“Positioning for Restoration”
by Mark Huey
This week in V’yigash, the sons of Jacob/Israel finally experience a restoration of their familial relationship, after years of being estranged from their brother Joseph. For the past two Torah readings (V’yeishev: Genesis 37:1-40:23; Mikkeitz: Genesis 41:1-44:17) the emphasis has been principally on the trials of Joseph and his brothers, as the melodrama of their interactions is recorded. However, perceptible behind the scenes of these trying circumstances is the sovereign hand of the Almighty—who executed His faithful plans for His people, despite some of the decisions of the principal actors at this stage in history. After all, the Holy One had issued eternal promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their progeny, and He was simply using these events to accomplish His purposes in His perfect timing.
Up until our own time in the Twenty-First Century, as we have witnessed a tumultuous Twentieth Century with two world wars, the advent of the atomic bomb, the Holocaust, and the rebirth of the State of Israel—this Torah reading asks us questions about the restoration of Israel, which ultimately requires us to place ourselves in the complete control of an Eternal God. The associated Haftarah for V’yigash, Ezekiel 37:15-28, speaks of a greater restoration of Israel, which we have yet to see completed. Yet, the events covered in the readings assigned with V’yigash, and its prophetic foreshadowings or prophetic pronouncements, surely have to be realized before the Second Coming of the Messiah (cf. Acts 3:21).
In recent readings, we have witnessed the selling of Joseph to the Ishmaelite traders, and his cruel and unsure journey from a mere slave to a forgotten prisoner to the pinnacle of power as ruler over Egypt during a regional famine. We have seen the ten brothers sojourn to Egypt in search of food, and return to their father Israel with Simeon still held in captivity by the Egyptians. When the famine persisted, the need to return to Egypt to secure some grain presented itself with a major complication. The need to take Benjamin, the youngest son of Jacob/Israel, was a requirement for gaining a return audience with the demanding Egyptian overseer. This was something that the doting Jacob initially refused to let happen, because of his fear of losing the second and only remaining son of his beloved Rachel. However over the course of time, the contrast between Joseph’s faith in the Holy One, and the brothers’ apparent lack of faith, was changing—as Judah, in particular, was highlighted with a softening conscience and tender heart toward his father Jacob/Israel. In the previous Mikkeitz portion from last week, Judah self-sacrificially secured the permission of Jacob/Israel to take the beloved Benjamin to Egypt to secure the release of Simeon, and get some grain, by offering himself as a surety for the safe return of Benjamin (Genesis 43:9).
From this willingness to essentially sacrifice himself and take blame, Judah had come a considerable way in his personal journey from a conniving brother, who originally suggested to his brothers that they sell Joseph to some traders rather than kill him (Genesis 37:27). Remember how Judah was the one brother who left the family fold to marry a Canaanite woman, with all of the attendant problems with his first three sons. Then, Judah unknowingly impregnated his daughter-in-law with twins, realizing that she was more righteous than he (Genesis 38). Of course, the Lord was using all of these circumstances to work on the heart of Judah, who was destined to not only be one of the leaders of his generation, but also be a significant ancestor of Yeshua the Messiah. God does work in mysterious ways, and reading about the interactions with the sons of Jacob/Israel confirms this concept. As would be described by Isaiah centuries later:
“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it’” (Isaiah 55:8-11).
Note that in these profound words from Isaiah, where he proclaimed the ways and thoughts of God as being so much higher and greater than human thought—there is the affirmation that God’s word will not return to Him empty, but will accomplish all that He desires it to accomplish. We may safely conclude that the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and even to Joseph through his dreams, are going to eventually come to pass according to God’s will.
