Generally speaking the Torah slavery/servitude laws were put in place to alleviate poverty and provide families for orphans and communities for aliens. They are no less than an ancient form of social welfare law.
The Torah instructions concerning slavery or servitude are largely concerned with alleviating poverty within the multi-tribal community of Israel during her wandering period and as a precedent set for moral practice when entering the promised land.
Set against the backdrop of an ancient world where enemy nations sought to wipe out the people of Israel the regulations regarding foreign slaves/servants differed for good reason. Foreign slaves/servants were often the product of both defensive and offensive warfare. Therefore, different laws were needed for the treatment of foreign slaves/servants because the bitterness of war would often lead to resentment and derision in the hearts of those who had become members of the wider commonwealth (community) of Israel as slaves/servants.
God’s plan for Israel as it is revealed throughout the Tanakh (OT) requires her to be a light of morality to the then largely immoral nations who surrounded her. Therefore, as an expression of Israel’s familial tribal unity God made certain that those who were of the tribes of Israel (Hebrews) were given familial treatment when impoverished, whereas those who were foreigners and often enemies of Israel were required to continue to pay their debts to Hebrews while serving the community, and were to be treated justly. God instructed fair treatment of foreigners, reminding Israel that she was “once a slave/servant to Egypt.”
Therefore, generally speaking, if the text of the Torah is properly read from the Hebrew or Greek (Septuagint) the conclusion reached concerning the laws of slavery/servitude is one of justice, restitution, charity and distinction.
In many ways the differences in the laws for native and foreign slaves/servants is similar to the difference in laws between citizens and non-citizens in modern western democracies. In socialist democracies where a citizen may pay taxes for healthcare and thus receive healthcare without additional payment, a foreigner is nonetheless required to pay for healthcare up front to offset the cost. This is not considered unjust or unreasonable.
Much of the modern misunderstanding of the Torah text as it pertains to slavery/servitude comes as a result of viewing history, religion, ethnicity, language, and culture through the lens of a neo-postmodern worldview. This has manifest itself as historical and cultural revisionism and often misapplies new thinking to ancient documents. In this case the Bible.
Slavery – Servitude:
The Hebrew “eved” can mean “servant, slave, paid servant etc.” Context and qualifying words define its meaning within the text. However, the root “avad” literally means “to serve.” Therefore, when we lack qualifying terms we should always read “servant.” This fact alone defuses many of the misunderstandings surrounding the so called “problematic slavery” passages of the Torah.
Correctly reading and understanding Shemot (Exodus) 21:20-21
A Standard English Translation:
20 “If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies [a]at his hand, he shall [b]be punished. 21 If, however, he [c]survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken; for he is his [d]property. -Exodus 21:20-21 NASB
What the Hebrew literally says:
Exo 21:20 וכי־יכה אישׁ את־עבדו או את־אמתו בשׁבט ומת תחת ידו נקם ינקם׃
Exo 21:21 אך אם־יום או יומים יעמד לא יקם כי כספו הוא׃
Verse 20 (Transliterated Hebrew and English)
Vechiy-yakehH And if/because he (leader of the household/father) strikes iyshH a man et-avdoH the paid male servant of his (v.21 qualifies the specific type of servant in question) o_H or et-amatoH the paid female servant of his (see prev. ref.) basheivetH with a branch umeitH and that one dies tachatH under yadoH his hand (leader of the household/father) nakomH avenge/punish yinakeimH with the most severe punishment.
Verse 21 (Transliterated Hebrew and English)
AchH Howbeit if im-yomH within a day o_H or yomayimH a period of days ya’amodH continuing to stand (the paid servant) lo yukamH do not punish (the leader of the house) kiyH because chaspoH he (the leader of the house) is the source of money/income hu_H for him (the paid servant).
A better reading in modern English would be:
And if the father of the household unreasonably disciplines/strikes the paid servant, either male or female with a switch (stick) and kills that one by his own actions, he should be punished to the full extent of the law. However, if in spite of the father’s unreasonable actions the paid servant lives and continues to require financial support and a place to stay. Do not punish the father (leader of the household) to the full extent of the law because the paid servant is reliant upon him (the father) for his or her income, shelter, food and clothing. (Author’s paraphrase)
With regard to ancient Israel and her wandering (nomadic) lifestyle surrounded by enemies as she approached the promised land, the subject of the servitude of foreigners cannot be properly understood through the lens of a modern revisionist view of Biblical history.
