Sunday, December 9, 2018

Genesis Post 70 - Summary of the Joseph Parallels to Yeshua

I have written several times about the different parallels between Joseph the suffering servant and Yeshua our Suffering Servant.  The purpose of this post is to simply summarize them so that I have them all in one place.  I have heard it said that there are about 100 parallels between the two, and I have only discovered about 40.  So if I discover more, I will come back to this post and add them.

  • Both are the beloved sons of their Fathers.
  • Both are sent by their Fathers for a special purpose to their brethren.
  • Both are given special robes.
  • Both were willing to be their father's servant.
  • Both travel all over the country seeking their brothers.
  • Both make bold, audacious claims that their brethren don't like.
  • Both are shepherds of their Fathers’ sheep.
  • Both suffer because they are hated and rejected by their brethren.
  • Both are turned over to foreigners
  • Both are betrayed for silver by a brother named Judah.
  • Both have brothers who argue over what to do with him
  • Both are stripped of their robes.
  • Both are taken to Egypt.
  • Both are subject to a plot to kill them.
  • Both are left in the ground for three days
  • Both are falsely accused.
  • Both remain silent in the face of their accusers.
  • Both suffer although they are righteous.
  • Both are tempted.
  • Both wash the feet of their brethren.
  • Both bring bread of life to starving people.
  • Both save the nations for 2(000) years while being unknown to their brethren.
  • Substitutionary blood is shed in both cases.
  • Both have stories made up about their deaths.
  • Both have fathers who mourn in deep agony
  • Both are buried in the land of Israel
  • Both forgive those who wronged them.
  • The wrongs that men do to both, God uses for good.
  • Both are placed with two prisoners, one who was saved and the other who was not.
  • Both are elevated to a place of high authority.
  • Both have every knee bowed to them
  • Both claim they are there to save their brethren, not judge them.
  • Both have Gentile brides
  • Both have offspring who are adopted by their Fathers
  • Both have brethren who vowed never to bow down to them. (Most Jewish people today want nothing to do with Yeshua)
  • Both appear as a foreigner so that their brethren would not recognize them.
  • Both weep over their brethren who don't know them.
  • Both bring salvation to their brethren, Israel.
  • Both are moved by the repentant hearts of their brothers.
  • Both reveal themselves to their brothers privately.
  • Both have brothers who weep in sorrow and fear as they recognize them.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Genesis Post 69 - Jacob and Joseph Laid to Rest (Chapter 50)

The final chapter of Genesis finds Joseph weeping over his father who has just passed away. He arranges for a grand Egyptian brouhaha which includes an embalming process and 70 days of mourning.

This was a big honor, as Egyptian royalty were mourned for 72 days.

This is probably the most elaborate funeral depiction in all of Scripture. The first twelve verses are dedicated to its description. Jacob is the last of the patriarchs, the last link to the ancient world. His grandfather hung around with the sons of Noah. Scripture often reminds us that we serve the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

When the mourning is over, Joseph appeals to Pharaoh to request a trip to Hebron to bury his father, promising to return.  Did he think Pharaoh would doubt his return?

Of course you must go, says Pharaoh.

A huge number of people head to Jacob's burial in verses 7-9, including Joseph's entire household, the brothers, chariots, horsemen, and a huge list of who's who in Egyptian gentry.  The only ones left behind were the little ones and the flocks (and I assume servants or nursemaids to care for them).

Jacob's funeral
Now Joseph’s brothers are a little nervous. They think that now that Jacob is dead, Joseph will hate them and punish them for the evil that they did. They have no problem admitting that it was evil.They put it on their dead father, and they were probably telling a fib here. He told us to tell you this.

How does Joseph react? He cries. Guys, don’t you really believe that I actually have forgiven you??

One thing I have noticed about the whole story of Joseph is that he is never once portrayed as unrighteous. 

Here we have another prophetic picture of Yeshua, in that Yeshua had no sin. I’m not saying Joseph had no sin, but it is never portrayed in this account of his life. The closest he comes is when he brags to his brothers about his dreams. But even that is a picture of Yeshua… Making bold, audacious claims that irritated his brothers, even though the claims were true.

So Joseph reassures his brothers that they were safe, and he says to them, am I God? In this way he is telling his brothers he is in no place to judge. And in fact Jesus did not come to judge the world and his first coming but to save it. He will judge the world at his second coming. See John 3:17.

Joseph tells his brothers, yep, what you did was evil, but God meant it for good. He does not sugar coat the sin of his brothers; he tells one truth, but then he tells an even greater truth. 

In the case of Yeshua, the Jewish leaders meant his death for evil.  But of course, God meant it for good because it was the instrument that would save the whole world.

Joseph then speaks kindly to his brothers and assures them that he would take care of care of them and their little ones. And he does. He does not just tell them his love, he showed them his love by his actions. In the same way, our Messiah takes care of us.

Then we see that Joseph lives for exactly 110 years, which is the Egyptian ideal. He was blessed to see three generations of his descendants live. The chapter wraps up with Joseph’s death.

The funeral of Joseph is very short and sweet, at least what is recorded of it in the final three verses of Genesis. It is nothing like Jacob’s.  Could this be another parallel to Yeshua, whose time in the grave was so short?

Genesis ends with the promise of the land. Joseph knows he does not want his bones left in a strange land, but desires to be buried in the land of is forefathers - the land that God promised Abraham as an everlasting promise.

Thus ends the magnificent and foundational book of Genesis.  Here is a quick recap:

The first eleven chapters give us details on the creation of the world, the nephilim, the flood, the Tower of Babel, and the early nations.

Beginning in verse 12 and for the remainder of the book, the focus narrows greatly to the formation of the nation of Israel, beginning with faithful Abraham.

Peppered throughout the book is God’s repeated promise of the land (Israel), the Seed (the Messiah), and the blessing (salvation to the whole world). Such a foundational truth that has great implications for us even today.

I will end this series with my favorite piece of artwork, painted by a messianic believer in the land of Israel.


Monday, December 3, 2018

Genesis Post 68 - The Sons are Blessed (Chapter 49)

Now that Jacob has blessed the sons of Joseph, we are going to see the covenant blessings passed on to the rest of his sons.  What we will to see here are not so much blessings, but prophecies given to each tribe.

The chapter starts out with this:
And Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days:
 “Gather together and hear, you sons of Jacob,
And listen to Israel your father.

Jacob refers to himself using both of his names, thus identifying his sons with both names as well.

Jacob blesses his sons

  • First, Reuben.
“Reuben, you are my firstborn,
My might and the beginning of my strength,
The excellency of dignity and the excellency of power.
Unstable as water, you shall not excel,
Because you went up to your father’s bed;
Then you defiled it—
He went up to my couch.

Jacob never said much back when Reuben took Bilhah back in chapter 35.  But he never forgot it.  Reuben probably already knew he had lost the coveted position of firstborn.  Usually the firstborn was the spiritual and social leader of the clan, but because Reuben was so unstable, prideful, and immoral, he forfeited the right.  

The tribe of Reuben never does excel.  No prophet, judge, or king will come from this tribe.  He is an example of how the first can be last.

