This Shabbat comes the climax of the story of Joseph son of Jacob. From the Torah: Genesis 44:18-47:27, Haftarah: Ezekiel 37:15-28, Gospels: Luke 24:30-48. All the readings this next Shabbat are of great importance. These readings are what I would call “programmatic.” Programmatic means that they set in motion a program, a divine plan, a system that will influence the rest of history.
The tone is set in these readings and we today thousands of years on this side of history are still being strongly influenced and harvesting the fields that were seeded by our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – Israel. In the beginning of chapter 45 of Genesis we have one of the most dramatic scenes in the whole Bible. The only other event that is more dramatic in the whole Bible is the crucifixion of Yeshua.
Now our Torah reading of Joseph’s test for his brothers and the revelation to his brothers, “I am Joseph your brother.” So, Joseph had a silver cup hidden in the sack of wheat of Benjamin. Benjamin was accused of stealing the cup. Joseph wanted to keep Benjamin in Egypt next to himself. You see Benjamin is the only one of the 12 sons of Jacob that was Joseph’s full brother. Both Joseph and Benjamin are the sons of Rachel, the two only children. Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin. Joseph’s strategy was to test the brothers and see if they had a change of attitude toward their younger brother who was also the son of Rachel.
After Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, they were afraid that Joseph was going to take vengeance on them for what they had done to him many years earlier. Joseph, on the other hand, wanted to test them to see if they had changed and learned from their deeds.
Our reading starting in Genesis 44:18 is the aftermath of these events. Judah comes to Joseph and essentially begs Joseph to be put in Jail in Egypt in place of Benjamin his younger brother. In Judah’s arguments there are several points that demonstrate that Judah has understood the severity of the brothers’ deeds against Joseph. Judah knows that it was wrong to keep quiet and go along with the evil scheme that the brothers had to first kill Joseph. Judah was the one that suggested that instead of killing Joseph they should sell him and get some gain.
Christians traditionally accuse Judah of being greedy and money hungry. It is more correct to view Judah as having been in fact, the brother who was more concerned for his brother Joseph and for the reaction of Jacob his father if Joseph would have been killed. Now we see Judah’s real character.
He is willing to take the place of Benjamin. He is asking Joseph to release Benjamin and keep him instead of Benjamin in Egypt as collateral that the brothers will return with their father to Egypt. In chapter 44:30-31, we find one of the most emotional texts in Genesis:
“…since his life is bound up in the lad’s life, it will happen, when he sees that the lad is not with us, that he will die.” – Genesis 44:30,31 [NKJV]
Now we understand that Jacob’s love for Joseph and Benjamin is connected to Jacob’s love for Rachel that was greater than his love for Leah. Now we understand how much Jacob grieved for Joseph and how worried Jacob was for Benjamin’s fate. Judah did a great job showing his deep care for his father Jacob, and for his younger brother Benjamin.
Judah melted Joseph’s heart with the deep devotion and care that Judah had for his father and brother. This deed of Judah proves that Judah’s advice to his brothers not to kill Joseph was not a matter of greed but a matter of an internal sense of Justice. Judah’s advice to sell Joseph was the only way that Judah could save Joseph’s life, realizing that Joseph would have had a chance to have a life, even if he was sold to the Ishmaelites.
We must always look at the positive side of things and to not think the worst of people before we have fully examined the facts. The Torah commands the judges:
“One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established. If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, then both men in the controversy shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days. And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so, you shall put away the evil from among you.” – Deuteronomy 19:15-19 [NKJV]
This accusation against Judah in Christian history is not coming from facts, but it is coming from a deep hate inherited against the Jews and the Jewish nation from the pits of hell. If the facts were checked on the accusations against the Jews and their wealth – just a few of them are wealthy, the wealthiest people in the world are not Jews – but, if there would be a check, an objective check of the facts would reveal that a few Jews became wealthy by hard work, wise thinking, and a good business sense. There are very few Jews in the jails of the world for fraud or other criminal acts.
Judah in front of Joseph is showing his true character. The character of a son who loves his father very much. He is a person who is concerned about doing what is right. He is an emotional character and a person of strong passion that can sin, and confess his sins, putting himself at the mercy of the law. Joseph melts after hearing the words of Judah.
The big lesson that Joseph teaches his brothers is so important to me personally. The lesson is summarized in verse 5 of chapter 45:
“But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.” – Genesis 45:5 [NKJV]
Joseph has the ability to look at his life, at his sufferings as a slave and as a prisoner that was not guilty of any crime, as the work of God and as his preparation for becoming the savior of his brothers and Israel and by the way, also the savior of Egypt.
What a major drama is being played out in the story of Joseph from the very beginning in Genesis chapter 37, and now 9 chapters later. A saga full of drama, of hate, deception, intrigue, and behind all of these events Joseph understands that it was all a part of God’s theater of the absurd.
The only one who really knew what was happening was none other than the Creator of the Universe, God Himself, who was the producer, the director, and the main character in this drama.
This is how God works in order to save His people. He works in history and through history and uses history and all that surrounds history to plan and execute His eternal plan, the plan to save humanity. To first and foremost, save humanity from itself, and secondly to save humanity from the powers of deception and the principalities of this world that are attempting to overthrow the Creator and to take control of, and to enslave, His people.
Joseph is a savior figure, he represents a kind of pattern for what a savior figure should be in this world of God! Moses is also a savior figure. He had to spend 40 years serving a pagan priest – Jethro, a priest of Midian. He didn’t get much honor for being the prince of Egypt.
He suffered among the gentiles for the second 40 years of his life. He suffered the third 40 years, leading the children of Israel in the wilderness, and bringing them to the entrance to the land of Canaan.
The ultimate example of this same pattern that is still influencing the whole world, is of course Yeshua of Nazareth. The pattern started with Joseph, continued with Moses, and was ultimately fulfilled and played out in the manifestation of Yeshua.
On a smaller scale every man of God had to more or less fulfill the same pattern. The prophets of the Lord didn’t have a plush life of comfort and riches because they spoke the word of the Lord in the city squares and from the walls of the cities of Israel. They too suffered and paid dearly for their calling, to speak the word of God to people who didn’t really want to hear it.
The conclusion of the story of Joseph is this:
“And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now 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 a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.” – Genesis 45:7,8 [NKJV]
I don’t know when Joseph reached this conclusion that all that had happened to him in his life, the good, the bad, and the ultimate success, was a part of God’s grand scheme to save Israel and that everything bad that happened to him was to save the lives of his family! How much I wish that I would have come to the same conclusion as Joseph did, earlier in my life.
Now I am so happy to know that the Lord was faithful to make all things for my personal good and for the good of the people of God and for the kingdom of the Lord. I can confess that even when I was 16 years old, and away from family, home, and childhood friends, I never felt bitter for the hardships that I had to go through.
I can also confess that I didn’t really understand why those things were happening to me, but I always thanked the Lord for everything. There were many people, strangers, teachers, farmers, preachers, and teachers, who were used by the Lord in my life, proving to me that He is still alive and still the same Lord and savior as He was for Joseph and for David, and for those who are willing to put their lives in the hands of the “man from Galilee.”
In the end of it all, every hardship and suffering brings us closer to the calling and purpose for which we are called by the Lord!
The last point is that Joseph, in spite of all his greatness in Egypt, never forgot who he was and where he came from. All the wealth of Egypt didn’t blind his eyes from the true mission that he received from God.
I bless each and every one who reads this and pray that they will have the strength to be willing to suffer for the Lord if and when necessary, and to flourish and grow in stature and greatness like Joseph and to always know who you are and where you belong!
This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.