Vayechi – And he lived

Torah Portion: Genesis 47:28-50:26

Haftarah: I Kings 2:1-12

New Testament: Hebrews 11:21-22, 13:14

In last week’s lesson, Joseph not only revealed his identity to his brothers; but, more importantly, he revealed his forgiveness for their sins against him. Joseph embraced them and kissed them and urged them to bring their father and their families to Goshen, where Joseph provided all the food that the family needed and “gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded” (Gen. 47:11).

But, the final verse in last week’s portion contains the foreboding statement that Israel  “settled in the land of Egypt… and they acquired property in [Egypt].” The sages interpret this as meaning that Israel was not satisfied with what Joseph gave them in Goshen and that they purchased property and spread out all over Egypt. It appears that like Lot, who tired of sojourning with Abraham and became entrapped in Sodom, Israel likewise fell prey to the Egyptian culture. The Midrash sums it up by saying “they were grasped by the land,” meaning that Egypt’s culture was very seductive.

And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years. So the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were 147 years (Gen. 47:28). The word translated here as “lived” can also mean “revive.” Last week we saw that Jacob nearly fainted when he learned that Joseph was not only alive but was ruler of Egypt. This was followed by Jacob’s revival, or resurrection, so to speak, when he heard the words of Joseph. This foreshadows not only Yeshua’s resurrection; but the beginning of the resurrection [harvest] of the scattered House of Israel/Ephraim upon hearing the words of Yeshua (a.k.a. “the gospel”). The theme of resurrection continues this week with the above verse. Jacob was revived, or resurrected, so to speak, in the land of Goshen where he lived in tranquility the remainder of his days. Therefore, this week, we also have a shadow of the resurrection of the righteous and the tranquility that awaits us in the “olam haba” [world to come]. However, Jacob’s tranquility did not include compromise with the culture. He insisted that Joseph return his body to the land promised to the Hebrews. And when the time drew near that Israel must die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “If now I have found favor in your sight, put your hand under my thigh and promise to deal kindly and truly with me. Do not bury me in Egypt, but let me lie with my fathers. Carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burying place.” He answered, “I will do as you have said.” And he said, “Swear to me”; and he swore to him. Then Israel bowed himself upon the head of his bed (47:29-31). That his grave would be next to his father and grandfather was an enduring statement of Jacob’s faith in all that God had promised. The sages teach that Jacob’s faithfulness to the covenant was a living example that Hebrews can live and thrive in exile if they maintain the ways of Torah.

And it came to pass after these things, that one told Joseph, Behold! thy father is sick: and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. And one told Jacob, and said, Behold! thy son Joseph cometh unto thee: and Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed. And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me, And said unto me, Behold! I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession (48:1-6). We should immediately notice the three instances of the word Behold! The Torah is prompting us to be on high alert. The sages notice something else that is most unusual. In the entire Torah scroll, Vayechi, is unique in that there is no open space between it and the preceding parsha. Rashi interprets this anomaly to mean that Jacobs’ prophetic vision was “closed” or limited. Therefore, the children of Israel were blissfully unaware of the suffering and despair that lay ahead of them, as well as of their future deliverance. Is it possible that this portion includes hints of other things that were hidden from them but are revealed to us?

Jacob refers to the time God appeared to him at Bethel. Let us go back to that passage of Scripture:   And Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him, and there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother. God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him. And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you” (Gen. 35:6-12).

After Jacob returned to Eretz Israel, God re-emphasized Jacob’s new name “Israel” which he received the night before he met Esau. He further promised that “a nation AND a company of nations shall come from you.” He received this promise prior to Benjamin’s birth. Thus, when Benjamin [“son of my sorrow,” “son of my right hand”] was born, Jacob discerned that his wives were finished childbearing and that, therefore, the prophecy of a “nation” coming from him was fulfilled. But, Jacob also understood that something must necessarily occur to fulfill the remainder of the prophecy in regard to “a company of nations.” Thus, when Jacob was informed of the existence of Joseph’s two sons, he recognized they were destined to become heads of tribes and full heirs along with Joseph’s brothers. From a Messianic perspective, when the “son of my right hand” [Yeshua] began His ministry in Galilee to the descendants of Joseph’s scattered, dead, and buried offspring, the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel began to sprout up and the fields became “white unto harvest.”

