Welcome to this week’s Torah / bible section study. “And Jacob lived (Vayechi Yaacov) in the land of Egypt seventeen years; so the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were a hundred forty and seven years.” (Genesis 47:28).
In last week’s study, Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers and invited them, as well as his father, to live in Egypt in order to provide for them during the famine. Joseph, his brothers, and his father were joyfully reunited and reconciled. This week’s section, Vayechi ends the first book of the Bible with the death of Jacob as well as that of Joseph. What follows is the family and their households multiplying to become a nation named after Jacob whose name was changed by God to Israel.
Jewish Longing for the Promised Land: On arrival in Egypt, the Hebrews are separated from the Egyptians and live in their own part of Egypt (Gen 46:34, 47:11). In this section, Jacob compelled Joseph to vow to carry his body back to the Land of his Fathers and bury him there. Joseph agreed to his dying father’s request not to leave his body in Egypt (Gen 47:29–30). To Jacob, where his body ended up after death was important as it should be with us today. The promise of the land and life with our maker and saviour. Although Jacob had lived the last 17 years of his life in Egypt, he never forgot the Land God had promised him by divine Covenant. Jacob wanted to be buried with his fathers, Abraham and Isaac in the Machpelah cave back in the land of Canaan. This indicates that, even in death, he still believed in the Abrahamic promises. He believed the land of Canaan would one day belong to his children, and he wanted to be buried there. Moreover, Jacob believed in life after death. That is what he means when he told his sons, "I am about to be gathered to my people" (Genesis 49:29). Jacob anticipated being reunited with his forefathers one day.
Some cynics say that religion is a crutch for people who fear death. That may sometimes be the case, but it certainly does not apply to those who study Torah. The Torah does not say much about life after death. It's really not a book about how to go to heaven or what happens after we die. The Torah is more concerned with how we live in this lifetime, not the next. It is possible to read the entire Torah and conclude that there is no afterlife or resurrection from the dead. In the days of the apostles, a sect of Judaism called the Sadducees did exactly that. They read the Torah, did not see anything about an afterlife, and concluded that there is no afterlife, no heaven or hell, no resurrection from the dead. Yet they believed in keeping the commandments of God as a way of life and blessings.
Another sect of Judaism from the days of the apostles disagreed. They were called the Pharisees. They read the same Torah as the Sadducees, but came to a different conclusion. Though the Torah is not a book about the afterlife or how to receive eternal life, the Pharisees found many hints and clues that pointed toward the afterlife and the resurrection from the dead. From where in Torah do we learn the resurrection of the dead? From the verse, 'I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan.' It doesn't say '[to give] you'; it says 'to give them.' Therefore [since Abraham, Isaac and Jacob haven't yet received the land] the resurrection of the dead is proved from the Torah "(quoting Exodus 6:4).
God promised to give the land to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, not just to their descendents. Yet, as the writer of the book of Hebrews points out, the patriarchs "died in faith, without receiving the promises" (Hebrews 11:13). God must keep His promise, but in order to do so, He will have to raise the patriarchs from the dead. This explains why Jacob was so adamant about being buried in the tomb of his fathers in the land of Canaan.
Part of life is preparing for death, and part of preparing for death is preparing for life after death. Jacob prepared for death in full confidence because he had a relationship with the living God. Relationship comes by obedience not disobedience.
Ever since God called Abraham out of Ur, the Hebrew people have not lost sight of the Promised Land given to them through Isaac and Jacob. Even when the people of Israel were taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar, they sat by the rivers of Babylon weeping and remembering Zion, vowing to never forget her. Psa 137:1 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
“If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! If I do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, If I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy.” (Psalm 137:5–6).
We must understand this eternal longing that is planted in the Hebrew soul in order to comprehend the fierce determination of the people of Israel, even today, to remain in the Land that God promised them through their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. As well, many maintain a strong emotional tie to the Land of Israel even while living in exile among the nations of the world. Graffed in believers in Yahweh and His son Yahshua, similarly have a promised land they should not forget and strive to attain. Enduring as the physical Jews of today endure for their promise. The enemy likewise will try and steal our inheritance from us.
