Vayeshev – “And He Dwelt”

The parasha for this week is Vayeshev, which means “And He Dwelt” and covers Genesis Chapters 37-40.

At this time, Jacob lives  in Canaan, the land of his fathers.  Jacob’s favorite son Joseph, from his wife Rachel – his favorite wife, is 17 years old and is pasturing the flock with his older brothers from Jacob’s other wives.  Joseph brings back a bad report about his brothers to his father.  This makes Joseph’s brothers jealous and not fond of him.  Jacob makes a robe of many colors for Joseph to wear.  Again, his brothers are displeased.

Joseph has two dreams.  In his dreams, he rules over his brothers and they bow down to him.  The brothers’ dislike for Joseph is growing.  Jacob remembers this dream. There are times in all of our lives when something happens and we can choose to speak up about it or be silent.  Silence can be golden.  In the words of the late Pastor Adrian Rodgers, “make sure the words you say are sweet – because you may have to eat them someday”.  For Joseph, this day is coming.

Time goes by, and Joseph’s brothers have taken the livestock to Shechem.  Jacob sends Joseph and his coat of many colors to check on the brothers.  Joseph cannot find them because they are in Dothan.  The brothers see him approaching and plot to kill him.  The eldest brother Reuben, as we learned previously, slept with one of Jacob’s wives.  It will cost him his birthright.  Reuben disagrees with killing Joseph and suggests an alternative of throwing him in an empty cistern.  Reuben leaves and figures he’ll come back later to rescue Joseph and return him to his father and I believe with the hope of restoring his birthright.

In the meantime, a caravan of Ishmaelites is approaching and the Midianites sell Joseph to these Ishmaelites.  They do so and receive 20 shekels of silver.  The Ishmaelites take Joseph to Egypt.  Reuben returns only to find Joseph missing.  What are the brothers going to say to Jacob?

The brothers take Joseph’s coat of many colors and wipe goat’s blood on it.  The brothers show Jacob the coat and act perplexed as to the fate of Joseph.  Jacob presumes that Joseph is dead.  Jacob rips his clothes, puts on his sackcloth, and mourns for a long time.

In Chapter 38, the story turns to Judah.  Judah travels to Adullam and meets a Canaanite whose name is Shua.   Judah takes Shua’s daughter as his wife and they have three sons.  Time passes, and Judah finds the oldest son, Ur, a wife named Tamar.  Ur is wicked.  God takes his life.  Judah gives Tamar to his second son Onan.  Judah tells Onan to have a child with Tamar for Ur.  Onan disobeys.  God takes Onan’s life as well.  This leaves the third son, Sheelah, whose is too young for Tamar.  Tamar is returned to her family until Sheelah is of age to marry her.  Judah fears losing his remaining son Sheelah and he changes his mind to unite Sheelah and Tamar.

Judah’s wife dies and Judah is bringing his sheep to be sheared.  Tamar hears of this, covers her face, and wears clothes becoming of a prostitute.  She sits at the gate and garners Judah’s attention.  He solicits her.  Judah promises the woman (Tamar) a goat for her services.  However, Judah does not have a goat.  He gives Tamar his signet ring, his chord, and staff.  Tamar becomes pregnant unbeknownst to Judah.

Months pass, and Judah hears word of Tamar’s pregnancy.  Judah exclaimed that Tamar didn’t wait for Sheelah.  Another example of not waiting on the Lord. Judah suggests Tamar be put to death.  Tamar shows Judah the articles that belonged to him.  Judah realizes that Tamar is more righteous than he.

As we move into Chapter 39, notice the contrast between Judah and Joseph.  Joseph has been sold to Potipher and is an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard.  God blesses Joseph and is with him in everything he does.  Potipher puts Joseph in charge of everything except his wife.  Joseph is handsome and Potipher’s wife is attracted to him and asks Joseph to sleep with her.  Unlike Joseph’s brothers Judah and Reuben, Joseph will not prostitute himself and he rebukes her.  Potipher’s wife concocts a story to tell her husband.  Potipher believes his wife and sends Joseph to prison.  While in prison, Adonai blesses Joseph by having the Warden put all the prisoners in Joseph’s charge.  Joseph’s time in prison is made more tolerable.

Two new prisoners appear – a cup bearer and a baker.  The cup bearer and baker both have dreams and have trouble discerning them.  They consult Joseph for interpretation.  The cup bearer says that there was a vine with the branches, the branches burst into grapes, and he pressed  them into Pharaoh’s cup and gave it to Pharaoh.  Joseph interprets the dream as:  the three branches are three days that you will be restored to Pharaoh.  Joseph requests that when the cup bearer is restored, to please mention Joseph favorably to Pharaoh.  The baker’s dream was interpreted that, in three days, Pharaoh will take his head and hang him on a tree.  Three days pass, it is Pharaoh birthday. Pharaoh restores the cup bearer to his position.  The baker is hung on a tree.  Of course, the cup bearer does not honor Joseph’s request.  Joseph will linger in prison two more years.

In summary, Joseph is immature and spoiled and lacks humility, but God will use Joseph and build his character for the work that he will do.

As in our lives, we need our character to be developed to serve God in humility and to hear His voice and respond.  If we hold onto our pride, we will not be able to hear Adonai.  While Joseph loved God, he needed maturing.  God was always caring for Joseph, as the three-in-one God does for us.  Even in our darkest moments, He is carrying us.

In conclusion Joseph was thrown in a cistern, sold by his brothers, accused wrongly by Potipher’s wife, forgotten by the cup bearer – yet, in the weeks to come, we will see what greatness Joseph will bring to Pharaoh and also his father Jacob, and brothers.

Joseph is a shadow of another who would come to be tested, spit upon, cursed, whipped, pierced, and hung on a tree – not to build His character, but to deliver us characters.  Do you know him?  He is our King, our Priest, and our Savior – Yeshua HaMashiach!