“When Israel saw Joseph’s sons, he said, “Who are these?” (48:8) According to the Midrash, in the very moment that Jacob was preparing to bless the children, by the spirit of God Jacob saw prophetically the wicked kings Jeroboam and his successors who would descend from Ephraim, as well as Jehu and his evil sons who would come from Manasseh. Upon “seeing” this, the horrified Jacob cringed and exclaimed, “Who are these?!!!” But, Joseph brought him back to the moment and assured his father the children were his, meaning that he had brought them up in the ways of holiness. Joseph said to his father, “They are my sons, whom God has given me here.” And he said, “Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them” (48:9). The sages teach that Joseph’s children were elevated to the status of Jacob’s sons because Joseph maintained purity even in the midst of great temptation. In other words, they are saying that Manasseh and Ephraim became full-fledged members of Israel because of GRACE.

Now the eyes of Israel were dim with age, so that he could not see. So Joseph brought them near him, and he kissed them and embraced them. And Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face; and behold, God has let me see your offspring also” (48:10-11). If you can receive it, here is a picture of our Heavenly Father kissing and hugging Yeshua’s gentile offspring.

Then Joseph removed them from his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth (48:12). Here is a shadow of Yeshua releasing His disciples into the world and taking up the ministry of our Great High Priest in Heaven, “always living to intercede” for the saints and transgressors (Heb. 7:25, 53:12).

And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near him. And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands (for Manasseh was the firstborn). And he blessed Joseph and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him, and he took his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said to his father, “Not this way, my father; since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head.” But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations.” So he blessed them that day, saying, “By you Israel will pronounce blessings, saying, ‘God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh.'” Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh (48:13-20). Once again, Abba upsets a father’s expectations and gives the birthright to the second-born son. But, this time, we are left scratching our heads to determine the reason. We recall that Yahweh preferred Able over Cain, Isaac over Ishmael, and Jacob over Esau. In each case we discerned through Scripture that the birthright went to the one who was striving for holiness. In the view of the sages, Ephraim chose the study of Torah while Manasseh was Joseph’s faithful steward. However, in Scripture, Joseph’s sons are completely hidden from view and there is no apparent reason for choosing Ephraim over Manasseh.

Among Hebrews, the right hand is traditionally placed upon the object of blessing. Notice that as Joseph arranged the boys before his father, the right hands of both Joseph and Jacob rested on Ephraim. Thus, Joseph unwittingly affirmed the younger son’s preeminence. Even today, on Friday nights, Jewish fathers around the world on Friday nights speak a blessing over their sons, saying, “May you be as Ephraim and Manasseh….” God designed that the Jewish faithful would be reminded weekly that Joseph’s sons were elevated to full-fledged tribal leaders because of Jacob’s blessing, and would, therefore, be motivated to bless their own offspring accordingly. The right to bless was given to Abraham; (12:2) and, therefore, is the inheritance of Abraham’s seed. We have not understood that if we will choose by faith to bless, God Himself will bring it to fruition according to His purposes.

Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers (48:21). Yeshua likewise promised He would not leave His disciples as orphans. The Comforter, the Ruach HaKodesh, would attend to His followers (John 14:16-26, 15:26, 16:7) and God would return to bring them back to the land (Mat. 13:30,24:31, Mark 13:27,Luke 3:7, John 11:52, Eph. 1:10).

Moreover, I have given to you rather than to your brothers one mountain slope that I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow” (48:21-22). Rashi interprets this “mountain slope” as Shechem. His belief is that when Levi and Simeon killed the men of Shechem in revenge for abducting and raping Dinah, their neighbors retaliated, thereby forcing Jacob into a battle over which God gave him victory. Prior to this, Jacob had purchased a piece of land in Shechem for a hundred pieces of silver (33:19); but the end result of the events concerning Dinah, according to Rashi, is that Jacob took ownership of the entire region. Indeed, we read afterwards that Jacob sent his sons to pasture the flocks in Shechem (37:14); though, unfortunately for the sheep, they had instead moved to Dothan, a place of a dry well (37:17). The point is, obviously, that Jacob would not have sent his sons and flocks back to Shechem if he believed they would have been in any danger. Why do we need to look at Shechem again at the end of Jacob’s life?

