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Parasha Vayeshev (And He Lived): Is God Really in Control?

Parasha Vayeshev (And He Lived)
Genesis 37:1–40:23; Amos 2:6–3:8; Matthew 1:1–6, 16–25 

“Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.”  (Genesis 37:1)


An Orthodox Jewish man carries the Torah scroll at the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem.

 Last week, in Parasha Vayishlach (And He Sent), Jacob left Haran and returned to the Holy Land after being away for 20 years.  Before Jacob crossed the Jabbok River and reconciled with his brother Esau, he wrestled with a “man” until daybreak.  This man then changed Jacob’s name to Israel saying that he had wrestled with God and man and had overcome.

“Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic.”  (Genesis 37:3)

This week, Parasha Vayeshev (And He Lived) reveals that Jacob showed favoritism to Joseph by giving him a coat of many colors, which resulted in his brothers hating him and plotting to kill him.

Joseph, however, had a special destiny to rule and reign, as foretold in his prophetic dreams.  His father must have had some knowledge of this also, since in the patriarchal age, Semitic chiefs wore coats of many colors as an insignia of rulership.

Jacob, in giving Joseph a coat of many colors, marked him for the chieftainship of the tribes at his father’s death.

Joseph, however, probably did not use wisdom in ‘boasting’ about it to his brothers.

It seems that Joseph, in his youthful pride and zeal, needed some preparation in order to occupy that position of leadership.  He needed a few more spins on the potter’s wheel to rub off some of those rough edges.


The Children of Jacob sell their Brother Joseph, by Konstantin Flavitsky

Is God in Control?

“So Joseph found favor in his sight and became his personal servant; and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge.”  (Genesis 39:4)

The story of Joseph reminds all of us that God is sovereign and governs the affairs of man, even during those times in life when we are tempted to doubt that God is really in control.

When we are engulfed in confusion and chaos, we may be totally in the dark about why strange and fiery trials are happening to us; however, through this story, we can find reassurance that God is guiding our footsteps.

Joseph must have been confused by the trials he faced.  Imagine being thrown into a pit by your very own brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt!

He went from the heights of privilege, as the favored son of Jacob, to the depths of humiliation in the blink of an eye.

“Then some Midianite traders passed by, so they pulled him up and lifted Joseph out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver.  Thus they brought Joseph into Egypt.”  (Genesis 37:28)

Nevertheless, God was with him, and Potipher favored him even though he was only a slave and appointed him overseer of his house (Genesis 39:4).


This Torah scroll, lovingly covered by a beautiful needlepoint Torah cover, is resting on an amud (lectern) that is adorned in a blue tablecloth.  The blue and scarlet are reminiscent of the blue, purple and scarlet clothes of service used by the priests in the Holy Temple.

Despite Joseph’s exalted position in Potipher’s house as an overseer, he was still a slave and not a free man.

And just when he probably thought that his circumstances couldn’t worsen, he resisted the advances of Potipher’s wife.

Was he rewarded for doing the right thing and for honoring God?  Was he better off?  Quite the opposite!  He was thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit and left there to rot year after dismal year.

“So Joseph’s master took him and put him into the jail, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; and he was there in the jail.”  (Genesis 39:20)

It is tempting to question whether God was really at the helm at this point in Joseph’s life, but the end of the story shows that God was most definitely in control.


Jewish man beseeches God in prayer at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

Prophets in Training (PIT)

“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.”  (Malachi 3:3)

Joseph was a ‘Prophet in Training’ during his time in the PIT.

He needed to undergo the fires of purification in order to be refined into a vessel God could use.

We see this in the lives of many of the great Bible characters.  David, Moses, and Yeshua (Jesus) all spent time in what we call the wilderness being prepared for the great task God had for them, before fulfilling their destiny.

This can be true in our own lives as well.  We may have a unique calling from God and a special destiny that requires a time of preparation.


A silversmith melts silver in a small crucible.

Some of us may wonder, “What am I doing stuck in this PIT?”

How could the people so close to us—those whom we trusted—hurt and betray us?

The answer is simple.  We are being prepared, purified, refined, and made ready to rule and reign with Yeshua as kings (melachim) and priests (cohanim) in His Kingdom.

The Word of God says that Yeshua baptizes us with the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and with fire, so why should we be confounded by the purification and preparation it takes to fulfill our destiny?

“I baptize you with water for repentance.  But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh) and fire.”  (Matthew 3:11)


Torah scrolls are meticulously handwritten.  In the above photo, a Jewish scribe carefully crafts each letter and word of the Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy).

