Torah Portion: Genesis 44:18-47:27
Haftarah: Ezekiel 37:15-28
New Testament: Luke 15:11-32, John 20:14,25-28, Romans 11, Rev. 12:1-6
The story of Joseph and his brothers will come to a dramatic climax this week as Joseph, at last, reveals his identity. Last week, the brothers went to Egypt to buy grain and there encountered the brother they had sold and thrown into a pit, though his Hebrew character was concealed by his highly Egyptian appearance.
After the brothers were imprisoned for three days, Simeon was abruptly taken from them, bound, and carried off as a hostage while the brothers were directed by Joseph to return to Canaan. Not only did the ten brothers have to break the news to Jacob of Simeon’s captivity, but, they had also to inform the father that if they were going to buy more food, Benjamin would have to appear before Joseph. As if the dread of their father’s grief upon learning this awful news was not enough for them to grapple with during their, perhaps, three week journey back to Canaan, the brothers had also made the astonishing discovery somewhere along their route that their money was tucked inside the sacks of grain they had brought from Egypt!
We can only imagine the distress that awaited them in Canaan and the wrestlings they went through each day and each night, seeing the family’s food reserves constantly dwindle and knowing there was no option to buy more unless they took Benjamin with them. Famine eventually forced Jacob to concede to Joseph’s demands. The brothers would return to Joseph. Judah, who had himself experienced the loss of two sons at Timnah, as well as a wife, offered himself as a pledge for Benjamin. The viceroy of Egypt had yet to determine if the brothers were truly sorry for their sin or merely sorry for the consequences. Therefore, the brothers would be the victims of an elaborate scheme that would not only reveal any jealousy they harbored toward Rachel’s second son, but, would, in addition, force the brothers to choose between themselves and Benjamin. When we left the brothers last, Joseph’s silver cup had been found in Benjamin’s sack and Joseph had demanded that Benjamin be his servant.
Our opening verse begins: “Then Judah went up to him…” This phrase is rendered “drew near” or “came near” in other versions and is the source for this week’s title, “Vayigash.” This is a form of the Hebrew word “nagash” [Strong’s H5066] and is used most frequently to denote intimacy or very close contact. It is the word used when the Torah tells us that Abraham “drew near” to intercede for Lot (Gen. 18:23). If you will recall in that Torah portion, Vayera, Abraham’s drawing near illustrated the Bride’s concern for her husband’s reputation as well as for the salvation of the righteous. The Torah uses this word also when Isaac asked Jacob to “come near” so he could feel him and smell him to verify that he was Esau (27:21). It is used when Isaac kissed Jacob (27:27), when Jacob kissed Rachel (29:10), when Jacob approached Esau upon his return to Canaan (33:3), and it is also used numerous times in the last four book of the Torah to describe Moses as he approached Yahweh, as well as the priests when they approached the altar. This is a very important concept which we will dig into as we study the prescribed offerings during our studies in Exodus and following.
The Torah uses other words to describe approaching or coming near that do not bear the context of intimacy. Therefore, the Torah is making us aware that Judah dared to enter into Joseph’s personal space in order to make his appeal, fully knowing that, like Esther’s unauthorized approach to Ahasuerus (Est. 5:1), his action could result in his death.
Then Judah [vayigash = drew near] and said, “Oh, my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears, and let not your anger burn against your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself. My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father, or a brother?’ And we said to my lord, ‘We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him.’ Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, that I may set my eyes on him.’ We said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ Then you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall not see my face again.’ “When we went back to your servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. And when our father said, ‘Go again, buy us a little food,’ we said, ‘We cannot go down. If our youngest brother goes with us, then we will go down. For we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’ Then your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons. One left me, and I said, “Surely he has been torn to pieces,” and I have never seen him since. If you take this one also from me, and harm happens to him, you will bring down my gray hairs in evil to Sheol.’ “Now therefore, as soon as I come to your servant my father, and the boy is not with us, then, as his life is bound up in the boy’s life, as soon as he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die, and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol. For your servant became a pledge of safety for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father all my life.’ Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers. For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the evil that would find my father” (44:18-34).