  • Next up are Simeon and Levi. They paired up in Shechem over the Dinah incident, and Jacob pairs them up now.
“Simeon and Levi are brothers;
Instruments of cruelty are in their dwelling place.
Let not my soul enter their council;
Let not my honor be united to their assembly;
For in their anger they slew a man,
And in their self-will they hamstrung an ox.
Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce;
And their wrath, for it is cruel!
I will divide them in Jacob
And scatter them in Israel.

Just as in the case of Reuben, Jacob didn't say much when the Shechem events took place.  But obviously he never forgot.

The anger of these two sons is cursed.  Their anger was sin because it was rooted in self-will.  Anger itself is not sin; there is such a thing as righteous anger.  Ephesians 4:26 tells us not to sin in our anger.  Perhaps the difference is self-will versus God's will.

It is interesting that both tribes are promised to be scattered and divided.  However, the scattering turns out to be a curse for the tribe of Simeon and a blessing for the tribe of Levi.  Simeon will start out from Egypt as the third-largest tribe, but will dwindle to become the smallest tribe during the time in the wilderness.  Levi, on the other hand, will become a blessing in their scattering when they are given the office of the priesthood and are placed throughout the land.

  • Next, Judah. This one is a doozy - one of the longest of all the prophecies. 
“Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise;
Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
Your father’s children shall bow down before you.
Judah is a lion’s whelp;
From the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He bows down, he lies down as a lion;
And as a lion, who shall rouse him?
The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor a lawgiver from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes;
And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.
Binding his donkey to the vine,
And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,
He washed his garments in wine,
And his clothes in the blood of grapes.
His eyes are darker than wine,
And his teeth whiter than milk.

I wonder if Judah was nervous after hearing the oracles for his older brothers.  After all, he had the episode with Tamar, and he was the one who suggested selling his own brother.  His character certainly wasn't whiter than milk.

The blessing of Judah (which means praise) is an example o the richness of God's grace.  To his tribe is given the position of rulership.  From Judah would come the eventual kings of Israel and ultimately the Ultimate King - Messiah Yeshua.  In Revelation 5:5, Yeshua is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

Lion of Judah
Regarding the term until shiloh comes - this is not the same spelling as the city of Shiloh where the tabernacle would stand.  This shiloh means He whose right it is, and is a title that the ancient sages understood to speak of the Messiah.  In other words, Judah just opened the candy bar with the golden ticket in it, as far as being the one from whom the Redeemer would come.

It is interesting to note that the scepter departed from Judah in about 7 AD, when Israel lost the  small remainder of their self-rule and the right to administer capital punishment.  It was right around the time that a young Bar Mitzvah-aged boy named Yeshua was teaching in the temple at Passover. 

If Israel had retained its right of captital punishment, Yeshua would have been stoned for blasphemy instead of by the Roman method of execution - crucifixion.

The remainder of Judah's prophecy includes references to a donkey's colt, a vine, wine, blood, and milky whiteness.  It is easy to see Messianic foreshadows in these terms... He who will ride on a donkey's colt, whose blood will cleanse us and make us pure and white.

  • Next up:  Zebulun.  Jacob now moves around in the birth order, but keeps his focus on Leah's boys.  
“Zebulun shall dwell by the haven of the sea;
He shall become a haven for ships,
And his border shall adjoin Sidon.

Zebulun becomes a faithful tribe, supplying the largest number of soldiers to David's army of any tribe.  The tribe eventually settles on the piece of land between the Mediterranean and the Sea of Galilee.  Zebulun actually faced two seas.

  • Issachar, the older brother of Zebulun and son of Leah, is next.
“Issachar is a strong donkey,
Lying down between two burdens;
He saw that rest was good,
And that the land was pleasant;
He bowed his shoulder to bear a burden,
And became a band of slaves.

Issachar becomes a large tribe, and because of their size, abundance, and possibly laziness, they will often be targets of oppressive foreign armies.  They do eventually become a band of slaves when the northern kingdom falls.

  • Dan is next in line, the first son of Rachel's maid Bilhah.
“Dan shall judge his people
As one of the tribes of Israel.
Dan shall be a serpent by the way,
A viper by the path,
That bites the horse’s heels
So that its rider shall fall backward.
I have waited for your salvation, O Lord!

Dan means judge, and his prophecy is that he shall judge his people.  From the tribe of Dan will come one of the most prominent judges:  Samson.  

Dan becomes a troublesome tribe, a serpent by the way, introducing idolatry into Israel.  Jeroboam sets up one of his golden calves in the land of Dan.  The tribe eventually moves to the very north of Israel, where they will become a center of idol worship.

Dan is left out of the listing of tribes in the book of Revelation, but is the first tribe listed in Ezekiel's millenial roll call of the tribes in Eekiel 48.  What a remarkable sign of God's grace and mercy.

Jacob wraps up the prophecy to Dan by calling out for the LORD's salvation - Yeshua!  Is this part of the prophecy, or does Jacob simply feel the need to call upon the LORD at this moment?  Is he calling out for the Messiah? 

  • Gad is next.  He is the firstborn of Zilpah, Leah's maid.  
“Gad, a troop shall tramp upon him,
But he shall triumph at last.

His prophecy is short and sweet.  His prophecy is a play on words, as Gad means troop. His tribe will supply many fine troops for David.  And in the days of Jeremiah, Gad would be oppressed by foreign armies.  Indeed, Gad's very birth was a result of war between Leah and Rachel.

  • Now, Asher.  He is Gad's little brother by Zilpah.
“Bread from Asher shall be rich,
And he shall yield royal dainties.

Asher's tribe would eventually settle in land that was rich, providing both necessities and luxuries.  Moses took up this prophecy of Asher in Deuteronomy 33:24, when he said Asher is most blessed of sons; let him be favored by his brothers, and let him dip his foot in oil.  A famous woman of the tribe of Asher is Anna (Hannah) the Prophetess, who will get to see baby Yeshua at the temple at his dedication.

  • The next prophecy goes to Naphtali, the son of Rachel's maid Zilpah and baby brother to Dan.  Again, short and sweet.

Naphtali is a deer let loose;
He uses beautiful words.

Naphtali's land, along with Zebulun, was in a key area near the Sea of Galilee, the region where Yeshua did much of his teaching and ministry.  Matthew 4:13-16 mentions this and quotes from Isaiah 9...
And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles: 
The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death
Light has dawned.”

Beautiful words indeed.

  • Now Joseph.   His blessing is even longer than Judah's.  And why not?  Dad always liked him best.
“Joseph is a fruitful bough,
A fruitful bough by a well;
His branches run over the wall.
The archers have bitterly grieved him,
Shot at him and hated him.
But his bow remained in strength,
And the arms of his hands were made strong
By the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob
(From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
By the God of your father who will help you,
And by the Almighty who will bless you
With blessings of heaven above,
Blessings of the deep that lies beneath,
Blessings of the breasts and of the womb.
The blessings of your father
Have excelled the blessings of my ancestors,
Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills.
They shall be on the head of Joseph,
And on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers.

This begins with a description of Joseph's life and a personal blessing concerning his descendants.  Though he was "shot at" and hated, he remains a fruitful bough, because the hands of God were upon him.  Joseph's tribes were some of the most populous.  Remember, his boys had already been blessed in chapter 48.  In the blessing of Joseph, Jacob mentions five great titles of God:  Mighty God of Jacob, The Shepherd, The Stone of Israel, The God of your Father, and the Almighty.  Jacob knows his God!

