From all the struggles and victories of Jacob, the writer of the book of Hebrews choses this act as Jacob’s defining faith moment.
“By faithfully trusting Yaakov, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Yosef, and he bowed in worship while leaning on the top of his staff.” –Hebrews 11:21
This final faith act of Jacob looks forward to the resurrection and the eternal promises of God.
Gen 48:1 And it came to pass after these ha-d’variym the words (things), that it was said to Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds), “Hinei Behold now, your father has become weak”: and he (Joseph) took with him his two sons, M’nasheh (Cause to forget) and Ephrayim (Double fruitfulness).
This account comes after the events of the preceding chapter and specifically after the last words spoken in the preceding chapter, which were the unrecorded words of the oath of Joseph concerning his father’s future interment at Hebron.
It’s unlikely as Radak suggests, that the news of Jacob’s illness was delivered by one of Joseph’s brothers because the text says, “your father” and not, “our father”.
It’s important to note that the two sons of Joseph are listed according to their birth order when Joseph takes them to see his father Jacob. This will change when they come into the blessing of God, which will be pronounced over them by Jacob.
Gen 48:2 And it was made known to Yaakov (Follower), and he was told, “Hinei Behold now, your son Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) is coming to you”: and Yisrael (Overcome in God) strengthened himself, and sat up on the bed.
It is likely that the same messenger who brought the news to Joseph returned ahead of him to inform Jacob that his son was coming. Given his weak state, the act of sitting up in bed must have required Jacob to summon the last of his strength. So important to him was his role as a Patriarch of the tribes and guardian of the promises of Hashem that he was willing to give all he had to pass on his hope to the next generation. These are the actions of one who has heard from, believed in and set his eyes on HaShem (YHVH: Mercy).
Gen 48:3 And Yaakov (Follower) said to Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds), “El Shaddai (God Almighty the all sufficient Protector) appeared to me in Luz (Almond tree: Beit-El, House of God) in the land of K’naan (Lowland, humility), and blessed me, Gen 48:4 And said to me, ‘Hin’niy Behold now, I will make you fruitful, and multiply you, and I will make of you a multitude of people; and will give this land to your seed after you for an everlasting possession.’
Using the meanings of the names in the text we can read an allegory as follows:
“The follower said to the one who adds mercy, ‘The All Sufficient Protector appeared to me in the House of God, when I was in a place of humility. He blessed me and said, “Now, become aware, I will make you fruitful, and multiply you, and I will bring forth from you generation upon generation of children; and will give this land to your seed after you for an eternal possession.”’”
Joseph has come to Israel, but it is Jacob who speaks.
Luz is the old name for Bethel (Genesis 28:19), where God appeared to Jacob as he was going to Padan-aram, and on his return from Padan-aram (Gen. 28:11-13; 35:10-11). It’s not clear which of those times Jacob is referring to. However, both occasions qualify since the same promises were made to him both times.
Gen 48:5 “And now your two sons, Ephrayim (Double fruitfulness) and M’nasheh (Cause to forget), which were born to you in the land of Mitzrayim Egypt (Double straits) before I came to you in Mitzrayim Egypt, are mine; as Ruvein (Behold a son) and Shimeon (Heard), they shall be mine.
Jacob changes the birth order of the sons here. He has just finished speaking of HaShem’s blessing of fruitfulness, thus it makes sense that he would name Ephrayim, the doubly fruitful one, first.
Jacob qualifies his meaning by comparing Ephraim and Manasseh to his sons Reuben and Simeon (His eldest sons). This shows that he intends for Joseph’s sons to be named as tribes of Israel in their own right and to inherit equal shares of the Promised Land.
The last phrase concerning Reuben and Simeon seems to imply that they will lose their position as first and second born to Ephraim and Manasseh. This may be as a result of Jacob’s disappointment with their past actions (Gen. 34:30; 35:22; 49:3-7; 1 Chron. 5:1).
Joseph’s sons would have been approximately twenty years of age or more. We know this because Jacob had been in Egypt seventeen years, and had come there after two years of famine, and Joseph's sons were born to him before the famine began (Gen. 41:50).
Gen 48:6 And your progeny, which you produce after them, shall be yours, and shall be called after the name of their brothers in their inheritance.
Simply put, if sons or daughters are born to Joseph after Ephraim and Manasseh, those children will find their inheritance in the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.
Gen 48:7 And as for me, when I came from Padan (Field of exaltation) Rachel (Ewe) died by me in the land of K’naan on the way, not far from Ephratah (Place of fruitfulness): and I interred her there on the way to Ephratah (Place of fruitfulness); also called Beit-lechem (House of bread/food).”
Jacob explains that he had felt that his fruitfulness in Rachel had been cut short. This is one of the reasons for the hope he sees in Ephraim, whose name literally means “Double fruitfulness”. This moment of sorrowful reflection concerning Jacob’s troubled journey toward fruitfulness ends with the naming of the town from which Israel’s Messiah will come forth. Bethlehem, the house of bread, food, provision.
Gen 48:8 And Yisrael (Overcome in God) beheld Yosef’s (YHVH: Mercy adds) sons, and said, “Who are these?”
This question of Jacob connects the blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh to his own experience of blessing at the hand of his elderly father (Gen. 25:22-33; 27:1-45).
Gen 48:9 And Yosef said to his father, “They are my sons, whom Elohiym (God: Judge) has given me in this place.” And he (Jacob) said, “Bring them, I plead with you, to me, and I will bless them. Gen 48:10 Now the eyes of Yisrael were dim from age, so that he could not see. And he (Joseph) brought them near to him (Israel); and he (Israel) kissed them, and embraced them. Gen 48:11 And Yisrael said to Yosef, “I had not thought to see your face: and, now, Elohiym (God: Judge) has shown me also your seed.”
By telling the story of Rachel’s death prior to announcing his adoption of Ephraim and Manasseh Jacob connects them to her as sons.
Gen 48:12 And Yosef brought them out from between his (Jacob’s) knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth. Gen 48:13 And Yosef took them both, Ephrayim (Double fruitfulness) in his right hand toward Yisrael's left hand, and M’nasheh (Cause to forget) in his left hand toward Yisrael's right hand, and brought them near to him.
Joseph is directing the boys toward Jacob in such a way as to ensure that Manasseh receives the blessing from Jacob’s right hand, the hand that signifies strength and the blessing of the first born.
“R’ David Feinstein observes, by placing Ephraim on his own right hand, Joseph unwittingly affirmed Ephraim’s supremacy” – Art Scroll Chumash Commentary
Gen 48:14 And Yisrael stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephrayim’s (Double fruitfulness) head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon M’nasheh (Cause to forget) head, guiding his hands intentionally; for M’nasheh was the firstborn.
Jacob trusted the promises of Hashem and the ultimate outcome of those promises. Thus it is Fruitfulness that he seeks out as head over the brothers. Forgetfulness will come too often to Israel in the days ahead. Jacob wants Israel to look forward to the goal of her worship, for only then can she truly forget her suffering.
Gen 48:15 And he (Jacob) blessed Yosef, and said, “Ha-Elohiym the God (Judge), before whose face my fathers Avraham (Father of many peoples) and Yitzchaak (He laughs) walked, Ha-Elohiym the God (Judge) ha-roeh who tended (as a shepherd) me continually throughout my life up to this day,
Jacob names God for His awesome Judgement (Elohiym) and for His intimate relationship (Before the face), and subsequently identifies the terrifying Judge as a loving Shepherd Who ha-roeh, tends, shepherds the flock. The intrinsic link between the practical shepherding role of Israel and the spiritual Shepherd of Israel is an essential part of her discipleship.
Jacob has identified God as:
Gen 48:16 Ha-Malakh ha-goel the Messenger Who redeemed me from all ra evil, bless the youths; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Avraham (Father of many peoples) and Yitzchaak (He laughs); v’yid’gu larov and may they proliferate into a multitude like fish, in the midst of the earth.
The first part of verse 16 literally reads, “The Messenger the Redeemer of me from all evil.”
Joseph’s name is used here as a collective noun that combines Ephraim and Manasseh. It is used in a similar way in 1 Chronicles 5:2. The Blessing that Ephraim and Manasseh will receive is imparted to them through their father.
Jacob has again acknowledged God in three distinct ways:
It is clear from Jacob’s words that the God who tended him continually and the Messenger (Angel) Who redeemed him, are one in the same.
Jacob says, “and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Avraham and Yitzchaak…” because he is calling Ephraim and Manasseh the new heads of the tribes in the sense that they will take over the roles that Reuben and Simeon have failed to uphold.
With regard to the naming of the tribes following this blessing, some lists include Joseph and the clerical tribe of Levi (Deut. 27:12-13), while others omit Levi and divide Joseph into the two tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (Numbers 1:5-15).
Gen 48:17 And when Yosef saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephrayim (Double fruitfulness), it displeased him: and he held up his father's hand, to remove it from Ephrayim’s (Double fruitfulness) head and move it to M’nasheh’s (Cause to forget) head. Gen 48:18 And Yosef said to his father, “Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put your right hand upon his head.” Gen 48:19 And his father refused, and said, “I know, my son, I know: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.”
Prophetically speaking it is better that Israel become doubly fruitful rather than forgetful. It is only when Israel remembers that which she has been delivered from that she returns to HaShem in humility and repentance.
Joseph thought that his father, who was weak sighted, must have made an unintentional mistake in placing his right hand on Ephraim. Jacob gently assures him that he knows what he’s doing. He says this twice to affirm the establishment of God’s will to bless Ephraim as the greater of the two brothers.
Ephraim was 8300 men greater than Manasseh when Israel came out of Egypt (Numbers 1:23) and lead the tribes of Israel during the reign of Jeroboam. Joshua, the successor to Moses was of the tribe of Ephraim and Samuel the prophet (a Levite via Kohath) was from the tribal land of Ephraim. Ephraim eventually became an alternate name for the northern kingdom (Hosea 5:3, Isaiah 7:1-17).
Gen 48:20 And he (Jacob) blessed them that day, saying, “In you shall Yisrael (Overcome in God) bless, saying, ‘Elohiym God make you as Ephrayim (Double fruitfulness) and as M’nasheh (Cause to forget)’”: and he set Ephrayim before M’nasheh.
