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!

V’yeishev

V’yeishev

He continued living

Genesis 37:1-40:23
Amos 2:6-3:8

“A Dream-Based Faith”


by Mark Huey

The testimonies of the lives of Abraham’s descendants continue this week in our Torah reading, as V’yeishev turns from a considerable focus on the Patriarch Jacob, to a more explicit look at the generation of sons whom he raised. Particular attention is directed toward Jacob’s favored son Joseph with Rachel, who began to take prominence among his brothers. We also see some time spent detailing the various trials and exploits of Judah, Jacob’s fourthborn son with Leah. The contrasts between these two sons, who eventually become the leaders of their generation, are recorded to reveal how their respective walks with the Holy One were influenced and molded by the actions they took, in the circumstances of life that they individually encountered.

From a modern-day Messianic perspective, we recognize the foreshadowing of the Messiah Yeshua in the life of righteous Joseph, who was destined to save Israel, and we witness some of the character flaws that must be changed in the life of Judah, who was the direct ancestor of the Lion of Judah. Interestingly, two underlying themes, of murder and adultery, permeate a great deal of V’yeishev, and should be noted. These two vile sins, which originate in the heart and mind, were addressed in the First Century by Yeshua, as He elevated righteousness to more than mere actions (cf. Matthew 5-7). But before considering Yeshua’s teaching, let us review how a dream-based faith can instill a fear of the Lord, resulting in righteous living!

For Torah students seeking to understand how the Lord God is intimately involved in all of the situations of life, our Torah portion for this week is especially instructive. After all, this unique family chosen by God to pass on the blessings bestowed to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—has serious challenges—just like every family that has ever existed. But because God is sovereign in the affairs of humanity, He is always able to work through the actions of individuals to accomplish His will.

If you will recall from last week’s reading, V’yishlach (Genesis 32:3-36:43), Jacob, who had been renamed Israel, had finally made his way south from Shechem through Bethel to the region around Hebron, where he pastured his large flocks of livestock over a considerable area. Israel had been blessed mightily with twelve sons and a daughter, despite the saddening loss of his beloved Rachel while she was delivering their youngest son Benjamin on the journey.

When we arrive at this week’s reading, V’yeishev, a number of years have passed. The narrative continues with a description of Joseph, now seventeen, interacting with his jealous siblings. The loss of Rachel had bereaved Jacob/Israel to the point of blatantly favoring Joseph, the firstborn son of his beloved wife, over his other brothers. Jacob gave Joseph a special garment, and had served as his scout, able to report on the activities of his brothers. This had some serious consequences, as we encounter a description of the animosity that had built up between the brothers—especially when the naive Joseph began to relay the dreams God had given him. These were not taken too well by his fellow brothers, being interpreted as a sign of his superiority:

“Now Jacob lived in the land where his father had sojourned, in the land of Canaan. These are the records of the generations of Jacob. Joseph, when seventeen years of age, was pasturing the flock with his brothers while he was still a youth, along with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought back a bad report about them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic. His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms. Then Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said to them, ‘Please listen to this dream which I have had; for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf rose up and also stood erect; and behold, your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf.’ Then his brothers said to him, ‘Are you actually going to reign over us? Or are you really going to rule over us?’ So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. Now he had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, ‘Lo, I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.’ He related it to his father and to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, ‘What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?’ His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind (Genesis 37:1-11).

Sibling rivalry has existed from antiquity, and is not new to us as modern people. Scripturally recorded evidence of sibling rivalry goes back to Cain and Abel, and in the past few Torah portions we have witnessed the examples of Ishmael and Isaac, and Esau and Jacob. The twelve sons of Israel, from four different mothers, certainly presented a complicated family situation.