  • Finally, baby Benjamin, Rachel's second son and the one to whom she gave birth as she died.

“Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;
In the morning he shall devour the prey,
And at night he shall divide the spoil.”

Benjamin's tribe will prove to be a fierce tribe.  Several important Benjamites come to mind:  Ehud, who killed fat king Eglon of Moab in Judges 3, King Saul who persecuted David, and the Apostle Paul who persecuted believers before he became one himself.  There is also a wild and crazy story about the tribe of Benjamin in Judges 19 and 20.  You can read it when you have a chance.

This completes the blessings of Jacob over his sons.  Verse 28 says,
All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father spoke to them. And he blessed them; he blessed each one according to his own blessing.

The chapter ends with the death of Jacob, but not before he reminds his sons to bury him in the cave of Machpelah in Hebron, the place that his grandfather had purchased from Ephron the Hittite - the place where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah are buried.  This is where we actually find out that Leah and Rebekah have died, as their deaths were not mentioned before this.  Jacob is quite specific with this last wish - the only thing missing is the zip code.

The chapter ends with this:
And when Jacob had finished commanding his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people (an alliteration for he died, as his ancestors also died.) He is 147 years old at the time of his death.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Genesis Post 67 - Joseph's Boys Blessed (Chapter 48)

Chapter 48 opens with Joseph receiving a report that Jacob is ill.  This is the first place in scripture where illness is mentioned.  Joseph hurries to see Jacob, bringing with him his two Egyptian-born sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.

When Jacob sees them coming, he, Israel, strengthens himself and sits up in bed.  The first thing he does is repeats the Abrahamic Covenant to Joseph and his sons in verses 3 and 4:

Then Jacob said to Joseph: “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a multitude of people, and give this land to your descendants after you as an everlasting possession.’ 

God Almighty - El Shaddai - shows up once again in the context of fruitfulness and multiplication.

Next Jacob does something astounding.  Look at verse 5:
And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.

Jacob is adopting Joseph's boys as his own.  He is giving them the rights of full sonship. In this way, Jacob is giving the firstborn's double portion to Joseph.

Jacob's adoption of Joseph's sons explains why scripture lists the 12 tribes of Jacob in different combinations.  Because of this adoption, there are actually 13 sons of Israel - a baker's dozen, so to speak - when Joseph was split into two tribes.  Thus the tribes can be arranged in different ways and still remain 12 tribes.

In fact, Revelation 7 includes Joseph and Manasseh, but does not mention Dan and Ephraim. Both of those tribes eventually have a major problem with idolatry, which could be why they don't get a shout-out in Revelation.  But did God wipe the earth clean of those tribes?  I think not.  I believe they are included in God's ultimate promise of every tribe, tongue, language, and nation worshiping before the throne.

The number 12 is often associated with government or administration in God's eyes.  There are 12 tribes, 12 apostles, 12 princes of Ishmael, 12 stones on the high priest's breastplate, 12 loaves of showbread, 12 each of silver platters, silver bowls, and gold pans for service at the tabernacle, 12 spies to search out the land, 12 heavenly gates, 12 months in a year, 12 numbers on a clock, 12 fruits on the tree of life ... and many more.  I think you get the picture.  Twelve is a special number to God.

In the next section, Jacob blesses the two sons that he has just adopted.  And in keeping with a biblical theme that we have seen time and time again, Jacob places his favored right hand on the second-born, despite Joseph's efforts to correct him.  Ephraim, meaning fruitfulness, gets the blessing usually reserved for the elder.

With Jacob's hands in place, he utters the following blessing in verses 15 and 16:
“God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
The God who has fed me all my life long to this day,
The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil,
Bless the lads;
Let my name be named upon them,
And the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac;
And let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”

When Joseph tries to correct Jacob, Jacob refuses the correction, knowing full well what he is doing:
But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.”

Is Jacob thinking of his own life so many years before, when he as the younger received the firstborn blessing from Isaac?

This blessing was fulfilled in Israel's history.  Both tribes were blessed, but Ephraim was greater as a tribe, even to the point where the name Ephraim was used to refer to the whole northern nation of Israel.  

There is a movement today among Gentiles who call themselves Ephraimites, believing that today's believers are literally the lost tribes of Ephraim.  I don't subscribe to this view, as I see it as just another version of Replacement Theology.  Again, there is God's promise of every tribe, tongue, nation, and language, and not just Israel's lost tribes... see Revelation 5:9 and 7:9.

Jacob is demonstrating the sovereignty of God through his adoption of and subsequent blessing of Manasseh and Ephraim.

And our God demonstrates His sovereignty by adopting and blessing us.  In Ephesians 1, Paul's greeting includes this:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,  having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.

Even the choosing of Israel as a people is due to the sovereignty of God.  Ezekiel 16 tells us that the LORD says to Jerusalem, “Your birth and your nativity are from the land of Canaan; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. 

Ezekiel 16 goes on to describe the harlotry of Jerusalem (it isn't pretty) but then her ultimate redemption because of God's everlasting covenant.

God is completely and totally sovereign.  He is in charge.  Call me a Calvinist if you must.  I also believe in the free will of man, so call me an Arminian. I believe that both are valid; it is a matter of viewpoint - ours versus God's.  We are free to choose, but God knows the entire story.

The chapter ends with this promise:
Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am dying, but God will be with you and bring you back to the land of your fathers.

Always the land.  It is inseparable from the covenant.  It matters even today, and perhaps especially today.

The Promised Land

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Genesis Post 66 - Taxation, Stewardship, and Jacob's Last Request (Chapter 47)

Chapter 47 opens with Joseph speaking to Pharaoh, telling him that his family members are here now and are hanging out down in Goshen.

Joseph then chooses five of his brothers go go up to Pharaoh.  Why five?  And which five?  I wish I could tell you!  It is interesting to note that in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16, the rich man mentions his five brothers.  I wonder if there is a connection somehow.

Just like Joseph had reckoned, Pharaoh's first question to these five guys is, what is your occupation?  In verse 4, the brothers answer Pharaoh just as Joseph had coached them:

And they said to Pharaoh, “We have come to dwell in the land, because your servants have no pasture for their flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. Now therefore, please let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen.”

The Hebrews were shepherds by trade

What does Pharaoh do?  Check it out:
Then Pharaoh spoke to Joseph, saying, “Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is before you. Have your father and brothers dwell in the best of the land; let them dwell in the land of Goshen. And if you know any competent men among them, then make them chief herdsmen over my livestock.”

Pharaoh didn't just give the best land to the Israelites, he also made them into rulers, putting them in charge of his own royal livestock.

Now Jacob gets to go before Pharaoh, and what does he do?  He blesses Pharaoh!  (It is good and biblical to bless our leaders!) 

Jacob blesses Pharaoh

Pharaoh then asks a politically incorrect question:  how old are you?  What? Good thing Jacob isn't a woman!

Here is Jacob's response to Pharaoh:
And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.” 

Interesting:  Jacob sees his life as a pilgrimage.  Just passing through.  We would do well to grasp this.  Our testing ground here on earth is brief before we stand before our creator and give an account of our lives.  Whether we are given 10 years or 90 years, our lives are a breath in the scope of eternity.

