We note that if choosing to do the hard thing of rebuking a brother or sister’s repeated sin behaviour means saving his or her soul, then the opposite is also true. Failing to rebuke a brother or sister’s repeated sin behaviour means giving them over to the possibility of death.
Yaakov 5:1-20 (Author’s convergent translation from Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew)
1 Lead, go to, now, you wealthy people, weep and wail, lament over the wretchedness, miseries of yourselves which are coming. 2 Your riches are corrupted, decaying and your garments have become moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and your silver is corroded, and their poison will follow as a testimony, witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. You have stored up treasure in these last days! 4 Behold, now, pay attention the wages of the workers who harvested your lands, which you have defrauded those who, cry out; and the outcry of those who reaped has entered into the ears of the LORD Who goes warring. 5 You have lived in luxury on the earth and for pleasure; you have feed your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous one; he offered you no resistance. 7 Be patient, therefore Jewish brothers and sisters, until the coming of the LORD. The vinedresser waits expectantly for the precious fruit of the land, with longsuffering patience, until he receives the early and latter rains. 8 You also be patient, longsuffering; strengthen, establish your hearts, core being, for the coming of the LORD is near, close at hand. 9 Don’t hold grudges against one another Jewish brothers and sisters, lest you face condemnation; behold, now, pay attention the Judge is standing before, in the door/opening. 10 Receive, my Jewish brothers and sisters, the prophets who have spoken in the name of the LORD as an example of affliction, distress, trouble, and of patient longsuffering. 11 behold, now, pay attention we count those blessed, happy who endure, are patient, abiding. You have heard of the patient endurance of Iyov[H] (Job) and have seen the goal of the LORD, that the LORD is full of compassion, extremely kind and mercifully tender. 12 Now before, at the head of all things, essences, substances, individual and collective, my Jewish brothers and sisters, do not swear, not by the heavens or by earth or with any other oath; now your yes is yes, and your no, no, so that you do not fall into hypocrisy. 13 Is anyone among you afflicted, suffering, troubled? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing psalms. 14 Is anyone among you weak, sick, diseased, impotent? He should call for the elders of the gathered believers and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the LORD; 15 and the prayer, vow of the faith, trust, belief will save, make whole, heal the one who is sick, weary, faint and the LORD will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, missing the mark set by God’s holiness they will be forgiven him. 16 Therefore, confess your sin offences to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed, made whole. Much can be accomplished in the prayer request of a righteous person, when it is made of effect, strengthened. 17 Eliyahu[H] (Elijah) was a man subject to passions just as we are, and he prayed praying that it might not rain, and it didn’t rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 Then he prayed again, and the heavens gave rain and the land produced its fruit. 19 My Jewish brothers and sisters, if anyone among you is deceived, wanders from the truth and someone turns him back, 20 let him know, perceive, understand that the one who turns a sinner from the delusion, error of his way, that same one saves his soul, life, breath from death and covers a multitude of sins.
Yaakov 5:1-20 (Line upon line)
1 Lead, go to, (age[G]) now (nun[G]), you wealthy people (plousios[G]), weep (klaiō[G]) and wail, lament (ololuzō[G], za’aku heiy liylo[H]) over (epi[G]) the wretchedness, miseries (ho talaipōria[G], latzarot[H]) of yourselves which are coming (ho eperchomai[G], etchem[H]). 2 Your riches (ploutos[G], ashrechem[H]) are corrupted, decaying (sēpō[G]) and your garments (himation[G], yochal[H]) have become moth-eaten (sētobrōtos[G]).
1 Lead, go to, now, you wealthy people, weep and wail, lament over the wretchedness, miseries of yourselves which are coming. 2 Your riches are corrupted, decaying and your garments have become moth-eaten.
Again, the temptation to relegate this part of Yaakov’s teaching to outsiders rather than Jewish believers is unfounded. There are always rich among us, there will always be poor believers. Although the language is harsh it is also familiar. Yaakov knows he is speaking to Jews who are immersed in Torah, the prophets and writings of HaShem. The Tanakh uses similar terminology in Psalm 73 and Isaiah 5:8-9. These words are an admonition with the intent to encourage repentance, a tishuvah (turning back) to right action in Messiah.
“Woe to you who add house to house
and join field to field
till no space is left
and you live alone in the land.
9 The Lord Almighty has declared in my hearing:
“Surely the great houses will become desolate,
the fine mansions left without occupants.”
Isaiah 5:8-9 NIV
Yaakov speaks not to all rich people but specifically those who become rich through corrupt practices, and those who trust in their riches rather than in God through Messiah. This is made clear by the context of the latter part of the previous chapter and is emphasised by the present phrasing “Your riches are corrupted” which describes the fruit of wicked intentions. Further, verse 4 describes the withholding of the wages of employees. Additionally Yaakov is speaking specifically to those corrupted rich people within the Messianic Jewish communities of the early body of believers. Meaning that in some cases they are withholding the wages of fellow believers and in those cases where they are withholding the wages of employees from outside the community they are bearing false witness of Messiah.
This is a warning given to believers with the intention of preventing their being led astray by the love of worldly wealth.
3 Your gold (chrusos[G], hazahav[H]) and your silver (arguros[G], hakesef[H]) is corroded (katioō[G]), and their poison (ios[G]) will follow (esomai[G]) as a testimony, witness (marturion[G], le’eid[H]) against you and will consume (phagō[G]) your flesh (sarx[G], besarchem[H]) like fire (pur[G], kaeiysh[H]). You have stored up treasure (thēsaurizō[G]) in these last days (eschatos hēmera[G], acharit-hayamim[H])!
3 Your gold and your silver is corroded, and their poison will follow as a testimony, witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. You have stored up treasure in these last days!
“Last days,” This is an allusion to the imminent judgement of God and a testimony against the ludicrous behaviour of hording wealth only to see it destroyed. The treasure that the corrupted rich are storing is temporary, unsatisfying. Yaakov will soon call for patient trust in Messiah, a position that will bear fruitful and eternal treasure. Those being rebuked here could be likened to a drug addict storing up drugs prior to an overdose.
4 Behold, now, pay attention (idou[G], Hinei[H]) the wages (ho misthos[G], sechar[H]) of the workers (ergatēs[G], hapoaliym[H]) who harvested (amaō[G]) your lands (chōra[G]), which you have defrauded (apostereō[G]) those who, cry out (krazō[G]); and the outcry (boē[G]) of those who reaped (theridō[G], hakotzriym[H]) has entered into (eiserchomai[G]) the ears (ho ous[G], veazneiy[H]) of the LORD Who goes warring (kurios sabaōth[G], YHVH Tzevaot[H]).