Shechem was the first place where God spoke to Abram in the land of Canaan. It is the site where Abram built his first altar to Yahweh and where he visited the Oak of Moreh, which means “teacher” and shares the root word of Torah, yareh, which means to flow like water, to shoot like an arrow, to teach and to instruct. We must also recall that Shechem is the valley between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerazim. On Mount Gerazim, according to God’s command, half of the tribes, lead by Levi and Simeon, would bless the children of Israel for keeping the commandments, while the other six tribes would curse from Mount Ebal any who refused to keep the commandments (see Deut. 11:29, Deut. 27). Shechem means “shoulder,” reminding us of the shoulders that carried the wood to Moriah and of those that carried the cross to Golgotha. It also pictures Yeshua’s yoke, His Father’s commandments, which He describes as “easy,” as well as the talit over His shoulders, which extends to protect those who keep the commandments, thus providing a picture of the “secret place of the Most High God” (Ps. 91:1).

This fertile region was ultimately allotted to Joseph’s sons (Joshua 17:7, 20:7), and Shechem, itself, was designated as one of the six cities of refuge for any who had slain a man unintentionally, so that they could escape the avenger (Num. 35:6-29). Perhaps we should consider that we are each responsible for the death of an innocent man. “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life in Messiah Yeshua.” (Romans 6:23). He willingly took our punishment for transgressing His Father’s Torah and He has become our “refuge” from the wrath of God as well as from satan, the accuser of our souls.

It was in Shechem where Joshua made his famous “as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” speech and where, before his death, he renewed the covenant with the children of Israel to keep the commandments of Yahweh (Josh. 24:15-25). Shechem is where Joshua buried Joseph’s bones (Josh. 24:32) according to Joseph’s decree this week (50:25). It is also the location of Jacob’s well, where Yeshua met the woman (John 4) who turned an entire village upside down with her testimony.

Can we sum up the main idea of Shechem, then, as entering into covenant with Yahweh, keeping His commandments, and thereby finding refuge in Him? Could this week’s obscure reference to Shechem be tied to the book of Revelation, where it is written: Here is the patience [endurance, ability to wait, hope, perseverance] of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Yeshua (Rev. 14:12). As an aside, did it ever occur to you that “saints” are defined as those who keep the commandments of God and have faith in Yeshua? He WAS from the beginning! Those who had faith in the God of Israel had faith in Yeshua!!! Abraham had faith in Yeshua, Isaac had faith in Yeshua! Moses had faith in Yeshua, as did Caleb and Joshua. David had faith in Yeshua! The prophets had faith in Yeshua! Yeshua is Israel’s Creator, Savior, King, Redeemer, and the Holy One of Israel!

For I am Yahweh your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. (Isaiah 43:3)

I am Yahweh, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King (Isaiah 43:15).

Our Redeemer—the LORD of hosts is his name— is the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 47:4).

Then Jacob called his sons and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come. Assemble and listen, O sons of Jacob, listen to Israel your father (49:1-2). “Days to come” is in Hebrew, “acharit ha yamim meaning “end of days.” Therefore, we should expect what follows to be very pregnant with Messianic themes. Jacob’s last instructions to the twelve tribes of Israel begin with four injunctions: “gather yourselves together,” “assemble,” and “listen”, “listen.” The Last Will and Testament of Jacob deserves much attention. The last two injunctions, “listen”, “listen,” are the same Hebrew word—and it should come as no surprise. “Sh’ma! sh’ma!” To sh’ma means to listen with the full intent of immediate obedience. At first glance, “gather yourselves together” and “assemble” might seem redundant. However, in the Hebrew, they are very different. The first, awsaph bears the connotation of being brought together to be removed from something and to be restored. It means to withdraw from something and to receive, and, interestingly, it means to bring up the rear. This is astounding in light of the current move of God to draw His people out of cultural traditions and to restore them to His Torah in these last days. The second word, qabats, means to grasp, to collect, to take up, to gather, or to be gathered, which is exactly what Yahweh foretold through Moses and the prophets:

Then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather [qabats] you, and from there he will take you. And the LORD your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers (Deut. 30:3-5).

Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather [qabats] you. I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Bring out the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears! Let all the nations be [qabats] gathered together, and let the people be assembled [awsaf]…(Isaiah 43:5-9a)

Lift up your eyes around and see; they all gather [qabats], they come to you. As I live, declares the LORD, you shall put them all on as an ornament; you shall bind them on as a bride does. “Surely your waste and your desolate places and your devastated land— surely now you will be too narrow for your inhabitants, and those who swallowed you up will be far away. The children of your bereavement will yet say in your ears: ‘The place is too narrow for me; make room for me to dwell in.’ Then you will say in your heart: ‘Who has borne me these? I was bereaved and barren, exiled and put away, but who has brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; from where have these come?'” Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and raise my signal to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders. Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you, and lick the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame” (Isaiah 49:18-23).

The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather [qabats] yet others to him besides those already gathered.” (Isaiah 56:8)

“Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather [qabats] together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip. (Isaiah 60:4).

“For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather [qabats] all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory … And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to … the coastlands far away, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations. And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the LORD, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the LORD, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD” (Isaiah 66:18-20).

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. Then I will gather [qabats] the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD (Jer. 23:1-4).

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather [qabats] you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. (Jer. 29:11-16).

For thus says the LORD: “Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, ‘O LORD, save your people, the remnant of Israel.’ Behold, I will bring them from the north country and gather [qabats] them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. “Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather [qabats] him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’ For the LORD has ransomed Jacob and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall be like a watered garden, and they shall languish no more (Jer. 31:8-12).

Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: I will gather [qabats] you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.’ And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (Eze. 11:18-20)

I will bring you out from the peoples and gather [qabats] you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will enter into judgment with you face to face. As I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you, declares the Lord GOD. I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant. I will purge out the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against me. I will bring them out of the land where they sojourn, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD. “As for you, O house of Israel, thus says the Lord GOD: Go serve every one of you his idols, now and hereafter, if you will not listen to me; but my holy name you shall no more profane with your gifts and your idols. “For on my holy mountain, the mountain height of Israel, declares the Lord GOD, there all the house of Israel, all of them, shall serve me in the land. There I will accept them, and there I will require your contributions and the choicest of your gifts, with all your sacred offerings. As a pleasing aroma I will accept you, when I bring you out from the peoples and gather [qabats] you out of the countries where you have been scattered. And I will manifest my holiness among you in the sight of the nations. (Eze. 20:34-41).

This is the Second Exodus which we mentioned in Vayetse and discussed in Vayishlach. This is by no means an exhaustive list of Yahweh’s promises to gather His people at the end of days, take them aside to teach them His ways, and return them to Eretz Israel. Once a person grasps this concept, it unfolds as a major biblical theme. Other such passages can be found here: Psalm 106:47,107:3, Isaiah 11:12, 40:11, 45:20, 48:14, Jeremiah. 23:3, 32;37, Ezekiel 28:25, 34:13, 37:21, 38:8, 39:27, Hosea 1:11, 8:10, 9:6, Micah 12:2, 4:6, 12, Zephaniah 3:19-20, Zechariah 10:8-10, Mat. 13:30, 24:31,Mark 13:27, Luke 3:17, John 11:52, Eph. 1:10.

It is significant that Jacob first promised Joseph that God would bring him back to the land (48:21). While Joseph bones were, indeed, returned and buried in Shechem, Joseph himself will return in the resurrection with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But, the Torah emphasizes that Joseph’s offspring, the gentiles who have joined themselves to Israel, will be gathered in the Second Exodus, along with the rest of Israel. Over the last few months we have been able to demonstrate that Rachel and her offspring represent the grafted-in former gentiles, in other words, Christianity.

