Vayigash (Then He Drew Near)
Genesis 44:18–47:27; Ezekiel 37:15–28; John 5:1–47
“Then Judah approached [vayigash] Joseph and said, “Please, my lord! Let your servant say something to you privately; and don’t be angry with your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself.” (Genesis 44:18)
In last week’s Parasha, Pharaoh appointed Joseph administrator over all of Egypt after he correctly interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams regarding the seven years of plenty and seven years of famine.
During the seven years of famine, Joseph’s brothers, who about 20 years earlier had sold him into slavery, came to Egypt to buy grain.
At the end of last week’s Torah portion, Joseph had not yet revealed his identity to his brothers.
Nevertheless, he did test the brothers by planting his silver cup in the sack of his youngest brother, Benjamin. After it was found in Benjamin’s possession, Joseph announced that Benjamin would be his slave.
This is where we pick up the story….
The title of this week’s Parasha, Vayigash, means then he drew near or approached.
It is a reference to the dramatic and emotional confrontation between two powerful sons of Jacob: Joseph (Yosef), now the mighty viceroy of Egypt, and his brother Judah (Yehudah), who will become father to the tribe from which comes Yeshua, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. (Genesis 44:18)
Judah pleads with Joseph for the release of his brother Benjamin, offering himself as a slave in his place.
Judah explains that his father already lost his oldest son, and he will surely die now if he loses Benjamin, too.
Joseph is overcome by his own emotions as he witnesses the deep loyalty that now exists between the brothers, who are united in their love for their father, Jacob, and the protection of their youngest brother, Benjamin.
Imagine the confusion of the Egyptians and Joseph’s brothers as Joseph commands everyone out of the room except his brothers. Joseph is weeping so loudly that even the Egyptians hear him.
Instead of confronting his brothers with what they did to him, he comforts them saying:
“I am Joseph! Is my father still living?… Come close to me…. I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” (Genesis 45:3–5)
The brothers are sent back to Jacob with the good news that Joseph is still alive.
They are to bring him to Egypt and admonished not to argue with one another along the way. It would have been so easy for their unity to be disrupted by blaming one another for selling Joseph into slavery.
Although Jacob finds it difficult at first to believe that Joseph is still alive, when he sees the Egyptian carts, donkeys and gifts, he is convinced and sets out for Egypt with all of his offspring and all that he owns.
At Beersheva, God appears to Jacob in a vision and reassures him that this trip to Egypt is His will.
God tells him that the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will grow into a mighty people in Egypt, and that He will bring them back again to the Promised Land:
“I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.” (Genesis 46:3–4)
Joseph: A Prophetic Picture of the Messiah
“How good and how pleasant it is when brethren dwell in unity.” (Psalm 133:1)
The reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers provides a beautiful prophetic picture of the restoration that will come between Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah) and his Jewish brothers and sisters.
Just as Joseph said, “Ani Yosef, I am Joseph, your brother…” so will Yeshua one day say, “Ani Yeshua, I am Yeshua, your brother and Messiah.” Halleluyah (Praise God)!
Joseph saved not only his own family, but also the Egyptians. So too, Yeshua came to save not only the House of Israel, but the people of every tongue, tribe, and nation of the earth.
Haftarah (Prophetic Portion) The Prophetic Reunion of a Nation
The Parasha and the Haftarah this week are connected by the themes of separation, loss, and division that are followed by forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation.
Judah’s descendants represent the southern two tribes—Judah and Benjamin; Joseph’s descendants represent the 10 northern tribes of Israel, also called Ephraim, who were later scattered and lost.
The prophet Ezekiel foresaw the Messianic Era when the kingdoms of Judah and Joseph will be reunited, which echoes the first verse of the Torah reading: “Then Judah approached Joseph.”
To fully comprehend Ezekiel’s prophecy, the groundwork of the history of ancient Israel must first be laid.
After the reign of King Solomon (c. 970–931 BC), the nation of Israel split into the Southern Kingdom (represented by the tribe of Judah and Benjamin) and the Northern Kingdom (represented by the ten other tribes called Joseph, Ephraim, or simply Israel).
While both kingdoms sinned, much of Judah (Yehudah) returned from Babylonian exile to their homeland in 538 BC, and still exist today as the Yehudim (Hebrew word for Jews), while the ten Northern Tribes were “lost” among the nations.
Because of idolatry, God broke the bonds of brotherhood between Judah and Joseph (Israel):
“Then I cut in two my other staff, bonds, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.” (Zechariah 11:14)
The story of Joseph’s reunion with his brothers in Egypt after so many years of separation links the Torah portion to the Haftarah (prophetic passage), which speaks prophetically of the reunification of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel in the Messianic Era.
“Son of man, take a stick of wood and write on it, ‘Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him.’ Then take another stick of wood, and write on it, ‘Belonging to Joseph (that is, to Ephraim) and all the Israelites associated with him.’ Join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand.” (Ezekiel 37:15–17)
This Haftarah describes another great reconciliation that will take place between brothers.
It is a tremendous unity between the tribes of Judah (Yehudah) and the tribes of Joseph (Ephraim) that is being restored in part now, and in its fullness in the future.
Ezekiel anticipates the day when God will gather His children from all nations and bring them back to dwell in their own land.
“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms.” (Ezekiel 37:21–22)
One day the Spirit of God, Ruach Elohim, will blow, and He will open the door for Joseph (Ephraim) to also return to the Land and we will dwell together in unity under one King—that is King Messiah Yeshua! Halleluyah!
God will make us one nation in the Land; and there, one King will be over us. We will never again be two nations: the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom. (Ezekiel 37:22)
Not only will God restore the Kingdom of Israel under the Messiah, son of David, but He will cleanse His people from all idolatry and all uncleanness—national restoration and spiritual regeneration!
“They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will cleanse them. They will be My people, and I will be their God.” (Ezekiel 37:23)
God will be in our midst, maintaining an everlasting covenant of peace:
“They will live in the land I gave to My servant Jacob… They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David My servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. … Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when My sanctuary is among them forever.” (Ezekiel 37:25–28)
This is a true miracle—Israel united and reconciled to God and one another: Judah and Joseph dwelling together as one in this Land.
“I will strengthen the house of Judah and I will save the house of Joseph. I will bring them back, because I have mercy on them. They shall be as though I had not cast them aside.” (Zechariah 10:6)
The Blessing in Unity
The Hebrew word for one is echad, as in a man and a woman will become basar echad (one flesh).
Of course, echad doesn’t mean two people become one and the same person, but it indicates co-existing in unity and harmony.
Rabbinic tradition states that a true marriage is an even greater miracle than the parting of the Red Sea; the miracle that Moses performed by the hand of God was a division, but the melding of two people into unity and harmony—into echad—is truly a greater miracle.
Becoming echad is a powerful thing!
Yeshua said that He and His father are echad. Unity is not only good and pleasant, it is also where God releases blessing.
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! … For there the LORD bestows His blessing, even life forevermore.” (Psalm 133:1, 3)
Divide and conquer is a tried and true tactic for destroying an enemy. That is why the enemy of our soul tries very hard to cause strife and bring division between nations and people, especially between husband and wife and between parents and children.
Scripture emphasizes that we are to live at peace with everyone. If we want to stay in the place of God’s blessing, we need to find a way of living in unity and harmony.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)