Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) on Joseph as a foreshadowing of Christ


I am currently working through Jonathan Edwards’ (1703-1758) A History of the Work of Redemption – a book I should have already read a long time ago – and finding it a delightful read. Originally a series of 30 lecture-sermons preached to his congregation at Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1739, these sermons were later edited to take the form of a coherent treatise, and this is the form in which we find the work under its present title.

Edwards’ work traces God’s redemptive dealings with man throughout history, and in his treatment of Old Testament redemptive history he constantly shows how God’s redemptive works in the Old Testament foreshadowed and pointed to the redemption in Christ which was to come. I particularly appreciated his brief exposition of Joseph as a type of Christ. This is from p. 68-69 in the Banner of Truth edition:

“The next thing I would like to observe, is God’s remarkably preserving the family of which Christ was to proceed from perishing by famine by the instrumentality of Joseph. When there was seven years’ famine approaching, God was pleased, by a wonderful providence, to send Joseph into Egypt, there to provide for and feed Jacob and his family, and to keep the holy seed alive, which otherwise would have perished. Joseph was sent to Egypt for that end, as he observes (Gen. 50:20): ‘But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to save much people alive.’ How often had this holy root that had the future branch of righteousness, the glorious Redeemer, in it been in danger of being destroyed! But God wonderfully preserved it.

This salvation of the house of Israel by the hand of Joseph, was upon some accounts very much a resemblance of the salvation of Christ. The children of Israel were saved by Joseph their kinsman and brother, from perishing by famine; as he that saves the souls of the spiritual Israel from spiritual famine is their near kinsman, and one that is not ashamed to call them brethren, Joseph was a brother that they had hated, and sold and as it were killed; for they had designed to kill him. So Christ is one that we naturally hate and, by our wicked lives, have sold for the vain things of the world, and by our sins have slain. Joseph was first in a state of humiliation. He was a servant, as Christ appeared in the form of a servant. Then he was cast into a dungeon, as Christ descended into the grave; and then when he rose out of the dungeon he was in a state of great exaltation, at the king’s right hand as his deputy, to reign over all his kingdom, to provide food, to preserve life. And being in this state of exaltation, he dispenses food to his brethren, and so gives them life; as Christ was exalted at God’s right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour to his brethren, and received gifts for men, even for the rebellious, and for them that hated and had sold him.”

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