At the end
“Remembering God’s Favor”
1 Kings 3:15-4:1
by Mark Huey
This week our Torah portion concentrates on the continuing trials and tribulations of Joseph, the dreaming son of Jacob, who was positioned by the Holy One to be the means of deliverance for his family. Throughout Mikkeitz, we are informed of how God may use dreams and visions to communicate various things regarding future events to His people. The passage also illuminates the interactions between Joseph and his siblings, with different episodes that reveal how the Lord will use these vivid circumstances to mold the successive generations into a nation of priests for His own possession (cf. Exodus 19:6).
As you consider the various interactions recorded in this parashah, it is apparent that the Almighty is intimately involved in the minutest details of the different exchanges. You realize that Joseph, the principal actor in this familial drama, received God’s favor and peace as a direct result of his pleasing ways. Torah students can once again be reminded that, like Joseph—if we walk in obedience to God and are sensitive to His direction—we can also receive His blessings.
With the continuing narrative of Genesis largely focusing on Joseph in Mikkeitz, his godly character is further revealed. We should remember that as a young man Joseph had some rather impressive dreams that, when shared with his brothers, did not exactly win him some admirers (Genesis 37:1-11). In fact, as we should all remember from last week’s Torah portion, V’yeishev (Genesis 37:1-40:23), when he told his brothers about his revelation—their jealousy and wrath toward him was exacerbated:
“Then Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more” (Genesis 37:5).
Now as we continue to learn more about Joseph, we should be increasingly convinced that he, through his chronicled actions, in many ways exemplified the type of character that is most pleasing to the Holy One. Remember that Joseph had a very unique relationship with and deep awe for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This was clearly evidenced when the temptation came to have relations with Potiphar’s wife:
“And it came about after these events that his master’s wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, ‘Lie with me.’ But he refused and said to his master’s wife, ‘Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge. There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil, and sin against God?’” (Genesis 39:7-9).
Joseph refused the offer to sleep with Potiphar’s wife, and the consequences of her lies, about him trying to rape her, sent him to jail under false pretenses (Genesis 39:14-20). Here was a “man of God” who did the right thing, and yet he suffered the injustice of prejudicial lies. Many readers at this point in the account begin to marvel at the righteousness of Joseph, often because there is no record given of Joseph trying to defend himself.
We do see, however, that Joseph was given great favor when he was imprisoned (Genesis 39:21-23). Joseph was later given the ability to interpret dreams (Genesis 40), and was actually called upon to interpret the dreams of the Egyptian Pharaoh (Genesis 41:1-37). Joseph’s servitude, be it as a slave or as a prisoner, was only something that was temporary—in order to prepare him and position him for what was to come.
Release from Captivity
At the beginning of Mikkeitz, the Egyptian Pharaoh has a very perplexing dream about seven fat cows and seven sick cows, and seven plump ears of grain and seven withered ears of grain. This dream was so provoking that the Pharaoh’s various magicians and counselors did not know what to do with it:
“Now it happened at the end of two full years that Pharaoh had a dream, and behold, he was standing by the Nile. And lo, from the Nile there came up seven cows, sleek and fat; and they grazed in the marsh grass. Then behold, seven other cows came up after them from the Nile, ugly and gaunt, and they stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. The ugly and gaunt cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. Then Pharaoh awoke. He fell asleep and dreamed a second time; and behold, seven ears of grain came up on a single stalk, plump and good. Then behold, seven ears, thin and scorched by the east wind, sprouted up after them. The thin ears swallowed up the seven plump and full ears. Then Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream. Now in the morning his spirit was troubled, so he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all its wise men. And Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them to Pharaoh” (Genesis 41:1-8).
The Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer, interestingly enough, told him that there was a Hebrew youth in prison, who relayed his own dreams to him accurately, who might be able to help (Genesis 41:9-13). The Pharaoh called for this young man, Joseph, explaining his dilemma. Joseph said that only his God could give Pharaoh the answer he needed:
“Then Pharaoh sent and called for Joseph, and they hurriedly brought him out of the dungeon; and when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came to Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I have had a dream, but no one can interpret it; and I have heard it said about you, that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.’ Joseph then answered Pharaoh, saying, ‘It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer’” (Genesis 41:14-16).
