by Glenn Harris | January 01 1970
The parasha for this week is entitled MiKetz, meaning “at the conclusion” and covers Genesis 41:1-44:17. Joseph has been in prison in Egypt on a bogus rape charge. Poor Joseph; betrayed by his brothers, enslaved in Egypt, imprisoned on false charges. But everywhere he went, Joseph conducted himself with integrity and God was with him. Eventually Joseph was given charge over Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and chief baker who had been jailed. One night they each had a perplexing dream, and Joseph was able to interpret them, foretelling their future. Sure enough, exactly as Joseph interpreted the dreams, the chief cupbearer was restored to office three days later, and the chief baker was hanged. Joseph had asked the cupbearer to put in a good word for him with Pharaoh, but the cupbearer forgot all about Joseph – for two full years! How would you have handled so much injustice and such unrealized hopes? Yet by all indications, Joseph continued to do his work diligently, and God was with him. But Joseph couldn’t possibly have known just how dramatically things were about to turn around.
Another strange series of dreams – this time interrupting the sleep of the most powerful man on Earth. Pharaoh summoned his wise men and magicians, but they were all at a loss to declare the meaning. And the cupbearer, who in ancient Near Eastern society was also a trusted advisor, suddenly remembered, and was horrified to admit, that he had forgotten about Joseph. He told Pharaoh about this impressive young Hebrew in the prison who interprets dreams. Joseph was summoned at once to the palace, and he immediately was able to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, which were really one and the same. Seven years of bumper crops were on the way, which would be followed by seven years of devastating famine, so severe that the years of prosperity would be all but forgotten. Joseph advised Pharaoh to appoint someone to oversee the systematic storing up of grain during the plentiful years to be in readiness for the coming famine. Pharaoh said, “Great idea! You just wrote your own job description!”
In a single day Joseph ascended from the prison to the palace, from lowly prisoner to second-in-command over all Egypt! Pharaoh was delighted with Joseph and gave him his signet ring, fine robes, a gold chain, a wife from a prominent family and even a new name! Joseph eventually fathered two sons, whom he names M’nashe and Ephraim, from the verbs meaning to forget and to be fruitful, affirming that God had enabled him to forget his former woes and had made him fruitful. Meanwhile Joseph diligently stored away one-fifth of the grain during the good years. So much was stored up that they lost track and stopped counting! But the prosperity ended abruptly, and the famine began – a famine so widespread that the entire Middle East was affected.
Now our attention is turned again to Jacob and his family, back in Canaan. They’re running out of grain, and by this time everyone knows that Egypt is the only place to find more. Jacob tells his sons to get off their tuchuses and go down to Egypt. But Benjamin he keeps with him. He’s already lost one of his beloved Rachel’s sons; he won’t risk the other. The brothers arrive in Egypt and Joseph recognizes them as they bow down to him! His dreams are being realized. But they don’t recognize him. It’s been over twenty years since they last saw him.
He decides to test them. “You’re spies!” he declares. They protest their innocence. They explain their situation, and in the process tell him that they have one younger brother back home with their dad. Joseph puts them in a prison cell for three days, but then releases all but Shimon who is to be kept in confinement. Joseph sells them grain, but tells them plainly that to prove their honesty, they cannot come back to Egypt without their younger brother. Only then will he release Shimon. On their way back home, they discover that their money has been put back into the sacks, and now they fear they will be accused of having stolen the grain. It is the beginning of a series of tests Joseph will put them through, precipitating a crisis which will force the brothers to confront their long-hidden sin.
When Jacob’s family again runs out of grain, the brothers have no choice but to return to Egypt. Having no choice, and despite Jacob’s ambivalence, this time the brothers bring Benjamin with them. Joseph orchestrates one more crisis, planting his own ornate goblet in Benjamin’s sack of grain before sending the brothers away. After they have departed Joseph sends a guard to stop them. The guard rebukes them for having “stolen” his master’s cup. They once again protest their innocence and invite him to examine their sacks. He does so, and to their dismay, it is found in Benjamin’s sack. The others are told they are free to leave, but Benjamin will be taken and made a slave. The brothers are horrified – they know they can’t return home without Benjamin. So they turn around and head back to Egypt, to plead for his life. And that’s where our parasha leaves off. A real cliff-hanger!
You know, Joseph would not be the last Jew taken captive to a foreign land, later to interpret a king’s dream and suddenly rise to preeminence. The very same thing happened to Daniel. What is it about the Jewish people and the revealing of mysteries? It seems our people were chosen by God to unveil His seemingly mysterious plans and purposes to the nations. Rabbi Paul explained the mystery that Gentiles are welcomed into the family of God.
First, don’t interpret your immediate circumstances as though they represent the sum total of your life. You don’t know any more than Joseph did what God has in store for you. He reallocates assets, whether grain or human beings, according to His infinite wisdom. You can trust Him to fulfill His good purposes for you. But it will happen in His time, so learn to patiently wait on the Lord.
We would do well to learn from Joseph’s example to be wise with our own resources. Don’t spend money recklessly. Be sure you plan and save for the unforeseen.
I believe that Joseph’s betrayal and captivity, and his sudden rise from the prison to the palace foreshadowed Messiah Yeshua’s betrayal, death, resurrection and exaltation. Jacob (Israel, if you prefer) thought he would never see Joseph again, but as he would soon learn, Joseph was alive and well, and exalted to a very high place. The people of Israel reckoned they would never see Yeshua again, assuming Him to be dead, but they will be proved wrong when He reveals Himself in all of His splendor and power.
I have always marveled that Joseph is never cited in the New Covenant Scriptures as a type of Messiah Yeshua. It seems so obvious. The innocent one hated by his brothers, sold for the price of a slave, suffering unjustly, but rising from the pit to the pinnacle, becoming the source of salvation even to those who hated him. I guess nothing needed to be said: it was plainly obvious to any who knew Genesis and the story of Joseph.
And as Joseph became the source of rescue, not only for his own spiteful brothers, but for many other peoples, so Yeshua has become the source of life for those who hated Him, and for men and women from every nation and people group. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (Romans 5:10). Let us give thanks to Adonai, the God of reversals, for His kindness to us – we who absolutely didn’t deserve it. And let’s go out of our way to be vocal about it; to herald the One to whom spiritually starving people can turn and find everlasting sustenance.
Note: Each Torah portion is named from the first word or first few words of the portion of scripture. This portion is called Mikeitz מִקֵּץ. Other transliteration: Miketz