Parashat Vayeshev - December 9th

וישב Vayeshev

Gen. 37.1 — Gen. 40.23

Since the end of the second temple period, Judaism has spoken of the coming of two Messiahs, Messiah son of David and Messiah son of Joseph. One of the reasons for seeing the Messiah as related to Joseph is that there are many elements in the life of Joseph that point to the Messiah. In the remaining parashot of Genesis we will indicate many events in Joseph’s life that are messianic and many that were paralleled in the life of Jesus. These and many more have been collected by Elchanan ben Avraham in his book Mashiach ben Yoseph.

Joseph as a type of the Messiah in Parashat Vayeshev

Genesis 37.4: Joseph was hated by his brothers, and (37.11) they were jealous of him. Similar things are prophesied of the Messiah in Isaiah 53. The same happened in the life of Jesus, and this has continued to be the case until today for most of Messiah’s physical brothers.

Genesis 37.19-20: They mocked Joseph and plotted against him. So too the religious leaders plotted against Jesus and, after they had arrested him, they mocked him.

Genesis 37.23: Joseph had a special garment, which they took away from him as they carried out their plans to get rid of him. So too Jesus had a special garment, so remarkable that the soldiers did not want to tear the cloth but gambled for it so that it would remain in one piece.

Genesis 37.25-30: Judah suggests they sell him and turn him over to the goyim (which was done, vs 36). When the time came for Jesus to be betrayed, one of his disciples with the same name, Judah, sold him. Ultimately Jesus was rejected by most of his people and was accepted by many goyim.

During all the time that Joseph’s brothers are plotting and doing these things against him, it is not recorded that Joseph said a word in his own defense or against them. This too reminds us of Isaiah 53.7, which describes the silence of the Messiah as he is led to be sacrificed. So too Jesus remained silent in the face of his accusers and judges.

Genesis 37.32-35: When it is reported to Jacob/Israel that Joseph is dead, he believes it and continues to believe it a long time until Joseph is revealed to him alive much later. The Messiah was rejected by his people, and for a long time the people of Israel have believed Jesus to be dead, not knowing that he is still alive.

Genesis 39.7-19: Joseph was tempted to sin but resisted. The Messiah also was tempted, at the beginning and at the end of his ministry, and he successfully stood the tests.




Genesis 37.3-4: “Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.”

Joseph is clearly a type for the Messiah. We may ask ourselves why his brothers were jealous of him. Was it just because, as the son of Jacob’s old age, he was his father’s favorite? Jacob’s favoring of Joseph seems to have gone farther than is normal. The term that describes the coat Jacob gives him appears also in 2 Samuel 13.18-19 as a garment worn by children of the king. This could mean that Jacob was indeed conferring special favor on Joseph. In a prophetic way he was giving him a position above his brothers. Afterwards, Joseph’s dreams confirm that he will rule over his brothers, indeed over his whole family. This was in line with God’s choice of the brother who was not the firstborn. The brothers are rejecting both their father’s choice and God’s own revelation through the dreams.

Joseph’s dreams are looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. The sheaves symbolize blessing and abundance, and the stars symbolize light and guidance. All of this can only be realized in a right relationship to the Messiah, symbolized by their bowing down to Joseph. That the dreams are from God is shown by their coming in pairs, as Joseph confirmed when he interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams (Genesis 41.32). Joseph’s dreams look ahead to the repentance of Israel as God reveals the Messiah to them; God promised it and confirmed it and will make it happen in his time.




Genesis 38.28-29: “Judah went down . . . there he saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite . . . he took her.” But when he took her for his wife, God said, “The Messiah is going to come from Judah, and yet he has gone and taken a Canaanite wife. I am going to change the plot and bring Tamar as a wife for his son.” Now Tamar was the daughter of the great Shem. God said, “The Canaanite will die,” as it is written, “after many days the wife of Judah, Shua’s daughter, died” (Genesis 38.12); and her children also died, “Er and Onan died” (Genesis 46.12); this caused Judah to go to Tamar, who was a priestess, the daughter of Shem, the son of Noah, as it is written, “Melchizedek, king . . . priest of God Most High.” “When the time of her delivery came, . . . when she was in labor, one put out a hand” (Genesis 38.27-28). Zerah tried to come out first, but God said, “the Messiah will come from Peretz, so why is Zerah coming out first; let him go back into his mother’s womb. And let Peretz be born first, so that the Messiah can come from him,” as it is written (38.29) “he drew his hand back.” Peretz is the Messiah, as it is written (Micah 2.13), “He who opens the breach (ha-poretz) will go up before them, they will break through (partzu) and pass the gate, going out by it. Their king will pass on before them, the Lord at their head.” (Agadat B’reshit [Buber], chap 64)



Genesis 38.29: Midrash Ruth associates the “seed” concept with the Messiah, when speaking of the “kinsman-redeemer” in Ruth 4.18. The Midrash highlights Perez, familiar from the genealogy in Matthew 1.3 and the account in Genesis 38. The phrase “another seed from another place” is used again, here in reference to Perez.

It is precisely to Perez that the observation about the Messiah rectifying the havoc caused by the Fall is related:

“This is the history of Perez and it has a profound significance. … When the Holy One created his world there was as yet no Angel of Death… But when Adam and Eve fell into sin, all generations were corrupted. When Perez arose, history began to be fulfilled through him, because from him the Messiah would arise, and in his days the Holy One would cause death to be swallowed up, as it is written, ‘He will destroy death forever’ (Isaiah 25.8).” (ExodusR 30, 3)

It is hardly possible in a Jewish source text to find a nearer convergence to Paul’s discussion of Christ as the conqueror of death. In Romans 5.12 we read: “Therefore just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death came to all men.” 1 Corinthians 15.22 adds, “For as in Adam all die, so in the Messiah all will be made alive.” The roots of this mystery of the history of salvation reach right back to the account of the fall of humanity. One tradition, based on the interpretive method called “notarikon,” said that the letters of Adam’s name refer to Adam, David, and the Messiah. In this way Messiah will “correct” Adam’s fall.



Haftarah: Amos 2.6 — Amos 3.8

Shabbat Shalom!

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