Joseph invited his father and all his brothers into exile in Egypt to save them from the famine in Israel.
Leaving the Promised Land was not easy. God, however, assured Jacob that it was right to accept his offer, even though it would begin 400 years of brutal slavery for Jacob’s descendants.
“Then God spoke to Israel in the visions of the night, and said, ‘Jacob, Jacob!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ So He said, ‘I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes.’” (Genesis 46:2–4)
During a previous famine, God instructed Jacob’s father, Isaac, to stay in the land, but in this instance God told Jacob to leave.
This shows us how important it is to listen for God’s voice and obey rather than simply go with whatever decision seem right to us or rely on a solution that worked in the past.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5–6)
Joseph was not only a powerful man, but he was also an excellent provider; he brought his father and all of his brothers to Egypt where he made sure they were well looked after.
“Then Joseph provided his father, his brothers, and all his father’s household with bread, according to the number in their families.” (Genesis 47:12)
Again, we can draw a parallel to Yeshua—the living bread (lechem chayim) who was born in Beit-Lechem (Bethlehem), the house of bread.
The bread that Joseph provided for his brothers sustained them during their lifetime, but the bread that Yeshua gives us sustains life eternally.
“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)
Israel Reunites with Judah
The theme of this wonderful story of Joseph’s reconciliation with his brothers, after so many years of being separated, continues in the Haftarah (prophetic reading), with the reunion of the northern and southern tribes of Israel upon their return from exile.
How did this split between the tribes of Israel happen?
After the reign of King Solomon, the nation of Israel split into the Southern Kingdom (represented by the tribe of Judah & Benjamin) and the Northern Kingdom (represented by the ten other tribes, which are collectively called Joseph, Ephraim, or simply Israel).
While both kingdoms sinned, Judah (Yehudah) returned from exile and still exists today as the Yehudim (Hebrew word for Jews). The ten Northern Tribes went into the nations and became “lost,” although some members of those tribes have returned.
Because of their idolatry, God broke the bonds of brotherhood between Judah and Joseph (Ephraim and Israel):
“Then I cut in two My other staff, bonds, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.” (Zechariah 11:14)
According to Jewish thought, the animosity between Joseph and his brothers (all children of Jacob) foreshadows this later split between Judah and Benjamin with the other tribes of Israel (all children of God).
In an amazing prophecy, however, God promises that one day, there will again be unity between them.
“Surely I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will join them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.”’ (Ezekiel 37:19)
To make sure there is no misunderstanding, God plainly explains this prophetic symbolism:
“Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel.” (Ezekiel 37:21–22)
Of course, there is another reconciliation that God has brought about. Through Yeshua’s sacrificial death on the Roman execution stake—the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile has also been destroyed, resulting in “one new man” out of the two.
Though divisions still do exist, God’s purposes are to reconcile us to Himself and to one another.
“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.” (Ephesians 2:14–16)
There is an even greater reconciliation to come. If we look prophetically at this story of Joseph, we may see that just as Joseph said, “Ani Yoseph: I am Joseph, your brother,” likewise, Yeshua one day will say, “Ani Yeshua: I am your salvation, your brother and your Messiah.” Halleluyah!
When the Jewish people recognize Yeshua as their Messiah, there will also be a great reconciliation that will bring about life-giving change all over the world.
How we long for that great day!
“For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15)