VAYESHEV | WEEK 9
By Daniel Juster
Gen 37:1 – 40:23
This week’s reading takes us through one of the most amazing stories of God’s providence and protection, the story of Joseph. The story of Joseph in his youth brings out two matters that tempted his brothers to both jealousy and anger. The first is his father’s favoritism. (Israel loved him more than all his brothers because he was the son of his old age. Gen. 37:3) Joseph was the first son of his favorite wife Rachael. Jacob made a special coat of many colors in some translations or long sleeves in others. The second is that Joseph “dreamed a dream” and then foolishly told his brothers. The essence of the dream was that the brothers were binding sheaves, and their sheaves gathered and bowed down to his sheaf. The brothers were incensed. They understood the interpretation of the dream, that they would bow down to him. Eventually they plotted to kill Joseph. Perhaps there is a lesson here about wisdom in dealing with prophecy! Not all words are to be announced and promoted. Some are for prayer and pondering. But Joseph’s foolishness is used by God and reveals to us his providential purposes. Reuben did not agree with the others and would not participate in murder. He had him thrown into a pit, intending to rescue him. But before he could be rescued, Judah and his brothers sold him to Ishmaelite/Midianite merchants who were traveling to Egypt. The brothers decided to slaughter an animal, place its blood on Joseph’s coat, and convince their father that he had been killed.
The text now has the interim story of Judah and Tamar, the daughter-in-law of Judah whose two husbands, both sons of Judah, died. Since she was not being given Judah’s third son as a mate, she played the part of a prostitute to get pregnant from Judahin order to bear one who would carry on the name of her first husband. Judah realized the sin was against her, and she was not punished for her actions. Amazingly, this is the ancestry of King David and ultimately of the Messiah Yeshua. The Bible is not a book of Victorian sensitivities, but one that shows God’s working even among sinful people to bring about his purposes. However, the Joseph story is the one that occupies our primary focus.
Joseph is then sold to an important figure in Egypt, Potiphar, the commander of the bodyguards of Pharaoh. Joseph is so successful in his work that he is appointed and put over Potiphar’s house. He gives Joseph complete control. This part of the story does not end well, however, due to Potiphar’s wife. Joseph spurns the adulterous pursuit of Potiphar’s wife and finally is falsely accused and thrown into prison. The lesson of Joseph fleeing from sin is an important motivating lesson for training young adults.
Amazingly in the prison, Joseph again has great favor and becomes an administrator under the commander. Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams comes to the forefront with two prisoners, one who is restored, the cupbearer of Pharaoh, and then the baker who is executed. In next week’s readings, the cupbearer remembers Joseph when Pharaoh has a troubling dream that Joseph interprets as times of plenty and times of famine coming to Egypt. He then gives Pharaoh advice on how to deal with this. He ends up becoming the second to Pharaoh in ruling the land. Our reading ends when the story is about to enter the most intensive and wonderful part of it as well as the touching ending.
So many have pointed out that the Joseph story is amazingly parallel to the life of Yeshua. It should not be overly pressed. We note that Joseph was rejected by his brothers just as Yeshua was rejected by the Jewish people, his people. He is even buried and in symbol killed. Yeshua was actually killed. Then in Egypt, his brothers do not recognize who he is just as Israel does not recognize who Yeshua is, the one they rejected. (Some have noted that Joseph looked like an Egyptian just as Yeshua looks like a Gentile to the Jews today.) However, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers; and there is a great time of tears and reunion. The Joseph events lead to the rescue of Israel, their salvation from the famine, and their preservation. So also Israel will recognize Yeshua and with tears (Zech. 12:10), and this will lead to Israel’s rescue and preservation forever.
The Joseph story encourages us to trust God in those times were things do not appear to be going our way. However, things are not what they appear to be. God’s working is sometimes above our understanding, but things will work out if we maintain our trust and continue in righteous living. The example of Joseph, both in his trust in God and in his moral righteousness, has encouraged many millions.
About the Author
Dr. Daniel Juster received his B.A. from Wheaton College and his M. Div. from McCormick Theological Seminary; he did two years in the Philosophy of Religion program of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and received his Th.D. from New Covenant International Seminary. Dr. Juster has been involved in the Messianic Jewish movement since 1972. He was the founding president and general secretary of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations for nine years, the senior leader of Beth Messiah Congregation, Rockville, MD, for 22 years, and presently is a member of the apostolic team that governs Tikkun International Ministries.
Dr. Juster is an internationally known speaker and has authored several books, including Jewish Roots, a Foundation of Biblical Theology, The Dynamics of Spiritual Deception, Jewishness and Jesus, The Biblical World View: An Apologetic, Relational Leadership, The Irrevocable Calling, One People, Many Tribes, and Mutual Blessing.
Presently, Dan and his wife, Patty, spend eight months a year in Israel near Jerusalem and travel four months in the United States. He has three married children and eight grandchildren who live in the Israel.
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