The parashah tells of Jacob’s request for burial in Canaan, Jacob’s blessing of Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh, Jacob’s blessing of his sons, Jacob’s death and burial, and Joseph’s death. Learn the symbolism of the different tribes from Jacobs blessing and how it prophetically hints at their futures!
Teaching For Shabbat of December 22, 2018
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Vayechi (וַיְחִי)— Hebrew for “and he lived,” the first word of the parashah and the twelfth weekly Torah portion (פָּרָשָׁה, parashah) in the annual cycle of Torah readings and the last in the Book of Genesis. The parashah covers Genesis 47:28–50:26
As Vayechi opens, the focus shifts immediately to the Patriarch Ya’acov (Jacob): “And Ya’acov lived (VAYECHI) seventeen years in the land of Egypt; and the days of Ya’acov, the years of his life, were seven years and forty years and a hundred years” (verse 28).
The Double Portion to Yosef Gen 47:28-50:26, Prophets: I Kings 2:1-12 Ya’acov (Jacob) became ill and Yosef (Joseph) was sent for a second time to bless Manasheh and Ephraim. The normal procedure for blessing the children was to first call the eldest as in the case of Yitzchak (Isaac) and Esav. Ya’acov’s eldest was Rubayn (Reuben) followed by Shimon (Simeon). Ya’acov was not following tradition but exercising his authority as led by the Spirit, in the Melchizedek order of priesthood which he carried.
Normally the first born son would receive a double portion of the inheritance but by counting Manasheh and Ephraim equal with his other children and giving Yosef a portion as well, Yosef’s portion was three times that of the other sons.
Ya’akov adopted Manasheh and Ephraim so that they became his own sons, with the same rights as Re’uven and Shimon who they replaced. Here Ya’acov formally adopts his grandsons by Yosef according to the legal procedure and custom of the day, which was first, a formal pronouncement (48:5) The placement of the adoptees between the knees of the one who is to adopt them which Yosef does for him (48:12) is part of the formal procedure of the day. The last part of the procedure was the pronouncement of the inheritance.
Archaeology helps us to understand this custom. Finds at Mari and Nuzi in Mesopotamia indicate that the firstborn could be bypassed and the birthright given to a younger son if the father so desired. The right of the firstborn was very important, being a carry over of the priesthood rights passed down through Adam.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says, “The right belonging naturally to the firstborn son, whether the offspring of a legal wife or a concubine. Such a person ultimately became the head of the family, the line being continued through him. As firstborn, he inherited a double portion of the whole estate.” (Vol.1 p.515) (This is the first recorded instance of hands being laid upon the head in imparting blessing. 48:14)
The birthright of double inheritance was given to Yosef and through him to Ephraim, according to 1 Chronicles 5:1-2 A firstborn is given three things:[Bereshit Rabbáh 98:5]
- A double inheritance – which was given to Yosef’s tribe.
- The priesthood – which was given to Levi’s tribe.
- The right to rule – which was given to Yehudah’s tribe.
The prophecies given to Ephraim are astounding in the light of world history. Ya’acov crossed his hands while doing the blessing. The significance is that the right hand transfers the greater blessing. Y’akov’s right hand went to Ephraim’s head giving the greater blessing to the youngest. Yosef complained, and his father refused, and said, “I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.” (V.19) The Hebrew text here is Milo-hagoyim -i.e. ‘fullness of the nations’. This seems to indicate that they will enter other nations and virtually take them over.
Yosef’s two sons represent Messiah Yeshua’s spiritual sons who would be born among the Gentiles during the two thousand years of the Messianic age, counting from the resurrection until today. Yosef’s sons were born among the Gentiles of a non-Jewish mother. Ya’acov promises Yosef the area of Shechem which is the general area that became known as Samaria (49:22) and this where Yosef chose to be buried – in his allotted messianic inheritance in the land. “Moreover I have given to you one portion above your brothers, which I took out of the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow.”(48:22 HNV) – The Hebrew word that is translated “portion” is “shekhem”. It is referring to the land that Ya’akov bought across from the city of Shekhem, see Genesis 33:19, as well as the city itself which was taken by Shimon and Levi, see Genesis 34. That place was given to Yosef, (Joshua 24:32) as it also is written in John 4:5-6a.
