Parashah 11: Vayigash

Land of Goshen, (also Goshen, Gosen) (Genesis ...
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Torah: B’resheit (Genesis) 44:18 – 47:27
Haftarah: Yechezk’el (Ezekiel) 37:15 – 37:28
B’rit Chadashah: John 6:1-14, 26-40

Joseph’s reunion with his brothers is a heartwarming event of significant prophetic import, as we’ve studied in detail in our signature posts.  The rabbis, as always, take us a bit deeper than we otherwise might, so today let’s look at the importance of Jacob’s coming to Egypt.

The rabbis, by their selection of the reading of the prophets, clearly connect Israel coming to meet his son Joseph with Israel’s ultimate restoration to the Land.  Goshen, that green and fertile grazing land at the delta of the Nile, becomes a prophetic type of the Land promised to Abraham and his seed forever.

Joseph’s joyful reunion with his brothers, as we have already seen, is enabled by Judah’s protection of Benjamin even at the risk of his own life and freedom.  In the same way, Yeshua ben Joseph’s reunion with Israel will be preceded by the Jewish people’s acceptance and even protection of the Messianic remnant.   This leads to Jacob being brought up from a place of famine to a place of plenty, and even to meeting the then-king of the world face-to-face.

In this meeting, the rabbis note a miraculous grace that we might overlook in a surface-level reading of the text:  After Jacob blesses Pharaoh, the famine quickly comes to an end.

They note that Genesis 47:13-25 gives a very careful chronology of the famine.  In the first year, the people not only used up their money buying bread, but were forced to sell their livestock to Joseph as well.  Verse 18 carefully records the time:  “When that year was ended, they came to him the next year . . .” which is to say, in the second year of the famine they were forced to start selling Joseph their land and even themselves.  But note that the request is not merely for food!  Verse 19:  “So give us seed, that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate.”

What a strange thing!  Did not Joseph himself say to his brothers, “For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing or harvesting” (45:6)? Why then would they ask specifically for Joseph to give them seed “that the land may not be desolate” when surely all Egypt knew by then that Pharaoh’s vision had indicated a famine lasting seven years?

From this, the rabbis infer that when Jacob arrived and blessed Pharaoh, the Holy One accepted his intercession (much as He would later accept the intercession of Moses for the children of Israel after the sin of the golden calf) and brought the famine to an end after only two years instead of the seven years originally decreed (Tosefta Sotah 10:9).  As Rabbi Sha’ul writes, “Now if [Israel’s] fall is the riches of the world, and their loss the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness?” (Rom. 11:12).  The sin of Joseph’s brothers resulted in deliverance from starvation for the Gentiles, his reunion with Israel resulted in the end of the famine altogether!

Many Christians think that the Millennium is a concept taught solely in Revelation chapter 20.  In fact, it is a concept known to the ancient rabbis without the benefit of the New Covenant Scriptures, having derived it from the Tanakh alone:

R. Kattina said: Six thousand years shall the world exist, and one [thousand, the seventh], it shall be desolate, as it is written, And the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day (Isa. 2:11).  Abaye said: it will be desolate two [thousand], as it is said, After two days will he revive us: in the third day, he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight (Hos. 6:2).

It has been taught in accordance with R. Kattina: Just as the seventh year is one year of release in seven, so is the world: one thousand years out of seven shall be fallow, as it is written, And the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day,’ and it is further said, A Psalm and song for the Sabbath day (Psa. 92:1), meaning the day that is altogether Sabbath, and it is also said, For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past (Psa. 90:4).

The Tanna debe Eliyyahu teaches: The world is to exist six thousand years. In the first two thousand there was desolation; two thousand years the Torah flourished; and the next two thousand years is the Messianic era, but through our many iniquities all these years have been lost.  (b.Sanhedrin 97a-b)

It is interesting that the rabbis predicted two thousand years with the Messiah.  Indeed, we see them struggling with the question of why Messiah did not arrive on schedule, admitting that it must be because of “our many iniquities.”   But in truth, just as Joseph was with us through the two years of famine, so the Son of Joseph has been with us through these two thousand years of a famine “of hearing the words of Hashem” (Amos 8:11), feeding the entire Gentile world–and His brothers too, though they didn’t know it was Him–the Bread of Life.

But what we are really looking forward to is that glorious moment when Israel is reunited with his lost son, the famine of hearing the Word ends, and a glorious cosmic Sabbath will begin.

Maranatha Lord Yeshua, and Shalom!

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