Parashah 12: Vayechi (He lived)
Genesis 47:28 through 50:26
Parashah 12: Vayechi (He lived) - Genesis 47:28 through 50:26
Haftarah (Writings and Prophets): 1 Kings 2:1-12.
B'rit Hadasha (New Testament): Acts 7:9-16; Hebrews 11:21-22; 1 Peter 2:11-17
Tanach Scriptures are from Stern's Complete Jewish Bible; B'rit Chadash Scriptures from the Aramaic English New Testament.
Welcome "newbies" and "oldies!" As you all know, Torah was written by Moshe (Moses) and consists of the first five Books of the Bible which contain God's original Divine Instructions in Righteousness. Since this is a Netzarim (Nazarene/Messianic) website, we refer to God by His proper Name: Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey, transliterated into English as YHWH, and most likely pronounced "Yah-way" (see Exodus 3:13-15). His Son's Name is Y'shua (most likely pronounced "Ye-shoo-ah"). Enjoy this week's Torah portion!
This Torah portion brings us to the end of the Book of Genesis. In the Book of Genesis alone we have witnessed the following:
- The Creation of the entire universe
- The creation of man
- The Fall of man and his eviction from the Garden of Eden
- The world becoming so decadent that YHWH destroyed it by flood
- The rebuilding of mankind through Noah and his family
- The acceptance of YHWH and His Torah by Abraham the pagan Chaldean
- The life stories of our three Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
- The revelation the Tribe of Y'hudah being special (Genesis 49:10 tells us "the scepter will not pass from Y'hudah"...Y'shua our Messiah came from the Tribe of Y'hudah. Micah 4:2 reveals Y'hudah would ultimately be tasked to safeguard and preserve YHWH's Torah....)
- The origin of the Twelve Tribes of Israel
Returning to Joseph, our superstar of the last few Torah portions:
The story of Joseph is absolutely amazing - in part, because it foreshadows our Messiah! Take a look at what we have seen between chapters 37 and 50! When you put the titles of all these portions together, they reveal: He continued living, at the end, He approached, He lived. (View the beginning of each study:Parashah 9, Parashah 10, Parashah 11 and Parashah 12.)
Isn't this what we see in the life of Master Y'shua? He continued living after His ascension, and ultimately, He will return and live forever with us!
Last week we discussed how Yosef (Israel/Ya'akov's son) ended up being a very powerful man under Pharoah in Egypt, forgave his brothers for what they had done, and brought them to live with him in Egypt while the famine raged.
In today's lesson we witness something very strange: Ya'akov (whose name was changed to Israel) lived in Egypt with his sons for 17 years (Genesis 47:27). Just before Israel's death at age 147, his son Yosef (second in command in Egypt through a divine set of circumstances) brought in his own sons, Ephrayim and M'nasheh, for a blessing.
Oddly, instead of placing his right hand on M'nasheh the firstborn, he crossed his arms and placed his right hand on Ephrayim (Ephraim), the younger brother, telling Yosef that the younger brother would be greater than the oldest and that his descendants would grow into many nations - thus, in essence, mirroring what he himself had done years earlier! (Remember how Ya'akov had deceived his own father, Yitz'chak [Isaac] into giving him the blessing of the first-born by pretending to be his "hairy" twin, Esau? See Genesis 27.)
A quick note: The right of the firstborn is that they belong to YHWH (Exodus 13:2). But we see repeatedly, that man's will sometimes interferes with this. Ya'akov and Yosef had very special relationships with YHWH, and yes, this translated into much resilience in both. In both men, faith played a great role. (Always carry the shield of trust, with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the Evil One. Ephesians 6:16...)
