From Pits to Palaces: Joseph a Type of Christ

READING:  GENESIS 37, 39-50 

Joseph’s story is a story that takes us from pits to palaces but, it is more than that. It paints a beautiful picture of the coming Christ, the Christ that was first spoken of as the “seed of the woman” in Genesis 3:15, foreshadowed through the prophetic symbol of the ark in Genesis 6, and pictured and promised through Isaac in Genesis 17, 21, and 22. The similarities between Joseph and Jesus are striking, but as with any shadow of Christ, Joseph is an imperfect representation of the perfect that is to come. 


Joseph, one of Jacob’s twelve sons was loved by his father more than all of his other brothers. “When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him” (Genesis 37:4). Because of their hatred for him, they threw him in a pit and then sold him to Midianite merchants who took him to Egypt. However, God was with Joseph in Egypt and “rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. So, Pharaoh made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace” (Acts 7:9-10). Because of Joseph’s position with Pharaoh, when famine struck, Joseph was able to save his family, bringing them from Canaan to Egypt to live with him.


Joseph’s life from beginning to end parallels the life of Jesus in many ways. For a thorough list of similarities between Jesus and Joseph, see A Comparison Between Joseph and Jesus by Jews for Jesus. In this article, however, we will cover some of the most striking similarities.  

Loved and Hated

Although Joseph and Jesus were loved by their fathers (Genesis 37:3, Matthew 3:17), they were intensely hated by others. Joseph’s brothers saw that their father loved Joseph more, so they hated him (Genesis 37:4). Likewise, the world sees that Jesus shines His light on its evil deeds, so it hates Him (John 7:7).  

Sent on a Mission

Both Joseph and Jesus’ fathers sent them on a mission at around the age of 30: Jacob sent Joseph to find his brothers and check on them (Genesis 37:13), and God sent Jesus to find the lost and save the world (1 John 4:9, John 3:16). While on their missions, those who wished to harm them plotted against them: Joseph by his brothers (Genesis 37:18) and Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39); and Jesus by the chief priests (Mark 15:11), Judas (Luke 22:4), and Herod (Acts 4:27). Both their missions sent them on an unavoidable collision course with their destinies, destinies that would forever change the world. 

Stripped of Their Tunics

Joseph and Jesus were both stripped of their tunics and thrown into a pit. Joseph’s tunic was ornate and given to him by his father as a symbol of his love. After stripping Joseph of his coat, Joseph’s brothers dipped the coat in blood and presented it to Jacob, tricking him into thinking Joseph was dead. However, Joseph was not dead; he had been raised from the pit and sold to Midianite traders (Genesis 37).  

Jesus’ robe was elegant and was put on him by Herod and his soldiers to mock him.  At his crucifixion, the Roman soldiers stripped Jesus of his robe and divided his clothing between them (Matthew 27:35). The world thought Jesus was forever dead. But he wasn’t; he was three nights in the pit of Hell (Matthew 12:40) but raised up to life through the power of the Holy Spirit.  

Served Others

Jacob and Joseph both were servants: Joseph in Potiphar’s household where Potiphar made him overseer over his house, and all that he owned (Genesis 39:4) and, Jesus of the world, where he emptied himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7).  

Tempted by Sin

Both were tempted and refused to succumb. Joseph was tempted by Potiphar’s wife but “he did not listen to her to lie beside her or be with her” (Genesis 39:10).  Jesus was tempted by Satan for 40 days but he did not sin (Luke 4:2, Hebrews 4:15). 

Falsely Accused

Both were falsely accused of and then punished for something they did not do. Joseph was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife and then thrown in jail for her actions. Jesus was falsely accused (Matt 26:59-60) and ultimately put to death on the cross, not for anything He did, but for our sins. 

Raised Up

Both are raised up to a position of power and before them, all are ordered to bow. Pharaoh set Joseph over the entire land of Egypt and before Joseph all proclaimed, “Bow the knee!” (Genesis 41:41-43). God highly exalted Jesus and gave him the name above every name, so that at His name every knee shall bow (Philippians 2:9-10). 

Provided for Others

Both Jesus and Joseph provided for those in need. “The people of all the earth came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph because the famine was severe in all the earth (Genesis 42:8). Jesus also provides for all in need. He says he is the bread of life and that whoever comes to Him will not hunger, and whoever believes in him will not thirst (John 6:35). 

Not Recognized

Both were not recognized by their own. When Joseph’s brothers stood before him in Egypt, they did not recognize him. When Jesus came to earth, no one recognized Him as the Son of God, our Savior (John 1:10).  


Both suffered in accordance with the predetermined plan of God. When Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, they were much dismayed. Joseph said to them, “But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance” (Genesis 45:5-7).  

From before the beginning of time, God had a plan in place for our salvation. Jesus was always His answer. Jesus was handed over to his enemies by “God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge”; and, with the help of wicked men, put to death by nailing him to the cross (Acts 2:23). 


Joseph recognized by his brothers, by Léon Pierre Urbain Bourgeois

Finally, the lives of both Jesus and Joseph demonstrate that God can and will turn evil into a blessing. There is no doubt that Joseph’s brothers meant evil against Joseph. But God took that evil intent and “meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive (Genesis 50:20). Those that hung Jesus on the cross meant evil against Jesus, but God meant it for good in order that “we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by his wounds [we] were healed (1 Peter 2:4).  

Even though Joseph’s story begins in a pit of despair, it ends in a palace of blessing. This rags to riches story is one of encouragement, showing us that God can and will take what is meant for evil and use it for good (Genesis 50:20). But it is more than that. It also points us to Jesus, reminding us and instructing us of the perfect One that was to come: Jesus Christ!



We'd love to hear your thoughts.


I am a truth seeker by nature. My passion is studying God's Word and sharing His Truth with others.

Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest Bible studies, tools, videos, and resources.  No spam. Only Bible study.

Join Our Newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest Bible studies, tools, videos, and resources.  No spam. Only Bible study.

Want to learn to study the Bible Yourself?

Enter your email and get a quick start guide and be the first to know when the book "How to Study the Bible for Yourself" is available.