We note that the Hebrew text does not say “Seek Me and you may live” as is the case in a number of English versions, but “Seek, enquire of Me and you will live”. Repentance does not come with the possibility of life but with the certainty of it.
Amos 5:1-15 (Author’s translation)
1 Listen, hear, comprehend, obey this particular Word, essence, substance this which I carry upon you all, a lament, funeral dirge house of Israel (Overcomes in God). 2 She has fallen, she will rise no more—the bride (virgin) Israel. She is pounded, cast down upon her land (soil). Nothing will raise her from it. 3 For here says the Lord (Master) YHVH (Mercy): “The city which goes forth a thousand will be left with a hundred, and the one which goes forth a hundred will be left with ten to the house of Yisrael Israel.” 4 For here says YHVH (Mercy) the LORD to the house of Israel: “Seek (enquire of) Me and you will live. 5 And don’t seek (enquire of) Beiyt-El Bethel (House of God, Judge) and the Gilgal (the wheel), nor enter Beersheba (well of sevens, blessing, oath); for the Gilgal will certainly go into captivity and Beiyt-El Bethel will have succumbed to trouble, sorrow, idolatry, wickedness, iniquity. 6 Seek (enquire of) YHVH (Mercy) the Lord and live, beware lest He break out like fire, house of Joseph ([YAH adds] Ephraim & Manasseh), and it will eat up and nothing quench it to Bethel, 7 those who turn to wormwood (bitterness) justice, and righteousness is put to rest on the land.” 8 The One who fashioned the seven stars (Pleiades) and the simpleton (alt. constellation [Orion]), and turns to morning the shadow of death, and day He turns to night, with darkness, Who calls to the waters of the sea and pours them out upon the face of the land, YHVH (Mercy) The Lord is His name. 9 He who makes destruction gleam upon the strong, and havoc upon the fortified city. 10 They hate him who corrects in the gate, and the one who speaks with integrity they despise. 11 Therefore, because you put heavy weights upon the poor and from his burden of grain take tribute (taxes), you have built houses of finished stone, and you will not dwell in them; your beautiful vineyards you planted, and you will not drink their wine. 12 For I know your many rebellions and your numerous sins (missing the mark set by God’s holiness), you bind the righteous and take bribes, and the poor in the gate you push aside. 13 Therefore, the prudent person in a time such as this is silent, because it’s a time of evil. 14 Seek good and not evil, so that you live; YHVH (Mercy) and so that the Lord God Who goes warring will be with you all, for that’s what you all say! 15 Hate evil, and love good, and establish in the gate, justice! Maybe YHVH the Lord God Who goes warring will be gracious to the remnant of Yosef Joseph (Ephraim & Manasseh).
Amos 5:1-15 (Line Upon Line)
1 Shimu Listen, hear, comprehend, obey et-hadavar this particular Word, essence, substance hazeh this asher which Anochiy I nose carry aleiychem upon you all, kiynah a lament, funeral dirge beiyt Yisrael house of Israel (Overcomes in God).
1 Listen, hear, comprehend, obey this particular Word, essence, substance this which I carry upon you all, a lament, funeral dirge house of Israel (Overcomes in God).
“Shimu Listen, hear, comprehend, obey et-hadavar this particular Word, essence, substance”
As is the case in chapter 3 verse 1, the opening word of this chapter “Shimu” (Shema) is well known among the people of Israel. The central prayer of the faith of the Jewish people, which is found in D’varim (Words) Deut. 6:4 begins “Shema Yisrael”, (Listen, hear, comprehend, obey Israel…). The word “shema (shimu)” is both a request and a challenge. Listen, but don’t just listen, hear. Hear, but don’t just hear, obey. Obey, but don’t just obey, walk in obedience. This is a call not only to repentance but to discipleship. It is the very essence of the Good News of our King Messiah.
What follows is the phrase “et-ha’davar”, meaning, “this particular Word, Substance, Essence”. The “et” and “ha” are both determiners, the “ha” being the definite article in Hebrew and the “et” emphasising the “ha”. Thus, in one sense the Hebrew translates as, “Very definitely, The Word”. Put concisely, this is not just any word but the Word (logos: Yeshua [John 1]).
The prophet Amos upon whose tongue God has placed these words is aware that the Word Who places the words, is present. Amos is asking Israel to receive not only the words but also the One Who both births and inhabits them. Imanu-El, With Us God, the King Messiah is manifest in the words of Amos.
This particular word which I carry upon you all
This phrase differs from chapter 3:1 in that it reveals the weight of the Word of indictment upon the prophet, upon Israel and upon the Word Himself (Yeshua).
We shouldn’t misread “this word that I take up against you” as some English versions do. To misread the text this way is to miss the fact that the grief, the weight of the indictment carried by the living Word essence of God within the prophet of God (Amos) is a manifestation of the resurrected and transcendent King Messiah Who took upon Himself our burdens. We note further that the testimony of Yeshua (the Word) is the Spirit of all prophecy, past present and future (Rev. 19:10).
God, in Messiah the Word carries the weight that is upon His people.
A lament, funeral dirge beiyt Yisrael house of Israel (Overcomes in God).
It is a dirge of mourning, a funeral song for Israel, a funeral song for the King Messiah. Israel as Amos knew her would soon pass away, but not completely.
In a similar lament God would later reveal a two-sided scroll of mourning to the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2:10).
2 Nafelah She has fallen, lo-tosiyf kum she will rise no more--betulat the bride (virgin) Yisrael Israel. Niteshah She is pounded, cast down al ad’matah upon her land (soil). Eiyn mekiymah nothing will raise her from it.
2 She has fallen, she will rise no more—the bride (virgin) Israel. She is pounded, cast down upon her land (soil). Nothing will raise her from it.
The language identifies Israel as a young bride who has yet to be conquered. Therefore, falling, she will rise no more as an innocent young bride. This also speaks of her loss of purity in seeking false gods and her physical punishment at the hands of the Assyrians. We know both from prophecy and from the subsequent history that Israel does not fall never to rise again, but “never to rise again as a young bride”. The qualifying Hebrew “betulat” (young bride, virgin) informs the phrase “never to rise again”. Israel will survive through remnant and continue to be the wife of HaShem. When the northern tribes return from exile to be reunited with the remnant of Judah they will henceforth become known as Y’hudiym (Jews). History itself is evidence of this, and the prophet Hosea whose ministry preceded and converged with that of Amos prophecies it:
“Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said to them, You are not my people, there it shall be said to them, You are the children of the living God.” -Hosea 1:10
The phrase “She has fallen” written in the past tense, establishes the future observed by God, which is in turn spoken into time and space in the mouth of the prophet Amos. From God’s perspective all is eternally present.
She is pounded, cast down al ad’matah upon her land (soil). Eiyn mekiymah nothing will raise her from it.
This is a reference to rape and carries a metaphorical meaning applicable to the entirety of the northern tribes. As I have already noted, Israel, the northern tribes will not recover in the land but will return to it. Nothing will resurrect her from the temporal destruction being prophesied, but God will redeem her and return her from the subsequent exile she suffers.
3 Kiy For koh here amar says Adonay the Lord (Master) YHVH (Mercy): “Haiyr The city hayotzeit which goes forth elef a thousand tashiyr will be left with meiah a hundred, vehayotzeit and the one which goes forth meiah a hundred tashiyr will be left with a’asrah ten leveiyt to the house of Yisrael Israel.”
3 For here says the Lord (Master) YHVH (Mercy): “The city which goes forth a thousand will be left with a hundred, and the one which goes forth a hundred will be left with ten to the house of Yisrael Israel.”
The meaning here is clear. Large cities will be reduced to the size of small towns and small towns to the size of a minyan (10). This connects the punishment of the northern tribes to the sin of the 10 spies who warned Israel against entering the land. It also reflects the fullness of God’s redemptive plan for Israel, ten being a number of fullness, wholeness, completion.
4 Kiy For koh here amar says YHVH (Mercy) the LORD leveiyt Yisrael to the house of Israel: “Dirshuniy Seek (enquire of) Me v’chyu and you will live.
4 For here says YHVH (Mercy) the LORD to the house of Israel: “Seek (enquire of) Me and you will live.
We note that the Hebrew text does not say “Seek Me and you may live” as is the case in a number of English versions, but “Seek, enquire of Me and you will live”. Repentance does not come with the possibility of life but with the certainty of it.
5 Ve’al-tidreshu And don’t seek (enquire of) Beiyt-El Bethel (House of God, Judge) vehagilgal and the Gilgal (the wheel), lo nor tavo’u enter uve’eir-sheva Beersheba (well of sevens, blessing, oath); kiy for the Gilgal galoh yigleh will certainly go into captivity uveiyt-Eil and Bethel yihyeh will have succumbed le’aven to trouble, sorrow, idolatry, wickedness, iniquity.
5 And don’t seek (enquire of) Beiyt-El Bethel (House of God, Judge) and the Gilgal (the wheel), nor enter Beersheba (well of sevens, blessing, oath); for the Gilgal will certainly go into captivity and Beiyt-El Bethel will have succumbed to trouble, sorrow, idolatry, wickedness, iniquity.
The counterpoint to the admonishment to “seek, enquire” of God is the warning not to “seek, enquire” of false gods (including enquiries that syncretise false gods with the God). This remains a warning to the modern believer. It has become common practice within the body of believers to syncretise our faith in the one true God of Israel with *godless popular philosophy, God denying humanist science, falsely premised Ted talks, moralism, devotional self-help (self-deification) gurus, pagan esoteric mindfulness guides and revisionist theologies. All these things join false beliefs to our Messiah essential true belief, and pollute our worship. Many of the aforementioned false guides utilize part truths which share some commonality with Biblical ideas, but pervert those ideas in much the same way Satan misuses Scripture in an attempt to tempt the King Messiah (Matt. 4:1-11).
*By far the majority of self-help gurus, mindfulness guides, and moralist philosophers of the modern age, pollute the truth by stealing pieces from it and disseminating a perversion of part truths. Part truth itself being a form of lying by omission.
The three locations named in this verse were once locations of blessing and sacred connection to the Patriarchs but have now been defiled, having become centres of idolatry.
These places connect the upper northern kingdom to the southern land that had been taken from Judah and at that point in history was controlled by the tribe of Simeon. This indictment is aimed specifically at the northern kingdom. The allusion to Beersheba relates to what the prophet will say later concerning the idolatrous practices there (8:14).
Where Israel goes up to these places of idolatrous worship they will be found and taken into captivity.
In the last clause God is making an observation of the outcome of Israel’s disobedience. If Israel doesn’t seek God, but instead seeks idolatry at Bethel, she will be overcome by her own depravity. The natural consequences of sin in the fallen world are themselves a form of punishment. “Aven” meaning “trouble” is used here as a word play against the Hebrew “avon” meaning depravity, perversity.
6 Dirshu Seek (enquire of) et YHVH (Mercy) the Lord v’chyu and live, pen-yitzlach beware lest He break out kaeish like fire, beiyt yoseif (YAH adds) house of Joseph (Ephraim & Manasseh), ve’achelah and it will eat up ve’eiyn-mechabeh and nothing quench it le’veiyt-El to Bethel,
6 Seek (enquire of) YHVH (Mercy) the Lord and live, beware lest He break out like fire, house of Joseph ([YAH adds] Ephraim & Manasseh), and it will eat up and nothing quench it to Bethel,
The region of the Bashan mentioned in the previous chapter connects Manasseh and Ephraim. This is the area to the east of the Jordan that the forebears of Manasseh, Gad and Reuven had requested (Num. 32; Josh. 13:15-23). The house of Joseph (Manasseh & Ephraim) in particular are singled out and admonished to seek the LORD. However, both Joseph and Ephraim are used as synonyms terms for Israel, as the ethnic noun relates to the northern tribes in general.
We note that the text reads as a warning. “Seek the LORD and live, beware lest He break out like fire…” This reference uses language usually associated to the LORD breaking out against Israel’s enemies (2 Sam. 5:20; 1 Chron. 14:11). Its use here is intended to sober up its hearers with the reality that they, being God’s chosen, have made themselves enemies not only of God but also of one another.
7 Hahofechiym those who turn lela’anah to wormwood (bitterness) mishpat justice, utzedakah la’aretz hin’yichu and righteousness is put to rest on the land.”
7 those who turn to wormwood (bitterness) justice, and righteousness is put to rest on the land.”
The embitterment of justice and the putting to rest or casting down to the ground of righteousness is an idiom that conveys desecration. It is used in a similar way in Daniel 8:12.
Ephraim and Manasseh were acting unjustly, intentionally withholding justice and turning the practice of justice into something ungodly. Therefore, not only had they brought bitterness on those being oppressed but would also reap bitterness as a result of the demise of society through injustice.
We see something similar today in western democracies where heinous crimes receive inconsequential punishments and victims are further harmed by both the process of law and its outcomes. In our modern societies, through democratic legislation, we have not simply neglected the poor, we have also become intentional oppressors of the victims of crime, often under the guise of grace and forgiveness. Our mistake has been to enact forgiveness toward the unrepentant, something the Scripture does not teach. To the contrary, the Scripture teaches that forgiveness is offered to all but that only the repentant receive it.
It is not secularism but a false gospel that has informed much of our modern law reform (so called). The reformation of something does not necessarily mean the improvement of something.
8 The One who oseih fashioned chiymah the seven stars (Pleiades) uchesiyl and the simpleton (alt. constellation [Orion]), vehofeikh and turns laboker to morning tzalmavet the shadow of death veyom and day He turns laylah to night, hechshiykh with darkness, hakorei Who calls lemeiy-hayam to the waters of the sea vayishpecheim and pours them out al peneiy on the face ha’aretz of the land, YHVH (Mercy) The Lord shemu is His name.
8 The One who fashioned the seven stars (Pleiades) and the simpleton (alt. constellation [Orion]), and turns to morning the shadow of death and day He turns to night, with darkness, Who calls to the waters of the sea and pours them out upon the face of the land, YHVH (Mercy) The Lord is His name.
The standard English translation of this text is usually rendered “The One who fashioned the Pleiades and Orion.” This is acceptable, but the Hebrew literally says “The One who fashioned the seven stars and a constellation,”. Additionally, the Hebrew “kesiyl” (uchesiyl) is a word that means both “constellation” and “simpleton”. Therefore, an equally valid reading is “The One who fashioned the seven stars and the simpleton,” which would convey the idea that God is the Creator of the majestic stars and of the simplest human being, bringing the universe into perspective as that which exists in its entirety within God.
The former reading would simply be understood as a Hebraic poetic coupling of like things “seven stars… and constellations”.
Regardless of how we read the first clause, the verse as a whole conveys the creation and adds to what God has already begun to say in the previous chapter in reference to the creation narrative of Genesis 1. These words are intended to return Israel to repentant awe and away from idolatry. Their tiny false gods are no match for the Creator of all things.
9 Hamavliyg shod He who makes destruction gleam al-az upon the strong, veshod and havoc al-mivtzar upon the fortified city.
9 He who makes destruction gleam upon the strong, and havoc upon the fortified city.
God forms destruction from the actions of the wicked making it to shine in place of the gleam of strength. In an ironic turn of phrase the Hebrew is equivalent to saying “destruction will spoil the gleam of strength”. This is to say that God will show Israel just how weak her own strength is. By trusting in her own strength she has weakened herself because her own strength is born of her fallen actions.
10 Sane’u They hate him vasha’ar mochiyakh who corrects in the gate, vedoveir tamiym and the one who speaks with integrity yeta’evu they despise.
10 They hate him who corrects in the gate, and the one who speaks with integrity they despise.
Amos was one of those who corrected the people at the gate. The gate was the ancient location of counsel, city governance, spiritual direction etc. The elders of the community met at the gate of the city to decide maters, hold court, allocate funds, and listen to the counsel of both secular and religious leaders. Had the majority of the elders of Israel’s cities been wise they would have heeded the warning of the prophets and shown respect for the wise counsel of the men of integrity. Sadly they did the opposite.
When we despise the words of men and women of integrity because we are offended based on the conviction of the Holy Spirit, we too become like the wicked of the generation of Amos. God has gifted us teachers and shepherds of integrity for our good. Are we listening to them or are we despising them?
11 Lachein Therefore, ya’an because you boshaschem put heavy weights al-dal upon the poor umasat-bar and from his burden of grain tikchu mimenu take tribute (taxes), bateiy gaziyt beniytem you have built houses of finished stone, velo-teishevu and you will not dwell in them; vam karmeiy-chemed your beautiful vineyards neta’tem you planted, velo and you will not tishtu drink et-yiyinam their wine.
11 Therefore, because you put heavy weights upon the poor and from his burden of grain take tribute (taxes), you have built houses of finished stone, and you will not dwell in them; your beautiful vineyards you planted, and you will not drink their wine.
The strong among the northern tribes have stolen from what little grain the poor person carries home on his shoulder. The houses of the wicked are built using funds gained from the oppression of the poor. However, they will not get to enjoy their opulent stone homes or the wine from their carefully tended vineyards. The God of Israel will bring justice to the poor, weak and oppressed.
12 Kiy For yadatiy I know rabiym pisheiychem your many rebellions va’atzumiym chatoteiychem and your numerous sins (missing the mark set by God’s holiness), tzorereiy tzadiyk you bind the righteous lokecheiy khofer and take bribes, ve’evyoniym and the poor basha’ar in the gate hitu you push aside. 13 Lachein Therefore, hamaskiyl the prudent person ba’eit in a time hahiy such as this yidom is silent, kiy eit ra’ah hiy because it’s a time of evil.
12 For I know your many rebellions and your numerous sins (missing the mark set by God’s holiness), you bind the righteous and take bribes, and the poor in the gate you push aside. 13 Therefore, the prudent person in a time such as this is silent, because it’s a time of evil.
This is a further indictment against wicked governance which is predicated on rebellion and multiplied by the sins that come from rebellion.
The prudent remnant among the people do not participate in the unjust rule of Israel’s cities and towns. They remain silent at this point because the majority have refused to listen to wise counsel. Thus, the wise recognise that the people are unteachable and withhold their pearls (metaphorical). The prophet of course has no such option, he is called by God to proclaim warning and pronounce the coming judgement.
We should not therefore make false judgements between the witness of individual believers related to their unique callings in God. Some are tasked with proclamation, others with silence. The one who does as God instructs him is righteous regardless of the opinions of other believers.
14 Dirshu-tov Seek good ve’al-ra and not evil, lema’an so that tichyu you live; vihiy-chein YHVH (Mercy) Eloheiy-tzevaot and so that the Lord God Who goes warring itechem will be with you all, ka’asher amartem for that’s what you all say!
14 Seek good and not evil, so that you live; YHVH (Mercy) and so that the Lord God Who goes warring will be with you all, for that’s what you all say!
