A Tale of Two Josephs

The Bible is an amazing book; actually an amazing collection of books. Compiled nearly two thousand years ago, it contains History, Poetry, Prophecy and lessons for life that remain pertinent no matter the year on the calendar.

Many of the stories of the Bible contain meanings on top of meanings on top of more meanings. A person can read the same passage repeatedly over ensuing decades and still discover, for the first time, deeper insights that reveal truths directly applicable to them. When you realize that different human authors, over a span of centuries, took part in its assembly, you cannot help but be astounded.

The Christian sees in this continuity the Hand of God as He inspired the mortal writers. But not only did God inspire the writers as they put quill to parchment, He also inspired the people about whose lives are revealed.

The Bible consists of the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament points to the Coming of the Messiah while the New Testament proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah. Like the overture of a musical, the Old Testament presents in small parts what will be revealed in full later on.

While Jesus the Messiah, or Savior, is the person around whom the whole story revolves, there are others, call them supporting actors, who play a key part in the tale. Two, in particular, deserve attention, and they are both named Joseph.

Joseph of the Old Testament was the son of Jacob. He experienced dreams that foretold his father and his brothers would one day bow down to him.

Joseph of the New Testament also had a father whose name was Jacob. God spoke to him in dreams directing his actions toward Jesus and Mary. He became the head of the Holy Family and Mary and Jesus were obedient to him.

 The brothers of the Old Testament Joseph first plotted to kill him but then sold him into slavery to some Midianites. He was taken to Egypt where he was again sold, this time to Potiphar, the Pharaoh’s chief steward. God blessed Joseph in all the duties he was given and Potiphar’s house prospered. Potiphar gave control to Joseph over all matters of his house. Potiphar’s wife lusted after Joseph and when he denied her advances, she falsely accused him of a sexual assault and he was thrown into jail.

 The New Testament Joseph served God the Father’s purpose by becoming the foster-father of Jesus and the chaste guardian of the Virgin Mary.  

Joseph of the Old Testament came to dwell in the House of Pharaoh and serve a man who was the ruler of much of the world. Joseph of the New Testament brought the King of Heaven and Earth to dwell in his home. He served God by teaching and directing Jesus when he was a child.

Joseph of the Old Testament had the ability to interpret the dreams of others. God the Father spoke directly to Joseph of the New Testament in dreams. It was clearly revealed to him that he should take Mary as his wife and that the child she carried was conceived by the Holy Spirit. He was clearly warned in a dream to flee Herod’s wrath and later in a dream informed when it was safe to return home.

The family of the Old Testament Joseph sought relief in Egypt from the famine. Joseph stored up grain during the plush years that kept his family and others alive during the famine.

Joseph of the New Testament is the savior of the Savior. He appeared as the natural father of Jesus to the people, shielding Mary from the law and sheltering the helpless baby. He, with Mary and Jesus, sought sanctuary in Egypt. Because of Joseph’s obedience, the Infant Savior grew to manhood. With Jesus’ death and resurrection, millions have been eternally rescued.

The ancient Joseph was especially loved by his father and given a glorious many-colored coat as a symbol of this love. The New Testament Joseph was much beloved by God the Father, so much so that he was given as his bride the most precious creature in all Creation, Mary the Mother of God.

The ancient Patriarch is a precursor to the New Testament Joseph. Joseph of the Old Testament showed mercy to his brothers who sold him into slavery. Our New Testament Joseph so attuned his desires to those of God that he, above all others, is called a Just Man.

 For the modern reader, separated by millennia from the authors of the Bible, guidance for life is abundant in its pages. For those who aspire to greatness, modeling their lives on the two Josephs is an excellent place to start.


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