Shalom All, Welcome to this week’s Torah / Bible study section, which is called Vayigash (Then He Drew Near). “Then Judah came near [Vayigash וַיִּגַּשׁ] unto him and said, ‘Pardon your servant, my lord, let me speak a word to my lord. Do not be angry with your servant, though you are equal to Pharaoh himself.’” (Genesis 44:18).
In last week’s Torah / bible portion, Pharaoh appointed Joseph administrator over all of Egypt in order to save Egypt from the coming famine, which he did. That famine affected much of the region, and the nations looked to Egypt as a source of food. When Jacob sent his sons to Egypt for grain, Joseph recognized them but did not reveal himself, maybe wisely testing their integrity through a series of character challenges. I forgot to point out a similarity between Gen 43:32 where Egyptians did not mix with Hebrews and visa versa (Gen 43:32 And they set on for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Egyptians, which did eat with him, by themselves: because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians). And Act 16:20 And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, Act 16:21 And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. See also 45:20, 46:34 they lived apart. For fear of conversion, God and false god worshippers are instructed not to mix. This is what led to the downfall of Israel.
Judah Reveals His True Character:
This week’s section “Vayigash” begins with a plea from Judah, brother of Joseph, on behalf of his younger half-brother, Benjamin. A silver cup was deliberately planted in Benjamin’s bag by Joseph, causing Benjamin to be in danger of having to remain a slave in Egypt. Judah could not bear to return to his father without his youngest brother, Benjamin. He knew that doing so would probably kill his father. He therefore pleaded with Joseph, saying, “Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad as a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me, lest perhaps I see the evil that would come upon my father?” (Genesis 44:33–34).
The brothers realize that their situation is related to their evil behaviour in selling Joseph, and they are filled with remorse over the way they had sinned against Joseph in the past. This confession of sin, accompanied by sincere remorse and turning from sin fulfils the Torah’s requirements for true repentance (teshuvah).
Judah approaches Joseph privately and explains how it was difficult to bring Benjamin in the first place since he is the only surviving son of Rebecca, and his father is very attached to him. He explains that he guaranteed the boy’s safety and is desperate to take his place as a slave. Joseph, no longer able to control his emotions after seeing his brothers’ repentance, cried out for everyone to leave except his brothers. He wanted to be alone with them when he revealed his true identity. This identity had to be revealed as remember, Joseph had taken a number of steps (42:7, 23) to conceal his identity despite being dressed in Egyptian attire.
“Then Joseph could not restrain himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, ‘Make everyone go out from me!’ So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard it.’” (Genesis 45:1–2).
Former ancestors of Joseph who had first concealed and then revealed their identity were Jacob from Isaac, Leah from Jacob, and Tamar from Judah. As Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, he comforted them: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (Genesis 45:57,8). Joseph 3 times states it was God’s plan.
God’s Sovereign Plan of Salvation Cannot Be Broken:
In placing Joseph in charge of Egypt’s food supply, God was not merely interested in preserving the lives of the Egyptians and the nearby world from starvation through a demonstration of providence. His actions took into consideration past, present, and future. By installing Joseph in a position of power, He was preserving the promise He made to Abraham, which included Israel being a blessing to the nations:
“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:2–3). [Note this is the third time God has used foreigners, followers of false gods, to enrich His chosen. Abraham and pharaoh, Isaac and Laban and now Joseph (later Israel) and Egypt].
Even more specifically, this promise would be passed down through Isaac, not his brother Ishmael (Genesis 26:3–5); through Jacob, not his brother Esau (Genesis 26:13–14); and the promise of the Messiah would exclusively come through the line of Judah, not his other 11 brothers:
“The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will honour.” (Genesis 49:10).
The one to whom the sovereign staff belongs is the Messiah. God sovereignly chose Joseph to ensure that His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (not only of land; but also of being a blessing to all nations through the saviour of the world) would be fulfilled through the line of Jacob’s son, Judah.
