V’yechi

V’yechi

He lived

Genesis 47:28-50:26
1 Kings 2:1-12

“Blessing Israel”


by Mark Huey

This week, the final parashah for the Book of Genesis is studied, as the period of the Patriarchs and details about the unique family chosen by God to receive His faithful blessings, finally comes to a dramatic close. Here in Genesis’ last three chapters, the similar dying requests of both Jacob/Israel and Joseph, to be buried in the Promised Land, may be said to simply “bookend” the specific blessings that Jacob bestowed upon his immediate progeny. Apparently, belief in the promises of God for the descendants of Abraham and Isaac, for them to multiply and reside in Canaan, was genuine for Jacob and Joseph—or the preferences to be buried among their relatives would not have been a priority. Additionally, the desire to pass on to future generations, some of the blessings received, was of paramount importance to Jacob/Israel. So as we study V’yechi, it is important to consider how we can individually follow the practices and examples of our forebearers in faith—by not only believing in God’s promises, but also in passing God’s blessings down to our own future generations.

V’yechi begins after Jacob and his entourage had relocated to Egypt, to avoid the ravages of the regional famine. His family was well received by the ruling Pharaoh, and they were living in the choice land of Goshen, tending to their herds. The name of our Torah reading comes from its opening verse, where it is recorded that Jacob lived in the land of Egypt. In V’yechi, Jacob/Israel’s time to die was drawing near. He called upon his favored son Joseph, to faithfully return him to the land of his fathers, knowing that Joseph had the authority to make this happen:

“Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years; so the length of Jacob’s life was one hundred and forty-seven years. When the time for Israel to die drew near, he called his son Joseph and said to him, ‘Please, if I have found favor in your sight, place now your hand under my thigh and deal with me in kindness and faithfulness. Please do not bury me in Egypt, but when I lie down with my fathers, you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.’ And he said, ‘I will do as you have said.’ He said, ‘Swear to me.’ So he swore to him. Then Israel bowed in worship at the head of the bed” (Genesis 47:28-31).

Blessing Manasseh and Ephraim

While being returned to the burial grounds of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah was important to Jacob, the desire of Joseph to have his own sons receive the blessing of their grandfather was most crucial to him. Joseph knew the power of blessings from his ancestors. After all, there is an indication that he attempted to retain some connectivity to his forebearers when he significantly named his sons Manasseh and Ephraim, despite their mother being an Egyptian:

“Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, ‘For,’ he said, ‘God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.’ He named the second Ephraim, ‘For,’ he said, ‘God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction’” (Genesis 41:51-52).

Consequently, upon learning that his father Jacob/Israel was sick and about to die, Joseph took his two sons to his father, to seek his blessing upon his sons. But more than receive just a blessing, Jacob/Israel literally adopted them into his family, giving them equal status with their uncles and Joseph. However, another interesting thing occurred when the nearly blind Jacob/Israel went to place his hands upon the heads of Manasseh and Ephraim. He actually crossed his arms, and placed his right hand of blessing upon the head of the younger Ephraim, and his left hand upon the elder Manasseh. This did not go unnoticed by Joseph, who pointed it out to his father. Yet, the Lord ordained these blessings, as Jacob/Israel was simply following the leading of His Holy Spirit:

“Now it came about after these things that Joseph was told, ‘Behold, your father is sick.’ So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim with him. When it was told to Jacob, ‘Behold, your son Joseph has come to you,’ Israel collected his strength and sat up in the bed. Then Jacob said to Joseph, ‘God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and He said to me, “Behold, I will make you fruitful and numerous, and I will make you a company of peoples, and will give this land to your descendants after you for an everlasting possession.” Now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are. But your offspring that have been born after them shall be yours; they shall be called by the names of their brothers in their inheritance. Now as for me, when I came from Paddan, Rachel died, to my sorrow, in the land of Canaan on the journey, when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath; and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).’ When Israel saw Joseph’s sons, he said, ‘Who are these?’ Joseph said to his father, ‘They are my sons, whom God has given me here.’ So he said, ‘Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them.’ Now the eyes of Israel were so dim from age that he could not see. Then Joseph brought them close to him, and he kissed them and embraced them. Israel said to Joseph, ‘I never expected to see your face, and behold, God has let me see your children as well.’ Then Joseph took them from his knees, and bowed with his face to the ground. Joseph took them both, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel’s left, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel’s right, and brought them close to him. But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, crossing his hands, although Manasseh was the firstborn. He blessed Joseph, and said, ‘The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and may my name live on in them, and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.’ When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on Ephraim’s head, it displeased him; and he grasped his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. Joseph said to his father, ‘Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn. Place your right hand on his head.’ But his father refused and said, ‘I know, my son, I know; he also will become a people and he also will be great. However, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.’ He blessed them that day, saying, ‘By you Israel will pronounce blessing, saying, “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!”’ Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh. Then Israel said to Joseph, ‘Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you, and bring you back to the land of your fathers. I give you one portion more than your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow’” (Genesis 48:1-22).

There is something extremely powerful about acknowledging the blessings of any of our predecessors, which was something certainly true for Jacob/Israel and Joseph in ancient times. However, the irony that the younger would be greater than the older must have taken Jacob back to the time when he was in a similar predicament with his older twin brother Esau. He probably recalled the blessings of Isaac, and the fact that once the blessing was uttered and bestowed upon him, it could not be rescinded (Genesis 27:33). Ephraim received the more powerful blessing of his grandfather. Despite a momentary startlement with the disposition of the blessings, Joseph did not protest but simply accepted and embraced the blessings as they were uttered.