In the context of the passage of Scripture in question the servant is not a “Slave” in any sense, modern or otherwise. We know that the Hebrew root “avad” means “to serve” and the Hebrew noun “eved” means “servant. Therefore. The only question is “What kind of servant are we reading about?” The answer is in verse 21 where we read that the servant is reliant on the household leader for his or her income. Thus the servant in question is a paid servant who is a member of the household. Therefore, this law has more in common with domestic abuse laws in modern western democracies than it does with any form of slavery.
In the case of the paid servant it was most common for that person to be considered a member of the ancient Hebrew household and to be reliant on the household leader and the household collectively for shelter, clothing, food and any additional income that might be needed. Therefore, for all intents and purposes this person was no different from the modern live in nanny or gardener.
The “striking” yakeh (strike, hit, beat, slay, smite etc.) has so many meanings that it can convey everything from a light slap to a severe beating. This is why we are best to understand the present passage as a situation where an unreasonable disciplining is performed, and in the case that it leads to death is considered a vile act of murder. That is why the Torah requires the most severer of punishments by doubling the Hebrew root nakam meaning “to avenge”.
Finally, in ancient Israel a paid servant had few prospects outside of the home in which he or she lived, and in the case of being a foreigner was likely to be devoid of familial connection within the community. Therefore, the very existence of that person was reliant on the provision of the household in which he or she resided and worked. This is why the text says, “If the servant survives the beating the leader of the house should not be put to death or maimed because his status, income and property are the means by which the servant survives…” To remove the servant’s means of income and security because of the foolish actions of the leader of the household would be tantamount to punishing both the servant and the other members of the household. The text does not mean to say that the leader of the household will go unpunished but that he will not be punished to the level of severity prescribed in the case of murder. Thus, he remains to provide for all the household including the servant for whom he has an obligation of care.
Correctly reading and understanding Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:45-50
Some complain that the Torah’s treatment of foreigners regarding slavery/servitude in ancient Israel is inequitable and unfair. It is true that it is inequitable and for good reason, as I’ve said previously the majority of foreigners who were living among the Israelites had found their way into the community through warfare and or by fleeing other nations bringing their differing religious views and resentment for Israel with them. God had set Israel apart to be a light of His morality, a light He did not want defiled by false belief and idolatry. Therefore, He made a distinction between the laws concerning the native Hebrew and those concerning foreigners. These laws were intended to protect Israel and teach those foreigners living among her the morality of the One True God. Therefore, it is not true that God’s law in this regard is unfair.
A Standard English Translation:
45 Then, too, it is out of the sons of the sojourners who live as aliens among you that you may gain acquisition, and out of their families who are with you, whom they will have [a]produced in your land; they also may become your possession. 46 You may even bequeath them to your sons after you, to receive as a possession; you can use them as permanent slaves. But in respect to your [b]countrymen, the sons of Israel, you shall not rule with severity over one another.47‘Now if the [a]means of a stranger or of a sojourner with you becomes sufficient, and a [b]countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to him as to sell himself to a stranger who is sojourning with you, or to the descendants of a stranger’s family,48 then he shall have redemption right after he has been sold. One of his brothers may redeem him,c]if he prospers, he may redeem himself.50 He then with his purchaser shall calculate from the year when he sold himself to him up to the year of jubilee; and the price of his sale shall correspond to the number of years. It is like the days of a hired man that he shall be with him.” -Leviticus 25:47-50 NASB
Given what we have already learned concerning the context of ancient Israel’s servitude laws it is sufficient to use this English translation and illuminate several Hebrew word meanings in order to clarify it for the modern reader.
In this passage the Hebrew kanah translated “buy” essentially means “to create, acquire”. Therefore, it is overly simplistic to translate “buy”.
The Hebrew “achuzzah” meaning “to possess” from the root “achaz” meaning “to grasp, take hold of,” does not mean “to treat as an object” but rather “to take hold of” as a member of the family. In the context of this passage, to bring into the wider family. To make part of the familial inheritance for future generations. This is why the modern people of Israel are so diverse. It is because other bloodlines married into the Hebrew bloodline and have created a convergent blood line based in Hebrew ethnicity. DNA science has now progressed to show a common DNA marker shared by Jews from the east (Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Morocco etc.) and Jews from Europe (Italy, England, Germany, Russia etc.) this even though they also have other differing DNA markers. The reality is that many of the foreigners being spoken of in these texts eventually became a part of the lineage of Israel. We see this in the case of Rahab the prostitute of Jericho and Ruth the Moabitess among others. Therefore, to read “possession” in the sense of ownership is to entirely misunderstand the text and its context.
Leviticus 25:45-47 Line by line
45 Then, too, it is out of the sons of the sojourners who live as aliens among you that you may gain acquisition, and out of their families who are with you, whom they will have [a]produced in your land; they also may become your possession.
