"Judah and Tamar" by School of Rembrandt, c. 1650-1660

Genesis 37–40: What’s your legacy in the Kingdom of God?

“Now Ya’akov lived in the land where his father had sojourned, in the land of Canaan. These are the records of the generations of Ya’akov.” (Genesis 37:1–2 NASB)

The previous parashah, Vayishlach, ends with Esaw dwelling in Seir, which is in southwest Jordan today. This Torah section, וישב Vayeshev (“and he dwelled”), begins with Ya’akov living in Canaan.

This ties Ya’akov, rather than Eysau, to the legacy of Abraham and Yitzhak. Legacy is more than generating children. This is something special, unique that is passed down from one generation to another. In our age, we don’t seem to be interested in legacy, but we should be. We are quick to blame our parents for their mistakes but we aren’t as quick to thank them for the good they have taught us.

We see here other תולדות toledot (“generations” or “accounts”). God’s account of how the world came to be has narrowed down, using these toledot sections:

  • of creation (Genesis 2:2)
  • of Adam (Genesis 5:1)
  • of Noach (Genesis 6:9)
  • of Shem (Genesis 10:1)
  • of Terah (Genesis 11:27)
  • of Yitzkhak (Genesis 25:19)

There are others such as Melchizedek or even Balaam, who have a connection to God but the connection Abraham has to God is unique.

The Bible is not a history book of the entire world. It’s about God’s legacy to the world entering earth’s history through one man’s family, who was chosen because of his trust in God.

We talk about our legacy, this is what comes down to us from our ancestors that is truly important. Through trust in the Word of God made in the flesh of mankind, Yeshua, as Redeemer and Healer, we have become a part of this continuing legacy of the Creator to all the people of the earth.

The rest of Scripture is how the House of Joseph and the House of Yehudah conflict with each other. It’s a fight over who is in charge and who is appointed to lead the others.

We also see another example of a second-born son (Perez) who inherits the most important legacy of all, which is to be the ancestor of the Messiah. We are told this in Matthew 1:1-6, 16-25. If you have ever seen a flow chart of the Messiah’s ancestry, you will see examples of how people’s choices lead to a specific place.

There are ways that work in life and ways that don’t. What works in life are the works God wants for us. He has given us specific ways to go forward in life. Althought Yehudah carries Messiah’s physical line but Yosef is the one who gives us a more clear vision of the Messiah’s mission. Yosef is the lineage of promise.

We see many similarities between Yosef’s life and the Messiah’s life. Both were rejected by their brothers, they were seen as unauthorized, and sold into slavery. They also both faced fleshly temptations and overcame, they were betrayed for money and exalted to prominence.

There were three reasons that Yosef’s brothers hated him so much. Yosef was the victim of their bad report about him and persecuted by his brothers for his truthful reports about them, Yosef was favored by their father and God favored Yosef above the other brothers by giving Yosef dreams. All of these things sparked jealousy.

Yeshua was also the victim of bad reports, Yeshua stood out in a crowd, not because of physical attractiveness but because of His charisma and air of authority.

We also noticed this in the life of the prophet Daniel when he served in the courts of two different empires. What he said and how he lived was a witness to great men.

Yosef’s life also was a witness to those around him. That was the calling card of his mission in life. One’s words and actions come together to show people around us who we are.

All the prophets and later Yeshua Himself were often what we call “politically incorrect.” They say what needs to be said, but we need to be cautious about how we speak. Apostles Paul and Peter give warnings about how we should speak:

“But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.” (1 Peter 3:14–17 NASB)

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:11–16 NASB)

We need to speak with gentleness and reverence but this needs to be coupled with good behavior. Our words aren’t supposed to chop people down. When we speak the truth, we are to speak the truth in love. What does that mean? It means we are to be selfless and not to weaponize the truth. We aren’t to use the truth to knock the other person down. We aren’t supposed to wrestle with our fellow man, we are supposed to wrestle with God. We have to be careful of our motives when we speak. We need to speak mindfully.

Both Yosef and Yeshua was sold into bondage to someone else; Yosef was sold for 20 pieces of silver and Yeshua for 30.