4 Behold, now, pay attention the wages of the workers who harvested your lands, which you have defrauded those who cry out; and the outcry of those who reaped has entered into the ears of the LORD Who goes warring.
This is straight out of the Torah, its Biblical Judaism 101:
“The wages of a hired man shall not stay with you until morning.” – Leviticus 19:13
See also: Deuteronomy 24:14-15 and Malachi 3:5
5 You have lived in luxury (truphaō[G]) on the earth (ho gē[G], ba’aretz[H]) and for pleasure (spatalaō[G]); you have feed (trephō[G]) your hearts (kardia[G], lib’chem[H]) in a day (hēmera[G], leyom[H]) of slaughter (sphagē[G], tivchah[H]). 6 You have condemned (katadikazō[G], hirsha’tem[H]) and murdered (phoneuō[G], hamiytem[H]) the righteous one (dikaios[G], et hatzadiyk[H]); he offered you no resistance (antitassomai[G], lo amad bifneiychem[H]).
5 You have lived in luxury on the earth and for pleasure; you have feed your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous one; he offered you no resistance.
We note that those being reprimanded are those who have lived “for pleasure”. This of course is the definition of Hedonism, a form of Idolatry.
“you have feed your hearts in a day of slaughter.” This can be understood to mean that those being accused have continued to fatten themselves while others are slaughtered, or that they are storing up earthly goods for themselves thinking they have a long future before them, not knowing that like the rich hoarder of Yeshua’s mashal, parable (Luke 12:13-21) they would soon lose their lives and be unable to enjoy their temporal riches.
It’s important to remember that this is not an inevitable outcome but a warning intended to produce repentance.
HaShem hears the cry of the spilled blood of a righteous one and the agony of the oppressed. This too is a familiar refrain from the Tanakh; Genesis 4:10, Exodus 3:7
The text is not accusing the corrupt wealthy of the synagogue of murdering people, rather, as is taught elsewhere in the New Testament, Yaakov is conveying the idea that when a believer mistreats the oppressed and poor it is as if he is crucifying Messiah again. This is why the text reads “You have condemned and murdered the righteous one; he offered you no resistance.”
7 Be patient (makrothumeō[G]), therefore (oun[G]) Jewish brothers and sisters (adelphos[G], achay[H]), until the coming (ho Parousia[G], ad bo[H]) of the LORD (ho kurios[G], HaAdon[H]). The vinedresser (geōrgos[G], haikar[H]) waits expectantly (ekdechomai[G], yechakeh[H]) for the precious (ho timios[G], hatovah[H]) fruit (karpos[G], litvuat[H]) of the land (ho gē[G], ha’adamah[H]), with longsuffering patience (makrothumeō[G]), until he receives (lambanō[G]) the early, autumn (prōimos[G]) and latter, spring (opsimos[G]) rains (huetos[G]). 8 You also (kai[G]) be patient, longsuffering (makrothumeō[G]); strengthen, establish (stērizō[G], amtzu[H]) your hearts, core being (kardia[G], lib’chem[H]), for the coming (ho Parousia[G]) of the face LORD (ho kurios[G], peneiy HaAdon[H]) is near, close at hand (eggizō[G], hineih baiym[H]).
7 Be patient, therefore Jewish brothers and sisters, until the coming of the LORD. The vinedresser waits expectantly for the precious fruit of the land, with longsuffering patience, until he receives the early autumn and latter spring rains. 8 You also be patient, longsuffering; strengthen, establish your hearts, core being, for the coming of the LORD is near, close at hand.
Those who work the land and do business are to do so with patient expectation of the coming return of the King Messiah Yeshua. Not seeking the wealth of this temporary world but rather practicing longsuffering in waiting for the eternal wealth of the Olam Haba (world to come).
We note that the establishing of the heart, core being, is the result of patiently trusting in Messiah and His promised return. His return is nearer each moment, now and yet fully manifest.
Patience, not boasting, is the path of the believer. It’s not patience in and off itself, rather it’s patience born of hope, that hope is in the Messiah’s return.
“Fruit of the land” is a quotation from the brachah (blessing) for eating berries and vegetables. A vinedresser or farmer’s patience is rewarded by the harvest.
The autumn rains are mentioned first, this was contrary to the rhythm of the Greek world which measures it’s year using different spiritual markers. This is counterintuitive to the Gentile mind which understands early in relationship to spring and late in relationship to fall. However, the Biblical Hebrew calendar understands the first rains at Sukkot (fall) as early, and the rains following Pesach (spring) as late.
The Greek terms used refer to the autumn or fall rains as “early” and the spring rains as “latter”. This is because Yaakov is using Greek terms to convey a Hebraic idea. This is consistent with the rainfall in the land of Israel. For the most part it rains significantly no more than twice a year in Israel; the early, or former rain, comes shortly after Sukkot (the festival of shelters) in the month Chesvan, (approx. October). The latter rain is in Nisan, (approx. March) prior to the first harvest (barley).
The Jewish High Holy days (along with the early rains) occur at the end of the year approaching fall and winter, this is a metaphor for judgment. The spring rains coincide with Yom ha-bikkurim—day of first fruit, this is a metaphor for new life, resurrection. Again Yaakov is reminding Jewish believers in the diaspora that their roots are of the land and are intrinsically linked to the spiritual year as laid out in the Torah. Death, judgment and new life continue to be part of their journey. In the end it is the hope of new life, eternal life, which they must focus on.
“for the coming of the Lord is near, close at hand.” Perhaps not near in terms of earth history, but in terms of eternal consciousness, very near. Therefore His return is now nearer still.
9 Don’t hold grudges (stenazō[G]), against one another Jewish brothers and sisters (adelphos[G], achay[H]), lest you face condemnation (katakrinō[G], pen-tishafeitu[H]); behold, now, pay attention (idou[G], hineih[H]) the Judge (ho kritēs[G], hadayan[H]) is standing before (pro[G]), in the door/opening (bapatach[H]). 10 Receive (lambanō[G]), my Jewish brothers and sisters (mou adelphos[G], achay[H]), the prophets (ho prophētēs[G], hanevi’iym[H]) who have spoken in the name (ho onoma[G], beshem[H]) of the LORD (ho Kurios[G], YHVH[H]) as an example (hupodeigma[G]) of affliction, distress, trouble (kakopatheia[G]), and of patient longsuffering (makrothumia[G]).
