Miketz: Messiah, The Hidden Hope
(The Mercy Gate, Jerusalem)
Genesis 41 begins the revealing and the redemption of Joseph.
Just 2 - 3 chapters earlier Joseph had been sold into slavery and he, having been bought by Potiphar in Egypt, was sent to gaol due to controversy involving Potiphar’s wife. You might recall that Joseph was earning a name for himself as a slave of Potiphar and yet, unfortunately, he also drew the favourable attentions of his wife who having attempted to seduce Joseph later accused Joseph of raping her. Having been falsely accused, Joseph found himself in the Egyptian Gaol.
Genesis 40 is the episode where Joseph meets the cupbearer and baker of Pharaoh who have dreams that Joseph, through God of course, is able to interpret. In this chapter Joseph informs the men that their dreams speak of how the cupbearer will be restored to his position, while the baker will be put to death. Much to the disappointment of the baker, these dreams came to pass and the cupbearer, having been released, told Joseph he would speak to Pharaoh on his behalf.
Genesis 41 then, arrives two years later and on the Pharaoh’s birthday. You’ll notice in Gen 40:20 the day that Pharaoh restored the cupbearer and hung the baker was his birthday.
The day this actually occurred, i.e. Joseph’s release, is quite the important day and through inferences in the story and the text, the sages have long thought that this particular day also happened to be the day of Yom Teruah. This is not explicitly stated in the text, but that conclusion is interesting. The sages derive this via;
· Yom Teruah is the day of coronation in Israel. Throughout Israel’s history, this is the day King’s were officially inaugurated into their role and it is the day that Joseph was lifted up and inaugurated into his role as the right hand of Pharaoh. The symbolism clearly speaks of Messiah been lifted up.
· Yom Teruah is the day of judgement where the King judges the people. On this day Pharaoh judged, though 2 years earlier, the cupbearer and baker, issuing his decree for life and death in their cases. Yom Teruah has long been understood to be that apocalyptic ‘day of judgement’.
· Not only is Yom Teruah the day of judgement for people, but it has long been associated with the day where God weighs out, if you will, the agricultural blessing that will be bestowed onto the land. This is a traditional view but on this day, in our current text, God gave Pharaoh the dreams that showed God’s judgement regarding Egypt’s agriculture.
· Yom Teruah is also a day of repentance and on this day the cupbearer remembers his crime (he had promised to speak to Pharaoh two years earlier for Jospeh) and confesses this to Pharaoh
Now why this is interesting, this association with Yom Teruah, is that it helps us see some of the deeper illusions that are within the story of Joseph. Creating this connection between Yom Teruah and Joseph indicates that what we are reading about is regarding the revealing of the King of Israel.
Been that we are well within the story of Joseph I won’t belabour this point, but we are already aware that Joseph is one of the two great archetypes for the Messiah. We have Messiah Son of David, the conquering King, and Messiah Son of Joseph, the suffering servant. Clearly, the idea of Messiah Son of Jospeh is derived mainly from the story of Joseph. So, if you weren’t already aware, Joseph’s life is one of the greatest images of the Messiah the suffering servant and when we are reading his story we are reading the story of Yeshua who was exiled from his land, forgotten by his brothers, rejected, and suddenly revealed and elevated to the right hand of his Father.
At any rate Genesis 41 is about Pharaoh’s dreams. I didn’t want to get bogged down in the symbolism because the interpretation is given within the text itself, i.e. that the dreams speak of the seven years of plenty followed by the seven years of famine that would come to Egypt. I did however find that comparing Pharaoh’s dreams, to the earlier dreams of Joseph, to be quite interesting, because the Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches that the dreams reveal a little bit of something about the character of Pharaoh verses the character of Joseph;
Pharaoh said to Joseph: “In my dream, I am standing on the bank of the River. And behold, there come out of the River seven cows . . .” (41:17–18)
In contrast, Joseph saw in his dream (recounted in the beginning of the previous Parshah) that “we were binding sheaves in the field . . .”
Both Pharaoh and Joseph behold the future in their dreams, but with a significant difference. To Pharaoh life is a river, with himself standing on the riverbank—outside of its flow, a passive bystander to what transpires. To Joseph, life is a field within which he toils, laboring at “binding sheaves”—gathering its diverse stalks and binding them into an integral whole.
Many are seduced by the enticements of Pharaonic life. “We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt for free,” the children of Israel grumbled (Numbers 11:5) when G‑d had stripped them of the shackles and security of slavery. Life is a free lunch in Pharaoh’s Egypt; there are no choices in your life, but neither is there the anxiety and responsibility they entail. You simply stand on the riverbank and watch the cows and years follow and consume one another.
Pharaoh’s vision may be every vegetable’s utopia, but there is little satisfaction and no fulfillment in his free fish. It is only in the toilsome labor in the field of life that the most important freedom of all is to be found: the freedom to achieve and create.
And that difference, between Pharaoh and Joseph, i.e. the one who takes action and the one who is the bystander, is the key as to why Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams were correct.
