Vayechi – “And He Lived”

Our Parasha is entitled Vayechi which means “and he lived,” it covers Genesis 47:28-50:26, and finishes out the book of Genesis. In last week’s parasha Joseph continued to test his brothers to see if they were indeed different people from the ones who had sold him into slavery. When Judah offered to take the place of Benjamin as a slave, Joseph saw in them a glimmer of repentance and maturity. Finally, overwhelmed with emotion, he revealed his identity to them. With the sons of Jacob finally reunited, Joseph brought his father to dwell in the best part of the land of Egypt, where God had promised to make them into a great nation.

Parasha Vayechi records Jacob’s actions and last words before his death in Egypt, beginning with his making Joseph swear to bury him in the land of Israel. After Joseph swore an oath, Jacob turned and bowed himself on the head of his bed worshiping God, thanking Him in advance for granting his last request.

According to Hebrews 11, this was an act of faith, because Jacob knew that his descendants would not be in Egypt forever and would one day return to Canaan, the Land of Promise. In a sense, Egypt was to Jacob and his family what the Ark was to Noah: a temporary shelter from the disaster on the outside.

God inspired Jacob to prophesy over Joseph’s two sons from Egypt. Jacob gives Manasseh and Ephraim a special blessing and adopts them as his own children, elevating them from grandsons to sons.

Jacob insisted on giving the younger Ephraim the right-hand position of primacy during the blessing, stating that Ephraim would be greater than his older brother.

The passing over of the firstborn is a recurring theme throughout the book of Genesis. Seven times it happens: (1) Seth over Cain (2) Shem over Japheth (3) Abraham over Haran (4) Isaac over Ishmael (5) Jacob over Esau (6) Joseph over Reuben, and now (7) Ephraim over Manasseh.

Because of Reuben’s immorality with his father’s concubines, and the awful way that Simeon and Levi dealt with their enemies at Shechem, the blessing of the firstborn was given to Judah, along with a most interesting prophecy. The prophecy refers to the ruling position of the tribe of Judah among his brethren. Judah inherited the leadership aspect of the firstborn’s inheritance. Jacob also prophesied that the Messiah, the One referred to as “Shiloh” would come from the line of Judah. Yeshua Himself is Shiloh, the name meaning, “He whose right it is” – a title understood to refer to the coming Messiah.

Overall, this blessing upon Judah is an example of the riches of God’s grace, because even Judah didn’t start out as an exemplary character. He did however shine when he interceded and offered himself as a substitute for Benjamin. In that way, Judah was a foreshadowing of Yeshua, who became a substitute and ransom for all who place their faith and trust in Him.

Jacob dies at the age of 147 and is brought by his sons to the land of Canaan, accompanied by a great procession of Egyptian royalty, where he is buried alongside his wife Leah, his parents Isaac and Rebeccah, and grandparents Abraham and Sarah.

After their return to Egypt, the brothers fear that Joseph will take revenge, now that their father is dead. In the Godfather saga, the main character who is a mob boss is betrayed by his brother. He cuts off all relations with his brother but he spares him from death… at least while their mother was still living. However, once the mother died in the movie, the mob boss promptly had the brother killed. This is a depiction of human nature in its simplest form. Our nature is to take vengeance and repay evil with evil. But God says that vengeance is His and to repay evil with kindness.

Joseph knew that it was not his place to exact vengeance on his brothers, and instead reassures them that he bears no hard feelings, stating that his being sold into slavery was all part of God’s Divine plan. What they meant for evil, Adonai turned around and made good. The Torah portion concludes with Joseph’s death and the Jewish people’s promise to carry his bones with them to Israel when they are finally redeemed by God.

For those of us who have placed our faith and trust in Yeshua, we should think as Jacob did. This world is not our true inheritance or our home. Something greater awaits us. Rabbi Paul wrote, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Savior Yeshua Ha-Mashiach! In His great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Yeshua from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you”.

We should act like ambassadors sent with a mission of peace and reconciliation. We should represent our Heavenly Father here on this earth and carry out the mission He gave us to preach and teach His Word to this dying world. Then, when our mission has ended, either by Adonai calling us home or our being raptured, will we enter the true “Land of Promise” – our eternal home which is in Heaven.

Ephraim and Manasseh’s adoption by Jacob elevated their status within their family and blessed them both then and in the future. That adoption is a reminder that nobody is naturally born into the family of God. In fact, we come into this world separated from the holy Three-In-One God, and the only way to get into his family IS to be adopted. When does this adoption take place?

From God’s perspective it took place in eternity past. The Book of Ephesians tells us: “For God the Father chose us in Messiah before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love, God predestined us to be adopted as His sons and daughters through Yeshua. From our perspective, it took place at the moment we placed our faith and trust in the completed work of Yeshua and we transferred our lives and loyalty to Him.

When parents adopt a child they choose a boy or a girl that they want to bring into their family. The child inherits all the rights and privileges of the family. And though at times the parents might be disappointed or even angry with their child, he or she is still and always their child.

No one is unadopted. This is also true of God’s family. When we were adopted into His family, we were transformed from slavery to children of the King. And no matter what happens, our God will never un-adopt us or leave or forsake us.

Yeshua Himself said: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day”.

The story of Joseph illustrates perfectly the relationship between God’s sovereign power and the often poor choices that people make. Joseph’s experiences taught him well. Having been betrayed by his brothers, imprisoned on false charges brought by Potiphar’s wife, and then being forgotten for two full years after doing good to Pharaoh’s cupbearer – all taught Joseph that God could overrule the evil of humans to accomplish good for those who serve Him.

It points to a favorite passage of mine, Romans 8:28 which says:  “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose”. That tells me that no matter what happens in my life, God can turn it around and use it for my good and for His Glory just like He did for Joseph.

The book of Genesis began with a man in the Garden of Eden and ends with a man in a coffin in Egypt. Paradise had been lost and the world needed to be redeemed from sin. Thus the groundwork had been laid and the transition is natural to the opening verses of the Book of Exodus (or the Book of Redemption), where God will raise up a new prophet and leader – His servant Moses.