9 Don’t hold grudges, against one another Jewish brothers and sisters, lest you face condemnation; behold, now, pay attention the Judge is standing before, in the door/opening. 10 Receive, my Jewish brothers and sisters, the prophets who have spoken in the name of the LORD as an example of affliction, distress, trouble, and of patient longsuffering.
The phrase “lest you be condemned” is specifically referring to one judged, found wanting and sentenced, and not simply to the act of judgement.
“The Judge is standing at the door,” In God Yeshua is Head and Judge of the body of believers. A similar warning is given to the body of believers of Laodicea:
“14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the [k]Origin of the creation of God, says this: 15 ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have no need of anything,” and you do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to apply to your eyes so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.
20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. 21 The one who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat with My Father on His throne. 22 The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” -Revelation 3:14-22 NASB
11 behold, now, pay attention (idou[G], hineih[H]) we count those blessed, happy (makarizō[G]) who endure, are patient, abiding (hupomenō[G]). You have heard of the patient endurance (hupomonē[G], savlanut[H]) of Iyov[H] (Job: persecuted, treated as an enemy) and have seen (eidō[G]) the goal (telos[G]) of the LORD (ho Kurios[G], YHVH[H]), that the LORD (ho Kurios[G], YHVH[H]) is full of compassion, extremely kind (polusplagchnos[G]) and mercifully tender (oiktirmōn[G]).
11 behold, now, pay attention we count those blessed, happy who endure, are patient, abiding. You have heard of the patient endurance of Iyov[H] (Job: persecuted, treated as an enemy) and have seen the goal of the LORD, that the LORD is full of compassion, extremely kind and mercifully tender.
It's interesting to note that Seder Olam Rabbah (c. 3. p. 9.) one of the traditional commentaries of the rabbis says that Job suffered for 12 months. This is based on the Hebrew text of Job 7:3.
Here perseverance is the key. One might become impatient, but like Job we must overcome impatience with perseverance, trusting, like Job, in the compassionate mercy of God, the ultimate positive outcome, Messiah’s return and an eternity of prosperity in God.
“I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God;” -Job 19:25-26 NIV
12 Now before, at the head (pro[G], verosh[H]) of all things, essences, substances, individual and collective (pas[G], davar[H]), my Jewish brothers and sisters (mou adelphos[G], achay[H]), do not swear (omnuō[G]), not by the heavens (ouranos[G], vashamayim[H]) or by earth (gē[G], va’aretz[H]) or with any other oath (horkos[G]); now (de[G]) your yes (nai[G], hein[H]) is yes, and your no (ou[G], lo[H]), no, so that you do not fall into hypocrisy (hupokrisis[G]).
12 Now before, at the head of all things, essences, substances, individual and collective, my Jewish brothers and sisters, do not swear, not by the heavens or by earth or with any other oath; now your yes is yes, and your no, no, so that you do not fall into hypocrisy.
“Now before” Before you address all that is in error among you, and keeping the righteous patience of the prophets, turn away from vain oaths and deception and firmly establish a practice of keeping your word without even a hint of hypocrisy.
This is similar to Yeshua’s teaching in Matthew 5:33-37 and links to the frivolous boasting of the traders in 4:13-17. Simply put, oath taking was a big part of Jewish culture at the time and had become a means for justifying daily deception as a lesser form of communication. In short, Yaakov is saying “Speak the truth and don’t make promises you have no intention of keeping.”
13 Is anyone among you afflicted, suffering, troubled (kakopatheō[G])? He should pray (proseuchomai[G], yitfaleil[H]). Is anyone cheerful (euthumeō[G])? He should sing psalms (psallō[G], yezameir[H]). 14 Is anyone among you weak, sick, diseased, impotent (astheneō[G])? He should call (proskaleomai[G], yikra[H]) for the elders (presbuteros[G], zikneiy[H]) of the gathered believers (ekklēsia[G], hakehilah[H]) and they are to pray (proseuchomai[G], veyitplalu[H]) over him, anointing (aleiphō[G], viysuchuhu[H]) him with oil (elaion[G], shemen[H]) in the name (ho onoma[G], beshem[H]) of the Lord (ho Kurios[G], YHVH[H]);
13 Is anyone among you afflicted, suffering, troubled? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing psalms. 14 Is anyone among you weak, sick, diseased, impotent? He should call for the elders of the gathered believers and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the LORD;
Both prayer and singing are forms of conversation with God. It seems that Yaakov’s best advice is this, “Be in relationship with the Creator.” As opposed to doing in relationship with the world.
Both the weary and the ill are offered anointing here. Oil has been used by Israel’s priests to anoint her Kings for centuries. It is a symbol of the Ruach ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit) and the rich blessing and healing of God.
"whoever has a sick person in his house, let him go to a wise man, and he will seek mercy for him.'' -R. Phinehas ben Chama (Talmud Bavliy Bava Bathra, fol. 116. 1.)
15 and the prayer, vow (euchē[G], utefilat[H]) of the faith, trust, belief (pistis[G], haemunah[H]) will save, make whole, heal (sōzō[G], toshiya[H]) the one who is sick, weary, faint (kamnō[G]) and the Lord (ho Kurios[G], YHVH[H]) will raise him up (egeirō[G], yekiymenu[H]), and if he has committed sins, missing the mark set by God’s holiness (hamartia[G], chata[H]) they will be forgiven (aphiēmi[G], yisalach[H]) him.
15 and the prayer, vow of the faith, trust, belief will save, make whole, heal the one who is sick, weary, faint and the LORD will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, missing the mark set by God’s holiness they will be forgiven him.
The faith spoken of here is not faith in healing, rather it is faith in the Healer, Messiah Yeshua/God the Father. This prayer will be the vehicle for revelation to the needy one. He will be delivered from needless toil and lifted up or awakened from his disappear or illness, made whole—not necessarily physically well but whole/complete, spiritually speaking. As a result of this prayer of faith in Messiah, sin will be covered and forgiven losing its temporal authority.
16 Therefore, confess (exomologeō[G]) your sin offences (hamartia paraptōma
[G]) to one another, and pray (euchomai[G], vehitpalalu[H]) for one another so that you may be healed, made whole (iaomai[G], teirafeiu[H]). Much (polus[G], gadol[H]) can be accomplished in the prayer request (deēsis[G], tefilat[H]) of a righteous (dikaios[G], hatzadiyk[H]) person, when it is made of effect, strengthened (energeō[G], bechazkah[H]).