To the Egyptians, the ideal age to attain in life was 110 years.  Perhaps Jacob knows this and is giving a subtle jibe to Pharaoh - the leader of a people who are obsessed with gods, death, and the pagan afterworld - when he gives his age as a brief 130 years; not nearly the ages allotted to his father and grandfather (who served the LORD of life, not death).

As the chapter continues, the Israelites settle down in the land they had been given, Goshen, and Joseph provides all of their daily bread.

Beginning in verse 13 however, Joseph deals very differently with the Egyptians.  While the Israelites are given land and bread for sustenance, the Egyptians purchase grain from their government until their money runs out.  Once the money runs out, Joseph allows them to exchange their livestock for grain.  And when the livestock is depleted, Joseph then allows the Egyptians to exchange their land for grain, except for the priests who get to keep their land and are still given bread.

Joseph makes Pharaoh the owner of literally everything... except for the land of the priests. We have sort of a reverse separation of church and state here - the clergy is taken care of in Egypt.  Perhaps Reformation Europe got its ideas of state-supported religion here.  Today, the countries of Germany, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Austria and Iceland still collect taxes and pay state-recognized churches.

Joseph then demonstrates his shrewd business acumen and sets up a system of taxation for the people starting in verse 23:

Then Joseph said to the people, “Indeed I have bought you and your land this day for Pharaoh. Look, here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land.  And it shall come to pass in the harvest that you shall give one-fifth to Pharaoh. Four-fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and for your food, for those of your households and as food for your little ones.”
So they said, “You have saved our lives; let us find favor in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s servants.”

Notice, Joseph first gives grain to the Egyptians.  Then he asks for twenty percent of it back, which is actually a pretty modest rate of taxation.  The Egyptians become stewards of Pharaoh's property, and they are grateful that Pharaoh has saved their lives.  Because of this, they commit their lives to him as servants.

The regular people of Egypt go from equity owners to tenant farmers under Joseph.  Is this a picture of our God who owns everything, but allows us to work for Him as stewards?   Of dedicating our lives to the God who rescues and saves us?

Chapter 47 ends with this:
So Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen; and they had possessions there and grew and multiplied exceedingly.   
(See how they thrived?)
And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years. So the length of Jacob’s life was one hundred and forty-seven years. When the time drew near that Israel must die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “Now if I have found favor in your sight, please put your hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me. Please do not bury me in Egypt, but let me lie with my fathers; you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.”

Jacob's final request is that he not be buried in Egypt.  Why?

Jacob places his hope on the covenant promise of God, which includes the promise of the land.  His desire to be buried with his ancestors demonstrates Jacob's belief in a future resurrection.

The oath that Jacob requests from his son is sealed with Joseph's hand under his thigh, which really means the loins, or the seat of procreative power - the proximity in which that covenant sign of circumcision takes place. 

After Joseph confirms this oath to his father, Jacob prepares to die.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Genesis Post 65 - Moving Day! (Chapter 46)

Chapter 46 opens with Israel eagerly heading out from Hebron, stopping in Beersheva to make a sacrifice to the LORD.

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.”

By the way, this is the seventh time that the LORD has met with Jacob.

Jacob is reassured:  do not fear to go down to Egypt: This indicates that perhaps Israel is afraid to go to Egypt. Jacob may have remembered that Abraham had gone to Egypt in a time of famine once before in Genesis 12, and he also may have remembered God told his father Isaac not to go down to Egypt, in Genesis 26.

Also, Jacob knows God told Abraham that his descendants would be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years(Genesis 15). As Jacob leads his family into this foreign land, he does not know what the future holds. At the same time, he knows that the future is in God’s hands.  The LORD reminds Jacob of several promises in this section.

I will make of you a great nation there: God tells Israel what His purpose is in bringing this large  clan down to Egypt. Because of the exclusive, segregated nature of Egyptian life, Israel’s descendants could grow as a large, distinct nation there. Egypt is to be like a mother’s womb to Israel as a nation, where they would grow to full size.

I will also surely bring you up again: The great reason Jacob need not fear the journey to Egypt is that God promises to bring him back to the Promised Land. This would be fulfilled after Jacob’s death, but it would be fulfilled — Egypt would not be the permanent home for Israel and his offspring.

And Joseph will put his hand on your eyes: The final assurance is that God Himself tells Jacob that Joseph lives and would care for him until his dying day. This is sweet assurance for Jacob.

So with great faith, Israel brings his entire family down to Egypt. No one is left behind to continue a presence in Canaan. Jacob knows they will be back someday.

Verses 8-27 then list the company of Israel's family who head down to Egypt.  There are 70 persons  reckoned in the journey to Egypt.  Even Judah's sons who had died - Er and Onan - are mentioned.  They are included for the sake of completeness, but are not counted in the 70.  

Chuck Missler' account of the seventy
This large family would become a nation of perhaps more than two million over the next 400 years.  Like many great works of God, Israel had a slow beginning.
  • From the time God called Abraham, it took at least 25 years to add one son – Isaac
  • It took Isaac 60 years to add another son of Israel – Jacob
  • It took 50 or 60 years for Jacob to add 12 sons and one daughter
  • But in 430 years, Israel would leave Egypt with 600,000 men
  • It took this family 215 years to grow from one to 70, but in another 430 years they grew to two million.

In verse 28, we see Judah being sent ahead to Joseph, to learn the way to the area of Goshen that Pharaoh promises to the Israelites.  (This was necessary because Google Maps was still so far into the future).

In verse 29, we see the whole family in Goshen, and Joseph and Jacob are reunited.  The tears of joy go on for awhile.  Jacob declares that he can now die happy - he has seen his most favored son.  Can you imagine the mindset of Jacob?  This son, whom he imagined dead for over 20 years, is now an important ruler of the known world.

At long last, Jacob and Joseph are reunited

By the way, Goshen was the best of all the land.  It is located in the eastern part of rich Nile Delta.  It is a perfect spot for shepherds because of all the rich grazing land.  It is also a great place for the Israelites to dwell separately from the Egyptians. The word Goshen means drawing near. The Israelites draw near to the Egyptians but remain set apart from them.

This chapter wraps up with Joseph giving his brothers directions on exactly how to officially acquire this good land from Pharaoh - he tells them  exactly what to say to Pharaoh when asked:  Guys, tell the big boss that you are shepherds.  Joseph knows that Egyptians consider shepherds to be an abomination - in other words, disgusting and unclean.

Thus when the family of Israel will dwell in Goshen, the Hebrew culture will remain separate from the Egyptian culture.  This is part of the LORD's plan to forge the children of Israel into a set-apart nation.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Genesis Post 64 - The Brethren Reunited! (Chapter 45)

We have now come to the very highlight of the Joseph story. The first three verses:

Then Joseph could not restrain himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, "Make everyone go out from me!" So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers.

(The Jewish sages say that one of the ways he showed himself to his brothers was to show them his circumcision. Perhaps that is why he had everyone leave the room... for privacy.)

And he wept aloud, and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard it.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph; does my father still live?" But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence.

I cannot imagine the shock of his brothers at that moment when Joseph made himself known to them. In their great dismay, they couldn’t answer him. They were verklempt. The word for dismayed actually means terrified.