In spite of all the wilful rebellion of Israel God continues to admonish her to seek good. We note that God defines good, and that to seek good is essentially synonymous with seeking God. This is an invitation to right relationship with God. To seek good is to seek the nature of God, whereas to seek evil is to seek the product of the created being who enacted (rebellion) the first idolatry (Satan).
“So that you will live” is an expression of consequence. Those who seek good reap life.
“and so that the Lord God Who goes warring itechem will be with you all, ka’asher amartem for that’s what you all say!”
God is always with Israel. What is meant here is that God will be with the righteous as the Merciful Judge Who goes warring on their behalf.
The tragedy in the text is the observation “for that’s what you say”. This indicates Israel’s lip service to YHVH, Whom they claim is with them and approving of their apostate behaviour. God is saying “Rather than claim that you have my favour while acting wickedly, why not act righteously and actually benefit from My manifest favour?”
15 Sinu-ra Hate evil, ve’ehevu tov and love good, vehatziygu and establish vasha’ar mishpat in the gate, justice! Ulay Maybe yechenan YHVH Eloheiy-tzevaot the Lord God Who goes warring will be gracious to she’eriyt the remnant of Yosef Joseph (Ephraim & Manasseh).
15 Hate evil, and love good, and establish in the gate, justice! Maybe YHVH the Lord God Who goes warring will be gracious to the remnant of Yosef Joseph (Ephraim & Manasseh).
Hate evil, ve’ehevu tov and love good, vehatziygu and establish vasha’ar mishpat in the gate, justice!
Here Israel’s king, her judges and governors, her religious leaders and secular authorities are offered a solution to the injustice at their gates: “Hate evil, and love good, be intentional about establishing justice according to My Torah (Instruction)”!
In his letter to the Roman body of believers Rav Shaul (Paul the Apostle) makes a drash (comparative application) concerning dedication to the service of God in accordance with the just practice of love. As part of the drash Shaul quotes the prophet Amos, saying:
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Hate that which is evil; cling to that which is good.” -Rav Shaul’s Letter to the Roman Ecclesia 12:9
“Maybe YHVH the Lord God Who goes warring will be gracious to the remnant of Yosef Joseph (Ephraim & Manasseh).”
These words read as a hopeful petition by the prophet Amos on behalf of Israel (synonymous with Ephraim and Joseph). The prophet knows that Israel’s disciplining is firmly established and yet carrying the heart of Messiah Yeshua as Moses and Rav Shaul (Paul the Apostle) did [Ex. 32:32; Rom. 9:3], Amos nonetheless pleads grace. Of course God is continually offering grace, the outcome for the northern tribes has been made certain not by a lack of grace on God’s part but by the perpetual rebellion of the people. However, redemption lies ahead.
Copyright 2022 Yaakov Brown
“That which God knows to be a future certainty He reveals to we who are uncertain of the future through repetition.”
The blessings or prophetic words Jacob pronounces over his sons while on his death bed are probably best defined as future character descriptions of the tribes that will bear their names. While the sons are addressed according to their own actions, they are not to be the recipients of the outworking of those actions. The closest parallel to this in the Tanakh (OT) is Deuteronomy 33, where Moses blesses most of the tribes of Israel prior to his death and before Israel enters the Promised Land.
The word play and phrasings of Jacob’s prophetic blessing are difficult to convey in English. Some of the Hebrew is cryptic and rare in places and includes some unusual and ancient divine names.
The sayings are ordered according to the tribal mothers Leah, Zilpah, Bilhah, Rachel. The first four tribes of Leah appear in birth order, as do the sons of Rachel. However, the sons of the Handmaidens, who are previously listed in chronology through the Genesis narrative, are here listed in the alternate order of Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher and Naphtali. In fact each of the twelve sons of Jacob are listed according to the roles they will play in the strengthening of the nation of Israel.
Gen 49:1 And Yaakov (Follower) called to his sons, and said, “Gather yourselves together, so that I may tell you asher-yik’ra etchem what you will encounter in the latter ha-yamiym days (years).
Yaakov, the follower of HaShem, musters the last of his energy and calls his sons. He asks them to gather together because although he will pronounce prophetic words specific to each of them, he wants the brothers to understand that their futures are intrinsically linked. The suffering of one will be the suffering of another, and the success of one will be the prosperity of another. Israel’s tribes are to be echad (a complex and indivisible unity).
The phrase “asher-yik’ra etchem” translates literally as, “what will call to you”. There is a subtle difference between the root קרה and the root קרא which is used here. The former means “befall”, the latter, “call”. In one sense, the words that Jacob is about to pronounce are the respective callings of each tribe.
The phrase “b’chariyt ha-mayim” speaks of days/years far beyond the brothers’ own lifespans. With the benefit of hindsight we’re able to see that the words of Jacob reach beyond the land of Egypt, and while partially fulfilled in Israel’s future history within the land of Israel, they reach still further, even beyond our own years.
Concerning the phrase “b’chariyt ha-mayim” the orthodox commentator Sforno writes:
“At the end of the period allocated to life on earth as we know it. Yaakov speaks of the arrival of the Messiah which will signify the end of existence of the nations that oppose God and the kingdom of God on earth… Yaakov speaks of the time frame he has in mind as the one when Shiloh will arrive, the one to whom nations will pay homage.”
Sforno understands “Shiloh”, which means “Tranquillity, rest, belonging”, to be a name for the future King Messiah.
Rashi agrees, and explains that “the End Days” refers to the Messianic age. He goes on to say, in accordance with the Midrash, that “Jacob wished to tell his children when Messiah would come”.
Gen 49:2 Gather yourselves together, v’shemu and hear, receive, obey, you sons of Yaakov (Follower); v’shemu and hear, receive, and be in obedience to Yisrael (Overcomes in God) your father.
Akeidat Yitzchak asks, “Why does Jacob seem to commence with the blessing twice…?”
We know that a thing is repeated in the Torah in order to show the reader that the matter is firmly established. That which God knows to be a future certainty He reveals to we who are uncertain of the future through repetition. Thus the repetition of Jacob’s call to gather and the use of the names Yaakov and Yisrael are informing us that what is to follow is firmly established.
Specifically, the gathering of Israel is firmly established, both at the time of Jacob’s blessing and in the last days. Israel’s ability to hear from God and act in obedience to Him is also firmly established with the repetition of the Hebrew “v’shemu”: which is first used in implicit reference to hearing from God and subsequently used in explicit reference to obeying the words of the patriarch Jacob. The sons of Jacob are sons of a follower: that is, one who was once a follower who wrestled in relationship with HaShem and as a result of yielding to Hashem has now become one who overcomes in God. Thus the sons will also become those who overcome in God through Mashiyach (Messiah). Therefore, they are being called as obedient followers and as victorious overcomers in God’s redemptive plan for Israel and for humanity.
Jacob’s words are prophetic blessing. But he is not a fortune teller. Prophecy has more to do with relationship than it does with power, and it has nothing to do with men manipulating spiritual forces. God has not imbued Jacob with some metaphysical gift for the purpose of conjuring up futures, to the contrary, Jacob is relaying the observations of God. God, in intimate relationship with Jacob, has shared with Jacob that which has already happened outside of time and space. Jacob is not making predictions, he is making what he knows to be statements of future fact.
Gen 49:3 Reuven (Behold/Now a son), you are my firstborn, my strength, and beginning of my substance, excellent, exalted, and superior, fierce: Gen 49:4 Unstable as water, not to remain; because you aliyat went up, lying on your father's bed; then you cholal’ta defiled, profaned, desecrated: to my bed, you alah went up.
“Reuben, my son, I did not rebuke you all these years so that you should not leave me and stay with my brother Esau” –Sifre Devarim
Jacob begins his words over Reuben by stating that which once belonged to him: 1.) The blessing and portion of the firstborn 2.) The role of priest [Passed from Patriarch to Patriarch, an obligation of the firstborn which was first despised by Esau] 3.) The kingship [Strong, exalted, superior]. Each of these would now be given to the sons Whom God had chosen: The rights of the firstborn would go to Joseph and his sons, the priesthood would go to Levi (because his tribe would not participate in the sin of the Golden Calf), and Judah would become the tribe from whom Israel would receive her kings, and ultimately, the King Messiah.
“But because you sinned my son, the birth right is given to Joseph, the kingship to Judah and the priesthood to Levi” –Targum Yonatan
The idiom “Unstable as water” seems to imply fast-flowing water and or the waters of the body. In other words, Reuben lacked self-control, rushing to sin sexually with Bilhah (Gen. 35:22), his father’s wife.
Though once the firstborn head, the tribe of Reuben has left little mark in Israel’s Biblical history. Moses later calls Reuben “Small and in danger of extinction” (Deut. 33:6), and the song of Deborah the prophetess rebukes Reuben for their indecision (Judges 5:15-16; ref. Gen 42:36-38).
While the p’shat (plain meaning) of the text refers to the act of sexual sin committed by Reuben, the rabbis interpret a remez (hint) alluding to spiritual defilement. This is in part due to the repetition of the Hebrew Aliyah, to ascend which is often used in connection with Israel’s ascent to Jerusalem for the regalim, aliyot festivals (moadim).
“You did defile Him (Holy spirit) Who used to ascend my bed.” –Daat Zkenim
Sforno writes, “Alternatively, Yaakov may have referred to Reuven’s act being a desecration of God’s honour.”
“The sons of Reuven the firstborn of Yisrael—he was the firstborn, but when he defiled his father’s bed, his birth right was given to the sons of Yosef son of Yisrael—so he is not reckoned as the firstborn in the genealogical record.” -1 Chronicles 5:1
Gen 49:5 Shimon (Heard) and Levi (Joined) are brothers; instruments of chamas cruelty, injustice: m’ceirotei’hem swords stabbing (habitation).
Having explained why Reuben failed to inherit the birth right Jacob now makes it clear that the sons who would otherwise have been next in line are also unworthy of inheriting positions of leadership in Israel. The Levites would of course become priests and servants of God but they would not have authority over the nation. In fact they depended on the rest of the tribes for their livelihood.
Simeon and Levi are coupled together because they had heard (Shimon) of what had been done to their sister and had joined (Levi) together in violent vengeance rather than awaiting just recompense (Gen. 34). They were also instigators of the sale of Joseph.
The meaning of the Hebrew “mekerah” is debated. However, its literal meaning is “swords, weapons”. Thus it’s likely that the Torah intends to convey the idea of the use of swords and violence as a way of life. Yeshua uses this same idiom when He says, “Those who make the sword their way of life will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). This should not be confused with self-defence or just warfare, which the Bible clearly teaches are acceptable expressions of violence.
The Stone Chumash translates the last phrase as, “their weaponry is a stolen craft”.
Rashi explains that violence was a trait they had stolen from Esau because it was he who lived by the sword and not his brother Jacob (Genesis 27:40).
Gen 49:6 Don’t enter into their secret council my nefesh (Soul, life); or into their assembly, to join my honour to them: because in their b’afam flaring nostrils (anger) they killed a man, and in their delight they cut an ox.
Wicked actions are often planned in secret. A righteous man should not associate with men who live a lifestyle of uncontrolled violence.
The last phrase is interpreted literally by Rambam to mean that they slaughtered the cattle of Shekhem. Rashi interprets it figuratively of Joseph (Simeon and Levi being instrumental in harming him), who he likens to a strong ox.
“Do not enter the path of the wicked
or walk in the way of evil people.” –Proverbs 4:14
Gen 49:7 Cursed be their nostrils (anger), because it was fierce; and their wrath was excessive: I will divide them in Yaakov, and scatter them in Yisrael.
We note that Jacob does not curse his sons, rather he curses their sin.
The curse is against a lifestyle of perpetual and unjust violence. Yaakov cannot abide cruelty, nor does he want Israel to be infected with it.
The division and scattering probably refers to Simeon’s absorption into Judah and Levi’s being redefined as a priestly tribe, without land of its own (Deut. 18:1-2).
Gen 49:8 Yehudah (Praise), you who your brothers shall praise: your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father's children will bow down before you.
With regard to the kingly tribe of Judah the Midrash says that all his brothers will chose to call themselves Yehudi (Jews) rather than by their own tribal names. One Biblical example of this is the book of Esther, where Mordechai is known as a Yehudi (Jew) even though he was from the tribe of Benjamin. Of course with regard to the modern Jewish people, all the tribes have become known as Jews. This came about after the return from the second exile when all the tribes merged under the remnant of Judah who had remained in the land. Thus all the tribes of Israel call themselves Yehudi (Jews) to this day.
Chiddushei HaRim says that the reason for Judah being honoured was the motivation of Leah when naming him. She had given Judah his name as a way of expressing her gratitude to God for having received more than her share of children (Gen. 29:35).
Gen 49:9 A lion’s cub Yehudah (Praise): from the prey, my son, you are aliyat gone up: he bent down and stretched himself out as a lion, and as a mature lion; who shall rouse him up?
We note that whereas Reuben went up aliyat to sin, Judah will go up aliyat in victory over his enemies.
The phrase concerning Judah’s victory over his prey is interpreted by Tur to refer prophetically to David’s killing of a lion and a bear (1 Samuel 17:34).
Ultimately Judah’s victory refers to the King Messiah Who, having been born of Judah, will defeat ha-Satan and take hold of the keys of mot (death) sheol (holding place of the dead), triumphing in resurrected glory and redeeming Israel and the nations.
Gen 49:10 The scepter shall not depart from Yehudah (Praise), nor a lawgiver (Scribe, governor) from between his feet (euphemism for reproduction), until Shiloh (Messiah, rest, tranquillity) comes; and to Him (Shiloh) the yik’hat gathering, cleansing, purging of the peoples.
“The rule of Israel shall not depart from Judah nor will one depart who will challenge Israel to keep God’s Instruction/Law (Such as Moses, the prophets, being literally present) and stay close to her kings, until the Messiah (Shiloh: rest, tranquillity) comes. And to Him (Shiloh, the Messiah), shall be the purging, cleansing, gathering of the peoples.” –Paraphrase by author
“Until the Messiah comes to Whom the kingdom belongs”-Onkelos
The Hebrew “Shiloh” is explained by the Midrash as a composite of Shai (Gift) and Lo (him), a reference to the King Messiah to Whom all nations will bring gifts.
There can be no doubt that this passage is saying that in the future, when the Messiah (Shiloh) will come, Israel’s kings, descended from Judah, will cease to reign. Therefore, the Messiah had to have come in the first century CE. And if there are those among our people who are awaiting Him still, they await His second coming.
Gen 49:11 Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass's colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: Gen 49:12 His eyes made dull with wine, and his teeth (sharpness) white (pale) from milk.
Shiloh (The Messiah: rest, tranquillity) is the subject of these verses.
The vine of Israel is HaShem. Meaning that it is from HaShem that Israel receives her fruitfulness. Likewise, Shiloh (The Messiah) will tether His humble ministry (ass’s colt) to the vine of HaShem, completely reliant on God and echad (one) with His Father’s purpose.
The eyes are the window to the inner man, they offer insight to the one who views them and they make observations and give vision to the one who possesses them. The eyes of Shiloh will be burdened and made dull with the weight of the sins of humanity.
“He appointed Him sin, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” –2 Corinthians 5:21
Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (16th century) says that the King Messiah rides an ass rather than a horse because it is God Who wages the wars by which He (King Messiah) comes to reign, “And He will become King in peace”.
“Rejoice greatly, daughter of Tziyon (Parched Land)!
Shout, daughter of Yerushalayim (Flood of Peace)!
Now, your King is coming to you,
a righteous one bringing salvation.
He is lowly, riding on a donkey--
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” –Zechariah 9:9
“Go into the village before you. Right away, you’ll find a donkey tied up and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me.” –Yeshua [Matthew 21:2] (TLV)
Wine is a symbol of prosperity and sweetness. And there is certainly some sense of the prosperity and fruitfulness of the vines of Israel, Judah and specifically Shiloh (The Messiah) in the abundance of wine mentioned here. However, the fruit of the vine is also a representation of the life blood. During the Passover Seder we drop that life blood on our plates and in the Yemenite tradition we shout “Blood, blood, blood, I am saved by the blood of the (Pesach) Lamb!”
The juice of the grape is called blood by the Apocryphal writings of Sirach:
"The principal things for the whole use of man's life are water, fire, iron, and salt, flour of wheat, honey, milk, and the blood of the grape, and oil, and clothing.'' –Sirach 39:26
"He stretched out his hand to the cup, and poured of the blood of the grape, he poured out at the foot of the altar a sweet smelling savour unto the most high King of all.'' –Sirach 50:15
When blood remains in the body it is the life of a man, for “the life is in the blood”(Leviticus 17:11). But when that blood is poured out, it is loss of like, death, sacrifice, atonement. In these verses we read that the Messiah will attach His donkey colt to the choice vine of Israel, meaning He will be born of God and of the Jewish people and His life blood is intrinsically linked to both God and the nation of Israel. Yeshua is the vine, we are the branches (John 15:5). He washes His garment in the blood of His own sacrificial death, His eyes made bloodshot (dull) with the cup (wine) of His suffering, for the sake of His people’s spiritual prosperity, His teeth milk white, the white washed colour of the tomb where He would lie, albeit temporarily.
“Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” –Luke 22:42
“His teeth white from milk” infers strong bones from childhood, and in particular, a pure voice, both seen and heard: the Hebrew chalav (milk, dairy) being figuratively linked to sucking, like the nursing child. However, it’s also possible that this phrase is a metaphor regarding the pallor of a dying man’s skin.
White is also a symbol of purity and holiness. Thus the words of Messiah’s (Shiloh’s) mouth are to be white, without sin, pure, holy, and faultless.
Gen 49:13 Zebulun (Exalted) at the coastline of the sea will dwell; and he shall be a coastal shelter for ships; and his border upon Zidon (Hunting/fishing).
Having established the position of Judah and Israel’s kings, Jacob now gives Zebulun precedence over Issachar, despite the fact that Issachar is the older of the two. It seems that Jacob abandons the birth order for a progression of blessing that addresses the need to provision Israel. Therefore, following the appointing of the kingly tribe (Judah) he now assigns blessing to the hunter (Zebulun), the labourer (Issachar) and so on.
Zebulun’s role as sea fearing merchant would see his territory reach from Yam Kinneret (Galilee) to the Mediterranean and as far north as Zidon near the border of Northern Israel and Lebanon (Joshua 19:10-15).
Gen 49:14 Yissaschar (Wages, recompense: figuratively: labourer) is a strong boned ass, he lies down between two boundaries: Gen 49:15 And he saw that comfort was good, and the land pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became an indentured labourer.
The name Issachar seems to be a play on words “Ish sakhar”, literally “man hired”.
The indentured servant portion of this pronouncement may refer to Issachar’s subjugation under the Canaanites in the northern regions (Judges 1:3), although the text seems to infer that Issachar will willingly serve as a labourer for the sake of Israel.