16 Therefore, confess your sin offences to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed, made whole. Much can be accomplished in the prayer request of a righteous person, when it is made of effect, strengthened.
“Therefore” Because the prayer of faith in Messiah brings healing, wholeness and the forgiveness of God.
Openly vocalizing our sin as confession to one another can be a very powerful source of release from the burden of it. This is something the Catholic Church does well. It is true to say to a brother or sister, “Go in peace, your sins are forgiven.” We are not saying that we have forgiven their sins, we are simply acknowledging that through the blood covering of Messiah’s sacrifice, their sin is forgiven.
The purpose of this open confession is not to publicly humiliate or give opportunity for gossip. It should be undertaken only with trusted believers and then only by the leading of the Ruach ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit).
In petitioning God on behalf of one another we are to be motivated by mercy because “mercy triumphs over judgment.” Therefore we see the work of God here, denouncing false judgment and vindictiveness and announcing mercy and freedom. The result? Wholeness.
Rav Eliezar of the Talmud also teaches that the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective (Talmud Bavliy Succah, fol. 14. 1. & Yebamot, fol. 64. 1.).
17 Eliyahu[H] (My God He is YHVH) was a man (anthrōpos[G], enosh anush[H]) subject to passions (homoiopathēs[G]) just as we are, and he prayed (proseuchomai[G], vehitpaleil[H]) praying (proseuchē[G], tefilah[H]) that it might not rain (brechō[G], matar[H]), and it didn’t rain (brechō[G], matar[H]) on the land (ho ge[G], ba’aretz[H]) for three years and six months. 18 Then he prayed (proseuchomai[G], vayitpaleil[H]) again, and the heavens (ouranos[G], vehashamayim[H]) gave (didōmi[G], nat’nu[H]) rain (huetos[G], matar[H]) and the land (ho ge[G], ha’aretz[H]) produced its fruit (karpos[G], et-piryah[H]).
17 Eliyahu[H] was a man subject to passions just as we are, and he prayed praying that it might not rain, and it didn’t rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 Then he prayed again, and the heavens gave rain and the land produced its fruit.
It’s important to note here that the type of prayer being spoken of is a form of fervent listening. After all, the narrative concerning Eliyahu’s (Elijah’s) life tells us only that he heard from God that the heavens would be shut up, following which he heard from God again some years later that the heavens would release rain upon the land. The pattern goes like this: Listen… No rain. Listen… rain. Listen… drought and death born of idolatry. Listen… Life giving waters welling up from Messiah in you. It is the Patient, or rather, persevering Eliyahu (like the farmer of verse 7), who received the later rain.
It is interesting to note that in the account of Elijah’s prophetic word to Ahab regarding God sending rain there is no explicit mention of prayer (1 Kings 18:42). In the account Elijah goes up to the top of Mt Carmel, throws himself to the ground, puts his face between his knees. Each of these actions are considered kinetic prayer.
Our sages say “Elijah went up to the top of Carmel, to pray, and he cast himself down upon the earth, to pray for rain; and he put his face between his knees and prayed, and said to his servant, go up now, look toward the sea; and this he said while he was in his prayers" - Yarchi, Kimchi, Ralbag, & Laniado in loc.
In each action we are praying. This is why the text of Yaakov 5:17 reads “he prayed praying”. This is a Hebrew idiom employed to denote passionate and committed prayer (Zohar in Gen. fol. 31. 1. & Imre Binah in ib). Elijah’s entire life, motivation, thought, action, was a living conversation with God. Yaakov encourages us with the words “Eliyahu[H] was a man subject to passions just as we are…”
Yaakov uses the example of praying for rain because it is such a significant part of Biblical Jewish practice and of the subsequent generations of Israel in the land. Many of our rabbis are recorded as having sought God for the provision of rain. Jewish tradition is filled with these accounts (Talmud Bavliy Moed Katon, fol. 28. 1. & Taanit, fol. 19. 1. 23. 1. 24. 2. 25. 2. & Yoma, fol. 53. 2.)
“The heavens gave rain” is an allusion first and foremost to the fact that God, Who is the Creator of the heavens, gave rain. Not just the physical rain that ended the drought in the land of Israel but also the cleansing rain of His Spirit bringing repentance and spiritual revival to the people of the land of Israel.
19 My Jewish brothers and sisters (mou adelphos[G], achay[H]), if anyone among you is deceived, wanders (planaō[G], yiteh[H]) from the truth (ho alētheia[G], min haemet[H]) and someone turns (epistrephō[G], yeshiyvenu[H]) him back, 20 let him know, perceive, understand (ginōskō[G], yeida-na[H]) that the one who turns (epistrephō[G], hameishiyv[H]) a sinner (hamartōlos[G], et hachotei[H]) from the delusion, error (planē[G]) of his way (hodos[G], darko[H]) that same one (autos[G]) saves (sōzō[G], yoshiya[H]) his soul, life, breath (psuchē[G], et-nafsho[H]) from death (Thanatos[G], mimavet[H]) and covers (kaluptō[G], veychaseh[H]) a multitude (plēthos[G]) of sins (hamartia[G], al-hamon peshaiym[H]).
19 My Jewish brothers and sisters, if anyone among you is deceived, wanders from the truth and someone turns him back, 20 let him know, perceive, understand that the one who turns a sinner from the delusion, error of his way that same one saves his soul, life, breath from death and covers a multitude of sins.
Finally, and with concise literary beauty, Yaakov reminds us that in Messiah we live and breathe to see others reconciled to God.
We note that if choosing to do the hard thing of rebuking a brother or sister’s repeated sin behaviour means saving his or her soul, then the opposite is also true. Failing to rebuke a brother or sister’s repeated sin behaviour means giving them over to the possibility of death. Offering confession and forgiveness at times means challenging others. This is why Yaakov has said previously “the one who knows to do the good and does not, he does sin”. This requires wisdom and care. Love acts to guide others away from the self-harm of sin. With our rebuke comes the good news that Mercy YHVH Himself triumphs over condemnation.
Copyright 2022 Yaakov Brown
Like so many of the psalms, the weighty distant steps of the coming Messiah can be heard ringing through the hallways of history, approaching with glory, and “commanding the blessing!”