Here's what happened on the day Israel was to bless Yosef's children:
Genesis 48: 8 Then Isra'el noticed Yosef's sons and asked, "Whose are these?" 9 Yosef answered his father, "They are my sons, whom God has given me here." Ya'akov replied, "I want you to bring them here to me, so that I can bless them." 10 Now Isra'el's eyes were dim with age, so that he could not see. Yosef brought his sons near to him, and he kissed them and embraced them. 11 Isra'el said to Yosef, "I never expected to see even you again, but God has allowed me to see your children too!" 12 Yosef brought them out from between his legs and prostrated himself on the ground. 13 Then Yosef took them both, Ephrayim in his right hand toward Isra'el's left hand and M'nasheh in his left hand toward Isra'el's right hand, and brought them near to him.
14 But Isra'el put out his right hand and laid it on the head of the younger one, Ephrayim, and put his left hand on the head of M'nasheh - he intentionally crossed his hands, even though M'nasheh was the firstborn. 15 Then he blessed Yosef: "The God in whose presence my fathers Avraham and Yitz'chak lived, the God who has been my own shepherd all my life long to this day, 16 the angel who has rescued me from all harm, bless these boys. May they remember who I am and what I stand for, and likewise my fathers Avraham and Yitz'chak, who they were and what they stood for. And may they grow into teeming multitudes on the earth."
17 When Yosef saw that his father was laying his right hand on Ephrayim's head, it displeased him, and he lifted up his father's hand to remove it from Ephrayim's head and place it instead on M'nasheh's head. 18 Yosef said to his father, "Don't do it that way, my father; for this one is the firstborn. Put your right hand on his head." 19 But his father refused and said, "I know that, my son, I know it. He too will become a people, and he too will be great; nevertheless his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will grow into many nations." 20 Then he added this blessing on them that day: "Isra'el will speak of you in their own blessings by saying, 'May God make you like Ephrayim and M'nasheh.'"Thus he put Ephrayim ahead of M'nasheh.
Let's discuss this a little more in depth:
In the beginning of this parashah, we have Yoseph coming to his dying father's side with his sons M'nasheh and Ephrayim. Isra'el explains to Yoseph the 3 parts of the covenant Yahweh made with him. This covenant is important to understanding what happens next - why Isra'el elevates Yoseph's sons to the status of "Shevanim" (branches) of the tribes of Isra'el.
The 3 parts of the covenant were: (from Genesis 48:4): (1) Ya'akov would be fruitful and his descendants numerous; (2) he would be a group of peoples; and (3) his descendants would possess the land forever. It is the second component of the covenant that explains the elevation of M'nasheh and Ephrayim as tribes. The first and last part of the covenant are readily understood.
But what does it mean to be a "group of peoples"?
Instead of "group of peoples" - some translations say "company of peoples" or "congregation of peoples." Perhaps "congregation of peoples" is the best translation because the tribes are to be spread all over the earth, and yet remain one people, a congregation with a common origin, a common bond in Yahweh. So Isra'el tells Yoseph that he will not be the head of a tribe; rather his sons M'nasheh and Ephrayim would be the Shevanim. M'nasheh and Ephrayim you see, were the first of the descendants not to fight amongst themselves.
Remember, Abraham's two sons (Isaac and Ishmael) did not get along, and their disagreement remains the basis of the Arab-Israeli conflict to this day. The next generation, Isaac's two sons (Jacob and Esav) were so contentious that Esav sought to kill Jacob many times and instructed his descendants to do the same. We then discovered that the next generation, Ya'akov's sons, sold Yoseph into slavery in Egypt.
M'nasheh and Ephrayim break this pattern. This is perhaps why Ya'akov, though blind before his death, was cognizant to cross his arms and bestow the blessing of the right-hand to the younger, Ephrayim, for this demonstrated something of an equality of the two siblings.
So Ya'akov elevates M'nasheh and Ephrayim to the status of his own sons, and this represents the fulfillment of Yahweh's promise that Bnai Yisrael (sons or body of Isra'el) will be a "congregation of peoples" or an "Assembly of Tribes."