This scenarios brings to mind Zechariah 12:10, which says,

And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.

Verses 12-14 in that same chapter have an interesting connection to this scene as well. Each tribe mourns privately.

Another verse that comes to mind is Matthew 23:39, when Yeshua weeps over Jerusalem, saying that the Jewish nation would not see them again until they say blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.  In other words, not until they have a change of heart.  Just like Joseph's brothers.

Joseph spends the next four verses reassuring his brothers.

But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.  "For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting.  "And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. "So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.

It is at his brothers’ second visit to the land that they recognize Joseph. So think about this:  Israel left the land in 70 AD, and it is in their return to the land that Yeshua will reveal Himself to them, at His second coming.

Look at Romans 11:25-27;

For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.  And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
“The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”

God meant all of this for good. For two years Joseph has been saving the world.  In the very same way, Yeshua has been saving the nations for two thousand years.  In Hebraic thought, numbers can be a picture of its tenfold multiple.  In other words, the number 2 carries the same thought as 200 or 2000.

What if the Jewish leaders had accepted Yeshua as the Messiah 2000 years ago?  They wouldn’t have plotted to put Him to death, and He would not have shed His innocent blood and died for our salvation. If they had accepted Him, all would have perished.  No salvation.  No blood atonement.  God meant it all for good!

In the same way, had Joseph’s brothers not rejected him, they would have perished in the terrible famine.  And if all Israel had perished, there would be no Messiah.

Someday very soon, Yeshua is going to return to Jerusalem, and His brothers are going to recognize Him.  It is such a key biblical doctrine... the whole Bible points to that day!  And yet, Israeology is simply not not taught in most churches in the world, many of whom think they ARE Israel.  

This prophetic story of Joseph clearly shows that Replacement Theology is malarkey. God is not done with the Jews yet, any more than he was in the story of Joseph.

Remember, the Abrahamic Covenant is a permanent and unconditional covenant.

The reunion of the brothers

The story of Joseph continues.

He kisses all his brothers and weeps over them, and Joseph does not exclude those who had been especially cruel to him. His heart was open to his brothers both as a group and as individuals.  And he has an extra-tender moment with his full brother, Benjamin in verse 14.

After the big reveal, his brothers talk with him.  I have no doubt that this is a wonderful conversation. They have a lot to catch up on!

Joseph is anxious to see his father.  In verse 9, he urges his brothers to go get dad, and bring everyone else, too!  The famine still have five more years!

In verse 16, we see that Pharaoh hears about the reunion, and he immediately offers Joseph's family the best of Egypt.  The sons of Israel receive transportation, provision, garments, and riches because of who their favored brother is. Pharaoh blesses the sons of Jacob for Joseph’s sake.
To return to Canaan with ‘carts from Egypt’ was the cultural equivalent of landing a jumbo jet among a tribe of isolated savages. It would be the stuff legends are made of.

Perhaps we should treat the Jews the way Pharaoh treats Joseph's family.  Just sayin.'  Could we please just bless the Jews because they are the family of Yeshua? 

So now Jacob is about to have the best day of his life:

Then they went up out of Egypt, and came to the land of Canaan to Jacob their father.  And they told him, saying, "Joseph is still alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt." And Jacob's heart stood still, because he did not believe them.

But when they told him all the words which Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived.

Then Israel said, "It is enough. Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die."

The knowledge that his beloved son was alive – back from the dead, as it were – changes Israel’s testimony from all these things are against me (Genesis 42:36) to it is enough.

Jacob learns Joseph is alive
Notice how this testimony of faith comes from Israel, not Jacob. When Jacob is in charge, we see a whining, self-pitying, complaining, unbelieving type of man. In contrast Israel, the man God had redeemed, has a testimony of faith!

Jacob wastes no time in heading to Egypt. To quote a movie, When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start as soon a possible.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Genesis Post 63 - The Silver Cup (Chapter 44)

So, after chapter 43, everything is going well for the brothers.  They have more food, they have their little brother intact, and they even get a bonus meal with the Prime Minister of Egypt.  After the festive meal with Joseph, the brothers prepare to head home the next morning.

Little do they know that Joseph's testing of them continues.  He commands his steward to fill the brothers' sacks with grain, return their money again, and this time, to place a silver cup into the sack of the youngest.

Silver... again. The substance representing redemption.  Joseph had been sold for twenty pieces of silver; would silver now be the undoing of the brothers?

I wonder if Joseph's steward is perplexed by their boss's interest in this ragtag band of Hebrews.

The brothers start up their donkeys and head out.  They don't get far before Joseph's steward, at Joseph's command, overtakes them and demands a search for his master's cup of divination.

Does Joseph really use a silver cup for divination, which is like reading your horoscope times ten?  I doubt it.  Joseph has shown all along that he trusts in the One True God.  The guy could interpret dreams, for crying out loud.  He had no use for staring at dregs in a silver cup to know the future.  But Joseph is maintaining his Egyptian appearance to his brothers, so the divination cup is right in line with that.

The brothers insist upon their innocence, even going as far as calling for the death of the one with whom it is found, and the rest would become slaves.

This brings to my mind the oath of Jacob to Laban, calling for the death of the one who was found to be in possession of Laban's household gods.

Is this why the scriptures give us such warnings about oaths?  In Matthew 5, Yeshua says, don't make oaths.  Don't swear by heaven, earth, your head, or anything else.  Let your yes be yes and your no be no.  This is actually what the third commandment is about:  do not take the LORD's name in vain.  The Hebrew actually means do not lift up and swear falsely by the name of the LORD.

Rash oaths are not cool.

Fortunately, Joseph's steward is a decent sort of guy, and he says that the one who has the cup will become a slave, the rest would be free to go.


Interestingly, the steward searches the eleven bags in birth order, which we know the odds from the seating arrangement at the table is around a 1 in 40 million chance.  The steward obviously has the birth order of these Hebrew brothers memorized.

Surprise.  The silver cup is discovered in Benjamin's bag.

Uh oh.

The brothers have a perfect chance now to get rid of their father's remaining favorite child, the way they had done with Joseph.  Their integrity is being tested.  Are they still the dirty rotten scoundrels that they once were?

The brothers freak out and tear their clothes.  The custom of garment-tearing goes way beyond being upset or annoyed - it is an act of heartbreak and agony.

Do they accuse Benjamin?  Do they call him stupid?  Do they demand an explanation from young Benjamin?  Nope.  Loading up their animals again, all the brothers head back to Joseph's house.  Every single one of them. Thankfully, the brothers do not abandon Benjamin to the "pit." 

Once again, the brothers fall before Joseph, who says an interesting thing, continuing his charade as an Eyptian and linking the incident to the stolen cup:
And Joseph said to them, “What deed is this you have done? Did you not know that such a man as I can certainly practice divination?”

Once again, Joseph offers to just keep Benjamin and send the rest home.  He gives them one more chance at self-preservation at the expense of Benjamin. Had they really changed?  Words are cheap; actions reveal the truth.  Would they finally bail on their little brother?

In verse 16, Judah exclaims that God has found out their iniquity; in other words, God knows all, no silver cup needed.  In regard to guilt, Judah is not talking about the theft of the silver cup; he is talking about the guilt that he and his brothers have been bearing for over 20 years.