Regardless of when this psalm was penned in its final form, it is attributed to King David. Psalm 133 is one of the fifteen Songs of Ascents (Shir Ha-ma'alot), and one of the three Songs of Ascents consisting of only three verses (131; 134). It’s not known when David wrote this psalm, however, some suggest it was written on the occasion of his anointing as king in celebration of the people’s unification under his reign (2 Sam. 5:1), while others suggest it was written following the quelling of Absalom’s rebellion, when the tribes of Israel jostled for the honor of bringing David back to his rightful place in Jerusalem (2 Sam. 19:9). Still others make a more general and much more likely suggestion that he wrote it while observing Israel gathered together for one of the Regaliym/Aliyot (Pesach, Yom Kippur, Sukkot) festivals. In addition to these suppositions some scholars suggest that this psalm was added to the collection of psalms nearing the end of David’s life in approximately 1015 BCE.
The Jewish commentators Kimchi and Ben Melekh see this psalm as being prophetic of the times of the Messiah (yet future), and take it to be a prediction of the peace that will exist between the King Messiah and the High Priest of Israel. This is in keeping with the figurative typing of Joshua (Zechariah 6:11-13). In fact, Yeshua united the Kingship and Priesthood of Israel through His immersion (baptism), His death and resurrection, and sanctified these roles with the pre-existing priesthood likened to the order of Malkiy-Tzedek (My King of Righteousness): a perfect priesthood (Hebrews 7) that functions to reconcile all who believe to the Father, causing both Jew and Gentile to truly abide together in a union that is everlasting, purchased through the blood of the Messiah’s perfect substitutionary sacrifice.
The two figures of the oil running down Aaron’s beard and the dew upon Mt Hermon convey a sense of extravagant blessing and the empowering of God’s chosen people Israel (ethnic, religious). These Hebraic poetic couplets denote a firmly established future for the Jewish people, in fact, in the context of this psalm they reveal and established eternity. The imagery is more than simile, it is “ki” because of these similitudes that brothers and sisters dwell together in union.
There are many side rooms in this psalm that lead us to greater depths of understanding: each symbol and figure brings to life the intricate workings of God as He weaves together a picture of unity that surpasses even our greatest attempts at manufacturing oneness. The Hebrew poetic couplets further enforce the strength and certainty of these richly prophetic words, and remind us again of the everlasting value of the promises seeded into time and space by God through the mouth of His servant David, king of Israel, beloved of God.
Like so many of the psalms, the weighty distant steps of the coming Messiah can be heard ringing through the hallways of history, approaching with glory, and “commanding the blessing!”
133:1 Shir A Song ha-ma’alot of that which goes up, that which comes to mind, degrees, stairs, ascents; le’David attributed to David (Beloved of God). Hineih Behold, now, pay attention, mah how (what) tov good umah-nayim and how (what) delightful, pleasant(ness), lovely(ness) it is, shevet sitting, dwelling, remaining, abiding achiym brothers and sisters gam-yachad again, also, united, in union, alike, as one!
Another way to read this would be:
A song of the ascending of David: Look, now, what is this good, and what is this loveliness; it is brothers and sisters sitting together also in union.
Notice that the brothers and sisters are not merely sitting in close proximity but are sitting and are in union.
The Jewish sage Iben Ezra interprets “achiym” to refer specifically to priests (which is similar to the teaching of 1 Peter 2:9); the Jewish commentator Kimchi interprets “achiym” as the King Messiah and the priest together (which is similar to the teaching of Hebrews 7); and the Jewish commentator Yarchi, interprets “achiym” of the Israelites (which is consistent with the remainder of the psalm).
The 2nd century Aramaic Targum reads:
“1. A song that was uttered on the ascents of the abyss. Behold, how good and how pleasant is the dwelling of Zion and Jerusalem, together indeed like two brothers.”
The Targum understands well the locational aspect of this psalm by merging the latter similes of the Hebrew text with the opening clause. Where others have focused only on the unity aspect, and have thus, misunderstood the whole. The idea of ascending from the abyss is one of transcendent quality that alludes to the redemptive priestly work required in order for Godly union to be made manifest.
“Shir A Song ha-ma’alot of that which goes up, that which comes to mind, degrees, stairs, ascents; le’David attributed to David.” (133:1a.)
The opening clause can be understood in multiple ways, both spiritual (esoteric) and literal:
One may also paraphrase the opening clause as a spiritual drash for all who believe:
“We each have a song that we offer up to the Father, a song that comes to mind as we ascend through the redemptive work of the King Messiah, a song that testifies of His love, sung by the beloved of God.”
However, the p’shat (plain meaning) of the text is locational, situational, and refers specifically to the ascent of the Temple mount in Jerusalem, in the land of Israel and as it relates to the Jewish (ethnic, religious, empirical) people, the elect (chosen) of God, through the priesthood and the redemptive, substitutionary sacrificial system. These words being, “of king David”, one of the most influential and prophetic kings of Israel’s history, and the one from whom the Messiah would come forth (with regard to His humanity).
“Hineih Behold, now, pay attention, mah how (what) tov good umah-nayim and how (what) delightful, pleasant(ness), lovely(ness) it is, shevet sitting, dwelling, remaining, abiding achiym brothers and sisters gam-yachad again, also - united, in union, alike, as one!” (133:1b.)
While the majority of English translations render “mah” as “how”, it seems equally likely and more colloquially intuitive to translate “mah” with regard to its common use as “what”.
Therefore, I prefer to read:
“Wow, look, pay attention, what goodness and what delight is this? Sitting, dwelling, even remaining, brothers and sisters, also, in union (or: also as one).”
In other words, “What is this incredibly beautiful and truly impossible thing I’m seeing? True Godly union between brothers and sisters.”
Notice that the text does not say simply that brothers and sisters dwelling is good and pleasant, rather it says that both dwelling and also union (oneness), is good and pleasant. Nor does the entirety of this psalm promote unity alone. Rather, it shows Godly unity to be the fruit of a priestly order via a sacrificial system of atoning substitution. Empowered by the Spirit (oil), which produces the fruit of unity.
Unity is not the goal. Messiah is the goal and unity is the fruit of Messiah at work in us through the anointing and empowering of the Holy Spirit. This spiritual principal which can be applied to all believers, is none the less first and foremost (in its plainest sense) specifically prophetic of Israel’s (ethnic, religious) future. As we will see from the latter verses, the blessing that results is locational, yet future, and for a specific people (Jews) in a specific land (Israel).