The Pharaoh recounted his dream to Joseph about the fat and sick cows (Genesis 41:17-21) and the plump and withered ears of grain (Genesis 41:22-24). Joseph explained the meaning of the dream to Pharaoh, and how seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine would come to Egypt. Within his explanation was a solution for making sure that Egypt survived the lean time that would be coming:
“Now Joseph said to Pharaoh, ‘Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; God has told to Pharaoh what He is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one and the same. The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven thin ears scorched by the east wind will be seven years of famine. It is as I have spoken to Pharaoh: God has shown to Pharaoh what He is about to do. Behold, seven years of great abundance are coming in all the land of Egypt; and after them seven years of famine will come, and all the abundance will be forgotten in the land of Egypt, and the famine will ravage the land. So the abundance will be unknown in the land because of that subsequent famine; for it will be very severe. Now as for the repeating of the dream to Pharaoh twice, it means that the matter is determined by God, and God will quickly bring it about. Now let Pharaoh look for a man discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers in charge of the land, and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance. Then let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and store up the grain for food in the cities under Pharaoh’s authority, and let them guard it. Let the food become as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land will not perish during the famine.’ Now the proposal seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his servants” (Genesis 41:25-37).
Joseph pointed Pharaoh to his God as the Source of the answer to his dilemma and confusion (Genesis 41:16, 28). He did not try to take credit for himself. In response to his interpretation of the dream and the advice given to Pharaoh, the young Hebrew Joseph was actually appointed his viceroy responsible for implementing the plan of rescue for Egypt, and ultimately much of the known world. Joseph became second only to the Pharaoh in all of Egypt:
“Then Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find a man like this, in whom is a divine spirit?’ So Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you.’ Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.’ Then Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put the gold necklace around his neck. He had him ride in his second chariot; and they proclaimed before him, ‘Bow the knee!’ And he set him over all the land of Egypt. Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Though I am Pharaoh, yet without your permission no one shall raise his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt’” (Genesis 41:38-44).
Are we at all recognizing a pattern? Joseph did not fall into temptation, in spite of the difficulties that he had endured. When given the opportunity, he gave God all the credit for not only the dreams, but also the ability to interpret the dreams. Joseph’s reward was being promoted to the second most powerful ruler in Egypt. Even Pharaoh recognized that within Joseph was the presence of the “divine spirit” (Genesis 41:38). While Joseph had the favor of the Pharaoh, he only had it because he more importantly had the favor of God. Clearly, Joseph had a very intimate relationship with God, and it was his natural and innate desire to give Him all of the glory. The pagan Egyptians present acknowledged that this Hebrew was surely one who was unique!
Joseph as Pharaoh’s Right Hand Man
Joseph’s life pattern of giving God all of the credit did not depart as he wielded the power given to him in Egypt. When he was given a wife (Genesis 41:45-47) and he named his sons, he gave them names with the thoughts of God being preeminent in his mind:
“And Joseph named the first-born Manasseh, ‘For,’ he said, ‘God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.’ And he named the second Ephraim, ‘For,’ he said, ‘God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction’” (Genesis 41:51-52).
Manasseh and Ephraim were both names that describe the actions which Joseph attributed to his relationship with God. First, in the name Manasseh or Menasheh, his firstborn son, he gave God credit for allowing him to forget and probably forgive the issues between him and his siblings. Next, he declared, in the name of Efrayim his second son, that it was God who made him fruitful in the land of his affliction. By naming his two sons these things—sons which he had surely not expected to ever have—one can see how Joseph was cognizant that God was intimately involved in his life. Years later, he confronted his brothers about why they had not brought their youngest brother into Egypt, and made this declaration:
“Do this and live, for I fear God” (Genesis 42:18).
Here is a statement that reflected what was in Joseph’s heart. He had a genuine fear of God. While older and wiser, the original young dreamer who now witnessed the realization of his dreams was still the same Joseph. When the famine hit, and Joseph’s brothers had to travel to Egypt in order to purchase some grain, it was Joseph with whom they had to negotiate (Genesis 42:1-44:17). While there are some unique circumstances here, including Joseph’s own ploy to see the youngest brother Benjamin brought to Egypt (Genesis 42:13-15, 19-20; 43:29), things were being orchestrated so that he could reveal himself to his brothers at the right time. In the past, Joseph had made the hasty mistake of immediately telling his brothers about his vision, incurring their jealousy (Genesis 37:5-11). Now, with the direction of the Lord, Joseph was in control of the circumstances, waiting to show himself as the eleven brothers’ long lost sibling.
As the Psalmist would describe it centuries later, two things occurred in Joseph life. First, Joseph had to witness the personal tests of God, before he was able to experience the fulfillment of the words or the dreams that he had received. Secondly, Joseph was able to be positioned to teach his elder brothers some wisdom (cf. Psalm 110:10):
“He sent a man before them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. They afflicted his feet with fetters, He himself was laid in irons; until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him. The king sent and released him, the ruler of peoples, and set him free. He made him lord of his house, and ruler over all his possessions, to imprison his princes at will, that he might teach his elders wisdom” (Psalm 105:17-22).
