Light from the Sidra

Miketz ('At the end..'). 12th December 2015. 30th Kislev 5776.

Torah: Genesis 41:1-44:17. Zechariah 2:2:14(10)-4:7*

Messiah: the son of David and Joseph

In The Messiah Texts, Jewish scholar Raphael Patai spends four chapters dealing with the rabbinic doctrine of two Messiahs. The origins of the idea are shrouded in mystery but Patai suggests it developed because the Talmudists could not reconcile a Messiah who redeems Israel with the ‘Suffering Servant motif’ of (presumably) Isaiah 53. So the rabbis formulated a doctrine of two Messiahs: ‘Messiah Son of David’, who conquers Israel’s enemies, but is preceded by ‘Messiah Son of Joseph’ who is put to death by the forces of Gog and Magog at ‘Armageddon’.

We know from the Tanakh that Messiah will be the ‘Son of David’ but the Bible says nothing about a second Messiah, still less about a ‘Son of Joseph’. Nevertheless, although it is far from clear why the rabbis identified Joseph as a Messianic figure, there are remarkable similarities between Joseph and the one millions of Jews and Gentiles throughout the centuries have believed was the one and only Messiah. It is worth bearing in mind that Jesus of Nazareth, although born to a virgin (remember the prophecy of the ‘seed of the woman’ in Genesis 3:15), had a legal father called Joseph. But let’s examine a few of the parallels that exist between Joseph and the ‘son of Joseph’ by comparing what the Torah says about the patriarch Joseph and what the books of the B’rit Hadasha (New Testament) reveal about Jesus.

Joseph and Jesus were the beloved sons of their fathers: ‘Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons’ (Gen. 37:3). Jesus was the beloved son of his heavenly Father: ‘A voice out of the heavens said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I delight”’ (Gospel of Matthew 3:17).

Joseph and Jesus lived in ‘Hebron’: ‘Hebron’ means ‘fellowship’ and Joseph was sent by his father from the place of ‘fellowship’ to seek the welfare of his brothers: ‘Jacob said to Joseph, ‘Go now, look into the welfare of your brothers and the welfare of the flock, and bring me back word’’ (Gen. 37:14). Jesus lived in fellowship with his heavenly Father and was sent by the Father to seek the welfare of His brothers: ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His Son, the only one born as His Son, so that whoever believes in him should not be destroyed, but have eternal life’ (Gospel of John 3:16).

Joseph and Jesus were hated by their brothers: ‘Joseph dreamt a dream which he told it to his brothers, and they hated him…’ (Gen. 37:5). At the last Passover Seder Jesus celebrated with his disciples, he revealed his forthcoming betrayal, unjust trial and death to his disciples: ‘This has happened so that the word may be fulfilled which was written in their Torah: “They hated me without a cause”’ (John 15:25). If this statement is anti-Semitic, as some critics of the New Testament claim, what should we say about Moses’ account of Joseph being hated and betrayed by members of his own family?

Joseph and Jesus foretold they would rule over their brothers: ‘Behold —we were binding sheaves in the middle of the field, when, behold! — my sheaf arose and also remained standing; then, behold! —. And behold, your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf.’ (Gen. 37:7). Jesus also prophesied that he would one day rule: ‘I tell you that after this you will see the Son of Adam sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of the heavens’ (Gospel of Matthew 26:64).

Joseph and Jesus were sold by Judah for silver: ‘Judah said to his brothers, “What gain will there be if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites — but let our hand not be upon him …” they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver’ (Gen. 37: 27-28). Jesus was also betrayed by a Judah – Judah of K’riyot, commonly known as Judas Iscariot – for silver: ‘One of the twelve, who was called Judah from K’riyot, went to the chief Kohanim and said, “What are you willing to give me so that I deliver him to you?” They weighed out for him thirty pieces of silver. From that time he sought an opportunity to deliver him up’” (Matthew 26:14-16).

Joseph and Jesus were tempted but did not sin: In this week’s Parashah, the wife of Potiphar ‘cast her eyes upon Joseph and she said, “Lie with me.” But he adamantly refused; he said to his master’s wife, “Look… how then can I perpetrate this great evil… against God!’’’ (Gen. 39:7-9). Jesus was tempted by the Accuser: ‘Yeshua said to him, “Accuser, get back, because it is written, ‘You are to bow down to the Everpresent Lord, your God and you will serve Him only’”’ (Matthew 4:11).

Joseph and Jesus were accused falsely: ‘[Potiphar’s wife] called to the men of her household and spoke to them saying, “Look… He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with loud screams. And when he heard that I raised my voice and screamed, he left his garment beside me, fled and went outside”’ (Gen. 39:13-15). Jesus was also accused falsely: ‘Now the chief Kohanim, the Elders, and the whole Council sought false testimony against Yeshua that they might put him to death; but they found none. Many false witnesses came forward, but at last two came forward and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the Temple of God, and build it in three days.’”’ (Matthew 26:59-62).

Joseph and Jesus were ‘counted among the transgressors’: The innocent Joseph was imprisoned with chief cupbearer and chief baker of Pharaoh. When he interpreted their dreams, he foretold doom to the baker but life to the cupbearer. Jesus also was counted as a criminal and suffered with two criminals. To one, he promised life; to the other he promised death. ‘One of the criminals who was hung mocked him, “If you are the Messiah, save yourself and us!” But the other responded and rebuked him, “Don’t you even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, because we are receiving the due reward for what we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” He said to Yeshua, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Yeshua said to him, “I tell you faithfully that you will be with me in the Garden today.”’ (The Gospel of Luke 23:39-43).

The Sidra reading ends with Joseph’s brothers coming to Egypt for bread and failing to see that their saviour is the very one they had despised, rejected and sold. Likewise, most of Jesus’ brothers through history have rejected him and his claims but the day will come when. Like Joseph’s brothers, it will be clear that he is not only their brother but also their rightful messianic King.

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