Israel Blesses His Sons

In Genesis 49, we see a selection of text that is devoted to relating all of Jacob/Israel’s blessings, to his natural born sons. The prophetic picture of this aged patriarch, proclaiming the blessings and/or prophecies over his sons, is a majestic scene for each of us to contemplate. Imagine your own father or mother, speaking insightful words such as these. Or, perhaps imagine yourself—at sometime in the distant future—declaring words like these to your own children. After decades of watching his sons mature, Israel’s ability to speak prophetically into their lives was set. Without going into the specific statements about each of the sons, note the greater amount of explicit details regarding the future of Judah and Joseph, the two sons who rose to prominence in their generation:

“Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, ‘Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come. Gather together and hear, O sons of Jacob; And listen to Israel your father. Reuben, you are my firstborn; my might and the beginning of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it—he went up to my couch. Simeon and Levi are brothers; their swords are implements of violence. Let my soul not enter into their council; let not my glory be united with their assembly; because in their anger they slew men, and in their self-will they lamed oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; and their wrath, for it is cruel. I will disperse them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel. Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down to you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, and as a lion, who dares rouse him up? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. He ties his foal to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine; he washes his garments in wine, and his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes are dull from wine, and his teeth white from milk. Zebulun will dwell at the seashore; and he shall be a haven for ships, and his flank shall be toward Sidon. Issachar is a strong donkey, lying down between the sheepfolds. When he saw that a resting place was good and that the land was pleasant, he bowed his shoulder to bear burdens, and became a slave at forced labor. Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a horned snake in the path, that bites the horse’s heels, so that his rider falls backward. For Your salvation I wait, O LORD. As for Gad, raiders shall raid him, but he will raid at their heels. As for Asher, his food shall be rich, and he will yield royal dainties. Naphtali is a doe let loose, he gives beautiful words. Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; Its branches run over a wall. The archers bitterly attacked him, and shot at him and harassed him; but his bow remained firm, and his arms were agile, from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), from the God of your father who helps you, and by the Almighty who blesses you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of your father have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; may they be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers. Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, and in the evening he divides the spoil.’ All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them. He blessed them, every one with the blessing appropriate to him” (Genesis 49:1-28).

Much speculation has been compiled, which has been devoted to analyzing these final words of Jacob/Israel directed toward his sons. In fact, when one couples the blessings of Israel found in Genesis 49, with the blessings of Moses to the tribes of Israel found in Deuteronomy 33, one can discern that these great servants of God were given a glimpse of the future—regarding some destiny of the descendants of Israel. Particular attention to the blessings or prophecies uttered toward Judah and Joseph, indicate that these tribes which bear their names would surely have prominence, as can certainly be seen in the Historical Books of the Tanakh.

In the case of Judah, a definite ancestor of Yeshua the Messiah, there appears a statement that the tribe Judah and/or his descendants was going to be in a position of leadership or prominence, at least somehow until His arrival (Genesis 49:10). Yeshua, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, after all, is the quintessential Jew (Revelation 5:5). For Believers in Him, that there is Messianic expectation interwoven into Jacob/Israel’s blessings in Genesis 49, means that we have to exhibit much confidence that all of his pronouncements have been coming to pass over the centuries.

Joseph’s Insight

After the death of Jacob/Israel, the sons of Israel had a genuine fear that Joseph might then take revenge on them, for their heinous acts toward Joseph years earlier. It is here, where we witness a definite contrast between the faith of Joseph and his brothers. Despite seventeen years of living in Goshen, the brothers were still concerned that Joseph might be harboring a grudge toward them. But, Joseph was not only sincere in his actions toward his family, but most critically, he truly understood the circumstances of his extraordinary life from God’s perspective:

“Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, ‘Behold, we are your servants.’ But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? 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. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. Now Joseph stayed in Egypt, he and his father’s household, and Joseph lived one hundred and ten years. Joseph saw the third generation of Ephraim’s sons; also the sons of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were born on Joseph’s knees. Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.’ Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, ‘God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here.’ So Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt” (Genesis 50:18-26).

Joseph was not only used by the Almighty to save his family during the regional famine, but he was also able to see the hand of God upon the incidents that led him to be in the position to save his family. This is a great lesson for each of us to consider when we are disappointed with some of life’s inevitable challenges. When things do not necessarily go as we hoped or expected—but they inadvertently take a turn for what might have seemed the worse at the time—are we able to recognize that God is still sovereign? Can we have enough trust in the Lord to understand that what happens in our lives is a part of His will for each of us? Joseph certainly did, and perhaps, his own brothers might have learned the same life lesson.

Faith and Blessing

So what can we glean from the concluding Torah portion from the Book of Genesis, regarding faith and the power of blessings? We need to each recognize that the Holy One is truly faithful to His chosen vessels. Despite the circumstances of life that might seem difficult, God is faithfully accomplishing His will. If we, as limited mortal humans, could better understand things from His perspective—then we would have the wisdom and discernment to see His fingerprints on all that occurs in life, whether good or bad.

For a reflection back on much of Genesis, we can look and compare the lives of Jacob/Israel and Joseph, and note how each one learned to be faithful to God in very different ways. We can recall how at relatively young ages, they each had encounters with the Almighty through dreams or visions. Yet, we can also see from their personalities that the level of faith was not the same throughout their lives. Still, when the end of their lives came, their faith was quite strong, and they each wanted the blessing of burial in the Promise Land along with their relatives. They each wanted God’s blessings to be passed on to their progeny.

Jacob/Israel and Joseph knew the power of blessings. They not only desired the blessings of their elders, but they also gladly participated in extending blessings to their descendants. For modern-day followers of the Messiah, these examples are something to emulate. However, in order to even want to extend blessings, we each must have faith in the ultimate Provider of blessings. The two go together hand in hand. After all, the Almighty chooses human vessels to extend His blessings to others, but He requires faith as one of the critical ingredients to not only give blessings but also receive them. So, let each of us seek more faith—so that in being blessed with it, we will in turn be able to pass on the blessings we have received from the Lord!

V’yigash

V’yigash

He approached

Genesis 44:18-47:27
Ezekiel 37:15-28

“Positioning for Restoration”


by Mark Huey

This week in V’yigash, the sons of Jacob/Israel finally experience a restoration of their familial relationship, after years of being estranged from their brother Joseph. For the past two Torah readings (V’yeishev: Genesis 37:1-40:23; Mikkeitz: Genesis 41:1-44:17) the emphasis has been principally on the trials of Joseph and his brothers, as the melodrama of their interactions is recorded. However, perceptible behind the scenes of these trying circumstances is the sovereign hand of the Almighty—who executed His faithful plans for His people, despite some of the decisions of the principal actors at this stage in history. After all, the Holy One had issued eternal promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their progeny, and He was simply using these events to accomplish His purposes in His perfect timing.

Up until our own time in the Twenty-First Century, as we have witnessed a tumultuous Twentieth Century with two world wars, the advent of the atomic bomb, the Holocaust, and the rebirth of the State of Israel—this Torah reading asks us questions about the restoration of Israel, which ultimately requires us to place ourselves in the complete control of an Eternal God. The associated Haftarah for V’yigash, Ezekiel 37:15-28, speaks of a greater restoration of Israel, which we have yet to see completed. Yet, the events covered in the readings assigned with V’yigash, and its prophetic foreshadowings or prophetic pronouncements, surely have to be realized before the Second Coming of the Messiah (cf. Acts 3:21).