Gen 49:16 Dan (Judge) shall yadin judge his people, as one of the tribes of Yisrael (Overcomes in God). Gen 49:17 Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that bites the horse’s heels, so that his rider shall fall backward.
Jacob having finished blessing the six sons of Leah, now goes on to the oldest son born to Bilhah, Rachel’s maidservant. The sons of Rachel are left for last because they are favoured by Jacob above his other sons.
Rabbinical commentary interprets Samson as the judge of Dan who will be like a viper. The use of the serpent metaphor denotes wisdom or cunning rather than opposition to God e.g. “Be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
“An adder in the path, that bites the horse’s heels, so that his rider shall fall backward” is said by both Rashi and Rambam, to be an allegory of Samson’s last act, the destruction of the Philistine temple and the subsequent deaths of 3000 of Israel’s enemies (Judges 16:29).
Gen 49:18 I have waited for Your salvation (Yeshua), O HaShem (YHVH: Mercy).
This verse is the only verse in Genesis 49 that uses the Holy Name YHVH. It seems unattached to both the preceding blessing and the blessing that follows. It may be a sort of intermission, where Jacob himself is calling on the Name of the Lord and as he approaches death is acknowledging the mercy and salvation he has received. This phrase is replicated almost word for word in Psalm 119:166.
However, it’s possible that this line is a phrase attributed to Samson (Like the sun). In his last moments, through true repentance (not selfish vengeance), Samson calls on God for Salvation and the strength to overcome the enemies of HaShem and of his people Israel. In a very real sense Samson is redeemed through Yeshua long before Yeshua’s birth into time and space.
Gen 49:19 Gad (Troop), g’dud a troop that will be y’gudenu overcome: but he shall yagid invade and overcome in the end.
The root from which Gad derives his name is used repeatedly in this verse to show that the tribe will journey from armed conflict to armed conflict until the final day when they will overcome in Messiah.
Gad is the oldest son of Zilpah and his tribal allotment was on the east of the Jordan. Gad vowed to support the other tribes in conquering the land of Israel and fought the Canaanites valiantly, not ceasing until the land was overcome, at which time they returned to their own allotment on the east of the Jordan. Thus the tribe of Gad is known for its warrior spirit and loyalty to the people of Israel.
Gen 49:20 From Asher (Happy) comes sh’meinah rich/fat lechem food/bread, and he shall give royal delicacies.
“Asher’s land will be so rich in olive groves that it will flow with oil like a fountain” –Rashi
The plain meaning is that kings of both Israel and foreign lands will desire the delicacies grown in the tribal land of Asher.
Gen 49:21 Naphtali (Wrestling) is a deer let loose: he gives sayings of beauty.
Naphtali is the last of the sons of the maidservants, he is Bilhah’s youngest son.
“A deer let loose” denotes swiftness. Naphtali is said to have been swift in battle during the time of Deborah the judge (Judges 4).
The sayings of beauty attributed to Naphtali are said to be given in praise of God for the swiftly growing vegetation of his territory, and in praise of the Lord for His hand in enabling Naphtali to be swift in battle.
Gen 49:22 Son of fruitfulness Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) a son fruitful upon the ground near an eye/fountain; daughters run over a wall:
It is here that the rabbis fall short, offering only trite analogies and desperate explanations. The plain meaning is full of remez (hints) that reveal a sod (mystery) of great consequence.
The plain meaning likens Joseph to a fruitful vine growing by an eye of the earth, that is a natural well or fountain of mayim chayim (waters living). This links Joseph (a figure for the coming Messiah) to Shiloh (A name for the Messiah), Who tethers His donkey colt to the vine. The living waters strengthen the fruitful vine of HaShem and Mercy adds (Joseph) redemption through blood (garments washed in wine), the offering of the innocent life of Shiloh and gifting the people with tranquillity and rest (Shiloh), a gift to him (Israel).
Gen 49:23 Now embittering him greatly and hating him my ba’alei husband/lord, they shot him with arrows:
Again, the rabbis fall short, arguing over who is more righteous or worthy to be king, Judah or Joseph. They miss the obvious, that the description, while in its plain sense refers to the mistreatment of Joseph, is none the less prophetic of the Messiah (Shiloh), to Whom the previous verse attaches itself.
“Then I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication, when they will look toward Me whom they pierced. They will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son and grieve bitterly for Him, as one grieves for a firstborn.” –Zechariah 12:10 (cf. John 19:34, 37; Rev. 1:7) [TLV]
Gen 49:24 But his bow dwells in strength, and supple arms, hands made strong from the hand of the Mighty One of Yaakov (Follower); from there the Shepherd, the e’ven Stone of Yisrael (Overcomes in God):
The unusual and prophetic names of God in this passage prompt the question, “If these names have not been prolifically used prior to this, why are they now employed?” God is called 1.) Mighty One of Jacob (Follower) 2.) The Shepherd 3.) The Stone. In fact The Stone can only refer to the stone of the altar of Isaac, the stone of the Temple Mount, of Zion, of the Hill, the foundation stone through which Jewish tradition says all things were created, the stone and foundation of the Temple, of Har-Beit (Mountain House). Again, this is not in reference to Joseph but in reference to the One for Whom Joseph is a pre-figure. That is, Shiloh, the Messiah.
In the plain sense this verse is speaking of the deliverance of Joseph and the subsequent deliverance of Israel. It speaks of the Shepherd of Israel, HaShem and the firm foundation that He has provided for the sons of Jacob through Joseph. At the same time it continues the story of the coming Messiah (Shiloh), Who, after being pierced, will be strengthened again by the hand of God and will become the foundation stone of Israel’s eternal security, shepherding her throughout the ages.
“Therefore thus says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Elohim (God: Judge):
‘Now, I am laying in Tziyon a stone,
a tested stone,
a costly cornerstone, a firm foundation--
whoever trusts will not flee in haste.” –Isaiah 28:16 (ref. 1 Corinthians 3)
The Hebrew “e’ven” translated “stone” can be seen as a contraction of the words “Av” (Father) and “Ben” (Son). In the plain sense the father is Jacob and the son is Joseph, but in the metaphysical sense the Father is HaShem and the Son is the coming Messiah Shiloh (Yeshua).
Gen 49:25 From El God (Judge) of your father (Jacob), and your helper; and the Shaddai All Sufficient Protector (Almighty), Who will bless you, from the heavens will come blessings, blessings of the deep that lie under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb: Gen 49:26 The blessings of your father have prevailed above the blessings of those who conceived me, to the boundary limit of the hill everlasting: they shall be on the head of Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds), and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brothers.
Once again the blessing is filled with descriptive names of God: 1.) The Judge 2.) The Helper 3.) All Sufficient Protector, the Almighty 4.) The One Who blesses [In fact, all blessing comes from God].
Once again Zion’s hill is spoken of. In fact it can be no other hill because the hill in question is called “Olam” meaning “eternal, everlasting”.
It is not Jacob who blesses, it is God, the Judge, the Helper, the All Sufficient Protector. He is bringing blessing upon Joseph that alludes to Shiloh, the Messiah. Eternal blessing that could not apply to Joseph alone. A form of blessing which is over Jacob and will prevail as an over those blessings given to his parents. Greater blessing means the greater outworking of the blessings placed upon Abraham and Isaac. Blessing from the heavens, meaning God will come down (Messiah). Blessing from below, meaning that the Messiah will rise from sheol (Holding place of the dead). Blessing from the breast and womb, which refers to disciples feeding at the breast of Messiah, who will be born at Israel’s breast Miriam (Mary: rebellion).
Of the plain meaning we read that Joseph, who was separated from his family temporarily will be crowned with blessing. Of the remez (hint) we read that Shiloh (The Messiah) will be separate from His brothers temporarily (Dead for three days and three nights like Jonah), He will be unique in all Israel, crowned before He descends from God and crowned with blessing and with the k’vod HaShem glory of God (Mercy) when He ascends to be seated at God’s right hand. Speaking of the right hand…
Gen 49:27 Benyamin (Son of my right hand) shall ravage as a wolf: in the morning he will devour the prey, and at night he will divide the spoil.”
It is true that the descendants of Benjamin became known for their fierce wolf like warrior nature, as recorded in the affair of the concubine at Gibeah (Judges 19-20). King Saul of Benjamin was also like a wolf, defeating Moab, Edom and Philistia.
The morning is said to refer to the rise of Saul as Israel’s first human king, and the night is said to refer to the overcoming of Mordechai and Esther (Both of Benjamin) and the dividing of the spoils of their enemies (Israel’s enemies)[Esther 8:7].
Gen 49:28 All these are the twelve tribes of Yisrael: and this is what their father spoke to them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them.
“Everyone according to his blessing” again affirms the core doctrine that teaches all blessing comes from God and is the speaking into time of that which God has already seen fulfilled outside of time and space.
Gen 49:29 And he charged them, and said to them, “I am to be gathered to my people: inter me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron (Fawn like) the Chiti (Descendant of Chet [terror]), Gen 49:30 In the cave that is in the field of Machpelah (Double portion), which is before Mamre (Strength, fatness, abundance), in the land of K’naan (Lowland, humility), which Avraham (Father of many peoples) purchased along with the field of Ephron the Chiti (terrorist) for a possession of a place for interment. Gen 49:31 There they interred Avraham and Sarah (Princess, queen) his wife; there they interred Yitzchaak (He laughs) and Rivkah (Fetching beauty) his wife; and there I interred Leah (weary). Gen 49:32 The purchase of the field and of the cave that is there was from the children of Chet (Terror).
The Torah affirms yet again the legal purchase of the land surrounding Hebron and the cave therein. Despite the revisionist history of the enemies of Israel, there can be no argument, Hebron was, is and will always be a Jewish holy site.
This is Jacob’s final request. He has already obligated Joseph through an oath, now he also commands Joseph’s brothers. Jacob’s interment at Hebron is not merely a dying man’s selfish demand, to the contrary, Jacob knows that his interment there will become a physical manifestation of the divine promise to bring all Israel into that Promised Land. By instructing all his sons to honour his wish, he is laying a foundation of hope, not only in the physical promises of God relating to the land of Israel, but also in the eternal hope of the resurrection and the Olam haba (World to come).
Gen 49:33 And when Yaakov (Follower) had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and died, and was gathered to his people.
The phrase “He gathered his feet into the bed” concludes Jacob’s last earthly journey, he has entered death well: something he had begun in 48:2. This action is a symbolic representation of the gathering to his people. Just as the feet are drawn from the open air and beneath the covers, so too Jacob will be drawn from this life and beneath the earth into that part of Sheol (Gan Eden) where the righteous dwell.
As I have explained in previous commentary, those who die in Messiah are dead to this temporary world but alive to Messiah in Gan Eden (Paradise). Jacob was gathered to his people. One cannot be gathered to a people who have ceased to exist. Both Judaism and Christianity teach the eternal nature of the human Spirit/Soul. This teaching originates here in the first book of the Torah and not (As so many foolish Christian scholars suggest) post Hellenism.
“But concerning the dead being raised, haven’t you read in the book of Moses about the burning bush? How God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He’s not the God of the dead, but of the living. You have gone far astray!” –Yeshua Mark 12:26-27 (TLV)
© Yaakov Brown 2017
From all the struggles and victories of Jacob, the writer of the book of Hebrews choses this act as Jacob’s defining faith moment.
“By faithfully trusting Yaakov, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Yosef, and he bowed in worship while leaning on the top of his staff.” –Hebrews 11:21
This final faith act of Jacob looks forward to the resurrection and the eternal promises of God.
Gen 48:1 And it came to pass after these ha-d’variym the words (things), that it was said to Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds), “Hinei Behold now, your father has become weak”: and he (Joseph) took with him his two sons, M’nasheh (Cause to forget) and Ephrayim (Double fruitfulness).
This account comes after the events of the preceding chapter and specifically after the last words spoken in the preceding chapter, which were the unrecorded words of the oath of Joseph concerning his father’s future interment at Hebron.
It’s unlikely as Radak suggests, that the news of Jacob’s illness was delivered by one of Joseph’s brothers because the text says, “your father” and not, “our father”.
It’s important to note that the two sons of Joseph are listed according to their birth order when Joseph takes them to see his father Jacob. This will change when they come into the blessing of God, which will be pronounced over them by Jacob.
Gen 48:2 And it was made known to Yaakov (Follower), and he was told, “Hinei Behold now, your son Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) is coming to you”: and Yisrael (Overcome in God) strengthened himself, and sat up on the bed.
It is likely that the same messenger who brought the news to Joseph returned ahead of him to inform Jacob that his son was coming. Given his weak state, the act of sitting up in bed must have required Jacob to summon the last of his strength. So important to him was his role as a Patriarch of the tribes and guardian of the promises of Hashem that he was willing to give all he had to pass on his hope to the next generation. These are the actions of one who has heard from, believed in and set his eyes on HaShem (YHVH: Mercy).
Gen 48:3 And Yaakov (Follower) said to Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds), “El Shaddai (God Almighty the all sufficient Protector) appeared to me in Luz (Almond tree: Beit-El, House of God) in the land of K’naan (Lowland, humility), and blessed me, Gen 48:4 And said to me, ‘Hin’niy Behold now, I will make you fruitful, and multiply you, and I will make of you a multitude of people; and will give this land to your seed after you for an everlasting possession.’
Using the meanings of the names in the text we can read an allegory as follows:
“The follower said to the one who adds mercy, ‘The All Sufficient Protector appeared to me in the House of God, when I was in a place of humility. He blessed me and said, “Now, become aware, I will make you fruitful, and multiply you, and I will bring forth from you generation upon generation of children; and will give this land to your seed after you for an eternal possession.”’”
Joseph has come to Israel, but it is Jacob who speaks.
Luz is the old name for Bethel (Genesis 28:19), where God appeared to Jacob as he was going to Padan-aram, and on his return from Padan-aram (Gen. 28:11-13; 35:10-11). It’s not clear which of those times Jacob is referring to. However, both occasions qualify since the same promises were made to him both times.
Gen 48:5 “And now your two sons, Ephrayim (Double fruitfulness) and M’nasheh (Cause to forget), which were born to you in the land of Mitzrayim Egypt (Double straits) before I came to you in Mitzrayim Egypt, are mine; as Ruvein (Behold a son) and Shimeon (Heard), they shall be mine.
Jacob changes the birth order of the sons here. He has just finished speaking of HaShem’s blessing of fruitfulness, thus it makes sense that he would name Ephrayim, the doubly fruitful one, first.
Jacob qualifies his meaning by comparing Ephraim and Manasseh to his sons Reuben and Simeon (His eldest sons). This shows that he intends for Joseph’s sons to be named as tribes of Israel in their own right and to inherit equal shares of the Promised Land.
The last phrase concerning Reuben and Simeon seems to imply that they will lose their position as first and second born to Ephraim and Manasseh. This may be as a result of Jacob’s disappointment with their past actions (Gen. 34:30; 35:22; 49:3-7; 1 Chron. 5:1).
Joseph’s sons would have been approximately twenty years of age or more. We know this because Jacob had been in Egypt seventeen years, and had come there after two years of famine, and Joseph's sons were born to him before the famine began (Gen. 41:50).
Gen 48:6 And your progeny, which you produce after them, shall be yours, and shall be called after the name of their brothers in their inheritance.
Simply put, if sons or daughters are born to Joseph after Ephraim and Manasseh, those children will find their inheritance in the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.
Gen 48:7 And as for me, when I came from Padan (Field of exaltation) Rachel (Ewe) died by me in the land of K’naan on the way, not far from Ephratah (Place of fruitfulness): and I interred her there on the way to Ephratah (Place of fruitfulness); also called Beit-lechem (House of bread/food).”
Jacob explains that he had felt that his fruitfulness in Rachel had been cut short. This is one of the reasons for the hope he sees in Ephraim, whose name literally means “Double fruitfulness”. This moment of sorrowful reflection concerning Jacob’s troubled journey toward fruitfulness ends with the naming of the town from which Israel’s Messiah will come forth. Bethlehem, the house of bread, food, provision.
Gen 48:8 And Yisrael (Overcome in God) beheld Yosef’s (YHVH: Mercy adds) sons, and said, “Who are these?”
This question of Jacob connects the blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh to his own experience of blessing at the hand of his elderly father (Gen. 25:22-33; 27:1-45).
Gen 48:9 And Yosef said to his father, “They are my sons, whom Elohiym (God: Judge) has given me in this place.” And he (Jacob) said, “Bring them, I plead with you, to me, and I will bless them. Gen 48:10 Now the eyes of Yisrael were dim from age, so that he could not see. And he (Joseph) brought them near to him (Israel); and he (Israel) kissed them, and embraced them. Gen 48:11 And Yisrael said to Yosef, “I had not thought to see your face: and, now, Elohiym (God: Judge) has shown me also your seed.”
By telling the story of Rachel’s death prior to announcing his adoption of Ephraim and Manasseh Jacob connects them to her as sons.
Gen 48:12 And Yosef brought them out from between his (Jacob’s) knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth. Gen 48:13 And Yosef took them both, Ephrayim (Double fruitfulness) in his right hand toward Yisrael's left hand, and M’nasheh (Cause to forget) in his left hand toward Yisrael's right hand, and brought them near to him.
Joseph is directing the boys toward Jacob in such a way as to ensure that Manasseh receives the blessing from Jacob’s right hand, the hand that signifies strength and the blessing of the first born.
“R’ David Feinstein observes, by placing Ephraim on his own right hand, Joseph unwittingly affirmed Ephraim’s supremacy” – Art Scroll Chumash Commentary
Gen 48:14 And Yisrael stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephrayim’s (Double fruitfulness) head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon M’nasheh (Cause to forget) head, guiding his hands intentionally; for M’nasheh was the firstborn.
Jacob trusted the promises of Hashem and the ultimate outcome of those promises. Thus it is Fruitfulness that he seeks out as head over the brothers. Forgetfulness will come too often to Israel in the days ahead. Jacob wants Israel to look forward to the goal of her worship, for only then can she truly forget her suffering.
Gen 48:15 And he (Jacob) blessed Yosef, and said, “Ha-Elohiym the God (Judge), before whose face my fathers Avraham (Father of many peoples) and Yitzchaak (He laughs) walked, Ha-Elohiym the God (Judge) ha-roeh who tended (as a shepherd) me continually throughout my life up to this day,
Jacob names God for His awesome Judgement (Elohiym) and for His intimate relationship (Before the face), and subsequently identifies the terrifying Judge as a loving Shepherd Who ha-roeh, tends, shepherds the flock. The intrinsic link between the practical shepherding role of Israel and the spiritual Shepherd of Israel is an essential part of her discipleship.