“Those who recline on beds of ivory and sprawl on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock And calves from the midst of the stall, who improvise to the sound of the harp, and like David have composed songs for themselves, Who drink wine from sacrificial bowls while they anoint themselves with the finest of oils, Yet they have not grieved over the ruin of Joseph. Therefore, they will now go into exile at the head of the exiles, And the sprawlers’ banqueting will pass away. The Lord GOD has sworn by Himself, the LORD God of hosts has declared: ‘I loathe the arrogance of Ya’akov, And detest his citadels; Therefore I will deliver up the city and all it contains.’” (Amos 6:4–8 NASB)

This is strong message to the descendants of Yehudah and Yosef through the prophet Amos, the “burden bearer.” Reuben mourned for Yosef but the Jewish people don’t mourn for the fact that their brother Yeshua was sold off and taken away from them. Yosef and Yehudah are the two legacies of Ya’akov and they are at odds with one another.

“The LORD said to him, ‘Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst.’” (Ezekiel 9:4 NASB)

This is the seal of God in the forehead, alluded to in Revelation mentions of the seal of God written on the forehead (Revelation 3:12; 7:3; 9:4; 14:1; 20:4; 22:4). The words of God are to be front and center in what we say and what we do.

“And it came about at that time, that Yehudah departed from his brothers and visited a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.” (Genesis 38:1 NASB)

The English translation diminishes the literal Hebrew which said that Yehudah “went down” from his brothers. He went down so far from there that he had two sons who were so wicked that God had to take them out. Yehudah’s legacy was going the wrong direction.

“Yehudah recognized them, and said, ‘She is more righteous than I…’” (Genesis 38:26 NASB)

Is Yehudah just setting an incredibly low bar for himself or is there something else here? No. He is absolutely right. Yehudah had to come to terms with his sale of Yosef to get rid of a problem and to try to silence Yosef’s legacy. That moral descent continued through Yehudah refusing to give Tamar a legacy.

The lengths Tamar went to get Yehudah to do his duty concerning giving her to his third son reminds me of what Rivkah and Ya’akov did to get God’s legacy on its proper course rather than where Yitzhak wanted it to go.

I also think of how Yehudah helf such little regard for the signs of his authority and birthright that he willingly gave them to a woman he considered a prostitute. Esaw sold his birthright for a bowl of lentil soup and didn’t have a chance for remorse, while Yehudah did have a chance for remorse and repentance. Yehudah was playing a dangerous game.

“Thus says the LORD, ‘For three transgressions of Israel and for four I will not revoke its punishment, Because they sell the righteous for money and the needy for a pair of sandals.

These who pant after the very dust of the earth on the head of the helpless Also turn aside the way of the humble; and a man and his father resort to the same girl in order to profane My holy name. On garments taken as pledges they stretch out beside every altar, and in the house of their God they drink the wine of those who have been fined.” (Amos 2:6–8 NASB)

There are hints of both Yosef and Tamar here who were victimized by the same person: Yehudah. There were some who wept for the evil they witnessed but they were few and far between.

You could say that Yosef was politically incorrect in speaking truth to power, just as all the prophets did. Later in Israel’s history, those who didn’t care about God and His instructions to care for the needy turned and oppressed and persecuted the messengers who called them to teshuvah, to turn around.

We should respect God’s memorials. We don’t come to God’s house to look at our watch the entire time. Are the fences you place around the Torah meant to make good neighbors or are they covered in razor wire to oppress others? When our traditions block people from God, that’s a serious problem.

In this struggle between Yehudah and Tamar and Yosef and Potiphar’s wife, we are given two different ways to handle a problem.

Yosef was put in charge of all of Potiphar’s affairs and later when he was wrongly put in jail, he was put in charge of the jail. Both Potiphar and the jailer never had to worry about anything as long as Yosef was in charge.

Yehudah had to live with the consequences of how far his legacy had slid down into the pit. Yosef, on the other hand, carried the positive parts of the legacy of Ya’akov to the point that even though on the surface, Yosef seemed to have given up his legacy, Yosef did what God wanted him to do, not what the autocrats around him wanted. It would have been easy for Yosef to give up and submit to the world around him but he didn’t take the easy way, he took the right way.

One might not think of a prison sentence as a blessing, but Yosef’s time in prison prepared him for the biggest job of all. Yosef experience was a faith building experience for all those who came in contact with him. God’s “soft power” was shown to be the strongest power in the universe. God was proved to be the one in charge, the one driving the world’s events.

Summary: Tammy.

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