He blurts out the story to Joseph, although he leaves out the part about selling his brother into slavery. He continues in his role as intercessor, pleading with Joseph to release Benjamin and the others, and keep him as a slave instead.  For how can he bring such sorrow onto the head of his father?  He and his brothers have already broken their father's heart and are living with the consequences.  He is not just pleading for Benjamin.  He is pleading for his father, too.

Judah offers his life in place of his brother.

Judah is  willing to give up his life to provide another little brother with the opportunity to return home to his father. So Judah is someone who steps up, takes responsibility, and demonstrates his willingness to make the sacrifice that would make things right- just as Someone else would do many years later.

And as the chapter ends, we have come to the high point of the entire Joseph story.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Genesis Post 62 - The Return of the Brothers (Chapter 43)

Chapter 43 opens with the family of Jacob in hunger once again.  They have finished the grain from the brothers' first trip to Egypt, and are once again facing starvation.

We are not told how much time has passed since their trip.  How long did it take all their families to consume those sacks of grain?  A few months?

Had Jacob been hoping that the famine would be over by the time the need would arise to send Benjamin?  It does not pan out that way, and now their father needs to send them back for more grain.  Judah reminds him of the situation. Um, don't forget, dad:  Benjamin must go or there will be no more grain.

Suddenly, Jacob is called by his covenant name - Israel - in this section.  Once again he gripes about his sons mentioning to the Egyptian ruler that he has another child.

This time, Judah steps in and takes full responsibility for Benjamin, offering to take all the blame if anything should happen to him.  What an amazing transformation of Judah.  He was the one who had suggested the sale of their brother to the Egyptians in the first place.  He then later left his family, married into a pagan family, broke his promise to his daughter-in-law Tamar, slept with a prostitute, and then tried to have Tamar killed for adultery... until it was revealed that the child was his.  Oops.

Note:  it is never too late to begin living a life that honors God.

At Judah's offer, Israel relents.  Judah, the one who is to be chosen for the line of the Messiah (in spite of all his character flaws), offers himself now as intercessor - another picture of Messiah in the Joseph narrative.  Does Israel relent because Judah himself has lost two sons?

Israel instructs his sons to bring all manner of gifts to this Egyptian ruler - pistachios, honey, almonds, spices, chocolate (ok, kidding, chocolate had not yet made its way from central America to the Middle East by then).

Middle Eastern gift-giving
The giving of gifts was and still is an important part of Middle Eastern culture and hospitality.  Because of the famine, Israel probably had to dig deep into his stores to come up with his generous gift for the mystery man in Egypt.

In verses 13-14, Israel says,
Take your brother also, and arise, go back to the man. And may God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may release your other brother and Benjamin. If I am bereaved, I am bereaved!”

Israel now finally comes to the point where he calls for the mercy of God.  And notice that Israel uses the term God Almighty, or El Shaddai, which usually shows up in scripture in the context of children and fruitfulness.  Although we read that Israel is resigned to the possibility of bereavement, the terms Israel and El Shaddai are combined here to emphasize the covenant faithfulness of God.

Also, Israel's statement on bereavement bring to mind the words of Esther so many years later:  If I perish, I perish.

The ten brothers set out for a second journey to Egypt, carrying gifts, the silver that was in their sacks, and then double silver on top of that!

Silver - the symbol of redemption
Joseph had been sold for twenty pieces of silver, and here come the brothers, carrying twenty extra pieces of silver between them.  A prophetic snapshot within a prophetic snapshot!

Once again, the brothers stand before Joseph.

Joseph sees Benjamin with them, and immediately has his steward put together a dinner party with his brothers. He sends his brothers off to his mansion.

Now the brothers are really nervous.  They approach Joseph's mansion and babble a confession regarding the returned money to the steward who greets them at the door.  The steward puts them at ease, assuring them that he had their money and that their God (and the God of their father) has given them the treasure.  Now even Joseph's steward is giving credit to the One True God!

The steward then restores Simeon to them, and the brothers prepare to meet Joseph again.

I wonder if Simeon's time in the slammer tames him at all.  Food for thought.

Joseph gets home from work, and the brothers shower him with their gifts, bowing down to Joseph a second time, fulfilling Joseph's dreams yet again.

Joseph in turn peppers them with questions about their dad.  Even he must be nervous, because he asks if their dad is well, and then asks if he is alive.

In verse 29, Joseph looks upon his little brother and then blesses him. This blessing, given only to Benjamin, is part of Joseph's plan in dealing with his brothers, as we will soon see.  After doing this, he is overcome with emotion and has to leave the room to cry for awhile.  He composes himself and returns to his brothers.  Guys:  it's ok to cry.  Even Yeshua wept over Lazarus.

This is where it gets really interesting.  The story had started out with his brothers eating a meal together while Joseph was separated from them, languishing in a pit.  Now in the restoration process, Joseph prepares a meal for them, but he still sits separate from them due to Egyptian custom.  He continues his masquerade as an Egyptian.

This Egyptian custom of keeping themselves from the Hebrews is actually an important part of God's overall plan.  Had they stayed in Canaan, they would have probably assimilated into the surrounding cultures, as would have been the case in Shechem if they had mixed with the locals through intermarriage.  But God is about to forge them into a nation, so He brings them to a place that refuses to mix with them. 

In ancient Egypt, shepherding was the lowest of the low of professions.  They would have thought, those stinky, low-class Hebrews!  Additionally, Egypt was quite racist against not just the Hebrews but against most other cultures as well.  They believed that they were descended from gods, and that their Pharaoh was a manifestation of the chief god.

Now back to the dinner, and this is my favorite part:  the brothers are seated in birth order!  Having six sisters myself, this always tickles me.  Every time I read this, I imagine our seven names arranged in our birth order at Joseph's table.  Commentators place the odds of eleven brothers being correctly seated in their birth order at one in almost 40 million!  Actually 39,917,000, to be exact.

Dining with Joseph - in birth order!
The last thing that we see in this chapter is that Benjamin is given five times the portion size of his brothers.  Again, this is part of the testing.  Will the brothers resent Benjamin because of the favoritism shown him by Joseph?  Are they still clinging to their jealous ways? 

I always wondered why Benjamin was given so much more food thaneveryone else.  Why not just double or triple?  Five times the amount seems to be so very overkill.  It's like Joseph gave Benjamin the 11:11 Burgers and Beignets challenge with that ridiculous amount of food. 

But Joseph is really laying it on.   He really wants to know if his brothers harbor any resentment toward Benjamin.  And interestingly, the number five symbolizes God's grace, goodness and favor toward humans and is mentioned 318 times in Scripture. For example:

  • There are five books in the Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy)
  • There are five kinds of offerings at the tabernacle
  • The ten commandments are two sets of five (Five regarding our relationship to God, and five regarding our relationship to our fellow man)
  • There are five sections to the Psalms
  • Yeshua used five loaves to feed five thousand people
Happily, the chapter ends with the brothers passing this test.  They all end up drinking and making merry with Joseph.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Genesis Post 61 - The Brothers Seek Bread (Chapter 42)

Chapter 42 now switches scenes back to Jacob and family in the land of Canaan.

The famine is severe and the family of Jacob is hungry.