The "group of peoples" concept is very deep because, when you think about it: YHWH intended the "roles" of the descendants of the tribes to be different, yet united in Torah. As tribal identity (for the most part) is now gone, this is what remains for us as a "group of peoples" is our "oneness in YHWH guided by His Torah". (And of course, since much more of the revelation is now known since Genesis, also our faith in Messiah as His Name foretells). Today, we all have different "roles"/gifts in the body of Messiah.
And finally, at the end of the Parashah, we see in Ya'akov's blessing on Yoseph, that "Yoseph is a fruitful plant, a fruitful plant by a spring, with branches climbing over the wall..." (Genesis 49:22) so it is the branches of Yoseph, the Torah obedient tribes of M'nasheh and Ephrayim, which would be blessed. (Not that the blessing took away anything from Yoseph, for Yoseph was blessed as the "prince among his brothers" (Genesis 49:26)).
Note also, that as in Yoseph's dreams which revealed his brothers would bow to him, we the Torah obedient, continue under the blessing when Ya'akov told Yoseph that his descendants would blessed by remembering the name of Avraham and Yitz'chak and all they stood for. (Genesis 48:16).
The above serves to clarify why a traditional Jewish blessing on sons at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is to be "like M'nasheh and Ephrayim." For what was the outcome with M'nasheh and Ephrayim? Despite great odds, they grew up in Egypt and maintained adherence to Torah ideals and practice. Why would we not want our children to be like them?
NOTE: While Ephrayim indeed became a numerous people, he/they ultimately disappointed YHWH and were basically a "black eye" against YHWH's Chosen People.
Many in the Messianic faith have built an entire religious identity around the idea that they are "Ephraim" when, in fact, the two-house issue is NON-CORE, non-salvation specific. Instead of "two-house", the more correct way of looking at it is: ONE God, ONE;Faith, ONE in Messiah. YHWH never said this issue was to build a separate religion, nor separate Messianic believers! This is outlined in Judges 1:28-29, Judges 12:6, 2 Samuel 18:6-8, Jeremiah 31:18-20, etc. It is interesting to note that Ephraim was driven so low that they tried to falsify their own identity:
Judges 12: 1 The men of Ephrayim assembled, crossed into Tzafon and said to Yiftach, "Why didn't you call us to go with you when you went over to fight the people of 'Amon? We're ready to burn down your house with you in it!" 2 Yiftach answered, "When my people and I were in a serious dispute with the people of 'Amon, I called you; and you didn't rescue me from their power. 3 When I saw that you weren't rescuing me, I put my life in my own hands and went over to attack the people of 'Amon; and ADONAI gave them over into my power. So why have you come up today to fight me?"
4 Then Yiftach gathered together all the men of Gil'ad and fought with Ephrayim, and the men of Gil'ad defeated Ephrayim; because they were saying, "You Gil'ad men who live in Ephrayim and M'nasheh have deserted Ephrayim!" 5 The men of Gil'ad cut off Ephrayim from the crossings over the Yarden, and whenever anyone from Ephrayim tried to escape and said, "Let me go across," the men of Gil'ad would ask him, "Are you from Ephrayim?" and if he said, "No," 6 they would tell him to say "Shibbolet." If he said, "Sibbolet," because he could not make his mouth pronounce it right, they took hold of him and killed him on the spot at the Yarden crossing; at that time 42,000 men of Ephrayim died.
Please take a moment to read Genesis 49 to find out what the dying Ya'akov said to all of his sons.
Note in Genesis 49:5-7 that Levi and Shim'on were brothers "related by weapons of violence" and were doomed to be divided and scattered - yet, remember that ultimately Levi became a tribe of priests. How did that happen? Well, looking ahead in Deuteronomy 10 we see that Yahweh separated the descendants of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant and to be the chosen to stand before Him to serve Him and bless his name. (Deuteronomy 10:8-9). Thus their violent past was atoned and they became a holy people for Yahweh.