The traditional Jewish blessing of the children every yom shishi (Friday evening) is based on the Targum which says, “This custom continues with the Jews to this day, to place their hands on persons to bless them; if a son, they say, ‘God make you as Ephraim and Manasseh;’ if a daughter, ’God make you as Sarah and Rebekah:’”
One of the reasons given in Jewish tradition for the pronouncing of this blessing concerning Ephraim and Manasseh, is because these sons of Joseph maintained their Jewish identity according to their father’s teaching even though they were living in Egypt. Thus Jewish parents throughout the world pray that their children will do likewise.
Gen 48:21 And Yisrael said to Yosef, “Hinei Behold now, I die: but Elohiym God (Judge) shall be with you, and bring you again to the land of your fathers. Gen 48:22 Moreover I have given to you shekhem (portion) one above your brothers, which I took out of the hand of the Amori (Speaker, Sayer of sayings) with my sword and with my bow.”
The Hebrew word for "portion" is "Shekhem", which is understood by some Jewish commentators (Targum Yonatan and Yarchi) to refer to the city of Shekhem. The portion of land being referred to in Jacob’s blessing of Joseph was near to Shekhem, and the city itself, and all the adjacent country, eventually came into the possession of the tribe of Ephraim (Joshua 20:7).
“Jacob and his sons had very grievous war with the Amorites on account of the slaughter and captivity of the Shechemites” –Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 5. 1
However, the taking of the land out of the hand of the Amorites is probably not referring to the taking and plundering of the city of Shekhem by Jacob’s sons Levi and Simeon, because Jacob wasn’t involved and even rebuked them for their actions. Additionally, Shekhem was a Hivite town at the time.
Iben Ezra and Ben Gershom suggest that the past tense “Which I took” is to be understood in a future prophetic sense as referring to Jacob’s progeny, as if he had foreseen that his descendants would take it out of the hands of the Amorites, the most powerful of the Canaanite nations, and then it would be given to Joseph's seed.
In giving Joseph this portion above his brothers, Jacob is effectively offering him the double portion belonging to the first born, that is, the birth right (Deut. 21:17), and hence Joseph's bones were interred in Shekhem, because it had become his own land according to his birth right (Joshua 24:32).
© Yaakov Brown 2017
In verse 31, the Septuagint, a Jewish translation of the Hebrew Torah, reads “staff” rather than “bed”, as recorded in the Masoretic Hebrew text of the Torah. There is no need to argue over which is correct. Both are correct. His staff was at the head of his bed, thus he bowed on the staff and at the head of the bed.
Gen 47:1 Then Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) came and spoke to Pharaoh (Great House), saying, “My father and my brothers, and their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have, have come out of the land of K’naan (Lowland, humility); and, hinei behold, they are in the land of Goshen (Draw Near). Gen 47:2 And umik’tzeih from the end, outer edge (cut off) of his brothers he (Yosef) took five men, and yatzigeim established (presented) them lip’neiy before the face of Pharaoh (Great House).
Joseph has carefully orchestrated these events so as to keep his brothers and family separate from the royal court of Egypt and the possibility of assimilation. He has previously placed the idea of Goshen before Pharaoh as a foregone conclusion and Pharaoh is happy to comply with Joseph’s request.
Why only five of his brothers? Some of our Sages suggest that Joseph chose the weakest of the brothers so as to deter Pharaoh from employing them in his court. Others say that he chose the strongest in order to satisfy Pharaoh’s faith in the strength of Joseph and his community, and enlist Joseph’s brothers into the Egyptian military. Five is symbolically seen as half of fullness (10), the first instalment of a work yet to find completion. In a very real sense this is prophetic of what awaits Israel in the years ahead.
It is impossible to know which five brothers were taken before Pharaoh. The Sages’ interpretations range from the weakest to the strongest, and offer various reasons to support their conjectures.
Perhaps the most likely explanation is that Joseph chose brothers from each end of the birth order. This fits with the use of the Hebrew “umik’tzeih” which translates literally as “and from the end”. If this is the correct reading of the Hebrew text then the brothers selected might have included Rueben (Behold a son), Simeon (Heard), Benjamin (Son of my right hand) and Zebulun (Prince, dwelling gloriously, gift), the fifth being either Levi (Joined) or Issachar (reward).
The Targum of Yonatan names the five as, Zebulun, Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher; but Yarchi identifies them as, Reuben, Simeon and Levi, Issachar and Benjamin. Neither list can be considered as anything more than conjecture.
What is clear is that Joseph intended to establish his brothers before Pharaoh as being of great value as herders of Egypt’s animals but of little value to the court of the monarchy and to its military. It seems that his goal was to keep the sons of Israel set apart, in order to maintain their culture and more importantly their priestly role before the one true God HaShem, whom they worshipped and represented in the land of idolatry known as Egypt.
Gen 47:3 And Pharaoh said to his (Yosef’s) brothers, “What is your occupation? And they replied to Pharaoh, Your servants are shepherds, both we, and also our fathers.
As discussed in my commentary on the previous chapter, the role of shepherding was both a practical and spiritual role for the Patriarchs and the tribes of Israel. The Pharaoh in question may be one of the Hyksos kings and is therefore interested in the occupation and lineage of this people who have come from the same region as his descendants, who had invaded Egypt many years prior. If on the other hand he is not a Hyksos ruler and these events are taking place at a later date in History, his question is simply a means by which he can assess how the brothers of Joseph might enhance his rule and the betterment of Egypt.
Gen 47:4 They also said to Pharaoh, “It is in order to sojourn (dwell temporarily) in the land that we have come; for your servants have no pasture for their flocks; for the famine/hunger is severe in the land of K’naan (Humility): now therefore, we plead with you, let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen (Draw near).
All this was said to Pharaoh according to the instructions Joseph had given his brothers. What stands out in respect to Israel’s greater story, is the fact that the brothers said, “It is in order to sojourn (dwell temporarily) in the land that we have come.” It’s clear that the entire family of Jacob understood the promises of God concerning Israel and the importance of looking forward to that day when they would leave Egypt and return to the Land of K’naan, which would make up part of the greater area of land promised to Israel. To sojourn is to dwell temporarily, working and living until the time comes to move on to the goal of one’s journey. All who follow Messiah Yeshua are sojourners, awaiting His return and the goal of our journey, to live eternally with Him in the promised Olam Haba (World to come).
It’s important to note that Joseph’s brothers offer no real threat to the security of Egypt as herders of animals, an occupation reserved for the lower classes and or slaves. Therefore, part of the reason for Joseph’s instructions is to ensure that neither his brothers nor his father appear arrogant or entitled before Pharaoh.
Gen 47:5 And Pharaoh (Great House) spoke to Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds), saying, “Your father and your brothers have come to you (singular): Gen 47:6 The land of Mitzrayim (Double straits/distress) Egypt is before your face (singular); in the best of the land make your father and brothers to dwell; in the land of Goshen (Draw near) let them dwell: and if you know of any men of strength among them, then make them shari my princes over my cattle.”
Pharaoh speaks directly to Joseph using the singular “you” and insists that it is Joseph before whom the entire land of Egypt lies. Joseph has shown great respect to Pharaoh in coming to him before allowing his family to make camp in Goshen. Pharaoh continues to trust Joseph’s judgement in all matters and thus he effectively gives the decision back into Joseph’s hands, saying, “Let them dwell”, meaning, ‘Let them dwell where you’ve suggested”. Finally Pharaoh, having seen the prosperity brought about through Joseph’s leadership, requests that he select the strongest of his brothers to care for his herds. This of course gives some credence to the suggestion that Joseph had brought the weaker looking of the brothers before Pharaoh.
Gen 47:7 And Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) brought in Yaakov (Follows after the heel) his father, and stood him before the face of Pharaoh (Great House), and Yaakov y’vareikh blessed Pharaoh.
What we are reading about here is the meeting of two kings. The king of the people of HaShem (A spiritual king), and the king of a world power.
Hebrews 6:16 reminds us that human beings always swear by one greater than themselves. In the case of the servants of HaShem, that greater One by Whom we swear is God Himself. It is also true that because the Hebrew view understands all blessing to come from God, the person who blesses is always blessing by One greater than himself. In fact, with regard to the Patriarchs and their interactions with other rulers, it can be said that the greater blesses the lesser. In the present case Jacob blesses Pharaoh, there is no mention of Pharaoh blessing Jacob. From the Torah’s perspective Jacob, the servant of God is greater than Pharaoh (Great House). This is why nothing is said of Pharaoh blessing Jacob. God has and will continue to bless Jacob, and through Jacob God pronounces blessing on Pharaoh, for as long as he cares for, protects and facilitates the prosperity of Jacob/Israel.
Gen 47:8 And Pharaoh said unto Yaakov, How old are you?
This question of Pharaoh seems unusual. What might have prompted Pharaoh to ask this?
It seems that in the plain sense Pharaoh is struck by the ancient features of Jacob’s face and his frailty. Though, given what he already knows of Joseph’s father, the opposite may be true. He may be impressed at how fit Jacob looks for a person whom Pharaoh suspects of being much older than himself. It’s possible that Egyptians were not accustomed to seeing people who had lived as long as Jacob had, and that Pharaoh was astounded by Jacob’s obvious old age and wondered how it was possible? Thus he wanted to verify Jacob’s age.
Gen 47:9 And Yaakov said unto Pharaoh, “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years: few and raiym (full of) evils have the days of the years of my life been, and my days are not as many as the days of the years of the lives of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.
We know that Jacob dies at the age of 147 years (47:28). Therefore, he spends two seventeen year periods with Joseph: Joseph’s first 17 years and Jacob’s last seventeen years. 17 is the sum of the two numbers of completion and wholeness. 7 is connected to the created order and its completion, while also being representative of the sevenfold Spirit of HaShem and the emanations of His character. Thus 7 is symbolic of spiritual completion, wholeness, fulfilment. 10 is also a number of completion and wholeness, and seems to have the role of symbolizing the earthly fulfilments of the heavenly will. In simple terms HaShem has shown Jacob the end from the beginning and is now showing him the beginning from the end. He has lived to see part of the promise fulfilled and will now begin a new journey in Hashem, the journey into Gan Eden (Paradise). Though Jacob’s days have been full of troubles, he has none the less seen the faithfulness of HaShem manifest throughout his days on earth as a sojourner/pilgrim.
The root for the Hebrew “guray” meaning pilgrimage or sojourn, is “geir”. Thus, in modern terms Jacob was saying, ‘I’ve been living as an immigrant, a geir (alien/stranger) for 130 years”.
Both Rashbam and Rambam read raiym (evils) as “travails”. In this context the Hebrew raiym can denote trouble.
“Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.” –Job 14:1
Gen 47:10 And Yaakov (YHVH: Mercy adds) y’varekh blessed Pharaoh (Great House) and went out from before Pharaoh.
Once again Jacob (representing HaShem) blesses Pharaoh. Both these blessings are conditional on Pharaoh’s right treatment of Israel. The Torah has already established that God will bless those who bless Abraham’s descendants and curse those who curse them (Gen. 12:3; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; 30:27-30; 39:5, 23).
Gen 47:11 And Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) settled his father and his brothers, and gave them a possession in the land of Mitzrayim Egypt, in the best part of the land, in the land of Rameses (Child of the Sun), as Pharaoh had commanded.
“The land of Rameses” is the later name, that is, the name used during Moses lifetime, for the region of Goshen (Exodus 1:11).
Gen 47:12 And Yosef nourished his father, and his brothers, and all his father's household, with bread, according to the mouths of their children.
“According to the mouths of their children” is an idiom that means each family was given the appropriate amount of supplies for the number of people in the family. The same principle is applied during the collection of manna many years later, following the exodus.
Gen 47:13 And there was no bread (food) in all the land; for the famine/hunger caused great fainting, so that the land (& those in it) of Mitzrayim Egypt and all the land of K’naan (Lowland) fainted before the face of the famine/hunger.
A stark contrast is shown between the care and provisioning of Israel and the general state of the common people of Egypt and K’naan. The “fainting” described is the natural result of low blood sugar and dehydration and is a metaphorically allusion to despair. The famine made things especially difficult during the extremely hot conditions of the summer months.
Gen 47:14 And Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) gathered up all the silver that was found in the land of Mitzrayim Egypt, and in the land of K’naan, (as the price) for the grain which they (the people of Egypt and K’naan) bought: and Yosef brought the silver into Pharaoh's house.
Although Joseph had authority over all these things he showed his great integrity by making himself fiscally accountable to Pharaoh.
Gen 47:15 And when the silver ran out in the land of Mitzrayim Egypt, and in the land of K’naan, all the Mitzrayim Egyptians came to Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds), and said, “Give us bread (food): for why should we die in front of you? Now that the silver is gone. Gen 47:16 And Yosef said, “Give your cattle; and I will give you food in exchange for your cattle, if the silver is gone.” Gen 47:17 And they brought their cattle to Yosef: and Yosef gave them bread (food) in exchange for horses, and for the flocks, and for the cattle of the herds, and for the asses: and he fed them with bread for all their cattle for that year.
We note that it is “bread/food” that is given rather than grain. These events must be taking place in the latter part of the fifth year or the beginning of the sixth year of the famine/hunger, since we read of a second or following year, when seed rather than bread was given to them for the purpose of sowing the land. This means the drought was coming to an end, making the second of these two years the seventh and final year of the famine.
Gen 47:18 When that year was ended, they came to him again the second year, and said to him, “We can’t hide it from my lord, our silver is spent; my lord also has our herds of cattle; there nothing left in the sight of my lord, but our bodies, and our lands: Gen 47:19 As a result, should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for bread (food), and we and our land will be servants to Pharaoh: and give us seed, that we may live, and not die, and so that the land will not be desolate.
In the ancient world it was common for people devoid of any other means of payment to offer their liberty as payment and become indentured servants to those from whom they purchased goods. The irony of the enslavement of the common people of Egypt is not lost on the Hebrew writer of this text. Moses is recording these words in retrospect at Sinai and must surely see the rhythms of God at work as he collates the oral and revealed history and laws of Israel.
Gen 47:20 And Yosef bought all the land of Mitzrayim Egypt for Pharaoh; for every Mitzrayim Egyptian sold his field, because the famine/hunger prevailed over them: so the land became Pharaoh's.
It seems unlikely that those in Pharaoh’s court and those of higher social standing were required to sell their freedom. Along with the priests, the elite were probably exempt due to the stipends they received from Pharaoh.
Gen 47:21 And as for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the borders of Mitzrayim Egypt even to the other end.
This was probably done in order to sever generational ties to those parts of the land that had been sold. Thus those who had sold ancestral lands in one location were moved to another so that they would not become reattached to the idea of owning what they might later consider to be their rightful possession. That is, the land they had sold.
Gen 47:22 Only the adamat ground of ha-coheniym the priests was not purchased; for the priests had a portion assigned them by Pharaoh, and ate their portion of food which Pharaoh gave them: this is why they didn’t sell their ad’maat ground.
The priests of Egypt received their stipend in much the same way as the priests of Israel would one day receive their living from the people for the service offered before HaShem.
It’s interesting to note that if it is the case that only the priests of Egypt were in this privileged position, then one might consider the people of Israel, who were also allowed to maintain their land in Goshen (and buy more land) and received a regular allotment of food from Joseph, to be a nation of priests. In fact, this has been the case since the first priest Abraham chose to lead his children in the paths of Hashem, and is still the case today.
“’So as for you, you will be to Me a kingdom of kohaniym and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you are to speak to Bnei-Yisrael (Children of Israel).” –Exodus 19:6
Gen 47:23 Then Yosef said to the people, “Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: so, here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land.
This happened in the last year of the famine, or else sowing seed would have been pointless.
Gen 47:24 And it shall come to pass in the increase, that you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four fifths shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for those of your households, and for food for your little ones. Gen 47:25 And they said, “You have saved our lives: let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh's servants.” Gen 47:26 And Yosef made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should receive a fifth; with the exception of the land of the priests, which didn’t become Pharaoh's.
Joseph acts generously in Pharaoh’s name. The land owner (Pharaoh) was entitled to take the majority of the land’s produce. Another ruler of the period might have taken four fifths of the produce and left those who worked the land with only a fifth from which to divide up food and seed for replanting. What Joseph agrees to is the opposite of this. Pharaoh will take the lesser portion and the greater portion will remain in the hands of the farmers. This is why the people respond by saying, “You have saved us”. They gladly offer themselves in service of a ruler who will deal with them righteously.
There is a wonderful foreshadowing of the Messiah and His kingdom in this interaction. The Olam Haba (World to come), will be a kingdom owned entirely by the most generous King of all time, God Himself. Those who sell all they have to become His servants in this life are delighted to receive the generous portion of eternal life that God affords those who work in His harvest field. He gives enough for our needs and overflows our cup that we might bless others. When His Son Yeshua (Joseph being the type for Messiah) offers us the opportunity to be set free from certain death in the famine and hunger of this sin affected world, we gladly give up that which we cannot hold on to for that which we will never lose.
The fifth given to Pharaoh, even up until the day of the writing down of the Torah, is symbolic of Egypt’s failure to be complete in its spiritual journey. The tithe of Abraham and subsequently of the priesthood, is a lesser portion practically speaking (A fifth is greater than a tenth), but a greater portion spiritually speaking.
Gen 47:27 And Yisrael (Overcomes in God) dwelt in the land of Mitzrayim Egypt, in the country of Goshen (Draw near); and they acquired property in it, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly.
The priests of Egypt maintained their property, but the priestly nation of Israel extended their land holdings. Israel the man, and “they”, Israel the people, dwelt in Egypt and prospered.
Vayechiy (And He lived)
This parashat is distinct in that unlike others, there is no gap in the Torah text to indicate its division. It may seem ironic that the portion that describes Jacob’s death should be headed “And he lived”. However, this is exactly the right way to describe the deaths of the children of God. As Yeshua has said, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: He is not the God of the dead but of the living!” (Matthew 22:32). For Jacob, now Israel, death is the doorway to the Messiah and Gan Eden (Paradise), and subsequently “He lives, eternally”.
Gen 47:28 And Yaakov (Follows after the heel) lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years: so the total number of Yaakov’s years was one hundred forty seven.
Yaakov the follower, the pilgrim, completes his earthly journey with the knowledge that as Yisrael the overcomer he will enter into Gan Eden (Paradise, Abraham’s bosom).
Gen 47:29 And the time drew nigh that Yisrael (Overcome in God) must die: and he called his son Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) and said to him, “If now I have found grace in your sight, I plead with you, put your hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; I plead with you, do not inter me in Egypt:
Israel, who has overcome in God now calls upon HaShem Who adds mercy, asking for confirmation of the hope he has held in his heart for so many years. He asks to be interred above ground (not buried).
The act of placing the hand under the thigh next to the male sexual organ is symbolic of an oath which binds one to the generations past and future (Gen 24:2). In effect, Joseph is making an oath that will also be incumbent on his progeny. This is why all of Jacob’s sons go up to inter him at Machpelah in Hebron (Gen. 50:8, 12-13).
Gen 47:30 But I will lie with my fathers, and you shall carry me out of Mitzrayim Egypt (Double straits, distress), and inter me in their place of interment.” And he (Joseph) said, “I will do as you have said”. Gen 47:31 And he (Jacob) said, “Swear to me.” And he (Joseph) swore to him. And Yisrael prostrated himself toward the head of the bed (bowed himself on the head of his staff).
“In trusting Yaakov (follower), as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and he bowed in worship while leaning on the top of his staff.” –Hebrews 11:21
In verse 31, the Septuagint, a Jewish translation of the Hebrew Torah, reads “staff” rather than “bed”, as recorded in the Masoretic Hebrew text of the Torah.
There is no need to argue over which is correct. Both are correct. His staff was at the head of his bed, thus he bowed on the staff and at the head of the bed.
With this established we are free to expound the meaning of the head of the bed and the bedrock of the staff, both being significant symbols.
The second of Joseph’s dreams has not yet been fulfilled to completion. His brothers have bowed down to him but his father has not. As Jacob seeks Joseph’s oath, Joseph stands close to the top of his bed. After making the oath upon Jacob’s thigh, Jacob bows to Joseph at the head of his bed and upon his staff. Thus he completes that part of Joseph’s second dream that can be completed and leaves the final fulfilment of it (When both Jacob and Rachel will bow to the Messiah ben Joseph [Yeshua]) until that great day when the Messiah returns and the dead rise.
The head of the bed is the chief place of rest and denotes a final transition of peace. Jacob is bowing to HaShem in the knowledge of his son’s oath, assured that he will be interred in the cave of Machpelah in Hebron (Gen. 23:9-19; 25:9; 49:30; 50:13), along with his forefathers, there to await the resurrection and the life everlasting in the land promised to him by HaShem.