According to the Book of Jasher, Ya’akov gave Yosef, in Genesis 48:22, the sapphire staff which had been passed down from generation to generation since Adam. It could be possible that Ya’akov would have leaned over this staff and worshiped in Genesis 48:22.
Chapter forty nine contains a significant prophecy for each one of the twelve tribes. Yaakov called his children and told them he would tell them “Asher Yikra,” – the “call” to the descendants of the tribes of Israel in the end of days.
The Scepter Given to Judah: Ya’acov gave to Judah the sceptre to rule over the tribes – until Shiloh come. (49:8-12) “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” Shiloh has been traditionally looked upon as Messiah because we are looking for the one to whom tribute is due, but this also pertains to Judah’s authority to preserve and teach Torah to the other Tribes who would depart from it while in exile, but in the end of the age repent and return to it!
On another note, if Shiloh has not yet come as some believe, then where is the king of the tribe of Judah today? When did the last king of Israel (from Judah) reign? If we know when the last king of the house of David reigned over Israel then we will also know when Shiloh came.
Josephus (from Josephus Complete Works) writes that King Herod son of Antipater was run out of Israel, returned to power by Caesar and then impeached by the Jews. According to Rabbi Baker (Hillel at U.T.) he was just a puppet of Rome so he is not even counted as a king by Jewish historians. This is supported by the writings of Josephus as well. Nothing was done by Herod without Caesar’s approval. Even in his will, Herod made instructions that Caesar would approve the time of the reading of his will.
Herod reigned at the time Yeshua was born. Herod’s son also named Herod isn’t even counted by Josephus as to have reigned in Israel but there was a living legitimate heir to the throne until forty years after Yeshua was crucified. Even the chief priest at Yeshua’s trial before Pilot agree. John 19:15 “… Pilate said unto them, Shall I execute your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.”
With the temple going up in flames, all the official genealogical records also were burnt and so there could no longer be a legitimate their to the throne after that. The last king had reigned! Therefore the last king of Israel who reigned on the throne of David, had to have heralded the Messiah – “Shiloh”.
According to God’s Word then He had to have come about the time of Herod, Israel’s last king.
Jewish Rabbis interpret “Shiloh” as Messiah. Both the Targumim, (Aramaic translations of the scriptures from the 2nd temple period) the Talmud and the Septuagint translate this passage as a reference to Messiah. In the Midrash of Bershit Rabbah 98:7 Rashi says verse ten “means until King Messiah come, whose will be the kingdom” (p.245)
The rest of the Torah portion deals with the death and burial of Ya’acov and his son Yosef. In Gen. 47:28 we are told that Ya’acov lived one hundred and forty seven years. Yosef lived one hundred and ten years.
Ya’acov’s Death “Trust in Yah with all your heart, lean not to your own understanding, In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5,6 Ya’acov had a difficult life with many trials and heart-rending events, yet through it all he triumphed. At Peniel he came to a place of victory and began to reign in life, it didn’t change his circumstances, but it did change how he dealt with them.
“And the time approached for Israel to die”, and he was prepared for it (47:29) – to “be gathered” to his people. This expression is in a passive sense knowing He who controls his life and resting in His perfect will. He makes the arrangements for his burial site with his forefathers as partakers with them of the same promise of the resurrection to come in the land of Israel.
So important is it that he makes Yosef promise to bury him there and consecrate a formal oath to him (47:29-31), whereas Yosef waits for the nation to return to the land to take his own body there. Burying him in Cana’an is not left subject to the love and loyalty Yosef had toward his father, but was made a binding oath before the Almighty. “This did not imply a lack of trust in Yosef. Rather, Ya’acov made a realistic assessment of the political problem that would arise when Yosef sought permission for the burial outside of Egypt.” (The Artscroll Chumash p.268)
Ya’acov wisely knew that Pharaoh may resist Yosef carrying out his father’s request, but by making it a legal agreement he put the matter on a different basis, as seen by Pharaoh’s response, “go up and bury your father as he adjured you”
Ya’acov thus took the matter out of Yosef’s hands and made a legal issue out of it that Pharaoh would honour. (50:6) Yah had allowed Ya’acov to live to see the outworking of the prophetic calling upon his life in his posterity. Under his oversight the foundations of the nation were laid in his twelve sons and through his guidance they overcame their fleshly traits and came to maturity. Even Reuben and Simeon came to a change of heart.