Why did God choose Judah? Perhaps because he is the only brother who showed compassion toward Joseph, saving his life when his brothers wanted to kill him (Genesis 37:26–27). As we saw earlier, he would show the same compassion toward Benjamin, offering to become a slave in his place. Both of these acts by Judah represented earthly sacrifices that foreshadowed what Yahshua would do for all of us spiritually. In the end, neither envy, nor jealousy, nor murderous plots against Joseph by his brothers could derail God’s plan of salvation and they still cannot.
Jacob Reunites with Joseph: Imagine hearing that your favourite child, whom you thought had been killed many years ago, is actually a governor of the nation next door! “And they told him, saying, ‘Joseph is still alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt.’ And Jacob’s heart stood still, because he did not believe them.” (Genesis 45:26). This perhaps reminds many of us of the shock that Yahshua’s disciples experienced when they were told that Yahshua was not dead, but alive. They had seen Him die and witnessed His burial, yet, here He was, alive and well and walking about because death was unable to hold Him.
“When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.” (Mark 16:11).
Joseph invited his father and all his brothers into exile to save them from the famine in Israel. God, however, assured Jacob that it was right to accept his offer, even though it would mean 430 years of brutal slavery for Jacob’s descendants. “Then God spoke to Israel in the visions of the night, and said, ‘Jacob, Jacob!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ So He said, ‘I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes.’” (Genesis 46:2–4).
During a previous famine, God instructed Jacob’s father, Isaac, to stay in the land; but in this instance God told Jacob to leave. This shows us how important it is to listen for God’s voice and obey rather than simply going with whatever decisions seem right to us, or relying on solutions that worked in the past; even our logic (remember Noah waited until God told him to leave the ark). “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5–6).
Joseph was not only a powerful man, but he was also an excellent provider; he brought his father and all of his brothers to Egypt where he made sure they were well looked after. “Then Joseph provided his father, his brothers, and all his father’s household with bread, according to the number in their families.” (Gens 47:12). Gen 46:1 And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac. Israel’s whole household and possessions went with him into Egypt. This included non Hebrew servants (similar to Abraham and Isaac taking all their servants when they migrated). Joseph had married an Egyptian, daughter of a pagan priest (47:21) who bared him two sons. Later to be tribes. That meant 70 direct descendants of Israel, yet numerous servants that went on to become the nation of Israel.
Again, we can draw a parallel to Yahshua, the living bread (lechem chayim) who was born in Beit-Lechem (Bethlehem), the house of bread. The bread that Joseph provided for his brothers sustained them during their lifetime, but the bread that Yahshua gives us sustains life eternally. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51).
Israel Reunites with Judah.
The theme of this wonderful story of Joseph’s reconciliation with his brothers, after so many years of being separated, continues in the Haftarah (prophetic reading), with the reunion of the northern and southern tribes of Israel upon their return from exile. How did this split between the tribes of Israel happen? After the reign of King Solomon, the nation of Israel split into the Southern Kingdom (represented by the tribe of Judah & Benjamin) and the Northern Kingdom (represented by the ten other tribes called Joseph, Ephraim, or simply Israel). While both kingdoms sinned, Judah (Yahudah) returned from Babylonian exile with Nehemiah and Ezra and still exists today as the Yahudim (Hebrew word for Jews). The ten Northern Tribes went into and were dispersed between the gentile nations (via Assyrian exile) and became “lost,” (gentiles); although some members of those tribes did return. Mat 15:24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Because of their idolatry, God broke the bonds of brotherhood between Judah and Joseph (Ephraim/Israel): “Then I cut in two my other staff, bonds, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.” (Zechariah 11:14).
According to Jewish thought, the animosity between Joseph and his brothers (all children of Jacob) foreshadows this later split between Judah and Benjamin with the other tribes of Israel (all children of God). In an amazing prophecy, however, God promises that one day, there will again be unity between them (Rom 11:26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, ...).