In recent readings, we have witnessed the selling of Joseph to the Ishmaelite traders, and his cruel and unsure journey from a mere slave to a forgotten prisoner to the pinnacle of power as ruler over Egypt during a regional famine. We have seen the ten brothers sojourn to Egypt in search of food, and return to their father Israel with Simeon still held in captivity by the Egyptians. When the famine persisted, the need to return to Egypt to secure some grain presented itself with a major complication. The need to take Benjamin, the youngest son of Jacob/Israel, was a requirement for gaining a return audience with the demanding Egyptian overseer. This was something that the doting Jacob initially refused to let happen, because of his fear of losing the second and only remaining son of his beloved Rachel. However over the course of time, the contrast between Joseph’s faith in the Holy One, and the brothers’ apparent lack of faith, was changing—as Judah, in particular, was highlighted with a softening conscience and tender heart toward his father Jacob/Israel. In the previous Mikkeitz portion from last week, Judah self-sacrificially secured the permission of Jacob/Israel to take the beloved Benjamin to Egypt to secure the release of Simeon, and get some grain, by offering himself as a surety for the safe return of Benjamin (Genesis 43:9).

From this willingness to essentially sacrifice himself and take blame, Judah had come a considerable way in his personal journey from a conniving brother, who originally suggested to his brothers that they sell Joseph to some traders rather than kill him (Genesis 37:27). Remember how Judah was the one brother who left the family fold to marry a Canaanite woman, with all of the attendant problems with his first three sons. Then, Judah unknowingly impregnated his daughter-in-law with twins, realizing that she was more righteous than he (Genesis 38). Of course, the Lord was using all of these circumstances to work on the heart of Judah, who was destined to not only be one of the leaders of his generation, but also be a significant ancestor of Yeshua the Messiah. God does work in mysterious ways, and reading about the interactions with the sons of Jacob/Israel confirms this concept. As would be described by Isaiah centuries later:

“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it’” (Isaiah 55:8-11).

Note that in these profound words from Isaiah, where he proclaimed the ways and thoughts of God as being so much higher and greater than human thought—there is the affirmation that God’s word will not return to Him empty, but will accomplish all that He desires it to accomplish. We may safely conclude that the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and even to Joseph through his dreams, are going to eventually come to pass according to God’s will.

As we more closely into this week’s Torah reading, keep in mind that the Holy One was accomplishing His purposes for this generation of Israelites, who just happened to be the immediate descendants of Jacob/Israel. Keep in mind that there are many Messianic attributes being portrayed by both Joseph and Judah. These two sons, destined to be the leaders of their generation, were establishing a foundation for varied manifestations of conflict between their descendants down through the ages. Also be quite aware of how the restoration of Israel prophecies, seen in the Haftarah (Ezekiel 37:15-28), will be fulfilled in the Lord’s timing. God’s Word does not return void without accomplishing His desires. His people just have to patiently wait, and go about advancing His Kingdom’s objectives as participants in the restoration process!

Judah Offers His Life

If you will recall, in the closing verses of Mikkeitz from last week, Benjamin had been implicated as the purported thief of Joseph’s choice goblet. This generated serious problems for the brothers, as the return of Benjamin to their father was one of their main objectives, given Jacob’s warning about leaving him behind. So as V’yigash begins, the aforementioned Judah entered into a lengthy detailed verbal defense of Benjamin, with the still-concealed Joseph. At the end of his soliloquy, Judah offered his own life for the life of Benjamin, perhaps foreshadowing the Messiah’s giving of His life to save sinful humanity:

“Then Judah approached him, and said, ‘Oh my lord, may your servant please speak a word in my lord’s ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are equal to Pharaoh. My lord asked his servants, saying, “Have you a father or a brother?” We said to my lord, “We have an old father and a little child of his old age. Now his brother is dead, so he alone is left of his mother, and his father loves him.” Then you said to your servants, “Bring him down to me that I may set my eyes on him.” But we said to my lord, “The lad cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.” You said to your servants, however, “Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you will not see my face again.” Thus it came about when we went up to your servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. Our father said, “Go back, buy us a little food.” But we said, “We cannot go down. If our youngest brother is with us, then we will go down; for we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.” Your servant my father said to us, “You know that my wife bore me two sons; and the one went out from me, and I said, “Surely he is torn in pieces, and I have not seen him since. If you take this one also from me, and harm befalls him, you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.” Now, therefore, when I come to your servant my father, and the lad is not with us, since his life is bound up in the lad’s life, when he sees that the lad is not with us, he will die. Thus your servants will bring the gray hair of your servant our father down to Sheol in sorrow. For your servant became surety for the lad to my father, saying, “If I do not bring him back to you, then let me bear the blame before my father forever.” Now, therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me—for fear that I see the evil that would overtake my father?’” (Genesis 44:18-34).

In this eloquent and heartfelt recital of the various conversations Judah had with Jacob/Israel, regarding Benjamin and Judah’s pledge to lay down his life for Benjamin, Joseph was obviously moved to great emotion.

Joseph Reveals Himself

Now, in what has to be one of the most incredibly moving testimonies found in the Bible. Joseph revealed himself to his brothers. After listening to Judah’s words, and having discerned that Judah was seriously concerned about the welfare of not only Benjamin, but most especially their father Jacob—Joseph was so overwhelmed with emotion that he ordered all of the Egyptians out of the room, and he wept loudly before his brothers. Can you imagine what they must have been thinking, as they witnessed the person with absolute power over their lives, begin to break down emotionally? Without giving the brothers much time to process what they were watching, Joseph turned to them and proclaimed to them that he was Joseph, whom the brothers believed was probably dead by this time:

“Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, ‘Have everyone go out from me.’ So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it. Then 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. Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Please come closer to me.’ And they came closer. And he said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be grieved 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 still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household 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 delay. You shall live in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children and your flocks and your herds and all that you have. There I will also provide for you, for there are still five years of famine to come, and you and your household and all that you have would be impoverished.”’ Behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth which is speaking to you. Now you must tell my father of all my splendor in Egypt, and all that you have seen; and you must hurry and bring my father down here.’ Then he fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. He kissed all his brothers and wept on them, and afterward his brothers talked with him” (Genesis 45:1-15).