Jacob has identified God as:
Gen 48:16 Ha-Malakh ha-goel the Messenger Who redeemed me from all ra evil, bless the youths; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Avraham (Father of many peoples) and Yitzchaak (He laughs); v’yid’gu larov and may they proliferate into a multitude like fish, in the midst of the earth.
The first part of verse 16 literally reads, “The Messenger the Redeemer of me from all evil.”
Joseph’s name is used here as a collective noun that combines Ephraim and Manasseh. It is used in a similar way in 1 Chronicles 5:2. The Blessing that Ephraim and Manasseh will receive is imparted to them through their father.
Jacob has again acknowledged God in three distinct ways:
It is clear from Jacob’s words that the God who tended him continually and the Messenger (Angel) Who redeemed him, are one in the same.
Jacob says, “and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Avraham and Yitzchaak…” because he is calling Ephraim and Manasseh the new heads of the tribes in the sense that they will take over the roles that Reuben and Simeon have failed to uphold.
With regard to the naming of the tribes following this blessing, some lists include Joseph and the clerical tribe of Levi (Deut. 27:12-13), while others omit Levi and divide Joseph into the two tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (Numbers 1:5-15).
Gen 48:17 And when Yosef saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephrayim (Double fruitfulness), it displeased him: and he held up his father's hand, to remove it from Ephrayim’s (Double fruitfulness) head and move it to M’nasheh’s (Cause to forget) head. Gen 48:18 And Yosef said to his father, “Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put your right hand upon his head.” Gen 48:19 And his father refused, and said, “I know, my son, I know: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.”
Prophetically speaking it is better that Israel become doubly fruitful rather than forgetful. It is only when Israel remembers that which she has been delivered from that she returns to HaShem in humility and repentance.
Joseph thought that his father, who was weak sighted, must have made an unintentional mistake in placing his right hand on Ephraim. Jacob gently assures him that he knows what he’s doing. He says this twice to affirm the establishment of God’s will to bless Ephraim as the greater of the two brothers.
Ephraim was 8300 men greater than Manasseh when Israel came out of Egypt (Numbers 1:23) and lead the tribes of Israel during the reign of Jeroboam. Joshua, the successor to Moses was of the tribe of Ephraim and Samuel the prophet (a Levite via Kohath) was from the tribal land of Ephraim. Ephraim eventually became an alternate name for the northern kingdom (Hosea 5:3, Isaiah 7:1-17).
Gen 48:20 And he (Jacob) blessed them that day, saying, “In you shall Yisrael (Overcome in God) bless, saying, ‘Elohiym God make you as Ephrayim (Double fruitfulness) and as M’nasheh (Cause to forget)’”: and he set Ephrayim before M’nasheh.
The traditional Jewish blessing of the children every yom shishi (Friday evening) is based on the Targum which says, “This custom continues with the Jews to this day, to place their hands on persons to bless them; if a son, they say, ‘God make you as Ephraim and Manasseh;’ if a daughter, ’God make you as Sarah and Rebekah:’”
One of the reasons given in Jewish tradition for the pronouncing of this blessing concerning Ephraim and Manasseh, is because these sons of Joseph maintained their Jewish identity according to their father’s teaching even though they were living in Egypt. Thus Jewish parents throughout the world pray that their children will do likewise.
Gen 48:21 And Yisrael said to Yosef, “Hinei Behold now, I die: but Elohiym God (Judge) shall be with you, and bring you again to the land of your fathers. Gen 48:22 Moreover I have given to you shekhem (portion) one above your brothers, which I took out of the hand of the Amori (Speaker, Sayer of sayings) with my sword and with my bow.”
The Hebrew word for "portion" is "Shekhem", which is understood by some Jewish commentators (Targum Yonatan and Yarchi) to refer to the city of Shekhem. The portion of land being referred to in Jacob’s blessing of Joseph was near to Shekhem, and the city itself, and all the adjacent country, eventually came into the possession of the tribe of Ephraim (Joshua 20:7).
“Jacob and his sons had very grievous war with the Amorites on account of the slaughter and captivity of the Shechemites” –Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 5. 1
However, the taking of the land out of the hand of the Amorites is probably not referring to the taking and plundering of the city of Shekhem by Jacob’s sons Levi and Simeon, because Jacob wasn’t involved and even rebuked them for their actions. Additionally, Shekhem was a Hivite town at the time.
Iben Ezra and Ben Gershom suggest that the past tense “Which I took” is to be understood in a future prophetic sense as referring to Jacob’s progeny, as if he had foreseen that his descendants would take it out of the hands of the Amorites, the most powerful of the Canaanite nations, and then it would be given to Joseph's seed.
In giving Joseph this portion above his brothers, Jacob is effectively offering him the double portion belonging to the first born, that is, the birth right (Deut. 21:17), and hence Joseph's bones were interred in Shekhem, because it had become his own land according to his birth right (Joshua 24:32).
© Yaakov Brown 2017
In verse 31, the Septuagint, a Jewish translation of the Hebrew Torah, reads “staff” rather than “bed”, as recorded in the Masoretic Hebrew text of the Torah. There is no need to argue over which is correct. Both are correct. His staff was at the head of his bed, thus he bowed on the staff and at the head of the bed.
Gen 47:1 Then Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) came and spoke to Pharaoh (Great House), saying, “My father and my brothers, and their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have, have come out of the land of K’naan (Lowland, humility); and, hinei behold, they are in the land of Goshen (Draw Near). Gen 47:2 And umik’tzeih from the end, outer edge (cut off) of his brothers he (Yosef) took five men, and yatzigeim established (presented) them lip’neiy before the face of Pharaoh (Great House).
Joseph has carefully orchestrated these events so as to keep his brothers and family separate from the royal court of Egypt and the possibility of assimilation. He has previously placed the idea of Goshen before Pharaoh as a foregone conclusion and Pharaoh is happy to comply with Joseph’s request.
Why only five of his brothers? Some of our Sages suggest that Joseph chose the weakest of the brothers so as to deter Pharaoh from employing them in his court. Others say that he chose the strongest in order to satisfy Pharaoh’s faith in the strength of Joseph and his community, and enlist Joseph’s brothers into the Egyptian military. Five is symbolically seen as half of fullness (10), the first instalment of a work yet to find completion. In a very real sense this is prophetic of what awaits Israel in the years ahead.
It is impossible to know which five brothers were taken before Pharaoh. The Sages’ interpretations range from the weakest to the strongest, and offer various reasons to support their conjectures.
Perhaps the most likely explanation is that Joseph chose brothers from each end of the birth order. This fits with the use of the Hebrew “umik’tzeih” which translates literally as “and from the end”. If this is the correct reading of the Hebrew text then the brothers selected might have included Rueben (Behold a son), Simeon (Heard), Benjamin (Son of my right hand) and Zebulun (Prince, dwelling gloriously, gift), the fifth being either Levi (Joined) or Issachar (reward).
The Targum of Yonatan names the five as, Zebulun, Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher; but Yarchi identifies them as, Reuben, Simeon and Levi, Issachar and Benjamin. Neither list can be considered as anything more than conjecture.
What is clear is that Joseph intended to establish his brothers before Pharaoh as being of great value as herders of Egypt’s animals but of little value to the court of the monarchy and to its military. It seems that his goal was to keep the sons of Israel set apart, in order to maintain their culture and more importantly their priestly role before the one true God HaShem, whom they worshipped and represented in the land of idolatry known as Egypt.
Gen 47:3 And Pharaoh said to his (Yosef’s) brothers, “What is your occupation? And they replied to Pharaoh, Your servants are shepherds, both we, and also our fathers.
As discussed in my commentary on the previous chapter, the role of shepherding was both a practical and spiritual role for the Patriarchs and the tribes of Israel. The Pharaoh in question may be one of the Hyksos kings and is therefore interested in the occupation and lineage of this people who have come from the same region as his descendants, who had invaded Egypt many years prior. If on the other hand he is not a Hyksos ruler and these events are taking place at a later date in History, his question is simply a means by which he can assess how the brothers of Joseph might enhance his rule and the betterment of Egypt.
Gen 47:4 They also said to Pharaoh, “It is in order to sojourn (dwell temporarily) in the land that we have come; for your servants have no pasture for their flocks; for the famine/hunger is severe in the land of K’naan (Humility): now therefore, we plead with you, let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen (Draw near).
All this was said to Pharaoh according to the instructions Joseph had given his brothers. What stands out in respect to Israel’s greater story, is the fact that the brothers said, “It is in order to sojourn (dwell temporarily) in the land that we have come.” It’s clear that the entire family of Jacob understood the promises of God concerning Israel and the importance of looking forward to that day when they would leave Egypt and return to the Land of K’naan, which would make up part of the greater area of land promised to Israel. To sojourn is to dwell temporarily, working and living until the time comes to move on to the goal of one’s journey. All who follow Messiah Yeshua are sojourners, awaiting His return and the goal of our journey, to live eternally with Him in the promised Olam Haba (World to come).
It’s important to note that Joseph’s brothers offer no real threat to the security of Egypt as herders of animals, an occupation reserved for the lower classes and or slaves. Therefore, part of the reason for Joseph’s instructions is to ensure that neither his brothers nor his father appear arrogant or entitled before Pharaoh.
Gen 47:5 And Pharaoh (Great House) spoke to Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds), saying, “Your father and your brothers have come to you (singular): Gen 47:6 The land of Mitzrayim (Double straits/distress) Egypt is before your face (singular); in the best of the land make your father and brothers to dwell; in the land of Goshen (Draw near) let them dwell: and if you know of any men of strength among them, then make them shari my princes over my cattle.”
Pharaoh speaks directly to Joseph using the singular “you” and insists that it is Joseph before whom the entire land of Egypt lies. Joseph has shown great respect to Pharaoh in coming to him before allowing his family to make camp in Goshen. Pharaoh continues to trust Joseph’s judgement in all matters and thus he effectively gives the decision back into Joseph’s hands, saying, “Let them dwell”, meaning, ‘Let them dwell where you’ve suggested”. Finally Pharaoh, having seen the prosperity brought about through Joseph’s leadership, requests that he select the strongest of his brothers to care for his herds. This of course gives some credence to the suggestion that Joseph had brought the weaker looking of the brothers before Pharaoh.
Gen 47:7 And Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) brought in Yaakov (Follows after the heel) his father, and stood him before the face of Pharaoh (Great House), and Yaakov y’vareikh blessed Pharaoh.
What we are reading about here is the meeting of two kings. The king of the people of HaShem (A spiritual king), and the king of a world power.
Hebrews 6:16 reminds us that human beings always swear by one greater than themselves. In the case of the servants of HaShem, that greater One by Whom we swear is God Himself. It is also true that because the Hebrew view understands all blessing to come from God, the person who blesses is always blessing by One greater than himself. In fact, with regard to the Patriarchs and their interactions with other rulers, it can be said that the greater blesses the lesser. In the present case Jacob blesses Pharaoh, there is no mention of Pharaoh blessing Jacob. From the Torah’s perspective Jacob, the servant of God is greater than Pharaoh (Great House). This is why nothing is said of Pharaoh blessing Jacob. God has and will continue to bless Jacob, and through Jacob God pronounces blessing on Pharaoh, for as long as he cares for, protects and facilitates the prosperity of Jacob/Israel.
Gen 47:8 And Pharaoh said unto Yaakov, How old are you?
This question of Pharaoh seems unusual. What might have prompted Pharaoh to ask this?
It seems that in the plain sense Pharaoh is struck by the ancient features of Jacob’s face and his frailty. Though, given what he already knows of Joseph’s father, the opposite may be true. He may be impressed at how fit Jacob looks for a person whom Pharaoh suspects of being much older than himself. It’s possible that Egyptians were not accustomed to seeing people who had lived as long as Jacob had, and that Pharaoh was astounded by Jacob’s obvious old age and wondered how it was possible? Thus he wanted to verify Jacob’s age.
Gen 47:9 And Yaakov said unto Pharaoh, “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years: few and raiym (full of) evils have the days of the years of my life been, and my days are not as many as the days of the years of the lives of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.
We know that Jacob dies at the age of 147 years (47:28). Therefore, he spends two seventeen year periods with Joseph: Joseph’s first 17 years and Jacob’s last seventeen years. 17 is the sum of the two numbers of completion and wholeness. 7 is connected to the created order and its completion, while also being representative of the sevenfold Spirit of HaShem and the emanations of His character. Thus 7 is symbolic of spiritual completion, wholeness, fulfilment. 10 is also a number of completion and wholeness, and seems to have the role of symbolizing the earthly fulfilments of the heavenly will. In simple terms HaShem has shown Jacob the end from the beginning and is now showing him the beginning from the end. He has lived to see part of the promise fulfilled and will now begin a new journey in Hashem, the journey into Gan Eden (Paradise). Though Jacob’s days have been full of troubles, he has none the less seen the faithfulness of HaShem manifest throughout his days on earth as a sojourner/pilgrim.
The root for the Hebrew “guray” meaning pilgrimage or sojourn, is “geir”. Thus, in modern terms Jacob was saying, ‘I’ve been living as an immigrant, a geir (alien/stranger) for 130 years”.
Both Rashbam and Rambam read raiym (evils) as “travails”. In this context the Hebrew raiym can denote trouble.
“Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.” –Job 14:1
Gen 47:10 And Yaakov (YHVH: Mercy adds) y’varekh blessed Pharaoh (Great House) and went out from before Pharaoh.
Once again Jacob (representing HaShem) blesses Pharaoh. Both these blessings are conditional on Pharaoh’s right treatment of Israel. The Torah has already established that God will bless those who bless Abraham’s descendants and curse those who curse them (Gen. 12:3; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; 30:27-30; 39:5, 23).
Gen 47:11 And Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) settled his father and his brothers, and gave them a possession in the land of Mitzrayim Egypt, in the best part of the land, in the land of Rameses (Child of the Sun), as Pharaoh had commanded.
“The land of Rameses” is the later name, that is, the name used during Moses lifetime, for the region of Goshen (Exodus 1:11).
Gen 47:12 And Yosef nourished his father, and his brothers, and all his father's household, with bread, according to the mouths of their children.
“According to the mouths of their children” is an idiom that means each family was given the appropriate amount of supplies for the number of people in the family. The same principle is applied during the collection of manna many years later, following the exodus.
Gen 47:13 And there was no bread (food) in all the land; for the famine/hunger caused great fainting, so that the land (& those in it) of Mitzrayim Egypt and all the land of K’naan (Lowland) fainted before the face of the famine/hunger.
A stark contrast is shown between the care and provisioning of Israel and the general state of the common people of Egypt and K’naan. The “fainting” described is the natural result of low blood sugar and dehydration and is a metaphorically allusion to despair. The famine made things especially difficult during the extremely hot conditions of the summer months.
Gen 47:14 And Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) gathered up all the silver that was found in the land of Mitzrayim Egypt, and in the land of K’naan, (as the price) for the grain which they (the people of Egypt and K’naan) bought: and Yosef brought the silver into Pharaoh's house.
Although Joseph had authority over all these things he showed his great integrity by making himself fiscally accountable to Pharaoh.
Gen 47:15 And when the silver ran out in the land of Mitzrayim Egypt, and in the land of K’naan, all the Mitzrayim Egyptians came to Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds), and said, “Give us bread (food): for why should we die in front of you? Now that the silver is gone. Gen 47:16 And Yosef said, “Give your cattle; and I will give you food in exchange for your cattle, if the silver is gone.” Gen 47:17 And they brought their cattle to Yosef: and Yosef gave them bread (food) in exchange for horses, and for the flocks, and for the cattle of the herds, and for the asses: and he fed them with bread for all their cattle for that year.
We note that it is “bread/food” that is given rather than grain. These events must be taking place in the latter part of the fifth year or the beginning of the sixth year of the famine/hunger, since we read of a second or following year, when seed rather than bread was given to them for the purpose of sowing the land. This means the drought was coming to an end, making the second of these two years the seventh and final year of the famine.
Gen 47:18 When that year was ended, they came to him again the second year, and said to him, “We can’t hide it from my lord, our silver is spent; my lord also has our herds of cattle; there nothing left in the sight of my lord, but our bodies, and our lands: Gen 47:19 As a result, should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for bread (food), and we and our land will be servants to Pharaoh: and give us seed, that we may live, and not die, and so that the land will not be desolate.
In the ancient world it was common for people devoid of any other means of payment to offer their liberty as payment and become indentured servants to those from whom they purchased goods. The irony of the enslavement of the common people of Egypt is not lost on the Hebrew writer of this text. Moses is recording these words in retrospect at Sinai and must surely see the rhythms of God at work as he collates the oral and revealed history and laws of Israel.
Gen 47:20 And Yosef bought all the land of Mitzrayim Egypt for Pharaoh; for every Mitzrayim Egyptian sold his field, because the famine/hunger prevailed over them: so the land became Pharaoh's.
It seems unlikely that those in Pharaoh’s court and those of higher social standing were required to sell their freedom. Along with the priests, the elite were probably exempt due to the stipends they received from Pharaoh.
Gen 47:21 And as for the people, he removed them to cities from one end of the borders of Mitzrayim Egypt even to the other end.
This was probably done in order to sever generational ties to those parts of the land that had been sold. Thus those who had sold ancestral lands in one location were moved to another so that they would not become reattached to the idea of owning what they might later consider to be their rightful possession. That is, the land they had sold.
Gen 47:22 Only the adamat ground of ha-coheniym the priests was not purchased; for the priests had a portion assigned them by Pharaoh, and ate their portion of food which Pharaoh gave them: this is why they didn’t sell their ad’maat ground.
The priests of Egypt received their stipend in much the same way as the priests of Israel would one day receive their living from the people for the service offered before HaShem.
It’s interesting to note that if it is the case that only the priests of Egypt were in this privileged position, then one might consider the people of Israel, who were also allowed to maintain their land in Goshen (and buy more land) and received a regular allotment of food from Joseph, to be a nation of priests. In fact, this has been the case since the first priest Abraham chose to lead his children in the paths of Hashem, and is still the case today.
“’So as for you, you will be to Me a kingdom of kohaniym and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you are to speak to Bnei-Yisrael (Children of Israel).” –Exodus 19:6
Gen 47:23 Then Yosef said to the people, “Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh: so, here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land.
This happened in the last year of the famine, or else sowing seed would have been pointless.
Gen 47:24 And it shall come to pass in the increase, that you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four fifths shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for those of your households, and for food for your little ones. Gen 47:25 And they said, “You have saved our lives: let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh's servants.” Gen 47:26 And Yosef made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should receive a fifth; with the exception of the land of the priests, which didn’t become Pharaoh's.
Joseph acts generously in Pharaoh’s name. The land owner (Pharaoh) was entitled to take the majority of the land’s produce. Another ruler of the period might have taken four fifths of the produce and left those who worked the land with only a fifth from which to divide up food and seed for replanting. What Joseph agrees to is the opposite of this. Pharaoh will take the lesser portion and the greater portion will remain in the hands of the farmers. This is why the people respond by saying, “You have saved us”. They gladly offer themselves in service of a ruler who will deal with them righteously.