“Surely I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will join them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.”’ (Ezekiel 37:19. Understand this and one starts to understand their Bible, purpose of the Messiah and why Gentiles or Christians cannot remain as such to be part of the plan. They must be graffed into Israel and do as Israel was told to do by God; keep His commandments! If you read a study titled “Apostles Doctrine” on www.forwardtoyahweh.com you should see the gentiles to whom Paul went were the lost sheep of Israel; predominantly Jews).
To make sure there is no misunderstanding, God plainly explains this prophetic symbolism: “Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel” (Ezekiel 37:21–22). Eze 37:24 And David (Yahshua from linage of David) my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them. Eze 37:28 And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore. Heb 8:8 For finding fault with them, he says, Behold, the days come, says Yahweh, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Rom 15:18 For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed,
Of course, there is another reconciliation that God has brought about. Through Yahshua’s sacrificial death on the Roman execution stake the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile has also been destroyed, resulting in an opportunity for all to be saved. Eph 2:11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; Eph 2:12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: Eph 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
Though divisions exist, God’s purposes are to reconcile us to Himself and to one another. “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.” (Ephesians 2:14–16).
There is an even greater reconciliation to come. If we look prophetically at this story of Joseph, we may see that just as Joseph said, “Ani Yoseph: I am Joseph, your brother,” likewise, Yahshua one day will say, “Ani Yahshua: I am your salvation, your brother and your Messiah.” Hallelu Yah!
Paul being knowledgeable of his people’s history, including the account of Joseph, alluded to parallels in Romans 11. He struggled with the difficult question of Israel’s rejection of Yahshua. Though he did not directly invoke Joseph as an analogy, he seems to have alluded to it in a few places in this discussion. For example, he pointed out that Israel’s rejection of Messiah has meant riches for the world. The brothers’ rejection of Joseph resulted in riches for the famine-stricken world of Joseph’s day. Similarly, Paul pointed out that Israel’s ultimate reconciliation with the Messiah will be “life from the dead.” Joseph said, “God sent me before you to preserve life (lemicheyah, למחיה).” Jewish liturgy typically uses the same Hebrew word for the resurrection of the dead.
For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (Romans 11:15). I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! (Romans 11:11-12).
Paul saw the Jewish estrangement from Messiah as a necessary part of a divinely ordained plan whereby God extended salvation to the entire world. In this regard, the Jewish estrangement from Messiah closely mirrors the events in Joseph’s story. Paul conceded that Israel has stumbled (though not fallen), but he insisted that even the nation’s stumbling plays a part of God’s plan. Just as Joseph and his brothers ultimately reunited and reconciled, Paul said that “all Israel will be saved.”
All Israel will be saved; just as it is written [in Isaiah 59:20-21], “The deliverer will come from Zion, he will remove ungodliness from Jacob. This is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins.” (Romans 11:26-27). Paul did not suppose that all Israel must wait until the culmination of the age before entering into reconciliation with the Messiah. He maintained that, just as the LORD preserved a remnant of His people in the past, so too a remnant had recognized King Messiah. Again, the discussion seems to allude to the story of Joseph: God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. (Genesis 45:7).
In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. (Romans 11:5).
When the non believing section of the Jewish people recognize Yahshua as their Messiah, there will also be a great reconciliation that will bring about life-giving change all over the world. How we long for that great day. “For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15. It is exciting to be living in a day when we can see prophecy fulfilled before our very eyes as the Jewish people return home from all four corners of the earth. “Sing and rejoice O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst, says Yahweh. Many nations shall be joined to Yahweh in that day, and they shall become My people (Zec 2:10–11).
A point to note from this Genesis section. Egyptian worship system had same items as Yahweh’s i.e. Gen 46:20 And unto Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, which Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On bare unto him. Also 47:22. Act 14:13 Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people.
Ephesians 2: Needs to be read in its entirety; but bearing the lost tribe of Israel in mind. However, whether you wish to apply to lost Jews or coming in Christians, note these verses.
Eph 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Eph 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Eph 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace / His mercy ye are saved;) Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: [through the faith in His son’s blood sacrifice for your repented sins]
Eph 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Eph 2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; [this is not abolishing the law nor commandments; but those that had ordinances of sacrificial animal sacrifice Rom 6:15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.]