God is not only the One who forms hearts, but He is also the most accomplished heart surgeon when it comes to turning hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. Apparently, all of the machinations from the multi-colored tunic, to the placement of Joseph’s wine goblet in Benjamin’s satchel, have all been used by the Almighty to get the attention of the brothers—who must have been awestruck with the realization that the Egyptian viceroy was their brother Joseph. However, the evidence of God’s providential hand upon all of these circumstances did not get overlooked by Joseph. Somehow, through the haze of confusion over how he had been treated by his brothers years earlier, any possible thoughts of revenge, and the time spent thinking about how he was going to approach his brothers, Joseph discerned that the Almighty had put all of these circumstances in motion to preserve the family of Jacob/Israel.

After revealing his true identity, Joseph responded to Judah and his brothers, by interjecting that God was ultimately responsible for all of the circumstances that had transpired since he was sold into slavery. This is an incredible testimony of forgiveness, and the ability to view the trials and tribulations of life from God’s perspective! Naturally, one can see how Joseph is often considered to possess various Messianic qualities, because he was used to physically save Israel. Being rejected by His people, He is the very agency by which they are to be delivered.

The Blessing of Pharaoh

As the narrative continues, the blessings upon the sons of Jacob/Israel do not end. Once the Egyptian Pharaoh heard that Joseph had long lost family living in Canaan, he offered to relocate them to the choicest land in Egypt. Obviously the favor of the Pharaoh toward Joseph was so great, that the common Egyptian aversion toward sheepherders did not keep Pharaoh from his generosity (Genesis 46:34). Take notice in this passage of the amount of wealth and goods sent to Jacob, to convince him that Joseph was alive and prospering in Egypt:

“Now when the news was heard in Pharaoh’s house that Joseph’s brothers had come, it pleased Pharaoh and his servants. Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Say to your brothers, “Do this: load your beasts and go 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 will eat the fat of the land.” Now you are ordered, “Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father and come. Do not concern yourselves with your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.”’ Then the sons of Israel did so; and Joseph gave them wagons according to the command of Pharaoh, and gave them provisions for the journey. To each of them he gave changes of garments, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five changes of garments. To his father he sent as follows: ten donkeys loaded with the best things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain and bread and sustenance for his father on the journey. So he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, ‘Do not quarrel on the journey.’ Then they went up from Egypt, and came to the land of Canaan to their father Jacob. They told him, saying, ‘Joseph is still alive, and indeed he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.’ But he was stunned, for he did not believe them. When they told him all the words of Joseph that he had spoken to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. Then Israel said, ‘It is enough; my son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die’” (Genesis 45:16-28).

There is no recorded description of how the brothers told Jacob about selling their brother Joseph to the Ishmaelite traders. But, one has to assume that the truth did come out in their conversations with Jacob/Israel. Yet, the good news that Joseph was still alive, allowed Jacob to absolve his other sons of their transgressions. For surely, the aged Jacob having heard that Joseph understood that he had been sent to Egypt to save the whole family, must have made sense. After all, Jacob had been through some tough times himself, and he had seen the Lord’s hand on many of the circumstances of his life. Plus, Jacob had experienced multiple encounters with the Holy One over the years.

Perhaps having the opportunity to be reunited with Joseph was the only way that the Lord could get Jacob to even consider leaving Canaan—because Jacob/Israel knew that it was the land of Canaan that was promised to Abraham and Isaac.

Jacob Hears from God

Leaving the Promised Land might jeopardize God’s plan to give it to the descendants of the Patriarchs. What was Jacob to do?

This was a tough predicament for Jacob/Israel to contend with, at this late stage in his life (Genesis 47:9). On his way to Egypt, Jacob arrived in Beersheba, at a place he was very familiar with (Genesis 28:10). It was here that his father Isaac had dug wells and made a covenant with Abimelech (Genesis 26:23-33). So Jacob, knowing that departing Canaan was a difficult move to consider, arrived in Beersheba and offered up sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac—perhaps even on the same altars built years earlier by his ancestors. In God’s mercy to Jacob that night, the Lord spoke to him in visions, giving him the reassurance that going to Egypt was the right thing to be doing with his family. God assured him that He would bring Jacob back to the Land of Promise, but only after Joseph had witnessed his death:

“So Israel set out with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, ‘Jacob, Jacob.’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will close your eyes.’ Then Jacob arose from Beersheba; and the sons of Israel carried their father Jacob and their little ones and their wives in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him. They took their livestock and their property, which they had acquired in the land of Canaan, and came to Egypt, Jacob and all his descendants with him: his sons and his grandsons with him, his daughters and his granddaughters, and all his descendants he brought with him to Egypt” (Genesis 46:1-7).

For the balance of V’yigash, some of the details about the individuals, who migrated and how they were treated by their Egyptian hosts, are recorded (Genesis 46:8-34). However, the introduction of Israel to the Pharaoh is interesting, because at the ripe old age of 130 years, this Hebrew actually blessed the Egyptian ruler twice during their encounter. The favor of the Lord was certainly upon Jacob/Israel and his family, as they were treated with mutual respect, despite the Egyptian disdain for sheepherders:

“Then Joseph went in and told Pharaoh, and said, ‘My father and my brothers and their flocks and their herds and all that they have, have come out of the land of Canaan; and behold, they are in the land of Goshen.’ He took five men from among his brothers and presented them to Pharaoh. Then Pharaoh said to his brothers, ‘What is your occupation?’ So they said to Pharaoh, ‘Your servants are shepherds, both we and our fathers.’ They said to Pharaoh, ‘We have come to sojourn in the land, for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. Now, therefore, please let your servants live in the land of Goshen.’ Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is at your disposal; settle your father and your brothers in the best of the land, let them live in the land of Goshen; and if you know any capable men among them, then put them in charge of my livestock.’ Then Joseph brought his father Jacob and presented him to Pharaoh; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to Jacob, ‘How many years have you lived?’ So Jacob said to Pharaoh, ‘The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and unpleasant have been the years of my life, nor have they attained the years that my fathers lived during the days of their sojourning.’ And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from his presence. So 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 ordered. Joseph provided his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food, according to their little ones” (Genesis 47:1-12).

God’s Faithfulness to Restore Israel

As we prepare to come to the end of the Book of Genesis, and the testimonies about the Patriarchs of Israel, one overwhelming thought comes to my mind. This is the undeniable fact that from Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, and to the sons of Jacob/Israel—the Holy One will accomplish His intentions. Despite any limited human frailties, or any attempts of the enemy of our souls, to thwart God’s plans—His will for civilization will be achieved. Over and over, we can read about how the Almighty intervened at just the right time with a speaking appearance, or a word or a dream or a vision, so that the family chosen by Him would stay on course to achieve their mission. For surely, there is an understanding that despite whatever challenges, as Yeshua the Messiah would explain to His Disciples, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). The Psalmist and the Apostle Paul also affirm,

“The LORD is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6).

