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
We are poised for a dramatic climax this week as Joseph’s identity is unmasked. In last week’s cliffhanger, the brothers went to Egypt to buy grain from the brother they had sold, though his Egyptian appearance rendered him completely unrecognizable. Thus, we saw a type and shadow of the Messiah stripped of His Hebrew identity.
We also noted a foreshadowing of the future captivity of Jacob’s offspring, both the House of Israel and the House of Judah, when Simeon was abruptly taken, bound, and carried off as a hostage. When we left the story last week, to the brothers’ horror, Joseph’s silver cup had been found in Benjamin’s sack and their youngest brother was sentenced to slavery.
Our opening verse begins: “Then Judah went up to him…” This phrase, rendered “drew near” or “came near” in other versions, 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.
“Vayigash” is the word used when the Torah tells us that Abraham “drew near” to intercede for Lot (Gen. 18:23). Abraham’s drawing near illustrated the Bride’s concern for the bridegroom 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 to receive his kiss (33:3), and it is also used numerous times 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 when we come to the study of the prescribed offerings in Exodus and Leviticus.
The point is that by use of this word we are made to understand that Judah humbled himself and dared plead face-to-face with the viceroy of Egypt on behalf of his brother. Thus, we are reminded of the chutzpah of Esther, whose unauthorized approach to Ahasuerus (Est. 5:1), could have resulted in her 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 focused upon his father’s suffering. Benjamin is, by this time, a grown man with a wife and ten sons (46:21). While the whole family would be devastated by Benjamin’s conscription to Egypt, it is his father’s pain that consumes Judah. Remember, in our last two lessons, we discussed Judah’s own loss of two sons and a wife. The “man acquainted with grief” refers to his father’s suffering no less than fifteen times during this emotional outburst!
This concern for their father is precisely what Joseph hoped to discover in the brothers. When Joseph understood that Judah was willing to be a substitute for Benjamin, so as not to break his father’s heart again, Joseph’s pretense of severity was dissolved instantly. Quickly dismissing the Egyptians, Joseph wept so loudly that even the household of Pharaoh heard (45:2).
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.” (45:3-4).
The astonished brothers were dumbfounded. How could the “Egyptian” standing before them possibly be their brother! The sages believe that the brothers’ faces registered so much shock that Joseph may have actually gone so far as to uncover his circumcision to prove that he was a Hebrew. Perhaps. But, maybe, instead, there was a birthmark, or a scar, that would conclusively identify their long lost brother. We recall that Yeshua went so far as to invite Thomas to put his finger into the marks of the resurrected Savior’s wounds. (John 20:25-28).
And, then, Joseph brother began to speak to them in Hebrew, to explain why things had happened as they had, that God had sent him to prepare a place for them.
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).
Tears streaming, Joseph embraced, first, Benjamin, and then each of his brothers.
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).
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 will read that the brothers “sent word” to inform Joseph that their father left specific instructions for him to forgive them.
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 vayigash or 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, wearing a talit and carrying a Torah scroll, beckoning them to receive forgiveness for rejecting His covenant. 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 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. This reminds us of Yeshua’s statement from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). By the blood of Yeshua, our Father in Heaven has forgiven us for all the wrongs that we have done. He remembers our sins no more. All we have to do is to forsake our sin, walk in righteousness, and joyfully accept the atonement of his shed blood.
… 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 escorted in Pharaoh’s wagons would be the equivalent of flying in Air Force One today. The brothers were being treated as heads of state! All received new clothing, with which they would appear before Pharaoh; but, Benjamin received five sets plus 300 shekels. Yet, in the face of Joseph’s extravagance toward the only other son of the wife whom Jacob loved, Rachel, this time we see no indication of jealousy from his brothers. Benjamin’s clothing is a picture of the garments of righteousness which the Bride will wear. Five is the Hebrew number of grace. interestingly, 300 shekels is 10 times the amount which the religious authorities paid Judas Iscariot to betray his master (Mat. 27:3).
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 bury the past and press on to what lay ahead for them in Goshen.