Ya’acov is embalmed for burial to preserve his body because of the journey that must be undertaken to Ca’anan, and not to comply with Egyptian customs. Enbalming was not a Jewish custom, theirs was to allow the natural process of decay – “dust to dust”. (50:3)
Yosef is fifty-six years old when his father dies and they had enjoyed thirty-four years together by that time. Within seventeen years there was a major population explosion from seventy souls to several thousand. Ya’acov enjoyed his latter years in Egypt in the harmony and tranquility that he longed for with all of his family and passed on in peace having seen the hand of Yah begin to move in prophetic fulfillment of the promises to his forbears.
The Brother’s Request for Forgiveness Upon their father’s death the brothers become fearful that Yosef will take vengeance for what they did to him and they seek his forgiveness, saying “now forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father”. (v.17) Yosef weeps and addresses their fear speaking kindly toward them and comforting them.
“Am I in the place of God?” – Yosef’s humility again shines forth in acknowledging that all things come from His hand and that his commission is to provide for his posterity and theirs for which reason it was all allowed to take place. Also in his reply is an acknowledgment that judgment belongs to the Most High and not to man.
Yosef’s Passing Yosef sees Ephraim’s children to the third generation and Manasseh’s children were also brought up on his knees.
In expectation of his passing he also has them promise to transport his bones and bury them in Ca’anan when the fulfillment of the prophecy to Abraham takes place and they go up from the land of Egypt. Yosef is embalmed to preserve his body for the future transportation when the nation returns to the promised land. He chooses to have his portion in Ca’anan (the land of Israel) with the great cloud of witnesses that await the resurrection and their inheritance. 1 Peter 1: 3-5
“Trust is being confident of what we hope for, convinced about things that we do not see” Hebrews 11: 1
“By trusting, Yosef, near the end of his life, remembered about the exodus of the people of Israel, and gave instruction regarding his bones.” Hebrews 11:22
These words express the waiting, the longing and the hope that is our expectation in Messiah. Jacob’s exclamation in 49:18 reflects his longing for Messiah, the true Judge of Israel, the true Salvation. The Hebrew word translated as “wait” is qavah, a word also translated as “hope.” Messiah is the “hope of Israel.” (Acts 28:20) We wait for Yeshua, but we also hope in Yeshua. He is our hope of salvation.
The wait for Messiah is not a passive waiting, as if we were simply passing time at the bus stop, waiting for the bus to arrive. It is a passionate waiting. A deep, heartfelt longing. It is an ache for His coming, for His appearing. To properly await Messiah, our hearts need to break with the anticipation. We pine away for Him like a young betrothed virgin longs for the return of her fiancé from a foreign land. She is continually scanning the horizon for some sign of his appearing, starting at the sound of every footfall, sighing by day and shedding tears by night. Every day is, in some sense, painful because we are separated from our true love. But at the same time, it is our hope of being united with Him that gives us meaning and hope every day.
Haftarah (Prophets) Summary
In this week’s haftorah, King David delivers his deathbed message to his son and successor, Solomon, echoing this week’s Torah reading that discusses at length Jacob‘s parting words and instructions to his sons.
King David encourages Solomon to be strong and to remain steadfast in his belief in God. This will ensure his success in all his endeavors as well as the continuation of the Davidic Dynasty. David then goes on to give his son some tactical instructions pertaining to various people who deserved punishment or reward for their actions during his reign.
The haftorah concludes with David’s death and his burial in the City of David. King Solomon takes his father’s place and his sovereignty is firmly established.
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Torah Parashah teaching with video and audio and illustrations by Rabbi Isaac. © 2018 Assembly of Called-Out Believers. Use by Permission.