Light from the Sidra


Genesis 47:28-50:26. Haftarah: 1 Kings 2:1-12

“Revenge”, as the saying goes, “is a dish best served cold.” The suggestion is that vengeance is more satisfactory when executed as a considered response, or when unexpected or long feared.

Joseph’s dad is dead and his brothers are now at the mercy of the second most powerful man in the ancient world. “What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back for the wrong we did him!” (Gen 50:15 Tanakh – The Holy Scriptures. The new JPS Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text). What delicious, ice-cold morsel might Joseph serve up? Imprisonment? Slavery? Flogging? Hanging? Throwing the brothers to the crocs in the Nile?

They send him a message from their father to the effect that he should forgive them and then fling themselves at Joseph’s feet, telling him they are prepared to be his slaves. They are completely unprepared for the warmth of Joseph’s response: “Although your intended me harm, God intended it for good, so as to bring about the present result—the survival of many people. And so, fear not. I will sustain you and your children” (ibid vv 20f).

The God who in the beginning created the heavens and the earth is so in control of his creation that he can make good come from evil intentions of evil men. The thoughts and actions of Joseph’s brothers were evil and they could offer no excuse for their wicked actions toward their kid brother. Joseph’s dreams, the animosity they stirred in the hearts of his older siblings, their selling him into slavery, the false accusation by Potiphar’s wife, the two dreams of Pharaoh’s butler and baker, the butler’s ingratitude until Pharaoh’s dreams tugged at his memory and awoke his conscience – God was in control of it all, weaving the events together into his master plan to save the world.

When the Jewish sages invented the theory of two Messiah’s to account for the two strands of messianic prophecy in the Tanakh, little did they know that that God meant their attempt to write Jesus out of the picture that their theory for good. The theory of Messiah ben Joseph has served to highlight so many details in the life of Joseph that parallel the life of Jesus.

The Gospel according to John (1:12) says Jesus came to his own people – the Jewish people – but his own people did not receive him. Instead, he was despised and rejected, and handed over to the Romans by the leaders of his own people. Yet his death on a tree became the means by which the world would be saved. Jesus, instead of cursing his people, prayed for their forgiveness even while he was being nailed to the tree (Gospel of Luke 23:34). Although he was rejected by his own people, in the Gospel of Matthew 23:39, Jesus foretold a day when Jerusalem would welcome him with the words, “Baruch haba b’shem Adonai!” recognising him as their brother and Saviour.

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