The staff is a sign of Jacob’s authority over all his sons, the tribes of Israel. This is why the name Israel is used in verse 29 prior to the oath and prior to his bowing to Joseph at the head of his bed and upon the staff. This staff of authority is being passed on, not to Judah, but to Joseph, from whom the sons of promise (Ephraim and Menashe) have come forth. This staff is given to Joseph in a figurative representation of the future Messiah, Who will rule over all the tribes of Jacob/Israel, and indeed, over all nations.
“ So Yaakov’s sons did for him just as he commanded them. His sons carried him to the land of K’naan and interred him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, the field that Avraham bought as a property for burial from Ephron the Chitti, next to Mamre.” –Genesis 50:12-13
© Yaakov Brown 2017
Those who fear God need not be afraid of Him.
46:1 So Yisrael (Overcomes in God) set out, along with everything that belonged to him. When he came to Beer-sheva (Well of sevens/oath), he va’izbach slaughtered animals z’bachiym as blood sacrifices lei’eloheiy to the God of his father Yitzchak (He laughs).
It’s Yisrael (Overcomes in God) who sets out, certain of his corporate identity. Upon Yisrael’s (Both the man and the nation) arrival at Beer-Sheva sacrifices are made for both the nation and the man. However, it is Yaakov (the follower), father of the tribes, who needs to be encouraged by HaShem.
Abraham had made an agreement at Beer-Sheva with Avimelech, planting trees to confirm the location’s importance and give shade to future generations (Gen. 21:22-34), and Yitzchak had previously offered sacrifices at Beer-Sheva (Gen. 26:23-33). It was on his way to Charan just after leaving Beer-Sheva, that Jacob had his dream of the stairway to the heavens (Gen. 28:10-16).
Israel’s sacrificing here a symbol of his intrinsic connection to both his forebears and the land. Beer-sheva was considered to be at the southern border of K’naan and was therefore the last stop before entering into new territory. The well (Beer: mayim chayim waters of living) of complete blessing and promised prosperity (Sheva) is the appropriate place for Jacob/Israel to prepare for his descent into Egypt (Double straits/distress).
It seems clear that Jacob was aware of God’s prophecy to Abram concerning his descendants:
“After these things the word of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) came to Abram (Father of a nation) in a vision saying,
‘Do not fear, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward’…
Then He said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your seed will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they will be enslaved and oppressed 400 years. 14 But I am going to judge the nation that they will serve. Afterward they will go out with many possessions.’” –Genesis 15:1, 13-14
Jacob is said to make blood sacrifices (va’izbach z’bachiym) to the God of his father Isaac because the Torah is making clear the generational connection to the promises of God concerning the Land of Israel. The God of Isaac is also named because He has been identified previously as the “Terror/Dread/Awe of Isaac”. It is this fearful and awe inspiring description of God that will accompany Israel on his (their) journey. Yes, Jacob is leaving the land of his fathers, but only for a time. According to the promise of HaShem he will return (Gen. 15:13-14).
It is a great tragedy that even some of the best English translations mislead the reader (be it intentionally or not) by rendering the Hebrew “va’izbach z’bachiym” as “and offered sacrifices”. The Hebrew zabach, meaning to slaughter, is the root of the Hebrew word mizbeiach (altar) and is employed twice in succession here in reference to the act of slauhtering. The Hebrew zabach always indicates slaughter except when it is qualified by another term. This is also true of the Hebrew mizbeiach, meaning altar, as in the case of an altar of incense (mizbeiach miktar) etc.
Jacob is not simply offering generic sacrifices, which could take any form including offerings of fruit etc. To the contrary, he literally “Slaughters, slaughterings”. The point is that he understands the need for blood covering for the remission of sin. When this text is rendered properly it also alerts the reader to the fact that Jacob sees a need to humble himself before God and seek forgiveness for sin through blood sacrifice, prior to journeying to Egypt. All of this is missed if we read “offered sacrifices”.
The Hebrew commentator Radak affirms this understanding of va’izbach z’bachiym saying that Yaakov “offered meat offerings at Beer-sheva”. Radak goes on to say that “The sacrifices he offered were intended to restore the Holy Spirit to him (Jacob) which had departed when Joseph had departed from him.” (Radak on Bereishit 46:1:1). Regardless of whether we agree with Radak’s theology, he is clearly inferring that Jacob sees a need for propitiation and blood atonement in order to reconcile his spiritual journey with HaShem and receive the present manifestation of the Ruach Ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit), in Talmudic terms “The Shechinah” (Manifest feminine Spirit of God).
“For the life of the creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your lives—for it is the blood that makes atonement because of the life.” – Vayikra (Leviticus) 17:11 (TLV)
“And nearly everything is purified in blood according to the Torah, and apart from the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” –Hebrews 9:22 (TLV)
2 And speaking, Elohiym (God: Judge) to Yisrael (Overcomes in God) b’mar’ot in visions/mirrors ha-laylah of the night, said, “Yaakov (Follower at the heel), Yaakov (Follower, disciple).”
It’s Elohiym the Judge who speaks because blood sacrifices have been made as a means of atonement. It is the Judge Who judges the covering and forgives the offense.
We could read the allegory “The Judge spoke to the one who overcomes in God through the reflections of the mirrors of night, saying ‘Follow at My heel, follower, and disciple’.”
The Hebrew “marah”, meaning vision or mirror, conveys the idea that the voice of God is reflected in Jacob’s night time experience. There is a sense of the awesome holiness of God and Jacobs inability as a sinful man to look God full in the face. Thus God’s Word is reflected in the visions. Rav Shaul (Paul the Shaliach: sent one) writes the following words to the Corinthian believers:
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, even as I am fully known.” -1 Corinthians 13:12
The visions of God are mirrors reflecting the light of eternity into our present reality and leading us into futures already held complete in God’s hands. When God speaks we are assured of things unseen and warmed by the reflected light of His glory (k’vod). His present eternity is made real in our fading reality.
Beer-Sheva is the tipping point of trust. Once beyond this point Jacob is fully committed to his course of action. He needs reassurance from HaShem that he is prepared for what lies ahead. Thus HaShem calls to him in order to show Jacob that he is ready and to encourage him in the knowledge that he will not be going alone.
And Yaakov responded, “Hineini,” (Here I am, ready, willing, attentive, I’m standing to attention, I know it’s You, I’ve been prepared before now, I’m obedient, I’m present, No one but You could stop me, I’m certain of Your intentions, I’m afraid but am willing to act on Your instructions regardless).
In Jacob’s response the Sages see the instigation of the Maariv (Evening prayer service).
“Therefore, Yaakov the Patriarch of exile, originated Maariv, to show his children that the exile/night might be the epilogue to one day, but it is prologue to another, even better one” –Meshech Chochmah
Just as his forefathers had done, Jacob offers the contrite and holy response, “Hineini”. I’m utterly laid bare before You HaShem, instruct me, I am willing to go where you lead.
3 And He (God) said, “I am Ha-El the God, Eloheiy God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Mitzrayim (Egypt, double straits/distress), for I will turn you into a great nation there. 4 I Myself will go down with you to Mitzrayim Egypt and I Myself will also bring you up. Yosef (YVHV: Mercy adds) will lay his hands upon your eyes.”
This is God’s only speech in chapters 37-50 and He uses this time to reiterate His promise to Abraham and Isaac (Gen. 12:2-3; 26:2-5). Thus He is assuring Jacob that his leaving the Promised Land does not change the fact that God will honour His commitment to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. “I myself will also bring you up” (v.4). This is a foreshadowing of the future exodus and brings to mind the words of the Passover Haggadah:
“Our father Jacob did not come down to strike roots in Egypt but only to sojourn there.”
Israel is not descending into Egypt in order to be destroyed. Rather he is going down (humbling himself) in order that God might bring him up (redemption). God has already promised Jacob that Israel will become a great nation there (They became 600,000, besides children; Gen. 46:27 Exodus 1:7; 12:37), and that the land of Israel will be kept for the people of Israel in perpetuity. According to the promise of God, Who does not lie.
Yarchi takes the words “I Myself will also bring you up” to be a promise that Jacob will be buried in the land of Canaan, which had its fulfilment, when his corpse was carried out of Egypt to Machpelah, and there interred.
God had previously instructed Isaac not to go down to Egypt during a past famine, waiting instead for the right time in human history (Perhaps corresponding to the latter Hyksos period), when He will seed a great nation in the midst of a great famine.
The Rabbi Sforno writes:
“I am the One Who told your father (Isaac) ‘do not go down to Egypt’ (Gen. 26:2-3), I am also the One Who tells you ‘do not be afraid to go down to Egypt at this time’. The difference is that the time has come. If you were to remain in Canaan at this time, your family would intermarry in short order with the members of the local population, so that they would become assimilated to them and the future of a Jewish nation would be jeopardised. This is something that will not happen in Egypt.” –Sforno on Bereishit (Genesis) 46:3:1
“Lay his hands on your eyes” is an idiomatic expression referring to the act of closing the eyes of one who has died (Ibn Ezra). Both Maimonides and the writers of the Talmud agree that the closing of the eyes of the dead, is among the appropriate rites used towards them (Hilchot Ebel, l. 4. sect. 1; Talmud. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 151. 2.). The use of this expression assures Jacob that the son whom he had once thought dead will outlive him. This strengthens Jacob’s resolve in going down to Egypt.
It’s worth repeating that the God of Isaac, in whose name Jacob has sacrificed, is known as “The Dread/Fear of Isaac”, and yet it is this same God Who commands Isaac’s son Jacob, “Do not be afraid”. What this teaches us is that those who fear God need not be afraid of Him. The title “Dread of Isaac” is intended for those who seek to harm the chosen people of God. The children of HaShem need not be afraid of Him.
5 Then Yaakov (Follower at the heel) arose from Beer-Sheva (Well of seven/oath) and the children of Yisrael (Overcome in El) carried Yaakov their father, their little children, and their wives in the carts that Pharaoh (Great House) had sent to carry him.
It is Jacob the follower who arises to go and the sons of Israel the nation, carry the follower Jacob, the last of the great Patriarchs (Patriarch of Exile), and all his household, down to Egypt.
The current verse shows us that Jacob is to be included in the final sum of 70 recorded at the end of the listing of his household.
It is noteworthy that Jacob's wives aren’t mentioned here, it is likely that they were all now dead; it is certain Rachel was (Gen. 35:19), and it’s likely that Leah died before this time, since Jacob says he buried her himself in Machpelah in Canaan (Gen. 49:31). It’s also very likely that his two concubine wives Bilhah and Zilpah were dead.
