Joseph had embraced God’s promises to his ancestors. When he was dying, he made two pronouncements: one about God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt, and one about taking his bones with them when they go. In Hebrews 22:11 the writer says these were done in faith. “By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.” The Exodus of course would not take place for several hundreds of years. It was a distant future. It was so far in the future that each succeeding generation would have to be schooled in their ancestor’s request that his bones be taken with them to the land that God had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when they go. Thus, Joseph’s request, by faith, on his death bed, kept the promise of God alive for many generations. They knew that God would not leave them as slaves in Egypt forever and that He would deliver them into the land He had promised many generations earlier. The bones of Joseph remained a constant reminder to Israel of the coming deliverance from slavery.

The writer of Hebrews teaches us to look for Jesus when we read the Old Testament. He had earlier chosen a very remote figure named Melchizedek and showed us how the Old Testament teaches us that he was a type of Christ. There are only four verses in the Old Testament about Melchizedek, yet the author of Hebrews spends more than an entire chapter explaining how Jesus was a priest according to the order of Melchizedek instead of the order of Aaron and the Levites. There are 13 chapters in the book of Genesis about Joseph, yet the writer of Hebrews dedicates only this one verse to him. Joseph is one of the clearest types of Christ in the Old Testament. There are numerous pictures of Christ in Joseph but our author focuses on just one thing; his faith in a future deliverance along with the fulfillment of the promise of a land of their own.

Joseph’s bones served as a reminder to all of Israel that God wasn’t finished with them even though they were born and raised in slavery. Joseph gave his people hope for their future. But Jesus gives us a better hope and a better covenant which has been discussed thoroughly by the writer of Hebrews in earlier chapters. Jesus is “better” because he didn’t leave us his bones as a reminder. One might say that Joseph’s bones served as God’s guarantee. But Jesus left us an empty grave! Joseph served as a reminder of the earthly promises of God while Jesus serves as a reminder of the eternal, heavenly, promises of God. Joseph looked forward to the deliverance from slavery in Egypt through the covenant that Moses would bring down from Mount Sinai. Jesus’ covenant is better because He is the “guarantee” of what lies beyond the grave for all those who believe in Him. Hebrews 7:22 said speaking of Jesus’ role as our High Priest, “This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.”