Jacob Blesses, Like Ephraim and Manasseh: When Jacob became ill, Joseph brought his two son before his father for a blessing. Jacob asked who the two boys were and Joseph answered, “They are my sons, whom God has given me in this place.” (Genesis 48:9) When he saw Joseph’s sons, he thought only of the goodness of God. Israel said to Joseph, “I had not thought to see your face; but in fact, God has also shown me your offspring!” (Genesis 48:11). When Jacob asks that his name and the names of his fathers may live on in the boys, he is asking that they will walk in the same blessings and covenant relationship that God bestowed upon the patriarchs. So essentially, this blessing is equivalent to saying, "May God make you (Ephraim and Manasseh) like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
At the end of his life, Jacob praised Yahweh for His exceedingly abundant goodness, despite having experienced many difficulties and trials. God’s goodness not only met, but exceeded his expectations. “Glory belongs to God, whose power is at work in us. By this power He can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). Jacob blessed Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh; however, in a surprise move, he put his right hand on Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left on Manasseh, who was the firstborn and should have rightfully received the primary blessing. “So he blessed them that day, saying, ‘By you Israel will bless, saying, “May God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh!”’ And thus he set Ephraim before Manasseh” (Genesis 48:20). If we look more closely at the blessing he gave them, we discover that through this blessing he transfered the Abrahamic covenant and promises to Joseph's sons. Just as Jacob had received the blessing from his father, Isaac, who received it from Abraham, he passes it on now to Ephraim and Manasseh: (Gen 48:15-16).
Even today, many Jewish fathers will bless their sons on Friday evening when families usher in the Sabbath (Shabbat), saying, “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh (Ye’simchs Elohim ke’Efrayim ve’khe-Menasheh).” To his daughters he says, "May God make you like Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah." He blesses each of the children with the words of the priestly benediction and, as he feels led, other words of encouragement and blessing. Why would or should we bless our sons to be like Ephraim and Manasseh? What was so special about these young men? Although they were born into the pagan, idolatrous culture in Egypt, they remained faithful to the worship of the God of Israel. Similarly did Daniel and his 3 friends. This is what we desire for our children, that despite being surrounded by a sea of questionable ethics and morality of the world, they will grow up to be of good character, holding onto faith in the One True God Yahweh, worshiping Him in spirit and in truth, keeping the Torah (God’s righteous living instructions) that has been written on the hearts of those who follow Yahshua, the Messiah of the bible (who many call Jesus).
When we bless our children to be like Ephraim and Manasseh, we are exhorting them to resist the negative peer pressure and immorality of the society in which they live, and instead hold true to the values we have taught them from Yahweh God’s Word. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) Through his blessing, Jacob elevated these two grandsons to be on an equal level with his own sons. Manasseh and Ephraim became leaders of their own tribes, representing the House of Joseph, receiving their own portion of land, and waving their own flags.
Jacob’s Prophetic Blessings over the 12 Tribes: “Jacob called his sons, and he said: ‘Come together that I may tell you what is to befall you in the end of days. Assemble and listen, O sons of Jacob, and listen to Israel, your father’” (Genesis 49:1–2).
Jacob, of course, did not only bless his grandsons, Ephraim and Manasseh. He also called all of his sons together to bless and prophesy over them on his deathbed. All of them were blessed in that they would all enter the Promised Land and receive an inheritance there. The blessings were carefully constructed and appropriate to the individual. They were often based on past behaviour that was projected beyond the life of these sons to their descendants. When Jacob blessed his firstborn son, Reuben, he did not give him the double portion or pre-eminence usually reserved for firstborn sons. Because of Reuben’s instability, the double portion was given to Joseph and pre-eminence was given to Judah. He did this because Reuben slept with Jacob’s concubine, Bilhah, which revealed his lust for power over the family. In other words, taking possession of a leader’s harem revealed an attempt to usurp his authority. For this reason, Jacob resisted giving Reuben a position of pre-eminence. We read of this practice of usurping the kings authority in 2Samual 16:21 when David fled from his son Absalom. A consequence of David taking another man’s wife, Bath-Sheba in 2Sam 11 and the consequence being prophesied by God in 2Sam 12:11.
When Jacob blessed Simeon and Levi, he cursed their anger for their role in the massacre on Shechem after Jacob’s daughter Dinah was raped (Gen 34:2, 25). Though anger was a fitting response, it was not a righteous anger or indignation. They tricked the men of Shechem into a false peace agreement and used it as a trap to kill them. Their violence was so excessive that they even hamstrung the oxen. Other sons were blessed with beauty and fertility (Joseph); swiftness of a deer (Naphtali); ferociousness of a wolf (Benjamin); scholarship (Issachar); military might (Gad); and so on. The linage of the Messiah coming through the tribe of Judah was prophesied in Gen 49:10-11 and fulfilled in Matt 21:5, Zec 9:9.
