Teaching typology with Joseph and his brothers

posted in: Homeschool & Parenting | 14
Joseph, the dreamer by Clyde Robert Bulla
Joseph, the Dreamer by Clyde Robert Bulla is an excellent version of the Bible story.

In past posts, I have written on Peter Rabbit and the Fall of Man, Benjamin Bunny and the narrow gate, and the Epiphany in My Side of the Mountain. I am making this into a series called Finding God in children’s literature. Before posting more on fiction, I want to examine how to find Jesus in the Old Testament. Let’s look at typology with the story of Joseph in Genesis.

Typology finds the things, people, or events in the Bible that prefigure more significant things, people, or events in salvation history. Most types are in the Old Testament. Most anti-types (what the types prefigure) are in the New Testament. Fisheaters.com has a fuller explanation of typology.

Read the Old Testament through the lens of the New

Read the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50. Familiarize yourself with the complete Biblical account before reading it from a children’s Bible or stand-alone children’s book. Children’s books edit this story for a good reason. Potiphar’s wife tempts Joseph to commit adultery with her, and accuses him of rape when he won’t give in–not a suitable subject for youngsters. The Golden Children’s Bible and Joseph, the Dreamer by Clyde Robert Bulla have her saying that Joseph mocked her instead. I recommend both books highly.

Here are some ways Joseph prefigures Jesus:

  • Joseph dreamed that he would rule over his brothers and eventually the known world. His brothers were angry and jealous. Jesus implied that He was the promised king, the Son of David. The Pharisees and Sadducees were angry and jealous.
  • Joseph’s brothers plotted to kill him. The Pharisees and Sadducees plotted to kill Jesus.
    Joseph and Potiphar's Wife (1631 painting by G...
    Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife by Guido Reni (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Joseph’s brothers cast him in a well, but later brought him out unharmed. Jesus was put to death and rose again. Also, he miraculously evaded those who tried to push Him off a cliff at Nazareth.
  • Joseph’s brothers stripped him of his coat. The Romans stripped Jesus of His garments.
  • Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt.  The Holy Family escaped into Egypt to flee from King Herod. Also, Jesus was “sold” for 30 pieces of silver.
  • Joseph was tempted by Potiphar’s wife, but did not sin. Jesus triumphed over the temptation of the Devil.
  • Joesph was convicted of rape on false testimony. Jesus was condemned to death on false testimony.
  • When Joseph was released from prison, he was “set over all the land of Egypt” (Genesis 41:41). After Jesus rose from the dead, He took His place as Lord of Heaven and Earth.
  • Joseph fed his people with the grain he had stored up. Jesus feeds us with the Eucharist.
  • Joseph saved Israel from starvation. Jesus saved Israel (and all who believe in Him) from their sins.

Help your children make a habit of looking for Christ everywhere

Much of this prefiguring is easy for primary school children to see with a little guidance. They need first to know the Gospel and the story of Joseph well. Then you can encourage them with questions such as: Can you think of any ways in which Joseph was like Jesus? Jesus was stripped of His garments. What happened to Joseph? Joseph fed the people with the grain. How does Jesus feed us?

When you teach your children to see Jesus in the Old Testament, you teach them a tradition going back to St. Paul’s writings. You also start them on the road of looking for Jesus in literature and art in general.

Connie Rossini

Share with us: Do you see any parallels between Joseph and Jesus that I missed? Who is your favorite type of Christ in the Old Testament?

14 Responses

  1. Gabbi

    I love this. The only thing I would add to your already extensive list is that Joseph was clothed in a special garment by his father. Jesus is clothed in righteousness and was announced as “my son” during His baptism. It may be a stretch, but since soooo much is made about the “coat of many colors” in modern day, I like to use it when teaching about Jesus, too. Thanks.

    • Connie Rossini

      Gabbi, great insight! Can you think of any Scripture passages where it uses the term “clothed” about Jesus? I know Christians state things that way, but I think if you had a passage that used the word, that would change this from “a stretch” to a completely reasonable prefiguring. It seems to me likely that there are some, but I might not have time to look them up in the near future.

    • Connie Rossini

      Wow, that was a great video! The subject was totally new to me, and I’m sure it’s going to open up greater layers of meaning in the Bible. Thanks for sharing.

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