Miketz / Hanukkah
For the week of December 4, 2010 / 27 Kislev 5771
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 41:1 - 44:17 &
Bemidbar / Numbers 7:24-35
Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14 - 4:7


After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile (Bereshit / Genesis 41:1; ESV)

The Torah, as well as the whole Bible, is not wordy. Perhaps that was due to the scarcity and cost of writing materials in those days, but the lack of lengthy description in no way diminishes its literary depth. So much is communicated in surprisingly few words. An example of this is found in the short phrase at the beginning of our opening quote, "After two whole years". The Hebrew reads, "Va-yehi miketz shenatayim yamim", literally translated as, "And it was at the end of two years of days". The choosing of this kind of expression underscores for us how long a time it really was. The English Standard Version tries to get this across by using "two whole years," but it seems to me that for readers of English, statements of time tend to be understood simply as calendar references. Yet there is more going on here than "Two years later, Pharaoh had a dream." By telling us that "two years of days" went by, we are drawn into the experience of Joseph, who after correctly interpreting the dreams of his fellow dungeon inmates. who happened to be servants of Pharaoh, had to endure over 700 more individual days in that horrible place.

All throughout the Bible we have stories of people who had to endure great hardship for long periods of time. When we read these accounts, to us the waiting periods seem to fly by in an instant, unless we stop and think about it. In Joseph's case in particular, the wording, at least in the original Hebrew, draws our attention to what the passing of time must have been for Joseph after all he had gone through, first in being hated by his own brothers, who sold him into slavery in Egypt, and then his unjust incarceration in an Egyptian dungeon. While God was with him and gave him favor in these difficult circumstances, we cannot underestimate just how difficult it must all have been.

God doesn't work according to our expectation of time. If we would have our druthers, we would get everything instantly. It's as if we think that getting something faster is almost always preferred. But that is not God's way. Good food takes time to grow. Good food takes time to prepare. It takes time to manufacture quality products. Living things develop over time. Good character takes a lifetime.

It is likely that Joseph wasn't ready for the kind of rulership for which God was preparing him. I don't think a person like Joseph, who had no issue telling on his brothers and broadcasting his dreams that spoke of his having a place of prominence among them, would necessarily treat them with the level of kindness that he ended up showing. It is possible that the time delay was partly designed to do a deep work in his heart, so that he would be to his family what they needed him to be despite their earlier abuse of him. I am aware that the Torah gives no comment as to the work of God in Joseph's life, but what we do know is that he endured abusive oppressive circumstances for a long time and that there was something about those last two years that were especially long.

Whatever God was doing in Joseph's heart and life, is this not what many of us go through? There is a proverb that says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life" (Mishlei / Proverbs 13:12: ESV). Waiting for God-given expectations to be fulfilled can be sickening. Those of us who have experienced this at times think we would be better off not having such hopes than to wait and be given glimpses of our hope's fulfillment, only to have to wait again.

But God knows what he is doing. His sense of timing is perfect. We will never know all that he is doing as we wait, but we can be assured that if we truly love God, he is doing everything necessary to accomplish his purposes in us and through us.

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