The natural jealousies over birth order, as we read, were exacerbated by the children witnessing an obvious preference by Jacob for one wife’s children over the others. In this case, Jacob definitely favored the firstborn son of Rachel above his other sons. Not only had Jacob given Joseph a multi-colored tunic that set him apart from his brothers, but he was also having Joseph report on their activities as they pastured the herds. The resentment was evident as Joseph’s brothers began to harbor murderous hatred for Joseph. One can only imagine the derisive comments and conversations that must have taken place between the sons, who were either consciously or unconsciously seeking the adoration and approval of their father. However, by the time Jacob’s family was settled in the Hebron area, the sought approval of Jacob of his other sons was already eroding because of previous actions taken by the first three sons of Leah. Remember that Jacob/Israel was aware that his firstborn son Reuben had a sexual encounter with Bilpah (Genesis 35:22). Additionally, the murderous actions led by Simeon and Levi against the Shechemites had disturbed Jacob greatly, and put his entire family at risk, initiating the move south (Genesis 34:30). With these contemptuous actions having stigmatized the family, V’yeishev concentrates on the life of Joseph, the firstborn son of Rachel, and to a lesser extent Judah, the fourth son of Leah.

Joseph’s Dreams

Inspired dreams and visions are some of the ways that the Lord has communicated to the forbearers of our faith, as we have noted earlier in the life of Jacob, when he had a dream-vision on his sojourn to Paddan-aram at Bethel (Genesis 28:12-17). To a wide extent, the accounts of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s interactions with the Almighty, just have been known to Jacob’s sons. Joseph obviously believed that his two dreams were inspired by the God of his fathers, because for the balance of his life, these dreams and a steadfast fear of the Lord absolutely influenced his actions. A statement made in the Book of Psalms indicates that the very “word” which Joseph received in his dreams, “tested him,” until he recognized the fulfillment of his dreams as viceroy of Egypt when his brothers bowed before him (Genesis 42:6):

“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” (Psalm 105:6-19).

At some point in time as his brothers went about their business tending to flocks, Joseph had several inspiring dreams, which he immodestly recounted to them and his father. Joseph was only seventeen years old, when in a degree of tactlessness, he simply relayed what he must have thought to be Divinely inspired dreams. It is obvious by the reactions to his descriptions, that Joseph was inadvertently conveying that one day he was going to rule over his brothers. These revelations incensed Joseph’s jealous brothers to the point of wanting to murder him, and rid themselves of the “favored” son. But as we read, the conspiracy among the brothers was avoided as Reuben, and then Judah, intervene with alternative ways to keep their brothers from spilling Joseph’s blood:

“Then his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock in Shechem. Israel said to Joseph, ‘Are not your brothers pasturing the flock in Shechem? Come, and I will send you to them.’ And he said to him, ‘I will go.’ Then he said to him, ‘Go now and see about the welfare of your brothers and the welfare of the flock, and bring word back to me.’ So he sent him from the valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem. A man found him, and behold, he was wandering in the field; and the man asked him, ‘What are you looking for?’ He said, ‘I am looking for my brothers; please tell me where they are pasturing the flock.’ Then the man said, ‘They have moved from here; for I heard them say, “Let us go to Dothan.”’ So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan. When they saw him from a distance and before he came close to them, they plotted against him to put him to death. They said to one another, ‘Here comes this dreamer! Now then, come and let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, “A wild beast devoured him.” Then let us see what will become of his dreams!’ But Reuben heard this and rescued him out of their hands and said, ‘Let us not take his life.’ Reuben further said to them, ‘Shed no blood. Throw him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but do not lay hands on him’—that he might rescue him out of their hands, to restore him to his father. So it came about, when Joseph reached his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the varicolored tunic that was on him; and they took him and threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty, without any water in it. Then they sat down to eat a meal. And as they raised their eyes and looked, behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing aromatic gum and balm and myrrh, on their way to bring them down to Egypt. Judah said to his brothers, ‘What profit is it for us to kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.’ And his brothers listened to him. Then some Midianite traders passed by, so they pulled him up and lifted Joseph out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. Thus they brought Joseph into Egypt. Now Reuben returned to the pit, and behold, Joseph was not in the pit; so he tore his garments. He returned to his brothers and said, ‘The boy is not there; as for me, where am I to go?’ So they took Joseph’s tunic, and slaughtered a male goat and dipped the tunic in the blood; and they sent the varicolored tunic and brought it to their father and said, ‘We found this; please examine it to see whether it is your son’s tunic or not.’ Then he examined it and said, ‘It is my son’s tunic. A wild beast has devoured him; Joseph has surely been torn to pieces!’ So Jacob tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. Then all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. And he said, ‘Surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son.’ So his father wept for him. Meanwhile, the Midianites sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s officer, the captain of the bodyguard” (Genesis 37:12-36).