When he mentions that Egypt has grain, the brothers look at each other uneasily.  Are they thinking of Joseph, whom they believe is a slave down there somewhere, if he is even still alive? For over twenty years they have kept the ugly secret of their dastardly deed.  Their consciences are still eating them alive.

Jacob summons the ten older boys and sends them off to Egypt, keeping Benjamin the favorite back at home.  So off they go, falling in line with others from the area who are also hungry and seeking bread.

Meanwhile, back in Egypt, Joseph the governor is selling copious amounts of grain to people from all over the place.

Suddenly, his ten brothers are before him, bowing down.  Of course he recognizes them, but they have no idea who he is.  Remember, Joseph is dressed like an Egyptian, which is very different from the look of a Hebrew.  And about 22 years have passed since they had last seen him.

Do his previous dreams come instantly to mind, or does it take a few moments to register?  He decides to test them.  He speaks harshly to them, searching their hearts and minds.  Three times Joseph accuses them of being spies.

The brothers assure him they are not spies, and they give him a family history lesson, probably what Joseph was hoping for.  The brothers admit to Joseph that one brother is no more, and that little bro is home with dad.

Joseph, wanting to see his little bro, first tells his brothers that they won't get to go home until the little brother comes to Egypt. Then he throws them all in prison and makes them stay there... three days.

After those three days, Joseph gives them an option for survival and lets them know that he too fears God.  He agrees to keep one of them, and insists that they go home and get the youngest brother.

A conversation ensues among the brothers, but they do not realize that Joseph understands every word.  He hears them confessing their guilt regarding him, and it moves him to tears.  He has to leave the room to regain his composure.  But then he comes back and speaks with them again, before seizing Simeon and having him bound and thrown in prison.

Why Simeon? Did they cast lots? Did he volunteer? We are not told. We do know from the Dinah incident in Shechem that he is hot-headed and cruel. It is quite possible that he had been the chief instigator in Joseph's demise.

It is interesting to note that Joseph has maintained his faith and integrity all along, both in poverty and in wealth and power.  It is easy for us to forget God when all is going well in life, and it is also easy to get bitter toward God if we are in the midst of pain or poverty.  They are the opposite sides of the same coin... both are based on self-centeredness.  Joseph does neither.

So anyway, the remaining nine guys head home, but they do not know that Joseph has returned their money in their sacks of grain.  While enroute, one of the brothers discovers the money in is bag.  Is Joseph testing them further?  Or is it a gesture of goodwill toward them?

The brothers are terrified.  They question why God has put them in this position.  When you are governed by a guilty conscience, as the brothers have been for so many years, you tend to question every little conflict and perhaps see it as a potential punishment.

When they get home, boy do they have a tale for Jacob, who is not amused at all.  Then the rest of them look into their sacks, and they all find their money returned.

This is what Jacob says in verse 36:
And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me: Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you want to take Benjamin. All these things are against me.”

Reuben the firstborn steps in and offers his two sons as collateral for returning Benjamin to their father (as if the death of two beloved grandsons would somehow make up for the loss of a son??)  

But the chapter ends with Jacob giving an andamant NO!  He will not risk Rachel's remaining child.

Joseph's disappearance twenty years earlier and Rachel's death has made Jacob bitter and pessimistic. Jacob is focusing on his circumstances and is missing God's bigger picture. Jacob is choosing not to forget his misfortunes, the way Joseph does.  And Jacob doesn't have the reminder of Romans 8:28 yet. But the story continues, and God will soon teach him an amazing lesson.

Several more parallels between Joseph and Yeshua show up in this chapter:
  • Joseph's brothers are hungry for bread
  • Joseph appears as a foreigner to his brothers
  • Joseph knows his brothers, but they don't know him
  • Joseph tests his brothers
  • Joseph is moved by the repentant hearts of his brothers
  • Joseph shows mercy to his brothers by sending nine of them home
  • Joseph gives them free life-giving bread

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Genesis Post 60 - Pharaoh's Nightmares, Joseph's Promotion (Chapter 41)

May I just share a PS to my last post?

It occurred to me that there is another similarity to Yeshua in chapter 40, in regard to the two prisoners.  One is set free, and one is condemned.  I am reminded of the two theives on the cross; one is condemned and the other promised paradise.

Ok, on to chapter 41.

Joseph is still languishing in prison, and we are told that it is now two years later. God’s timing is about to manifest itself.

Pharaoh has two bizarre dreams on the same night. They are eerily similar.

In the first dream, Pharoah is standing by the beloved and mighty Nile river, and seven big fat cows come up out of the water.

The fat cows are standing around, minding their own business, and seven skinny, ugly, starving cows come up out of the river and eat them.

Cows are not carnivores. This is weird.

So Pharaoh awakes. He must’ve shaken his head and then thought wow, crazy dream!

He falls back asleep and has a second dream, very similar to the first. Seven plump grains show up on one stalk. Suddenly, seven scrawny, skinny grains blighted by the East wind, show up on another stalk and devour the seven big ones.  (Remember how the idea of east is a picture cursing, biblically?)

What the heck?? Pharaoh must be really perplexed by this point.

Pharaoh sends for someone, anyone, who could possibly interpret the dreams for him.  None of his sorcerers or magicians has an answer for him.

Finally, the cupbearer sees a chance to make good on his promise to Joseph and gain favor with Pharaoh at the same time. Starting in verse nine, he says:

Then the chief butler spoke to Pharaoh, saying: "I remember my faults this day.
 "When Pharaoh was angry with his servants, and put me in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, both me and the chief baker, "we each had a dream in one night, he and I. Each of us dreamed according to the interpretation of his own dream.  "Now there was a young Hebrew man with us there, a servant of the captain of the guard. And we told him, and he interpreted our dreams for us; to each man he interpreted according to his own dream.  "And it came to pass, just as he interpreted for us, so it happened. He restored me to my office, and he hanged him."

Pharaoh is intrigued (or desperate) enough to send for Joseph after hearing his cupbearer's tale.

Joseph is cleaned up and brought before Pharaoh. He tells Pharaoh about his God who can interpret his dream.  What faith! What boldness! Pharaoh himself was considered a god in his culture, so to stand there and elevate your God above Pharaoh and all that he stood for was gutsy.

Pharaoh describes both of his dreams to Joseph.

Joseph instantly gives credit to God, assuring him that God will give him peace about it.  He interprets Pharaoh's dreams, saying they are in fact one dream.  He tells Pharaoh what God is about to do: He will bring seven years of plenty and then seven years of famine.

There is a biblical pattern of twos that has been established in Genesis.  Joseph himself had two dreams.  There were the two dream of the prisoners.  Pharaoh has two dreams.  And in the book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar has two separate, prophetic dreams that tell a similar story.

The bible often speaks of two witnesses.  Is that what we are seeing through these double dreams?  The scriptures themselves testify of Yeshua with two witnesses:  the Tanach and the Brit Chadashah.  (Old and New Testaments). And the gospels give us four witnesses... which is even more than the lawful requirement.

Look what Joseph says in verse 32:
And the dream was repeated to Pharaoh twice because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.

By the word of two or three witnesses, a matter or a word is established.  This is clearly stated in Deuteronomy 19, Matthew 18, 1 Timothy 5, 2 Corinthians 13, and Revelation 11.

