How Israel’s Patriarchs Typify the Life of Jesus Christ


When Jesus said, “All the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have testified of me” (3 Nephi 20:24), he didn’t mean they and others ministering in the priesthood after holy order of God testified only in words. Holy men of old also testified in their persons—in their very lives that typified him and foreshadowed his coming (Alma 13:1–3).

Four such men were Israel’s patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. From among many “noble and great ones” who came to earth (cf. Doctrine & Covenants 138:38–56; Abraham 3:22–23), these men of God exemplified divine attributes Jesus embodied in himself. They became a reference point in Israel’s covenant history that reached its peak in Jesus, their descendant.

We have learned that Abraham’s offering his son Isaac was in similitude of the Father’s offering his Only-begotten Son to atone for humanity’s transgressions (Jacob 4:5). Abraham, however, also typified Jesus in ministering in the priesthood after the holy order of God (Abraham 1:2) and in the promise that in his seed all kindreds of the earth would be blessed” (3 Nephi 20:27).

Like Jesus—our advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1)—Abraham interceded on behalf of the righteous in Sodom (Genesis 18:23–33). The Lord delivered Lot for Abraham’s sake when he destroyed the cities of the plain (Genesis 19:29). Like Melchizedek before him and Jesus after him, Abraham exemplified the role of a “prince of peace” (Alma 13:18; Abraham 1:2).

Isaac typified Jesus when he willingly offered himself as a sacrifice God required of him in the prime of his manhood (Genesis 22:9). Jacob’s leaving his homeland to live for a time abroad typified Jesus’ leaving his heavenly home to live for a time on the earth. Jacob’s earthly role as the physical father of the nation of Israel typified Jesus’ earthly role as its spiritual father.

Like Jesus, Joseph fulfilled the role of savior of his brethren by forgiving and delivering from death those who had sinned against him (Genesis 45:5). The promise of descendants as many as the sands of the sea and stars in the heavens Israel’s ancestors received was, in effect, a promise of godhood (Genesis 22:17; 26:4; Exodus 32:13; cf. Doctrine & Covenants 132:19–20).

As we exemplify Jesus’ divine attributes, we too become living testimonies of him. As he personifies truth and light, so do we as we live his truth and emanate his light. And inasmuch as he embodies God’s law and word, we do also to the degree we live by his law and keep his word. Then, when he appears we shall be like him if we have received a hope in him (Moroni 7:3, 48).

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