and the dearth was in all lands 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."’
*According to Poole (Smith’s Dict.), probably "storehouse;" but Simomis, with the help of the Ethiopic, suggests "beauty." The old conjecture, "worshipper of Neith," every way objectionable, is generally given up.

So when God’s judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. It is face to face with our need that we learn our true nothingness, and cry out to Him who then proves Himself the living God. But God’s remedy is Christ alone. He has put, absolutely and unrepentingly, all things in His hand. He would have all men to be saved, but there is no other name given whereby we can be saved. As for the individual, so for the world: not in the plenteous times of Christianity will the world at large turn to God; and therefore come drought and famine from the same hand that, unknown, bestowed the blessing.

The present dispensation closed by the removal of the Church to be with her Head and Lord, the times of the Gentiles will close as the Lord Himself predicts: "And there shall be signs in the sun and in the moon and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth; for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory." (Luke xxi. 25 - 27.)

But before He appears, and amid all the trial of a time such as the world has never seen - will never again see - Israel will be preparing to recognize and receive her rejected Lord. "Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it; it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it, and . . . . they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them" (Jer. xxx. 6, 7, 9). It is indeed the travail-time of Israel’s new birth.

In the type before us, the famine reaches Canaan, as all the countries around, and Joseph’s ten brethren come down to buy corn in Egypt. We are all familiar with what follows, and how their hearts and consciences are probed by him who knows them and loves them well, but whom they know not. They obtain indeed a temporary supply for their necessities, but leave Simeon in prison, and are bidden not to appear again except they bring Benjamin with them. Famine again forces them to come down, and this time, Judah having undertaken for Benjamin with his father, they bring him also; are then feasted by Joseph still unknown; sent away with the cup in Benjamin’s sack; pursued and brought back under the charge of theft; Benjamin is to remain as Joseph’s slave, but Judah, his heart fully reached, offers himself in his stead: then Joseph’s love bursts out; he makes himself known to them; they own their sin, are reconciled and comforted with his love.

In all this it is plain how every thing turns on Benjamin and their state toward him. This is made the test of their condition. The power for their deliverance lies in Joseph’s hands alone, however, and their exercises as to Benjamin all tend to awakening conscience and heart as to their sin against Joseph. The key of the typical interpretation is to be found in this.*
Joseph is, as we know, Christ once rejected and suffering, now exalted: this is He whom Israel does not know. A Christ triumphant simply and reigning upon earth is the Benjamin who is found among them, whether in the days of the Lord’s rejection or the latter days. The conqueror they were prepared for; the Sufferer; not knowing their own deep need, they have refused. Yet the two are really one: even Benjamin was first Benoni; and for them the Conqueror cannot be till they receive the Sufferer; not the faith of a sufferer merely, but the One who was. Power lies with Joseph, not with Benjamin.
* "His brethren, who had rejected him, forced by famine, are brought, by the path of repentance and humiliation, to own him at length in glory whom they had once rejected when connected with themselves. Benjamin, type of the power of the Lord upon earth among the Jews, is united to him who unknown had the power of the throne among the Gentiles; that is. Christ unites these two characteristics. But this brings all the brethren into connection with Joseph." (Synopsis of the Books of the Bible. JND 1. 59.)

But Joseph’s heart longs after Benjamin: Christ longs to display this character of power for them but for this they must be brought to repentance, and He uses the ideal, prophetical Messiah to bring their hearts back to Himself the true one.
Amid the sorrows of the last days this will be accomplished for them. He who unknown is seeking them will make them realize their Benjamin as Benoni, the son of sorrow, and that as the fruit of their own sin (ch. xliv. 16). Benjamin is taken from them: they have lost their part in Messiah as having rejected Him. All the depths of Judah’s heart are stirred; and in his agony for Benjamin, he is met and overwhelmed by the revelation of Joseph. They look upon Him whom they have pierced, and mourn for Him as one mourneth for his only son, and a fountain for sin and for uncleanness is opened to them.

This, I believe, is the true, however meagre, interpretation of the type before us. But this brings the whole nation into blessing under Christ; and here, as far as they are concerned, the type (I suppose) ends. They are established in Goshen, and the fat of the land of Egypt is theirs.

After this we read of the reduction of Egypt itself under the immediate authority of the throne. The people, bankrupt through the famine, receive back their lands from the bounty of the king, returning him one fifth of the produce of the land as the token of their indebtedness to the grace from which they have received all. Two tenths may remind us of the double claim of God upon us - by creation and by redemption. All the world shall own this in the day to come.

