|VaYigash – Joseph, Yeshua, and their Brethren|
By Rabbi Dr. Michael Schiffman
When Yeshua spoke to the P'rushim and Tz'dukim, he said, "If you really believed Moshe, you would believe me; because it was about me that he wrote" (John 5:46, CJB). There are many Messianic prophecies about Yeshua in the prophets, but in the Torah, on the surface there doesn't seem to be very much. It's true that there is the one verse in Deuteronomy 18 that God would raise up a prophet like Moshe from among our brethren, but its only one verse. This is fine, except that since Yeshua referenced the writings of Moshe as proof of his Messianic claims, you would think there would be more than one somewhat obscure verse that Yeshua was referring to. Yeshua is seen in the Torah, not just in the cryptic propositional verses of Deuteronomy 18, and others like it, but in the "types," or pictures of Yeshua in the lives of people in the Torah.
The clearest picture of Yeshua in the Torah is in the life of the Patriarch Joseph. Joseph was the beloved son of his father, and had dreams of being exalted above his brethren and parents. He was brought down and sold into slavery by his brothers, yet was made the head slave in Potiphar's house. He was thrown into prison, yet made the head prisoner. He was then elevated to be the head of all Egypt, only under the Pharaoh. In a similar way, Yeshua was born into a humble circumstance in Israel, rejected by his brothers and, according to Philippians, humbled even to death, but was placed above all and given a name above every name. All things will be submitted to him, and he will only be submitted to the Father in heaven, just as Joseph was over all Egypt, only under Pharaoh. Joseph was even given an Egyptian name – Zaphenath-paneah – that meant savior of life, and Yeshua is the savior of the world.
Since Joseph is such a clear picture of Yeshua, his story, which focuses on his relationship with his brothers, gives a clear picture of how Yeshua relates to the Jewish people, his brethren, not just in the past, but also in the future.
In last week's parasha Joseph's brothers appeared before Joseph to buy grain, and they didn't recognize him. He made them bring Benjamin his full brother before they could come back, and when they did, and he framed Benjamin to keep him with himself. This week's passage opens with one of the most heart wrenching moments of Scripture. Judah steps forward, and with a tension and near-panic that can be sensed in his words, he recounts for Joseph that the only reason they brought Benjamin in the first place is because Joseph demanded it, but if they return without him, Jacob their father will die. As Joseph listens to his older brother advocate for Benjamin in a way he didn't advocate for him when he was thrown in a pit and sold into slavery, his heart breaks for his brothers. He can't take it anymore and tells all the Egyptians to leave his presence. The text says that he cried so loud, that it was even heard in Pharaoh's house. He looks at his brothers and says,
"I am Joseph! Is my father still living?" But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, "Come close to me." When they had done so, he said, "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." (Gen. 45:3-5)
Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and they are terrified, because Joseph is a man with unlimited power. He could have destroyed them. He could have thrown them into prison for the rest of their lives. Yet, he tells them to come near to him, and he hugs them and kisses them. He comforts them and tells them not to be angry with themselves. He goes on to tell them he will take care of them and place them in the best part of the land. If every other part of Joseph's life is a picture of Yeshua, so too this must be a picture of Yeshua in relation to the Jewish people.
When Yeshua returns and establishes his rule on earth, He will make himself known to his brothers. He will say, I am your brother Yeshua. They will not have recognized him any more than Joseph's brothers recognized him. To his brothers, Joseph looked like an Egyptian king. The picture Yeshua's non-Jewish followers have given of Yeshua makes him look anything but Jewish. Yet he will reveal himself when he returns and say, I am your brother. He will not treat them like whipped puppies and reluctantly let them into his kingdom. He won't stick them in some dark corner of his kingdom. He will embrace them and comfort them and take care of them. He will give them the best of the land. Why? Because they are his family. Paul wrote, "They are beloved on account of the patriarchs." It's called grace. Everyone enters the kingdom by grace.
This scenario fits with the picture Yeshua gave of his return in the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25:31-46).
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.
Yeshua is pictured as judging the nations, the gentiles. He says,
"for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me." ... Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, "Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'"
Yeshua judges the nations based on how they treated His brethren, the Jewish people. How do we know the brethren of the parable are the Jews? First, it fits best with the parallel of Joseph. Second, brethren is juxtaposed in the passage with the nations/gentiles. Third, it fits with the Abrahamic covenant of mutual blessing. The Gentiles who bless Yeshua's brethren have brought a blessing on themselves. The Gentiles who cursed Yeshua's brethren have brought a curse upon themselves. The consequence of the Jewish people being scattered around the planet has brought to every nation and people the opportunity to bring a blessing or curse upon themselves. Unfortunately, most chose the curse.
At this time in history, the world has the chance to bless the brethren of Yeshua by standing by Israel, and by supporting humanitarian efforts such as Chevra to bless the Jewish people. In turn, they will be blessed by the King when they stand before him.