Family Reunion

Torah Portion: Vayigash (Genesis 44:18–47:27)
Gospel Reading: Romans 11:1–36
Commentary by: Kelsey Bryant

“God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it is not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 45:7–8, NASB). 

Tweak a few words, and this could be Yeshua speaking to His Jewish brethren. The vast majority of them over the millennia have rejected Him, like Joseph’s brothers rejected Joseph, beginning with those who trod the dust of Israel at the same time as Yeshua. 

But the accusation of “Christ killer!” has no basis, because He Himself said, “No one has taken [My life] away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father” (John 10:18). He also forgave all those responsible, during the moments He was dying His agonizing death. It was all a part of God’s plan to bring salvation to the whole world.

If the leaders had known what that plan was, “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:8), and then where would we be? Still cut off, still separated from Adonai. As it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes to see not and ears to hear not, down to this very day” (Rom. 11:8, quoting Deut. 29:4; cf. Isa. 6:10 and 29:10). 

God’s people did not have to reject His Messiah (as if they had no free will), but because they did, He turned it around and made good of it: “I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:11, NKJV). It’s as Joseph explains to his brothers in Genesis 50:20 (sorry…I’m skipping ahead a Torah portion) – “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” Like Joseph exiled in Egypt, Yeshua is “exiled” from the hearts of His Jewish brothers. But, also like Joseph, good is coming of this sorrowful exile. There’s an allusion to resurrection in Joseph’s words – “to save many people alive.” Just like many people were given life through the brothers’ separation, thus many people were given everlasting life through Yeshua and His brothers’ separation.

There’s another allusion to resurrection in our parashah: In Genesis 45:27, when Jacob saw the wagons Joseph had sent to carry the family to Egypt, his spirit “revived” after the shock of his other sons’ news. That phrase in Hebrew is “Vat’hi ruach Yaakov” (the spirit of Jacob came alive). It’s as if he was “resurrected” by hearing and believing that Joseph was alive. And what must have also quickened his spirit was the reunification and reconciliation of his sons. 

Does this remind you of a prophetic passage? Stepping back from the Yeshua/Israel reunion, look at what happens when all of Israel coheres again. In Ezekiel 37, the dry bones that represent Israel come to life when God breathes ruach (breath, spirit) into them (Ezek. 37:5). Later in that chapter the reunification of Judah and Joseph is described, when the two sticks (or etzim, which can also mean trees) come together (Ezek. 37:19). It’s life from the dead. And what’s more, David (or a King like him –Yeshua) will be prince over them forever (Ezek. 37:24ff). 

So this necessary separation will end in an incredible reunion and restoration among God’s chosen people, and between God Himself and His people. “For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Rom. 11:15, NASB). 

One day, they will know Him, despite what anyone has done to separate the two: “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn” (Zec. 12:10; cf. Rev. 1:7).

Knowing this, let us be careful to never “boast against the branches” (Rom. 11:18) and fall into any kind of anti-Semitism! Yeshua has always loved the Jews and we’d do well to reflect Him. What would Joseph have done if the Egyptians had tried to harm his brothers?