6 They also took their livestock and their possessions they had acquired in the land of K’naan (Humility, lowland) and they came to Mitzrayim Egypt, Yaakov (Follower) and all his offspring with him. 7 His sons and his grandsons with him, his daughters and his granddaughters, and all his offspring, he brought with him to Mitzrayim Egypt.
This general accounting of the household of Jacob serves the primary purpose of conveying the fact that all of Jacob’s bloodline are descending to Egypt. This is a defining moment in distinguishing who will become part of the roots of ethnic Israel the nation. Those rabbis who foolishly claim that being Jewish has nothing to do with ethnic lineage are sadly mistaken. Though many will marry into Israel in future times through conversion and devotion to God, the primary bloodline remains as a distinct reminder of the Jewish peoples intrinsic connection to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and to the history recorded in the Torah. Yes, there is a religious component to the identity of the Jewish people, there is also a cultural aspect, but these things do not deny the bloodline at the root of our nation (Where ever we are dispersed). In his excellent book titled Legacy, author Harry Ostrer presents definitive evidence of the common DNA marker present in Jewish people from diverse cultures and locations throughout the world. His science affirms what the Torah teaches, that “the life is in the blood”.
The mention of daughters and granddaughters refers both to those born and to those who are yet to be born in Egypt, and probably includes Sarah the daughter of Asher (Gen. 46:5) We must remember that Moses is writing this down many years later and is including his knowledge of the greater house of Israel in Egypt in order to show that all of Israel both at the time of Jacob’s descent and into the future, are considered to have descended into Mitzrayim (double distress: Egypt). The fact that all the names of daughters/daughters-in-law (Dinah etc. ref. Radak on Gen. 46:7:1) and granddaughters are not included in the following accounting, by no means excludes them from the household. The Torah is conveying the perfect number 70 as symbolizing the completion and prosperity of Israel as a people. This is not intended as a precise genealogical record. This is why there are variant names in other accounts (Num. 26:38-40; 1 Chronicles 7:6; 8:1), where sons are named as grandsons. These grandsons are included here in anticipation of their birth (Hebrews 7:10).
The List of Members of Yaakov’s Household who went down to Egypt
The following list seeks to give an overview of the house of Israel as it enters Egypt. The numbers of people adding up to seventy in total are meant to convey symbolic meaning. Thus the threes indicate the unity of God and revelation, while the number seventy combines the two numbers of wholeness and perfection 10 x 7 = 70.
Ultimately the meaning is that God has brought to wholeness and completion the beginnings of a holy nation whom He will multiply and bless, making them a great nation according to His promise. He also promises to return Israel to the land of promise, making her a light to the nations, who are also represented in the number 70 according to the table of nations recorded in Genesis 10.
This list arranges the family of Jacob according to the order of his wives, first listing the children of Leah and her maid Zilpah and then the children of Rachel and her maid Bilhah.
8 Now these are the names of the b’nai children of Yisrael (Overcome in God) who came to Mitzrayim (Egypt: land of double distress), Yaakov (Follower) and his sons: Yaakov’s firstborn, Reuven (Behold a son), 9 and Reuven’s sons: Chanoch (Dedicated), Palu (distinguished), Chezron (Surrounded by a wall) and Carmi (My vineyard). 10 Shimon’s (heard) sons: Yemuel (Day of God), Yamiyn (Right hand), Ohad (United), Yachiyn (He will establish), Tzochar (Reddish grey: tawny) and Shaul (Desired) the son of the K’naani woman. 11 Levi’s (joined to) sons: Gershon (exile), Kohat (assembly) and Merari (bitter). 12 Yehudah’s (Praise) sons: Er (Awake, watchful), Onan (strong), Shelah (A petition), Peretz (Breach) and Zerah (rising). Er died along with Onan in the land of K’naan. Perez’s (Breach) sons were Chezron (Surrounded by a wall) and Chamul (spared). 13 Yissachar’s (There is recompense/reward) sons: Tola (Worm), Puah (splendid), Yob (persecuted) and Shimron (watch, height, guardian). 14 Zebulun’s (Exalted) sons: Sered (Fear), Elon (Mighty, terebinth) and Yachleel (YHVH Mercy waits). 15 These are Leah’s (Weary) sons whom she bore to Yaakov in Paddan-aram (Field of Aram: exaltation), along with his daughter Dinah (judgement). The tally of all of his sons and daughters was 33 people.
From both the previous verses and from the statement of verse 8 “Yaakov and his sons” we conclude that the number 33 is inclusive of Jacob. In one sense we can understand the tally to mean “The number representing all his sons and daughters was 33”. If we understand the numbers symbolically we are more in tune with the intention of Moses.
16 Gad’s (troop) sons: Tziphion (lookout), Chaggi (My festival), Shuni (rest, providence), Ezbon (Discern in haste), Eri (My watcher), Arodi (I shall roam, subdue) and Areli (My Lion of God). 17 Asher’s (Happy) sons: Yimnah (right hand), Yishvah (He will resemble), Yishvi (He resembles me), Beriyah (with a friend), and Serach (The princes spirit/breath) their sister. Beriyah’s (with a friend) sons: Chever (friend) and Malkiyel (My King is God). 18 These are the sons of Zilpah (A trickling), whom Laban (White) gave to Leah (weary) his daughter. She bore these to Yaakov: 16 people. 19 The sons of Yaakov’s wife Rachel (ewe): Yosef (YHVH Mercy adds) and Benyamin (Son of my right hand). 20 Menashe (Causing to forget) and Ephraim (Doubly fruitful) were born to Yosef in the land of Mitzrayim Egypt--As’nat (Belonging to Neit) the daughter of Potiphera (He whom Ra gave) priest of On (strength) bore them to him. 21 Benyamin’s (Son of my right hand) sons: Bela (destruction), Becher (young camel), Ashbel (Man of God/husband), Gera (a grain), Naaman (pleasantness), Ehi (My brother), Rosh (head), Muppim (Serpent), Huppim (protected) and Ard (I shall subdue). 22 These are Rachel’s sons who were born to Yaakov. The tally of all the people was 14. 23 The sons of Dan (Judge): Chushim (make haste) 24 Naphtali’s (wrestling) sons: Yachtzel (God divides), Guni (My defender), Yetzer (forming, inclination) and Shillem (repaid). 25 These are the sons of Bilhah (troubled) whom Laban (white) gave to Rachel (ewe) his daughter and she bore these to Yaakov. The tally of all the people was seven. 26 All the people belonging to Yaakov who came to Mitzrayim Egypt—those coming from his loins (not counting the wives of Yaakov’s sons)—the tally of all the people was 66.
In order to reach the total of 66, Dinah must be added (v.15) making 71 and 5 names subtracted: Er and Onan (buried in K’naan), Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, who are already in Egypt. Thus we reach the number of descendants traveling with him, which is 66. The following verse then adds Joseph and his sons to equal 69, plus Jacob, the sum being seventy.
27 The sons of Yosef who were born to him in Mitzrayim Egypt was a tally of two people. The tally of all the people belonging to Yaakov’s house who came to Mitzrayim Egypt was 70.
The Daat Zkenim romantically suggests that it is God Who makes up the 70th person of Jacob’s household, saying that though 70 are said to descend only 69 are mentioned. However, this is easily explained with the inclusion of Jacob and the fact that while Jacob may be a member of God’s household, God is not a member of Jacob’s household (With the exception of course of Yeshua [God with us] the King Messiah).
28 Now he sent Yehudah (Praise) before him to Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) in order to direct his face to Goshen (Drawing near).
The plan meaning shows Judah’s role as King of the tribes. He is going ahead to make preparations for Israel’s settlement in Goshen.
The follower sent praise before him to the one who adds mercy in order to guide his face to draw near.
There is a beautiful allegory here. Judah (Praise), the father of the tribe that later brings us the King Messiah, goes before Israel into the land of Egypt, a land that will become synonymous with slavery, bondage and death. Thus we are shown a picture of our Messiah entering this fallen, death affected world, in order to bring us to a place of drawing near to God (Goshen).
When they came to the land of Goshen (Drawing near), 29 Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) harnessed his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet his father Yisrael. As soon as he appeared before him, he fell upon his neck, and wept on his neck for some time.
The plain meaning is clear, Joseph had longed for this day of reconciliation and is utterly overwhelmed. Tears of grief over years lost mix with tears of joy at seeing his aged father.
The sages say that Jacob recited the Shema (Deut. 6:4) at this moment (Rashi). The reciting of the Shema is an acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty. This is why Jacob is said to have chanted the famous prayer upon seeing his beloved son Joseph (Aryeh). Jacob finally realizes what he has always believed, that God is in control of all things.
Rambam suggests that the verb “wept” applies to Jacob rather than Joseph, who is the antecedent to the preceding pronoun eilayu (toward him). If this is correct we would read “And he (Jacob) fell on (Joseph’s) neck and he (Jacob) wept.”
30 Then Yisrael (Overcomes in God) said to Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds), “At this time I am ready to die, after seeing your face in person—for you’re still alive!”
For years Jacob has been mourning his son Joseph in bitter depression and has been focussed on his own mortality in light of the loss of his favoured son. Now his talk of death takes on new meaning. Rather than dying in the bitterness of grief and loss, unwilling to go on in life, he instead looks forward to dying in the knowledge of God’s faithfulness, due to having seen his beloved son alive, Jacob himself is reborn.
31 Then Yosef said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I’ll go up and tell Pharaoh (Great house), and say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household who were in the land of K’anaan have come to me. 32 The men are shepherds, for they’ve been men who handle livestock, who have brought their flocks and cattle and everything that they possess.’ 33 So when Pharaoh calls you and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ 34 you must say, ‘Your servants have been men who handle livestock since the time of our youth until now, both we and our fathers,’ so that you can live in the land of Goshen, because every shepherd is loathsome to the Egyptians.”
Joseph seems to be coaching his family on how to ensure that they will receive the fertile land of Goshen and at the same time keep themselves separate from the idolatrous Egyptian culture. Thus he urges them to emphasize the fact that they are shepherds, a profession the animal worshipping Egyptians despised. It is also possible however, that the Egyptians despised foreign shepherds in particular rather than shepherds in general.
By identifying themselves as foreign shepherds they were ensuring their possession of the land of Goshen for their herds and will be kept from future assimilation due to Goshen’s semi isolated location [Goshen was a fertile region in northeast Egypt, east of the Nile delta, which contained the country’s most fertile soil and is called the best of the land (Gen. 47:6)]. This in turn would keep their own worship practices alive and strengthen their devotion to HaShem. In this environment they would strengthen their bloodlines and multiply, growing from strength to strength.