Hidden in “Goshen”
“Goshen” 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, therefore, also means “drawing near.” According to several sources, Goshen is translated in the Greek Septuagint as “Gesem,” meaning “to labor,” which brings up images of birthing rooms, midwives, newborn babies, and slave labor which we will soon come to in the Book of Exodus. Wikipedia reports that the word may also be related to an Arabic word which means “cultivated.” This brings up the picture of Isaiah’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).
Bill Cloud, in his commentary on this parsha, landed on a nugget that sent me to grab my shovel and start digging. Goshen, in Hebrew, looks like this: גֹּ֫שֶׁן (Hebrew is read from right to left; gimel-shin-nun.) In our Torah portion, Goshen is found in nine instances. But, in two instances, Genesis 46:28-29, 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.
Bill Cloud recognizes in these letters an allusion to Hanukkah. Gimel-shin-nun-hey are the four letters found on dreidels, used to play games during “The Feast of Lights.” The letters are an acronym for “a great miracle happened there.” As we have studied, the true miracle of Hanukkah was the grace poured out from Heaven that enabled Hannah and her seven sons, and others like them, to stand firm in the face of horrific persecution, and, as well, to give the victory to the tiny Maccabean army to overthrow Antiochus’ Goliath force and retake Jerusalem and the Temple.
Remember, it was the letter hey that was added to “Abram” to become “Abraham” and added to “Sarai” to become “Sarah” before the miraculous birth of Isaac. The sound of the letter is like the English “H,” made by softly exhaling, and represents the very breath of God. The ancient Hebrew presented this letter as a window, and the meaning of this letter is “see”, “behold!” and “revelation.” What does Abba want us to behold!
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.”
The word-for-word translation reads a little differently:
“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.”
This week’s Torah Portion contains the only two instances in Scripture where the letter hey is added, making “Goshen,” “Goshenward,” or toward Goshen. If we consider that the deeds of the forefathers are portends for the children, could this hint that a second Goshen is being prepared for the offspring of Jacob? Are we supposed to set our faces, also, Goshenward? Is it possible that the day will come that are we also supposed to get up and leave?
Could this be what Yeshua alluded to when He said, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. ” (Mark 6:31 KJV)?
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).
Judah was sent as a forerunner to Goshen. Could that be a picture of Yeshua directing his flock to a second Goshen? Is Goshen a picture of America or of the western nations where Christianity has prospered all these years? Could it be a picture of the “place in the wilderness” where the “woman who gave birth to the male child” of Rev. 12 will be protected for 3-1/2 years? Could the answer to both questions be “yes”?
The main point of sending Jacob’s family to Goshen was to provide a place where the family could be safe and set-apart, rather than assimilated into the culture. That is most certainly why the pilgrims came to America. The Hanukkah story vividly demonstrates the need for a “Goshen” when the anti-Messiah comes upon the earth.
It can truly 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 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 the foreshadowing. Goshen will become a very fruitful womb that will multiply Jacob’s seventy souls into two or three MILLION in the span of approximately 210 years, who, along with a mixed multitude, will exit Egypt as a fully formed nation. No wonder a later Pharaoh will become greatly alarmed by the birthrate of the Israelites.
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. We have seen Laban’s and Shechem’s attempts to abduct the family during Jacob’s lifetime. But, Yahweh intervened on both occasions to preserve the sanctity of the family who is destined to become the light of the world. This week, through worldwide famine and tribulation, He intervenes again, sending the family to a safe place where Jacob’s offspring can grow unhindered until the appointed time arrives, four hundred years to the day from the birth of Isaac, to go back to the Promised Land.
Joseph is Alive!
The brothers left Egypt and went home to break the news to their father Jacob, presumably at Hebron. At first, Jacob nearly fainted with unbelief. But, when informed of Joseph’s speech and instructions, and upon seeing the wagons full of the “good things of Egypt,” Jacob revived.
“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 surmise that Joseph “words” included Jacob’s final admonition before Joseph was abducted by the ten brothers. Did the “ten wagons” and “ten donkeys,” (45:23) express to Jacob Joseph’s complete forgiveness of his brothers?
When Jacob saw these things and heard Joseph’s words, his spirit was “revived.” The text hints at resurrection. Evidently, this is why the sages of Israel chose this week’s haftarah: Ezekiel 37:15-28 (click to read). God promises to join Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and the stick of Judah, to make them as one forever, living under a covenant of peace with Yahweh their Elohim.