Judah’s impassioned plea is totally based upon his concern that his father might die if he lost Benjamin. No matter that Benjamin is by this time a grown man with a wife and ten sons (46:21) who would all be devastated by Benjamin’s conscription to Egypt; it is his father’s pain that totally consumes Judah. No less than fifteen times does Judah refer to his father during this emotional outburst! This, however, was the very key to Joseph’s heart. When Joseph perceived that Judah loved his father as much as he did and that Judah was willing to lay down his life for his brother, the severity with which Joseph had been forced to deal with his brothers in order to expose their hearts dissolved instantly.
Joseph sent the Egyptians out of the room and, weeping so loudly that even the household of Pharaoh heard, he made himself known to his brothers. And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. So Joseph said to his brothers, “Vayigash [Come near ]to me, please.” And they vayigash [came near]. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.” (45:1-4). The Torah repeats the concept to stress intimacy, and, perhaps, to hint of a future fulfillment. The sages postulate that the brother’s disbelief was so great that Joseph, at this moment, actually showed them his circumcism. This brings to mind that Yeshua went so far as to invite Thomas, who had vowed that he would never believe his Master was resurrected unless he could put his finger into the marks of his Savior’s wounds, to do exactly that (John 20:25-28).
Obviously, to those of us who know Messiah Yeshua, we see in this a picture Yeshua’s deep longing to be reunited with His Jewish brothers, as well as every other brother who has rejected Him. The prophet Zechariah proclaims this event. “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn” (Zech. 12:10).
The interpreters now having vacated the room, Joseph addressed the dumbfounded brothers in their own language: And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry. You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.’ And now your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father of all my honor in Egypt, and of all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here” (45:5-13).
Up until this time, the brothers were speechless; but their tongues were finally loosed when, with profuse weeping, Joseph embraced them all. Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him (45:14-15).
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks points out that this is the first time the Bible records a human extending forgiveness. Yet, apparently, the brothers do not fully grasp or accept Joseph’s pardon at this time, for in next week’s portion, after the death of Jacob, we read that the brothers’ “sent word” to inform Joseph that their father left specific instructions for Joseph to forgive them and, further, we read that Joseph wept when this was told to him (50:16-18). Joseph had, indeed, forgiven them; but they would need his help in order to forgive themselves. So it will be when Messiah returns in all of His glory to Mount Zion. Judah, in the body of the Jewish people, will be astounded to see the Hebrew-speaking Yeshua motioning for them to come near to Him to receive forgiveness for rejecting Him. Ephraim, in the body of Christians, will be just as dismayed to see the Living Torah beckoning them to receive forgiveness for rejecting His Torah. And, “a multitude no man can number” from the four corners of the earth will be astounded that as the Hebrew from Nazareth speaks, they actually understand the Hebrew language! “For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the LORD and serve him with one accord” (Zeph. 3:9).When Yeshua comes, He will restore to His family the pure Hebrew language with which He spoke the heavens and earth into being.
When the report was heard in Pharaoh’s house, “Joseph’s brothers have come,” it pleased Pharaoh and his servants. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your beasts and go back to the land of Canaan, and take your father and your households, and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat the fat of the land.’ And you, Joseph, are commanded to say, ‘Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours'” (45:16-21). Pharaoh’s generosity clearly demonstrates that he had no knowledge of what Joseph’s brothers had done to him. Joseph had wisely kept his hurts to himself for twenty-two years, in contrast to what most of us do, by bending the ear of any who will listen. This reminds us of Yeshua’s statement from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Our Father in Heaven has forgiven us for all the wrongs that we have done. He remembers our sins no more and all we have to do is to accept His forgiveness and the atonement of Yeshua’s blood and sin no more.
