In last week’s study, Joseph’s brothers became jealous of Joseph and plotted against him because his father favored him above his other sons and because his prophetic dreams revealed his own grand destiny. So they threw him into a pit and then sold him into slavery. While serving honorably as a slave, Joseph was set up and sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
In this week’s reading, Joseph is finally about to come to the end of his many trials and enter into his destiny. In fact, the name of the Parasha, Miketz, the opening verse of this week’s Torah reading, hints at this since this Hebrew word means at the end of.
Joseph is brought out of the darkness of an Egyptian dungeon to interpret the strange dreams of the Pharaoh. In just one day, Joseph is promoted from prison to palace; his life was transformed suddenly from darkness to light.
A Light in the Darkness
Because Miketz coincides with Chanukah (also called the Festival of Lights) this year, this week’s reading has a special Haftarah (prophetic reading) about the prophet Zechariah’s vision of a grand Menorah. He says,
“He asked me, ‘What do you see?’ I answered, ‘I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps. Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.’” (Zechariah 4:2–3)
Two olive trees feed the Menorah with oil. The trees are often considered to refer to Joshua the High Priest and Zerubbabel, religious and political figures.
But since prophecy usually represents present and future and trees in Scripture often represent people, the trees are seen by some to represent Jewish Believers and Gentile Believers, sons of oil who give light in the darkness.
Others think the two trees represent the anointing of the Messiah and Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). Zechariah promises that the Righteous Branch will come and deal with the sin that separates us from God in a single day.
“I am going to bring My servant, the Branch. … and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.” (Zechariah 3:8–9)
The connection to the Ruach seems to be supported in verse 6 of Chapter 4:
“This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6)
In the Holy Sanctuary, the light of the Menorah became a symbol of God’s Divine presence; its light shined not only inside the Temple, but tradition says it also shined out the windows and into Jerusalem where people could see its rays during the dark nights.
During this time of year, when the winter nights are the longest, we sense our need for light more intensely.
Some people even experience what has been termed S.A.D (Seasonal Affective Disorder)—a particular depression brought about by a deficiency of sunlight.
Likewise, when we are going through our “long, dark night of the soul,” we feel more intensely our desire to see even a glimmer of light.
The Hebrew prophet Isaiah wrote of a “Great Light” that would one day come to lift people out of the gloomy darkness: “Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed … The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:1–2)
Who is this “great light” of which Isaiah prophesied? The Light would come in the form of a child, who would eventually rule the nations in righteousness and justice, seated on the throne of His father, David, for all eternity.
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice, from that time forward, even forever.” (Isaiah 9:6–7)
Yeshua HaMashiach (the Messiah—the Anointed One) said, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Light of the World
Chanukah is a celebration of light.
This joyous festival commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people from the oppression of the Greeks who ruled the Jewish people from 332–164 BC.
It was both a physical salvation and a spiritual one, since the Jews were not only rescued from persecution, but also liberated from an enforced Hellenistic/Greek religious system and culture.
They fought for freedom to worship the one true God and keep His commandments as written in the Torah.
But did Yeshua celebrate Chanukah? The only reference in Scripture to Chanukah is found in the Brit Chadashah (New Testament), and it indicates that He more than likely kept the festival.