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. Yet everywhere he went, Joseph conducted himself with integrity, and God gave him favor. Eventually Joseph became custodian to Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and chief baker who had been jailed. One night they each had a perplexing dream, and Joseph interpreted 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! Still, Joseph continued to do his work diligently. But he couldn’t possibly have known how dramatically things were about to change.
Parashat Miketz opens with another strange series of dreams – this time interrupting the sleep of Pharaoh. He summoned his wise men, but they were at a loss to declare the meaning. And the cupbearer suddenly remembered and admitted, embarrassingly, that he had forgotten Joseph. He described to Pharaoh this impressive young Hebrew in the prison who interprets dreams. Joseph was immediately summoned to the palace, and was able to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Seven years of superabundant harvest were on the way, to be followed by seven years of a famine so devastating that the years of prosperity would be forgotten. Joseph advised Pharaoh to appoint someone to oversee the systematic storing up of grain during the plentiful years to be prepared for the coming famine. Pharaoh said, “Great idea – the job is yours!”
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, giving him his signet ring, wealth, honor, a wife from a prominent family, and even a new name! Joseph eventually fathered two sons, whom he named M’nashe and Ephraim, from the verbs meaning to forget and to be fruitful, since God had enabled him to forget his former woes and had made him fruitful.
Meanwhile Joseph diligently stored up one-fifth of the grain during the good years. So much was stockpiled that they lost track and stopped counting! But the prosperity ended abruptly, and the famine began – a famine so vast and severe that the entire Middle East was affected.
Now our attention is shifted back to Jacob and his family 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.
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 a 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 home, they discover that their money has been put back into the sacks, and now they’re afraid they’ll be accused of stealing the grain. It is the beginning of a series of tests to which Joseph will subject them, 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. Despite Jacob’s reluctance, 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 and head back to Egypt, to plead for his life. And that’s where our parasha leaves off. It’s a real cliff-hanger!
Joseph wouldn’t be the last Jew taken captive to a foreign land, only later to interpret a king’s dream and suddenly rise to prominence. The same thing happened to Daniel. What is it about the Jews and the revealing of mysteries? Our people, it seems, were chosen by God to unveil His mysterious plans and purposes to the nations – ultimately, that Gentiles will be welcomed into the family of God.
A few final thoughts:
- 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. He reallocates assets, whether grain or people, according to His infinite wisdom. You can trust Him to fulfill His good purposes for you; but in His time. Learn to patiently wait on Adonai.
- We should learn from Joseph’s example to be wise with our resources. Don’t spend money recklessly. Plan and save for unforeseen hardship.
- I believe Joseph’s betrayal and captivity, and his sudden rise from the prison to the palace, foreshadow Messiah Yeshua’s betrayal, death, resurrection and exaltation. Jacob thought he would never see Joseph again, but as he would soon learn, Joseph was alive and well, and highly exalted. Likewise, the people of Israel reckoned they would never see Yeshua again, assuming Him to be dead, but He has risen and is alive and well and highly exalted.
In terms of the time-frame, Jacob doesn’t yet know the truth about Joseph; but they will soon be reunited. Likewise, Israel, at present, doesn’t yet know the truth about Yeshua, but that reunion will soon take place, when He is revealed in splendor.
Wouldn’t you think Joseph would be cited in the New Covenant as a type of Messiah – the innocent one, hated by his brothers, sold for the price of a slave, suffering unjustly, then rising from the pit to the pinnacle, becoming the source of salvation to the very ones who hated him? I suppose nothing needed to be said because it is so obvious to any who’ve studied Genesis.
Just as Joseph saved, not only his own spiteful brothers, but many other peoples, so Yeshua has become the source of salvation, for both His own brothers, and for men and women from every nation. 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.
Let’s give thanks to Adonai, the God of reversals, for His kindness to the undeserving. And let’s go out of our way to be vocal about it; to proclaim the One to whom spiritually starving people can turn and find everlasting sustenance.