Jacob gave each blessing prophetically through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The blessings granted him glimpses into the prophetic future of each tribe. He searched those prophetic insights for hints about the Messiah. As he turned to bless his son Dan, he foresaw Samson, Dan’s most famous descendant. He supposed that Samson, the strongest man in the world, must be King Messiah. Jacob uttered the words, “Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel.” Then Jacob foresaw the waywardness of Samson, his failure, and his demise. He declared, “Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a horned snake in the path, that bites the horse’s heels, so that his rider falls backward” (Genesis 49:17). After the utterance over Dan, the patriarch interrupted himself. His prophetic song stopped, and he exclaimed, “For Your salvation I wait, O LORD.” (Genesis 49:18).
Jacob exclaimed, “For your salvation (yeshu’ah, ישועה) I wait, O LORD” (Genesis 49:18). Yeshua’s name means “salvation.
Jacob Proclaims Judah the Leader of the Tribes of Israel: “Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s children shall bow down before you.” (Genesis 49:8). When the people of Israel came out of slavery in Egypt, Judah became God’s “holy ones”:
“When Israel came forth out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language; Judah became His sanctuary [kodesh], Israel His dominion [memshalah].” (Psalm 114:1–2). The word translated sanctuary is k’dosho (קָדְשׁוֹ), meaning holiness or holy portion. It comes from the word kadosh (קדוש), which means holy or set apart.
In Judah, we see the call to holiness. Although he showed lapses of holiness and good judgment at times, he saved Joseph’s life from his brother's wrath after they threw him in a pit. And, later, Judah was the only brother willing to enslave his own life in order to free his brother Benjamin. These actions revealed character traits similar to our Messiah, the One who saves us from spiritual death and releases us from spiritual enslavement. When we are not sure for what to be thankful, we can praise and thank Him for these gifts of freedom. In fact, the Hebrew word for Jew comes from Judah (Yehudah יהודה), from the root YDH (ידה), which means to thank. At their father’s death, Joseph’s brothers thought he would punish them for selling him into slavery; but instead he comforts them.
Leah, Jacob’s wife, used a play on words in naming her last son Judah, saying that now she would praise (thank) the Lord (Genesis 29:35). And the apostle Paul said that a true Jew, inwardly, is one who praises (thanks) Yahweh, whether Jewish or Gentile (Romans 2:28–29). Jacob also likens Judah to a lion cub; therefore, the tribe of Judah is known as Gur Ariyeh (lion cub). “Judah is a lion’s whelp [Gur Ariyeh]; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; and as a lion, who shall rouse him?” (Genesis 49:9) Indeed, from the royal tribe of Judah came forth kings, legislators and the promised Redeemer, Messiah, the anointed King of Israel, Yahshua HaMashiach! (Yahshua the Messiah). As prophesied, one day, the dominion of His authority will extend to the entire world. To Him, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Philippians 2:10).
Jacob Prophesies the Coming of Messiah: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.” (Genesis 49:10).
The meaning of the word Shiloh as it is used in this verse has been the subject of much debate among Bible scholars. Literally, it means that is his or he whose it is. This word is, perhaps, also a Messianic title and has been used as a synonym for the Messiah. Just as this verse prophesied, the Messiah did come before the Rome ruined Jerusalem and essentially exiled Judah. After that, the scepter did depart from Judah and their sovereignty over Israel ended. Jewish records state that in AD 30, the high court of Jewish law, the Sanhedrin, lost their sovereign right to enforce capital punishment (legally take a life). That right went to Rome (This is collaborated with various scriptures regarding Yahsahua being passed onto Pontious Pilate for the permission and also sought regarding Paul’s life). Then in AD 70 the Romans destroyed the temple and after that, the scepter fully departed from Judah and their sovereignty over Israel ended. It is interesting to note that Jacob’s prophecy, that the scepter shall not depart from Judah, contains every letter of the Hebrew alphabet except one, the letter zayin (ז), which represents the Hebrew word for weapon.
This, perhaps, indicates that when the Messiah would come the first time, He would not come with physical weapons. Indeed, Yahshua held the sovereign staff of God Himself, releasing spiritual oppression and setting the captives free through God’s Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh). With God’s staff in hand, Yahshua came as the suffering servant (Mashiach ben Josef). The Jewish leadership of Yahshua’s day, however, were looking for a scepter to be raised by a military leader who would conquer the Roman oppressors with weapons and force (Mashiach ben David), so many completely missed their Messiah.
Over time, as Christianity developed and Christians persecuted Jews in the name of the Messiah who they named Jesus, a majority of the Jewish People came to define themselves as people who reject that Jesus as promoted by the Christians as the Messiah. Yet there have always been Jewish Believers in Yahshua as the Messiah. The first were the apostles, Paul later joined them and we are also called to join, be grafted in and copy them as keepers of God’s commandments AND having faith in the redemptive blood of His Messiah, Yahshua.
