The Prophecy of Joseph's Life
When Joseph was sold into Egypt, his brothers dipped his robe in the blood of a goat and showed it to their father (Gen. 37:31-33). Their father naturally presumed that Joseph was dead, torn apart by "wild beasts."
This became a prophetic act that would find its fulfillment many centuries later when Joseph's descendants and the Kingdom of Israel was carried away by the beast-nation of Assyria. This occurred from 745-721 B.C. The Kingdom of Judah escaped, however, because God destroyed the Assyrian army while it was laying siege to Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:35).
Thus, the Birthright people were carried into captivity and never returned. Instead, they became known as "the lost tribes of Israel." We read in 2 Kings 17:18, "there was none left but the tribe of Judah only."
There were individual Israelites who escaped from the Assyrians, of course, but these do not constitute tribes. The tribe itself resided with the leaders or "princes" of the tribes. So all credible historians concur that the tribes of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) were carried into captivity, were lost, and never returned. These were the Birthright tribes. So this is how the Birthright was lost and presumed "dead," even as was Joseph himself so many years earlier. Historians have presumed that Israel was torn apart by a "wild beast" called Assyria.
When Joseph arrived in Egypt, he was sold to Potiphar, an Egyptian, who soon put him in charge of all that he had. But Potiphar's wife tried to seduce him, and when she failed, she accused him of attempted rape. This accusation put Joseph into prison, presumably for life. But after 12 years, Joseph had opportunity to interpret Pharaoh's two dreams and was suddenly raised to the position of Prime Minister of Egypt. His job was to oversee the new food storage program for the next seven years in order to prepare for the seven-year famine which was to follow.
It is interesting to me that during those seven years of overseeing the food storage program, there is no indication that he ever sent word to his father to let him know that he was alive. He must have been led by the Spirit in this, because this went against his natural inclination. So Joseph continued to be "lost," and the Birthright seemed "lost" with him.
Meanwhile, back in Canaan, it was no doubt presumed that Judah would inherit the Birthright along with the Scepter. In this, we find a prophetic scenario. When the Kingdom of Israel was "lost" many centuries later, it came to be presumed that Judah was the inheritor of the lost Birthright along with the Scepter. In fact, this is what most Christians believe today.
This belief takes two forms, because there are two groups that are contending for the title of "Judah." The Jews themselves, of course, who believe themselves to be Judah, even though they were judged by the law of sacrifice and "cut off from among their people" by refusing to apply the Sacrifice of Christ to their "temples."
The second contender is the Church, which I believe is the true Judah, as I have said in the past. In the past 2,000 years, Church theology has essentially been of this opinion, except that they have not really understood the difference between Israel and Judah. The Church established the idea of "Replacement Theology," in which "the Church replaced the Jews as Israel." It would have been more accurate to say that the Church, which began with the disciples of the Judean nation at Pentecost, were the continuation of the tribe of Judah. They were all that remained after the rest of them were "cut off from among their people."
Thus, the Church did not replace Judah, but was a continuation of that tribe and kingdom. To these were added many from other nations, grafted into that kingdom-tribe. Soon the non-Judean Christians outnumbered the original Judeans, but the kingdom was still Judah.
Yet it was not Israel. The Church did not replace Israel-Joseph any more than it replaced Judah. The Church is Judah, but the overcomers are true Israel, having earned the title even as Jacob had earned it by overcoming (at the age of 98).
Getting back to the story of Joseph, we find that Pharaoh gave him a new name and a wife. Gen. 41:45 says,
"Then Pharaoh named Joseph Zaphnath-paneah; and he gave him Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, as his wife. And Joseph went forth over the land of Egypt."
The meaning of Joseph's new name is disputed. Some say it means Abundance of Life, while others say it means Treasury of the Glorious Rest, and others say it means Hidden Treasure. I find all three to have merit from a prophetic standpoint, but the third is probably the most outstanding interpretation, for it links his name directly with Jesus' parable of the hidden treasure in Matt. 13:44.
Yet Abundance of Life would also describe the second work of Christ, of which Joseph is a type. The second work of Christ is a Life work, even as the first work was a death work. Though his robe was dipped in blood to identify him with the second dove of Lev. 14:6, this second dove was released alive into the open field (vs.7). That, of course, is the quickest way to "lose" a dove. But having marked it with blood, it can be identified later.
So it is with Joseph, who was marked for future identification by blood. Prophetically speaking, it indicates that one cannot be identified as Israel without the blood of the first dove--Jesus Christ. In other words, one must be justified by faith. Without the blood, the dove remains in the field without identification to distinguish it from the other doves.
When Joseph married Asenath, they had two sons. The first was called Manasseh, which means "forgetfulness." Gen. 41:51 says,
"And Joseph named the first-born Manasseh, 'For,' he said, 'God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father's household'."
This son's name prophesied of the days when his descendants would be lost and would forget their father's household. In other words, the physical descendants of Israel would forget that they were Israelites. This did not occur immediately, of course, for we find gravestones even today in the Crimea (north of the Black Sea), identifying the tribe of the dead. Professor Chwolsen of Petrograd translated one of them as follows:
"This is the tombstone of Buki, the son of Itchak the priest; may his rest be in Eden, at the time of the salvation of Israel. In the year 702 of the years of our exile."
It shows that not all of the Israelites forgot their Israelite ancestry immediately. The year 702 of their exile would be shortly before the birth of Jesus. But over the centuries, the memory dimmed, and they finally fulfilled the prophecy of Manasseh, "forgetfulness."
Joseph's second son, Ephraim, means "fruitfulness." It is plural, so it is often translated "double fruitfulness." He was so named in Gen. 41:42, "for God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction." Ephraim eventually was given the Birthright, for his name signified the Fruitfulness Mandate.
Far from being dead, Joseph thus was "fruitful" at the same time that he was presumed to be dead. God certainly did make those lost Israelites fruitful, even in a physical fulfillment. But the greater fulfillment is in bearing the fruits of the Kingdom which God has longed to receive since the beginning. Only the overcomers will fulfill that requirement--at least initially. Meanwhile, there is a contention and controversy over the Scepter and the Birthright that remains unresolved.