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31).

In the case of the sons of Jacob/Israel, the God of Creation had a plan that He was executing, according to His perfect timing. On a much grander scale for the distant future, God is ultimately going to be restored to all people who take refuge in Him at the End of the Age. In the interim, whether it is individual reunions between one person and a loving Creator as salvation is understood and received, or whether it is restoration among families and friends through the power of forgiveness and love, or whether it is the ultimate restoration that Ezekiel foresaw between the House of Judah and the House of Israel/Ephraim—be rest assured that God is very much blessed when restoration occurs. We see emotional glimpses of it when Joseph hugged and wept with his brothers. We see it again when the aged Jacob greeted Joseph after years of separation. Hopefully, you have experienced some restoration in your own life, which will allow you to identify with what you have been studying.

Let us all be about the Father’s business of making restoration, in love, to all who call upon the name of Yeshua (Jesus). It is a part of the plan for the Creation. May we make it a part of our lifestyle as His representatives, sent to love others into the Kingdom!

Mikkeitz

Mikkeitz

At the end

Genesis 41:1-44:17
1 Kings 3:15-4:1

“God Honors Faith”


by Mark Huey

Mikkeitz, which is being considered as the Torah portion for this week, continues the narrative about the life of Joseph in Egypt. Joseph finally realized the manifestation of his dreams about his brothers bowing before him. Since being cast into a pit by his brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt, Joseph had to endure false accusations from Potiphar’s wife, which eventually landed him in an Egyptian jail. Yet, from our previous reading, V’yeishev (Genesis 37:1-40:23), Joseph’s faith, in the “word” he discerned from the dreams he had received as a youth, had “tested” him and continued to keep him looking to the Holy One for guidance and comfort (Psalm 105:19).

As this parashah unfolds, it is Joseph’s God-given ability to interpret dreams that ultimately placed him second to Pharaoh, prior to the Almighty using a regional famine to force the sons of Jacob to travel to Egypt from Canaan in search of food. The underlying irony weaved throughout these circumstances is the apparent lack of faith exhibited by the sons of Jacob, as they encountered their inquisitions before the concealed Joseph. The Psalmist summarized an outline of these events centuries later, as all of these circumstances were designed by the Almighty to eventually teach the brothers wisdom, which culminated in a great trust and faith in Him. They would finally be able to understand that the Lord was ultimately in control of the circumstances of their lives:

“And He called for a famine upon the land; He broke the whole staff of bread. 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 105:16-22).

In turning to our Torah reading, we are once again reminded of the plight of Joseph, as he languished in the jail reserved for the prisoners of Pharaoh and other high ranking officials. From last week’s parashah, Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams had been recognized by the cupbearer, as Joseph accurately interpreted the fatal dream of the baker and the restorative dream of Pharaoh’s wine steward (Genesis 40). However, for two full years, the cupbearer did not honor Joseph’s request to plead for his release from the jail (Genesis 40:14). So, we see how Mikkeitz opens with Pharaoh’s description of a puzzling dream:

“He restored the chief cupbearer to his office, and he put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand; but he hanged the chief baker, just as Joseph had interpreted to them. Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. Now it happened at the end of two full years that Pharaoh had a dream, and behold, he was standing by the Nile” (Genesis 40:21-41:1).

Dreams received and the God-given ability to interpret dreams were a significant part of Joseph’s life, and his specific walk with the Lord. As we later discover (Genesis 41:46), Joseph had spent some thirteen or so years either enslaved or incarcerated in Egypt, and he had not yet realized the dream he had of ruling over his family. Still, when given an opportunity while in jail to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh’s baker and cupbearer, he confidently acknowledged his God as the source of dream interpretations (Genesis 40:8).

After a two year stint continuing to ably serve the chief jailer, another opportunity to seek God for an interpretation of dreams presented itself. This time, the dreams were experienced by the demanding Pharaoh, who reflexively sought an interpretation from his magicians and wise courtiers without any success. Finally as we read, the forgetful cupbearer, possibly seeking favor with Pharaoh after the failure of the wise companions, remembered the Hebrew youth who had properly interpreted his own 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. Then the chief cupbearer spoke to Pharaoh, saying, ‘I would make mention today of my own offenses. Pharaoh was furious with his servants, and he put me in confinement in the house of the captain of the bodyguard, both me and the chief baker. We had a dream on the same night, he and I; each of us dreamed according to the interpretation of his own dream. Now a Hebrew youth was with us there, a servant of the captain of the bodyguard, and we related them to him, and he interpreted our dreams for us. To each one he interpreted according to his own dream. And just as he interpreted for us, so it happened; he restored me in my office, but he hanged him.’ 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 41:8-16).

Once again, without apparent hesitation when asked, Joseph did not take credit for his ability to interpret dreams—but from the onset told Pharaoh that perhaps God would give him the interpretation. Joseph continued to display a consistent reliance upon the God of his fathers, for whatever ability he had been given to interpret dreams. Joseph illustrated the universal principle that God honors those who honor Him, as specifically delineated several centuries later to the Prophet Samuel, and eventually affirmed by Yeshua the Messiah to His Disciples:

“Therefore the LORD God of Israel declares, ‘I did indeed say that your house and the house of your father should walk before Me forever’; but now the LORD declares, ‘Far be it from Me—for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed’” (1 Samuel 2:30).

“If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26).

For the Lord’s Divine purposes, faithful Joseph found himself in a unique position to interpret some dreams that had confounded the wise officials of Egypt. Upon hearing Pharaoh’s description of the disturbing dreams, Joseph confidently told Pharaoh that his two dreams were from God, and promptly stated a God-revealed interpretation, while offering a practical solution to the impending famine:

“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. 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 41:25-44).

In a providential twist, Pharaoh—who was considered to be a god by his subjects—intently listened to the interpretation and advice of Joseph. Contrary to the many societal prejudices toward the Hebrews (Genesis 43:32), Pharaoh concluded that the wise and discerning youth, in whom the “divine spirit” resided, was just the right person to handle the imminent threat to the future of Egypt. Joseph’s faith in the Almighty, and his bold declaration that gave honor to God before the imperial Pharaoh, resulted in God honoring Joseph with positional authority within Egypt second only to the Pharaoh! This is a most-significant example of what happens when one places faith in God—for all of us to consider—especially in contrast to the seemingly faith-starved brothers who sojourned to Egypt, primarily to seek physical sustenance. Yet, the Almighty also had a plan for the other sons of Jacob. In due time, they would eventually recognize the providential hand of the Lord in their encounters, with an “anonymous” Egyptian purveyor of grain—their brother Joseph—who remained a faithful servant of the ultimate Provider.

