After devoting a mere chapter to the genealogy of Esau, the Torah returns to the object of its narrative, the called and chosen who are destined to become the Bride of Yeshua and the light of the world.
Unlike Esau, who departed Canaan and settled in the land of the Horites, Jacob dwelled in Eretz Israel, albeit as a sojourner, just like his father and grandfather. No doubt, after all of Jacob’s trouble and turmoil, he is ready for peace and quiet. But, it is not to be. The family must descend to Egypt to fulfill the purposes of God. Recall that God told Abraham his descendants would be in bondage for four hundred years.
“These are the generations of Jacob, Joseph…” (Gen 37:2a)
Typically, in Scripture, the word translated as “generations” is followed by a list of offspring, as we saw last week in the long genealogy of Esau. Since only one son is introduced in this verse, however, some versions have translated this word as “chronicles” instead of “generations.” The plain meaning is that Joseph “are” [the plural is definitely there] the generations or offspring of Jacob.
What is this about? Two sons would be born to Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, and will be adopted by Jacob before he dies.
And now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are. (Gen 48:5-6a)
Therefore, it seems to me that this enigmatic phrase is a caution sign to those who will accept Yeshua as Messiah. Ephraim and Manasseh had a pagan mother; they grew up with a grandfather who was priest to the sun-god. Yet, they were fully adopted into the House of Jacob and destined to become leaders of tribes. As such, they were under the same rules and expectations as Judah and all the other sons of Jacob. Therefore, we who have been adopted [grafted-in] by the blood of Yeshua, though part and parcel of the household of God that is currently divided along the lines of Jew and gentile, bear the same duties and responsibilities as the rest of the tribes of Israel.
We come now to the story of Joseph, whom Jewish and Christian scholars alike recognize as a type of Messiah. In this lesson we will highlight some of the many similarities between Joseph and Yeshua.
Joseph is introduced, first and foremost, as a shepherd.
Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. (Gen 37:2b)
At the end of Jacob’s life, when speaking blessings over his sons, Jacob will identify his God as a shepherd.
“The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked [is] the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day.” (Gen 48:15)
This “God” stood over Jacob and spoke to him after his dream of the ladder on which angels were ascending and descending (Gen 28:12) and this “God” confirmed to Nathaniel that He [Yeshua] is the “ladder.” (John 1:51)
Joseph is described as a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. (Gen 37:2c) Bilhah means “troubled” or “terrorized.” Zilpah means to “drip,” “pour”, or “sprinkle.” Here we have more allusions to the Two Houses of Israel. The House of Judah is obviously the troubled and terrorized, while the House of Israel has dripped and poured the gospel, or at least a portion of it, all over the world, often “sprinkling” rather than immersing, its converts.
This verse makes it clear that Bilhah and Zilpah were fully WIVES and not slaves of Jacob. They were not secondary citizens. They were fully grafted into the family, no longer aliens and strangers having no hope, but fellow citizens with the called and chosen saints and members of the household of God, just as Paul teaches in the second chapter of Ephesians. (Eph 2:11-13)
And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. (Gen 37:2d)
Just like when the LORD and the angels came down to see for themselves if the report from Sodom was as bad as it had been told to the Father, Yeshua was sent to earth by His Father as a witness to the condition of His people.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Mat 9:36)
Yeshua came to be our shepherd.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. (Gen 37:3)
Seven times Yeshua is identified by the apostles as God’s “beloved son.” (Mat 3:17, Mat 17:5, Mark 1:11, Mark 9:7, Luke 3:22, Col 1:13, 2 Peter 1:17) The term “son of his old age,” according to Rashi, can also mean “son of his wisdom.” In the view of Rashi, the eight-year interval between the births of Joseph and Benjamin provided Jacob ample time to train Joseph, who was an eager recipient of the wisdom he had gained through the combination of the study of Torah and his difficult life lessons. The sages postulate that Jacob intrinsically knew that Joseph was destined for exile and that he coached him to be able to emerge unscathed from the House of Potiphar, which according to Abirim Publications Biblical Names Vault means “He Whom The Ra Gave.” Ra is the Egyptian sun-god.