As we more closely into this week’s Torah reading, keep in mind that the Holy One was accomplishing His purposes for this generation of Israelites, who just happened to be the immediate descendants of Jacob/Israel. Keep in mind that there are many Messianic attributes being portrayed by both Joseph and Judah. These two sons, destined to be the leaders of their generation, were establishing a foundation for varied manifestations of conflict between their descendants down through the ages. Also be quite aware of how the restoration of Israel prophecies, seen in the Haftarah (Ezekiel 37:15-28), will be fulfilled in the Lord’s timing. God’s Word does not return void without accomplishing His desires. His people just have to patiently wait, and go about advancing His Kingdom’s objectives as participants in the restoration process!
Judah Offers His Life
If you will recall, in the closing verses of Mikkeitz from last week, Benjamin had been implicated as the purported thief of Joseph’s choice goblet. This generated serious problems for the brothers, as the return of Benjamin to their father was one of their main objectives, given Jacob’s warning about leaving him behind. So as V’yigash begins, the aforementioned Judah entered into a lengthy detailed verbal defense of Benjamin, with the still-concealed Joseph. At the end of his soliloquy, Judah offered his own life for the life of Benjamin, perhaps foreshadowing the Messiah’s giving of His life to save sinful humanity:
“Then Judah approached him, and said, ‘Oh my lord, may your servant please speak a word in my lord’s ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are equal to Pharaoh. My lord asked his servants, saying, “Have you a father or a brother?” We said to my lord, “We have an old father and a little child of his old age. Now his brother is dead, so he alone is left of his mother, and his father loves him.” Then you said to your servants, “Bring him down to me that I may set my eyes on him.” But we said to my lord, “The lad cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.” You said to your servants, however, “Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you will not see my face again.” Thus it came about when we went up to your servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. Our father said, “Go back, buy us a little food.” But we said, “We cannot go down. If our youngest brother is with us, then we will go down; for we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.” Your servant my father said to us, “You know that my wife bore me two sons; and the one went out from me, and I said, “Surely he is torn in pieces, and I have not seen him since. If you take this one also from me, and harm befalls him, you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.” Now, therefore, when I come to your servant my father, and the lad is not with us, since his life is bound up in the lad’s life, when he sees that the lad is not with us, he will die. Thus your servants will bring the gray hair of your servant our father down to Sheol in sorrow. For your servant became surety for the lad to my father, saying, “If I do not bring him back to you, then let me bear the blame before my father forever.” Now, therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me—for fear that I see the evil that would overtake my father?’” (Genesis 44:18-34).
In this eloquent and heartfelt recital of the various conversations Judah had with Jacob/Israel, regarding Benjamin and Judah’s pledge to lay down his life for Benjamin, Joseph was obviously moved to great emotion.
Joseph Reveals Himself
Now, in what has to be one of the most incredibly moving testimonies found in the Bible. Joseph revealed himself to his brothers. After listening to Judah’s words, and having discerned that Judah was seriously concerned about the welfare of not only Benjamin, but most especially their father Jacob—Joseph was so overwhelmed with emotion that he ordered all of the Egyptians out of the room, and he wept loudly before his brothers. Can you imagine what they must have been thinking, as they witnessed the person with absolute power over their lives, begin to break down emotionally? Without giving the brothers much time to process what they were watching, Joseph turned to them and proclaimed to them that he was Joseph, whom the brothers believed was probably dead by this time:
“Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, ‘Have everyone go out from me.’ So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it. Then 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. Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Please come closer to me.’ And they came closer. And he said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be grieved 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 still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry 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 delay. You shall live in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children and your flocks and your herds and all that you have. There I will also provide for you, for there are still five years of famine to come, and you and your household and all that you have would be impoverished.”’ Behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth which is speaking to you. Now you must tell my father of all my splendor in Egypt, and all that you have seen; and you must hurry and bring my father down here.’ Then he fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. He kissed all his brothers and wept on them, and afterward his brothers talked with him” (Genesis 45:1-15).
