The name of this week’s parasha is Vayigash, meaning “and he drew near”, and covers Genesis 44:18-47:27. The story of Joseph’s brothers standing before him during their second journey to Egypt is continued in this parasha, which begins with Judah’s plea – asking to take Benjamin’s place as Joseph’s slave, since he had guaranteed Benjamin’s safe return to their father Jacob; Benjamin’s imprisonment would cause his father to die from grief.
In chapter 45, Joseph is overcome with emotion and orders everyone (except his brothers) to leave the room, weeping so loudly, the Egyptians hear him and Pharaoh’s household heard about it too. Joseph reveals himself to his terrified brothers: he is Joseph, their long-lost brother! Joseph asked about their father, but his brothers are afraid and don’t answer.
Joseph reassures them who he is, telling them that their actions in selling him into slavery were part of God’s plan to save lives (including their own), and to ensure that they would live to bear descendants by enduring the seven years of famine, of which two had already passed. God had made Joseph like a ‘father’ (advisor) to Pharaoh, and had given Joseph authority over Pharaoh’s household and all Egypt. He told them to invite Jacob to bring his entire family, animals and possessions to Goshen, which was a fertile region in Egypt. Once they arrived, Joseph would care and provide for them.
After reassuring his brothers and instructing them to tell their father what they saw, Joseph and Benjamin hugged and wept. Joseph wept when he kissed his brothers, and talked with them afterwards.
When this news reached Pharaoh, it pleased him and his officials. Pharaoh told Joseph to have his brothers bring their father and families from Canaan to Egypt with Egyptian carts for the women and children, but to leave their possessions, since the best of all Egypt would be theirs. Joseph gave his brothers the carts and they returned to Canaan. He also sent many wonderful gifts with them, and told them not to argue along the way.
When Joseph’s brothers returned home to Jacob, they told him what had happened, and Jacob couldn’t believe it! But after hearing their words and seeing the gifts Joseph had sent, Jacob was convinced and declared he would see Joseph before he died.
In chapter 46, Jacob stopped in Beersheba on his way to Egypt, and offered sacrifices to Adonai, as his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac had done before him. God spoke to him in a dream, reassuring Jacob that He would make him into a mighty nation in Egypt, and return his descendants to Canaan, and that Joseph would be with him when he died. Jacob and his sons continued towards Egypt with their families, animals, and all they possessed.
The genealogies of Jacob’s sons and their families are presented next, with the number of his direct descendants plus Joseph’s 2 sons born in Egypt at 70 people, which is also affirmed in Exodus 1:5 and Deuteronomy 10:22. The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Tanakh) included 2 additional sons each for Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim, and 1 grandson from Ephraim, which increased the total to 75 descendants here and in Exodus 1:5. This increased number was quoted by Steven when he spoke before the Sanhedrin in Acts 7:14. While most translations use the 70 total, we are meant to see in both totals that Adonai was with Jacob and his family during their journey, and that He blessed Jacob with many descendants.
Now we come to the great reunion. Jacob sends Judah ahead to Joseph for directions to Goshen, and when Jacob arrives, Joseph meets him there, hugging him and weeping profusely. Joseph says he will tell Pharaoh that his family are shepherds, and they should reaffirm it to Pharaoh, so that they will be allowed to settle separately in Goshen, since shepherds are repulsive to the Egyptians.
In chapter 47, Joseph tells Pharaoh that his father and brothers are in Goshen with all they had. Joseph chooses five of his brothers to present before Pharaoh, and they tell Pharaoh they are shepherds. Joseph asks that they be allowed to settle in Goshen, and Pharaoh agrees. When Jacob is brought before Pharaoh, Jacob blesses him and tells of his life-long struggles before blessing him again. Jacob and his sons then settle in Goshen.
The parasha ends with Joseph’s administering of food to the Egyptians during the famine years, and of the Israelis’ prosperity in Goshen. When the Egyptians’ money runs out, Joseph exchanges grain for their livestock. When that runs out, Joseph then exchanges grain and seed for the Egyptians themselves and their land, from which they will give Pharaoh twenty percent of the produce.
Parasha Vayigash teaches us that God’s plans always succeed according to His timing and purposes, despite the actions and schemes of human beings. Joseph’s brothers thought they were rid of their annoying little brother when they discovered he was missing from the pit they’d thrown him in; boy, were they wrong! Adonai’s plan was to protect and sustain Joseph so that Joseph’s family would be preserved through the years of famine in Egypt and Canaan, which was a wonderful blessing! Some additional blessings we see in this passage are that Jacob gets to see Joseph again before he dies, Joseph is reconciled to his brothers, and Jacob and his family prosper in Goshen.
We also see from this parasha that Joseph was a type of Messiah Yeshua. Betrayed by his brothers; falsely accused and condemned; yet eventually exalted to the highest place, he rescued the very ones who hated him. And while Joseph saved his family by providing them with physical nourishment, Messiah Yeshua provides eternal salvation to those who loyally follow Him as Lord and Redeemer. He is the Bread of Life, and whoever obediently receives Him will never die. So, let’s strive to obey Yeshua’s teaching, for He alone can satisfy our greatest need.