How the Prodigal Son Parallels Joseph and His 12 Brothers

Jesus’ brilliance is demonstrated through His parables, which often sewed together events and symbols from the Old Testament. Consider the Parable of the Prodigal Son about a man and his two sons. The younger son asked for his inheritance early and then ran off and lived in “reckless” or “wild” or “riotous” ways before a plague came about and he found himself without food to eat. He decided to repent of his ways and ask his father for forgiveness with intentions of living as his father’s servant. When his father spotted him coming towards his property, he ran out to see him and “fell on his neck” and kissed him and gave him a ring for his finger, a robe, and shoes.

“For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”[1]

He then had the fatted calf killed and celebrated his return with music and dancing. When the older son heard the music, he became angry as he considered himself more righteous than his brother. He complained to his father, saying that the younger son had spent his inheritance on prostitutes (or “harlots”), though that detail had not been given in the parable. He further referred to his brother as “this son of yours,” distancing his relationship to him.

“But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”[2]  

Consider the way the father placed a ring on the younger son’s hand and clothed him. This draws our attention to Genesis and the relationships between Jacob, Joseph, and Joseph’s twelve brothers. Abraham’s grandson Jacob had thirteen sons but he favored his youngest: a seventeen-year-old named Joseph. He gave Joseph an ornate robe and it became obvious to his other sons that Jacob greatly favored Joseph. They became jealous of him and as soon as the opportunity presented itself, they sold him into slavery in Egypt. Joseph soon found himself in front of the Pharaoh as God had given him the ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dream, which portended seven years of famine following seven years of abundance in Egypt.

“Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck.”[3]

The Pharaoh gave Joseph much authority in Egypt and Jacob used that authority to store up grains during the years of abundance for distribution during the plague. When the plague hit, Joseph’s brothers heard that they could find grains in Egypt, so they traveled there from Canaan to make a purchase from Joseph, whom they didn’t recognize. After several interactions, Joseph tearfully reunited with them and his father (also called Israel) and provided them with an abundance of blessings and the “best of Egypt.”

“Then Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to meet Israel his father in Goshen. He presented himself to him and fell on his neck and wept on his neck a good while.”[4]

The way Joseph forgave his brothers parallels to the way the prodigal son’s father forgave him, blessing him with the fatted calf and his abundance. Throughout the Bible, God uses plagues and famines to spiritually develop His children and to teach lessons of love and forgiveness.

Thank you for your time.

I credit Dr. Peter Williams who drew my attention to the relationships between these passages in the Old and New Testament in his excellent seminar on 9/25/2021.

[1] Luke 15:24

[2] Luke 15:30-32

[3] Genesis 41:42

[4] Genesis 46:29

4 Replies to “How the Prodigal Son Parallels Joseph and His 12 Brothers”

    1. I like your post on James Bond, as I’ve watched ALL of the older Bond movies and used to love them. I’ve never read any of the books, however, so your post was new and refreshing. I can’t like or comment though. I’m not sure why I don’t see those functions on the page.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks so much for checking out my post! I think I turned off liking and commenting because I didn’t write that, it’s a review I shared from Amazon. I’ve recently started looking into military books, as a picture of the Christian battle in this world. The Bible says we are in a spiritual war, and war books help represent what that means.


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