… Joseph gave them wagons, according to the command of Pharaoh, and gave them provisions for the journey. To each and all of them he gave a change of clothes, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five changes of clothes. To his father he sent as follows: ten donkeys loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and provision for his father on the journey (45:22-23). To be sent to Canaan in Pharaoh’s wagons would be the equivalent of arriving on Air Force One today. The brothers were treated as heads of state! Benjamin, the only son born in Eretz Israel, interestingly enough, received ten times the amount that Yeshua would later be sold for by Judas Iscariot, as well as five changes of clothes. The number five is the Hebrew equivalent of “grace.” Yet, there is no indication of jealousy from his brothers, all of which receive new garments, indicating their hearts have truly changed. These foreshadow the garments of righteousness that the Bride will receive.
Then he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, “Do not quarrel on the way” (45:24). It being human nature to point the finger and blame, Joseph insisted the brothers to bury the past and press on to what lay ahead for them in Goshen. Let’s go back for a moment to this word “Goshen.” It is comprised of the same letters as “nagash,” [draw near in intimacy] in Hebrew: nun-gimel-shin, but rearranged to gimel-shin-nun. Both Hitchcock Bible Names Dictionary and Brown, Driver Briggs Lexicon conclude that Goshen also means “drawing near.” Another interesting point is that, according to several sources, Goshen is translated in the Greek Septuagint as “Gesem,” which means “to labor.” To me, this alludes both to giving birth and to learning to work, as in mitzvot. In addition, Goshen is related, according to some sources, to an Arabic word which means “cultivated.” This makes for a very interesting picture. Israel is, according the word of the LORD to the prophet Isaiah, Yahweh’s “vineyard.” “For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting…” (Isaiah 5:7).
But, Bill Cloud, in his commentary on this parsha, landed on a nugget that sent me to do my own digging. Goshen spelled in Hebrew looks like this: גּ שׁ ן (Hebrew is read from right to left; gimel-shin-nun.) However, in Genesis 46:27-28, Goshen is used three times; but TWICE we find the Hebrew letter hey has been added: ה גּ שׁ ן or gimel-shin-nun-hey. Most English bibles translate all three of these occurrences simply as “Goshen.” However, the Online Interlinear Hebrew Bible translates this word TWICE as “Goshenward,” meaning towards Goshen, as you can see for yourself here: http://www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/OTpdf/gen46.pdf
Notice that the Interlinear Bible provides both a word-for-word translation as well as a verse translation. The latter reads (vs. 28)“And he sent Judah unto him before Joseph to direct his face unto Goshen and they came unto the land of Goshen.” (vs. 29) “And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen, and presented himself to him, and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while.”
However, if we insert the word-for-word translation of “Goshenward,” the verses would read as follows:
“And he sent Judah unto him before Joseph to direct his face Goshenward and they came into the land of Goshen. And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father, Goshenward, and presented himself to him, and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while.”
It was the letter hey that was added to “Abram” to become “Abraham” and added to “Sarai” to become “Sarah.” The sound of the letter is like the English “H,” and is made by softly exhaling and represents the very breath of God. The ancient Hebrew pictogram presented this letter as a window, and the meaning of this letter is “see”, “behold!” and “revelation.” What does Abba want us to see and behold! in Goshen? What does He want to reveal?
What is very interesting, as Bill Cloud points out, is that Goshen, with the added hey alludes to Hanukah. Gimel-shin-nun-hey are the four letters found on dreidels, used to play games at Hanukah, which make up an acronym for “a great miracle happened there.” As we studied last week, the main point of Hanukah is to be set-apart unto God in holiness by keeping His commandments. It is to keep ourselves separate from the culture to prevent assimilation. So, why would Yahweh allude to Hanukah in the story of Joseph?
Remember, there are TWO OCCURRENCES of the hey being added to “Goshen,” meaning “Goshenward,” in this week’s portion and there are no other instances of this anomaly in the rest of Scripture. If we consider that the deeds of the forefathers are portends for the children, could this mean that a “Goshen” is being prepared for us, too? Could this be what Yeshua alluded to when He said, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while”(Mark 6:31a)? Yeshua went on to say:“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-4).
Remember, also, as we studied in our Hanukah lesson, there are TWO OCCURRENCES of the abomination that makes desolation. The first occurred in the days of Antiochus Epiphanies, as we saw in the story of the Maccabees. But, a second, according to Yeshua (Mat. 24:15, Mark 13:14) is yet to happen. Therefore, we should give very thoughtful and prayerful consideration to learning the ways of God and keeping ourselves set-apart so that we can be a light to the nations during the upcoming time of tribulation. Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness (Isaiah 42:5-7). That the LORD “gives breath…and spirit” points us back to the letter hey.