Good and Pleasant:
“Tov”, is good in the purest sense. Yeshua, revealing His own deity, said, “Why do you call me good, only God is good” (Mark 10:18). For something to be good in all its fullness is for it to be “On earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).
“Nayim”, is pleasant to the olfactory sense (sense of smell). In other words, this will be pleasing not only based on sight but also on smell. This is why the psalmist goes on to use the fragrant anointing oil as a simile.
We note that the observing of this form of unity brings a sense of “tov” goodness, wellness, pleasure, and of “nayim” pleasing experience, delight etc. The unity described is in fact not truly achievable in a perpetual sense within a sin affected world, not even by the community of believers. Therefore, the unity described is intentionally and specifically prophetic. It is a unity that will be experienced at the coming of the King Messiah at the end of the age, and will be evidenced in the redeemed ethnic religious nation of Israel (and subsequently in all of redeemed humanity).
“Yachad” means union, unitedness, unity (noun masculine), together, all together, alike (adverb). It occurs 147 times in the Tanakh (OT) and is most often (124 times) used to denote togetherness, that is, individual persons, entities, or objects, together in close proximity. It is related to the Hebrew word “echad” meaning “one” which is used to describe the intimate union of man and wife “the two shall become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). However, “yachad” specifically refers to separate entities in proximity rather than denoting an intimate conjoined union. Thus, when a husband and wife are walking together they are yachad, but when they are joined in the sex act they are echad.
When we consider the weighty emotion brought to this psalm by David, who had many wives, concubines, sons and daughters, we must grapple with the turmoil he must have felt as he considered the disarray and division caused by his sin choices and looked forward in hope to a time when, through the Messiah, all of his family would live as one (unified) in the presence of God in the New Jerusalem, in the land of Israel.
This union that is being spoken of is not possibly except through the Messiah.
“Everyone who believes that Yeshua is the Messiah is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves the one born of Him. 2 We know that we love God’s children by this—when we love God and obey His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God—that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone born of God overcomes the world. And the victory that has overcome the world is this—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world, if not the one who believes that Yeshua is Ben-Elohim?” -1 John 5:1-5 (TLV)
133:2 Ka-shemen Because, like, as oil (fatness) ha-tov the good, the best, al ha-rosh on the head, yareid running down, sinking down, marching down, descending al ha-zakan on the beard, zekan-Aharon beard of Aaron (Bright, Many Mountains, Light bearer, Ark bearer, latter days), shereid running down, sinking down, marching down, descending al piy on the collar, outer edges (mouth) midotayv of his robes, stature, measure, extent!
David now proceeds to explain not only what the union of brothers and sisters who dwell together is like, but also the mechanism and process required in order for the fruit of unity to be seen in Israel.
The Hebrew “Ka-shemen” is most often translated “Like oil”, however, the Hebrew “kiy” which begins the composite “Ka-shemen”, can be understood to mean, “because, as, like etc.” Therefore, we may read:
“Because the precious oil upon the head of Aaron runs down the beard, Aarons beard…”
In other words, the imagery is associated to the mechanism which perpetuates the peaceful dwelling together of brothers and sisters in unity. The images of oil on Aaron’s beard and dew on Mt Hermon are more than simile, they are the outworking of the blessing that brings about the unity observed by David in the first verse of this psalm, and in turn becomes witness to the locational blessing commanded by God in the last verse.
The poetic imagery used here is of great importance. The oil is not just oil but “The good oil” or “The precious oil”, and refers specifically to the mixture of oil assigned by God for use in anointing the Cohen Ha-gadol (The High Priest) and sprinkling on the priests. It was not to be used for any common purpose or by any common Israelite (Exodus 30:22-23).
The oil was to be poured upon the head of Aaron subsequent to the donning of the priestly garments, including the head covering (Lev. 21:10) and was to overflow to the very ends of the garments. It is interesting to note that Aaron was never to uncover his head or rend his garments (Lev. 21:10).
The specific event described here occurred only once. That is, it is specifically Aaron’s anointing that is described and likened to a time when brothers and sisters will dwell together in union. Aaron was the first Levitical High Priest and father of Israel’s subsequent Levitical priesthood. Therefore, this figure is not intended as a general image to be likened to every act of anointing ever performed, rather it specifically alludes to the anointing of Israel’s first Levitical High Priest Aaron, and to the mixture of oil used to anoint him. Therefore, failing to understand the context means misinterpreting the text and misunderstanding its application and future fulfilment.
Ka-shemen Because, like, as oil ha-tov the good, the best, al ha-rosh on the head, yareid running down, sinking down, marching down, descending al ha-zakan on the beard, zekan-Aharon beard of Aaron (Bright, Many Mountains, Light bearer, Ark bearer, latter days)… (133:2a.)
“shemen ha-tov”, the precious oil, is described as follows:
“23.“Take the finest spices: of liquid myrrh 500 shekels, and of sweet-smelling cinnamon half as much, that is, 250, and 250 of aromatic cane, 24.and 500 of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil. 25.And you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil. 26.With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, 27.and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, 28.and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils and the basin and its stand. 29.You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy. Whatever touches them will become holy. 30.You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. 31.And you shall say to the people of Israel, ‘This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations. 32.It shall not be poured on the body of an ordinary person, and you shall make no other like it in composition. It is holy, and it shall be holy to you. 33.Whoever compounds any like it or whoever puts any of it on an outsider shall be cut off from his people.’” -Shemot (Exodus) 30:23-33 (ESV)
The fine fresh olive oil smelled strongly of cinnamon (cassia being of the same family, a bark), myrrh, and an uncertain sweet aromatic cane, possibly from Sheba or some part of Arabia. It is perhaps for our own protection that the exact blend is impossible to fabricate today.
The perfumed anointing oil (being a symbol of the Holy Spirit), offers an opportunity for us to experience at very least in part the fragrant nature of the experience of Aaron. The Ruach (Spirit) of God is illuminated in the components of the perfumed oil. He is the fragrance of sweet salvation to those who are being redeemed.
We note that the oil of anointing was not poured over Aaron’s sons, though it was sprinkled on them. Thus, Aaron is “Ha-Cohein Ha-Mashiyah” (The Priest The Anointed), whereas subsequent priests experience “Meshuchiym” (Anointings) [Numbers 3:3]. Additionally, it was never to be used on the common Israelite. Therefore, the anointing in question is for priests alone, and more importantly, the fullness of that anointing is upon the head of the High Priest.