From this point, Mikkeitz records how Joseph went about his life, administrating Egypt’s food crisis (Genesis 41:47-49), marrying a daughter of an Egyptian priest (Genesis 41:45), and fathering two sons (Genesis 41:50-52).

Dreams Come True

The realization of Joseph’s dreams now come center stage, when his brothers have to make their way down into Egypt, in order to buy food to survive. Joseph’s brothers did not recognize that they were bowing to the brother they once wanted to kill, but instead, sold into slavery. On the other hand, Joseph recognized his brothers, but rather than revealing himself, he decided that he was in an opportune position to take revenge on his brothers if so inclined.

One can only imagine what must have been going through Joseph’s mind and heart as he confronted his needy brothers. If Joseph had been harboring some hatred for his brothers’ actions toward him, this would have been the perfect time for him to execute judgment. However, because Joseph was wise, discerning, and in tune with the will of God—he inherently knew because of his faith in the Lord that vengeance was His. The Almighty had already honored Joseph with incredible favor and power before the Egyptians. What was he to do with these circumstances? Joseph did, initially, speak to his brothers harshly. However, in the back of his mind he had to remember the dreams about his brothers bowing to him, and so he must have wondered how was he to respond to the event finally taking place. So, rather than take immediate forceful action, Joseph decided to use the occasion to have his brothers experience the fear of death—something he had endured years earlier when these very brothers had threatened to kill him. By accusing his brothers of being spies in Egypt—a capital offense justifying certain execution—Joseph was wisely using these circumstances to teach his brothers some life changing lessons:

“Now Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and Jacob said to his sons, ‘Why are you staring at one another?’ He said, ‘Behold, I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down there and buy some for us from that place, so that we may live and not die.’ Then ten brothers of Joseph went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he said, ‘I am afraid that harm may befall him.’ So the sons of Israel came to buy grain among those who were coming, for the famine was in the land of Canaan also. Now Joseph was the ruler over the land; he was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. When Joseph saw his brothers he recognized them, but he disguised himself to them and spoke to them harshly. And he said to them, ‘Where have you come from?’ And they said, ‘From the land of Canaan, to buy food.’ But Joseph had recognized his brothers, although they did not recognize him. Joseph remembered the dreams which he had about them, and said to them, ‘You are spies; you have come to look at the undefended parts of our land.’ Then they said to him, ‘No, my lord, but your servants have come to buy food. We are all sons of one man; we are honest men, your servants are not spies.’ Yet he said to them, ‘No, but you have come to look at the undefended parts of our land!’ But they said, ‘Your servants are twelve brothers in all, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and behold, the youngest is with our father today, and one is no longer alive.’ Joseph said to them, ‘It is as I said to you, you are spies; by this you will be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here! Send one of you that he may get your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you. But if not, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.’ So he put them all together in prison for three days” (Genesis 42:1-17).

In this extraordinary interchange, Joseph had to be struggling with his emotions as he recognized his brothers—while noticing that Benjamin was not among them. But rather than reveal his identity, he put his brothers on the defensive, by claiming that they must be spies searching out the undefended lands of Egypt. The brother’s subject-changing retort indicated that their youngest brother Benjamin was alive, remaining in Canaan with his father. In addition, because they did not know the fate of the brother they had sold into slavery, they assumed that he was dead. Once again, imagine what Joseph must have been thinking when he heard these revelations from his brothers who were passionately attempting to defend themselves. On the other hand, the emotional tables were being turned on the brothers, as the false allegation that they were spies could result in their execution:

“Now Joseph said to them on the third day, ‘Do this and live, for I fear God: if you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined in your prison; but as for the rest of you, go, carry grain for the famine of your households, and bring your youngest brother to me, so your words may be verified, and you will not die.’ And they did so. Then they said to one another, ‘Truly we are guilty concerning our brother, because we saw the distress of his soul when he pleaded with us, yet we would not listen; therefore this distress has come upon us.’ Reuben answered them, saying, ‘Did I not tell you, “Do not sin against the boy”; and you would not listen? Now comes the reckoning for his blood.’ They did not know, however, that Joseph understood, for there was an interpreter between them.  He turned away from them and wept. But when he returned to them and spoke to them, he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes” (Genesis 42:18-24).

Initially, Joseph was going to send one brother to retrieve the youngest brother. But after three days of letting the ten brothers stew and ruminate over their predicament in the prison, the Egyptian prince ironically referenced God when he altered his edict. Joseph’s comment, that he had a “fear of God,” should have been a thought-provoking remark to the brothers—especially since there was a blatant void of references to God on their behalf. Then, in a searching attempt to comprehend their dilemma, the eldest son Reuben spoke to his brothers and directly tied the maltreatment of their brother Joseph to their dire circumstances. Apparently, while in confinement fretting over their personal destiny, the brothers were reminded of their nefarious actions toward Joseph years earlier—and were connecting the two. It appears that the brothers were finally beginning to recognize the consequences of their actions. The measured wheels of eternal justice were beginning to turn—as the brothers’ consciences were being stirred—as the deeply buried thoughts of past actions were being considered, given their current life-threatening situation:

For the remainder of our parashah, the Lord continued to use the judicious decisions of Joseph regarding his brothers, to painstakingly bring his brothers closer to recognizing His providence. Despite the emotional pain of watching and listening to his brothers discuss private matters among themselves—since unbeknownst to his brothers he understood their language—Joseph ventured forth with his objective to teach his brothers a lesson. If revenge was ever in his mind, the thought of restoring his family eventually overwhelmed him, as he had to turn away in order to weep before ordering the incarceration of Simeon, the secondborn son. Nevertheless, the trials of the brothers were just beginning, as God was using Joseph’s actions to get his brother’s attention. This would ultimately reveal to them that the Holy One was in careful control of the affairs of limited, mortal people.