It is important to note what Ya'akov says in Genesis 49:8-12 about the Tribe of Yehudah (Judah) from whence Yeshua came!
Genesis 49: 8 "Y'hudah, your brothers will acknowledge you, your hand will be on the neck of your enemies, your father's sons will bow down before you. 9 Y'hudah is a lion's cub; my son, you stand over the prey. He crouches down and stretches like a lion; like a lioness, who dares to provoke him? 10 The scepter will not pass from Y'hudah, nor the ruler's staff from between his legs, until he comes to whom [obedience] belongs; and it is he whom the peoples will obey. 11 Tying his donkey to the vine, or: until Shiloh comes his donkey's colt to the choice grapevine, he washes his clothes in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. 12 His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk.
After Ya'akov/Israel outlined what would happen to each of his sons in the end of days, he then charged them to take him OUT of Egypt upon his death:
Genesis 49: 28 All these are the twelve tribes of Isra'el, and this is how their father spoke to them and blessed them, giving each his own individual blessing. 29 Then he charged them as follows: "I am to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my ancestors in the cave that is in the field of 'Efron the Hitti, 30 the cave in the field of Makhpelah, by Mamre, in the land of Kena'an, which Avraham bought together with the field from 'Efron the Hitti as a burial-place belonging to him - 31 there they buried Avraham and his wife Sarah, there they buried Yitz'chak and his wife Rivkah, and there I buried Le'ah - 32 the field and the cave in it, which was purchased from the sons of Het." 33 When Ya'akov had finished charging his sons, he drew his legs up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people.
Note that when Ya'akov/Israel died, he was embalmed (see Genesis 50:2) and that he wasn't buried until months later (Genesis 50:12-13). His burial place was reiterated in Genesis 50:13 to show its importance, as it was connected with Ya'akov's forefathers (the first two Patriarchs) Abraham and Isaac.
It is also interesting to note that the Egyptians mourned the death of Yosef's father, Ya'akov/Israel, for 70 days. Not only Yosef's brothers and their households accompanied him to Mamre to bury Ya'akov, but also Pharoah's servants, the leaders of his household and the leaders of the land of Egypt!
In verses 50:15-21, we see an ultimate act of kindness when Yosef once again reassures his brothers that he held no grudges about their dumping him into a cistern and leaving him for dead so many years ago. He recognized and shared with them the fact that the whole ordeal had been YHWH's will "so that it would come about as it is today." (See vs. 20)
Yosef died at the age of 110, and like his father, he was embalmed (Exodus 50:26). Before his death he, too, ordered that his bones would be removed from Egypt. But Genesis ends without our knowledge of the fate of Yosef's bones! Peeking ahead into the Book of Exodus (verse 13:19) we see, though, that Moshe carries Yosef's bones with him. (Moshe, remember, does not enter the promised land!)
This creates another mystery of the bones of Yosef which remains unsolved until we learn in Y'hoshua (Joshua) that the people of Israel had cared for Yosef's bones, and buried them in the parcel of land which Ya'akov had bought so long ago! (Joshua 24:32)
So now the stage is set, and the bloodline to the Mashiyach is established (Genesis 49:10)! Though the story is well known, it's exciting to contemplate what lies ahead in our upcoming readings!
In today's Haftarah portion we see King David - similar to what our Patriarch Ya'akov/Israel and his son Yosef after him had done on their death beds - commissioning his son Solomon to obey YHWH so that he would succeed in life:
1 Kings 2: 1 The time came near for David to die; so he commissioned Shlomo his son as follows: 2 "I am going the way of all the earth. Therefore, be strong; show yourself a man. 3 Observe the charge of ADONAI your God to go in his ways and keep his regulations, mitzvot, rulings and instructions in accordance with what is written in the Torah of Moshe; so that you will succeed in all you do and wherever you go. 4 If you do, ADONAI will fulfill what he promised me when he said, 'If your children pay attention to how they live, conducting themselves before me honestly with all their heart and being, you will never lack a man on the throne of Isra'el.'