The Hebrew word for “robe” or “coat” is “ketonet.” Amazingly, this is the very same word that the Torah uses to describe the garments that God made for Adam and Eve when they sinned.
And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments [ketonet] of skins and clothed them. (Gen. 3:21)
The very first sacrifice was lambs that would provide covering for Adam and Eve’s nakedness. This ketonet, then, pictures the garment of righteousness that God’s people are required to wear to the Marriage of the Lamb. Yeshua talked about that in one of His parables:
Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find. ‘And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Mat 22: 9-13)
Ketonet is also the same word used to describe the long, seamless garment required to be worn under the High Priest’s ephod.
And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty… These are the garments [ketonet] that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat [ketonet] of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests. (Ex 28:2-4)
He also made the robe of the ephod woven all of blue, and the opening of the robe [ketonet] in it was like the opening in a garment, with a binding around the opening, so that it might not tear. (Ex 39:23)
Matthew’s gospel records that Yeshua was given a scarlet ketonet that was awarded to a soldier by the luck of the draw.
And they stripped him and put a scarlet [ketonet] on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” (Mat. 27:28-29)
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his [ketonet]. But the [ketonet] was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” (John 19:24)
It is extremely ironic that the soldiers chose a scarlet robe, fashioned in one piece (picturing the unity of Israel), upon Yeshua. The blue robe of the High Priest, after making the required sacrifices on behalf of himself and the children of Israel, would have been covered in [scarlet] blood. Yeshua’s scarlet robe demonstrates that He literally “put on” the sins of the world and willingly went to the cross to cover them with His blood.
It is evident that Jacob was training up his son to be the priest of the family and the robe signified to the brothers that Joseph was destined to receive the birthright. No wonder, then, that
… when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him. (Gen 37:4)
Compare this to John’s report of the contempt of the religious leaders towards Yeshua.
There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” (John 10:19-20)
Joseph’s brothers probably thought he was insane, as well:
Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you? And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.” (Gen 37:5-12)
Pilate discerned the jealousy of the religious leaders towards Yeshua.
For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up [to be crucified]. (Mark 15:10)
Now [Joseph’s] brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. (Gen 37:12)
You recall from last week that Levi and Simeon had slain all of the men of Shechem and that the women and children ended up, in my opinion, as disciples and most likely, later, as wives. God had brought down holy terror upon the neighboring peoples; therefore this extremely fertile region located between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim was a designated safe zone for Jacob’s family and flocks, as well as the location of Jacob’s well. (John 4) On these two opposing mountains that overlooked Shechem, the tribes of Israel would later proclaim blessings to those who kept the commandments and curses upon those who do not. (Deut. 11:29) Talk about an object lesson! What a perfect place to teach disciples! Even today, Mount Gerizim is green and fertile with fig and olive trees, while Mount Ebal is bald and barren.
Sadly, the brothers, however, had moved their tents and flocks to Dothan. The word “Dothan,” according to Abiram Publications, is possibly of Persian origin. It occurs in the book of Esther numerous times and once in Ezra: it is translated as “law.” A closely related word in Chaldean means “well” or “cistern.” Recall that Joseph’s brothers threw him into a dry well at Dothan. So, it appears the brothers have moved the flock away from the fertile slopes near Jacob’s well of living water, which represents the Torah, to the location of a dry well, which represents another “law,” as in the traditions of men.
This reminds me of Laban’s sheep which, as we discovered two weeks ago, had become so dry they were like bricks drying in the sun! Conversely, Yeshua visited Jacob’s well, according to the account in chapter four of the Gospel of John, and the end result was than an entire village came to know Him as the Messiah!