God is not only the One who forms hearts, but He is also the most accomplished heart surgeon when it comes to turning hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. Apparently, all of the machinations from the multi-colored tunic, to the placement of Joseph’s wine goblet in Benjamin’s satchel, have all been used by the Almighty to get the attention of the brothers—who must have been awestruck with the realization that the Egyptian viceroy was their brother Joseph. However, the evidence of God’s providential hand upon all of these circumstances did not get overlooked by Joseph. Somehow, through the haze of confusion over how he had been treated by his brothers years earlier, any possible thoughts of revenge, and the time spent thinking about how he was going to approach his brothers, Joseph discerned that the Almighty had put all of these circumstances in motion to preserve the family of Jacob/Israel.
After revealing his true identity, Joseph responded to Judah and his brothers, by interjecting that God was ultimately responsible for all of the circumstances that had transpired since he was sold into slavery. This is an incredible testimony of forgiveness, and the ability to view the trials and tribulations of life from God’s perspective! Naturally, one can see how Joseph is often considered to possess various Messianic qualities, because he was used to physically save Israel. Being rejected by His people, He is the very agency by which they are to be delivered.
The Blessing of Pharaoh
As the narrative continues, the blessings upon the sons of Jacob/Israel do not end. Once the Egyptian Pharaoh heard that Joseph had long lost family living in Canaan, he offered to relocate them to the choicest land in Egypt. Obviously the favor of the Pharaoh toward Joseph was so great, that the common Egyptian aversion toward sheepherders did not keep Pharaoh from his generosity (Genesis 46:34). Take notice in this passage of the amount of wealth and goods sent to Jacob, to convince him that Joseph was alive and prospering in Egypt:
“Now when the news was heard in Pharaoh’s house that Joseph’s brothers had come, it pleased Pharaoh and his servants. Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Say to your brothers, “Do this: load your beasts and go to the land of Canaan, and take your father and your households and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you will eat the fat of the land.” Now you are ordered, “Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father and come. Do not concern yourselves with your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.”’ Then the sons of Israel did so; and Joseph gave them wagons according to the command of Pharaoh, and gave them provisions for the journey. To each of them he gave changes of garments, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five changes of garments. To his father he sent as follows: ten donkeys loaded with the best things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain and bread and sustenance for his father on the journey. So he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, ‘Do not quarrel on the journey.’ Then they went up from Egypt, and came to the land of Canaan to their father Jacob. They told him, saying, ‘Joseph is still alive, and indeed he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.’ But he was stunned, for he did not believe them. When they told him all the words of Joseph that he had spoken to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. Then Israel said, ‘It is enough; my son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die’” (Genesis 45:16-28).
There is no recorded description of how the brothers told Jacob about selling their brother Joseph to the Ishmaelite traders. But, one has to assume that the truth did come out in their conversations with Jacob/Israel. Yet, the good news that Joseph was still alive, allowed Jacob to absolve his other sons of their transgressions. For surely, the aged Jacob having heard that Joseph understood that he had been sent to Egypt to save the whole family, must have made sense. After all, Jacob had been through some tough times himself, and he had seen the Lord’s hand on many of the circumstances of his life. Plus, Jacob had experienced multiple encounters with the Holy One over the years.
Perhaps having the opportunity to be reunited with Joseph was the only way that the Lord could get Jacob to even consider leaving Canaan—because Jacob/Israel knew that it was the land of Canaan that was promised to Abraham and Isaac.
Jacob Hears from God
Leaving the Promised Land might jeopardize God’s plan to give it to the descendants of the Patriarchs. What was Jacob to do?
