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Parasha Miketz (At the End): From Prison to the Palace

Miketz (At the End)
Genesis 41:1–44:17; Numbers 7:24–35; Zechariah 2:14–4:7 (2:10–4:7); Luke 4:16–31

“When two full years had passed [miketz], Pharaoh had a dream.”  (Genesis 41:1)

Since this week’s Parasha falls on the third day of the Festival of Lights (Hanukkah), a special Haftarah portion containing a vision of the golden Temple Menorah is read, as well as a portion from Numbers for the third day of Hanukkah.

In last week’s study, Joseph seemed to be destined for trouble despite his prophetic dreams that revealed a grand destiny.

In this week’s Parasha, Pharaoh has two related prophetic dreams that cause him intense anxiety.  When his magicians and wise men cannot interpret the dreams, Pharaoh’s butler suddenly remembers the uncanny abilities of the Hebrew slave Joseph (Yosef).

Pharaoh’s dreams are so disturbing that he wastes no time in calling Joseph out of prison.  (Genesis 41:14)

Joseph Explaining Pharaoh's Dream-Jean Adrien Guignet

Joseph Explaining Pharaoh’s Dream, by Jean Adrien Guignet

After Joseph is cleaned up and made presentable, Pharaoh tells him, “I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”  (Genesis 41:15)

Joseph, in a perfect balance of humility and boldness, tells Pharaoh that he is unable to interpret the dream, but God can and will do it.  Despite years of hardship and adversity, Joseph has lost none of his confidence in God.

“I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”  (Genesis 41:16)

Only after setting the record straight on this does he tell Pharaoh that the dreams forewarn of a coming season of plenty, followed by a season of famine and lack.

Israeli child-wheat field

An Israeli child in a wheat field.

More Than a Dreamer

“So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?”  (Genesis 41:38)

Joseph not only interprets the meaning of Pharaoh’s dreams, he also gives him practical advice on how to deal with the coming crisis.

He is no mere dreamer: he is a wise, prudent and practical man.

Like Joseph, we also must be able to hear the voice of the Lord and know how to act upon the insights God gives us.

And just as it was evident to Pharaoh that God had filled Joseph with His Spirit of wisdom, our lives should be characterized by wisdom, as well.

We cannot entertain the idea that Joseph had a special gifting or anointing unavailable to us.  The Word of God promises us wisdom if we will ask for it.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  (James 1:5)


Reading from the Torah scroll

Joseph and the Messiah

In last week’s Parasha, Jacob grieved deeply because he believed his favorite son, Joseph, had been killed by wild animals.

In this week’s Parasha, the famine drives him to send his sons to Egypt to buy grain.

That grain is only available because Joseph was wise enough to create a plan for stockpiling it during the seven years of plenty that preceded the famine.  But Jacob and his family know nothing of this.  They only know there is grain for sale in Egypt.

When his brothers see Joseph for the first time in many years, they only see a prince of Egypt; they do not recognize their brother until he reveals himself to them.

In the end, Jacob finds his beloved son not only alive and well but ruler over all of Egypt under Pharaoh.  Not only is the entire family reunited and reconciled in love and forgiveness, but Joseph also saves his father, brothers, and all of Egypt from a terrible famine.

Joseph and His Brothers Welcomed by Pharaoh-James Tissot

Joseph and His Brothers Welcomed by Pharaoh, by James Tissot

We can draw many parallels between Joseph and Messiah Yeshua (Jesus).  Here are a few:

  • Joseph was 30 when he came to power in Egypt (Genesis 41:46), as was Yeshua when he began His ministry in Israel (Luke 3:23).
  • In the same way that Joseph preserved his family and Egypt with bread, Yeshua, who was born in Bethlehem (House of Bread) is the Bread of Life who sustains us (John 6:35).

“Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”  (Matthew 4:4)

  • Joseph was despised and rejected by his brothers, and they didn’t recognize him in Egypt because he appeared entirely Egyptian.  Similarly, Yeshua was despised and rejected by his Jewish brothers and sisters, and they have not recognized His true identity for many centuries because He has been presented as a foreign god.
  • However, just as Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, Yeshua will be revealed and recognized as the Jewish Messiah, and Israel will receive Him (Zechariah 12:10; Isaiah 59:20).
Young Israeli-Hanukkah menorah-Hanukkah

A young Israeli admires the fully lit Hanukkah menorah on the final night of Hanukkah.

Shabbat Hanukkah Haftarah (Prophetic Reading)

“When the altar was anointed, the leaders brought their offerings for its dedication and presented them before the altar.”  (Numbers 7:10)

The Hebrew word Hanukkah (חנכה), which means dedication, is related to the khinukh, which means education.  Both words are derived from the root chet-nun-kaf (חנך), meaning to dedicate, inaugurate or initiate.

In the Book of Numbers (7:84), the word hanukkat is used in conjunction with the altar: hanukkat hamizbeach (dedication of the altar).

Once Moses had finished setting up the Tabernacle, he dedicated the altar to the Lord.

After that, all the leaders presented their grain offerings, burnt offerings and fellowship offerings of bulls, rams, lambs, goats, oxen, and silver and gold plates filled with flour and oil, and incense.