5 "Moreover, you are aware of what Yo'av the son of Tz'ruyah did to me, that is, what he did to the two commanders of the armies of Isra'el, Avner the son of Ner and 'Amasa the son of Yeter - he killed them, shedding the blood of war in peacetime, putting the blood of war on the belt around his waist and the shoes on his feet. 6 Therefore, act according to your wisdom; don't let his gray head go down to the grave in peace. 7 "But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gil'adi. Include them with those who eat at your table, because they came and stood with me when I was fleeing from Avshalom your brother.
8 "Finally, you have with you Shim'i the son of Gera the Binyamini, from Bachurim. He laid a terrible curse on me when I was on my way to Machanayim; but he came down to meet me at the Yarden; so I swore to him by ADONAI that I would not have him put to death with the sword. 9 Now, however, you should not let him go unpunished. You are a wise man, and you will know what you should do to him - you will bring his gray head down to the grave with blood." 10 Then David slept with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David. 11 David had ruled Isra'el for forty years - seven years in Hevron and thirty-three years in Yerushalayim. 12 Shlomo sat on the throne of David his father; and his rule had become firmly established....
Brit Chadasha reading:
Acts 7: 9. And our fathers were jealous of Yosip and sold him in Misrayin. But Elohim was with him, 10. and He delivered him from all his oppression. And He gave grace and wisdom to him before Pharaoh king of Misrayin, and appointed him ruler over all Misrayin and his house. 11. And there was a famine and great affliction in all Misrayin and in the land of Canaan, and our fathers had nothing to sustain (them). 12. And after Ya'akov heard that there was sustenance in Misrayin, he sent our fathers first, 13. and when they went the second time, Yosip made himself known to his brothers and the nationality of Yosip was made known to Pharaoh. 14. And Yosip sent for his father and brought Ya'akov and all his family. And they were seventy and five souls in number. 15. And Ya'akov went down to Misrayin and died there, he and our fathers. 16. And he was moved to Shechem and was placed in the tomb that Awraham had purchased with money from the sons of Khamor.
Now let's check out the awesome message of 1 Peter 2 of today's parashah - no other explanation needed!
1 Peter 2: 11. My beloved, I entreat you as strangers and pilgrims, separate yourselves from all lusts of the body, for they war against the soul. 12. And let your behavior be honorable before all men; so that they who utter evil speeches against you, may see your good actions and may praise Elohim in the day of trial. 13. And be submissive to all the sons of men, for Elohim's sake; to kings, on account of their authority; 14. and to judges because they are sent by him for the punishment of offenders, and for the praise of them that do well. 15 For so is the will of Elohim, that by your good deeds you may stop the mouth of the foolish who do not know Elohim: 16. As free men, you are not like men who make their freedom a cloak for their wickedness, but as the servants of Elohim. 17. Honor all men; love your Brothers; fear Elohim; and honor kings.
There is so much more that could be said about today's study, and we wholeheartedly urge you to read the cited scriptures through, if you haven't already done so. If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to write! Thank you for reading our Torah study notes for this week, and we pray for you a blessed week ahead, that may you ever grow in your knowledge of YHWH. And, as always, please let us know if you ever see anything in our studies that sounds "off the mark"! Nobody has the market cornered on absolute Truth; we are all learning and obeying to the best of our abilities....
The next Parashah reading will be:
Parashah 13: Sh'mot (Names) - Exodus 1:1 through 6:1.
Haftarah (Writings and Prophets): Isaiah 27:6 - 28:13; 29:22-23; Jeremiah 1:1 through 2:3.
B'rit Hadasha (New Testament): Matthew 22:23-33; 41-46; Mark 12:18-27; 35-37; Luke 20:27-44; Acts 3:12-15; 5:27-32; 7:17-36; 22:12-16; 24:14-16; Hebrews 11:23-26.
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