They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. (Gen 37:18)
Compare this to the religious leaders conspiring to kill Yeshua.
Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. (Mat 26:3-4)
Seeing Joseph approaching at a distance, the brothers plotted to kill Joseph; but Reuben stopped them. He took Joseph out of their hands, put him in the dry well and instructed the brothers not to lay a hand on him. Reuben apparently intended to return to rescue Joseph. As firstborn, he undoubtedly knew Jacob would hold him responsible for Joseph’s welfare; but, for some reason, Reuben left (Gen 37:18-22).
So when Joseph arrived, he was violently stripped him of his ketonet and thrown into the dry well. Then they sat down to eat. While they were having lunch, a caravan of Ishmaelites approached, camels loaded with spices, headed for Egypt. Judah suggested they sell Joseph to them instead of killing him. Later, Judah (in the body of Judas Iscariot), would sell Yeshua to the religious rulers who were, in fact, pawns of the Idumean (read Edomite) government of Herod. Yeshua’s body was also placed in a pit, of sorts, a tomb carved into the earth.
Next, Midianite traders passed by and they apparently took Joseph out of the pit and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. (Judas sold Yeshua for thirty pieces of silver.) A few verses later we read that, meanwhile, the Midianites (or Medanites in some versions) had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, the officer of Pharaoh. Thus, the sages see that Joseph was possibly sold five times before he arrived at Potiphar’s house: first by his brothers, then by Midianites, then by Ishmaelites, then by Medanites, and then by Egyptians to Potiphar. Compare that Yeshua was arrested by the Romans, brought before the Sanhedrin, brought before Pilate, taken to Herod, then returned to Pilate, who sentenced Him.
When Reuben returned to the scene and found Joseph missing, he tore his clothes in grief and said,
“The boy is gone, and I, where shall I go?” (Gen 37:30)
Then the brothers slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. They showed the blood to Jacob and deceived Jacob into believing Joseph was dead. The irony is that it was Jacob who used the skins of a goat to deceive Isaac into believing he was Esau.
Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. Compare that the High Priest Caiaphas rent his garments at the “blasphemy” of Yeshua. (Mat 26:65) All Jacob’s sons and daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said,
“No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him. (Gen 37:32-35)
At this point, Joseph’s story is strangely and suddenly interrupted by a complex insertion about Judah, whom, the Torah tells us, left the family for a time. The King James Version best conveys the tension of the Hebrew. (For convenience, I have inserted the meaning of the names.)
And it came to pass at that time that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite [from Adullah: justice of the peoples], whose name was Hirah [royal family]. And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah [wealth]; and he took her and went in unto her. (Gen 38:1-2)
The phrase “went down” is literally “descended” and can mean in a moral sense. The phrase “turned in to” means to bend away morally. The Stone Chumash records the sages view that Judah’s brothers, upon seeing their father’s grief in the loss of Joseph, blamed Judah and accused him: “You told us to sell him. Had you advised us to send him back to Father, we would have listened!” According to Midrash Tanhuma, Jacob suspected that Judah was the one who had killed Joseph because it was he who had brought the blood stained coat to Jacob.
Judah, likely in his early twenties (if Joseph was 17 years old), left the family and entered into friendship with Hirah. Ultimately, Judah married the daughter of a wealthy Canaanite (Canaanite also means “merchant”). Thus, Judah left the fold and became “unequally yoked” with a daughter of the Canaanites, even though Abraham had forbidden his servant to find a wife for Isaac among them and Isaac had likewise forbidden Jacob.
The outcome of Judah’s marriage tells the story. He and his unnamed wife would have three sons, two of which God plainly killed, and Judah’s wife died young, as well. The names of their sons are very interesting: Er (awaken!), Onan (complaining), and, lastly, Shelah (petition), whom the Torah makes a point of saying was born at Chezib (falsify). It seems to me that God is trying to give Judah a message: Wake up! Stop complaining! And petition Me! Because the Torah indicates the birth of the last son was at “falsify”, it appears that God was dealing with Judah about his role in Joseph’s story.