By linking Ezekiel’s vision to this week’s Torah reading, the sages demonstrate that they see in the story of Joseph the eventual reunion of all of God’s scattered people. As we demonstrated last week, it appears that Jew and non-Jew are beginning to move towards the reunion.
God calls the dry bones “the whole House of Israel.”(Ezekiel 37:11)
Two weeks ago in Vayeshev, we concluded that the story of Judah and Tamar foreshadows the refusal of the Jewish religious leaders to raise up seed for Ephraim, their dead brother, the “lost sheep” and “scattered” House of Israel. By sending his disciples to the “lost sheep”, Yeshua sent them to raise up seed for their dead brother Ephraim. We noted that Tamar depicts Isaiah’s widowed and barren woman of chapter 54, the dead-and-buried House of Israel.
“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,” says the LORD. “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities. “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. For the LORD has called you like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit, like a wife of youth when she is cast off, says your God. For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD, your Redeemer.(54:1-8)
The family possessions were packed and loaded; but, instead of departing for Egypt, Jacob, instead, directed the caravan to Beersheba. This is where the angel had opened Hagar’s eyes to see a well (21:16). It is where, Abraham had dug a well and, later, after controversy with Abimelech, sealed its ownership by an oath accompanied by the slaughter of seven lambs (21:31). Abraham had dwelt 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).
Jacob would not leave for Egypt without stopping first at Beersheba. After all, Yahweh had told his father, Isaac, NOT to go to Egypt in a time of famine. In spite of all that his sons had told him, Jacob sought confirmation from the “God of his father.”
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).
Note the repeated “Jacob, Jacob…,” another indication of a second fulfillment?
Yahweh promised to accompany the family and reassured Jacob that he had nothing to fear.
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 by the text. Perhaps, we should just take Yahweh at His word and count Him 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 keep the family together in Goshen. 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. Making themselves known to Pharaoh as shepherds would cause him to disdain them. Note that “Egypt,” the world’s system today, still disdains true “shepherds.”
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.” 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 (47:5-10).
Again, we have to ponder the repeated statement, “Jacob blessed Pharaoh.” Does this picture the nations wherein God’s children were scattered and have been living all these years? And, now that we see the blessings being withdrawn, is that an indication that soon, and very soon, we will be leaving for Goshen?
Interestingly, 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 cursing them or complaining about them.
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 famine, thereby foreshadowing the help that we can expect from our Savior in the upcoming time of Jacob’s trouble to all who will trust him.
Note that Joseph gave the family “a possession.” Instead of individual titles to land, the region of Goshen was given to all of Jacob’s children.
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, as Pharaoh’s agent, Joseph centralized the banking system. The text specifically mentions the money of Canaan AND Egypt [read: Israel and the WORLD]. We have a picture of the coming global government. When the money is gone, those who trust in the government 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, leaving the people nothing left to sell but themselves.But, notice, Pharaoh made an exception for the priests.
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)
Joseph established an income for the priesthood and did not require them 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. When we get to the Book of Exodus, we will notice a great curiosity. Moses and Aaron, of the tribe of Levi, seemingly come and go as they please.
For now, let us recall that Shem, who lived until 40 years before Joseph died, operated in the role of High Priest. According to various timelines, 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. We know that God intended Jacob’s entire family to become a nation of priests and kings (Exodus 19:6).
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 assert that Pharaoh did this to establish his undisputed ownership of the property. They even use the High Middle Ages term “serf,” defined in 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.”
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). Human nature being what it is, the children of Israel would not be content with the land given to them. They would ultimately spread out over all 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!
The Immeasurable Gift of Forgiveness
Joseph’s forgiveness changed not only the course of one family; but the course of the entire world. If Joseph had not been in Egypt, the Egyptians would have all perished along with Jacob’s family. Had Joseph not been willing to surrender his hurt, his bitterness, and anger, there would have been no nation of Israel and no Savior born in Bethlehem. As Paul Boese has said, “Forgiveness does not change the past; but it does enlarge the future.”
If you have time, here is a true story of how forgiveness changed the course of the direction of my own family.
And that bring us to the end of this week’s lesson. Beloved, to be able to truly forgive makes us the most blessed people on the planet!
Until next week, shalom!