Paraphrase for the modern reader:
“Also you may acquire workers (who will eventually become part of your wider family) from the foreigners dwelling among you, and from their descendants too if they need work as servants, because they are with you, and they can become part of all you possess as a people to pass on to the next generation…”
46 You may even bequeath them to your sons after you, to receive as a possession; you can use them as permanent slaves. But in respect to your [b]countrymen, the sons of Israel, you shall not rule with severity over one another.
Paraphrase for the modern reader:
You’re welcome to take them as an inheritance to your children so that your children receive them and hold tight to them (grasp = achaz). And they will become generational employed servants. And (not “but”!) in addition, you shouldn’t rule over your fellow Israelites.
NB: the correct translation “And” rather than the mistranslation “But” (which does not appear in the Hebrew) shows that the second clause is entirely separate from the first clause and is a general principal related to the former and following instructions regarding native Hebrews.
47‘Now if the [a]means of a stranger or of a sojourner with you becomes sufficient, and a [b]countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to him as to sell himself to a stranger who is sojourning with you, or to the descendants of a stranger’s family,
Paraphrase for the modern reader:
“If a foreigner living among you as a member of your wider community becomes wealthy and a poor Hebrew sells himself to the foreigner in order to survive…”
48 then he shall have redemption right after he has been sold. One of his brothers may redeem him,
Paraphrase for the modern reader:
“Whenever a foreigner purchases a Hebrew brother or sister, that foreigner must always be willing to immediately allow you to redeem that one.”
49 or his uncle, or his uncle’s son, may redeem him, or one of his blood relatives from his family may redeem him; or [c]if he prospers, he may redeem himself.
Paraphrase for the modern reader:
“That goes for any relative, or even if he himself becomes wealthy enough to redeem himself, the foreigner must allow him his freedom…”
50 He then with his purchaser shall calculate from the year when he sold himself to him up to the year of jubilee; and the price of his sale shall correspond to the number of years. It is like the days of a hired man that he shall be with him.”
“You Hebrews are to give the appropriate price in payment to the foreign purchaser of your fellow Hebrew, don’t dupe the foreigner out of what is rightfully his…”
In most cases within the ancient Hebrew community so called “slaves” were in fact “paid servants”, and were eventually “taken hold of” as members of the family and as part of the inheritance of filial corporate wealth, participating in the receipt of that wealth along with their descendants, they were possessed in the sense that a father possess a son and a son a father and not in the sense of an object possessed in ownership. After all, the Torah clearly teaches that objects are for use but people are for relationship.
Generally speaking the Torah slavery/servitude laws were put in place to alleviate poverty and provide families for orphans and communities for aliens. They are no less than an ancient form of social welfare law. In fact, up until recently many western democracies have based their social welfare laws on the principals of the Torah due to the proliferation of Christianity and Judeo-Christian morality throughout the western world. Sadly, the positive affect of the Biblical principal is now being dismantled by a pervasive atheistic neo-postmodern amoral liberalism.
The servitude laws of the Torah differed between Israelis and foreigners as a protection against foreign usurping of Israeli nationhood, religion, culture, ethnicity and identity. This is neither unjust or unfair but it does make a just distinction between Hebrew and foreign servants.
Finally, to read the ancient text of the Torah in English (often poorly translated) with a neo-postmodern western worldview at the driver’s seat is like attempting to fuel a car by putting sand in the petrol tank. Context: historical, literary, religious, linguistic, cultural, local, global, ancient and otherwise is essential to a correct interpretation of the text, of any text for that matter.
Therefore, the Torah does not advocate for slavery but does allow for paid service the redemption of the poor, and the growth of just community as alluded to in Exodus 21 and Leviticus 25.
NB: When the just laws of the Bible are replaced by laws resulting from a godless worldview humanity reaps the tragic consequences. Many of the once well-established just laws resulting from the spread of Christianity and Judeo-Christian morality are now being systematically dismantled by the modern amoral agenda of atheistic liberalism and are being replaced by unjust and unbiblical laws that are already producing abhorrent outcomes including but not limited to the lawful ending of the lives of the disabled, elderly and mentally ill, the systematic murder of unborn children up to nine months gestation and into the birth canal, selective murder of unborn children due to the determining of disabilities, the selective murder of unborn children due to determination of sex, and so on.
Perhaps instead of seeking to criticize the Torah based on ignorance we would be better to critique the modern worldview through the lens of Torah.
Copyright 2020 Yaakov Brown
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
Founder of the Beth Melekh International Messiah Following Jewish Community,