Judah arranged a marriage for his eldest son, to a woman named Tamar (tall, upright, palm tree). Her name hints at righteousness.
The righteous flourish like the palm tree. (Psalm 92:12)
In addition, palm trees are featured prominently in Ezekiel’s Temple. (Eze 41:18-19) Tamar is undoubtedly the woman that God chose to continue the line of Judah. The Scripture is very clear that her husband Er “was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD put him to death.” Judah instructed the second son to perform “the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” But, Onan refused, says the Torah, because
“Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So whenever he went in to his brother’s wife he would waste the semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother. And what he did was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and he put him to death also.” (Gen 38:9-10)
Afraid that his third son would also die, Judah sent Tamar back to her father’s house, deceiving her by promising to call for her when Shelah became a man, though, in truth, he had no such intent. (Gen 38:7-10)
It was after the death of their two eldest sons that Judah’s wife died, perhaps in grief. Later, Judah went up to Timnah for what was likely a sheep shearing festival with his friend Hirah. (Gen 38:12) This was likely a cultural excuse for drinking, merrymaking, and carousing. Maybe Judah felt he deserved some “fun” after all that he had been through. Maybe he just wanted to spend time with his friend and get away from his problems. But God had other plans for him.
Someone informed Tamar of Judah’s whereabouts. Seeing that Shelah had become a man and had not been given to her, Tamar removed her widow’s clothing, veiled herself, and disguised herself as a prostitute. She positioned herself at Enaim (double fountains) on the road to Timnah (a portion, weighed out]). Judah saw her and, assuming that she was a harlot, approached Tamar, offering to send a goat from the flock for her sexual favors. (Gen 38:13-17) Obviously, Judah did not arrive at Timnah with the intent of seeking a prostitute, for he had brought no money or anything else as compensation. The sages explain that because of Judah’s sin to depart from the family and live among the Canaanites, God sent a demon of lust to overpower Judah. God’s purpose was to bring Judah to the end of himself and to assure that Tamar, His chosen vessel, would give birth.
Tamar asked Jacob for three items that would conclusively identify their owner: his signet (either ring or stamp), his cord, and his staff. What exactly were these items?
♦ The signet would have been a ring or a pendant that could be stamped in clay or wax to authorize messages or purchases.
♦ The staff was a rod that was used as a scepter. In other words, it denoted the authority of the head of a tribe. To understand, read the story of when Aaron’s rod budded. (Num 17)
♦ The Hebrew word translated as “cord” is the same word translated as “fringes,” “tassels”, or “tzittzit” in other versions. Later when God commanded Moses to instruct the people of Israel to wear them:
“The LORD said to Moses,”Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after. (Num 15:37-39)
Being deceived by lust, Judah willingly handed over his most valuable possessions and went in to Tamar, who conceived. Tamar arose and went away. She removed her veil and she put on the garments of her widowhood. (Gen 38:14-19) In other words, she felt that she was righteous before this act and that she was righteous afterward.
So, we have to ask, was she unrighteous in what she did?
We must stop here to examine the concept of levirate marriage (Hebrew: yibbum) which is mandated by Torah and obliges a brother to raise up offspring on behalf of his childless deceased brother. The firstborn from such a union is regarded by Torah as heir of the deceased brother rather than heir of the genetic father. This command was an act of mercy in ancient times to assure provision and protection for the widow as well as a means of continuing the dead brother’s line of descent. A brother who refused to marry his childless brother’s widow was seen as selfish and a disgrace to the family.