Eph 2:17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
Eph 2:18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
Eph 2:19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, (saints are not Christians; but believing Jews) and of the household of God; [remember Jacob took his household into Egypt. Non Jews can become part of Abraham’s “household”]
Eph 2:20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; Eph 2:21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: Eph 2:22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
Jew or gentile we are not to forget God wants all of us to come to repentance for our sins of breaking His laws and be saved (receive His salvation) on judgement day Rev 5:9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
MORAL LESSONS FROM STUDY.
When we are wronged by someone, it is natural to tell others about it. We want to tell others about how it happened to garner their sympathy and support. Somehow it makes us feel better to know that others are aware of the injustice committed against us. We seek out sympathy and commit a small act of retaliation.
This was not the mindset of Joseph. Gen 45:16 tells us Pharaoh was delighted to extend his hospitality to Joseph’s brothers and family, even sending wagons for them and telling them they did not have to bring anything with them as all their needs would be taken care of in Egypt. Pharaoh's warm welcome reveals apparently Joseph had never told anyone the story of what his brothers did to him. Pharaoh, at least, had never heard the tale of how Joseph's brother abducted him and sold him. Had he known the story of the villainous deed, he would not have extended the warm welcome? Joseph loved his brothers and his family so much that he could not bear the thought of having them defamed. He did not want Egyptians saying to one another, "Did you hear about the nasty thing that Joseph's lowlife brothers did to him?" Joseph kept the entire episode to himself. The only thing he ever said about his past was the vague explanation, "I was in fact kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews" (Genesis 40:15). His love for his brothers compelled him to protect their reputation.
Instead of emulating Joseph, who was concerned about protecting the dignity of his loved ones, it seems we do just the opposite. Husband and wives complain about each other and “wash their linen in public”. They show more concern for the opinion of a stranger than for the dignity of their spouse or church brethren. Joseph never told the Egyptians about the incident with his brothers because it was none of their business. By maintaining discretion, he was protecting the name and reputation of God in Egypt. Had he told his sad story to everyone, the Egyptians would have had cause to say, "If that's how the followers of your God behave, I want nothing to do with Him or your religion."
Count your blessings not your problems.
When Pharaoh saw Joseph, he was amazed at how old the man looked. He asked him, "How many years have you lived?" (Genesis 47:8). The years had worn heavily on Jacob. For twenty years he had served Laban. "By day the heat consumed me and the frost by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes," he had complained to Laban (Genesis 31:40). He was harried by four wives, and he had lost the only wife he had ever wanted to an early grave. He had spent more than twenty years inconsolably mourning the death of his beloved son Joseph. No wonder he looked old. Add to all that, he was 130 years old when appeared before Pharaoh.
Jacob complained to Pharaoh about his life. "Few and unpleasant have been the years of my life, nor have they attained the years that my fathers lived during the days of their sojourning" (Genesis 47:9). To us, it seems strange to imagine a man 130 years old bemoaning a short life. But his grandfather Abraham had lived to 175. His father, Isaac, had lived to 180. Pharaoh was astounded at these amazing ages. Jacob was the oldest man he had ever met.
Though Jacob complained to Pharaoh and calling his years few and unpleasant. God may have replied, so you call your years few and unpleasant? I gave you the covenant blessings, saved you from Esau and Laban, returned Dinah, Joseph, Simeon and Benjamin to you, prospered you and saved your family from famine, yet you complain about your life! Jacob lived to the age of 147, which is thirty-three years short of his father's lifespan of 180. Sometimes we ought to recognize that it is inappropriate to complain about life. In Jacob’s case, in reality, he had received great blessings. He did not know how many years he had left to live. For all he knew, he might have yet outlived his forefathers. To a certain extent, our words create our own reality. At the very least, our words and attitudes colour the reality we must live in. How we respond to life's hardships determines how much of a toll those hardships will take on us. Count your blessings and smile not your hardship and be in discontentment or pain.