There is a wonderful foreshadowing of the Messiah and His kingdom in this interaction. The Olam Haba (World to come), will be a kingdom owned entirely by the most generous King of all time, God Himself. Those who sell all they have to become His servants in this life are delighted to receive the generous portion of eternal life that God affords those who work in His harvest field. He gives enough for our needs and overflows our cup that we might bless others. When His Son Yeshua (Joseph being the type for Messiah) offers us the opportunity to be set free from certain death in the famine and hunger of this sin affected world, we gladly give up that which we cannot hold on to for that which we will never lose.
The fifth given to Pharaoh, even up until the day of the writing down of the Torah, is symbolic of Egypt’s failure to be complete in its spiritual journey. The tithe of Abraham and subsequently of the priesthood, is a lesser portion practically speaking (A fifth is greater than a tenth), but a greater portion spiritually speaking.
Gen 47:27 And Yisrael (Overcomes in God) dwelt in the land of Mitzrayim Egypt, in the country of Goshen (Draw near); and they acquired property in it, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly.
The priests of Egypt maintained their property, but the priestly nation of Israel extended their land holdings. Israel the man, and “they”, Israel the people, dwelt in Egypt and prospered.
Vayechiy (And He lived)
This parashat is distinct in that unlike others, there is no gap in the Torah text to indicate its division. It may seem ironic that the portion that describes Jacob’s death should be headed “And he lived”. However, this is exactly the right way to describe the deaths of the children of God. As Yeshua has said, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: He is not the God of the dead but of the living!” (Matthew 22:32). For Jacob, now Israel, death is the doorway to the Messiah and Gan Eden (Paradise), and subsequently “He lives, eternally”.
Gen 47:28 And Yaakov (Follows after the heel) lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years: so the total number of Yaakov’s years was one hundred forty seven.
Yaakov the follower, the pilgrim, completes his earthly journey with the knowledge that as Yisrael the overcomer he will enter into Gan Eden (Paradise, Abraham’s bosom).
Gen 47:29 And the time drew nigh that Yisrael (Overcome in God) must die: and he called his son Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) and said to him, “If now I have found grace in your sight, I plead with you, put your hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; I plead with you, do not inter me in Egypt:
Israel, who has overcome in God now calls upon HaShem Who adds mercy, asking for confirmation of the hope he has held in his heart for so many years. He asks to be interred above ground (not buried).
The act of placing the hand under the thigh next to the male sexual organ is symbolic of an oath which binds one to the generations past and future (Gen 24:2). In effect, Joseph is making an oath that will also be incumbent on his progeny. This is why all of Jacob’s sons go up to inter him at Machpelah in Hebron (Gen. 50:8, 12-13).
Gen 47:30 But I will lie with my fathers, and you shall carry me out of Mitzrayim Egypt (Double straits, distress), and inter me in their place of interment.” And he (Joseph) said, “I will do as you have said”. Gen 47:31 And he (Jacob) said, “Swear to me.” And he (Joseph) swore to him. And Yisrael prostrated himself toward the head of the bed (bowed himself on the head of his staff).
“In trusting Yaakov (follower), as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and he bowed in worship while leaning on the top of his staff.” –Hebrews 11:21
In verse 31, the Septuagint, a Jewish translation of the Hebrew Torah, reads “staff” rather than “bed”, as recorded in the Masoretic Hebrew text of the Torah.
There is no need to argue over which is correct. Both are correct. His staff was at the head of his bed, thus he bowed on the staff and at the head of the bed.
With this established we are free to expound the meaning of the head of the bed and the bedrock of the staff, both being significant symbols.
The second of Joseph’s dreams has not yet been fulfilled to completion. His brothers have bowed down to him but his father has not. As Jacob seeks Joseph’s oath, Joseph stands close to the top of his bed. After making the oath upon Jacob’s thigh, Jacob bows to Joseph at the head of his bed and upon his staff. Thus he completes that part of Joseph’s second dream that can be completed and leaves the final fulfilment of it (When both Jacob and Rachel will bow to the Messiah ben Joseph [Yeshua]) until that great day when the Messiah returns and the dead rise.
The head of the bed is the chief place of rest and denotes a final transition of peace. Jacob is bowing to HaShem in the knowledge of his son’s oath, assured that he will be interred in the cave of Machpelah in Hebron (Gen. 23:9-19; 25:9; 49:30; 50:13), along with his forefathers, there to await the resurrection and the life everlasting in the land promised to him by HaShem.
The staff is a sign of Jacob’s authority over all his sons, the tribes of Israel. This is why the name Israel is used in verse 29 prior to the oath and prior to his bowing to Joseph at the head of his bed and upon the staff. This staff of authority is being passed on, not to Judah, but to Joseph, from whom the sons of promise (Ephraim and Menashe) have come forth. This staff is given to Joseph in a figurative representation of the future Messiah, Who will rule over all the tribes of Jacob/Israel, and indeed, over all nations.
“ So Yaakov’s sons did for him just as he commanded them. His sons carried him to the land of K’naan and interred him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, the field that Avraham bought as a property for burial from Ephron the Chitti, next to Mamre.” –Genesis 50:12-13
© Yaakov Brown 2017
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
We live to follow and serve in the strength we have been afforded, but when all strength is gone and every option exhausted, we learn that HaShem is sufficient.
43:1 Now the ha-ra’av famine (hunger) was kaveid heavy in the land.
The reason this phrase is repeated at the beginning of this chapter is because “the land” in question here is not Egypt, as is the case in the previous chapter. The following verse qualifies the context for ba-aretz (In the land). Ha-aretz is a title synonymous with the land of Israel. We could read “Now the hunger was heavy in the land of Israel”.
2 When they finished eating the grain they had brought from Mitzrayim Egypt (Double distress) their father said to them, “Go back. Buy us a little food.” 3 And speaking toward him Y’hudah (Praise) said, “Ha-eish The man warned us firmly saying, ‘You won’t see my face unless your brother is with you.’ 4 If you send our brother with us, we will go down and buy grain for you for food. 5 But if you won’t send him, we won’t go down, because the man said to us, ‘You won’t see my face unless your brother is with you.’”
Reuben, Jacob’s eldest son had already tried to convince his father and had failed (Gen. 42:36); Simeon the next in birth order, was now in Egypt (Gen. 42:24), and Levi, possibly due to his actions at Shechem (Gen. 34:25), had lost his father’s respect. Therefore, Judah, being next in birth order, with the consent of his brothers, speaks to Jacob for the good of the whole community.
Judah uses stronger language in describing the Egyptian Viceroy’s (Joseph’s) instruction to them than the brothers had used together (42:24). When the issue of returning to Egypt was last discussed they had plenty of food and may have hoped that the famine would let up and allow for a return to agricultural prosperity. Now however, they were again faced with the prospect of starvation. Judah had to convince Jacob that none of his sons would return to Egypt without their brother, because Joseph’s vow had been made using a euphemism that required the return of Benjamin or the deaths of the brothers.
The irony of the name Mitzrayim (Egypt: Double distress) is not lost on Jacob, who is facing the double distress of losing both Joseph and Benjamin.
6 Then Yisrael (Overcome in God) said, “Why did you do evil to me by telling the man that you have another brother?” 7 They said, “The man questioned particularly about us and about our relatives saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Do you have a brother?’ So we spoke to him on the basis of these words. How could we possibly know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’”?
The name Israel is said to depict Jacob in his spiritual role as Patriarch of the Jewish people. Earlier in this account the name Jacob has been used, now Israel is employed. Jacob is a follower, Israel has overcome in God. In the previous chapters Jacob followed his vision, having seen food for his starving people in Egypt. He pursued that provision through his sons. Now he is faced with the possibility of losing the last of his favoured sons and the realization that this could potentially end the religious observance of Israel (remaining sons).
It is at this point that he must completely let go of his own ability to control the circumstances of his family’s predicament and allow God to be his overcoming strength. Thus, Israel (Overcome in God). This is not so much the difference between human effort and Godly strength, rather it is the lesson of every disciple, we live to follow and serve in the strength we have been afforded, but when all strength is gone and every option exhausted, we learn that HaShem is sufficient.
8 Then Y’hudah (Praise) said to his father Yisrael (Overcome in God), “Please, send the boy with me and we’ll get up and go, so that we’ll live and not die—we and you, and our children. 9 I’ll exchange myself for him (Benjamin). From my hand you can demand him back. If I don’t bring him back to you and place him before you, then the sin I’ve committed against you will be on me all my days. 10 If we had not delayed, we could have returned twice by now.”
Judah attempts to remove one of Jacob’s fears by taking sole responsibility. Reuben had previously offered the lives of his sons but Judah was making himself personally accountable. The Hebrew phrasing infers a life for a life exchange. Judah is saying that he will deliver Benjamin by any means including taking his place if he were to be unjustly imprisoned in the land of Egypt. Short of this he would bear the blood guilt of the sin of losing Benjamin. A sin that he sees as being committed against Jacob.
“I will guard him from heat, cold, evil beasts, and robbers. I will offer my life for his and do anything necessary to ensure his safety.” –B’chor Shor
Rav Meir Zlotowitz suggests that the reason Jacob was willing to listen to Judah’s petition was related to Jacob’s words “Upon me has it all fallen” (Gen. 42:36), implying that only a father could realize the magnitude of the loss of his two sons. Of all the brothers only Judah could identify with the loss of two sons (Gen. 38:7, 10). Therefore, when Judah offered to accept personal responsibility for Benjamin, Jacob granted Judah’s request to return to Egypt with his youngest brother.
11 Then their father Yisrael said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the best products of the land in your vessels, and bring an offering down to the man—a little balsam and a little honey, gum and myrrh, pistachios and almonds.
As is the case in Genesis 37:21-30, Judah’s request prevails where Reuben’s had failed (Gen 42:37-38). There are of course a number of reasons for this, one of which is that the Torah is showing how Joseph, the dominant tribe of the North and Judah the Royal tribe of the south became more important than Reuben, the firstborn.
Rashi notes the Targum, which says “From the praises of the land” and interprets “From the praised produce of the land”. To this he adds that the produce born of the land gives praise to God. While not all of this produce was unique to the land of K’naan (Israel), it was produce that K’naan was famous for.
This selection of gifts included items that were not readily available in Egypt (Gen. 37:25). During a time of famine even a small amount of each of these precious commodities was a sign of great respect and a symbolic gesture of humility toward the Egyptian monarchy.
The balsam or balm carries with it the symbolism of healing. A symbol that will be recognized by Joseph as a voice of affirmation, but is yet to be understood by his father and brothers.
The gift of honey has particular significance because this is the first time it’s mentioned made in Scripture, and it’s being mentioned in relation to the land which will later be called the land of milk and honey (Exodus 3:8). Parts of the land of Israel (Ha-aretz) were famous for their honey production, such as in the region surrounding Ziph (Ez-Zeifeh. Located South-east of Hebron just below the Salt Sea [Dead Sea]: Josh. 15. 55; 1 Sam. 23. 14f., 24; 26. 2), subsequently called the honey of Ziphim (Misn. Machshirin, c. 5. sect. 9).
12 Also take in your hand a double portion of silver, and bring back in your hand the silver that had been returned in the mouth of your sacks. Perhaps it was a mistake. 13 Take your brother too—now, get up, go back to the man!
The instruction to “take in your hand” seems to be a practical one. Silver carried in bags or vessels with other goods might appear to be hidden and therefore an attempt to deceive the Egyptian officials, whereas silver carried in hand shows both openness and a willingness to repay any funds that may have been mistakenly returned to the Hebrew contingent.
14 May El Shaddai (God the All Sufficient Protector) grant you rachamiym mercy (compassion) before the man, so that he may release your other brother to you, along with Benyamin (Son of my right hand/strength). As for me, if I am shachol’ti made childless, shachal’ti childless I will be.”
The name Shaddai is a conjunction of she-dai, meaning “Who is sufficient/enough”. It seems that Jacob employs this name in order to remind his sons that regardless of the amount of preparation they put into their journey and the amount of silver and supplies they carry, it is because God is sufficient to meet the needs of His people that they can trust in His provision and mercy.
The double use of the Hebrew shachol’ti emphasizes the weighty grief of Yisrael. Radak explains that the first use is passive and the second active, meaning that Jacob is saying “I have been made childless and I must face the possibility that I will be made childless”. This is a statement of trust in HaShem that is similar to that of Esther when she was about to appear before the king uninvited: “If I have forfeited my life, so be it” Esther 4:16. Put simply, “HaShem gives and Hashem takes away, Blessed is the Name of HaShem” (Job 1:21). The repetition of this word is also an affirmation of the two children Yisrael has treasured most in his old age, the sons of Rachel: Yosef and Benyamin.
15 Then the men took this offering. They also took the double portion of silver in their hand, as well as Benyamin. So they got up and went down to Mitzrayim Egypt, and stood before Yosef. 16 When Yosef saw Benyamin with them, he said to the one over his house, “Bring the men into the house. U-t’voach t’vach Slaughter, slaughter an animal and hachen (make it firm) prepare it, for the men will eat with me at noon.
Jewish tradition teaches that “the one over his (Joseph’s) house” was his eldest son Manasheh (Targum Yonatan). This seems unlikely, given that Manasheh could not have been older than 9 at the time, having been born before the famine.
The Sages say that the expression Ut’voach t’vach implies that the one over his (Joseph’s) house was to expose the incision in the neck of the animal so that the brothers could see that it had been slaughtered according to the tradition of their fathers, a tradition that would later be included in halakhic ruling regarding the Torah instructions for the slaughtering of animals (Chullin 91a Rashi).
Radak explains that noon is known as the time for royal dining. The time when many ancient royals enjoyed their main meal.
The Sages say that Genesis 43:16, which employs the phrase “Slaughter the animal and make it firm, prepare it”: infers that the preparation was done in honour of the Sabbath and that the meal was served at noon on the Sabbath. A day which Joseph observed long before the Torah was given at Sinai (Daat Zkenim).
17 So the man did as Yosef said, and the man brought the men into Yosef’s house. 18 But the men were afraid, because they had been brought into Yosef’s house. They said, “It’s because of the silver that was returned to our sacks the first time that we are being brought in—in order to wrestle us to the ground and fall on us and take us as slaves, along with our donkeys.”
It seems that the brothers’ guilt feeds their fear. They were probably concerned about the loss of their donkeys because they were their only means of delivering supplies back to Jacob and their families in K’naan.
19 So they approached the man who was over Yosef’s house and spoke to him at the entrance of the house. 20 “Please, adoniy my lord!” they said. “We came down the first time to buy grain for food. 21 When we came to the encampment and opened our sacks, behold, there was each man’s silver at the opening of the sack, the full amount of our money. So we’ve returned it in our hand.
This response seems to merge the details of the two discoveries of silver: the singular portion of silver first found in one of their sacks and the silver subsequently found in all their sacks upon their return to K’naan.
The reason for including the details regarding the silver discovered at the encampment on the way, may be to show that they could not have returned at that point because they had not yet retrieved their brother and had been warned by the viceroy (Joseph) not to return without him.
22 In addition, we’ve brought down other silver in our hand to buy grain for food. We didn’t know who put our money into our sacks.” 23 “Shalom lachem Peace to you all,” he replied. “Don’t be afraid. Eloheichem v’loheiy Your God and the God of your father has given you hidden treasure in your sacks. Your silver had come to me.” Then he brought Shimeon out to them,
The man who was over Joseph’s house (possibly Manasheh, or a member of As’nat’s family, because if this one had been a servant the text would read “the servant who was over Joseph’s house” rather it reads, “the man”), makes a point of comforting the brothers by saying that it has been their God Who has engineered events to bless them. Something that Joseph later expresses to his brothers. Whoever the one over Joseph’s house is, one thing is certain, he is aware of the God of Israel. Joseph is clearly teaching his Egyptian household about the merciful God of Israel from Whom he has received his name and calling.
24 and the man brought the men into Yosef’s house, gave them water and they washed their feet. He also provided fodder for their donkeys. 25 So they prepared the offering for Yosef’s coming at noon, for they had heard that they were going to eat there.
This verse seems to indicate a progression in their approach toward Joseph’s house and their entry into it. Thus it seems likely that the conversation recorded prior to this was held the courtyard or entry room to the house, which is considered part of the house.
In their fearful state Joseph’s brothers had expected to be pounced on, beaten and confined, and in truth that is what they deserved. However, they were instead given water to wash their feet. One recalls the actions of Yeshua during his final Pesach meal with His disciples. Joseph’s brothers had expected their donkeys to be taken from them. However, they were instead given fodder with which to feed their donkeys. Through the actions of the governor of Joseph’s house (Manasheh: forget), the brother’s sins are forgotten and Mercy is shown to triumph over judgement.
“He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve; nor repaid us according to our iniquities.” –Psalm 103:10
26 When Yosef came home, they brought him the offering in their hand into the house, and they bowed down to the ground to him.
For the first time all of Joseph’s brothers, including Benjamin, bow down to him in fulfilment of Joseph’s first dream (Gen. 37:7).
27 Then he asked if they were well, and said, “Is he well—your elderly father that you told me about? Is he still alive?”
The order of Joseph’s questions seems strange. He first asks if their father is well and then if he is alive. This can be explained by the fact that Joseph may have asked the first question and then, before the brothers could answer, had the terrible thought that his father may have passed away. Alternatively he may have simply been nervous and muddled his words.
Perhaps a better explanation is found in Daat Zkenim, where it is suggested that Joseph first asks after Jacob “Is he well” and then asks about his sabba (Grandfather) Isaac “The older father”, whom the brothers may also have told him about, and who’s death occurred around this time. Of course, the text doesn’t explicitly state that the brothers had spoken to Joseph about Isaac, but on the other hand, he may have simply slipped up by revealing his knowledge about Isaac’s existence. He was certainly showing superior knowledge when he had his staff seat the brothers according to their birth order.
28 “Your servant, our father, is well,” they said. “He’s still alive.” Then they knelt and bowed down. 29 Then he lifted his eyes and saw his brother Benyamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother whom you mentioned to me?” Then he said, “May God be gracious to you, my son.” 30 Then Yosef hurried out because his rachamiyn compassion grew warm and tender toward his brother so that he wanted to cry. So he went into an inner room and wept there.
If the assertion concerning Joseph’s unusual question is correct, then the answer of the brothers “Our father is well” applies to Jacob and the second phrase “He is still alive” applies to Isaac. If Isaac was alive at this point in time, he must have passed away between this encounter and the coming to Egypt of Jacob’s household (46:26-27).
Joseph had already seen Benjamin but at this point he notices Benjamin’s features and sees the resemblance to his mother (Zohar; Haamek Davar).