So, in vs. 28, can we say that Judah (as a type of Yeshua) was sent to direct the children of Jacob to set their faces toward Goshen [the place of drawing near] to receive the very breath of God [as in His commandments and His spirit]? And to teach them of the royal priesthood? The sages believe this to be so.
Another thing about this concept of “Goshenward” is the word WARD contained in it. Now this might be a stretch; but as soon as I saw it, I recalled that Judah and his brothers were put into a WARD for three days in last week’s lesson. Is it possible that God’s people will also be put into a WARD for three days? Or three years? If so, could the WARD actually be Goshen? Is Goshen a safety zone during the time of the Great Tribulation? Is it the time in the desert that Ezekiel foretells when Yahweh will bring His people out of the nations and enter into judgment with us? (Eze. 20:36) These questions will require much thought and study.
In any event, it is safe to assume that the main point of God’s sending Jacob’s family to Goshen was so that they would be set-apart, rather than assimilated into the culture of Canaan or Egypt. And, it can certainly be said of Goshen that, “a great miracle happened there!” We saw in parsha Lech Lecha that in Pharaoh’s house, Sarai was preserved, her womb preserved and set apart to give birth to the “seed of Abraham” which is Messiah Yeshua (Gal. 3:16) and His followers (Gal. 3:29). We can see now that Goshen will be a womb that would be very fruitful and will multiply Jacob’s seventy souls into two or three MILLION in the span of approximately 210 years, who will come out of Egypt with a mixed multitude that will all go to Mount Sinai to be betrothed to Yahweh and given His instructions for life and blessing. No wonder a later Pharaoh will become greatly alarmed by the birthrate of the Israelites.
Various commentators surmise that, left to themselves in Canaan, after the death of Jacob the family would surely have drifted away from the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and assimilated into Canaan’s wicked culture. Even while Jacob was alive, we see Canaan’ attempts to abduct Jacob’s family, first, by way of the assault on Dinah and, second, in Judah’s marriage to the daughter of a Canaanite during his sojourn in Timnah. But, Yahweh intervened on both occasions to preserve the sanctity of the family. This week, through worldwide famine and tribulation, He is preparing a place for Jacob and his sons in Goshen, where they will have the option to focus on the ways of God that will prepare them to endure an upcoming time of Great Tribulation that precedes the family’s exodus from Egypt. Selah! dear children, selah! [Meditate and pray fervently over these things!]
The brothers left Egypt and went home to their father Jacob, presumably at Hebron. And they told him, “Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.” And his heart became numb, for he did not believe them. But when they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. And Israel said, “It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die” (45:25-28). The sages say that part of Joseph’s “words” were to recount to the brothers the last Torah lesson that Jacob taught him before he was abducted. I believe that the “ten wagons” filled with the goods of Egypt Jacob recognize Pharaoh’s favor as blessing for keeping the Ten Commandments. When Jacob saw these things and heard Joseph’s words [alluding to Yeshua’s words] he believed and was restored. And so, we have a picture of the “resurrection” of Jacob, which is a good segue to this week’s haftarah:
The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, take a stick and write on it, ‘For Judah, and the people of Israel associated with him’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.’ And join them one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. And when your people say to you, ‘Will you not tell us what you mean by these?’ say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am about to take the stick of Joseph (that is in the hand of Ephraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with him. And I will join with it the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, that they may be one in my hand. When the sticks on which you write are in your hand before their eyes, then say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: 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. And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms. They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. “My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes. They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore” (Ezekiel 37:15-28).