In His sovereignty, the Ruach (Holy Spirit) has revealed those end days through Yahshua’s many teachings (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21) and the vision of the apostle John in the book of Revelation, as well as other Bible prophecies. Further signifying Judah’s prophetic call as God’s “holy ones,” the name Judah uses all four letters of the proper name of God, YHVH (יהוה) with the addition of one Hebrew letter dalet (ד), which stands for delet or door. Yahshua, who died in the Land of Judah on the Roman execution stand and rose again, became the door to salvation. “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:9). Yahsua Ha Mashiach (the Messiah) is the One His Jewish brothers will one day praise and thank (similar to Joseph’s brothers to Joseph). “In this way, all Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will banish ungodliness from Jacob’” (Romans 11:26; Isaiah 59:20). “Hear the word of Yahweh you nations; proclaim it in distant coastlands: ‘He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over His flock like a shepherd.’” (Jeremiah 31:10). You should not be left out of this gathering if you obey and belief God and His son. Not only in head or heart but physical actions.
Many times in previous weeks I have shown how practices of those in Genesis were later given by God through Moses as evidence God’s laws did not originate with Israel and Moses. In this week’s study we can compare Gen 48:17 And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father's hand, to remove it from Ephraim's head unto Manasseh's head. Gen 48:18 And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head… with Deu_ 21:15 If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated:
Deu 21:16 Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn: Deu 21:17 But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his. Deu 25:6 And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.
Gen 49:4 Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father's bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch. Compare with Deu 27:20 Cursed be he that lieth with his father's wife; because he uncovereth his father's skirt. And all the people shall say, Amen.
The Messiah and the Lion: The Torah predicts a warrior Messiah who will battle against Israel's enemies and a peaceful Messiah who will bring world peace. The Lion of Judah symbolizes both.
In his final blessings over his sons, Jacob compares his son Judah to a young lion and blesses him with rulership over the tribes (Genesis 49:8-12). Jacob compared the future victory and ascension of Judah to a lion resting after a kill. He compared Judah’s enemies to the lion’s slain prey.
A parallel prophecy in the Torah says the lion “will not lie down until it devours the prey, and drinks the blood of the slain” (Numbers 23:24). Like a sleeping lion, satiated after the kill, Judah will be at peace. Just as the surviving animals would never dare to rouse the slumbering lion, neither will any of the surviving nations dare to challenge Judah again. The prophecies of the lion as referring to the era of King David and King Solomon. The lion tearing the prey symbolizes King David, who made war on Israel’s enemies and subdued them. The lion lying down to rest refers to David’s son King Solomon, who enjoyed an era of peace and prosperity, as Scripture says, “So Judah and Israel lived in safety, every man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon” (1 Kings 4:25).
King David and his son Solomon prefigure the wars of Messiah followed by the peace of the Messianic Era. The lion-prophecies also speak of the time of peace that will come after the wars of Messiah. The Messiah son of David will defeat the enemies of Israel and usher in an era of peace during which no nation will dare rise up against Israel. The people of Israel will enjoy a time of unparalleled peace and prosperity, the Messianic Kingdom.
As the conquering hero who will defeat Judah’s enemies, Yahshua receives the title Lion of the Tribe of Judah: Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome (Revelation 5:5). A lion fears nothing, but everything fears the lion: “A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken! Who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:8). This is King Messiah.
1 Kings 2:1-12: Note the advice given to Solomon from his father David, a man who pleased God.
1Ki 2:3 And keep the charge of the YHWH thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself:
1Ki 2:4 That YHWH may continue his word which he spake concerning me, saying, If thy children take heed to their way, to walk before me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail thee (said he) a man on the throne of Israel.
The same instruction Moses gave on his departure before death. Remember his blessing and curses speech?
Deu 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: Deu 6:5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. Deu 6:6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: Deu 6:7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. Deu 6:8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. Deu 6:9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates….
John 10:1-21 some verse on which to reflect.
Joh 10:5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
Joh 10:16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
Isa 56:8 The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him. [These others are obviously not Jews / of Israel. Messiah came primarily for the lost tribes of Israel; but after them come believers of other nations. The sign of a beliver comes in the opening verse to Isa 56. Isa 56:1 Thus saith the LORD, Keep you judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed. Isa 56:2 Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil (i.e. transgressing God’s Law). Isa 56:3 Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. Isa 56:4 For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; (the covenant was if they obeyed He will perform).
Shalom and happy studying.