Benjamin is 31 years old at the time of this meeting. Joseph hasn’t seen him for over 13 years.
Jacob had blessed his sons saying “May El Shaddai (God the All Sufficient Protector) grant you rachamiym mercy (compassion) before the man” (v.14). Now, Joseph is filled with rachamiyn mercy and compassion for Benjamin.
31 Then he washed his face, came out, and controlled himself. “Serve the food,” he said. 32 So they served him by himself, them by themselves, and the Egyptians who were eating with him by themselves (for Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews because it was an abomination to Egyptians).
Joseph probably ate separately because of his exalted status and possibly because he was keeping Hebrew eating practices that would have been seen by his Egyptian staff as abhorrent and reported to Pharaoh. The reason for the Egyptians eating separately from the Hebrews is stated.
Shepherds (Hebrews) were regarded as abhorrent to the Egyptians (Gen. 46:34; Exodus 8:22), and the sheep seems to be the singular exception to the Egyptian worship of various animals. Egyptians despised sheep and their herders in much the same way as Jews came to despise pigs and their keepers.
Radak’s assertion that Egyptians didn’t eat the meat of sheep because they were considered a deity is untenable, given that Egyptians consumed the meat of a number of other animals to which they attached worship practices, and that those who herded sheep would have therefore been considered holy and respected rather than abhorred.
The fact that the Hebrews were detestable to the Egyptians at a time when Israel consisted of less than seventy souls (Gen. 46:26), is a testimony to Israel’s God given reputation and prominence in the land of K’naan.
33 They were seated before him, the firstborn according to his birth-right and the youngest according to his youth. The men looked at each other in astonishment.
The ten eldest brothers were born within seven years of one another, making it difficult for a stranger to guess their exact birth order. Thus the brothers were astonished to see themselves seated in order from Eldest to youngest.
34 Then portions were brought to them from before him—and Benyamin’s portion was five times larger than any of their portions. Yet they drank and celebrated with him.
Benjamin’s portion is half the number for completion. Half of Joseph’s prophetic dreaming had been fulfilled. Joseph gave Benjamin a significantly greater portion in order to test the brothers to see if their hatred for the sons of Rachel still consumed them. In response to this the Torah states “Yet they drank and celebrated with him”. They were not angered by the special treatment shown to Benjamin. To the contrary, they celebrated it. This shows true repentance and a genuine humility on the part of the 10 eldest sons of Jacob, and stands in stark contrast to the meal they had eaten when they had sat down after throwing Joseph into the well (Gen. 37:25; 42:21). Only the repentant can receive salvation.
© Yaakov Brown 2017
42:1 Now Yaakov (Follows after the heel) ra’ah learned (saw, perceived) that there was grain in Mitzrayim (Egypt: double distress), so Yaakov said to his sons, “Why are you looking at each other?”
Seder Olam says that it wasn’t until the second year of the famine that Yaakov sent his sons down to Egypt.
The Hebrew shever (grain) can be read sever (hope). It is understood that the original Hebrew text was without nikkud (vowel markers added by the Massorites). This means that the character shin could be read as sin and potentially alter the meaning of the word, providing that the meaning fits the context. Rashi concludes therefore, that the phrase “Yaakov saw that there was grain in Egypt” should read “Yaakov saw that there was hope in Egypt”. We need not chose one over the other. The former is practically true and the latter, spiritually true.
Note that this account begins by using the name Yaakov the individual.
The Hebrew, “Lamah tit’rau” (Why are you looking at each other), means: “Why are you excusing your inaction by looking to someone else to do something about it, when you know you are capable of doing something about it yourself?” Alternatively “Why do you make yourself conspicuous?” (Taanit 10b; Rashi).
This is why the Brit HaChadashah (The New Covenant) says, “If anyone knows the good he should do and does not, to him it (is accounted) sin” –Yaakov (James) 4:17
2 Then he said, “Hinei Behold! I’ve heard that there’s grain in Mitzrayim (Egypt: Double distress). Go down there and buy some grain for us there so that we’ll live and not die.”
The phrase “So that we’ll live and not die” while referring to the immediate future, can also be understood as a remez (hint) of what is to come in the days of Yisrael’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Meaning that Yisrael’s suffering and bondage is a prerequisite to her redemption. This is yet another picture of the Gospel of our Messiah at work in the story of Yisrael. In fact it is true to say that (within the sin affected world), without suffering there can be no redemption.
3 So Yosef’s (YHVH: Mercy adds) brothers went down, ten of them, to buy grain from Egypt. 4 But Benyamin (Son of my right hand: strength), Yosef’s (YHVH: Mercy adds) brother, Yaakov did not send, for he said, “Lest he encounter ason mischief, evil, harm, hurt.”
Some ask why ten of the brothers had to go to Egypt. Sforno explains that Yosef had decreed that no one could buy more food than was needed for a single household. The Midrash suggests that Yosef had imposed this restriction upon each person who came to buy grain so as to assure that all of his brothers would have to come down to Egypt to buy an allotted portion of grain for each of their households. Thus fulfilling the prophecy of his dream.
It is worth noting that according to Divine justice and practical protection, Benyamin is kept from the torment and adversity his brothers would face prior to Yosef revealing himself. This is because Benyamin played no part in causing Yosef’s suffering. Spiritually speaking we might say that this is yet another picture of the Messiah, as if God were saying, “The Son of my right hand alone is without guilt”.
The use of the Hebrew ason infers that Yaakov suspected that Yosef’s brothers had harmed Yosef because of their hatred of him. He also feared that because of the brothers’ animosity toward the favoured sons of Rachel (Sons of Yaakov’s old age), that they might do harm to Benyamin also.
Of course, ten is a number of completion. Therefore, this is also symbolic of the completion of Yosef’s rise to power and of the first stage in Yisrael’s journey toward freedom from both physical and spiritual bondage.
5 The sons of Yisrael (Overcomes in God) went to buy grain among the others who were coming, because the famine was in the land of K’naan (Lowland, humility).
Note that the story continues here under the name Yisrael, meaning the sons of the nation Yisrael rather than the individual Yaakov.
6 Now Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) was the master over ha-aretz the land. He was the provider of grain for all the people of ha-aretz the land.
It seems that this verse is meant to indicate that Yosef had watchers throughout the land whom he had instructed to keep a look out for his brothers. The Midrash says that Yosef, knowing his brothers would eventually have to come for grain in Egypt, had kept only one storehouse open so that he could monitor it personally and thus spot his brothers when they arrived.
Alternatively, according to Rashi, Yosef interviewed every national group and then delegated their care to his subordinates according to each group’s needs.
7 Then Yosef’s (YHVH: Mercy adds) brothers came and bowed down to him with faces to the ground. When Yosef saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he made himself unrecognizable to them. Then he spoke harshly and said to them, “Where have you come from?”
“From the land of K’naan (Lowland, humility)” they said, “to buy grain for food.”
Though it had been at least 13 years since Yosef had seen his brothers we must remember that they had been older than him at the time of his sale into slavery, and that males older in age tend to maintain a certain continuity of appearance whereas a young man (as Yosef had been) would have undergone a more dramatic growth period from 17 to 30 years of age and thus may have changed significantly in appearance. Therefore, it seems logical that though his brothers were immediately noticeable to him, he was not easily identifiable. We can add to this the fact that they were expecting to find Yosef a slave, providing he were still alive. In addition, Yosef was not arrayed in common clothes. He was wearing the garments of royalty and probably had a shaved head and Egyptian chin beard, both customs being contrary to the ancient Hebrew style of grooming.
We know from the following verses that one of the ways Yosef disguised himself was to use an interpreter, thus giving the impression that he did not speak Hebrew.
Based on the events that follow we can interpret Yosef’s actions as a well thought out pretence intended to direct circumstances toward the fulfilment of his dreams. His harsh speech is meant to initiate events that will eventually bring his entire family to Egypt so as to save them from starvation and poverty.
The phrase “To buy grain for food” tells us that the brothers believed it to be impossible to use the grain as seed for sowing as long as the drought and famine continued. It also indicates that they had run out of their own grain supplies for planting and were now so desperate that they were at the point of starvation and needed food immediately.
8 Though Yosef recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. 9 Then Yosef remembered the dreams he had dreamed about them. He said to them, “You’re spies! You’ve come to inspect the er’vah nakedness (undefended places) in the land.”
It is after remembering his dreams that Yosef further manipulates his brothers’ circumstances. He is looking for a way to bring his entire family to safety. This pretence is one born of trust in God, the One who had given him his dreams. There are times when harsh words are words of love, and times when gentle words are evidence of a failure to love.
Kli Yakar notes that Yosef uses the accusation of spying in order to keep the brothers from seeking out Yosef while they were in Egypt. Given the opportunity to investigate Yosef’s whereabouts they may have gleaned information about a Hebrew slave who had risen to power in Egypt. This in turn may have adjusted the outcome of events. Whereas by being accused of spying, they would not be allowed to move freely throughout Egypt.
Yosef’s first dream called for all eleven of his brothers to bow to him. Therefore, he must arrange for this to happen. Only then could his second dream find its partial practical fulfilment. Meaning, the only way his mother could bow before him is at the resurrection. Thus the complete spiritual fulfilment of Yosef’s dream would be at the resurrection and acts as an allegory for the bowing of the tribes of Yisrael before the Messiah, for Whom Yosef is a type.
10 “No, my lord!” they said to him. “Your servants came to buy grain as food. 11 All of us are the sons of one man. We’re being truthful. Your servants have never been spies.”
12 “Not so,” he said to them. “Rather, you’ve come to see the er’vah nakedness (undefended places) in the land.”
Though they are unaware of it, in both a practical and prophetic sense the phrase “All of us are the sons of one man” includes Yosef, the one they’re speaking to.
It seems that the brothers employed this phrase in order to appeal to common sense. It is unlikely that a people would send all or even the majority of their fighting men to spy out a foreign power. It is standard spying practice to send only a selection of men so that they might travel light and go unnoticed.
It seems likely that Yosef continued to challenge them in order to get information out of them about Benyamin and Yaakov. Yosef may have been concerned that they had treated Benyamin poorly because he was also a son of Rachel. Their answers would indicate to Yosef whether they were worthy of redemption.
13 But they said, “We your servants are twelve brothers, sons of one man in the land of K’naan. V’hinei And behold, the youngest is with our father today and the other one we are without.”
The brothers seem to be answering an unrecorded question, indicated by the recounting of their story to Yaakov in Genesis 43:7, where they say “The man asked us directly about our condition and our family saying ‘Is your father still alive?’ and ‘Do you have another brother?’”
The brothers tactfully use the phrase “The other one we are without”. Thus they keep the reasons for the missing brother secret rather than showing themselves to be of poor character.
Sforno suggests that by speaking so freely about their family they were attempting to prove themselves trustworthy because all that they were saying was easily verifiable.
14 Yosef said to them, “It’s according to the words I spoke to you when I said, ‘You’re spies.’
Yosef pretends to be unimpressed by the words of his brothers and reemphasizes his belief in their guilt, but offers them a way to prove their innocence, and bring his brother Benyamin to him.
15 By this you’ll be proved, scrutinized and tested: by the life of Pharaoh (Great House), you’ll not leave from here until your youngest brother comes here! 16 Send one from among yourselves to get your brother, while you remain confined, in order to prove your words, to see whether the truth is with you. If not, by the life of Pharaoh, you’re spies!”
The proof of their innocence will be Benyamin’s physical presence in Egypt. Thus all their other claims will be considered true.
Yosef’s use of language strengthens his disguise. He is making oaths (Of pretence) using Pharaoh as the deity before which the oath will be held accountable. This causes him to appear to them as a typical heathen Egyptian.
The following verses seem to indicate that none of the brothers were willing to volunteer to go. Perhaps because to travel alone would be dangerous, or because they believed Yosef to be an unreasonable ruler who would not keep his word.
17 So he put them together in prison for three days.
The three days in prison reflect the death and resurrection of the cupbearer. This is also a remez hinting at the death and resurrection of the Messiah Yeshua, Who will come out of Yisrael and through His own imprisonment and freedom will deliver her from death.
18 Then Yosef said to them on the third day, “Do this and you will live. Ha-Elohiym the God, I am in awe of. 19 If you’re being truthful, let one of your brothers remain as a prisoner in the guardhouse where you’ve been, while you, go and bring grain for the hunger in your homes. 20 And bring me your youngest brother, so that your words can be verified—and you won’t die.” So they did.
Seeing that none of the brothers had volunteered to go, Yosef offered a more palatable solution.
Using the name of the brothers’ own God in reference to his offer, Yosef sought to sooth their fear somewhat.
We notice that even with the offer of freedom for the nine, he still had to select the one who would stay. This denotes great fear on the part of the brothers.
Notice that they have been confined in the guardhouse, just as Yosef was. He had put them in the prison of the upper class rather than placing them under confinement in the harsh conditions of the prisons of the common people.
21 Then each man said to his brother, “We’re truly guilty for our brother. We saw the distress of his soul when he begged us for mercy, but we didn’t listen. That’s why this distress has come to us.”
This is an honest and sincere admission of guilt. This is confession, an acknowledgement of sin.
22 Reuven (Look a son) answered them saying, “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t sin against the boy’? But you didn’t listen. Now, see how his blood is now being accounted for.”
Reuven continues to believe that the other brothers have killed Yosef and thus speaks of the blood guilt that murderers carry.
23 They did not know that Yosef was listening, since there was an interpreter between them.
The presence of an interpreter gives strength to Yosef’s disguise while allowing him to hear the brothers’ responses.
According to the Midrash, the interpreter was Manasseh Yosef’s firstborn son (Rashi).
24 He turned away from them and wept. When he turned back to them and spoke to them, he took Shimeon (Hears) from them and tied him up before their eyes.
It seems that at least in part, Yosef’s tears were due to his having heard his brothers admit their wrong doing.
Shimeon is the appropriate choice of hostage because he is the second born son of Leah (Gen. 29:31-33) just as Benyamin is the second born son of Rachel. This is a clue to Yosef’s identity that his brothers were unable to see due to their distress.
Rashi suggests that Shimeon is chosen because of his hot temper as evidenced by he and Levi’s raid on Shechem. Thus Yosef can be sure Shimeon and Levi (Gen. 34:25-26) will not develop some foolish plot to retaliate.
Yosef continues the harsh performance by treating Shimeon roughly before them.
25 Then Yosef gave orders to fill their bags with grain, return each man’s money to his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. So it was done for them. 26 Then they loaded their grain on their donkeys and left from there.
Yosef’s actions in returning the money seem to be intended to incite further fear and give the brothers a greater motivation for repentance.
27 As one of them opened his sack to give fodder to his donkey at the encampment, he saw his money—behold, it was at the top of his bag. 28 So he said to his brothers, “My money has been returned! Look, it’s in my bag.” Their hearts sank. Trembling, each one turned to his brother and said, “What is this that God has done to us?”
Knowing that Yosef kept accurate records, the brother who opened the sack at their first encampment was rightly afraid. Rashi suggests that this was Levi.
“What is this that God has done to us?” is yet another admission of guilt and an acknowledgement of the Judge of the Universe, God of Yisrael. The brothers saw the returning of the money as a plot by the Master of Egypt to enslave them. Thus they saw it as a just retribution from God for what they had done to Yosef.
29 When they came to their father Yaakov, in the land of K’naan (Lowland, humility) they told him all that had happened to them, saying, 30 “The man, the lord of the land, spoke with us harshly, and took us as spies of the land. 31 But we said to him, ‘We’re honest. We’ve never been spies. 32 We are twelve brothers, sons of our father. One is no more and the youngest is with our father today in the land of K’naan.’ 33 Then the man, the lord of the land, said to us, ‘By this I’ll know if you’re being truthful: leave one of your brothers with me. As for the hunger of your homes: take and go! 34 Then bring your youngest brother to me, so that I may know you are not spies, but you are telling the truth. I’ll give you back your brother and you can move about freely in the land.’”
In recounting their ordeal the sons of Yaakov keep certain facts from him in order to spare him unnecessary concern. They know he is old and still grieving the loss of Yosef. Therefore, they don’t include their three day imprisonment, nor do they convey the very real threat of slavery or the possible execution of Shimeon.
35 Now as they were emptying their sacks, v’hinei behold, there was each man’s bag of money in his sack. When they saw their money bags, they and their father, they were afraid.
The fear of the brothers was due to their guilt, but the fear of Yaakov was for his sons, for Shimeon and ultimately for Benyamin. The brothers may have concluded that the money left in the one sack discovered on the way might have been an oversight on behalf of one of Pharaoh’s officials but the money found in all their sacks was evidence of an intentional plot to accuse them.
36 Then their father Yaakov said to them, “You’ve made me childless! Yosef is no more. Now Shimeon is gone, and next you’ll take Benyamin! Everything is against me!”
One wonders at how the sons of Yaakov may have felt at hearing their father’s words? It is because he is without Yosef and may soon be without Benyamin, that Yaakov considers himself “childless”. Though Shimeon is included as collateral damage, this is none the less a slight against all ten brothers.
37 Then Reuven (Look a son) spoke to his father, saying, “You can put my two sons to death if I don’t bring him back to you. Put him in my hand and I—I will return him to you.”
Reuven continues to seek restoration over his defilement of his Father’s wife. Here he offers the lives of his own sons in an attempt to prove his repentance, both in regard to his sexual sin and his part in the mistreatment of Yosef. This is however, a weak gesture because regarding the Hebrew consciousness the sons of Reuven are also considered the sons of Yaakov.
38 But he said, “My son will not go down with you—for his brother is dead and he alone remains. And if he should encounter ason mischief, evil, harm along the way you’re going, you’ll bring my grey hair down to Sheol (Place of the dead) in grief.”
As part of his response Yaakov again insinuates that the brothers are guilty of mischief relating to Yosef: “if he should encounter mischief, evil, harm along the way you’re going”.
The Hebrew Sheol (meaning place of the dead and not the grave, which is kever, an entirely different Hebrew word referring to the tombs of Yisrael which are above ground), again affirms the ancient Hebrew belief in the afterlife, spent in one of two places within Sheol: The bosom of Avraham (Gan Eden: Paradise) or Gehinnom (Torment). Whereas the grave (Kever) was above the earth, Sheol is a spiritual place indicated as existing below. This is because symbolically speaking, God’s throne is above, and death, the result of sin, is distinguished from God as being below.
Yeshua illuminates the first century Jewish understanding of the temporal afterlife in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31). The only parable where Yeshua employs proper nouns (names). This is because the parable is a true account regarding specific individuals and is intended to convey the reality of that which follows death: torment for the wicked and peace for the righteous. Sheol is a temporal holding place within time and space that precedes the final judgement, at which point the righteous will enter into the Olam haba (World to come) and the wicked into eternal punishment. Thus the Olam haba (World to come) follows Avraham’s bosom after the judgement and Eternal punishment (The fiery abyss) follows Gehinnom after judgement (Rev. 3:12; 20:10; 21:1-8).
