Last week, Jacob came to Egypt with his sons and their families and was reunited with his beloved son, Joseph.
For over 20 years, he had believed that Joseph had been killed by wild animals while he was on a mission to check on his older brothers. Instead, he found him alive in Egypt as viceroy, second only to Pharaoh.
In this week’s Parasha, Vayechi, Jacob lives his final 17 years in Egypt.
Vayechi begins, however, with Jacob entreating Joseph to swear that he will not bury him in Egypt, but carry his body back to the Promised Land.
Although God had prospered Jacob and his family in Egypt, it was not home. Jacob did not forget God’s covenant promise to give him and his descendants the Land forever.
God of the Living
Although Vayechi means and he lived, this Torah portion highlights Jacob’s closing years, as well as his death.
This is in keeping with the Judaic belief system that the deceased righteous do not die but continue to live on eternally. In fact, the Talmud, a central text of Rabbinic Judaism, states that “Jacob never died.”
Yeshua actually eluded to something similar when he said, “Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” (Mark 12:26 –27)
Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah) provides profound comfort to those of us who think that we have already “blown it” and cannot aspire to the same heights of spirituality as our forefather Jacob.
He said that those who would hear His word and follow Him would by their faith have eternal life:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” (John 5:24)
And similar to the way Joseph sustained his family and all of Egypt through the famine by providing life-giving bread, Yeshua is the Living Bread that came down from Heaven and sustains us forever:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51)
The Scepter of Judah
At the end of Jacob’s earthly life, the question of succession and inheritance arose—who would inherit the spiritual leadership of the people of Israel?
Reuven, the firstborn, was disqualified because of his impulsiveness, which was demonstrated in his laying with his father’s concubine, Bilha. (Genesis 35:22)
Simeon and Levi were also disqualified because of their cruel anger as demonstrated by their mass revenge murder at Shechem. (Genesis 34:25–26)
Although Jacob pronounced a blessing over all of his sons while on his deathbed, he reserved his highest blessing for his favored son, Joseph.
Still, even Joseph was not appointed the next leader since his brothers’ hatred may have compromised the unity that is so necessary for keeping the tribes of Israel together.
Since the older brothers were disqualified from the birthright inheritance, the mantle of leadership passed to Judah (Yehudah), and Jacob declared this Messianic prophesy while blessing him:
“The scepter will never depart from Judah, nor a ruler’s staff from between his feet, until the One comes, who owns them both, and to Him will belong the allegiance of nations.” (Genesis 49:10)
This passage reveals several things about the Messiah, who Genesis 22:18 had already declared would be a male descendant of Abraham:
- He would be a descendant of Judah.
- He would be a King.
- His rule would extend beyond Israel to include the entire world.
Yeshua Fulfills Jacob’s Messianic Prophecy
Interestingly enough, this Messianic prophecy has a temporal element.
It reveals that Judah’s kingly authority would remain until Messiah comes. In fact, the Talmud confirms that Judah’s ability to pronounce capital sentences was lost about 40 years before the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, which indicates their loss of authority.
About that same time, Yeshua (Jesus) began His ministry, and only a few later, the Romans murdered Him on the execution stake.
While the first coming of Yeshua fulfills Jacob’s prophecy, at this time it is only partially fulfilled since only the Gentiles and about one percent of the Jewish People have received Him.
When He comes the second time to assert His Kingship, all the Gentiles and Jewish People will entirely submit to His authority.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…. Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate. For I tell you, you will not see Me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Matthew 23:37–39)
They will submit to Him because Yeshua, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed.” (Revelation 5:5)
Pronouncing the Blessing
“So he blessed them that day, saying, ‘By you Israel will pronounce blessings, saying, God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh.’” (Genesis 48:20)
At the close of Jacob’s life, Jacob pronounced a blessing that forms the basis of how Jewish people bless their sons.