In last week’s Parasha, Pharaoh appointed Joseph administrator over all of Egypt after he correctly interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams regarding the seven years of plenty and seven years of famine.
During the seven years of famine, Joseph’s brothers, who about 20 years earlier had sold him into slavery, came to Egypt to buy grain.
At the end of last week’s Torah portion, Joseph had not yet revealed his identity to his brothers.
Nevertheless, he did test the brothers by planting his silver cup in the sack of his youngest brother, Benjamin. After it was found in Benjamin’s possession, Joseph announced that Benjamin would be his slave.
This is where we pick up the story….
The title of this week’s Parasha, Vayigash, means then he drew nearor approached.
It is a reference to the dramatic and emotional confrontation between two powerful sons of Jacob: Joseph (Yosef), now the mighty viceroy of Egypt, and his brother Judah (Yehudah), who will become father to the tribe from which comes Yeshua, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. (Genesis 44:18)
Judah pleads with Joseph for the release of his brother Benjamin, offering himself as a slave in his place.
Judah explains that his father already lost his oldest son, and he will surely die now if he loses Benjamin, too.
Joseph is overcome by his own emotions as he witnesses the deep loyalty that now exists between the brothers, who are united in their love for their father, Jacob, and the protection of their youngest brother, Benjamin.
Imagine the confusion of the Egyptians and Joseph’s brothers as Joseph commands everyone out of the room except his brothers. Joseph is weeping so loudly that even the Egyptians hear him.
Instead of confronting his brothers with what they did to him, he comforts them saying:
“I am Joseph! Is my father still living?… Come close to me…. I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” (Genesis 45:3–5)
The brothers are sent back to Jacob with the good news that Joseph is still alive.
They are to bring him to Egypt and admonished not to argue with one another along the way. It would have been so easy for their unity to be disrupted by blaming one another for selling Joseph into slavery.
Although Jacob finds it difficult at first to believe that Joseph is still alive, when he sees the Egyptian carts, donkeys and gifts, he is convinced and sets out for Egypt with all of his offspring and all that he owns.
At Beersheva, God appears to Jacob in a vision and reassures him that this trip to Egypt is His will.
God tells him that the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will grow into a mighty people in Egypt, and that He will bring them back again to the Promised Land:
“I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.” (Genesis 46:3–4)
Joseph: A Prophetic Picture of the Messiah
“How good and how pleasant it is when brethren dwell in unity.” (Psalm 133:1)
The reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers provides a beautiful prophetic picture of the restoration that will come between Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah) and his Jewish brothers and sisters.
Just as Joseph said, “Ani Yosef, I am Joseph, your brother…” so will Yeshua one day say, “Ani Yeshua, I am Yeshua, your brother and Messiah.” Halleluyah (Praise God)!
Joseph saved not only his own family, but also the Egyptians. So too, Yeshua came to save not only the House of Israel, but the people of every tongue, tribe, and nation of the earth.
Haftarah (Prophetic Portion) The Prophetic Reunion of a Nation
The Parasha and the Haftarah this week are connected by the themes of separation, loss, and division that are followed by forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation.
Judah’s descendants represent the southern two tribes—Judah and Benjamin; Joseph’s descendants represent the 10 northern tribes of Israel, also called Ephraim, who were later scattered and lost.
The prophet Ezekiel foresaw the Messianic Era when the kingdoms of Judah and Joseph will be reunited, which echoes the first verse of the Torah reading: “Then Judah approached Joseph.”
To fully comprehend Ezekiel’s prophecy, the groundwork of the history of ancient Israel must first be laid.
After the reign of King Solomon (c. 970–931 BC), the nation of Israel split into the Southern Kingdom (represented by the tribe of Judah and Benjamin) and the Northern Kingdom (represented by the ten other tribes called Joseph, Ephraim, or simply Israel).