When Joseph reunites with his brothers in Egypt, he recalls their initial attempt to dispose of him in the well, saying, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, in order to do as it is this day: to make many people live” (Genesis 50:20). In other words, whereas Joseph’s brothers committed an evil act against him, God worked through the misfortune of one person to bring about salvation for many. This will not be the last time that God works in this way to effect corporate deliverance. The brothers’ activity against Joseph, and the eventual salvation that comes from it, alludes to the Passover sacrifice that leads to the exodus from Egypt.

In an effort to deceive Jacob into thinking that Joseph had been eaten by an animal, Joseph’s brothers “took (לקח; laqach) Joseph’s garment and they slaughtered (שחט; shachat) a goat and dipped (טבל; taval) the garment in blood (דם; dam)” (Genesis 37:31). All of this Hebrew language reappears at the first Passover when Moses tells the elders of Israel, “Go and choose a lamb for yourselves according to your clans, and slaughter (שחט; shachat) the Passover lamb. Take (לקח; laqach) a bunch of hyssop and dip (טבל; taval) it in the blood (דם; dam) that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood” (Exodus 12:21-22). In Genesis, the brothers slaughter a goat, take Joseph’s garment, and dip it in the animal’s blood; in Exodus, the elders slaughter a lamb, take hyssop, and dip it in the blood. Joseph’s brothers partake in a kind of perverse Passover ritual against their brother, but God will respond to this negative foreshadow by saving many lives through Joseph’s acts in Egypt.

The intertextual links between Genesis 37:31 and Exodus 12:21-22 make a major theological impact with just a few parallel words. The slaughtered goat in Genesis is a representation of Joseph’s own personal sacrifice as someone who would be abandoned, sold, and imprisoned. His brothers take his garment and dip it in blood in order to commit an evil act against their younger brother. However, God works through that act in order to “make many people live” when Joseph saves them from famine (Genesis 50:20). Similarly, God gives life to the many imprisoned Hebrews through the sacrifice of the Passover lamb. This theological theme of sacrifice for the good of the many is also foundational to the Gospels’ portrayal of Jesus as one who “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45). Joseph’s experience points to the notion of sacrifice for salvation that runs throughout Israel’s story.

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15 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent article. Thank you. I wonder if Judas selling out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver during Passover brought any connections to Joseph being sold into sold into slavery? Or Jesus' being stripped of his garment and the soldiers playing for it? Or the linen cloth found at the empty tomb? Thank again.
    • Thanks for your judicious comments, Dennis. There's certainly a parallel between the silver pieces in each narrative. Matthew 27:28-31 & Mark 15:20 use the same Greek word for "stripped" (ἐκδύω; ekduo) as Genesis 37:23, so that link to Joseph is operative in the Gospel as well.
  2. Hi Dr. Schaser, Thank you for the amazing soul searching information, i am in Awe of the teachings i receive and always looking forward to taking your classes. I can view the Bible with different eyes. Thank you
    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!
  3. Thank you Dr.Schaser for showing us the connection between Joseph being sold, etc. & God's salvation through the Passover. Also, the connection between the 30 pieces of silver that Judas received, Jesus being stripped of His garment - thanks to Dennis for bringing these to our attention.

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