Israel’s practical role as shepherd informed her spiritual growth and her identity as the sheep of the Shepherd over all nations, HaShem and His Messiah (Psalm 80:1; 23, Jer. 31:10). Shepherds are tasked with caring for and nurturing dependent animals, sheep are prone to wondering and in need of protection. Within this role the Israelites learned to identify their own shortcomings as the chosen sheep of HaShem, and their need to rely on Him completely. It is no surprise that the idea of shepherding was despicable to the Egyptians, who had slaves do this menial work and spent their days involved in less honourable pursuits such as, idolatry, political intrigue and occult practices, to name a few.
It is possible that these events took place during the Hyksos reign 1680-1540 BCE. Which makes it unlikely that the Egyptian hatred for Shepherds is associated, as some claim, with the aftermath of the so called “Shepherd Kings” of the Hyksos (Syro-Palestinian invaders). Anyone caught dishonouring the Hyksos leaders of the time would have been dealt with severely. It is also clear from the text itself that the Pharaoh of our text shares the same dislike for shepherds as the rest of the Egyptian community. Therefore, he does not consider himself a “Shepherd King”, a title used in folk tradition long after the Hyksos period.
On the other hand, if these events took place at a later period in Egyptian history, it must be stressed that Egyptians had slaves who shepherded their own herds and flocks. Thus it seems likely, as previously stated, that their hatred was for foreign shepherds rather than for shepherds in general.
© Yaakov Brown 2017
Genesis 45: The Revelation of Joseph
The favour that God bestows on others does not diminish our value, but our envy of them clouds our ability to see our value.
It is the repentant and self-sacrificing plea of Judah on behalf of his brother Benjamin, and the imminent possibility of Jacob’s death that acts as the catalyst for Joseph’s break down and revelation. The viceroy and ruler of Egypt, Joseph (YHVH: Mercy adds), chooses to refuse vengeance and instead adds mercy to his brothers.
It is almost impossible for the Spirit filled disciple of Yeshua to miss the obvious correlation between the present text and the final exodus of the Jewish people recorded in the Revelation of Yeshua (Jesus) to Yochanan (John).
Just as the tribes of Israel have gathered in repentance before Joseph in Egypt and according to the revelation of his person, mourn their sin and are reconciled through his mercy, so too the books of Romans (11) and Revelation explain that in the latter days all the tribes of Israel will look upon the one whom we have pierced and in repentance will receive the mercy of Yeshua our Mashiyach. If there were ever any doubt as to the correlation between the life stories of Joseph and Yeshua, it is silenced here.
Gen 45:1 Then Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) no longer had the power to restrain himself in front of all who stood near him; and he called out, “Cause every man to go out from me”. And there stood no man with him, when Yosef made himself known to his brothers.
Mercy added knowledge to the tribes of Israel.
It is clear from the last verses of the previous chapter, that it is Joseph’s realization that his brothers are truly repentant, along with their care for Benjamin and Joseph’s own fears for the wellbeing of his father which finally bring him to the end of himself, emotionally speaking.
Rashbam suggests that Joseph had his personal staff and other household members leave the room because his position required that he be seen by them only in an emotionally neutral state.
Prophetically speaking, Joseph’s revealing himself to his brothers in private seems to correlate to Yeshua’s revealing Himself to the twelve disciples (All of whom were Jews and represented the twelve tribes of Israel). Following His transfiguration Yeshua instructs the three, “Don’t tell anyone” (Matt. 17:9; 9:9).
Gen 45:2 Vayitein And giving kolu his voice, he wept: and the Mitzrayim (Egyptians: Double distress) and the house of Pharaoh (Great House) heard.
This can be understood to mean that word spread to Pharaoh’s house from the houses surrounding Joseph’s house, or, that Joseph’s house was close enough to Pharaoh’s palace that he could be heard. Regardless, the weeping must have taken the form of wailing in order to have been heard outside the walls of Joseph’s house.
Gen 45:3 And Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) said to his brothers, “I am Yosef; does my father ha-od continue in chaiy health (life)? And his brothers could not answer him; for they were terrified before mipanay’u his face.
Everyone, including the interpreter, had been cleared from the room. Now only Joseph and his brothers remained. Therefore, Joseph must be speaking Hebrew at this point. Thus the brother’s terror and astonishment are triggered not only by the words themselves but also by the fact that Joseph is now speaking their mother tongue.
Joseph is not repeating the previously answered question of whether his father is alive. Rather in this context the Hebrew chaiy indicates health, much like the English expression “Full of life”, chaiy is used in a similar way in verse 27 where it speaks of Jacob being revived. Other uses of chaiy denoting health and wellbeing can be found in Lev. 18:5, Deut. 8:3; Prov. 14:30; Hab. 2:4 etc.
We notice that Joseph’s brothers were terrified by his revelation. They gazed upon his face (panayu). In other words, when Joseph made himself known, the familiarity they had sensed when looking upon him became suddenly and awe inspiringly clear. So too, at the end of the age, the twelve tribes of Israel will look upon the One Whom they have pierced (Zech. 12:10; John 19:37), and in repentance the entire remnant of the ethno-religious people of Israel (Jews) will be redeemed through Yeshua (Romans 11:25-26).
“When Joseph said ‘I am Joseph,’ God’s master plan became clear to the brothers. They had no more questions. Everything that had happened for the last twenty-two years fell into perspective. So too, will it be in the olam haba (time to come) when God will reveal Himself and announce, “I am HaShem!” The veil will be lifted from our eyes and we will comprehend everything that transpired throughout history.” –Chafetz Chaim
“Therefore, having such a hope, we act with great boldness. 13 We are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face in order for Bnei-Yisrael not to look intently upon the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were hardened. For up to this very day the same veil remains unlifted at the reading of the ancient covenant, since in Messiah it is passing away. 15 But to this day, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart. 16 But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Ruach Adonai is, there is freedom. 18 But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory—just as from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” -2 Corinthians 3:12-28 (TLV)
Gen 45:4 And Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) said to his brothers, “G’shu Draw near to me, please, eli into me, against me. Va’igashu And they came near. And he said, I am Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) your brother, you sold me into Mitzrayim (Egypt: Double distress). Gen 45:5 Now therefore, don’t be cut up, nor angry in your own eyes, that you sold me here: for it was to preserve life that Elohiym (God: Judge) sent me before lip’neichem your faces.
Adding Mercy he spoke to his brothers, “Draw near, intimately close in brotherly love”. And the brothers drew close. “I am adding mercy” he said, “I’m your brother who you sold into double distress. But don’t dwell on your sin or condemn yourselves because you sold me into this place: it is because there was a need to preserve life that The Judge sent me before your faces (while you were still unable to see).
Joseph responds to the brothers’ terror with an invitation of grace and mercy. “I am the one who adds mercy, your brother”. Joseph does not deny the reality of the sin committed against him. He states clearly that which is already on the minds of the brothers’, “You sold me into double distress”. When he continues he further illuminates and acts out a progression of redemption through repentance and mercy.
He has stated his identity as the aggrieved party, acknowledged that he has been sinned against, and has accepted the repentant attitude and actions of those who have committed the sin. Now, drawing attention to all these elements he says, “Now, therefore, don’t be cut up or become self-condemning because you sold me here: for it was to preserve life that Elohiym (God: Judge) sent me before lip’neichem your faces.” Not only did The Judge Elohiym send Joseph ahead of his brothers to preserve them and the entire household of Jacob, He also, through Joseph, has preserved the lives of the Egyptians, who would otherwise have starved to death during the famine. Thus, “To preserve life”.
“All of us (sons of Jacob) were destined to descend into Egypt according to God’s decree that Avraham’s descendants would be aliens in a foreign land (Gen. 15:13). Normally we would have gone to Egypt in iron fetters [in the same manner of all slaved-exiles], but He chose to spare Father (Jacob) and you from the harshness of a forced descent into hostile conditions. He set me here to prepare the way and provide for you in honour.” –collected from Tanchuma; Lecha Tov
Gen 45:6 For these two years the famine (hunger) has been in the land: and there are five years yet to come, in which there will neither be sowing nor harvesting.
Benjamin had been given the fivefold portion as the first half of the completion of the work of Israel’s establishment in Egypt. There will now be five more years of reliance on the provision of Joseph under Pharaoh, bringing the prosperity and security of Israel (Jacob) to completion. Thus the number ten represents the fullness and certainty of the promised provision of God.
Gen 45:7 And Elohiym (God: Judge) sent me before your faces to place you as a remnant ba-aretz in the land, and to keep you alive for a great deliverance.
As a preserved remnant, Israel was to be set apart as the nation from whom the Messiah will come. God had been working to bring about the deliverance of Israel from hunger and death, and He will continue to do so throughout her history until that final deliverance which is foretold in the prophetic book of Revelation. A book that retells the exodus as the grand meta-narrative encompassing generations and fulfilling the allotted days of this world.
The deliverance Joseph speaks of is both the present coming to Egypt of Joseph’s family and the future deliverance of the people of Israel from slavery, both physical and spiritual.
Gen 45:8 And now it was not you that sent me here, but Ha-Elohiym the God/Judge: and He has made me to be a father to Pharaoh (Great House), and adon lord of all his house, and a ruler in all the eretz land of Mitzrayim Egypt (Double distress).
“And now” is the phrase that secures the brothers’ forgiveness and distinguishes between the past sin and the present reconciliation. “It was not you that sent me here” reveals the purposes and participation of the loving God YHVH. It infers that Joseph was not simply sold but called by God in his dreams and sent ahead by God via the vehicle of adversity.
“Father to the King” is an ancient title given to viziers and is therefore appropriately applied to Joseph. The title father is also used to refer to Israel’s prophets, as in the case of Elisha, who is called “O my father, my father, the chariots and horsemen of Israel” (2 Kings 13:14). Thus Elisha is seen as the spiritual leader of Israel, who has authority in God to direct the outcomes of Israel’s military battles. Given the Hebrew understanding of the use of father in this context, it seems very likely that Joseph’s role in Egypt was a combination of spiritual and military leadership. Additionally, it is also symbolically significant in its representation of Joseph as a type for the Messiah. Yeshua said, “I and the Father are echad (complex unity)”. It is comforting to know that our Messiah is Ruler, even in the land of double distress (Mitzrayim/Egypt).
