Torah Reflection 12
Vayechi (It came to pass)
Genesis 47:28 to 50:26
It is important to remind readers that these ‘reflections’ are just that. They are highlights the LORD has quickened to me as I seek Holy Spirit guidance and write. There is no suggestion that these writings are a “commentary” on the Scriptures. The LORD will show you other, and possibly different, lessons as you study these passages for yourself. I pray readers will be blessed by these writings, but there is greater blessing in studying the word for oneself.
And so it is that we come to the end of the beginning. The family of Israel, now residing in the territory of Goshen in Egypt, and finding great favour with the Pharaoh and his Prime Minister, Joseph, prosper and multiply. Jacob had been in Goshen for 17 years and was nearing the end of his life. He called Joseph and made him promise that he would not be buried there, but be taken back to Canaan to be buried with his forebears.
Then “it came to pass”, that eventually, Joseph was summoned to his father’s side because he was very close to death. He took with him Manasseh and Ephraim, Joseph’s two sons who were born to him before Jacob arrived in Egypt. Amazingly, but in God’s perfect plan, Jacob ‘anointed’ them as his own. They were to take their place as equal with Reuben and Simeon (and others) as heads of the tribes of Israel, in due time, in place of their father Joseph. (We note that there were 12 brothers, but in time Levi was given no land inheritance and neither was Joseph. Their land allocation was given to Manasseh and Ephraim. Future children of Joseph were not afforded such privilege). But Jacob, who was virtually blind at this time, had one more surprise for Joseph. It seems a small matter, but it was both unusual and prophetic in the circumstance. Manasseh was the firstborn, so Joseph placed him adjacent to Jacob’s right hand, and Ephraim to his left hand. In blessing the boys, Jacob crossed his hands, to place his right hand onto Ephraim.
In spite of Joseph’s attempted correction, Jacob said “I know my son, I know he (Manasseh) also shall become a people, and he also shall be great’; but truly his younger brother (Ephraim) shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.” Now it is true, that about 1,000 years later, the Northern kingdom of Israel (the ten tribes) including Ephraim, were captured by the Assyrians (Shalamanezer V) and have been referred to ever since as “the lost tribes”. Some have argued, from this blessing of Jacob, that the ‘many nations’ actually includes what is known as “British Israelites”, and even America (Pilgrim fathers). But of course, such conclusion requires quite inventive thinking!
In addition to the blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh, the main content of our reading this week relates to the blessings which Jacob spoke to his own sons. He blessed them in the order they were born from the oldest to the youngest. Because we are privileged to have knowledge of future events, we can see how the LORD gave Jacob wisdom and insight into that future in each blessing. It has long been said that much care should be given in the words used to utter blessing over anyone. A word of caution. Do not speak presumptuously the first words that enter your mind. Ask the LORD to speak through you, that HIS words are heard, not yours.
“Gather together and hear you sons of Jacob, and listen to Israel your father” Hear and listen. They are not the same thing.
Reuben. “Unstable as water, you shall not excel” Why? Genesis 35:22. Be sure your sins will find you out.
Simeon and Levi. “Cursed be their anger, it is fierce; and their wrath for it is cruel I will divide them and scatter them in Israel.” Genesis 34:25-31.
Judah. “You are he whom your brothers shall praise; The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, .. and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.” A prophetic description of the One who shall arise from Judah.
Zebulun. “Shall dwell by the sea and become a haven for ships.”
Issachar. “He saw that rest was good and the land was pleasant.”
1 Chronicles 12:32
Dan. “Dan shall judge his people.” Genesis 30:6
Gad. “A troop shall tramp upon him, but he shall triumph at last.” Genesis 30:11
Asher. “Bread from Asher shall be rich, and he shall yield royal dainties.”
Naphtali. “Is a deer let loose; he uses beautiful words.”
Joseph. Well it is a LONG blessing. “Joseph is a fruitful bough … his branches run over the wall … the arms of his hands were made strong” And much more praising the attributes of the one who is seen by most as a ‘type’ of Messiah. And so he was for his family.
Benjamin. “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he shall devour the prey. And at night he shall divide the spoil.” Judges 21: 20,25
And when Jacob had completed his blessings and comments about his children, he died. His body was enbalmed, and after 70 days of mourning, Joseph and his brothers, together with a company of the house of Pharaoh, took his body to Hebron, where he was laid to rest with his wife Leah.
Joseph lived for many years after that, But before he died at the age of 110 years, he extracted from his brothers the promise to one day take his bones back to the land of his birth. His tomb, recently desecrated by some angry Palestinians, is situated in Shechem, modern day Nablus.