Shabbat Commentary

Friday, January 05, 2007 |  by Michael Schneider
Va’yechi - And he lived - Genesis 47:28–50:26; 1 Kings 2:1-12

This particular weekly passage is read by the Jews on Shabbat morning services in the synagogue. With God’s help and guidance, I will attempt to convey the fulfillment of these verses in the new covenant, New Testament.

Commentary
Our reading brings us to the last portion of a family drama that ends with a blessing!

Jacob, the head of the ‘Promised’ clan, lived in Egypt another 17 years close to his beloved son Joseph. At the age of 147, he called all his sons to his deathbed to bless them and bid farewell. He started, however, with his grandsons, Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph.

Then he had Joseph make an oath (his word alone wasn’t enough for him) that he would be buried by ‘his fathers’ in Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel), namely at the Machpela cave in Hebron. Later on Joseph would ask the same for himself. Egypt is and will be always a foreign land to the Jews. That’s why today Jews insist on being buried in the Holy Land. The grave of Joseph is in Samaria in the Biblical town of Shechem.

“BY FAITH Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones,” writes the writer of Hebrews in 11:21-22.

Despite burial in a Jewish land, the funeral rituals followed were Egyptian: 40 days of embalming the body, followed by 70 days of mourning!

Now even Jacob, as his father before him had done, blessed the youngest (Ephraim) first and then the oldest (Manasseh). But this time it wasn’t in deceit even though Jacob’s eyes – as his father Isaac’s who was decieved – were almost blind when he pronounced the blessing (48:10).

Joseph was angry when he saw his father switch the birthright of the firstborn, but Jacob answer him in verse 19: “I know, my son, I know… However, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations (melo ha-goyim).” The same Biblical term ‘Melo Ha-Goyim’ was used later by the apostle Paul in Romans 11:25 to define the “full number of the Gentiles.” In Biblical understanding the word ‘goy’ stands for nation and for Gentiles. Do we see Ephraim here as a symbol for all believers worldwide?

After blessing Joseph’s children, Jacob moved to his sons, including Joseph: “Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, ‘Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come.’” (49:1) But more accurate it should be: “… wherefore you have been called to in ‘Aharit HaYamim,’” a biblical term for end times, or the days of the Messiah!

In other words, the tribes of Israel have end-time meaning and their days are not over, despite what some would say.

The Midrash says that Jacob wanted to reveal to his sons their future destiny, but the presence of God, the shekinah glory, left him so that he could only bless them. Some scholars debate whether we talking here about blessings or more so about prophecy.

Judah, perhaps because he repented for his part in sell Joseph into slavery, received the ‘royal blessing.’ He, the brave ‘young lion of Judah,’ became the head of the house of David and, later, of the Messiah. Judah’s future was described in verses 8 to 11: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh [meaning the Messiah and ‘His peace’] comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” That promise is valid until the end times, the Messianic Era!

Joseph’s words, in the end of his days, will sound like the words of Yeshua (Jesus) when he returns: “Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place?... As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good!” (50:19-21)

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