The story of Jacob and Joseph is very fascinating; in the sense it is one of the few that has a father and son combination that has eschatological ramifications that continue to play out today (and in the times of Revelation). Jacob, known as the trickster, eventually becomes the father of Israel and the twelve tribes, and Joseph models devotion and loyalty, foreshadowing the Christ, and eventually becomes one of the best administrators the world has ever seen.
Jacob was born the second of the twins, and was grasping Esau’s heel upon birth. This was a sign that began the fulfillment of God’s prophecy that the two represented two distinct nations, and would be divided. Jacob then went on to steal Esau’s birthright as well as blessing, and ultimately had to flee into the desert and to his Uncle Laban’s
While serving his uncle Laban, Jacob himself was tricked twice and ultimately had to flee from Laban after the Lord Blessed Jacob with large and strong flocks, leaving Laban’s weak and smaller.
We can see in this story, the law of sowing and reaping, in that Jacob deceived his older brother by initially bribing him with stew to get his birthright, and then deceiving his blind father Isaac with a meal to obtain Esau’s blessing. Jacob then reaps when deceived by Laban, and then has to go back to his own land and face Esau. Jacob is then tricked by his own children when they deceive him by making claims that Joseph was killed by a wild animal, when he was actually sold into slavery. Given that Jacob is seen as one of the ‘big three’ by God, when God introduces himself to those later on, Jacob nonetheless, still dealt with the consequences of his sinful behavior, and had like events happen to him.
Jacob redeems himself by repairing the damaged relationships by being humble, and ultimately struggles with an angel/Lord and requests a blessing from this being, which he gets. Jacob’s name is then changed to Israel, and he then becomes the father to the nation of Israel, with his twelve children representing the twelve tribes. Joseph is one of those sons, and his story has reflections of the coming Messiah in it.
Joseph was the older of two sons born to Rachel, the younger of the two sisters Jacob married. Joseph was favored over the other sons and this caused jealousy among them. Joseph also had two dreams, in which his brothers were ultimately going to bow down before him, and he would have authority over them. The brothers conspired to kill Joseph, but instead sold Joseph into slavery for pieces of silver. Up to this time, Joseph had done no wrong, but was envied by his brothers due to blessings given to him, and having much of his father’s attention.
Even in captivity, Joseph stayed true to his understandings and belief in God. God rewarded this by blessing Joseph abundantly, and Joseph was greatly liked and respected by those who had a chance to know him. Unfortunately, Potiphar’s wife chose to pursue Joseph sexually, and ultimately accused Joseph of raping her when he did everything humanly possible to avoid offending God and committing sexual sins with her. Joseph ended up in jail for over ten years as an innocent man, and did not find bitterness or resentment in his heart. This models the longsuffering of the Christ, and how he did not complain or allow his circumstances to dictate his love for the truth.
Joseph continued to have dreams, and was able to interpret the dreams of the two men in Pharaoh’s court. Despite saving the one, this man ‘forgot’ about Joseph for another two years. Upon the time of pharaoh’s dreams pertaining to the seven years of good and seven years of famine, no one but Joseph was able to interpret them, and as a result, Joseph was elevated to the second in command of all of Egypt, which at the time was the world power. God was able to use an evil act of brothers selling their brother into slavery, to having his will accomplished by giving the second most powerful position in the world (at that time) to a ‘foreigner’ and former slave. This has shades of the coming messiah, coming in the form of a slave, but ultimately demonstrating that he is the king of kings and lord of lords to all righteous men.
Joseph’s brothers did not recognize Joseph upon entering the city to buy grain, but Joseph recognized them. The story of josephs revelation is too long to duplicate here, but the points that re relevant are the dreams came true, the family did bow to Joseph, and that God’s promise to Joseph and Joseph’s fidelity to God was rewarded in ways that Joseph could not have imagined. Joseph also could not have become the number two man in the world, had he not been sold into slavery. So, even with the evil intentions of the brothers, God made his will happen, even though many of the circumstances could have resulted in Joseph giving up, becoming angry and resentful, and taking on a victim’s role.
The story of Jacob and Joseph show how those who are close to God still ‘mess things up’ and God is always ready to forgive and make right what was wrong. However, the consequences of bad behavior are also paid, and need to be dealt with. This God, who is unchanging, continues to act in a consistent manner, even though we in this modern world like to believe we know better, and have control over our circumstances. Very few show the tenacity either of these men had, and therefore, we are very lost sheep in very dark times. These stories give us hope that God will not abandon us at our critical hour, and that all matters, regardless of circumstances, can be made good by the grace of God.