This post continues from Messiah, Son of Joseph. There we looked at Joseph as a prophetic picture, or “type,” of Yeshua. Here, we will zoom in to look specifically at Joseph’s reunion with his brothers.
Joseph fed the entire Gentile world the Bread of Life (so to speak) before his brothers came to him. This is the first prophecy of Gentile inclusion in God’s Kingdom, corresponding with other prophecies that first the Gentiles would come to the Root of Jesse and be called by the Holy Name, and only after that would Israel be restored (cf. Isa. 11:10ff, Amos 9:11f).
When Joseph’s brothers come to buy bread, they don’t recognize him (Gen. 42:7)! Why not? Because he was dressed in Egyptians clothes, with his head and beard shaved in Egyptian fashion, and speaking to them in Egyptian through an interpreter. Why haven’t Yeshua’s brothers recognized Him for two millennia? Once again, because we have dressed Him up as a Gentile, given Him a Gentile haircut, and He speaks to His brothers in Gentile language (Greek). Look through the whole corpus of Christian art and try to find a portrait of Yeshua that shows Him with a long, uncut beard, a head covering of some sort, tefillin (phylacteries), or tzitzit (tassels) on His cloak. Only a few old Eastern Orthodox works get it right. More to the point, look at how most Christian commentators exaggerate to cartoonish proportions the differences between Yeshua and the rabbis, never noticing the similarities in teaching, teaching styles (e.g., parables), gathering disciples, emotional makeup (Yeshua was clearly no stoic), etc. Small wonder His brother’s can’t recognize Him!
When Joseph is faced with his brothers, he falsely accuses them, throws them into prison, and binds Simeon before their eyes and takes him away, requiring that they bring him Benjamin if they wish to see his face again (Gen. 42:9ff). In the same way, the Church has in Jesus’ name falsely accused the Jews, thrown them into prison, and taken away from the Jewish people, binding Jews who wished to follow the King of the Jews from being among their brothers. (See here for some examples.) Sadly, the Church went even further: Joseph never tortured or slew any of his brothers, but the Church has done so to the brothers of Yeshua!
(Note: Here, I am obviously referring to the visible, cultural institution of the Church, comprised of both wheat and tares. Even so, unless the beneficiaries of the Protestant Reformation wish to repudiate Martin Luther, author of The Jews and Their Lies, as not being truly saved, one cannot simply escape corporate responsibility by saying, “Well, real Christians wouldn’t do any of that.”)
But notice here that even in testing his brothers with persecution, Joseph still gives them the Bread of Life they need to live. In fact, he does so freely, giving back the silver that they try to pay him with. Why? Because his brothers already belong to him, whether they know it or not. Is Yeshua less generous than Joseph? And if He is as generous, in what sense has He fed the Jewish people who didn’t recognize Him?
Also let us note that Joseph seats his brothers in birth order to show that he knows them, much to their amazement and consternation (Gen. 43:33). Today in Judaism, there are increasing numbers of scholars who are studying the NT and discovering how well Yeshua knows them. Indeed, He is increasingly becoming known as a Jew of the Jews and a rabbi ahead of His time. It’s not where my people need to be, but the momentum is clearly in the right direction.
Now we come to Benjamin, whose significance in this type is so often overlooked. What does he represent in this tale? Let us consider his attributes:
- He is the brother of the same mother as Joseph
- His birth brought about the death of his mother. For this she named him, “Son of My Sorrow,” but his father Israel would rename him, “Son of the Right Hand.”
- He was not involved in the betrayal of Joseph; he and Joseph obviously loved each other very much
- He disappears from the narrative, only being mentioned while “off-screen” until the very end
- Israel will not let him go forth with his brothers, fearing to lose him as he lost Joseph and Simeon
- Joseph weeps when he sees Benjamin among his brothers again
- While Joseph feeds all the brothers, he gives Benjamin five times as much
- Finally, Benjamin is “outed” by the possession of Joseph’s silver cup
I propose that Benjamin represents the remnant of Jewish believers, Messianic Jews if you will, that Paul assures us the Eternal One always reserves for Himself in Romans 11. Like Benjamin, the faithful remnant were born at the time of the death of their mother, Jerusalem (which dwells in Benjamin’s territory). We are the sons of sorrow and the sons of the Right Hand, Yeshua Himself. Like Benjamin, the remnant has always loved Yeshua and vice-versa. Like Benjamin, the remnant has virtually disappeared from the narrative of history, being mentioned only by our enemies when they try to suppress us. Like Benjamin, Israel has not allowed us to be seen among our brothers, and for the same reason: Fear that like Simeon, we will be carried away by the Gentiles, assimilated and lost to a Christian culture. And like Benjamin, we are ultimately “outed” by the discovery of our Lord’s Cup in our hands.
Benjamin receives five times as much food as his brothers (Gen. 43:44). We have already established that food, bread in particular, is a type of the life-giving sustenance of the Word of God. It’s interesting that in Israel, it is becoming well known that the Messianics are ardent students of the Scriptures. In fact, if you want to know if you are talking to a Messianic, there is a simple test: Ask a question about the Law. A traditional Jew will answer from his rabbi or the Talmud; a Messianic will answer from the Scriptures, as our Great Rabbi has taught us.
Notice also that only when Benjamin is among his brothers is Simeon returned to them. Simeon, we believe, represents those Jews who were converted to Christianity, bound by law in front of their brethren to no longer live as Jews, and taken away. With the advent of Messianic Judaism, many in the world have become aware that they are descended from Jewish converts to Christianity, and are seeking to know what that means as far as their personal identity goes. Many are even returning to Judaism, both Messianic and traditional, to return to their roots.
When Benjamin is caught with Joseph’s cup, the brothers face a decision-point: Do they let him be carried away by the Gentiles as Simeon was, or do they protect him as a brother at their own risk. Today, as more and more Jews declare themselves for Yeshua, Judah/Judaism faces the same decision: Do they reject the Messianics and force them out of the community to be assimilated by Gentile Christianity, or do they embrace us as brothers, even at the risk that they believe such inclusion could bring to Judaism?
Believe it or not, Israel is starting to come to the same decision as Judah. Among an increasing number of rabbis, there is no longer any question whether born Jews who identify as and live as Jews should be counted as part of the community. The resistance now is to Jews who have converted to Christianity and no longer keep the Torah at all and how to handle our proselytes. (This is why many Messianics completely reject the label of “Christian,” which is virtually synonymous with “Gentile.”)
When Judah embraced and protected Benjamin as his brother, Joseph revealed himself at last for who he is. Likewise, as we see Judah embracing Messianic Jews, we see another sign that our Lord is soon to return.
The more I study the Torah, the more I see the truth of what the Midrash Rabbah says of it: “What the prophets were destined to prophesy in subsequent generations they received from Mount Sinai. . . Moses gave utterance to all the words of the other prophets as well as his own, and whoever prophesied only gave expression to the essence of Moses’ prophecy” (Exo.R. 28:6, 42:8).