This week’s Parsha is Vayigash, Genesis 44.18 – 47.27.[i] Last week left off with a cliffhanger. The brothers had been stopped again, this time, in addition to the purchase price of the provisions, Joseph’s silver cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. As Vayigash picks up the story, Judah offers his life in trade for Benjamin and for the sake of his father’s very being – as Benjamin’s incarceration would surely kill him. At this point, Joseph broke down and admitted his identity to his brothers, his first question being the condition of his father, his health and well-being.
Then Joseph made a proclamation, that should have comforted his brothers and quieted their fears of retribution.
But God sent me ahead of you to ensure a remnant in the land and to keep you alive for a great escape. So now, it wasn’t you, you didn’t send me here, but God! And He made me as a father to Pharaoh, lord over his whole house and ruler over the entire land of Egypt. (Genesis 45.7-8)
Joseph recognized the hand and working of the LORD. He could well agree with Rav Shaul’s future words to the believers in Rome when he encouraged them, “Now we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8.28) – not some things, not only the pleasant things, but all things. This understanding is echoed in the second blessing in the Barachu,[ii]
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe,
who forms light and creates darkness,
who makes peace and creates all things.
One of the primary lessons to be learnt though the narratives of the patriarchs, especially that of Joseph, is that the LORD is in control of all things. I am not saying He planned for the brothers to hate Joseph or that the hatred would be fueled by Jacob’s favoritism. But, in His foreknowledge, He not only knew what would happen but He knew how to best arrange for the outcome this He desired. Returning to Romans, the very next verse affirms this action,
For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8.29)
Aside from Joseph’s proclamation, one only needs to look at the life of Jacob to realize that the LORD has always foreknown the activities of man and has made provision to carry out His plans for humankind. In Vayetze (beginning in Genesis 28.10) Jacob, on his way to Uncle Laban’s, has a dream – before leaving the land of promise the LORD spoke clearly to Jacob,
“I am Adonai, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your seed. Your seed will be as the dust of the land, and you will burst forth to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed—and in your seed. Behold, I am with you, and I will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land, for I will not forsake you until I have done what I promised you.” (Genesis 28.13-15)
Twenty years later, though many trials and growth experiences, Jacob returned home – with wives, children and a large amount of possessions. Interestingly enough, Jacob learned some things along the way and before his meeting with Esau (of which he had many doubts as to the outcome), instead of trying to manipulate the Almighty, he simply confessed, “I am unworthy of all the proofs of mercy and of all the dependability that you have shown to your servant” (Vayishlach, Genesis 32.11) but nevertheless, please deliver me according to Your promises. Jacob and Esau amicably agreed to respect one another and Jacob returned home. Now, in this week’s Parsha, Jacob is leaving the land once again this time probably of two, diametrically opposed, minds. First, he for sure wanted to see his son who he thought was dead all these years. But to leave the land of promise, without the LORD’s direction, must have been a bit disconcerting. Then the LORD spoke to Jacob again,
“I am God, the God of your father,” He said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will turn you into a great nation there. I Myself will go down with you to Egypt and I Myself will also most certainly bring you up. Joseph will put his hands on your eyes.” (Genesis 46.3-4)
Not only was Jacob sent to Egypt to be with Joseph, the LORD affirmed that it would be in Egypt that Jacob’s tribe of seventy would become a great nation. Equally, He assured Jacob that He would return him to the land of promise. The LORD foreknew and planned the outcome of the situation. As the prophet proclaimed by the Ruach
For I know the plans that I have in mind for you,” declares Adonai, “plans for shalom and not calamity—to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29.11)
Just as the LORD had plans for Joseph to set the stage for Israel’s deliverance, in this week’s Haftarah, we see that He has plans for Israel’s future deliverance -and full restoration to the land. Ezekiel 37.15-28 not only records the LORD’s promise
“Behold, I will take Bnei-Yisrael from among the nations, where they have gone. I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land.” (37.21)
He further promises,
They will no longer be two nations and never again be divided into two kingdoms. (37.22)
All of Israel, Northern Kingdom – Ephraim, and Southern Kingdom – Judah, will be reunited once again under one Davidic king. However, this will not be simply a political reunification.
“I will save them out of all their dwellings in which they sinned. I will purify them. Then they will be My people and I will be their God. … They will walk in My ordinances and observe My rulings and do them. … I will cut a covenant of shalom with them—it will be an everlasting covenant with them. I will give to them and multiply them. I will set up My Sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling-place will be over them. I will be their God and they will be My people. Then the nations will know that I am Adonai who sanctifies Israel, when My Sanctuary is in their midst forever.” (Ezekiel 37.23-28)
Once again, He foreknew Israel’s sin, rebellion and resulting exile. But He also knew and planned for their restoration and redemption back to their God and to their land, Israel – eventually under one Davidic king, Yeshua our Messiah and LORD. Pilate asked Yeshua if He was the king of the Jews, to which He responded, “You said so” (Matthew 27.11-12). Yeshua had already proclaimed over Jerusalem, “For I tell you, you will never see Me again until you say, ‘Baruch ha-ba b’shem Adonai. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23.39). One day, all Israel will accept Yeshua’s kingship and welcome the return of David’s lineage and the LORD’s own Son. May it be soon and in our days.
[i] Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.
[ii] The Barchu begins the series of prayers/blessings leading up to the recitation of the Shema, in which all of the focus is turned upon the Almighty. For a good explanation of the purpose and meaning of the Barchu see https://rodfei.org/The_Barchu_Meaning_and_Movement