Therefore, in keeping with this imagery we are able to properly interpret the life of Messiah Yeshua, His unification of the Kingship and High Priesthood of Israel and His perfect Priesthood in the order of Melki-Tzedek. Ultimately, it is from the anointing of Messiah and through Him that all who believe become participants in the priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) that is offered to all according to the type or order of Melki-Tzedek (My King of Righteousness) [Hebrews 7]. This is not to say that anointing others with oil is in and of itself inappropriate, but simply that the anointing in question is intentionally specific and refers to a prefigure that illuminates the Messiah.
The text of Exodus details the dressing of Aaron in his High Priestly garments prior to his anointing. Further still, contrary to the depictions of this event in popular Christian art, we are not told that Aaron’s head dress was removed prior to anointing. Therefore, he must have been wearing the head covering (which symbolised the need for blood atonement) and the gold plate engraved with the words “Kadosh le’YHVH” Holy Unto The Lord.
The anointing oil runs down Aaron’s beard and over his shoulders, down his breast and to the very edges of his priestly garments:
“shereid running down, sinking down, marching down, descending al piy on the collar, outer edges (mouth) midotayv of his robes, stature, measure, extent!” (133:2b)
In order for the oil to reach the outer edges of Aaron’s robes, it must have been poured in copious quantity, and would have flowed over the stones on his shoulders engraved with the names of the tribes of Israel, over the breastplate and each of the precious stones engraved with the names of the tribes of Israel, down behind the breast plate over the uriym (lights) and tumiym (completions) which were tucked into a pocket behind the breastplate, over the blue outer garment, over the pure white linen garment, soaking through to his skin and symbolically covering every aspect of his priesthood and headship as the spiritual shepherd of Israel (Exodus 28). The obvious correlation to the ministry of the Messiah is to say the least, mind-blowing.
We must not cheapen our understanding of this imagery by seeing only a few drops of oil being applied to the head of a petitioner. The text denotes a flood of specifically composed fragrant anointing oil.
The oil is poured forth from a horn (Ram’s horn), thus signifying the One through Whom all believers would one day receive the promised Ruach Ha-Kodesh Holy Spirit (Yeshua being the substitutionary Ram of God and the horn being a symbol of His strength in redeeming Israel [Isaac]). The oil is poured over the head in order to convey the spiritual headship of the High Priest, and is therefore a prefigure of the Perfect Great High Priest Yeshua, the King Priest of the Perfect Priesthood (Hebrews 7).
What is more, all of this is preceded by Aaron and his sons participating in the offering of substitutionary sacrifice for the atonement of sin and a meal of matzot (unleavened bread) [Exodus 29]. Therefore, the anointing with the precious oil was not performed until right relationship with God had been established (at least symbolically). This of course is a prefigure of the body of Messiah broken for us (matzot) and the blood atonement purchased for us through Messiah’s blood poured out on the cross (rams).
The Holy Spirit (oil) was not poured out on the believing Jewish community until after Messiah’s return to the Father following His death and resurrection (Acts 2), nor is the Holy Spirit given to anyone who has not understood and received the saving work and Person of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus).
In one sense the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the first century Jewish believers in Messiah Yeshua (Acts 2), is a foretaste of the ultimate manifestation of the unity of Israel (ethnic, religious) at the return of the Messiah. Both events are the literal outworking of the similes in the present psalm.
It’s important to note that while David alludes to the imagery of Aaron’s anointing, which occurred outside of the land of Israel following Israel’s escape from Egypt, he is none the less writing this psalm from his purview within the land of Israel and is therefore uniting the imagery of Aaron’s anointing with the anointing of the land from Hermon (in the north) to the mountains of Zion in the centre. David writes this psalm as a psalm of ascent (Aliyah: going up [to Zion, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem]), not just localised ascent to the Temple mount but also as an Aliyah psalm for all those who ascend three times a year to observe the Regaliym/Aliyot (Pesach, Yom Kippur, Sukkot) festivals. Thus, the fragrances of the festival foods and the offerings, both sacrificial and celebratory (freewill) is presupposed by the union of the two similes of the anointed High Priest and the anointed mountains of the land of Israel. The former having occurred immediately post bondage (in Egypt) and the latter being the hope of Israel’s future redemption through Messiah.
Aside from the depth of symbolism in the process of anointing Aaron, there is also the simple grandeur of the oil flowing over his head, stinging his eyes and soaking into his skin, beard, and garments.
In order to better understand the kinetic reality of the anointing of Aaron, I had myself anointed in a similar way and was stunned by the stinging sensation in my eyes as the oil made its way down my face. The pain was great, “What’s going on” I thought, “Shouldn’t this be an enjoyable pain free experience. Isn’t this supposed to represent the Holy Spirit being poured out on me? It’s killing my eyes, I can’t see… Wait a minute… I can’t see…”
It occurred to me that the Holy Spirit does not always make me feel comfortable, in fact, He often makes me feel uncomfortable. God is present in my discomfort, just as He is in my comfort. The eyes I use for seeing this world are stung by the presence of the Holy Spirit, but when I become accustomed to the oil I am able to see things that are not of this world, pure, eternal, unseen things.
There are those who claim that the manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are evidence of His abiding with a believer, however, Yeshua reminds us that “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, and drive out demons in Your name, and perform many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’” (Matt. 7:22-23 TLV)
I think (or should I say “Scripture teaches”), that the Holy Spirit is more often evidenced in the way we respond to suffering than He is in the ecstatic gifts that are often counterfeited by so many. In one sense, God is saying to Aaron the High Priest and to we who follow the High Priest Yeshua (The Suffering Messiah), “If you want to be a priest, you best get used to both the healing balm and the stinging pain of the present, overflowing Spirit of God.”
133:3 Ketal Because, like, as the dew, night mist of Chermon (Hermon, Sanctuary, devoted, dedicated for destruction) shereid running down, sinking down, marching down, descending al-Har-reiy on the mountains of Tziyon (Zion, Parched land)! Keey Because sham there tzivah commands, orders, charges, HaShem (YHVH, Mercy, The LORD) et (the) certain ha-berachah the blessing, prosperity, gift, treaty of peaceful Chayyim living, perpetual life, ad ha-olam going round, perpetually, as far as forever in the world (to come).