Have you been given a prophecy? Do not be afraid to seek confirmation.

Joseph does not stop at the interpretation of the dreams.  He then lays out an entire 14-year game plan for Pharaoh.  Look at Pharaoh's reaction:
So the advice was good in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of all his servants. And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?”

Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you.  You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.”

From prison to Prime Minister in one day.  Well, that escalated quickly.

Thirteen years waiting and then one day.  Just like Abraham had to wait a long time to see God's promise be fulfilled, Joseph waits a long time in Egypt for God's plan to move forward.  And when God moves His hand, He seems to move quickly.

Pharaoh seeks a man in whom is the Spirit of God, and he looks no further than the Hebrew man standing in front of him.

An Egyptian god acknowledging the true God?  This is huge.

Joseph is given a signet ring, which we learned from Judah is symbol of authority; something with which you signed your name.  Joseph is then decked out in finery and driven all over Egypt so that every knee could bow down to him. 

Joseph is then given a new name: Zaphnath-Paaneah.  There are several meanings to this name that scholars have discerned:  revealer of secrets, God speaks and he lives, and savior of the world.

Joseph is also given an Egyptian wife, a daughter of a pagan priest.  In fact, Genesis will tell us three times that she is the daughter of On, a pagan priest. Interesting.  Three times for emphasis.  On is also called Heliopolis, city of the sun.  Joseph marries the daughter of a priest of the sun god, Ra.

Joseph marries an Egyptian
Verse 46 tells us that Joseph is thirty years old when he begins his service to Pharaoh.  Ironically, thirty is the age at which a cohen, or priest, begins ministering in the tabernacle/temple.

Joseph gets right to work, storing up massive quantities of grain in those first seven years.  It was the custom of the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt to collect 10% of the crops for tax purposes.  Did Joseph collect more than that?  We are not told.

During these seven years of plenty, Joseph's wife Asenath has two sons; Manasseh, meaning forgetfulness, and Ephraim, meaning fruitfulness.

The context of Manasseh's name is Joseph forgetting about all of his trials, but also forgetting about his father's house.  And Ephraim's name is a reminder of the fruitfulness that Joseph is now experiencing in the land of his affliction.

It makes me think of the forgetfulness of God when it comes to our sin, and the fruitfulness of our lives in Messiah. when we are forgiven.  Joseph doesn't forget about his father's house in a bad way; he forgets about any bitterness he may have harbored toward them.

In verse 53, the fruitfulness of the land ends, and thus begins the great famine.

The famine is far-reaching, affecting all the surrounding nations. Joseph opens the storehouses and sells grain.

This famine was engineered for one big purpose! To bring Jacob, his 11 sons, and their families to Egypt, so that God, the ultimate history writer, could give us an amazing picture of His plan for mankind!

The Egyptians begin to run low on food, as do all the surrounding countries that are affected by the famine.

Pharaoh points to Joseph as the one to go see.  Soon, people from all around come to see Joseph, the provider of bread.

Any parallels here?  Let's see.
  • Joseph shows divine wisdom
  • After suffering, Joseph is elevated to a place of high authority 
  • Every knee bowed down to Joseph
  • Joseph marries a daughter of a pagan (Hint:  Constantine and pagan Rome)
  • Joseph began his ministry at age 30
  • Joseph is the source of the bread of life for starving people
  • Joseph feeds all the known world with this bread
Click here to see what happens next.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Genesis Post 59 - The Dreamer Deciphers Dreams (Chapter 40)

Joseph, aka that dreamer by his brothers, is about to encounter dreams again.  This time, the dreams are not his own.

Two important men in Egypt have offended Pharaoh.  We don't know what they have done, but it is enough to land them in jail.  Perhaps they served a less-than-stellar meal to the Pharaoh.  Who knows?  They were probably being held in jail, awaiting their trial and sentencing.

Each of these gentlemen has a dream in prison.

It is no coincidence that they each have their dream on the same night, and that the dreams are similar to one another in theme.  Both dreams include the number three.  And it is no coincidence that Joseph is in charge of the prisoners and he notices their countenance the morning after their dreams.

Look at verse 8
And they said to him, “We each have had a dream, and there is no interpreter of it.”
So Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell them to me, please.”

Joseph is acknowledging here that he will be able to interpret the dream because he follows the One True God.  No one else around him serves YHVH.

This story reminds me of Daniel.  Both are innocent, both are in exile a foreign land, both are trusted by head honchos, and both interpret dreams.

Here is the cupbearer's dream:
Then the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, “Behold, in my dream a vine was before me, and in the vine were three branches; it was as though it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and its clusters brought forth ripe grapes. Then Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand; and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.”

Here is Joseph's answer:
And Joseph said to him, “This is the interpretation of it: The three branches are three days. Now within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your place, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand according to the former manner, when you were his butler.

The next thing we see is the first time that Joseph pleads for himself:
But remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house. For indeed I was stolen away from the land of the Hebrews; and also I have done nothing here that they should put me into the dungeon.”

The baker sees the good report that Joseph gives to the cupbearer, so he shares his own dream:
 “I also was in my dream, and there were three white baskets on my head. In the uppermost basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, and the birds ate them out of the basket on my head.”

Joseph's reply was:
So Joseph answered and said, “This is the interpretation of it: The three baskets are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head from you and hang you on a tree; and the birds will eat your flesh from you.”

Gulp.  I'm guessing that this is not what the baker wanted to hear.  There was a form of capital punishment used at this time in Egypt which involved beheading, and the headless body was left hanging on a tree for birds to peck at until it was devoured.

Did you notice that the term three days shows up in both instances?  This is a theme that shows up frequently in scripture, and someday I will study them all.  For example, Abraham and Isaac make a three day journey to the near-sacrifice, Jonah is in the belly of the fish three days, and of course our Messiah lay in the grave three days.

And now, we see in verse 20 that three days later, it is Pharaoh's birthday, and he decides to have a party.  An ancient custom of the Egyptian Pharaohs was to release a prisoner during his birthday celebration.

Did you ever notice that nothing good ever came out of a biblical birthday celebration? Pharaoh, Herod, Job’s children? 

I digress.

So Pharaoh restores the cupbearer and hangs the baker, just as Joseph has predicted.  And then the cupbearer immediately forgets Joseph. It is likely that he does not forget about Joseph, but that he chooses to remain silent about him - not wanting to call Pharaoh’s attention to his time in prison.

There is a purpose to this willful forgetfulness, however.  God's unfolding plan requires Pharaoh to have need of Joseph's interpretive abilities when he has disturbing dreams of his own.  God's timing will come into play in the next chapter.

There is great prophetic significance to the two professions represented by the baker and the cupbearer.  The baker represents bread, and the cupbearer represents wine.

Bread and wine is a common biblical theme.   In a general sense, bread represents food and wine represents drink.  Sustenance. 

But they are also highly symbolic of our ultimate sustenance - Messiah Himself.   Remember Melchizedek from chapter 14?  He and Abraham share bread and wine together.  When Yeshua eats his Passover meal with His disciples, he links the two elements to Himself and what He is about to do.

And Yeshua's body is broken and killed (just like the baker is hung on a tree), and it is through His blood that we have redemption (as we see in the restoration of the cupbearer).

Click here for the next post.