Joseph used his powerful position in Egypt to steadily bring his brothers into a recognition that the God of their father Jacob/Israel was indeed involved in the minutest of details regarding the affairs of humanity. Many in Joseph’s office of leadership would have likely seen their former enemies—brothers or not—tortured and painfully executed. Joseph did not at all do this. As Joseph taught his brothers great lessons about the benefits of sibling love, Judah emerged as the spokesperson and leader of his generation. When the crisis over Benjamin purportedly “stealing” the cup for divination erupted (Genesis 44:1-15), it was Judah who verbalized the omniscience of God in these circumstances:
“So Judah said, ‘What can we say to my lord? What can we speak? And how can we justify ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants; behold, we are my lord’s slaves, both we and the one in whose possession the cup has been found’” (Genesis 44:16).
It was at this point that Judah, who originally and most ironically suggested that Joseph be sold into slavery and not killed (Genesis 37:26-27), completely established himself as the one brother willing to give his life for his brother Benjamin. We know from later Biblical history that the tribe of Judah was not only that from which King David was born, but also the Messiah Yeshua Himself. Of course, the willingness to offer one’s life for another is ultimately—and most importantly realized—in our Lord Yeshua who gave His life for all (cf. John 15:13).
At Peace with Your Enemies
We understand in more detail from future Torah readings that Joseph was indeed a very wise and merciful man, who in spite of the challenges he faced in early life, had great peace with those who had done him harm. Whether it was his brothers, Potiphar’s wife, the forgetful cupbearer, or any of the Egyptian officials who might have been jealous of a Hebrew being placed in such a powerful position—the Biblical text indicates that for the most part, Joseph’s enemies were at peace with him and his life was persevered. I know that I am reminded of a later proverb, which asserts a very profound principle about how the Lord responds to those whose ways please Him:
“When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7).
Is this not what we read has happened to Joseph? Joseph’s obedient ways pleased the Lord, and as a result His favor was bestowed upon him as his enemies were at relative peace with him. In next week’s Torah portion, V’yigash (Genesis 44:18-47:27), we will see how Joseph actually does reveal his true identity to his estranged siblings, and there was reconciliation. This week, however, it is rather striking how the pagan king of Egypt—regarded as a god no less—seemingly capitulated to the wisdom granted to Joseph by the True King of Kings.
Looking at Mikkeitz’ associated Haftarah (1 Kings 3:15-4:1), we are directed to another dreaming man who had great wisdom and who was also declared pleasing in the sight of the Lord. Just before Solomon dealt wisely with the two prostitutes, with one of them who had lost her son (1 Kings 3:16-28), the testimony of Solomon’s request for discernment and the ability to understand justice, is recalled:
“And it was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice, behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you. And I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days. And if you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days.’ Then Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream” (1 Kings 3:10-15).
Of course, from our knowledge about the history of Solomon’s rule, we are reminded that the united nation of Israel was at peace with its enemies. Once again, the pleasing ways of Solomon, at least before he began walking after other idols and gods (cf. 1 Kings 11:4), allowed the Holy One to keep Solomon and Israel largely at peace with its national enemies during his reign.
Favor and Peace
What is it we can learn from this week’s Torah portion that can be directly applied to our own walk with the Messiah of Israel? How about the simple axiom that Joseph learned the ways of peace, as he conducted his life in accordance with the will of God? When he lived in a way that pleased His Creator and gave Him all the glory and credit, Joseph received His favor and had peace with his enemies.
Is it possible that God’s favor and peace are available to all of His children? Most assuredly they are! But God’s favor and peace are most likely to be granted upon His children when they are obedient to His Word and they truly are thankful for the life He has given them.
If one strays from obedience, as Solomon did later in his life, the consequences of disobedience can have devastating results. Instead, one should be encouraged that righteous people like Joseph have modeled for us the right example of faithfulness. Today, many of us may be able to identify with someone like Joseph who had many challenges in his life. In spite of the pain of sibling rejection and being sold into slavery, to the injustice of false accusations that resulted in imprisonment for two years—Joseph remained faithful to his God. Somehow throughout all of the tests and trials, he inherently knew that the relationship he had with the Creator was most important.
Joseph understood God and he loved God. Through it all, Joseph realized that God had appointed him for His Divine purposes—so that at the end of his life, he could deliver this testimony regarding what he saw God doing with him, through all the events he experienced:
“But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive’” (Genesis 50:19-20).
Hopefully, each of us can gain this type of perspective as we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (cf. Philippians 2:12). Perhaps, when we encounter various tests and trials, we will be able to choose to handle the circumstances of life in an obedient way that pleases the Holy One of Israel. In doing so, then similar to Joseph, we will be able to receive the favor and peace with our enemies that results from walking obediently and faithfully in His ways.
May we joyfully give the Father all the praise, honor, and glory that He deserves for His mercy toward us. May the Lord be blessed for the favor and peace He grants us!
 Heb. Ruach Elohim.