In this tragic set of circumstances, the epitome of a dysfunctional family is recorded. Here for all to study is the unapologetic description of how a group of siblings can scheme to first consider killing their brother, or given a change of plans, sell him into slavery. Providentially, the eldest son Reuben, perhaps understanding his responsibility as the firstborn son of Jacob, intervened with his brothers and talked them out of slaying Joseph. The text indicates that Reuben was actually trying to save Joseph from his brothers, who derisively removed the multi-colored tunic that must have enraged them.

It is difficult to not think back to the murder in the heart of Cain, who slew his brother Abel because of his jealousy. But this was a corporate act, rather than an individual one. These brothers were so consumed with jealousy, that they were willing to live with the knowledge of murdering their brother, knowing that each other was culpable. One wonders where their faith in, or fear of, the Holy One was, as they contemplated these options. Perhaps their actions years earlier when slaying the Shechemites had hardened them to a murderous spirit. But this was not about justifying their actions to protect the honor of their sister. This was to be blatant fratricide. Can you imagine how Joseph must have felt when he witnessed the murderous rage in the eyes of his brothers? Even when Judah, beginning to reveal a guilty conscience, came up with an alternative plan to throw Joseph into the empty pit—what must Joseph have been thinking as he laid helpless at the bottom of the pit, listening to the wrath of his brothers? Did this prompt Joseph to rethink through the dreams he had dreamed earlier, and wonder if they were indeed from God?

While simple physical survival must have overwhelmed his thoughts, there was something very special about Joseph and God’s plan for his life—and somehow Joseph innately knew it. Eventually God was going to use these deplorable events to send Joseph off to Egypt, for His Divine purposes to save Israel. But if you can put yourself in Joseph’s place, the emotions of fear and confusion about his brother’s animosity toward him, had to be excruciating. Yet, Joseph had to rely upon the Lord, and the dream that he must have believed was from Him. He held onto what he had been communicated by the Lord, hanging onto it through the trials he would experience.

The Brother Judah

As noted earlier, the different life experiences of the two sons of Jacob, who would eventually take prominence in their generation, are detailed for some curious comparisons. After the description of Joseph’s traumatic events with his brothers and being sold into slavery to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s officer and captain of the bodyguard (Genesis 37:36), our Torah reading shifts to an entire chapter (Genesis 38) dedicated to describing the problems that Judah encountered, as he departed from his brothers and married a Canaanite woman. Unlike the precedent established by his forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who married women who were from close relatives with a similar background, Judah fell into the trap of marrying a woman who came from the indigenous culture. Consider how Judah’s sons did displeasing things before the Lord, which apparently cost them their lives. Judah does not seem to be a father who was passing on a reverence for God to his progeny:

“And it came about at that time, that Judah departed from his brothers and visited a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua; and he took her and went in to her. So she conceived and bore a son and he named him Er. Then she conceived again and bore a son and named him Onan. She bore still another son and named him Shelah; and it was at Chezib that she bore him. Now Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was evil in the sight of the LORD, so the LORD took his life. Then Judah said to Onan, ‘Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.’ Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother. But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD; so He took his life also. Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, ‘Remain a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up’; for he thought, ‘I am afraid that he too may die like his brothers.’ So Tamar went and lived in her father’s house. Now after a considerable time Shua’s daughter, the wife of Judah, died; and when the time of mourning was ended, Judah went up to his sheepshearers at Timnah, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. It was told to Tamar, ‘Behold, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.’ So she removed her widow’s garments and covered herself with a veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in the gateway of Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah had grown up, and she had not been given to him as a wife. When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, for she had covered her face. So he turned aside to her by the road, and said, ‘Here now, let me come in to you’; for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. And she said, ‘What will you give me, that you may come in to me?’ He said, therefore, ‘I will send you a young goat from the flock.’ She said, moreover, ‘Will you give a pledge until you send it?’ He said, ‘What pledge shall I give you?’ And she said, ‘Your seal and your cord, and your staff that is in your hand.’ So he gave them to her and went in to her, and she conceived by him. Then she arose and departed, and removed her veil and put on her widow’s garments. When Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite, to receive the pledge from the woman’s hand, he did not find her.  He asked the men of her place, saying, ‘Where is the temple prostitute who was by the road at Enaim?’ But they said, ‘There has been no temple prostitute here.’ So he returned to Judah, and said, ‘I did not find her; and furthermore, the men of the place said, “There has been no temple prostitute here.”’ Then Judah said, ‘Let her keep them, otherwise we will become a laughingstock. After all, I sent this young goat, but you did not find her.’ Now it was about three months later that Judah was informed, ‘Your daughter-in-law Tamar has played the harlot, and behold, she is also with child by harlotry.’ Then Judah said, ‘Bring her out and let her be burned!’ It was while she was being brought out that she sent to her father-in-law, saying, ‘I am with child by the man to whom these things belong.’ And she said, ‘Please examine and see, whose signet ring and cords and staff are these?’ Judah recognized them, and said, ‘She is more righteous than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah.’ And he did not have relations with her again. It came about at the time she was giving birth, that behold, there were twins in her womb. Moreover, it took place while she was giving birth, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, ‘This one came out first.’ But it came about as he drew back his hand, that behold, his brother came out. Then she said, ‘What a breach you have made for yourself!’ So he was named Perez. Afterward his brother came out who had the scarlet thread on his hand; and he was named Zerah” (Genesis 38:1-30).

