Joseph a Type of Christ
Jacob had become a patriarch, the father of twelve sons, the younger two of whom were Joseph and Benjamin. The elder ten kept the flocks. Joseph went to them as his father's messenger to learn of their welfare, and to take them delicacies. His brethren hated him through jealousy, sold him into slavery in Egypt, and took his elegant coat of many colors, bedraggled it in the blood of a kid and the dust and brought it to their father. Jacob identified it as Joseph's; and heart-broken he cried bitterly, "I will mourn for my son Joseph until I join him in Sheol." (Genesis 37:35.) Sheol is the Hebrew word for tomb.
This is the first use of the word Sheol in the Bible. Sheol is the only word translated hell in the Old Testament, Common Version. All scholars now admit it really signifies the tomb, the death-state. Jacob did not think of his beloved son as having gone to a Sheol of eternal torture, nor did he have the thought of joining him there. Jacob knew of no such place as Dante and others describe.
The explanation is simple. In old English literature the words "hell," "grave" and "pit" were used interchangeably, as in the translation of the Old Testament. Sheol is translated grave and pit more times than it is translated hell in our Common Version. Its equivalent in New Testament Greek is Hades, also signifying the tomb, the grave, as all scholars agree. Jesus was in Hades, Sheol, but was raised the third day by Divine Power, from the tomb, the death condition. The translators of the Revised Version Bible refused to translate these words, Sheol and Hades, by our English word Hell, because the gradual change of language has attached a totally different meaning from what it originally had—the grave. See marginal readings of Psalms 55:15; 86:13. The learned translators, however, could not agree to render these words grave and tomb, and left them untranslated. Compare versions and margin of Isaiah 14:9,11.
"My Gray Hairs to Sheol"
Joseph, sold into slavery in Egypt, was under Divine supervision. His trials and difficulties worked for his development and faith. God ultimately honored him in Egypt with a position second only to Pharaoh. In harmony with his dream, there were seven years of plenty, and then seven years of drought and famine. Acting under the guidance of his dream, as the king's agent, Joseph stored up wheat enough in the first seven years to carry the people over the famine. Thus Joseph was their savior--life-giver.
Joseph was a type of Jesus who, rejected by His brethren, the Jewish nation, was exalted by the Heavenly Father to be next to Himself in glory and power. Joseph was the life-preserver, bread-giver, to the Egyptians. Jesus is yet to be the life-preserver of the world of mankind during His reign, giving the willing and obedient the Bread of everlasting life.
The famine affected Jacob's family. The ten sons went to Egypt to buy wheat, and knew not Joseph as Pharaoh's prince. Joseph asked if they were not spies, and inquired about their family matters. Then he gave them wheat, telling them that the famine would continue, and they would need more wheat, but that if they came again, and hoped to receive it, their younger brother Benjamin must come with them to prove their story. Benjamin was Joseph's full brother. When the time came to journey to Egypt for more wheat, Jacob refused to let Benjamin go, until the others refused to go without him. He then said, Take the lad; but if you do not bring him back to me alive, it will mean my death; it will bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol--the grave.
This is the second occurrence in the Bible of the word Sheol, which really signifies the tomb, but is mistranslated hell thirty-one times in our Common Version. It is the only word rendered hell in the Bible for 4,150 years after Adam's fall. Hades is the New Testament equivalent for Sheol. See St. Peter's quotation of Psalm 16:10 in Acts 2:27.
Joseph and His Brethren
In due time Joseph revealed himself to his brethren. After speaking sternly to them he made them a feast, sending them portions from his own table. They were astonished and fearful, wondering what the kindness signified. Then, sending away the Egyptian servants, Joseph made himself known to his brethren, assuring them of his forgiveness, and that God had caused all of his trying experiences to work out for his good, and that he was glad to be the saver of their lives as well as the lives of the Egyptians, under the Providential guidance which sent him to Egypt.--Genesis 45:4-8.
It is assumed by Bible scholars that if Joseph typically represented Christ and His Church, exalted to Kingdom honors, so Joseph's brethren would represent the Jews, and the Egyptians represent the remainder of mankind. If this be true, it tells us that neither Jews nor Gentiles have aught to fear from the glorious exaltation of Messiah. On the contrary, the Glorious One who was crucified, premeditates a great "feast of fat things" for the whole world, including his brethren, who sold him to be crucified.--Isaiah 25:6.
The strength of Joseph centered in his knowledge of the Divine Promise made to Abraham. Surely a knowledge of God's Plan seems indispensable. Trust in God was the secret of faithfulness in all the worthy ones of the past. The same principle still holds true. It seems true, as sometimes charged, that lawlessness is growing in proportion as Higher Criticism destroys faith in the Bible and its promises. When later the Israelites moved into Egypt, we see the faith of Joseph manifested in his dying request. He said, "God will surely visit you and bring you out of this land [Egypt] into the land [Canaan] which He sware to Abraham." He was solicitous that his bones be carried with the Israelites into Canaan. (Genesis 50:24,25.) Joseph's various experiences seem to Bible students to typify those of Jesus and His Church--in suffering and in subsequent glory and honor.