The Mt Hermon/mountains of Zion simile (literal and figurative mechanism) works perfectly alongside the imagery of the anointing oil running from Aaron’s head to the edges of his garments. In like fashion the dew of Hermon runs from the top of Israel’s northern border and down to the place where Israel collectively goes up to worship God during the Regaliym/Aliyot festivals. Thus, all Israel (the people) and all of her land, is covered by the dew of Hermon both literally and figuratively.
“There” is a locational term indicating the mountains of Zion, where the brothers and sisters of Israel (ethnic, religious) dwell together in unity.
“HaShem commands the blessing”. The blessing is commanded upon the mountains of Zion when Jews dwell there together as one (yachad). This is a prophetic statement. God is speaking into time and space an observation of the future redemption of the entire remnant of Israel (ethnic, religious), when, following the fullness of the nations, all of Israel (ethnic, religious) will be saved (Romans 11).
We note that the Hebrew text does not say, “There the Lord commands a blessing” but rather, “There the Lord commands the blessing.” The “berachah”, blessing, prosperity, gift, treaty of peace, is one that brings “chayim”, not life but living (plural, perpetual). Living that will be “ad ha-olam” going round in the world perpetually forever. The world being the Olam Haba (World to come).
Therefore, the text is not saying that wherever believers in general dwell together in unity that God will command a blessing, rather, it is saying that when Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical) dwell together through redemption and the anointing supplied by the King Priest Messiah, in the land (literal) of Israel (at the return of the Messiah), then and only then, there and only there, will God command and establish the blessing of everlasting life on the New Earth.
“Chermon” (Hermon), from charam, to dedicate someone or something to the afterlife or to death.
The Law of charam is expounded in Leviticus 27:28-29, and states that whatever is labelled as charam cannot be redeemed (bought back or ransomed out). In the Tanakh (OT) there are no instances of human beings designated as charam who aren't subsequently executed, however, there are a number of people who have names that are derived from this verb. Which may indicate that the verb once denoted salvation.
Not everything designated charam was automatically destroyed. In Numbers 18:14 HaShem declares “Every devoted thing (charam) in Israel is yours (Aaron and his sons) [see also Lev. 27:21 and Eze. 44:29]. When Joshua sacked Jericho, the whole city and all it contained (apart from Rahab and her house) was designated charam, yet the gold, silver, bronze and iron objects went into the tabernacle's treasury (Joshua 6:19).
Mt Hermon therefore, carries the symbolic meaning of being charam dedicated to the Lord unto the afterlife and is equally representative of salvation.
“Hareiy Tziyon”, the mountains of Zion (the parched land), also have significant figurative value and show Israel’s need for the mayim waters of chayim living. Waters that she receives through the dew that results from the charam (dedication) of her Messiah, and the salvation that results from His substitutionary sacrificial death and resurrection.
In addition to the profound poetic value of this simile there is the practical reality of the geography and climate of Israel:
Van de Velde writes in regard to his Travels (Bd. i. S. 97):
“What we read in the 133rd Psalm of the dew of Hermon descending upon the mountains of Zion, is now become quite clear to me. Here, as I sat at the foot of Hermon, I understood how the water-drops which rose from its forest-mantled heights, and out of the highest ravines, which are filled the whole year round with snow, after the sun's rays have attenuated them and moistened the atmosphere with them, descend at evening-time as a heavy dew upon the lower mountains which lie round about as its spurs. One ought to have seen Hermon with its white-golden crown glistening aloft in the blue sky, in order to be able rightly to understand the figure. Nowhere in the whole country is so heavy a dew perceptible as in the districts near to Hermon.”
Therefore, the simile is both powerfully figurative and practically literal.
Psalm 133, has been misused to claim an illegitimate unity over certain groups within the body of Messiah, devoid of respect for the plain meaning of the text as it applies to the brothers and sisters of Israel (ethnic, religious) and the contextual and locational elements in the text. In addition, and with great fervour it has been misused as an excuse for believers in general to demand a blessing from God based on their dwelling together, despite the fact that the blessing is for a specific people (The Jews), time, and in a specific location (The mountains of Zion in the land of Israel).
While it’s true that in some sense there is a principal here regarding unity and blessing for all believers, it is only the case in a secondary sense and must be made subject to the plain meaning of the text.
This psalm observes the ultimate union of the brothers and sisters of Israel (ethnic, religious) in the land of Israel, through an anointing that flows from the head of her priesthood (both literal and transcendent), and shows through the use of simile, those things that must take place in order for this union to be fully filled at the end of the age.
Therefore, David, by the Holy Spirit, employs the poetic imagery and occasion of the anointing of Aaron the High Priest alongside the majestic beauty and natural precipitation of Mt Hermon, in order to show both literally and figuratively, where and when God (YHVH: Mercy, the God of Israel [ethnic, religious]) will command the blessing of life everlasting upon the union made possible by His Son and empowered by His Holy Spirit poured out on Israel (and the nations).
Let us therefore, show due respect for the plain contextual meaning of this psalm by appropriately applying the principal of unity and ceasing to demand a temporal blessing where a locational (place, time, space) blessing upon a specific people (Jews) with an eternal purpose, is intended.
133:1 A Song of that which goes up, that which comes to mind, degrees, stairs, ascents; attributed to David, (the beloved of God). Behold, now, pay attention, how good and how delightful, pleasant, lovely it is, sitting, dwelling, remaining, abiding brothers and sisters again, also, united, in union, alike, as one! 133:2 Like oil the good, the best, on the head, running down, sinking down, marching down, descending on the beard, beard of Aaron (the bright one, of many mountains, a light bearer, an ark bearer, in the latter days), running down, sinking down, marching down, descending on the collar (mouth) of his robes, stature, measure, extent! 133:3 It is like the dew, night mist of Hermon, (a sanctuary, devoted, dedicated for destruction) running down, sinking down, marching down, descending on the mountains of Zion (Parched land)! Because there (the mountains of Zion) commands, orders, charges, HaShem (YHVH, Mercy, The LORD) (the) certain blessing, prosperity, gift, treaty of peaceful living, perpetual life, going round, perpetually, as far as forever in the world (to come).
2nd Century CE Aramaic Targum of Psalm 133:
“1. A song that was uttered on the ascents of the abyss. Behold, how good and how pleasant is the dwelling of Zion and Jerusalem, together indeed like two brothers. 2.Like the fine oil that is poured on the head, coming down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, that comes down to the hem of his garments. 3.Like the dew of Hermon that comes down on the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.”
Copyright Yaakov Brown 2019
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,