There is one thing which is most sure about the Hebrew Tanakh: it does not try to hide the errant actions of its chosen people, allowing specific details to be recorded, hopefully for the instruction of generations to come. In this case, the failings of Judah as both a father and as a man were on full display. But in it all, one finds that these circumstances were perhaps used by God to make Judah the man that he needed to be.

Judah was the one who had suggested that his brothers sell Joseph to the Ishmaelite traders, rather than kill him. This hints of an emerging conscience that will mature as he aged. Perhaps he was feeling some remorse, keeping the lies about Joseph’s death continuing in the presence of Jacob, who still mourned for Joseph (Genesis 37:35). Continuing to lie and cover up a conspiracy can be trying, so to perhaps relieve his guilt, Judah left his brothers and began living in the regional culture, albeit with some recollection of how he was to conduct his life according to some family mores. What we find is that Judah did have a conscience which really bothered him, when he found out that it was he who impregnated Tamar. She was more “righteous” than Judah!

An arduous road, to being molded into a God-fearing leader among his siblings, began to show. Clearly, the Lord had a distinct plan for Judah, or these intimate details about his life would not have been included in Holy Scripture.

Joseph’s Challenges

The contrast between Joseph and Judah is certainly noticeable, as Genesis ch. 39 dramatically shifts back to Joseph’s predicament as a slave. Joseph was sold to Potiphar, and we witness how the Lord was definitely blessing Joseph in multiple noticeable ways. Joseph experienced some significant tests, as he continued to not only contend with the memories of the ill-treatment of his brothers, being sold into slavery—but was later falsely accused of attempted rape by his master’s wife. Notice how the references to the Lord or God emerge, as Joseph was obviously having to cling to the assurance that he had in Him:

“Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the bodyguard, bought him from the Ishmaelites, who had taken him down there. The LORD was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian. Now his master saw that the LORD was with him and how the LORD caused all that he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight and became his personal servant; and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge. It came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house and over all that he owned, the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph; thus the LORD’s blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field. So he left everything he owned in Joseph’s charge; and with him there he did not concern himself with anything except the food which he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.  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?’ As she spoke to Joseph day after day, he did not listen to her to lie beside her or be with her. Now it happened one day that he went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the household was there inside. She caught him by his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me!’ And he left his garment in her hand and fled, and went outside. When she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled outside, she called to the men of her household and said to them, ‘See, he has brought in a Hebrew to us to make sport of us; he came in to me to lie with me, and I screamed. When he heard that I raised my voice and screamed, he left his garment beside me and fled and went outside.’ So she left his garment beside her until his master came home. Then she spoke to him with these words, ‘The Hebrew slave, whom you brought to us, came in to me to make sport of me; and as I raised my voice and screamed, he left his garment beside me and fled outside.’ Now when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spoke to him, saying, ‘This is what your slave did to me,’ his anger burned. So Joseph’s master took him and put him into the jail, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; and he was there in the jail. But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s charge all the prisoners who were in the jail; so that whatever was done there, he was responsible for it. The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph’s charge because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made to prosper” (Genesis 39:1-23).

