Joseph, Moses, Joshua
“For the LORD our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and who did these great signs in our sight and preserved us through all the way in which we went” (Joshua 24:17. NASB for all scriptures, unless otherwise noted.)
by Ernie Kuenzli
At its core, the Abrahamic Promise and covenant is a story of deliverance: Abraham’s deliverance from the idolatry of Ur, the deliverance of Abraham’s family into a land of their own, and eventually, mankind’s deliverance from the reign of sin and death. But to accomplish this deliverance required a deliverer. God, through the Abrahamic Covenant and its subsequent covenants (Law, New) provide a wealth of information about both this deliverer and the deliverance they would provide. We find this deliverance particularly illustrated in three individuals who played a vital role in Israel’s history: Joseph, Moses, and Joshua. Each not only played a pivotal role in delivering fleshly Israel, but they also provide an illustration of the greater deliverer, Christ, and the ultimate deliverance he would provide from sin and death, for Israel and all mankind.
Joseph’s preparation as Israel’s deliverer began at the tender age of 17 when he was sold into slavery by his brothers. Jacob’s favoritism toward Rachel’s firstborn son, coupled with Joseph’s dreams of the sheaves and sun, moon, and stars, kindled jealousy and animosity toward him by his older brothers (Genesis 37:5-11). They sold him into slavery to Midianite traders and brought back to Jacob, Joseph’s multi-colored tunic stained with the blood of a goat. What an apt illustration of how Israel and mankind’s deliverer would have to shed his blood to provide atonement and thus, establish the basis for the Abrahamic Promise.
Taken to Egypt, Joseph became the slave of “Potiphar, Pharaoh’s officer, the captain of the bodyguard” (Genesis 37:36). In similar fashion, the greater deliverer of Israel and mankind, Christ, “became flesh and dwelt among us and we saw his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14). The Logos “emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant … being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). God “made him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin [sin-offering] on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The Abrahamic Covenant required a sacrificial offering for sin before its blessings could flow to all mankind. This was pictured when God asked Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice on Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22:2-22). Joseph became a slave, and later went to prison, picturing the Logos becoming the man Christ Jesus and then going into death as a ransom for Father Adam.
When Potiphar “saw that the LORD was with him and how the LORD caused all that he did to prosper in his hand … he made him [Joseph] overseer over his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge … the LORD blessed that Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph” (Genesis 39:3-5). In like fashion, God through His Spirit and power prospered Jesus’ work during his earthly ministry. Jesus said, “I am in the Father, and the Father is in me … The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own initiative, but the Father abiding in me does His works” (John 14:10).
Joseph’s success and appearance caught the eye of Potiphar’s wife and she continually sought to seduce him. Joseph rejected her overtures and fled from her presence (Genesis 39:7-12). In retribution, she accused Joseph of assault and Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison (verses 13-20). Similarly, Satan used various means and individuals to try to corrupt Jesus from his mission as man’s redeemer. Failing this, Satan stirred up Jewish leaders to accuse Jesus before Roman authorities and have him crucified, putting him into the great prison house of death (Psalms 142:7, Isaiah 42:7).
God’s kindness to Joseph while in prison, Joseph’s interpretation of the butler’s and baker’s dreams, and Pharaoh’s dreams of the cows and the ears of corn, led to Joseph’s release (Genesis 39:21-41:14). Interpreting Pharaoh’s dream, and suggesting how to respond, led to his elevation next to Pharaoh. “I have set you over all the land of Egypt. (40) … only in the throne I will be greater than you” (Genesis 40:41,40). This is a beautiful illustration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead: God “raised him from the dead and seated him at His right hand in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:20).
Joseph was now positioned to save his brethren when the prophesied famine came to pass years later. When Joseph revealed his true identity to his brothers, he said, “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt” (Genesis 45:7,8). Just as God sent Joseph ahead to deliver his family, God sent Jesus ahead and raised him over the anti-typical Egypt to be an everlasting father [life-giver] not just to his brethren the Jewish people, but to all mankind. In this way, the life of Joseph illustrates not only the atonement but the resurrection, restitution, and the spiritual food that will be provided to all in Christ’s kingdom in fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant.
Four hundred and thirty years after God gave the covenant to Abraham, God raised another deliverer for Israel, Moses (Genesis 12:7, Exodus 12:40,41). Moses had earlier tried his hand at delivering a Jewish brother and had to flee for his life (Exodus 2:11-15). Forty years later, an angel of God appeared to him at the burning bush and said, “I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10). Four times Moses said he was not qualified to be Israel’s deliverer. Finally, Moses said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else” (Exodus 4:13 ESV). Moses, looking at his flesh, felt inadequate for such a huge task. But God’s promises of support eventually persuaded Moses, and he returned to Egypt as God’s representative to liberate Abraham’s descendants and lead them back to the Promised Land.
Later, God explained how this deliverance was connected to the Abrahamic Covenant. “I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty … (4) I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned. (5) Furthermore, I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel, because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. (6) Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. (7) Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God … (8) I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession; I am the LORD’” (Exodus 6:3-8).