Gen 45:9 You hurry, and go up to my father, and say to him, “This is what your son Yosef says, ‘Elohiym (God/Judge) has made me adon lord of all Mitzrayim Egypt: come down to me, don’t delay: Gen 45:10 And you shall dwell in the land of Goshen (Drawing near), and you shall be near to me, you, and your children, and your children's children, and your flocks, and your herds, and all that you have: Gen 45:11 And there will I nourish you; for there are yet five years of famine (hunger); otherwise you and your household, and all that you have, will come to poverty.
Goshen was a fertile region in northeast Egypt, east of the Nile delta, which contained the country’s most fertile soil and is called the best of the land (Gen. 47:6).
The repetition of the phrase “draw near” which was seeded in verse 4, conveys a rhythm of reconciliation and intimacy that cradles the entire account. Joseph is sending a message to his Abba (Dad) saying, “I’m alive Dad, and I’m a trusted adviser to the king and a ruler over all Egypt. Come down (Draw near) to me, live in a place called “Draw near” and dwell near to me with your entire household for the remainder of your days. Also, allow the generations of your progeny to draw near to me.”
As a type for the Messiah, Joseph is echoing the future work of the Messiah:
“Let us therefore draw near with boldness to the throne of chesed (grace), that we might receive rachamiym (mercy) and find chesed (grace) to help in time of need.” –Hebrews 4:16
The major city of Goshen was Rameses. Goshen is thought to have been near Tanis, the seat of power of the Hyksos (Chiefs of Foreign Lands), Semitic invaders who dominated Egypt from approx. 1720 to 1580 BCE. The name Rameses was used in later times during the reigns of the Ramessides of the thirteenth century BCE. These are possibly the periods of Joseph (mid 1700s) and Moses (mid 1300s) respectively.
Gen 45:12 V’hinei And behold, your (plural) eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benyamin (Son of my right hand), that it is my mouth (language) that speaks to you.
“You can recognize my features with your own eyes. You can also identify me by my speaking Hebrew.” -Radak
Gen 45:13 And you shall tell my father of all k’vodi my glory in Mitzrayim Egypt (Double distress), and of all that you have seen; and you shall hurry and bring my father down here. Gen 45:14 And he fell upon his brother Benyamin's neck, and wept; and Benyamin wept upon his neck.
Joseph’s glory in Egypt and his intimate connection to his father remind me of the words of Yeshua:
“I glorified You on earth by finishing the work that You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world came to be.” –Yochanan (John) 17:4-5
“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” –Revelation 12:11
Joseph clearly favours Benjamin over his other brothers and their blood bond strengthens their joyful tears of relief at finally reuniting. The language “And he fell upon his brother Benyamin's neck, and wept” is more dramatic than that of the following verse, where he simply kisses and weeps upon the brothers.
The reason God favours one over another in this life, is so that He might exhibit His offer of eternal favour to all. In regard to salvation God has no favourites, but in regard to the way we walk, He favours the obedient.
Gen 45:15 Moreover he kissed all his brothers, and wept upon them: and after that his brothers talked with him.
This final act of reconciliation releases the brothers from their fear of Joseph the Egyptian ruler (Judge) and invites them into safe conversation with Joseph their brother and redeemer.
Yeshua, in respect to the God-head, is our judge, redeemer and comfort (God with us). And in respect to His humanity, He allowed Himself to become our brother. Like the brothers of Joseph, we view Yeshua as a fearsome judge until we receive His intimate kiss. The Torah brings death only to those who are already dead. It is a judge over the sinner and an instructor to the righteous.
Gen 45:16 V’hakol And the kol voice, sound, was heard in the house of Pharaoh, saying, Yosef's brothers are come: and it was pleasing in the eyes of Pharaoh, and his servants. Gen 45:17 And Pharaoh said to Yosef, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this; load your animals, and go, head to the land of K’naan (Lowland, humility); Gen 45:18 And fetch your father and your households, and come to me: and I will give you the good of the land of Mitzrayim Egypt, and you shall eat the fat of the land. Gen 45:19 Now you are commanded, do this; take wagons out of the land of Mitzrayim Egypt for your little ones, and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. Gen 45:20 Also regard not your possessions; for the good of all the land of Egypt is yours.
And The Voice was heard in the great house saying, “Mercy has added his brothers to you”.
Joseph was unable to go up to get his father himself due to his role as Egypt’s viceroy and the many responsibilities he had, particularly during this time of famine. Thus (care of Pharaoh) he is very specific in his instructions to his brothers. Pharaoh’s relationship with Joseph is clearly a positive one that goes beyond politics and the matters of the ruling class. He shows extravagant hospitality to the brothers and affords Joseph the opportunity to lavish them with supplies and promise fertile land upon their return.
Regard not your possessions, for all the goodness that comes from the land of distress is yours.
Adversity teaches us that material possessions are worthless in light of the eternal truths learned through our struggles.
Gen 45:21 And the children of Yisrael (Overcomes in God) did so: and Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) gave them wagons, according to the commandment of Pharaoh, and gave them provision for the way.
The use of the name Israel here is one of the many reasons that the popular but flawed redacted theory is so unattractive to me. The name Israel in this section of the text of the Torah is an anomaly that refutes the idea of the so called pro-Jacob Elohimist. In fact, the reason the name Israel is used hear is because it is not merely Jacob who is being delivered from famine but the entire people of Israel. This is the perfect place to use the unified title of the tribes, directly after their reconciliation and provisioning. And there is absolutely no reason to believe it was inserted by a redactor at a later date.
Gen 45:22 To all of them he gave each man changes of clothes; but to Benyamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver, and five changes of clothes.
Each brother is clothed and cared for but Benjamin is given special treatment as Joseph’s favoured brother, the only one who had not participated in his sale into slavery. There is no indication of the old rivalries, the brothers have learned to accept and appreciate that which God has provided and to celebrate the special gifts which have been given to their younger brother. There is much for us to learn from this. The favour that God bestows on others does not diminish our value, but our envy of them clouds our ability to see our value. Therefore, we celebrate the Good God bestows on others and in doing so we realize our true identity as sons and daughters of God in Messiah.
Gen 45:23 And to his father he sent the following; ten donkeys laden with the good things of Egypt, and ten she donkeys laden with grain and bread and food for his father’s return journey.
The double portion of fullness (10) is in compensation for Jacob’s double distress at losing his two sons (albeit temporarily). The bread supplies the immediate need and the grain provides for making bread when the fresh bread runs out. The remainder of the food may be dried fruit, meats etc. for the journey.
Gen 45:24 So he sent his brothers away, and they departed: and he said to them, See that you don’t have a falling out on the way.
The p’shat (plain) meaning here denotes that Joseph was concerned that the brothers might look to blame one another for the mistreatment of Joseph. Alternatively, he was concerned that they would begin to argue over why Benjamin received such extravagant gifts from Joseph. Whatever the reason the point was that Joseph wanted his brothers to remain focused on the goal of their journey which was to bring Jacob and all his household to Egypt in fulfilment of the decree of HaShem (Gen. 15:13).
Gen 45:25 And they went up out of Mitzrayim Egypt (Double distress), and came into the land of K’naan (Lowland, humility) to Yaakov (Follower) their father, Gen 45:26 And spoke to him, saying, “Yosef is chaiy alive, and he is governor over all the land of Mitzrayim Egypt”. And Yaakov’s lev core being/heart became faint (slacked), for he did not believe them. Gen 45:27 And they told him all the words of Yosef, which he’d said to them: and when he saw the wagons which Yosef had sent to carry him, ha-ruach the spirit of Yaakov (Follower) their father v’t’chaiy revived: Gen 45:28 And Yisrael (Overcomes in God) said, “It is enough; Yosef my son is chaiy alive: I will go and see him before I die.
Both Rashi and Rambam suggest the Jacob experienced a spiritual revival upon accepting the truth of the news concerning Joseph. This, they say, is why the name Yisrael (Signifying Jacob’s spiritual nobility) is employed in the following verse.
Jacob’s mourning “will bring down my grey head in sorrow to sheol” (Gen. 42:38), is turned to joy, “It is enough that Joseph my son lives: I will go and see him before I die!”
© Yaakov brown 2017
Joseph is a type for the Mashiyach and Judah is the name under which ethnic Israel would one day be conjoined.
44:1 Then he instructed the one over his household saying, “Fill the men’s sacks with as much food as they are able to lift and put silver in the mouth of each man’s sack. 2 Place my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, along with his grain and silver.” So he did as Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) told him.
The Targum Yonatan once again asserts that the “One over his house” is Manasseh.
Joseph had sought to prove his brothers in many ways, during their first trip to Egypt and then during the meal he provided for them upon their return with Benjamin. However, he seems determined to seek confirmation of the brothers’ repentant spirit by placing them in a position where they will have to choose either to fight for a son of Rachel (Benjamin), or flee in order to save themselves.
The returning of the silver is of no real practical consequence, given that this has been done previously. However, each time Joseph returns the silver to his brothers he is leaving a clue to the ruse. After all, they had received 20 pieces of silver as his purchase price when they sold Joseph into slavery (37:18-28).
What makes this plot more convincing is the addition of the personal sacred item. The cup in question may have been similar in appearance to other sacred goblets used in divination and occult practices. It is clearly symbolic of Joseph’s authority and is an intimate object that touches the mouth: the domain of speech, food, kissing etc. It is obviously a cup he drinks from regularly.
3 In the morning light, the men were sent off, they and their donkeys. 4 They left the city and had not gone far, when Yosef said to the one over his household, “Arise, run after the men. When you catch up to them, say to them, “Why have you repaid ra’ah evil for good?
“Get up, chase after the men while the fear of the city is still upon them.” -Tanchuma
Joseph was clearly using the awe of the city and the proximity of his power to help inspire fear in his brothers. If the one over Joseph’s house had waited until the brothers were outside of the city they may have felt that they were a safe distance away and simply made their escape.
The charge “Why have you repaid evil for good” is a heavy accusation in the culture of the Middle East. Hospitality is paramount and any suggestion that hospitality has been disrespected in any way is often seen as being a greater offense than petty crimes like stealing.
5 Isn’t this the one (cup) from which adonaiy my lord drinks? He even uses it to nachash y’nachash diligently observe by divination (observe a hissing snake). This is ha-reiotem the evil that you’ve fashioned!” 6 Thus he had caught up to them and spoken these words to them.