We come now to the final words that Jacob spoke over each son. In the view of the sages, Jacob had the ability to discern the role that each tribe would play in the building of a nation and his words were designed to both rebuke and bring out the best in each tribe. We start off on a sour note with Reuben.

“Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the first fruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it—he went up to my couch! (49:3-4) According to Rambam, Reuben’s intent in the affair with Bilhah was to prevent his father from having more children with her, therefore preventing the sharing of the family heritage. Reuben received measure-for- measure punishment in that he lost the firstborn’s share. It is interesting that Moses’ blessing (Deut. 33:6) is even bleaker for Reuben. “Let Rueben live and not die; but let his men be few.” Beloved, understand there are dire consequences to sin; but, as Matthew Henry points out, Reuben was not rejected as was Esau. To the contrary, the tribe maintained dignity and commanded respect through the course of biblical history, made up of excellent soldiers and good agriculturists who were loyal to Israel. Though they asked to settle on the east side of the Jordan, they eagerly helped their brothers fight for the territory on the west before returning to their rest. Reuben was one of six tribes who stood on Mount Ebal to curse the children of Israel who did not keep the commandments of Yahweh. According to Yair Davidy who has studied the migration of the tribes extensively, Reuben mainly settled in the area of modern France.

“Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined to their company. For in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel (49:5-7). The Levites were, indeed, scattered in all Israel when Yahweh decreed that the Levites would have no tribal portion (Num. 18:24). Instead, the priesthood would be their heritage (Josh. 18:7). This actually turned out to be a blessing to all of Israel, because the priests were valuable Torah teachers and prayer warriors. Therefore, Levi is scattered throughout the earth today. Simeon, as we reported in parsha Vayishlach, was given a portion inside of Judah’s portion, and thereby is effectively assimilated in Judah. Even Moses foresaw that, for Simeon is missing from Moses’ blessing in Deut. 33. Simeon and Levi head the list of tribes chosen to bless on Mount Gerazim.

“Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until [Shiloh] comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk” (49:8-12). Hearing Jacob’s stinging rebuke to Reuben, and the lesser one to Levi and Simeon, Judah must have cringed, recalling his suggestion to sell Joseph, his departure from the family, and his affair with Tamar. But, Jacob surprised him. Somewhere along the way, Judah had become a new creation and his father recognized it. When tempted to sell out his brother, Benjamin, instead Judah offered to become surety for him. Thus, his father saw he was worthy of leadership. As one commentator points out, even in his sin, Judah showed the seeds of integrity. His suggestion to sell Joseph was to placate his brothers who desired to kill him. In the incidence with Tamar, he immediately proclaimed that her righteousness exceeded his; and, afterwards, the prodigal went back home to be with his father. Jacob blessed Judah to be a warrior-king; to receive the loyalty of his subjects, and to be their teacher. This was partially fulfilled in the reign of David, and, to a lesser degree, with his son Solomon; but will be completely fulfilled with the return of Messiah Yeshua. Judah was also among the tribes chosen to speak blessings from Mount Gerazim and was the tribe that led Israel in its wanderings.

“Zebulun shall dwell at the shore of the sea; he shall become a haven for ships, and his border shall be at Sidon (49:13). Yair Davidy believes that Holland became a resting place for both Zebulun and Issachar. Rotterdam is said to be the world’s busiest seaport. Moses links Zebulun with Issachar in his prophecy (Deut. 33:18-19) praising them for their industry and sacrifices. The sages teach that Zebulun made financial provision so that Issachar could study Torah at length; therefore, even though he was the younger, he was blessed first. He was chosen to speak curses from Mount Ebal.

“Issachar is a strong donkey, crouching between the sheepfolds. He saw that a resting place was good, and that the land was pleasant, so he bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant at forced labor (Gen. 49:14-15). Issachar, Scripture tells us, understands the times and knows what Israel ought to do. This is most certainly because they were Torah scholars, as the sages believe. Issachar was chosen to speak blessings from Mount Gerazim.

“Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that his rider falls backward (49:16-17). Dan was the rear guard of Israel in the desert wanderings. Dan, according to Yair Davidy, settled in Denmark, Wales, Britian, and, in large numbers, in the USA. Dan was chosen to speak curses on Mount Ebal.

“Raiders shall raid Gad, but he shall raid at their heels” (49:19). Davidy identifies Gad in Scotland, Ireland, the Balkans, Scandinavia, and Sweden. Compare Jacob’s blessing with the Scottish moto: ‘Nemo me impune lacessit’, meaning ‘no one attacks me with impunity’, or, if you attack me, I will strike back. Gad was chosen to speak curses on Mount Ebal.

“Asher’s food shall be rich, and he shall yield royal delicacies” (49:20). According to Davidy, Asher migrated to North Africa, Britain, Scandinavia, Scotland, and Norway, the latter two having oil reserves in the North Sea. Interestingly, Moses blessed Asher, saying, “…let him dip his foot in oil.” (Deut. 33:24). Asher was chosen to speak curses on Mount Ebal.

“Naphtali is a doe let loose that bears beautiful fawns”(49:21). According to Davidy, this tribe established an empire bordering on Persia, China, and India and became masters of central and northern India from which they were expelled afterwards, perhaps fleeing into modern Afghanistan and Mongolia. He was chosen to curse from Mount Ebal.

“Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; his branches run over the wall. The archers bitterly attacked him, shot at him, and harassed him severely, yet his bow remained unmoved; his arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), by the God of your father who will help you, by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that crouches beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents, up to the bounties of the everlasting hills. May they be on the head of Joseph, and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers” (49:22-26). History clearly demonstrates that these blessings have gone to the modern western nations, and, in particular, to the United States of America. Joseph was chosen to bless at Mount Gerazim.

“Benjamin is a ravenous wolf, in the morning devouring the prey and at evening dividing the spoil” (49:27). The sages teach that “morning” refers to Saul, first king of Israel, who, in his short reign defeated Moab, Edom, and Philistia; and, that “evening” refers to Mordecai and Esther, who defeated Haman and received the spoil of his vast wealth. Benjamin was chosen to bless from Mount Gerazim.

All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each with the blessing suitable to him (49:28). The Torah emphasizes there are twelve tribes. In general, whenever Levi is included in a list of tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh are listed simply as “Joseph.”

Then he commanded them and said to them, “I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, in the cave that is in the field at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite to possess as a burying place. There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife. There they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah— the field and the cave that is in it were bought from the Hittites.” When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people (49:28-33). Jacob reiterated his desire to be buried in Canaan and gave specific instructions in case, seventeen years after leaving, it had been seized by the local residents. This portrays the seizing of holy sites in our day by the Palestinians.

Then Joseph fell on his father’s face and wept over him and kissed him. And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel. Forty days were required for it, for that is how many are required for embalming. And the Egyptians wept for him seventy days (50:1-3). Typically, a Hebrew is put into the ground the same day of death. It was necessary for Jacob to be embalmed because the body would deteriorate in the three week journey back to Canaan.

And when the days of weeping for him were past, Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh, saying, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, please speak in the ears of Pharaoh, saying, ‘My father made me swear, saying, “I am about to die: in my tomb that I hewed out for myself in the land of Canaan, there shall you bury me.” Now therefore, let me please go up and bury my father. Then I will return.'” And Pharaoh answered, “Go up, and bury your father, as he made you swear” (50:4-6). Note that Joseph does not ask Pharaoh directly. He asks Pharaoh’s officials to intercede on his behalf, indicating that Joseph believed Pharaoh might feel threatened by his leaving.

So Joseph went up to bury his father. With him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, as well as all the household of Joseph, his brothers, and his father’s household. Only their children, their flocks, and their herds were left in the land of Goshen (50:7-8). That Joseph “went up” is another hint of Yeshua’s resurrection and, as well, of His ascension to His Father. In this passage, we also find a clue that Israel’s bondage began with Jacob’s death. Whereas, people of that day did not travel without their children, Pharaoh must have insisted upon it to be certain that Joseph and company would return to Egypt. A later Pharaoh, “who knew not Joseph” will make a similar suggestion. Note also that Joseph personally attended to the details of his father’s burial. Later, Moses, who was even greater than Joseph, will do the same by personally being responsible for carrying Joseph’s bones in the Exodus and making sure they were brought to Shechem.