This was a tough predicament for Jacob/Israel to contend with, at this late stage in his life (Genesis 47:9). On his way to Egypt, Jacob arrived in Beersheba, at a place he was very familiar with (Genesis 28:10). It was here that his father Isaac had dug wells and made a covenant with Abimelech (Genesis 26:23-33). So Jacob, knowing that departing Canaan was a difficult move to consider, arrived in Beersheba and offered up sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac—perhaps even on the same altars built years earlier by his ancestors. In God’s mercy to Jacob that night, the Lord spoke to him in visions, giving him the reassurance that going to Egypt was the right thing to be doing with his family. God assured him that He would bring Jacob back to the Land of Promise, but only after Joseph had witnessed his death:
“So Israel set out with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, ‘Jacob, Jacob.’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will close your eyes.’ Then Jacob arose from Beersheba; and the sons of Israel carried their father Jacob and their little ones and their wives in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him. They took their livestock and their property, which they had acquired in the land of Canaan, and came to Egypt, Jacob and all his descendants with him: his sons and his grandsons with him, his daughters and his granddaughters, and all his descendants he brought with him to Egypt” (Genesis 46:1-7).
For the balance of V’yigash, some of the details about the individuals, who migrated and how they were treated by their Egyptian hosts, are recorded (Genesis 46:8-34). However, the introduction of Israel to the Pharaoh is interesting, because at the ripe old age of 130 years, this Hebrew actually blessed the Egyptian ruler twice during their encounter. The favor of the Lord was certainly upon Jacob/Israel and his family, as they were treated with mutual respect, despite the Egyptian disdain for sheepherders:
“Then Joseph went in and told Pharaoh, and said, ‘My father and my brothers and their flocks and their herds and all that they have, have come out of the land of Canaan; and behold, they are in the land of Goshen.’ He took five men from among his brothers and presented them to Pharaoh. Then Pharaoh said to his brothers, ‘What is your occupation?’ So they said to Pharaoh, ‘Your servants are shepherds, both we and our fathers.’ They said to Pharaoh, ‘We have come to sojourn in the land, for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. Now, therefore, please let your servants live in the land of Goshen.’ Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is at your disposal; settle your father and your brothers in the best of the land, let them live in the land of Goshen; and if you know any capable men among them, then put them in charge of my livestock.’ Then Joseph brought his father Jacob and presented him to Pharaoh; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to Jacob, ‘How many years have you lived?’ So Jacob said to Pharaoh, ‘The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and unpleasant have been the years of my life, nor have they attained the years that my fathers lived during the days of their sojourning.’ And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from his presence. So Joseph settled his father and his brothers and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had ordered. Joseph provided his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food, according to their little ones” (Genesis 47:1-12).
God’s Faithfulness to Restore Israel
As we prepare to come to the end of the Book of Genesis, and the testimonies about the Patriarchs of Israel, one overwhelming thought comes to my mind. This is the undeniable fact that from Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, and to the sons of Jacob/Israel—the Holy One will accomplish His intentions. Despite any limited human frailties, or any attempts of the enemy of our souls, to thwart God’s plans—His will for civilization will be achieved. Over and over, we can read about how the Almighty intervened at just the right time with a speaking appearance, or a word or a dream or a vision, so that the family chosen by Him would stay on course to achieve their mission. For surely, there is an understanding that despite whatever challenges, as Yeshua the Messiah would explain to His Disciples, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). The Psalmist and the Apostle Paul also affirm,
“The LORD is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6).
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31).
In the case of the sons of Jacob/Israel, the God of Creation had a plan that He was executing, according to His perfect timing. On a much grander scale for the distant future, God is ultimately going to be restored to all people who take refuge in Him at the End of the Age. In the interim, whether it is individual reunions between one person and a loving Creator as salvation is understood and received, or whether it is restoration among families and friends through the power of forgiveness and love, or whether it is the ultimate restoration that Ezekiel foresaw between the House of Judah and the House of Israel/Ephraim—be rest assured that God is very much blessed when restoration occurs. We see emotional glimpses of it when Joseph hugged and wept with his brothers. We see it again when the aged Jacob greeted Joseph after years of separation. Hopefully, you have experienced some restoration in your own life, which will allow you to identify with what you have been studying.
Let us all be about the Father’s business of making restoration, in love, to all who call upon the name of Yeshua (Jesus). It is a part of the plan for the Creation. May we make it a part of our lifestyle as His representatives, sent to love others into the Kingdom!