Motivating Fears

Fear of loss is a prime motivator, especially when one senses life-threatening loss. In the case of Joseph’s brothers on their journey back to Canaan, they had to initially consider the loss of Simeon—but upon discovering their money in their satchels, the fear for their own lives became even more paramount. In their trepidation, they wondered what had been happening to them, an indication that they were beginning to view things with God somehow being involved in their affairs. In fact, given their new predicament that would have turned them from not only being spies but also thieves—they were starting to understand that there were consequences for their sinful actions, whether actual or perceived. The Lord was definitely using these events to get their collective attention. But to complicate matters, the brothers were going to have to convey all that had happened during their trip to Egypt to their father Jacob, who continued to grieve over the loss of Joseph years earlier:

“Then Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain and to restore every man’s money in his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. And thus it was done for them. So they loaded their donkeys with their grain and departed from there. As one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money; and behold, it was in the mouth of his sack. Then he said to his brothers, ‘My money has been returned, and behold, it is even in my sack.’ And their hearts sank, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, ‘What is this that God has done to us?’ When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them, saying, ‘The man, the lord of the land, spoke harshly with us, and took us for spies of the country.  But we said to him, “We are honest men; we are not spies. We are twelve brothers, sons of our father; one is no longer alive, and the youngest is with our father today in the land of Canaan.” The man, the lord of the land, said to us, ‘By this I will know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me and take grain for the famine of your households, and go. But bring your youngest brother to me that I may know that you are not spies, but honest men. I will give your brother to you, and you may trade in the land.’” Now it came about as they were emptying their sacks, that behold, every man’s bundle of money was in his sack; and when they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were dismayed. Their father Jacob said to them, ‘You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and you would take Benjamin; all these things are against me.’ Then Reuben spoke to his father, saying, ‘You may put my two sons to death if I do not bring him back to you; put him in my care, and I will return him to you.’ But Jacob said, ‘My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should befall him on the journey you are taking, then you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow’” (Genesis 42:25-38).

Now to heap additional worries on Jacob after the loss of Joseph, the news that Simeon was in custody—coupled with the potential loss of Benjamin if the brothers were ever going to extricate Simeon from jail—was too much to bear. In a sign that the brothers were beginning to mature and take responsibility for their actions, Reuben spoke up and offered a rather bizarre hyperbolic prescription to his father Jacob for taking Benjamin to Egypt, in order to secure the release of Simeon. Obviously, the trade of killing two grandsons for a son was beyond the pale, figuratively speaking. Jacob categorically rejected the offer, but reminded his sons that his grief continued for his favored son Joseph. Certainly by this point in the account, all of the brothers were dealing with their consciences over the actions that had been taken years ago—but the recognition that God was involved in these matters, was beginning to seep into their thoughts.

Judah Emerges

There is one thing about God that is consistent: when He has a use for someone in His Kingdom’s work, He never lets up on the crucible of affliction, until His chosen vessel is properly formed for His usage. In the case of the brothers who would father the nation of Israel, the trials with the regional famine in Canaan did not cease, and consequently, they were once again forced by the lack of sustenance to venture back to Egypt in need of food. However, since they knew that the demanding Egyptian viceroy meant what he said about their younger brother, they were forced to compel their father Jacob to allow Benjamin to travel with them against Jacob’s will. To complicate matters, the sons were also concerned that they would be considered thieves, because the money they had originally taken to Egypt the first time was surreptitiously placed back in their sacks.

The fear of retribution by the Egyptians for what appeared to be outright theft was a given. As a result of these challenges, it is interesting to note that the emergence of Judah, as a spokesperson and leader for his generation, commenced in full earnest. Genesis ch. 43 details the second journey to Egypt, and specifically records the dialogue between Judah and Jacob (now referenced as Israel), as the critical need for food for his entire family must have overcome Israel’s fear of losing Benjamin to the Egyptians:

“Now the famine was severe in the land. So it came about when they had finished eating the grain which they had brought from Egypt, that their father said to them, ‘Go back, buy us a little food.’ Judah spoke to him, however, saying, ‘The man solemnly warned us, “You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.” If you send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food. But if you do not send him, we will not go down; for the man said to us, “You will not see my face unless your brother is with you.”’ Then Israel said, ‘Why did you treat me so badly by telling the man whether you still had another brother?’ But they said, ‘The man questioned particularly about us and our relatives, saying, “Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?” So we answered his questions. Could we possibly know that he would say, “Bring your brother down”?’ Judah said to his father Israel, ‘Send the lad with me and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, we as well as you and our little ones. I myself will be surety for him; you may hold me responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame before you forever. For if we had not delayed, surely by now we could have returned twice.’ Then their father Israel said to them, ‘If it must be so, then do this: take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds. Take double the money in your hand, and take back in your hand the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks; perhaps it was a mistake. Take your brother also, and arise, return to the man; and may God Almighty grant you compassion in the sight of the man, so that he will release to you your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved” (Genesis 43:1-14).

The earlier proposal to offer Reuben’s two sons had fallen upon deaf ears (Genesis 42:37), so Judah had to reiterate the need to bring Benjamin to Egypt, in order to at least secure an audience with the Egyptian viceroy. Finally, after reviewing what must have been discussed multiple times with Israel, Judah offered to take full responsibility for the safe travels and return of Benjamin to Canaan. In the event that did not occur, then Judah would take the blame permanently. Apparently, whatever was said given the circumstances, Israel conceded to Judah’s request, and Israel advised that the brothers take double the money and a number of local delicacies to perhaps assuage the demands of the Egyptian prince holding Simeon. Finally, the elderly Israel implored God Almighty to have the Egyptian overlord grant compassion on the brothers and release not only Simeon, but allow the safe return of Benjamin.

After all these years detailing the lives of Jacob and his sons, we as readers are finally finding a mention of the Lord by him. This indicates that Jacob/Israel surely called upon the God of his fathers, for help in trying circumstances. But, this was something that was sorely missing from his sons’ actions recorded. The sons of Jacob/Israel returned to Egypt, and they followed their father’s advice:

“So the men took this present, and they took double the money in their hand, and Benjamin; then they arose and went down to Egypt and stood before Joseph. When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to his house steward, ‘Bring the men into the house, and slay an animal and make ready; for the men are to dine with me at noon.’ So the man did as Joseph said, and brought the men to Joseph’s house. Now the men were afraid, because they were brought to Joseph’s house; and they said, ‘It is because of the money that was returned in our sacks the first time that we are being brought in, that he may seek occasion against us and fall upon us, and take us for slaves with our donkeys.’ So they came near to Joseph’s house steward, and spoke to him at the entrance of the house, and said, ‘Oh, my lord, we indeed came down the first time to buy food, and it came about when we came to the lodging place, that we opened our sacks, and behold, each man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full. So we have brought it back in our hand. We have also brought down other money in our hand to buy food; we do not know who put our money in our sacks.’ He said, ‘Be at ease, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks; I had your money.’ Then he brought Simeon out to them. Then the man brought the men into Joseph’s house and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their donkeys fodder. So they prepared the present for Joseph’s coming at noon; for they had heard that they were to eat a meal there. When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present which was in their hand and bowed to the ground before him. Then he asked them about their welfare, and said, ‘Is your old father well, of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?’ They said, ‘Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.’ They bowed down in homage. As he lifted his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, he said, ‘Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me?’ And he said, ‘May God be gracious to you, my son.’ Joseph hurried out for he was deeply stirred over his brother, and he sought a place to weep; and he entered his chamber and wept there. Then he washed his face and came out; and he controlled himself and said, ‘Serve the meal.’ So they served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat bread with the Hebrews, for that is loathsome to the Egyptians. Now they were seated before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth, and the men looked at one another in astonishment. He took portions to them from his own table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. So they feasted and drank freely with him” (Genesis 43:15-34).

