Light from the Sidra


Genesis 44: 18-47:27. Haftarah: Ezekial 37: 15-28

We are all fascinated by rags to riches stories and tales of zeroes who become heroes. Accounts of people who show extraordinary wisdom or courage that gets others out of life-threatening situations always make great reading. No doubt that is why the story of Joseph has such enduring appeal and why Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber recognised the account in Genesis as a potential money-spinner.

Joseph dreamed his family would bow down to him. But his brothers put paid to his thoughts of exaltation by selling him into slavery in Egypt, where things went from bad to better to worse but then, by a sudden astonishing reversal of fortune, to even better. Because of his interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams, Joseph became the second most powerful man in Egypt overnight and, because Egypt was the super power of that time, the second most powerful man in the world. At the end of last week’s Torah portion, the famine Joseph had predicted had hit the ancient Middle East and Joseph’s brothers were now bowing before him.

Are there parallels between Joseph and the one the Rabbis refer to as Messiah be Joseph? There certainly are.

First, Joseph was raised from a place of condemnation and humiliation to a position of glory and power. The Messiah – Jesus – the Son of Joseph, was raised from condemnation and death to take his place the right hand of God, the most exalted place in the universe.

Second, Joseph was 30 years old when he began his work of saving the world: “Now Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt” (Gen 41:46). Significantly, the Messiah was 30 when he began his ministry of saving the world: “Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age… “(Gospel of Luke 3:23).

Third, Pharaoh said of Joseph: “Do whatever he tells you.” Only by following Joseph’s orders could anyone survive the horrific seven-year famine. Likewise, almost 2,000 years later, when a family faced the acute embarrassment of running out of wine at a wedding, they were saved by doing what Messiah instructed them to do: “His [Jesus’] mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever He says to you, do it’” (John 2:5).


Fourth, every knee bowed to Joseph: “Then Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand, and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen, and put the gold necklace around his neck. And he had him ride in his second chariot; and they proclaimed before him, ‘Bow the knee!’” (Gen 41:42-44).

Fifth, before he ascended to heaven and to the right hand of God, Jesus commanded his emissaries to make disciples of all nations, assuring them that “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Gospel of Matthew 28:18).

The emissary Sha’ul, or Paul, wrote, “Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus the Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Letter to the Philippians 2:9-11).

Sixth, the entire ancient Middle Eastern world had to purchase their bread from Joseph – there was no other way the people could be saved from starvation: “So when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread; and Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, ‘Go to Joseph; whatever he says to you, you shall do’ … and the people of all the earth came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in the earth (Gen 41:55-57).

Jesus once made the astonishing claim: “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (Gospel of John 6:35). Jesus’ emissary Peter declared to the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts of the Apostles 4:12).

Seventh, Joseph’s brothers did not recognise him as their brother until he revealed himself to them: “Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, ‘Have everyone go out from me.’ So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers … Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Please come closer to me.’ So they came closer. And he said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt’ (Gen 45:1-4).

For almost 2,000 years, the Jewish people have not recognised Jesus as their brother; they have not recognised him as the Messiah. But the prophets foretold a day when the nation would recognise their Messiah: “And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so they will look upon Me who they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first born” (Zechariah 12:10).

We live at a time when more Jewish people than ever before are recognising Jesus as the Messiah. Our Haftarah reading looks to a day when Joseph and the house of Israel will be united, a day when “David” shall rule over them. There is only one Messiah, who is both Son of David and Son of Joseph, and Israel’s united future is secure only through him.

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