Moses was God’s representative in demanding that Pharaoh let his people Israel go that they might serve Jehovah. “You shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is My son, My firstborn.’ (23) So I said to you, ‘Let My son go that he may serve Me’; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn’” (Exodus 4:22-23). Even before the first plague, God prophesied the outcome to Moses. In this contest, Pharaoh represents Satan, the god of this present evil world, holding family of man in the bondage of sin and death. He is an onerous master; and like the Israelites, mankind groans and cries for help (Exodus 2:23,24). Moses pictures Jesus Christ, God’s agent in leading the entire human family, represented in Israel, to freedom from Satan and bondage. Such is the deliverance promised in the Abrahamic Covenant.
In addition, God had in mind another covenant, just with Israel, that would prepare them to be part of the deliverer and foreshadow a future covenant under which mankind would be blessed. At Mt. Sinai, God promised, “‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. (5) Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; (6) and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These … words … you shall speak to the sons of Israel” (Exodus 19:4-6).
When Moses “set before them all these words which the LORD had commanded him (8) All the people answered together and said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do!’” (Verses 7,8). The Law Covenant which God established with Israel at Mt. Sinai was a tutor or schoolmaster to lead them to Messiah, Jesus Christ, that they might accept him and become part of the great deliverer, the Christ head and body, a nation of kings and priests after the order of Melchizedek (Galatians 3:24, Hebrews 6:20, 1 Peter 2:5,9, Revelation 1:6, 5:10).
As mediator of the Law Covenant, Moses represented the civil part of the Melchizedek priesthood, with Aaron representing the religious part of this priesthood through his role as high priest. As mediator, Moses pictured Christ as mediator of the New Covenant, the one who will stand between mankind and divine justice protecting mankind as they ascend the highway of holiness back to perfection and harmony with God (Hebrews 8:6, 9:15, 12:24).
Moses taught Israel the laws and statutes of the Law Covenant so that, “You shall walk in all the way which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you” (Deuteronomy 5:33). Alas, the Israelites did not develop “a heart in them, that they would fear Me [God] and keep all My [God’s] commandments always that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!” (Verse 29). As a result, they failed to become that nation of kings and priests God spoke of in Exodus 19:4-6.
Similarly, Moses pictured the greater lawgiver, Christ, presiding over the New Covenant made with the house of Israel and Judah (Jeremiah 31:31-34). “The LORD said to me … (18) ‘I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. (19) It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him” (Deuteronomy 18:17-19).
Unlike their experience under the Law Covenant, the Israelites, and mankind generally, will listen to Christ, Mediator of the New Covenant. Through Christ, God “will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (34) … for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them … I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:33-34). Under Christ as Mediator and Lawgiver, Israel will become the earthly seed [dust, sand] of the Abrahamic Promise. As the dust of earth, they shall spread abroad to the north, south, east, and the west (Genesis 28:14).
When Moses was taken off the scene, Joshua became Israel’s leader and God’s agent in leading Israel into the Promised Land to conqueror it from its current inhabitants. The LORD spoke to Joshua, saying, “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. (3) Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. … (6) Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them” (Joshua 1:2,3,6). Surely Joshua was inspired to fulfill the Abrahamic Promise by taking the necessary action of leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, Canaan.
Joshua, under God’s direction, led them across the Jordan River. Here, carrying the Ark of the Covenant, the priests crossed the Jordan before the people. As their feet touched the Jordan, the waters piled up at the city of Adam, enabling the people to cross over on dry ground. The priests stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan (Joshua 3:1-4:18). What a beautiful illustration of how the royal priesthood gives their life so all mankind, pictured by Israel, can be released from Adamic condemnation, pictured in the Jordan River, and pass into the Millennial blessings. With this deliverance, mankind will pass into the Millennial blessings and complete the blessings of the Abrahamic Promise.
Thereafter, the nation conquered Jericho. Together with Israel’s soldiers, seven priests blowing trumpets led the Ark of the Covenant once around Jericho for six consecutive days. On the seventh day, all rose early, the entire procession circled Jericho seven times and then, “when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted with a great shout and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city … and they took the city” (Joshua 6:20). This event pictured the entire Gospel age, during which the angels to the seven churches blew the trumpet of truth and then, in the harvest, the message of truth and the resulting plagues end this present evil world — a necessary pre-requisite for establishing Christ’s earthly kingdom and the New Covenant.
After conquering many of the inhabitants of the land, Joshua distributed the land to the various tribes of Israel and designated cities for the Levites and cities of refuge (Joshua 13:1-21:45). At the end of Joshua’s life, God through Joshua summarized how He had delivered Israel and fulfilled his promise to Abraham. “Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River, and led him through all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac. … (4) To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau, and … Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt. (5) Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt by what I did in its midst; and afterward I brought you out. … (11) You crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho; and the citizens of Jericho fought against you, and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Girgashite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. Thus I gave them into your hand. … (13) I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and cities which you had not built, and you have lived in them; you are eating of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant” (Joshua 24:3,4,5,11,13).
While this fulfilled God’s promise to make Abraham a great nation and lead him to a land that God would give his descendants, it would take the greater deliverer illustrated by Joseph, Moses, and Joshua for God to “greatly bless you [Abraham], and … greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore;” so that “In your seed [which is Christ] all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2,7, 22:17,18, Galatians 3:16).