For the week of December 18, 2004 / 6 Tevet 5765
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 44:18 - 47:27
Haftarah: Ezekiel 37:15-28
Don't Disregard God
How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come upon my father. (Bereshit / Genesis 44:34)
The story of Joseph is one of the most detailed in the entire Bible. One of the more complex parts of the story is when his brothers come to Egypt in their hope to purchase food. It is difficult to understand Joseph's motive in how he deals with them during their two visits. He recognizes them right away, but they have no clue that the Egyptian official they encounter is their very own brother.
As he interacts with them we get insight into Joseph's emotions, but it is not clear how he really feels about these brothers who years before out of intense jealousy, first wanted to kill him, but in the end sold him into slavery. His love for his father and at least his younger brother, Benjamin, is evident, but as for the others, it is difficult to understand why he doesn't immediately reveal his true identity to them.
Joseph had set up the situation in such a way as to create an opportunity to take his younger brother, Benjamin, as his slave. You need to read the story yourself to get the details. It is obvious that he had no intention to mistreat him. It looks as if he was only doing this to see how his brothers would respond.
The response came from his brother Judah, who offered to exchange himself for Benjamin. Joseph and Benjamin had a special place in the heart of their father, Jacob. After seeing how losing Joseph had such a negative effect on Jacob, Judah could not bear the thought of bringing additional misery upon him by the loss of Benjamin as well.
It is at this point that Joseph reveals himself to them. In fact we read he could no long control himself and that his weeping was heard throughout Pharaoh's household. While this was for the most part due to his many years of anguish, confusion, longing and so on, it might be that it was what Judah said that triggered this reaction.
It wasn't that Judah acknowledged the wrong of what they had done to Joseph. If we were in Joseph's place, apart from taking vengeance on his brothers, we might think he was looking for a heart-felt apology. Not knowing that it was actually Joseph they were facing, he, of course, would not get a direct apology. Earlier in the story there is a mention that perhaps their current hardships may be related to what they had done to Joseph, but we never see any signs of true contrition over their mistreatment of him.
One might also expect that Joseph was looking for a concern for Benjamin. After treating Joseph so badly, perhaps now they have learned to care for another one of their younger brothers. But that too is not what Judah expresses.
He does express concern, but not for Benjamin or Joseph. The person he is concerned about is their father. It is this that brings Joseph to tears.
This may have been what Joseph was looking for. One of the things that created friction between Joseph and his brothers in the first place was that their father loved Joseph more than the others (see Bereshit / Genesis 37:3). Without getting into the right and wrong of this, when the brothers mistreated Joseph, they were not thinking about the great effect that this would have upon their father. To hate Joseph as they did was, in a sense, to hate their father.
It is possible that Joseph was aware of this all those years. So when Judah showed the level of concern for their father, Jacob, that he did, it melted Joseph's heart, and led to the much-needed reconciliation.
Joseph is a wonderful picture of the Messiah. Just as Joseph’s rejection by his brothers resulted in his saving the world of his day, so it was with Yeshua. Both Joseph and Yeshua became unrecognizable to their own people. Joseph looked like an Egyptian and Yeshua to many still looks like a Gentile. Just as Joseph eventually revealed himself to his brothers and was reconciled to them, so it will be with Yeshua.
But could it be that one of the keys to this reconciliation is concern for the father? In the case of Israel, it will be a concern for the Heavenly Father. I wonder how much of Israel's inability to see Yeshua for who he really is has to do with an unwillingness to take God himself into account. We tend to be more concerned about preserving our peoplehood and our religion than face God himself.
But before we go too far on this thought, let's not miss how what happened between Judah and Joseph relates to each one of us now.
Have we ever stopped to think how much our mistreatment of others affects God our Father? When we harbor jealousy or hatred toward one another, it is so easy to become focused on getting our own way and to lose sight of how God might feel about the other person and what he wants to do in the situations we are in.
If we claim faith in God, we need to remember to never lose sight of our true Father. The more we are sensitive to how everything in life relates to him first, the more we will be able to live life under his blessing.
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