And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen. It was a very great company. When they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, they lamented there with a very great and grievous lamentation, and he made a mourning for his father seven days (50:9-10). Jewish commentary on this passage is very interesting. Literally, the phrase reads , “threshing floor of thorns.” The sages teach that the Canaanites attempted to stop the burial; but when they saw Joseph’s crown hanging on the coffin, they relented and hung their own crowns on it, 36 in all, in tribute to the Patriarch, which, of course, foreshadows Yeshua’s head being crowned with thorns.

When the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning on the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “This is a grievous mourning by the Egyptians.” Therefore the place was named Abel-Mizraim [valley of Egypt]; it is beyond the Jordan (50:11). This became prophecy fulfilled. Jacob’s presence and blessing had brought the famine to an early end. Had Egypt continued to bless his offspring, they themselves would have been blessed. However, they began to be jealous of them, eventually despised them, and ultimately enslaved them. As a result, Egypt would be destroyed, to the “grievous mourning” of the Egyptians.

After he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers and all who had gone up with him to bury his father. When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”‘ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him (50:14-18). Finally, the brothers ask forgiveness of Joseph and he wept at their humility. We see in this a time in the future when all of Yeshua’s followers will seek His forgiveness. “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned, every one, to his own way, and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). Note that the request for forgiveness happens OUTSIDE the land of Israel.

His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them (50:18-21). The Stone Chumash reading of this verse says “they flung themselves before Him” and offered themselves as slaves. So will it be for us when we see Him and truly understand our transgressions and what He has done for us.

So Joseph remained in Egypt, he and his father’s house. Joseph lived 110 years. And Joseph saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation. The children also of Machir the son of Manasseh were counted as Joseph’s own (50:22-23). Yair Davidy and others see a connection between the word Machir and America.

Says Davidy: “In Biblical Hebrew “HaMachiri” literally denotes “The Sons of Machir” (Numbers 26:29) but it could also connote “That which Comes (sic)of Machir” and in this case it was applied as a nickname to Machir himself and then Latinised (sic) to sound something like “America”! The Hebrew version is difficult for untrained westerners to pronounce… and so was rendered in Early Medieval Latin as “Americo” or “Amerigo” and this name was later given to Amerigo Vespucci who gave his name to the land of America. It follows that the name AMERICA may well be understood to mean “Land of Machir” (or “Land of the Sons of Machir”), son of Menasseh (sic).” )

Also, since the above verse references the third generation, it is not a stretch to think the Torah is pointing to Joseph’s children, the House of Israel/Ephraim, who will rise up on the third day according to Hosea’s prophecy, “on the third day He will raise us up.” (Hosea 6:2).

And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” So Joseph died, being 110 years old. They embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt (50:24-25).

“God will surely visit you.” And visit them, He would! He would come to Moses in the form of a burning bush. He would come in the Exodus in the form of a pillar of cloud and pillar of fire. He would come in the desert in the form of a rock that spewed fresh water, which, according to Paul, “followed them.” He would come in the form of the “Angel of the LORD” to Balaam’s donkey, to Gideon, to Samson’s parents, to David at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, to Elijah, to Hezekiah, and to Joshua the High Priest. And then, miracle of miracles, He would be conceived in Mary’s womb, brought forth from a virgin, and would come in the flesh to “tabernacle among us.” He would be tempted on every side, persecuted and reviled, tortured and crucified, to pay the price for Israel’s sins and mine. In the middle of blessing his sons, Jacob cried, “I wait for your salvation, O LORD!” (49:18). It literally reads “I wait for your yeshua, O Yahweh!” We are the most blessed people on the planet because we can declare, “He has come! He has forgiven me! He has adopted me! He has given me His Tree of Life, the Torah of Blessing! And He will come again and restore all things!” Until next week, shalom!

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