By establishing this text to coincide with the Torah reading, the sages demonstrate that they see in the story of Joseph the eventual reuniting of all Twelve Tribes under a king from the House of David who will unify the seed of Abraham under the Torah of Moses. The result will be a blissful world free of idolatry, with brother loving brother, neighbor loving neighbor, and the entire world knowing that Yahweh is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
The family possessions were packed and loaded onto the wagons; but, instead of departing for Egypt, Jacob, instead, directed the caravan to Beersheba, seeking confirmation from his faithful God before he can leave the Promised Land. Beersheba was where Isaac and Rebecca dwelled when Jacob deceived Esau (28:10). According to the biblical record, this is the first time that Jacob had returned to Beersheba since he fled to go to Padan Aram to Laban’s house. Beersheba is where the angel spoke to Hagar and opened her eyes to see a well (21:16). There, Abraham dug a well and, after controversy with Abimelech, sealed its ownership by an oath accompanied by the slaughter of seven lambs (Gen. 21:31). Abraham dwelled at Beersheba at the time of the binding of Isaac (22:19). Isaac later dug his own well at Beersheba and it was he who named the place (26:23-25). No doubt, Isaac was strongly on Jacob’s mind, for he “offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.” God had told Isaac not to leave the Promised Land, but to stay there and He would bless Him, which He most certainly did. Now, despite the miracle of Joseph’s “resurrection,” Jacob must hear for himself what the God of Isaac has to say. Most certainly, Jacob was prepared to dwell in Beersheba unless he heard differently from his God:
So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes” (46:1-4). Here we have again a repeated phrase, “Jacob, Jacob…” perhaps, another indication of a second fulfillment.
Having the assurance that the God of Isaac is going down to Egypt with the family, Jacob set out from Beersheba. The sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent to carry him. They also took their livestock and their goods, which they had gained in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob and all his offspring with him, his sons, and his sons’ sons with him, his daughters, and his sons’ daughters. All his offspring he brought with him into Egypt (46:5-7). All the persons belonging to Jacob who came into Egypt, who were his own descendants, not including Jacob’s sons’ wives, were sixty-six persons in all. And the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt, were two. All the persons of the house of Jacob who came into Egypt were seventy (46:26-27). The sages have gone to great lengths to discuss and explain the anomaly that only sixty-nine persons are accounted for in the genealogy presented in our text. For me, it is simple enough to take Yahweh at His word and believe that He has counted Himself as the 70th person. “I myself will go down with you to Egypt…” (46:4).
Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and tell Pharaoh and will say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me. And the men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock, and they have brought their flocks and their herds and all that they have.’ When Pharaoh calls you and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,’ in order that you may dwell in the land of Goshen, for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians” (46:31-34).
Joseph’s strategy was to make his family as UNattractive as possible to Pharaoh in order to make it as simple as possible for the family to be set apart. Expecting that Pharaoh would admire his brothers and try to recruit them into royal service, Joseph coached his brothers to respond to Pharaoh’s questions in a manner that would make them seem unqualified. Yahweh’s agenda was to use Goshen as a place to mold the brothers into true shepherds who would lead Israel into all righteousness and be the light of the world by keeping Yahweh’s commandments. Introducing themselves to Pharaoh as shepherds would cause him to distain them. The brothers did as Joseph said. Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is before you. Settle your father and your brothers in the best of the land. Let them settle in the land of Goshen, and if you know any able men among them, put them in charge of my livestock.” (47:5-6)
Then Joseph brought in Jacob his father and stood him before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How many are the days of the years of your life?” And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning.” And Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from the presence of Pharaoh (47:7-10). Note the repeated statement, “Jacob blessed Pharaoh,” again possibly alluding to a double fulfillment. The sages teach that because Jacob blessed Pharaoh, the famine ended in two years instead of five. Perhaps we should consider actually blessing our leaders and officials instead of complaining about them. Let us also consider that Jacob wants Pharaoh to understand that, like Abraham and Isaac, he considers himself a sojourner. As were his fathers’ before him, Jacob’s eyes are on the world to come.
Then Joseph settled his father and his brothers and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded. And Joseph provided his father, his brothers, and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their dependents. Now there was no food in all the land, for the famine was very severe, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished by reason of the famine (47:11-13). Joseph tenderly provided for all of the family during the tribulation of the famine, thereby picturing Yeshua’s help in Jacob’s trouble to all who will trust him. Note that Joseph “gave them,” the family “a possession.” Instead of individual titles to land, the region of Goshen was given to all of Jacob’s children. We can therefore expect that somewhere a place, or perhaps multiple places, will be prepared where Jacob’s children will be provided for and protected.
And Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, in exchange for the grain that they bought. And Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house. And when the money was all spent in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, “Give us food. Why should we die before your eyes? For our money is gone.” And Joseph answered, “Give your livestock, and I will give you food in exchange for your livestock, if your money is gone.” So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and Joseph gave them food in exchange for the horses, the flocks, the herds, and the donkeys. He supplied them with food in exchange for all their livestock that year (46:14-17).
As one commentator puts it, on behalf of Pharaoh, Joseph centralized the banking system. As the text mentions all of the money of Canaan AND Egypt [read: Israel and the WORLD], we can see that this affects the righteous as well as the unrighteous. Thus we have a picture of the One World Government that anti-Christ will initiate. When the money is gone, those who trust in the government of the anti-Christ will have no choice but to trade their possessions for food, while those who trust in Yeshua will have all their needs met.
And when that year was ended, they came to him the following year and said to him, “We will not hide from my lord that our money is all spent. The herds of livestock are my lord’s. There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our land. Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for food, and we with our land will be servants to Pharaoh. And give us seed that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate.” Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for all the Egyptians sold their fields, because the famine was severe on them. The land became Pharaoh’s (47:18-20)
Pharaoh, representing the One Word Order, thus gains title to all of the world’s real estate. The people have nothing left to sell but themselves. As for the people, he made servants of them from one end of Egypt to the other. Only the land of the priests he did not buy, for the priests had a fixed allowance from Pharaoh and lived on the allowance that Pharaoh gave them; therefore they did not sell their land. Then Joseph said to the people, “Behold, I have this day bought you and your land for Pharaoh. Now here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land. And at the harvests you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and as food for yourselves and your households, and as food for your little ones.” And they said, “You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to Pharaoh.” So Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt, and it stands to this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth; the land of the priests alone did not become Pharaoh’s. (47:21-26)
Under Pharaoh, Joseph established an income for the priesthood and they were not required to sell their property. The Stone Chumash (pg. 267) comments that by establishing this precedent, the tribe of Levi would later be exempt from the servitude to which the other tribes were ultimately forced by the Egyptians. Remember, so far as the biblical record is concerned, Torah was handed down via the process of memorization and recitation as opposed to scrolls. We know from our studies that Shem and Eber maintained tent schools, yeshivas. We have seen that it is very likely that Shem, who lived until 40 years before Joseph was born, operated in the office of the High Priest. We suppose that his son Eber assumed that role until he died twelve years before Joseph was born, that Isaac then filled the role until he died in the year before Joseph took office, and that Jacob now holds the position.
Let’s take another look at verse 21 above. As for the people, he made servants of them from one end of Egypt to the other. The Stone Chumash, the ASV and other versions, translate this verse a little differently to read: “As for the nation, he resettled it by cities, from one end of Egypt’s borders to the other.” The sages suppose that Pharaoh did this to establish his undisputed ownership of the property and in their commentary even use the High Middle Ages term “serf” which is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as “a member of the lowest feudal class, legally bound to a landlord and required to perform labor for the lord of that estate in exchange for a personal allotment of land… ;a person in bondage or servitude.” In other words, it is slavery. It is in big cities where conditions during any type of tribulation are worst because “government” moves slowly and can only extend itself so far. We can see how the attractions of Egypt became a slippery slope for Jacob’s children and they soon were enslaved.
Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen. And they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly (47:27). As we will see in the next couple of weeks, the children of Israel would not be content with the land that had been given to them. They would ultimately spread out over the land of Egypt and assimilate into the culture; but, those who remain in Goshen will be the most blessed people on the planet in their day!
It was Joseph’s forgiveness that changed the course of the family, and, I might add, the whole world. If Joseph had not been in Egypt, the Egyptians would have all perished along with Jacob’s family. God sent His Son that “whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Yeshua forgave us for transgressing His Father’s Torah. He endured the torture and suffering that we deserved, that we might have a blissful life with Him for all eternity. Such is the power of forgiveness.