“If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. And if the man does not wish to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to perpetuate his brother’s name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.’ Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him, and if he persists, saying, ‘I do not wish to take her,’ then his brother’s wife shall go up to him in the presence of the elders and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face. And she shall answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house.’ And the name of his house shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal pulled off.’ (Deut 25:5-10)
The sages see yibbum as “the process in which the dead brother gains a new life” (Artscroll Chumash pg. 209), and therefore, is, in their view, one of the most mysterious of all the commandments. Yibbum, in the eyes of the sages, provides resurrection, so to speak, of the dead brother.
Yibbum is highly significant to believers in Messiah Yeshua. As we have said, the House of God (Israel) is currently divided along the lines of Jew and gentile – the House of Judah and the House of Israel. These are the only recipients of the “New Covenant.” (Jer 31: 31-35, Heb. 8-12) We who were not raised in Jewish practice, by default, fall into the second category. The House of Israel was taken into captivity by the king of Assyria and was considered dead by the prophets.
Hosea wrote of Ephraim, a.k.a. the House of Israel, “he incurred guilt through Baal and died.” (Hos 13:1) When Ephraim died, he became “not a people,” just as Moses foretold. (Deut 32.21) As Isaiah prophesied, “within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people.” (Isa 7:8) God also said though Hosea, “I will put an end to the kingdom of the House of Israel.” (Hos. 1:4) He further explained that though both Houses were wicked,
“I will no more have mercy upon the House of Israel; but I will utterly take them away. But I will have mercy upon the House of Judah, and will save them by the LORD their God… (Hos. 1:5-7)
To demonstrate His judgment on the House of Israel, God told Hosea to bear children through a harlot, Gomer. The first child was called Jezreel, which means “scattered” or “sown.” The House of Israel would be scattered to the four winds by the king of Assyria. The second was called Lo Ruhamah (no mercy), for God’s mercy to the House of Israel had come to an end. The second child was called Lo Ami (not my people), for God said to the House of Israel, “you are not my people, and I am not your God.” (Hos 1:9)
However, as absolute and finite as this judgment seems, in the very next verse God makes an incredible announcement.
“Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, You are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, You are the sons of the living God. (Hos 1:10)
These familiar words are scattered throughout the New Testament!
Peter, writing to the “elect,” the “strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1-2) where their ancestors had been sown in exile, reminds them that as believers in Messiah they are part of the “royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people,” echoing the vows God spoke as He betrothed Himself to Israel and the mixed multitude that dwelled with them on Mount Sinai. (see Exo 19:5-6)
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: you who in times past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. (1 Pet 2:9-10)
Peter does not stand alone in this theology. Paul, likewise, quotes Hosea:
What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.'” And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.'” (Romans 9:22-26)
The apostle John wrote,
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1-2)
Dear children, this understanding changes everything! If the “Church” today understood this mystery, no longer would God’s house be divided into Jew and gentile with 38,000 different denominations. We would be “one” as Yeshua prayed, just as He and the Father are “One.” (John 17:11, 21)
When Yeshua entered into His ministry he announced to his disciples and followers, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” (Mat 15:24) Additionally, he instructed his disciples, “Go…to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” (Mat. 10:6) This is what Yeshua meant by saying, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) It was the House of Israel that was lost among the nations! Dead and buried by the kings of the earth, it was never to rise again except that Yeshua, of the tribe of Judah, willingly came to raise up offspring for his brother Ephraim.
In the process of bringing the “good news” of redemption to the House of Israel, the disciples also cast the net for the “whosoevers, ” the gentiles who would lay down their idols (traditions of men) and come into the Kingdom of God. We can say then, “For God SO loved the world” (John 3:16) that He gave the law of levirate marriage and came in the flesh to fulfill it, thereby RESURRECTING the House of Israel!
♦ That is why we who believe are called “firstborn” by the writer of Hebrews (12:23).