From chap. xlvii. 28, I think we have a separate part, an appendix to this history.
The Individual Application. In the individual application certain broad features of Joseph’s life are easy to be read, and these are all that I am able with confidence to speak of. It is plain how different in character is the suffering through which he passes to that of Jacob. Jacob’s is disciplinary, the result, under God’s government, of the evil of his own ways; Joseph, on the contrary, suffering for righteousness, the predestined path to glory: "if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him."

Child of old age is Joseph: how slowly, alas! the fruits of the new nature appear in us! Even for the saint, how true that "that which is first is natural, and afterward that which is spiritual"! Moreover, in the world through which we pass, all is hostile to the development of that which is of God. "He that separateth himself from evil maketh himself a prey;" and separation from evil is a fundamental principle of the divine nature. Hence persecution for righteousness, not only from the world, but even at the hands of those who, chosen out: of the world, are still practicing conformity with its ways. Nay, one’s brethren are, alas, often in t:his case more hostile than the very world itself, just because their consciences are more awake to a testimony which condemns themselves. And indeed how few are there among the children of God who are thoroughly, and at all costs, subject to His Word! How many of all creeds, even the highest, whose code is liberty for self-will within certain wider or narrower limits! Thus, within the circle of professed Christian fellowship, how much real opposition which must be met by those who are Josephs, "adding," after the apostle’s manner, disciples of the cross! Their path is individual, solitary often, save oniy for the God with whom they walk, and indeed because they have chosen to walk with Him. Yet it is thus a path of deepest, fullest blessing.

Rejected by his brethren, rejected by the world, Joseph carries with him the wisdom which interprets the scene around him, while master, too, of the circumstances by which he seems to be mastered. All things necessarily serve the One who is with him ever under all appearances, content Himself to find through seeming defeat His sure, eternal victory. Through all, he is preparing for the place where at last both his brethren are restored to him and also the world shall be his own: when Christ reigns, (of which we have been tracing the figures here,) His saints shall reign with Him.

Of this latter part, for the fullness of which we must wait to be with Him, we have nevertheless our anticipative foretastes. Even now, as the apostle tells us, the world is ours, long as it may be before we learn our spiritual supremacy over it. The word of life and of salvation is surely also ours as it was Joseph’s, and it is ours to win to ourselves out of the world those who shall be in spiritual relationship to us also. This some would find as a type in Jacob’s history, where it seems out of relation to the whole character and meaning of his life. It is Joseph rather, I believe, in whom we find this.

But while features of resemblance there necessarily are between the life of Christ as manifested thus in His people, and Him in whom alone it has been perfectly seen, yet the details, as remarked already, carry us continually away from the disciple to the Lord. This is surely designed and full of instruction for us. Is it not true that just so far as these features are developed in us it is the result of occupation with Christ Himself? "We all with open face beholding the glory of the Lord, are changed from glory to glory, even as by the Lord the Spirit." In preparation for the scene of His actual presence, He thus as we advance in spiritual life becomes the object upon which our gaze fastens. It is not we that live, but Christ liveth in us. He abides in our hearts by faith. We "grow in grace" as we grow "in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Thus, as the Nazarite’s course ended, he came to the door of the tent of meeting to offer to God the various offerings in the value of which - not of his vows performed - he found acceptance with God; and there, thus standing, his hands were filled with the heave-shoulder of the ram, and the unleavened cakes of the meat-offering. Christ in the perfection of His blessed life, Christ alone upholding all things by the power of that in which in unique, matchless devotedness He glorified God, the Christ in whom we are accepted, fills, and for eternity is to fill and occupy, us only.

The subjective types of Genesis closing in the objective is thus not a defect, nor (I believe) a thought due to mere obscurity of vision as to what is presented here. It is to the "fathers" the apostle says, as characteristic of them, "Ye have known Him that is from the beginning." And there he closes. There Genesis closes too, with the vision of the glory of the Lord, suffering and exalted, the government laid upon His shoulder, the true Zaphnath-paaneah, revealer of the secrets of His Father’s heart, Bridegroom of His Gentile Bride, Saviour of the world. Where He fills the eye and occupies the heart, all else finds its just place and completest harmony; communion with the Father is the portion of the soul, the power of the living Spirit realized. And here what limit of attainment is imposed, save that which we may impose? The study of these Genesis pictures will have done nothing for us, if it does not invite our hearts more than ever into the King’s banqueting-house, where the everlasting arms inclose and uphold us, and His banner over us is Love!


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