"Joseph Reveals Himself to His Brothers (Gen. 45:1-24)" by Gustave Doré, 1866

Genesis 44:18–47:27: Yosef foreshadows Yeshua’s grace

Aesop’s ancient saying “familiarity breeds contempt” could easily sum up how Yosef’s brothers treated him in his early years and how many leaders of Yisra’el treated Yeshua. The prophetic parallels between Yosef and Yeshua the Mashiakh sharpen further in the Torah section ויגש Vayigash (“he approached”).

In it, the brothers’ contempt turns to fear when they realize their plots against Yosef have put them at his mercy.  It’s also a picture of the Day of the LORD, when Yisra’el then the world must confess, “Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the LORD” (Psalm 118:26; Matthew 23:39; Luke 13:35).

“Then Yehudah 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.” (Genesis 44:18 NASB)

Just as Yosef was equal to Pharaoh, Yeshua is equal to God. The Gospel of Yeshua is evident all through the TaNaKh for those who are willing to listen.

We need to be careful about being to familiar with God. The Greek word translated hypocrite doesn’t mean phony. It means someone who is more concerned about the outward appearance than what is in the heart. Understanding that subtle yet important difference helps us avoid misunderstanding the writings of prophets such as Isaiah and apostle Paul.

For example, Paul doesn’t have a problem with circumcision but he did have a problem with those who pushed circumcision on others. He was concerned about what was in the heart of the person who wanted to be circumcised. Paul was concerned about their motives. Were they doing because they thought it would save them?  Or were they doing it because they loved God and desired to be obedient?

When God declares something clean, He is elevating that person or thing above the others.

Yehudah had to go through a profound transformation to be ready to help lead the family to Egypt. Yehudah was not the same person he was before, he was made new. Ask yourself, have you been made new by your experience with God or are you the same?

“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.” (Genesis 44:31 NASB)

In Genesis 44:29, Ya’akov tells Yehudah that taking Ben Yamin away from him down to Mitzraim would bring him “sorrow” (NASB, KJV). Yehudah begs Yosef not to bring “sorrow” onto his old father. In verse 29, it’s translated from the Hebrew word רָעָה raʿah (H7463a), which is often translated as evil but just means bad or not good. In Genesis 44:31, it’s translated from יָגוֹן yagon (H3015), which means sorrow or vexation.

The Septuagint (LXX) translates those Hebrew words, respectively, with:

  • λύπη lupe (G3077), sorrow, pain, grief: of persons mourning
  • ὀδύνη odunē (G3601) (perhaps allied with edō, consuming grief), pain, sorrow

Yehudah had come to understand how his actions brought consuming grief on those around him.

‘I am Yosef’

“Then Yosef 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 Yosef made himself known to his brothers. He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it. Then Yosef said to his brothers: ‘I am Yosef! Is my father still alive?’ But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.” (Genesis 45:1–3 NASB)

When it says the brothers were dismayed, the Hebrew word there is בָּהַל bahal (H926), which means “to dismay, terrify, hasten.” The  Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament explains bahal 1:

“The verb ‏בָּהַל‎ bahal occurs fifty times…. Synonyms are ‏חָרַד kharad‎ (tremble, be afraid), ‏פָּחַד‎ parad (be afraid), and ‏יָגֹר‎ a general word meaning to fear. ‏יָרֵא‎ yarey refers to a reverential fear. ‏בָּהַל usually expresses an emotion of one who is confronted with something unexpected, threatening or disastrous (e.g. Yisra’el at the news of Abner’s death, 2Sam 4:1; or the Benjamites when ambushed, Judg 20:41).”

The dreams of “that dreamer” have come true. The brothers had been speaking through interpreters all this time and had no idea that Yosef actually understood every word they said. He hugged all his brothers, even those who literally wanted him dead.

Yehudah brought the first sorrow on Ya’akov by leading the brothers to “profit” from the removal of Yosef by selling him as a slave, rather than killing him (Genesis 37:20, 26–27). He also raised two evil sons and treated his daughter in law very poorly, yet he became the one to lead the brothers in repentance over their sins against Yosef.

Reuben had moved to help Yosef by persuading his brothers to throw him into a cistern, rather than killing him (Genesis 37:21–22). He had come some way from the man who hated his stepmother Raquel so much that he slept with her handmaid just to spite his father.

Levi and Shim’on were, in a sense, “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17), yet later Levi’s descendants inherited the duty to serve in God’s temple.

When Yosef said, “I am Yosef,” he had more power over his brothers than they ever had over him. And they knew it. Yet rather than taking out revenge, he reached out to them in mercy. That sounds like Someone else we know:

Yosef Yeshua
Son of Ya’akov’s favored wife, born into a cauldron of sibling jealous rivalry. Though Ya’akov’s second-youngest  son (yet first-born of the only intended wife), the legacy of Abraham and Yitzkhak ― the kingdom of God ― would pass through Yosef, not the other brothers. Leaders of Yisra’el at the time were jealous of His teachings and the followers going after Him and His herald, Yokhanan. The legacy of Abraham to make Yisra’el great in the Earth would reach its pinnacle in the Mashiakh of God, Yeshua.
Yosef’s brothers scoffed at his dreams that he would become the greatest of the family and hated him for bringing a “bad report” about their behavior. Yeshua was continually ridiculed for His statements of authority and for saying during Chanukah, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30) and hated for correcting their understanding of the Torah and hypocrisy.

” ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.’ ” (Mark 6:4 NASB)

Yosef came looking for his brothers, but they plotted against him, wanting to take his life to get rid of him. Rulers of the court of Yisra’el (Sanhedrin) plotted against Yeshua, with the High Priest at the time unknowingly prophesied:

“… it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” (John 11:49–50 NASB)

Haftarat Vayigash: Ezekiel 37:15–28

Now, we will take a detour to Haftarat2 Vayigash which comes from Ezekiel 37:15–28. We have the image of two sticks merging into one stick. When Yisra’el would be “born again” after exile, the “root of Yesse” (Isaiah 11) would be the support for putting the nation back together. The Apostle Paul talks about this Romans 11 when he says that God grafts wild olive branches into the domestic olive tree. The roots of that tree are very deep and with God’s attention, that tree will yield a large abundance.

The preceding prophecies of the restoration of scattered Yisra’el (Ezekiel 36, especially Ezekiel 36:25–26) and of the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1–14) speaks to the leading work of Mashiakh and the Spirit of God in bringing the legacy of Heaven through Abraham “back from the dead.”

The minor Jewish remembrance day of Asarah b’Tevet (10th [day] of Tevet [10th month]) starts at sunset Jan. 7, 2017. Jews fast from sunrise to sunset in memory of the beginning of the siege Yerushalyaim of the Beit haMikdash (Temple) by Nebuchadnezzar II (2Chronicles 25:1; ca. 588 B.C.).

We live in a time when the Jewish people have restored Jewish rule over the Promised Land. We are witnessing the vision of the dry bones being clothed in flesh right before our eyes. The nation of Yisra’el is being born again right before our eyes as the prophets foretold.

The people of Yisra’el have repeatedly been knocked down but they bounce back. This is not by their own grit but because God is faithful to His promises.

People often misunderstand Isaiah just as they misunderstand Paul. God did not have a Plan A in the TaNaKh and a Plan B in the New Testament.

The fact that the current state of Yisra’el is more know for its discotheques and computer technology than for righteousness and holiness doesn’t change the fact that her very existence is a miracle work of God.

There is a lot of “now and not yet” in prophesy. Ezekiel 37:15–19 is an example of the “now and not yet” prophecy in the Scriptures. The reunification started after the exiles to a small degree. The New Interpreter’s Study Bible  says3:

“The two sticks represent unification of the two kingdoms, Yisra’el (Ephraim/Joseph) and Judah, divided since 922 BCE.”

The “not yet” parts were the start of the flow of the nations into Yisra’el at the time of the apostles of Yeshua and the future major influx around the Day of the LORD (Jeremiah 31:31–34; Romans 11).

We only see a small part of God’s work in history in our own lifetimes but God’s “good work” in the world will come to completion just as his “good work” in each individual believer will also come to completion.

The reunion of the brothers is a picture of reunion of all the tribes of Yisra’el. The genealogies of Yehudah and Yosef are an important part of all of Yisra’el’s history. God wants to graft in all the descendants of Yisra’el who have been scattered.

Repaying oppression with mercy

I would like to close our discussion of Vayigash with a discussion of Genesis 47:1–27. We see Yosef presenting his family to Pharaoh. Pharaoh was so happy to meet Yosef’s father, brothers and family. Pharaoh must have heard over the years about Yosef’s history while in Egypt and he certainly would have through the grapevine about how Yosef met his brothers again and about Yosef’s tears of joy.

What would have happened if Yosef had told Pharaoh that his brothers plotted to kill him when he was 17 years old and how they opted to sell him into slavery to get rid of him? All those years, Yosef never spoke an ugly word about his family.

The lesson for us is that we must tame our lashon ha-ra (evil tongue) so that those around us only hear what is uplifting about our family members, spouses and fellow believers in the Body of Mashiakh.

We should considered how King David loved God so much that although he could not go into the holy place, his heart was still there.

Summary: Tammy.

Banner image: Gustave Doré (1832–1883), “Joseph Reveals Himself to His Brothers (Gen. 45:1-24),” Doré’s English Bible, wood engraving, Wikimedia Commons, 1866.

  1. Elmer A. Martens. “בֶּהָלָה” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT), 207a. 
  2. The Hebrew word הפטרה haftarah means “parting” or “taking leave,” from פטר feter, “to dismiss.” So the haftarah is the parting reading of mo’edim services and is thematically tied to the Torah reading. From “Haftara,” Wikipedia, accessed Jan. 7, 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haftarah>, citing Samson Raphael Hirsch, The Hirsch Siddur (orig. German 1868, English transl. (New York: Feldheim Publishers, 1978), page 339. 
  3. Walter J. Harrelson, ed. The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (NISB). Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003), paragraph 11610. 

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