Parashat VaYigash - December 23rd

ויגש Vayigash

Genesis 44.18 — Genesis 47.27

Joseph’s way of treating his brothers prefigures the way the Messiah will relate to them. On the one hand he treats them rather harshly, but he also weeps when he comes together with them. Like the Messiah, Joseph desires the full repentance of his brothers. To achieve that he takes them through a process that will lead them to repentance. They undergo a remarkable change: from men who were willing to betray and even kill their brother, they are now willing to sacrifice themselves in order to protect Benjamin. Now Joseph is ready to reveal himself to them, and life is restored to the family.



Genesis 45.1-9: “Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him; and he cried, ‘Make every one go out from me.’ So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. And Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph; is my father still alive?’ But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. So Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come near to me, I pray you.’ And they came near. And he said, ‘I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; and he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Make haste and go up to my father and say to him, “Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not tarry.”’”

This is the third parashah in the Joseph cycle. As we have seen, Joseph is in many ways a type for Israel. Both Joseph and Israel were rejected by their own people, despised, betrayed, sold for silver, imprisoned. They did not complain. Both resisted temptation, forgave those who hurt them the most, mediated on behalf of others. God raised them to an exalted place.

Joseph has been separated from his brothers for many years, but now he is ready to reveal himself to them at last. As he does this, he chooses to do it on a very personal level. Joseph tells those who are not part of his family to leave the room.

Until this moment, Joseph’s brothers are sure that he is dead, that he has not survived what they did to him so many years before. Now for the first time they know that he is alive. It is for them as if he has risen from the dead. So it was for each of us who came to faith in Jesus. He was for us just a historical figure who died. It was when we saw him alive and believed that he had risen from the dead that we first experienced his salvation (Rom 10.9-10).



Genesis 45.1-2: Joseph reveals himself to his brothers in private. So too the Messiah, after he has returned for his physical family, will reveal himself to them in a special revelation (Ezekiel 36.24-26; Jeremiah 31.31-34). He reveals himself to them the third time they appear before him. Likewise, this today is the third national gathering from exile of the Jewish people back to the Land of Israel. The first was from Egypt under Moshe, the second was the return from Babylon, and now the third is from all the nations of the world (see Jeremiah 16.14-15). The private nature of Messiah’s revelation may be reflected in Zechariah 12.10-14, where each family mourns alone for what they have done to him: “I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land shall mourn, each family by itself.”

Genesis 45.14-15: With great emotion they are reunited. The Messiah who has been exiled and hidden will be received back with great joy.

Genesis 45.27: When Israel finally did believe the report, before actually seeing Joseph, “the spirit of Jacob their father revived.” Paul states, regarding Israel’s return and their relation to Jesus, that it will be “life from the dead’ (Romans 11.15).”



Genesis 45.7, 9: “And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. . . . Make haste and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not tarry.’”

Joseph represents the remnant, and verse 7 is one of the earliest verses in the Bible expressing the doctrine of the remnant. In verse 9 Joseph tells his brothers (those who have now seen him alive, as it were risen from the dead) that they should go and tell Jacob (Israel) that he is alive. So too, we who are the remnant saved by God should go to tell Israel that the one they thought was dead is indeed alive, that God has made him Lord, and that he is waiting for them to come to him.



Genesis 46.27: There were seventy souls in the house of Jacob. Seventy, in Judaism, is the traditional number of the nations, probably coming from Deuteronomy 32.8, “When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.” The prophecy of Isaiah 49.6 states, “It is a light thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel. I will also give you for a light to the nations that you may be my salvation unto the end of the earth.” Joseph was sent forth by God for the salvation from hunger of both the Gentiles and Israel. In Matthew 28.19, Jesus said, “Go therefore, and teach all nations.” The Hebrew letter ayin is the number seventy. This is the last letter in the name Jesus. Amongst the Jewish people for most of two millennia, the last letter of his name has been traditionally dropped, making “Yeshu.”


So the letter ayin at the end of the Messiah’s name reminds us of “the number of the children of Israel,” and it also reminds us of the Gentile nations, to whom the Messiah’s message of salvation from sin was also sent. [BSI/rp]


Genesis 46.28: Judah was sent first to direct Israel to Joseph in Goshen. This interplay between Judah and Joseph, and the dynamic between them in the entire account, plus the prophecy given by Jacob over Judah (Genesis 49.8-12), is an allusion (remez, רמז) to the Messiah son of Joseph coming forth ultimately from tribe of Judah. The name Judah in Hebrew (יהודה) actually contains the four letters of the name of God plus one letter, “ד,” (dalet) from דוד (David), an allusion to the son of David, the Messiah. In Deuteronomy 12.11 we find, “Then there shall be a place which the Lord your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there.” The inheritance of the tribe of Judah, the Land of Judah, therefore actually does contain the name of the Lord. David (“beloved”) son of Jesse, from whose seed was to arise the “son of David,” or “Messiah son of David,” was born from the tribe of Judah, in the Land of Judah, and in the town of Bethlehem, all of which is true also of Jesus (Luke 2.1-7; Matthew 2.1-6). In Micah 5.2, it is prophesied, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrata, though you be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from old, from everlasting.” We read in Exodus 23.20-21, “Behold, I send an angel before you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared. Give heed to him and hearken to his voice, do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; for my name is in him.” And in Jeremiah 23.5-6, “’Behold, the days come,’ declares the Lord, ‘that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch... and this is his name whereby he shall be called, “the Lord our righteousness (ה' צדקנו).”’” Is it not possible, therefore, that Messiah son of Joseph and Messiah son of David, are in fact one and the same person, an individual in whom the Holy One, Blessed be He, has chosen to place His name?



Haftarah: Ezekiel 37.15-28

In light of the messianic elements in this parashah, it is significant that the haftarah includes an everlasting covenant to be made with Israel, a covenant with Messiah at its center:

“My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall follow my ordinances and be careful to observe my statutes. They shall dwell in the land where your fathers dwelt that I gave to my servant Jacob; they and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there for ever; and David my servant shall be their prince for ever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My dwelling place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Ezekiel 37.24-27)


Ezekiel 37.15ff: These verses report a symbolic transaction, showing the union of the two branches of the nation after their return, and looking forward to the better days of the Messiah, when all things foreshadowed would be fully enjoyed. The prophet, by divine direction, took two sticks, and wrote upon them for the two branches of the nation, and joined them in his hand as one stick, signifying that the two branches of the nation should again become united in one.

“I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all – David my servant shall be king over them; and they shall have one shepherd” (vss 22, 24).

This act of joining the two sticks sets forth in unmistakable terms Israel’s national reunion which is to take place when Israel is restored and regathered from among the nations where they have been scattered and brought back to their own land. This reunion is to be accomplished during the reign of the Messiah, their Shepherd King.



Shabbat Shalom!

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