“And He Drew Near”
Today’s parashat (weekly shabbat synagogue reading) covers Genesis 44:18 to 47:27. It is called is called Vayigash which means and he drew near, which is the first word of the parashat in v.18. It refers to when Judah was pleading with Joseph to let Benjamin go back to the land of Israel, to their father.
The climax of the story of Joseph is such a powerful passage allowing us to see a foreshadowing of the Messiah’s work. Judah’s willingness to be the substitution for Benjamin is where this powerful imagery takes place. And after Judah’s speech, Joseph cannot take it anymore, but tells them these poignant words in Genesis 45:1-3. Then Joseph could not restrain himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Make everyone go out from me!” So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard it. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph…”
This is the powerful moment when he reveals himself to them. At first the brothers could not believe it, so Joseph tells them again in the following verse that he is their brother.
I am Joseph your brother, and he adds, whom you sold into Egypt. Here again we see a strong correlation with when the Messiah will come back. Before we consider this point, observe that Joseph was not angry at them. His great joy at seeing them dissipated all ill feelings. He is so considerate that he tells them in the next verse: Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here.
See how nice, how Messiah-like this man is? He tells them not to be grieved or angry with themselves. When he sends them down from Egypt to bring back Jacob, he tells them again, “See that you do not become troubled along the way.” v.24 He is so considerate. I believe God gave him all the knowledge and grace he needed so he could forgive and desire the best for them. He forgives them and he saves them.
Faith in God’s Covenant Promises and Plans
But see what he further tells them in verse five. Joseph is fully inspired by God. … for God sent me before you to preserve life. It was all designed by God. Joseph understood it, but how did he know that? Perhaps he remembered God’s promise to Abraham. Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. Genesis 15:13
That marked the beginning of the era of the formation of Israel as a nation. It was only at the Exodus, 400 years later, when Israel is first called a nation. Perhaps Joseph remembered another promise of the Abrahamic covenant, that a nation would emerge from Abraham, one through whom all the nations of the world would be blessed. Joseph must have understood that his situation was part of a greater plan to save Israel. By his forgiveness, he was typifying the Messiah when He went to the tav, the tree of crucifixion. Yeshua focused on the joy set before Him, knowing what His actions would bring the world. He had God’s perfect plan in mind.
See how God’s sovereignty is so strongly emphasized? Four times between verses five and nine, Joseph tells them that God had arranged all these things for their salvation.
“God sent me before you to preserve life.” v.5
“God sent me before you … to preserve … a remnant in the earth.” v.7
It was not you who sent me here but God.” v.8
At the very end, Joseph goes even further to include not just his brothers, but others as well. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” Genesis 50:20 These others were from additional nations who came to find food in Egypt. This echoes what the Messiah will do at the end when He saves the nations of the world.
Let’s look at the moment he tells them he is Joseph and embraces Benjamin.
Then he fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. Genesis 45:14 It must have been so intense because the word neck for both Benjamin and Joseph, is in the plural form. One rabbi thought that if neck has a plural form here, it is because Joseph embraced his brother on both sides of the neck, and continually so (Hizkuni). But this was not yet the most touching part of the story. Wait till you see the moment when Joseph meets his father, Jacob!
It was when his brothers went back to Israel with a company of Egyptian chariots and soldiers in order to bring Jacob back to Egypt. It must have been such a shock for Jacob to see them coming and then to learn that Joseph was not dead, but alive and well. The encounter between Joseph and Jacob is only one verse, but such a loaded one.
So Joseph made ready his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet his father Israel; and he presented himself to him, and fell on his neck and wept on his neck a good while. Genesis 46: 29 So many images emerge from this short verse. The words a good while is one word in the Hebrew, rod. It conveys repeatedly going around and around. We see it translated as still, again, longer, or more. The image that the word conveys is that of a circle, going around and around. They were kissing each other non-stop. That is one of the most touching encounters we have in the Scriptures. But all of these things have a prophetic aspect to them.
While this is a most beautiful story, it is only a precursor of a much more beautiful one, our encounter with our God. The main message of this part of the Bible is about our reconciliation with God and our eventual encounter with Him for eternity. All through the story, there are similarities between Joseph and the one he portrays, the Messiah.
The Pivotal Moment of Truth
Let’s look more closely at the moving moment when Joseph revealed himself to his brothers.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; does my father still live?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence. And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt.” Genesis 45:3-4
“I am Joseph.” I can’t wait for Yeshua to come back and say to his people and to the world, “I am Yeshua, who loved you from the very beginning.” We have a very powerful prophecy describing this awesome encounter. You know it well. Zechariah 12:10 describes the moment Israel will recognize who the Messiah is. I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom 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 firstborn.
As Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, so the Messiah will be revealed to Israel, His brothers. It will be done with love and great joy, for it will mark the beginning of new era for the nation and for the whole world.