© Yaakov Brown 2017
We would do well to remember that modern social justice is not justice, in the same way that a truth is not the Truth.
This sidra (section) of Genesis begins the Torah portion Mikeitz (end), which takes its title from the phrase “And it came to pass at the end of two years”. While practically speaking mikeitz is used to denote the end of a period of time, by way of a remez (hint) it also infers the end, or last phase of the prophecy made to Avraham (Gen. 15:13-16) concerning the bondage and persecution of his progeny and ultimately, their freedom from slavery.
It is worth noting that verses 1-32 deal with the last of the three pairs of dreams in Joseph’s story. Each set of dreams acting as a stepping stone toward the fulfilment of God’s plan for Israel.
The events of this chapter begin two years after the release of the baker and cupbearer and bring the total years of Joseph’s imprisonment to 12 and his years in captivity to 13 (Genesis 37:2). Verse 46 tells us that Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh, making Jacob 120 years and Isaac 180 (Isaac died around this time) at the time of these events.
1Now it was at the end of two years, when Pharaoh (Great house) was dreaming, and hinei suddenly, there he was standing al upon (over, beside) ha-y’or the River (Nile).
Pharaoh was standing upon or over the River, a title used to describe the Nile. The Nile was deified in Egyptian culture and Pharaoh’s standing on or over it makes him (at least in his own mind) superior to it, a god in his own right, which we also know to be part of the spiritual belief system of the ancient Egyptians. Pharaohs were often considered to be gods, a god with us, in reality they were types of anti-messiah’s. As mentioned in previous articles, Pharaoh was a title rather than a proper noun.
All of Egypt was dependant on the Nile for its crops and water. The Nile symbolized prosperity and provision. Therefore, given its venerated status, Pharaoh could not help but be captivated by its prominent position in his dream.
2 Then hinei suddenly, there were seven cows, y’fot beautiful, healthy and at closer inspection, fat, and they grazed in the reeds.
There were seven cows, a number meaning completion, fullness etc. A number that would later become closely associated to Israel’s agricultural and social order. These cows were healthy (one of the meanings of yafeh) and were grazing in the reeds. The reeds grow at the edge of the Nile itself, which indicates that the Nile is the source of the cattle’s health and fatness. Practically speaking, the cattle of Egypt often submerge themselves in the Nile in order to get relief from the heat and from insects.
3 Then hinei suddenly, there were seven other cows coming up after them from ha-y’or the River (Nile), ugly and emaciated, and they stood beside the cows at the edge of ha-y’or the River (Nile). 4 Then the ugly emaciated cows ate the seven good-looking fat cows—and Pharaoh woke up.
As is often the case when dreams take a nasty turn, Pharaoh awoke abruptly and was probably unsettled for some time before going back to sleep. The eating of the fat cows seems symbolic of the fact that the seven full and complete good years would soon be forgotten by a full and complete (7), all consuming age of famine.
5 Then he slept and dreamed a second time: hinei suddenly, there were seven heads of grain ascending on a single stalk, b’riyot made fat and good. 6 Then hinei suddenly, there were seven heads of grain, thin and scorched by the east wind, sprouting up after them. 7 Then the seven thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven ears of grain that had been made plump and full. Then Pharaoh woke up—it was a dream.
The text infers that the seven thin heads of grain grew on the same single stalk. The use of the Hebrew echad (One, complex unity) regarding the stalk of the full heads of grain, is intended to unify the two weeks of years in order to connect them to the former dream.
Once again the years of famine swallow up all evidence of the years of abundance. Once again the seven that completes the prosperity also completes the poverty.
The phrase, “it was a dream” infers relief on Pharaoh’s part at the fact that he had woken from a vivid dream. Relief that turns to concern when he realizes that the dreams have some sense of the prophetic about them.
8 But in the morning he v’tipaem felt beaten and disturbed in ruachu his spirit. So he sent and called for the fortune-telling priests of mitzrayim (Egypt: double distress) and all its wise men and Pharaoh told them his dream. But no one could interpret them for Pharaoh.
The fortune-telling occultists of Egypt were part of her priesthood. It may be that the priest of On mentioned later in the text is one of those who was called upon. The wise men may or may not have been associated with the priesthood. Given the ongoing political struggles between the house of Pharaoh and the priesthood of Egypt, it is more likely that the wise men were men of logic and common wisdom rather than spiritualists like the fortune-telling priests.
As in the case of the cupbearer and baker, an attempt is made to interpret the dreams but to no avail. This may be the catalyst for the cupbearer’s pang of conscience. We also note the singular use in the phrase, “Pharaoh told them his dream” compared to the plural, “But no one could interpret them”. At this point it should be clear to all concerned that the dreams have a unified message, and yet, this seems to escape all the wise men and priests of Egypt. Though, it seems to have been established in Pharaoh’s mind. This is possibly why when Joseph later begins by establishing the fact that the dreams are echad (one), Pharaoh accepts what follows, having already concluded the same.
9 Then the prince of the cupbearers spoke with Pharaoh saying, “I am reminded of my sins today. 10 Pharaoh had been angry with his servants and put me in the custody of the house of the prince of the executioners—and with me, the prince of the bakers. 11 Then we each dreamed (firmly binding) a dream (firmly bound) on the same night, he and I, we both dreamed, yet each dream had its own interpretation. 12 Now there with us was a ga’ar Ivriy Hebrew youth—a slave belonging to the prince of the executioners. When we told him, he interpreted our dreams for us, each man’s dream he interpreted. 13 Then it came about, just as he interpreted for us, so it happened. I was restored to my position, but he was hung.
We could read the cupbearer’s confession as the result of a genuine pang of conscience or as an act of self-preservation. Either way the timing is in God’s hands and affords Joseph the perfect opportunity to bring glory to both the God of Israel and himself. One would have thought, given the Egyptian prejudice against the Hebrews, that the phrase “ga’ar Ivriy” Hebrew youth, coupled with the position of slave, would have given Pharaoh reason to pause. However, it seems, based on the following verse, that Pharaoh’s angst had grown so great that at this point he was willing to try anything.
14 Then Pharaoh sent and called for Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds). So they quickly fetched him from the ha’bor well/pit. He shaved, changed his clothes, and came to Pharaoh. 15 Then Pharaoh (Great house) said to Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds), “I dreamed (firmly binding thing) a dream (firmly bound thing) and there’s no one to interpret it. I heard about you—it’s said that you can listen to a dream to interpret it.”
Rosh Hashanah 10b says that Joseph was released 2230 years from creation on Rosh Hashanah (Yom Teruah: Day of Shofar blasts). If this is correct, Joseph was released at the beginning of what will later become known as the High Holy Days of Israel, which take place in the seventh month (Tishri, Beginning; The Sabbath Month) of the Hebrew Calendar, and include Yom Kippur (Day of Covering), Sukkot (shelters) and Shemini Atzeret (Eight Day).
This idea is significant because the number seven, which symbolizes completion, fullness and fulfilment, is a central element in the dreams of Pharaoh. Also, the month of Tishri is a month of new beginnings. These events are truly a new beginning for both Joseph and Israel (Jacob). And, in retrospect, the beginning of the end (all be it 400 years down the track) of Egypt’s domination over the Jewish people.
Note that Pharaoh is referring to the dreams as one dream but like the cupbearer and baker before him, he is using the doubling of the Hebrew chalom chalam’ti (Dreamed a dream). Thus the two become echad (one, complex unity).
16 Then Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) answered Pharaoh (Great house) saying, “apart from me. Elohiym (God, gods, Judge) will answer Pharaoh with shalom.”
In other words, “Without Elohiym’s help I’m not able to give a Divine answer, instead I defer to Him and He will answer you so as to bring shalom (peace, wholeness) to the turmoil of your heart and mind.” Like Daniel the prophet, Joseph ascribes his interpretive skill to God (Daniel 2:30).
“Those that honour Me, I will honour” -1 Samuel 2:30
17 So Pharaoh said to Yosef: “In my dream, hinei suddenly I was standing on the bank of ha-y’or the river (Nile). 18 And hinei behold, out of the river (Nile) seven cows were coming up, fat and beautiful, healthy, and they grazed in the reeds. 19 Then all of a sudden, there were seven other cows coming up after them, feeble, very ugly and emaciated. I’ve never seen cows this hideous in the whole land of Egypt. 20 Then the emaciated and ugly cows ate the first seven fat cows. 21 When they were devoured, one couldn’t tell that they had been devoured. Their appearance was as ugly as it was at first. Then I woke up. 22 Then I saw in my dream, there were seven heads of grain ascending on one (echad) stalk, full and good. 23 Then suddenly, there were seven heads of grain, dried up, thin, and scorched by the east wind, sprouting up after them. 24 Then the thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven good heads of grain. So I told the fortune-telling priests, but no one could provide me with an explanation.”
While there are some subtle differences in the recapitulating of the dreams, all the main elements are present. It is possible that Pharaoh left out the fact that the scrawny cows came out of the Nile because the Nile was deified and from his perspective, only gave forth good things. However, this small detail does not mitigate the otherwise dark conclusion of the dreams.
The fact that Pharaoh mentions his disappointment only in the fortune-telling priests, may indicate one of two things: either he didn’t expect the wise men (who use logic) to understand what he considered to be metaphysical symbolism, or, he was intentionally belittling his priestly rivals. Whatever the reason, he was none the less concerned about the dreams and their meaning, and was determined to get an answer.
25 Then Yosef said to Pharaoh, “Pharaoh’s dream is echad (one). Elohiym (God, gods) has told Pharaoh what He is about to fashion. 26 The seven good cows: they are seven years. Also the seven heads of grain: they’re seven years. It is echad (one) dream. 27 The seven emaciated and ugly cows coming up after them: they’re seven years. Also the seven empty heads of grain scorched by the east wind: there will be seven years of famine. 28 He (Hoo) the word (Ha-d’var) which I conveyed by my words (d’vartiy) to Pharaoh already: Ha-Elohiym the God is about to fashion, that which he has shown to Pharaoh. 29 Seven years of abundance are about to come in the whole land of Egypt. 30 Then seven years of famine will come up after them and all the abundance in the land of Egypt will be forgotten and the famine will consume the land. 31 So the abundance in the land will be unknown because of the famine that follows, for it will be an exceedingly oppressive famine.
Joseph emphasises the unity of the dreams. The cows representing ploughing and sowing and the grain, reaping and harvesting (Arbanel). He first gives a concise overview.
Joseph infers that God has given this message to Pharaoh because it concerns the entire land that he has governance over. Joseph reasserts his own trust in God, repeating that God is about to fashion these things. Though the generic title Elohiym (God, gods, judges) is being used, as a Hebrew he can only be speaking of the Hebrew God, he is after all an imported slave who has little previous knowledge of Egypt’s deities.
Joseph begins with the issue of famine because Pharaoh is used to prosperous livestock and abundant grain harvests, but it is the latter part of the dream that has concerned him most and it is this that allows Joseph to capture and hold Pharaoh’s attention.
32 “Now as for repeating Pharaoh’s dream twice: it’s because the matter has been settled by Elohiym God and Elohiym God will quickly make it happen.
Joseph stresses the point that Elohiym is in control of both the dreams and the events that they predict. Elohiym (Joseph’s God) has firmly decided this and will make it happen very soon. Joseph, a slave, a despised Hebrew, speaks of an authority greater than the false man-god Pharaoh. Any other ruler might have had Joseph struck down for presuming to say such a thing but Pharaoh seems convinced that Joseph is his only means of escaping what is to come.
33 So now, let Pharaoh select a man discerning and wise and set him in authority over the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh act by appointing administrators over the land and take a fifth portion from the land of Egypt during the seven years of abundance.
The man for the job will need to be discerning enough to coordinate the business and logistics of this undertaking and wise enough to know how to store and preserve the grain. A good job for one who has cared for flocks and harvested grain in the fields of Hebron nu.
The fifth portion is to be taken from the land, meaning a fifth of all the grain producing land would be farmed directly into Pharaoh’s storehouses. This would be in addition to the taxable produce of the land, which probably returned a tenth of all grain to Pharaoh’s storehouses every year.
35 Then let them gather all the food from these good years that are coming, and let them store up grain under Pharaoh’s hand as food for the cities, so they may preserve it.
This means that each city would have its own granaries in which to store its grain. These granaries would be controlled by those whom the man Pharaoh appointed would place in charge as overseers.
36 Let the food be held in reserve for the land for the seven years of famine that are coming upon the land of Egypt. Then the land will not be annihilated by the famine.”
Affirming his certain belief in the coming events, Joseph says, “the seven years of famine that are coming”.
37 Now the plan seemed good in the eyes of Pharaoh as well as all his servants. 38 Then Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can a man like this be found, one in whom is ruach Elohiym (God’s Spirit: spirit of the gods)?”
It is interesting to note that the plan seemed good not only to Pharaoh but also to his servants. One would have thought that a court of people who despised Hebrews and had just been one upped by a Hebrew slave, would be envious, hateful and disagreeable to Joseph’s interpretation and council. However, be it due to their fear of Pharaoh’s wrath or simply because they genuinely saw the wisdom in Joseph’s words, they were all convinced by him according to the will of God.
The name Elohiym, which denotes the attribute of Judgement, is used throughout this account. It is God the Judge who speaks this warning to Pharaoh, and it is the servant of YHVH the Merciful who brings Pharaoh the redemptive solution to the coming crisis. Whatever Pharaoh’s degree of spiritual understanding, he clearly believes that Joseph is a spiritually gifted man imbued with supernatural favour.
39 Then Pharaoh (Great house) said to Yosef, “Since Elohiym God has made all this known to you, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. 40 You! You will be over my house, and in addition all my people’s mouths will kiss you. Only in relation to the throne will I be greater than you.”
Egyptian law forbade the promoting of slaves into positions of authority. Thus Pharaoh’s edict was a controversial one. However, it’s clear that Pharaoh was convinced that Joseph was uniquely qualified for the job.
This rise to the position of Egypt’s second in command was the first stage of the final fulfilment of Joseph’s God given dream of ruling over Israel and the nations, as a type for the future Messiah.
41 Then Pharaoh said to Yosef, “See, I appoint you over the whole land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh removed his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, clothed him with fine linen garments, and put a chain of gold around his neck.
The ring was Pharaoh’s seal and meant that Joseph had authority to implement legislation and seal binding law in all Egypt. The fine garments of royalty represented Joseph’s authority over the land of Egypt, over the morning (Sun) and the evening (Moon) stars. This is in fulfilment of his second dream, which has multiple, far reaching and complex repercussions. In place of the garments he had lost, Joseph is given a garment of far greater authority. Though he has suffered great losses, he has, with God’s help, overcome adversity with his trust intact.
43 Then he had him ride in the chariot as second-in-command, the one that belonged to him, and they called out before him, “Av’reich Father King, Tender Father!” So he appointed him over the whole land of Mitzrayim (double distress) Egypt.
There are at least two possibilities for translating the composite Hebrew word Av’reich. First, Av means Father (in wisdom) and reich means tender (in years) [Midrash]. Second, and according to both Rashi and Onkelos, Av is the Hebrew for Father and reich is Aramaic for King. Both titles denote attributes of the God of Israel, our Father and King (Aveinu Melkeiynu). Therefore, to the Hebrew reader at least, Joseph is seen as a type for the Messiah (God with us). The Jewish Redeemer who will save from the nations those who submit to Him and then, will deliver, save and restore His entire people (12 tribes), the house of His father Jacob (Israel).
Onkelos paraphrases, “This is the father of the king”; which agrees with what Joseph himself says, that God had made him a father to Pharaoh (Gen. 45:8).
The Targum of Yonatan includes both meanings in its paraphrasing of this verse:
"This is the father of the king, who is great in wisdom, and tender in years:'' –Targum Yonatan
“let the father of the king live, who is great in wisdom, and tender in years:'' –Targum Yerushalayim
44 Pharaoh also said to Yosef, “I am Pharaoh, yet without your permission no one will lift up his hand or his foot in the whole land of Egypt.” 45 Then Pharaoh named Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) Tzafnat-paneach (treasury of glorious rest) and gave him As’nat (Belonging to the goddess Neit) daughter of Potipherah (He whom the Ra gave), kohen priest of On (Strength), as his wife. Then Yosef went out, in charge of the land of Egypt.
Both Rashi and Rashbam interpret Joseph’s new title as M’pareish Hatz’punot, meaning He who explains what is hidden.
“One to whom hidden things are revealed” – Onkelos
“A revealer of secrets” –Targum Yonatan
The latter part of Tzafnat-paneach is used only this once in Scripture, and Iben Ezra confesses his ignorance as to whether it is an Egyptian word or not. Some think the first part of the name is etymologically linked to the name of the Egyptian idol Baal Zephon (lord of the north: Exodus 14:2), and that, in this new name given to Joseph by Pharaoh, he has inserted the name of his god, just as Nebuchadnezzar did, when he gave new names to Daniel and his company (Daniel 1:7).
The Zohar explains that the name change was an instance of Divine Providence intended to help keep Joseph’s identity hidden from his family so that his dreams would be fulfilled.
Alshich suggests that Potipherah is the same as Potiphar and that therefore, Joseph is marrying his former master’s daughter and is thus vindicated from the false charge concerning Potiphar’s wife. However, if as many believe, Potiphar is a title rather than a personal noun, it is just as likely that the Potiphera of the priests of On is simply an equivalent position in the priesthood held by another individual altogether. This seems more likely in fact, given that the role of Prince of Executioners (Potiphar) is quite separate and distinct from that of priest.
As’nat the Egyptian (Double distress) becomes the mother of two of Israel’s greatest sons, the sons of promise, Ef’rayim (doubly fruitful) and M’nasheh (to forget trouble). Thus, out of double distress comes double blessing.
46 Now Yosef was 30 years old when he began serving as representative of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Yosef went out from Pharaoh’s presence and passed throughout the whole land of Egypt.
The age of thirty years is significant because it is believed to be Yeshua’s age when He began His public ministry and is known to be the age at which first century Jewish teachers and scribes were welcomed into positions of ministerial authority. Add to this the multiples of three (Unity of deity and completion of that which is firmly established) and ten (Fullness, completion, fruitfulness), and we see that Joseph is entering a season of completion and fullness according to the will of God. At thirty he has now been separated from his family for thirteen years (Gen. 37:2). A number that in Judaism represents the twelve tribes in union with the One God.
47 During the seven years of abundance, the land produced by the handfuls. 48 So he gathered all the food in the land of Egypt during the seven years, and put food in the cities; the food from the city fields surrounding the cities he put in each city. 49 So Yosef (YHVH: Mercy adds) stored up grain like the sand of the sea, vast amounts, until he stopped keeping record because it was beyond counting.