An ancient Jewish translation of the Tanakh called the Septuagint offers evidence that a second question “Why have you stolen my silver goblet?” was once included in the Hebrew text at the end of verse 4. This helps us make sense of the fact that the Hebrew “Kos” (Cup) is not used in verse 5.
The phrase “From which my lord drinks” is meant to inspire terror in the hearers. The cup of a king was sacred property and the stealing of it was a direct slight against the one in authority of the entire land of Egypt.
The use of the Hebrew “ha-reiotem” from the root “ra’ah”, meaning evil, is interesting. It is used twice in as many verses and carries the core meaning of the accusation against the brothers. First in verse 4 it is said “Why have you repaid ra’ah evil for tovah good?” Then again here in verse 5 we read “This is ha-reiotem the evil that you’ve fashioned”. When added to the double use of the Hebrew “Nachash” meaning “hiss, divine, snake, divination, observe diligently etc.”, the twofold ruse of Joseph is illuminated against the double sin of his brothers. They first threw him into a pit in order to kill him and then sold him into slavery. Joseph has thrown them into a pit (during their first visit to Egypt) and is now placing them in a position where the only means of saving the life of Benjamin and their own lives is to submit to slavery.
It is important to remember that the reference to divination does not mean that Joseph practiced divination. In order for Joseph to live and work in Egypt he must have possessed cultural items and objects of authority and items that others associated with Egyptian worship that were simply part everyday life for one who was associated with the Egyptian monarchy. All of this is a ruse. Later when Joseph claims to know things by divination he is simply playing a part. What is clear from the story of Joseph is that he was a devote worshipper of HaShem and it is therefore unlikely that he ever literally practiced divination, which is considered an act of rebellion against God. (Lev. 19:12; Numbers 23:23; Deut. 18:10-11).
7 They said to him, “Why are you saying these things my lord? Far be it from your servants to fashion such a thing as this. 8 Look, the silver we found in the mouths of our sacks, we brought back to you from the land of K’naan (humility, lowland). So how could we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house? 9 Whoever among your servants is found with it, let him die! And also, we’ll become my lord’s slaves.”
The first response of the brothers is an emotional one, charged with incredulity. However, they follow this with what is known in the Talmud as a kal vachomer [a.) a deduction from minor to major b.) by extrapolation we know; all the more so].
The brothers are so sure that none of them have stolen the goblet, that they proclaim a death curse over the thief and slavery for themselves if it is proven to be true. It is no coincidence that death and slavery were the very things that the brothers intended to inflict on Joseph.
10 “Now let it be according to your words,” he said. “He with whom it is found shall be my slave, and the rest of you shall be n’kiym clean (innocent, exempt).”
The one over Joseph’s house accepts the spirit in which the brothers have spoken but does not insist on a literal adherence to their oath. Rather he counters by proposing the enslavement of the guilty party who he knows to be Benjamin (Though not truly guilty). This is an additional test to prove the brothers. They are being offered the opportunity to leave the guilty party behind and save themselves. Joseph clearly believes that if his brothers still hold animosity toward the sons of Rachel that they will take the opportunity to be rid of Benjamin and escape Egypt with their lives intact. However, if they choose to stay and defend Benjamin, Joseph will know that they are truly repentant.
It’s interesting to note that the one over Joseph’s house says “He with whom it is found will be my slave”. This would be a preposterous thing for a servant to say. A slave may work under another slave but he is never the property of that slave. This lends credence to the idea that the one speaking here is Manasseh the son of Joseph who holds authority in Joseph’s house as his first born, and is therefore qualified to speak this way.
11 Then each man hurriedly lowered his sack to the ground and each man opened his sack. 12 He searched them beginning with the eldest and finishing with the youngest, and the cup was found in Benyamin’s sack. 13 Then they tore their clothing, and each one loaded up his donkey and they returned to the city.
The speedy response of the brothers shows their belief in their innocence. The man over Joseph’s house searches methodically from eldest to youngest so as to make it appear that he has no idea where the cup might be.
According to the Midrash the brothers were being punished measure for measure. Just as they had sent Joseph’s blood stained coat home to Jacob and he had torn his garment in grief, so too they were tearing their garments at the thought of Benjamin’s slavery and the affect that it would have on Jacob. The tearing of garments is a significant Hebraic sign of grief over a lost loved one. The brothers were grieving, not only for Benjamin and Jacob but also for the potential death of the burgeoning nation of Israel.
14 When Y’hudah (Praise) and his brothers entered Yosef’s house, he was still there. They fell to the ground before him. 15 “What’s this deed you’ve done?” Yosef said to them, “Didn’t you know that a man like me can discern by divination?”
Joseph’s allusion to divination is obviously part of the ruse. The phrase “A man like me” is intended to promote his Egyptian disguise and affirm his power over them. Joseph is a devote worshipper of HaShem and does not practice divination.
This is now the second time Joseph’s first dream has been fulfilled (Gen 37:9). Hebrew prophecy has a cyclical nature and is often fulfilled multiple times.
16 Then Y’hudah said, “What can we say to my lord? What words can we speak? How can we justify ourselves? Ha-Elohiym The God has exposed the iniquity of your servants’. We are now my lord’s slaves—both we as well as the one in whose hand the cup was found.”
Though Judah knows that he and his brothers are innocent (Perhaps with the exception of Benjamin), He doesn’t attempt to defend himself, nor does he place the blame on Benjamin. Instead he says, “The God has exposed the iniquity of your servants (plural)”. Judah is clearly making confession concerning the brothers’ greater sin of selling their brother Joseph into slavery.
17 But he said, “Far be it from me to do this. The one in whose hand the cup was found—he will be my slave. But you, go up to your father in peace.”
Joseph pushes Judah further by saying “The one in whose hand the cup was found—he will be my slave. But you, go up to your father in peace.” This is his final proving of his brothers. Will they take the opportunity to finally be rid of Rachel’s sons? Or, will they show true repentance and join themselves to Benjamin in brotherly loyalty and honour.
(Parashat Vayigash) And Draw Near
18 Then Y’hudah approached him and said, “I plead for your pardon, my lord. Please let your slave say a word in my lord’s ears, and don’t be angry with your slave, since you are like Pharaoh (Great House).
The Hebrew phrase “Va-Yiggash,” translated here as “approached” also appears in the introduction to Avraham’s petition on behalf of the righteous of Sodom (Gen. 18:23). There are also similarities between Judah’s petition and that of Moses on behalf of Israel at Sinai (Exodus 32:9-14). However, while his offer is substitutionary, unlike Moses, Judah is not without guilt.
Judah knew that his petition to trade places with Benjamin might be seen as letting Benjamin off the hook and therefore could be offensive to the Egyptian ruler (Joseph). Judah also intended to remind the viceroy (Joseph) of the fact that he had requested Benjamin’s presence despite the protests of the brothers. This is why he asked that the viceroy (Joseph) not be angered by what he was about to say. This self-sacrificing stance of Judah shows his strength of conviction and his willingness to be held accountable before God for his sin.
19 My lord asked his servants saying, ‘Do you have a father or a brother?’ 20 So we said to my lord, ‘We have a father who is old, a child born to him in his old age is katan little. Now his brother is dead, so he is the only one of his mother’s children left, and his father loves him.’ 21 Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me so that I can look at him.’
There is no problem with the description of Benjamin using the Hebrew katan, meaning little, small, young etc. Judah’s words are referencing what was said during their last visit and it is likely that enough time had passed since the brothers last came to Egypt for Benjamin to have matured in size and appearance. Benjamin is at least 20 years old when these events take place, given that Joseph is now approximately 40 years (Gen. 37:2; 41:46, 53).
By reminding Pharaoh’s viceroy (Joseph) of his passed enquiries, Judah appears to be calling attention to the obvious inconsistencies in the events leading up to the discovery of the cup. Implicit in his recounting of events is his belief that something is not right with the situation that has arisen.
22 But we said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father. If he were to leave his father, he would die.’ 23 Then you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you won’t see my face again.’ 24 “Now when we went up to your servant, my father, we told him my lord’s words. 25 Then our father said, ‘Go back, buy us a little grain for food.’ 26 So we said, ‘We won’t go down unless we have our youngest brother with us—then we’ll go down. For we won’t see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’ 27 “Then your servant my father said to us, ‘You yourselves know that my wife bore me two sons. 28 One went out from me, so I said, “He must have been torn to shreds,” and I haven’t seen him since.
Verses 27-28 further illuminate the communication between Jacob and his sons which was recorded in Gen. 43:6-7. The Torah is often brief in one place and expansive in another. This kind of illuminated repetition helps the reader to retain small details that might otherwise be forgotten.
29 And if you also take this one away from before me and an accident happens to him, then you’ll bring my grey hair down to the evil of Sheol.’ 30 “Now if I come to your servant my father and the boy isn’t with us, since his v’nafsho soul life is bound to his b’nafsho soul life, 31 when he sees that the boy is no more, he’ll die. Then your servants will bring the grey hair of your servant our father down to Sheol in grief.
The use of the Hebrew “nephesh”, meaning soul life, denotes a strong intimate relational connection between Jacob and Benjamin. The same word is used in 1 Samuel 18:1 where it describes Yonatan’s friendship with David.
Judah is unwittingly accusing the viceroy of Egypt (Joseph) of killing his own father. Thus Joseph is emotionally challenged within his own ruse.
32 For your servant became surety (An exchange) for the boy with my father when I said, ‘If I don’t bring him back to you, I will bear the blame before my father all my days.’ 33 So now, please let your slave remain as my lord’s slave in the boy’s place, and let the boy go up with his brothers. 34 For how can I go up to my father and the boy is not with me? Otherwise I would see the va’rah evil that would come upon my father!”
With a contrite heart Judah offers himself as a slave to the viceroy (Joseph), not knowing that the man who stands before him is the brother he had once sold into slavery. This is a wonderful prophetic allegory for the ethnic people of Israel and her redemption through Messiah at the end of the age. Joseph is a type for the Mashiyach and Judah is the name under which ethnic Israel would one day be conjoined. Thus, just as Judah and his brothers sold Joseph into metaphorical death, so too Israel sold Yeshua into death. But the story doesn’t end there. The day is coming when like Judah, the ethnic Jewish people will come with contrite hearts and gaze upon the One Whom we have pierced, and in repentance through the sacrifice of Yeshua the entire remnant of ethnic Israel will be saved (Romans 11).
© 2017 Yaakov Brown
Founder of the Beth Melekh International Messiah Following Jewish Community,