Here, we see that Joseph was continuing to conceal his identity, as God was continuing to administer life-altering lessons to his brothers through Joseph’s decisions. After receiving his brothers as welcomed traders, then releasing Simeon and finding out that his father remained in good health, it is noted that the brothers continued to bow in the presence of Joseph. Their fear of potential conflict remained in their minds.

The most dramatic moment is recorded shortly after Joseph saw his younger brother Benjamin, after years of separation. The long-sought reunion, not yet completed with Joseph revealing his identity, describes the deep emotional aspects of Joseph’s character. Within a few minutes of seeing his brother, Joseph had to remove himself from the group and consoled himself after a period of weeping. Joseph has had a significant period of time to dwell on what he was going to do with his brothers if and when they returned to Egypt. Now that Benjamin was with them, there were some hints extended that reveal some distinct preference for the youngest brother. After serving his brothers and giving Benjamin five times the portion of others, the brothers are at apparent ease with the man who had the power to determine their fate.

The Benjamin Test

The final turn of events, which brought the brothers to the point of emotional exhaustion, is captured in the concluding section of Mikkeitz. Here, we find that Joseph had one more ruse to play on his brothers—in order to determine if they were truly repentant for the actions they had taken over the years, to lie to their father Jacob/Israel about his being sold into slavery. Joseph knew that his brothers, were very concerned about the welfare of their youngest brother Benjamin. Joseph was aware that his father continued to grieve for not only him, but also feared the loss of Benjamin. Somehow, Joseph knew that testing his brothers with the loss of Benjamin, was just the right move to bring them to their knees before the Lord. So, an opportunity presented itself, with the blame placed on Benjamin for the theft of his cup—as Joseph had his house steward arrange the circumstances:

“Then he commanded his house steward, saying, ‘Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in the mouth of his sack. Put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, and his money for the grain.’ And he did as Joseph had told him. As soon as it was light, the men were sent away, they with their donkeys. They had just gone out of the city, and were not far off, when Joseph said to his house steward, ‘Up, follow the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, “Why have you repaid evil for good? Is not this the one from which my lord drinks and which he indeed uses for divination? You have done wrong in doing this.”’ So he overtook them and spoke these words to them. They said to him, ‘Why does my lord speak such words as these? Far be it from your servants to do such a thing. Behold, the money which we found in the mouth of our sacks we have brought back to you from the land of Canaan. How then could we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house? With whomever of your servants it is found, let him die, and we also will be my lord’s slaves.’ So he said, ‘Now let it also be according to your words; he with whom it is found shall be my slave, and the rest of you shall be innocent.’ Then they hurried, each man lowered his sack to the ground, and each man opened his sack. He searched, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest, and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. Then they tore their clothes, and when each man loaded his donkey, they returned to the city. When Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, he was still there, and they fell to the ground before him. Joseph said to them, ‘What is this deed that you have done? Do you not know that such a man as I can indeed practice divination?’ 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.’ But he said, ‘Far be it from me to do this. The man in whose possession the cup has been found, he shall be my slave; but as for you, go up in peace to your father’” (Genesis 44:1-17).

When the discovery was made that Benjamin had Joseph’s goblet in his sack, the brothers were mortified—and to display their concern, they tore their garments. Not only were they going to lose the company of Benjamin, but the added worry of reporting this to Jacob/Israel totally overwhelmed them with grief. Judah, who had now become the recognized speaker for the group, confessed before the angry Joseph that they were collectively speechless without any excuses whatsoever. But interestingly in the maturation of Judah, he concluded that God had found out the iniquity of the brothers.

Since the iniquity of the brothers was not thievery—because the purported thefts were not valid—was Judah referring to the act years earlier of selling their brother Joseph into slavery? The guilt and shame of those actions could surely bring forth the punishment that they justifiably deserved. Judah was beside himself, but he had to conclude that God was finally bringing justice to fruition. The added knowledge, that Judah had promised a safe return of Benjamin to his father, had to drive him into despair.

Joseph actually gave Judah and his brothers a little cynical relief, by stating that the only person, who needed to be retained as a slave, was the one who had his goblet. Obviously, because this directed the punishment upon Benjamin, the brothers were overwhelmed with emotions, which led to a resolution that only a Sovereign God could have arranged. Our Torah portion abruptly ends with no stated solution.

God Honors Faith

Mikkeitz offers Torah students and readers a contrast to consider, between Joseph and his brothers, as the Holy One used the forced enslavement of Joseph and the excursions of the sons of Jacob into Egypt—to depict how different individuals react to life circumstances. Behind the scenes, He accomplished His will. Later, Joseph would be able to tell his brothers, that “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 50:20). However, when presented life challenges are witnessed in Mikkeitz, we have to let the story build, and steadily crescendo as Joseph will eventually reveal himself to his brothers who sold him away.

As we read and contemplate what has been recorded for our instruction, we can either seek to follow the example of faithful Joseph, who had a genuine fear of the Lord honoring Him throughout his life—or follow the complicated examples of his brothers, who through other situations had to painstakingly learn that God was ultimately in control. In the case of Joseph, he was not only honored by his contemporaries, but most importantly is permanently honored by the Holy One as the unique person chosen to save Israel from the regional famine. On the other hand, the brothers were fulfilling their supporting roles as sons of Jacob/Israel, but they are not necessarily all remembered for great feats of trust in God.

In your meditations this week, consider the different choices made by each brother and the results of their choices. Hopefully, we will all choose to follow the example of Joseph, who saved Israel. Ultimately, whether millennia ago or the decisions we make every day—choices have not only temporal consequences, but eternal ones as well. The ultimate choice we must all make is to acknowledge the Savior of Israel, Yeshua the Messiah, who grants us eternal salvation and cleansing from all sins and faithless acts!