Perhaps one of the most memorable instances recorded about Joseph, during his service to Potiphar, is his desire to remain righteous and pure before the Holy One. When confronted by Potiphar’s wife to engage in adulterous promiscuity, Joseph responded with a question that clearly indicated that he had a genuine fear of the Lord:

“But he refused. He said to his master’s wife, ‘Look, with me here, my master gives no thought to anything in this house, and all that he owns he has placed in my hands. He wields no more authority in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except yourself, since you are his wife. How then could I do this most wicked thing, and sin before God?’” (Genesis 39:8-9, NJPS).

Despite the ill treatment by his brothers and being sold into slavery, it appears that Joseph was still clinging to his relationship with the Holy One with a righteous reverence. Clearly, whatever humanly justified bitterness toward others, that could have readily been transferred to God, was not evident. Instead, a fear of sinning against God compelled Joseph to flee the tempting circumstances, rather than indulging his flesh. Could this well known display of self control have been an example considered by the Apostle Paul, when he directed his disciple Timothy to flee from youthful lusts?

“Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).

As a result of inadvertently leaving his garment behind, Joseph then endured the false accusations of Potiphar’s wife, which caused him to be cast into prison. Can you imagine what he must have been thinking, knowing that he had avoided sinning because of his faith in God—and yet, he received more ill treatment? There had to be something in Joseph’s mind and heart concerning his relationship with the Holy One, that prompted him to avoid willfully sinning.

Clearly Joseph’s eventual testimony, as a deliverer for the rest of His family, foreshadowed the ultimate salvation of Yeshua, the Righteous One to come. Obviously at a young age, Joseph had been touched by the Holy One through some dreams, for the trials that he was going to eventually endure. It would take some difficult challenges and circumstances for Joseph to be molded and positioned, so that he could eventually be in the right position at the right time, to save his brothers (cf. Romans 8:28). The Sovereign God of Creation is ultimately in charge of how things work out through His chosen vessels.

A Dream-Based Faith

What might we consider this week, from studying this Torah portion, which vividly recounts and contrasts some of the nefarious deeds of the sons of Jacob with some of the righteous actions of Joseph? How about reflecting upon personal accountability, and how we each should individually respond in our relationship with the Holy One? Our individual actions before the Lord, are being watched by Him as the Omnipresent and Omniscient One.

While we might not personally endure the ignominy that Joseph’s brothers have to bear for eternity, will each of us be held accountable for our actions, words, and even thoughts? Are our actions, words, and thoughts focused on the ways of the Lord—or something else? In V’yeishev we each have to confront the reality of murder in the hearts of Jacob’s sons, the sexual encounter of Judah with Tamar, and the rejection of sexual adventures on the part of Joseph when the temptation presented itself.

Murder and adultery are the two most evident sins depicted in our Torah portion. In the First Century, the standard to follow was raised considerably by Yeshua, in the teaching of His Sermon on the Mount. The Lord directed His hearers to consider some of the causes of murder and adultery, as being tantamount to people having committed the actual sins:

“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ [Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17] and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell…You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’ [Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18]; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-30).

Yeshua did not mince His words with hard to interpret explanations, but directed people on how murder and adultery are much more than just the physical acts. This is why it is absolutely vital that each one of us sincerely has a genuine fear of the Lord in order to arrest our thoughts, hold back our tongues, and certainly avoid sinful actions.

The great example of Joseph having had some dreams or words, that solidified his faith in the Holy One, is something that every Believer should seek to obtain and retain during the course of his or her life. Knowing beyond a shadow of doubt that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is observing each and every thought, word, and deed is something that assuredly engenders a sincere fear of Him. Whether one receives that assurance from a dream, a vision, a word, or most critically a salvation experience—it is absolutely necessary to walk in a way that truly pleases our Heavenly Father. We have the testimony of Joseph to consider, but what is most crucial is our individual testimony that the fear of the Lord is presently directing our life. For without a genuine fear of the Lord, our ability to understand and apprehend what the Scriptures discuss is severely limited:

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).

During the course of our lives, may we continually be able to fear the Lord in an even greater manner, as we seek to serve Him and see His Kingdom established!