Once again Joseph’s name speaks forth his work and the blessing of God poured out on an undeserving people. Mercy adds.
The phrase, “By the handfuls” is an idiom signifying abundance.
50 Two sons also had been born to Yosef before the first year of famine came, born to him by As’nat (Belonging to the goddess Neit), daughter of Potipherah (He whom the Ra gave), kohen priest of On (Strength). 51 Yosef named his first-born M’nasheh (to forget trouble), “because Elohiym God has caused me to forget all my trouble and all my father’s house.” 52 And the second he named Ef’rayim (doubly fruitful), “because Elohiym God has made me fruitful in the land of my oppression.”
We are told that Joseph’s two sons are born to him, “before the first year of famine came”. Why? What difference does it make when they were born? In the birth of Joseph’s sons God has provided evidence in advance of the fruitfulness yet to come, so that during the coming years of famine (adversity), Joseph can look to the hope he has in HaShem. The sons are named both for the past faithfulness of God (M’nasheh) and for the future promises of God (Ef’rayim). There is a lesson here for every believer: God has given us a great hope in His Son Yeshua, a promise of eternal life, and we know this, that “God cannot lie”. Therefore, in adversity we should look to the sons who have been born to us in the former days, “Forgotten Trouble (Resurrection)” and “Future Double Fruitfulness (Eternal life)”, remembering that God has been faithful, that He is being faithful, and that He will faithfully complete the good work He has begun in us.
The continued use of Elohiym (Judge) reinforces the restorative justice shown to Joseph. As’nat, like Tamar, Rachav, and Ruth, has been grafted into the bloodline of Israel through a Redeemer (like Boaz), a man who is a type for the future Messiah and deliverer of humanity.
The fact that the boys were given Hebrew names infers As’nat’s conversion to Joseph’s faith, having been convinced of the truth of HaShem according to His providence and faithfulness to Joseph and Yaakov/Yisrael.
We bless our boys every Yom Shishi with the words, “May God make you like Ef’rayim and M’nasheh” (Gen. 48:20).
53 Then the seven years of abundance in the land of Egypt came to an end, 54 and the seven years of famine started to come—just as Yosef had said. So there was famine in all the lands, but in the whole land of Egypt there was bread. 55 When the whole land of Egypt suffered famine, the people cried out to Pharaoh for food, and Pharaoh said to all of Egypt, “Go to Yosef. Do whatever he tells you.” 56 The famine was over all the face of the earth, so Yosef opened up all the stores among them and sold grain to Egypt. Then the famine became severe in the land of Egypt. 57 Yet the whole world came to Egypt to buy grain—to Yosef—because the famine was severe in the whole world.
For all intents and purposes, Joseph had become the ruler of the known world. He had become father to Pharaoh (Gen. 45:8), and would soon be recognized as ruler over his brothers according to the will and plan of God for His people Israel.
© Yaakov Brown 2017
Like the Messiah Who comes forth from her, Israel has suffered death and will experience resurrection.
This chapter records the second of three pairs of dreams that mark important transitions in Joseph’s life. The first pair being those he shared with his brother’s and father, who became the interpreters of them (Gen. 37:5-11). The result being his sale into slavery (Gen. 37:18-38). The second pair, recorded here, are interpreted by Joseph, after he explains that the interpretation of dreams is a gift from God. Where the former dreams foretold Joseph’s future authority and almost resulted in his death, the dream of the cupbearer foretells his future reinstatement to his place of authority and the baker’s dream foretells his death.
This chapter is also filled with Messianic symbolism from start to finish: the bread (Chori: white linen/unleavened) and wine, the three days, the pit (As Joseph puts it), a metaphor for death, and the restoration of the cupbearer, a type for resurrection. All is pointing to the redemptive purposes of God for His chosen people Israel, to be carried out through Joseph (A type for the future Messiah).
1 And it came to pass after these ha-d’variym the words/things, the one who provided the king of Miytzrayim Egypt (double distress) with drink, incurred guilt due to an offence, as did the baker; against their lord, king of Egypt.
“After these words, things, events” is more than a reference to the physical events of the previous chapter. It is a reminder of the d’variym, the words themselves and their spiritual significance. This is seen in the repetition of the phrases, “HaShem was with him, and that which he did HaShem made to prosper”. These phrases form a foundation for what is about to unfold.
Both Yarchi and Rashi note that according to Midrash, with regard to the cupbearer’s offense, a fly was found in Pharaoh’s cup, and in the baker’s case a stone was found in the baked goods served to Pharaoh. This is more likely than the Targum Yonatan’s assertion that they both tried to poison the Pharaoh, given that such an act would have seen them executed immediately.
The cupbearer’s offense would have been considered less serious than the baker’s because a fly could have flown into the cup at any time and is therefore unlikely to be a premeditated act, whereas the stone had been baked into the goods and is therefore seen as a premeditated attempt to chock Pharaoh to death: or at very least, an attempt to cheat Pharaoh out of the true weight of the bread, a form of theft. It was not uncommon in ancient Egypt for various factions to seek to assassinate the Pharaoh in order to place a ruler on the throne of Egypt who would be sympathetic to a different political agenda. The conflict between the Pharaonic authority and the Egyptian priesthood is well documented. It’s possible that the baker belonged to such a faction.
The identities of the two princes of Pharaoh are of great importance with regard to the meta-narrative of Scripture. The cup and the bread will become central symbols for both Israel and the nations. We find that the cupbearer is a bearer of wine and the baker of broken bread. We are being introduced to the elements which will latter represent the poured out blood and broken body of our Messiah Yeshua.
2 And displeased, Pharaoh (Great house) placed the two into the custody of the official: the prince responsible for drink and the prince responsible for baking. 3 And they were given into a prison house of the prince of executioners into the house, ha-sohar the round place, where Yosef (HaShem: Mercy adds) was imprisoned.
In Genesis 39:1 Potiphar is called Pharaoh’s official and Prince of the executioners. In the present text the prince cupbearer and prince baker are given to the official (Potiphar), who gives them into the care of his sub commander (Prince of Executioners). Alternatively, both titles refer to Potiphar, just as they did in Genesis 39:1.
The Hebrew term ha-sohar apparently refers to the shape of the prison which was possibly built as a cylinder going down into the ground. This would explain Joseph’s use of the Hebrew ba’bor (well, pit) in verse 15.
4 And the prince executioner placed them in the care of Yosef (HaShem: Mercy adds) to vay’sharet (minister to) them, and it came to pass after yamiym (a year, many days) of confinement: 5 That the two men dreamed a dream, they dreamed in the one night, each man interpreting his dream, the one who provided drink and the baker to the king of Miytzrayim Egypt (double distress), who were imprisoned in the house, which was round.
As previously stated, “The prince executioner” probably refers to Potiphar’s subordinate but may refer to Potiphar. Either way, Potiphar is in the chain of command and at least partly responsible for giving Joseph this opportunity.
We notice that once again the Hebrew y’sharet (minister to, serve willingly) is employed to describe Joseph’s care of these men. Even in prison Joseph is a minister of God to those in his charge. His generous spirit and integrity are sustained because HaShem is with him.
The Hebrew yamiym can denote a period of up to a year. In the present context this means that the cupbearer and baker were in Joseph’s care for a period of at least a year before they had their respective dreams.
The Hebrew, “Ish c’fit’ron chalomo” is usually translated as, “each man according to the interpretation of his dream” and is said to mean that each man dreamed according to his station. I have rendered the phrase, “each man interpreting his dream”. I believe that the text is inferring that the men each attempted and failed to interpret their respective dreams to their satisfaction. This would help to explain the phrase “We have dreamed a dream and no one can interpret it” (v.8).
The belief that dreams could contain prophetic messages concerning the future was widely held throughout the ancient Near East and is attested to in part by Abimelech’s experience in Genesis 20:3. This makes Joseph’s offer of interpretation in the following verses an inviting proposition and gives him the opportunity to prove himself to be an accurate interpreter of dreams.
It is interesting to note that in verse 5 the cupbearer and baker are called by their occupations alone without the Hebrew sar (prince) being used to refer to their now former positions of authority.
6 And Yosef (HaShem: Mercy adds) entered toward them in the morning, and saw them and behold they were zoafiym (sad, angry, troubled and perplexed). 7 And he enquired of the s’riseiy (officials, eunuchs) of Pharaoh (Great house) who were with him in the place of confinement, house of their lord, saying, “Why are your faces full of raiym (bad, evil, worry, sadness, distress, and misery) today?”
We notice that Joseph, who has had Mercy Himself add comfort to him in his distress, now “adds mercy” to the troubled cupbearer and baker. Like all great men of God, Joseph allows the overflow of his experience of God’s love and mercy to affect those around him. He is looking for an opportunity to comfort these men who have been placed into his care.
The Hebrew raiym, used here to describe the faces of the men can be translated a number of ways and allows for an ambiguous interpretation. It may mean that the face of the cupbearer was distressed and the face of the baker was full of evil intent. If the conjecture concerning the sins of each of the men is true, it makes sense that the would-be assassin (baker) would be angered by his incarceration and what he perceived his dream to mean. The cupbearer on the other hand is simply distressed due to his inability to interpret his dream and troubled by his present predicament.
8 And they replied, “We have chalom chalam’nu dreamed a dream and no one can interpret it.” And speaking toward them Yosef said, “Is it not l'elohiym (to God, gods, judges) that interpretation belongs? Let me saf’ru (relate, number, recount, rehearse) for you.”
The phrase “We have dreamed a dream” can also be understood to say, “We have dreamed a firmly bound thing” or, “We saw a firmly bound firmly bound thing”. In other words, the doubling of the phrase establishes the certain nature of the dream outcomes. These matters have been established by God and will come to pass.
Neither the cupbearer nor the baker, nor any of the other prisoners, had been able to make sense of the dreams.
Joseph’s response may have been understood in a slightly different manner to his intended meaning. Alternatively, Joseph used the generic term elohiym (God, gods, judges) in order to make it easier for the Egyptians to accept the help of a Hebrew. To Joseph, elohiym referred to the God of the Hebrews but to the cupbearer and baker the term elohiym could be understood to refer to the Egyptian deities. Regardless, Joseph was saying that the accurate interpretation of dreams was made possible by God. It is only after Joseph establishes the authority of God that he offers to recount the meaning of the dreams.
9 And the prince of providing drink recounted his dream to Yosef and said, “In my dream behold, all of a sudden a vine grew before my face: 10 And on the vine three tendrils and it (she) sprouted buds as it (she) ascended and blossomed, and produced ripe grapes in a cluster of fruit. 11 And the cup of Pharaoh was in my hand and I took it and the grapes I pressed into the cup and gave the cup into the palm of Pharaoh.”
The writer of Genesis includes the title prince (sar) again, perhaps denoting the fact that the cupbearer is soon to be reinstated. The rapid growth of the vine and the singling out of three tendrils, as well as the quick ripening of the fruit, are all elements that indicate the imminent outcome. The specific nature of the fruit of the vine (Grape juice, wine) is important because it relates this easily identifiable symbol to the meta-narrative of redemption. The wine of the cupbearer’s dream, once it is joined by the bread of the baker’s dream, provides a foreshadowing of the blood and body of Messiah. This is also in keeping with the fact that Joseph is a type for the Mashiyach.
Another important aspect of the cupbearer’s dream is the fact that Pharaoh takes the cup directly from his hand without the cup bearer having drunk from it to test for poison (one of the most important steps in presenting a cup to a king). This denotes Pharaoh’s complete trust in the cupbearer (according to the dream), and infers future favor where the cupbearer is concerned.
12 And Yosef said, “This is the interpretation of it, the three branches are three days.
13 In three days you'll return and yisa par’oh et roshecha, Pharaoh will lift up your head vahashiyv’cha and return you to you position and you will give the cup into Pharaoh's palm in the way you did at first as the provider of drinks.
The idiom, “lift up your head” can mean to count (Exodus 30:12), meaning that the cupbearer will be once again counted worthy in Pharaoh’s sight. The same phrase can also mean to reestablish position (Psalm 3:3; 27:6). In addition, this phrase is used to describe the release of a prisoner (2 Kings 25:27; Jeremiah 52:31). The exact same phrase is used in verse
19, as a word play, followed by the qualifying terms, above and hang.
14 When this occurs remember me and show kindness toward me I plead, make mention of me to Pharaoh and bring me out from this the house.
Joseph is certain of the interpretation he has received from God. Thus he affirms his faith by requesting that the cupbearer use his position to help deliver him from prison.
Unfortunately the cupbearer will soon forget Joseph’s plight (v.23) and it will be two years before he recalls Joseph and his gift for interpreting dreams (41:1, 9-13).
15 For I was carried away from mei-eretz the land of Ha-Ivriym the Hebrews, and also here I've done nothing at all to warrant putting me in this ba’bor (well) pit.”
It’s worth noting that this is the first time that Joseph breaks his silence and protests his innocence.
The phrase, “Land of the Hebrews” shows that at very least Hebron and the surrounding area was known to belong to the Hebrews at that time in history (Approx.1900 BCE).
It is no coincidence that Joseph employs the same Hebrew word ba’bor (well, pit) used to describe the empty well he was thrown into by his brothers (Gen. 37:24). He sees the connection between these two injustices and longs for deliverance. Perhaps, based on the fact that he was freed from the former pit, he relates it to his present captivity because he believes that through his dreams God has shown him an already established future deliverance.
16 And the prince of baking seeing the good interpretation said, “I also dreamed and behold, all of a sudden three baskets of chori white bread (white linen) were upon my head.
The fact that the prince of baking spoke only after hearing the first interpretation, infers that he was not intending to take up Joseph on his offer at first.
The use of the rare verb chori (choor, charar), which comes from a root meaning white stuff, white linen, indicates that the bread in the baskets was unusual in some way. I understand this to be a concise way of presenting the idea of matzah unleavened bread in an Egyptian context prior to the establishment of Pesach and the days of unleavened bread. The Hebrew matzah is used only in Genesis 19:3 prior to its use in Exodus 12:8 and is used in the context of Avraham meeting face to face with a manifest representation of God. This seems to be a unique use that is intended to convey the time of year that the event occurred. The same need is not present here, nor has the Pesach been established, therefore it seems probable that the use of chori rather than lechem (yeast filled bread) in the present context, is intended to denote matzah or an historical Egyptian equivalent (unleavened bread).
The cupbearer saw events unfold before his face, but the baker sees the baskets on top of his head. This is the first indication that the dreams have tragically different meanings. The cupbearer witnesses the events of his dream from within his own body, whereas the baker witnesses the events of his dream from outside of his body. This is an almost universal representation of a transitional death experience.
17 And in the highest basket there was a selection of every kind of baked goods for Pharaoh, v’ha-oph and the birds (flying creatures) ate from the basket on my head.”
The Hebrew oph meaning flying creature, is used to refer to carrion that feed on the flesh of fallen corpses (1 Kings 14:11; 16:4). The fact that the birds are eating Pharaoh’s baked goods without fear, shows that the baker is absent. The phrase “every kind of baked goods” represents the full range of the prince baker’s responsibilities. The basket that is being plundered is on top of the baker’s head, the head being the symbol of authority. Therefore, the plundering is taking place over and above the authority of the baker. This is another way of conveying loss of position. In the case of the baker, he had already lost his position and had been imprisoned in a pit (metaphor for death), thus the dream must be speaking of a further demotion. The only demotion lower than prison is death.
18 And Yosef said “This is the interpretation of it: the three baskets are three days.
19 It will come to pass in three days yisa par’oh et roshecha, Pharaoh will lift up your head meialeycha v’talah otcha al eitz above and hang you upon a tree: and the birds will devour your flesh from above.
The similarities with the cupbearer’s dream end at the three days. Here, the phrase, “yisa par’oh et roshecha, Pharaoh will lift up your head” is employed as a sort of morbid word play and is qualified by the phrase, “meialeycha v’talah otcha al eitz above and hang you upon a tree”. There is historical evidence that the Egyptians practiced an execution method where the body of the victim was impaled on a long spiked stave and lifted into position outside of the city walls. This is probably the means of the baker’s coming execution.
There is of course a correlation with the “hanging on a tree” of the cursed (Deut. 21:23) and the crucifixion of Messiah, who is the bread of life (John 6:35).
20 And it came to pass that after three days it was the birthday of Pharaoh and he prepared a feast for all his servants. And he lifted up the head of the prince of the drinks and he lifted up the head of the prince of the baking in the midst of all his servants.
The repetition of the three days is an indication of God’s hand on the events and conveys a sense of completion and resurrection. The cup bearer is metaphorically dead in prison and after three days he is resurrected to face judgement and is given new life, whereas the baker is metaphorically dead in prison and after three days is resurrected to face judgement and is condemned to death. Both are lifted up, and each one is judged according to his deeds. This is of course a clear depiction of Yom Ha-Din (The day of Judgement).
The wine of the cupbearer’s dream is a foreshadowing of the blood of the Messiah, and the chori (matzah) unleavened bread in the three baskets symbolize the Messiah’s body and His resurrection is seen in the restoring of the cupbearer because the life is in the blood (wine).
21 And he lifted up the prince of the drinks to serve drinks again and he gave Pharaoh's cup into his palm. 22 And the prince of baking was hung (2 Samuel 21:9) according to the interpretation of Yosef.
Joseph is thus established as one whose interpretations are trustworthy. The events transpired just as he had interpreted they would.
23 And the prince of drinks did not remember Yosef, he ceased to care and forgot.
How soon we forget the charitable acts of others. While we’re in a place of torment and suffering we often turn to others for comfort and benefit from their care, but when we are free once more, we quickly forget those who remain in the place of torment that we had once endured. However, the forgetfulness of the cupbearer is part of God’s timing. The cupbearer will recall Joseph at just the right time so that he can have maximum exposure and gain high position from the Pharaoh.
This failure to remember Joseph is a prophetic link to the future of Israel. A future filled with the rhythm of being forgotten and redeemed (Exodus 1:8). We see here, that Joseph is also a type for his people Israel, a people whom a subsequent Pharaoh will not recognize. Like the Messiah Who comes forth from her, Israel will suffer death and experience resurrection.
The reinstatement (resurrection) of the cupbearer is followed by two years of waiting. Joseph awaits God’s deliverance and the crown of authority promised to him in his dreams. In many ways this is like our spiritual journey in Messiah. We meet Him and experience freedom/resurrection from sin but this is only the beginning. We must then continue to hold on to our trust in God as we await His kingdom come, when Messiah will return and we will enter the Olam Haba (World to come), the ultimate fulfillment of our hope in Him.
© Yaakov Brown
Founder of the Beth Melekh International Messiah Following Jewish Community,