♦ This is why Yeshua said the “fields are white unto harvest.” (John 4:35)
♦ This is what it means to be born again! We were “born again not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides forever.” (1 Peter 1:23)
So determined was He not to leave his brother Ephraim disgraced and dishonored, that Judah, in the body of Yeshua of Nazareth, humbled Himself even to the cross. Thank YOU Father, for such mercy! Thank YOU Yeshua for such sacrifice, such humility, such faithfulness, and such love! No greater love has a man than this! (John 15:13)
Remember that Hirah was a “noble man” from Adullah, which means “justice of the nations.” It was for the “justice of the nations” and the justifying of the nations, that the noblest of all, Yeshua, God in the flesh, fulfilled the law of levirate marriage!
Back to our Torah portion: Judah sent his friend Hirah to exchange the goat for the items he had left with Tamar. However, she was not to be found. When consulting with the men of the place, they said, “No harlot has been here.” (Gen 38:21) The phrase is repeated in the next verse, as if to uphold the character of Tamar. So Hirah reported back to Judah, who replied, “Let her keep the things as her own, or we shall be laughed at. You see, I sent this young goat, and you did not find her.” (Gen 38:23)
In about three months Judah was informed that Tamar was pregnant. Judah responded with judgment:
“Bring her out, and let her be burned.” (Gen 38:24)
It is interesting that the Torah specifically requires that the daughter of a priest who commits harlotry be burned (Lev. 21:9), as opposed to being stoned, which is required for others. This is another clue to Tamar’s righteousness. I picture Tamar boldly but respectfully approaching her father-in-law, his signet, cord, and staff in her hands. With neither fear nor condemnation on her face, she says:
“By the man to whom these belong, I am pregnant.” And she said, “Please identify whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.” Then Judah identified them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not know her again. (Gen 38:24-26)
Note, the Torah does not say that Judah took them from her, so we have to wonder if she kept them to show to her children. Ironically, the words that Tamar used, “please identify” are the very same words that Judah said to Jacob as he approached with Joseph’s robe that had been dipped in the blood of the goat. (Gen 37:32)
Tamar gave birth to twins.
And when she was in labor, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” But as he drew back his hand, behold, his brother came out. And she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” Therefore his name was called Peretz [the breach maker or breaker]. Afterward his brother came out with the scarlet thread on his hand, and his name was called Zerah [shining, rising]. (Gen 38:28-30)
It was from the line of Peretz that Messiah would descend. (Mat 1:3) Messiah Yeshua, speaking through the prophet Micah calls Himself “the breaker” or “he who opens the breach.”
“I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob; I will gather the remnant of Israel; I will set them together like sheep in a fold, like a flock in its pasture, a noisy multitude of men. He who opens the breach goes up before them; they break through and pass the gate, going out by it. Their king passes on before them, the LORD at their head. (Mic 2:12-13)
An interesting tidbit is that Zerah’s great, great, great grandson Achan “coveted” a “beautiful cloak from Shinar” (Babylon), along with silver and gold that God had declared off limits, and hid it in his tent (Jos 7:1), causing Israel to be defeated at Ai.
To summarize: In Timnah, which means “a portion, weighed out,” at a crossroads called Enaim, which means “double fountains,” Tamar received justice. Judah was “weighed” and found lacking, while Tamar received her “portion” in Israel and is recorded as one of the mothers in the line of Messiah.
Returning now to the story of Joseph, the youth found himself in the service of Potiphar, who was “an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard. (Gen 39:1)
“The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master.“ (Gen 39:2)
The Torah makes a point of telling us three times that Joseph was taken into Potiphar’s personal residence to demonstrate the absolute miracle of this foreign slave being given such favor that at the age of 30 he would rise to the point of second in command to Pharaoh. Egyptians were so prejudiced against the Israelites that they would not even sit with them (Gen 43:32), let alone allow them to rule over them. This demonstrates the absolute sovereignty of God. Joseph was sent to be a savior to the family and the whole world (just like Yeshua). I might add that the Torah is also highlighting the fact that, in contrast to Judah, although Joseph was in Egypt, Egypt was not in him.