Allow me to close with a personal story of drastic forgiveness that changed the course of another family’s life. In 1979, my mother phoned her four children and asked us to meet with her. I happened to be out of town at the time, on vacation, and she didn’t want to cut short my time with my family. That Friday evening, my sister, two brothers, and I gathered at my parent’s home to learn that our father had fallen in love with a woman at work, one year my senior, and that he had left Mom to live with her. We could not have been more stunned. We had been raised in the church. Daddy had even been a Sunday School teacher. When we learned that “the woman” had left a husband and three young children to be with our dad, my astonishment immediately turned to judgment and hatred. Needless to say, tensions were very thick in the upcoming years. Mom was hurt but never held a grudge. And, after a period of time, she made the decision that family gatherings must include all of the family. She invited my father and his wife to come to holiday and birthday events, most of which were held at my home. Although I tolerated Nancy, I still nursed hatred in my heart toward her for the pain that she had caused our family.
But, one day, somebody handed me a book. I don’t recall the title or the author; but, if memory serves me correctly, it was a thin red book that could easily be read in one sitting. The author proposed that if a difficult situation or person were placed in one’s life, one could treat the person or circumstances as if it were the greatest gift one could receive, and thereby receive power over it. It was not written at all in a religious context; but it contained the principles of being grateful for all things and offering complete forgiveness. My first reaction was to throw the book across the room!
I could not imagine under what circumstances I could ever be grateful for Daddy’s wife. However, the book would not let me go and eventually wrestled me to the ground in much the same way that the “angel of the LORD” wrestled Jacob. To make a long story short, over time I was able to choose to treat Nancy with respect even though I still harbored resentment. I chose to send her birthday cards. I chose to visit them and I chose to develop a relationship with her. And, over time, I came to love her. Since that time, I have searched for the book that led me to forgive my father and his wife; but to no avail. I have come to the conclusion that the same angel that wrestled with Jacob brought me the book and wrestled with me.
The end result of the matter was that near the end of Daddy’s life, for two-and-a-half years, upon their request, I lived with Daddy and Nancy. He was starting dialysis three days a week and Nancy’s place of employment was one hour away. It so happened that due to circumstances I was free at the time to answer Nancy’s call for assistance. I knew it was a divine appointment. In that period of time Nancy and I were knit together closely and she told me more than once that she could not have made it without my help. We laughed a lot as people tried to figure out which one of us was the daughter and which the wife—because she still was only one year older than me.
She turned out to be a wonderful wife for nearly thirty years to my father and the great bonus was that God blessed her with training as a physical therapist and gave her a great job working with seniors. As Daddy aged, she took it all in stride, and used her education and experience to manage his deterioration with great grace, much patience, and even humor, until his death one year ago. She became, and still is, a very valued member of our family, especially to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren, including my own. We would have missed all of this had not my mother chosen to forgive and to extend grace and kindness. Eventually, Mom recognized her fault in the breakup of the marriage and went so far as to write a letter to Daddy and Nancy, as well as to all of her children, to ask forgiveness for not being the wife that the Bible prescribes. Afterwards, I noted a freedom in her that had not been present before and I came into that freedom myself as I also chose to forgive.
So, I ask you today, is there any grudge in your heart? Is there anyone to whom you can extend unmerited favor in the way that Yeshua has extended it to you? Is there anyone who gets on your nerves so much that you wish would just go away forever? Start to treat them “as if” they are the most precious gift from your Heavenly Father and watch Him transform your world and theirs. It won’t happen overnight; but it will happen and you will have a freedom that you cannot imagine.
And that bring us to the end of this week’s lesson. Beloved, we are the most blessed people who have ever lived because we have access to the word of God, we have multiple copies of multiple translations, our eyes and ears have been opened to accept Abba’s Torah of Life and Blessing, and we have TIME to read, study, and practice. My dear children, please do not squander the greatest blessing of your lives! Go today and act upon these things! Until next week, shalom!