We could understand from this that the completion of a project might actually represent a new beginning.  Also, it is only when we have dedicated our work to the Lord that our true education begins, and we are led into all that He has for us.

Georgian Jew-Prays-Synagogue-Hanukkah

A Georgian Jew prays on Hanukkah in a synagogue in Tbilisi, Georgia.

The Coming Messianic Kingdom

The Temple and the Temple Service continued to be the focus of Jewish life from the time of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai until the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, a period of approximately 1,500 years.

The First Temple, which was built by Solomon, lasted roughly 400 years before it was destroyed and the Jews were carried into captivity to Babylon.

Zechariah returned from Babylonian exile when King Cyrus permitted the Jewish people to return to their Land in the year 538 BC.

In the Shabbat Hanukkah reading, Zechariah has a vision of the Temple Menorah, although the Second Temple had not yet been built.

“I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps.”  (Zechariah 4:2)

Gold Menorah-Third Temple-Temple Mount-Temple Institute

This gold Temple Menorah on display in Jerusalem has been recreated for use in the coming Third Temple.

In this reading, the Jewish People had attempted to rebuild the Holy Temple, but they became discouraged.  Disasters and intense opposition filled them with dismay, and the building process came to a halt.

The Prophet Zechariah, however, roused the people from their despondency with a vision of the Lord living among His people:

“Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion.  For I am coming, and I will live among you … and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent Me to you.  The Lord will inherit Judah as His portion in the Holy Land and will again choose Jerusalem.”  (Zechariah 2:10–13)

The people perhaps were tempted to think that returning to the comforts of Babylon would be easier than repenting and striving to rebuild in the Holy Land.

They might have even worried that God wasn’t behind their efforts.  But Zechariah’s Messianic vision left no doubt that the Lord had chosen them and Jerusalem.

Moreover, God promised that the Righteous Branch would come and that sin, which separates us from God, would be dealt with in a single day.

“I am going to bring My servant, the Branch. … and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.”  (Zechariah 3:8–9)


Lifting the Torah high for all to see at the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem.

Sudden Breakthroughs

“I am the Light of the world.  Whoever follows Me shall not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”  (John 8:12)

This idea of deliverance in a single day is also present in Parasha Miketz.

Like the returned exiles from Babylon attempting to rebuild the Temple, Joseph probably had his share of desperate moments.

On the human level, he had been forsaken and forgotten in prison.  But God’s plan for him was still active, and He had not stopped watching over him.

In fact, God had positioned him to be in the right place at the right time to fulfill his destiny.

And suddenly, in just one day, Joseph went from the prison to the palace.


“Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens.”   (Psalm 150:1)

In a single day, God delivered Joseph from prison.  Likewise, in a single day, Yeshua delivered us from sin.

God delivers us from eternal separation from Him the moment we trust in Yeshua.

In Luke, Yeshua confirms His mission as Deliverer.

As was His custom, He went to the synagogue on Shabbat (the seventh day Sabbath) and read from the scroll of Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  (Luke 4:18–19; Isaiah 61:1–2)

Torah scroll-Yad-Torah pointer

Reading from the Torah scroll using a yad (Torah pointer) to protect the handwritten text and the parchment.

Although we have been delivered and set free, there might be times we find ourselves tempted to despair when we are in a difficult situation.

When we come to the end of our own strength, asking, “What am I doing here in this difficult place?” we should remember Joseph and be reminded that God is in control—no matter how bad the situation looks.

Sometimes we think that an improvement in our situation is going to take time—a lot of it!  But when we put our trust in the Lord, He will give us the victory and bring us to a place that is far better than we could have imagined.  It can happen in one day!

God is the Lord of Breakthrough and the Master of the Breach.  (1 Chronicles 14:11)

“It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your face, for You loved them.”  (Psalm 44:3)


A fully lit Hanukkiah.

The First Hanukkah

Hanukkah is the anniversary of the re-dedication of the Temple after it was defiled by the Greco-Syrian armies (circa 166 BC).

By all rights, the Jews should have been utterly defeated, for they were completely outnumbered.

This is the lesson of all Jewish history:  God accomplishes His will through His Spirit.

It can become our history as well if we will allow God’s Spirit to have free reign in our lives, rather than relying upon our own abilities.

“Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit (Ruach), says YHVH Tzavaot (Lord of Hosts).”  (Zechariah 4:6)


A model of the Second Temple in Jerusalem

At the time of the first Hanukkah in ancient Israel, only a remnant of God’s people were dedicated to Him and to His Torah.

The rest had been assimilated into the Greek culture and its pagan faith.

Therefore, Hanukkah was not simply about fighting a battle between a small band of Jewish freedom fighters called the Maccabees and the Greco-Syrian military forces; it was about fighting a deeper spiritual battle between a holy faith founded on the Word of God and the powerful forces that strive to lure God’s people into paganism.

Of course, that battle is still ongoing today.

But Haftarah Hanukkah reminds us that the battle belongs to the Lord.

Although we live in this world, our ultimate allegiance is to God and His Word.  May we re-dedicate ourselves during this season of Hanukkah to become vessels that are truly worthy of Him.

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