 The Fires of Purification

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine…  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, the flame will not set you ablaze.”  (Isaiah 43:1-2)

If we submit to the fires of purification and trust that with God by our side, we will not be burned, then God will exalt us in His perfect way and perfect time to fulfill our destiny.

Although the process of purification can be uncomfortable and perhaps even painful, it can be the very thing that sets us free.

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Messiah Yeshua is revealed.”  (1 Peter 1:6–7)


Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, by Simeon Solomon

 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego also experienced fiery trials.  They were thrown bound into the fiery furnace because they refused to bow down to the golden image.

But God was faithful and a fourth man was seen walking in the fire with them.

When they emerged from the furnace, they were free: the bonds that tied them had been loosed.  Not only were they not burned, they didn’t even smell like smoke!  (Daniel 3)

When we walk through fiery trials with God and Yeshua by our side, we’re going to come out of it better off than before, and if we will stay faithful, we’re not even going to smell like smoke!

People won’t even be able to tell that we’ve gone through anything.

We’re not going to look all beat up and worn out.  People are going to say, “Wow!  You’re looking great!  What have you been doing lately?”  And we can answer, “Oh, just spending time with God and Yeshua.”  Hallelujah!

“He said, ‘Look!  I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’”  (Daniel 3:25)


Lifting up the Torah at the Western (Wailing) Wall for all to see

 A Comparison of Yoseph and Yeshua

Another beautiful aspect of the story of Joseph is its clear prophetic message that points to the Messiah.  In fact, the similarities between Yoseph (Joseph) and Yeshua (Jesus) are striking.

The following are some of those similarities:

  • They were both shepherds of their father’s sheep:  “I am the good shepherd.”  (John 10:11)
  • They were both their father’s beloved sons:  “This is my beloved son in Him I am well pleased.”  (Matthew 3:17)
  • They were both sent by their father to their brothers:  “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.”  (Matthew 15:24)
  • They were both hated by their brothers, rejected, and treated unjustly.

Yeshua was taken into Egypt by his father, who was warned by an angel to go there to save Yeshua’s life.

  • Others plotted to harm them.
  • They were tempted.
  • They were taken to Egypt.
  • They both had robes taken from them.
  • They were both sold for the price of a slave.
  • They were both bound in chains.
  • They were both falsely accused.
  • They were both placed with two other prisoners, one who was saved and the other lost.
  • They were both 30 years old at the beginning of their public recognition.
  • They were both exalted after suffering.
  • They both brought salvation to their nation Israel.
  • They both brought bread to the people:  “I am the living bread.”  (John 6:51)
  • They both forgave those who wronged them:  “Father forgive them.”  (Luke 23:34)
Jewish-prayer- Western-Wall-Jerusalem

The Jewish People pray at the Kotel (Western Wall) because it is a remnant of the Holy Temple that once stood on the Temple Mount, the spot that God has chosen for His dwelling place.

  • What men did to them God turned to good—even the salvation of many people.
  • They were both considered dead, but later discovered to be alive.
  • Their brethren vowed never to bow down to them, but eventually did.
  • Their brothers at first didn’t recognize them, but later came to understand who they were.

These last two points, especially, can be considered in a prophetic light.

They give us such hope of what will take place between Yeshua and His brethren—the Jewish People.  Just as Joseph’s brothers mocked him and vowed they would never bow down to him, so do Yeshua’s Jewish brethren also refuse to bow to Yeshua.

The idea that Yeshua could actually be the promised Messiah is, to most Jewish people, still a preposterous notion.  They laugh at and mock our faith; however, one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Yeshua is Lord.

“…at the name of Yeshua, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”  (Philippians 2:10)


Joseph Recognized by His Brothers, by Léon Pierre Urbain Bourgeois

And just as Joseph’s brothers eventually came to recognize his true identity, when he declared, “Ani Yosef” (I am Joseph), so will the Jewish People, Yeshua’s brethren, in the fullness of time see Him as the true Messiah of Israel and savior of the world.

One day, a great reconciliation will take place, and He will say to His Jewish brothers, “Ani Yeshua Hamashiach” (I am Yeshua the Messiah).  In that day, the Jewish People will see Him for who He truly is.

Joseph’s brothers did not recognize him as an Egyptian.  He looked like an Egyptian and he spoke like a foreigner.  Similarly, Yeshua has been taken out of the Jewish context and presented over the centuries as a foreign, Gentile god, making it nearly impossible for the Jewish People to recognize Him; however, the day will come when His true identity will be made known.

Just as Joseph’s brothers wept in sorrow and fear, so will the Jewish People mourn for Him as an only son.

“…they will look on me whom they pierced.  Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.”  (Zechariah 12:10)

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