Potiphar quickly noticed that Joseph achieved everything he attempted; so he put him in charge of all that he had and God blessed Potiphar’s house for Joseph’s sake:
“the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate.” (Gen 39:1–6)
“Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.” (Gen 39:6)
Potiphar’s wife lusted after the handsome and intelligent youth. Seeking to rule over him, she batted her eyelashes and whispered, “Lie with me.” But, Joseph adamantly refused and said to his master’s wife,
“Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her. (Gen 39:8-10)
Joseph recalled his father’s admonitions and stayed his mind on righteousness. Recall that Yeshua was also tempted, by Satan, and did not give in. (Mark: 1, Luke: 4)
But, one day, when Joseph went into the house, none of the men of the house were there. Potiphar’s wife caught him by his shirt and insisted,“Lie with me.”
But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house. And as soon as she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled out of the house, she called to the men of her household and said to them, “See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. And as soon as he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me and fled and got out of the house.” (Gen 39:12-15)
When Potiphar came home, she lied again and told him,
“The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me take advantage of me. But as soon as I lifted up my voice and cried, he left his garment beside me and fled out of the house.” (Gen 39:17-18)
When Potiphar heard the words of his wife, his anger was kindled. (Gen 39:19)
“And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison.“ (Gen 39:20)
The sages surmise that Potiphar suspected his wife of deceit. They argue that if he really believed her story he would have immediately had Joseph put to death. After all, he was also the chief executioner. However, instead, the Torah tells us that Potiphar “took him” and “put him” in prison, as opposed to “sent him,” indicating Potiphar’s continued favor. The sages believe that Asenath, whom Joseph later married, was Potiphar’s daughter. If they are correct, consider that God intentionally chose the daughter of this deceiver to be mother to Ephraim and Manasseh.
Even in prison, God greatly prospered Joseph.
“But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed.” (Gen 39:21–23)
During this time, God gave Joseph great opportunities to study and learn the ways of management, and of Egypt, itself. God even put Joseph inside the very government to observe things that would enable him to be a wise ruler.
Sometime after this, Pharaoh’s cup bearer and baker were arrested and put into custody where Joseph was confined. They were troubled and Joseph ministered to them. His concern for them would ultimately give him the opportunity to appear before Pharaoh. They both had dreams, which they shared with Joseph. The cup bearer dreamed of a vine with three branches which budded and blossomed and ripened into grapes.
He said, “Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.” Then Joseph said, “This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days. In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cup bearer. (Gen 40:5-14a)
The dream points to Yeshua, the ultimate “cup bearer.” The night before His betrayal, He prayed,
“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Mat 26:39) “Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:11)
After “three days” Yeshua, like the cup bearer, was restored to His position. Joseph asked the cup bearer for favor.
Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit.” (Gen 40:14b-15)
In the opinion of the sages, God added two years to Joseph’s sentence because he asked favor of the cup bearer rather than trusting in God.
When the chief baker saw that the interpretation of the cup bearer’s dream was favorable, he confidently shared his dream with Joseph.
“I also had a dream: there were three cake baskets on my head, and in the uppermost basket there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head.” And Joseph answered and said, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days. In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!—and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the flesh from you.” (Gen 40:16-19)
This is a remarkable prophecy of Yeshua’s death. Yeshua, who offers the “bread of life,” therefore be seen as the “baker.” The “birds” are His followers and disciples, coming hungrily to partake of His “bread,” therefore eating His “flesh.” He told His disciples: “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” (John 6:55)
On the “third day,” which happened to be Pharaoh’s birthday, Pharaoh prepared a feast for all his servants. He restored the chief cup bearer to his position. But he hanged the chief baker, exactly as Joseph had interpreted to them. Yet the chief cup bearer forgot him… (Gen 40:20-23)
We will pick back up with Joseph’s story next week. In the meantime, never forget, we are the most blessed people who have ever lived on the planet!
Until next week, shalom!