You see, Joseph interpreted the symbolism of the dream correctly, but his interpretation didn’t just stop with that. Joseph continued in verse 33 to tell Pharaoh what he should do, and it would seem to be a pretty courageous thing, to be a prisoner before Pharaoh and to suggest that he appoint Joseph as an overseer of the land in preparation of the famine, which is how that is typically interpreted. But Joseph’s suggestion to and plan of action is actually not a suggestion of Joseph himself, but is part of God’s interpretation of the dream. That’s slightly different to how many treat the text. Traditionally we see Joseph interpreting the dream, and then Joseph suggesting his plan of action which we think is not included in the dream’s interpretation, but it is, and Joseph’s plan of action is just as God given as the interpretation of the symbolism. Pharaoh himself says to Joseph after all this;
Genesis 41:39 (The Scriptures)
39 Then Pharaoh said to Yosěph, “Since Elohim has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you.
Now the fact that Joseph interpreted the dream correctly and was able to do what all the magicians of Egypt could not do, is a foreshadow of Moses, with his staff, defeating the magicians of Egypt in his own showdown with Pharaoh later in the book of Exodus. Never forget, the Bible is a cycle and all these stories repeat and reveal more and more of the character of Messiah.
The very fact that Joseph was able to interpret the dreams is further fascinating on a number of different levels.
· In Rabbinic literature they teach that the magician’s of Egypt were trying to interpret the dream, but could not. Of the difference, which corresponds to what we pointed out before, is that the interpretations of Egypt where largely symbolic, whilst Joseph included the action plan. One of the more famous interpretations offered to Pharaoh by his magicians, noted in the Midrash Rabbah, is that Pharaoh would have 7 ugly daughters, and 7 beautiful daughters.
· The very fact that Joseph was able to receive the interpretation of the dream from God tells us that Joseph is a prophet because God states later on the Bible, that he speaks to his prophets through dreams.
Numbers 12:6 (The Scriptures)
6 And He said, “Hear now My words: If your prophet is of יהוה, I make Myself known to him in a vision, and I speak to him in a dream.
The ultimate key to Joseph’s success was not that he had talent or that he was particularly special in and of himself, but that Joseph knew the God of Israel, and that it was God working here, and not Joseph.
This is the key difference between Joseph, Pharaoh, and his magicians. You see the interpretation of dreams in the ancient world was a common practice and there were whole schools of thought as to how to do this and as to what certain symbolisms meant. Whilst God is clear that he communicates through dreams you do not see dream interpretation as part of Israeli culture and you do not see any people focused on studying and developing skill in relation to dreams. If anything, this is considered to be sorcery which is a crime punishable by death in Israel (so do not let the dream concept of this parashah fool you into thinking that dream interpretation is a thing for you to worry about). For the magicians of Egypt, dream interpretation was a skill they attempted to learn, for Joseph, he relied on God.
The fact that it is God working here provides us with another comparison to be made between Joseph’s earlier dream and Pharaoh’s. You see in verse 41:1 which states that Pharaoh stood by the river Nile, is actually, Pharaoh stood ‘above’ the river Nile, and the sages point out that the Nile was considered to be a deity in the Egyptian world and it was worshipped making it notable that Pharaoh was standing ‘above’ the Nile, one his gods. . The sages say;
The wicked see themselves as standing over their gods, as it says, “Pharaoh dreamed, and behold, he stood over the River” (the Nile being the arch-deity of Egypt). But as for the righteous, their G‑d stands over them, as it says (regarding Jacob’s dream), “Behold, G‑d stood over him” (Genesis 28:13).
And as stated earlier, Joseph’s success is in relying and holding onto God, ultimately, been beneath God, a servant of God not like Pharaoh, who thought he could stand above God, whether it be his own or even YHWH. On this Yeshua says;
Luke 22:26 (The Scriptures)
26 “But not so with you, but let him who is greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.
Joseph’s servitude is one of the greatest lessons we can learn from this parashah. He was raised up, because he was so low. Perhaps this is why God kept Joseph in prison for so many years, why he went through so many trials, all to refine Joseph and to prepare him for his mission, to be one of the greatest leaders in world history, and to be one of the finest foreshadows we have of the Messiah.
On Joseph’s sorrow the Midrash Tanchuma says;
Every affliction to befall man has a set time to end, as it is written, “An end He set to darkness, and every limit He investigates” (Job 28:3). This is said regarding Joseph, who had been ten years in prison [when he asked the chief butler to intercede for him], but G‑d investigated and saw that it was necessary for him to be imprisoned for another two years . . .
“In every sorrow there is profit” (Proverbs 14:23). This too is said in regard to Joseph, who suffered in prison and then profited from it [in becoming] ruler over Egypt . . .
Joseph Our Hope
As we’re all aware, and I’ve kept repeating, Joseph is a great foreshadow of Messiah. I didn’t want to focus on this necessarily, because this is a topic easily researched by anyone and easily understood. I did however want to look at this and raise a few points that might be a little different.
To start let’s go back to our first verse which says ‘Now it happened at the end of two full years...’ because from here we derive the name of this week’s Torah Portion, ‘Miketz’.
Mikets means ‘at the end’, and yes, this is talking about the end of Joseph’s term in prison, two years after the episode with the cupbearer and baker, but it is a remez, a hint that is, to the ‘ketz hayammin’ (ketz here coming from miketz), which is a phrase meaning ‘the end of days’.
Now if we’re at that deeper level, and we’re seeing this now in it’s prophetic sense, then all of a sudden we are talking about the Messiah been revealed at the end of days. Having already made that connection with Yom Teruah, which is correctly understood as ‘the day of judgement’ and ‘the day of coronation’, we can see that something much deeper is occurring here.
As the parashah goes on we learn more about the revealing of the Messiah. Verse 14 says;
Genesis 41:14 (The Scriptures)
14 Then Pharaoh sent and called Yosěph, and they hurriedly brought him out of the dungeon. And he shaved and changed his garments, and came to Pharaoh.
Teaching us that not only will Messiah be revealed, ‘at the end’ (miketz), but that this will occur quickly.
Rabbinic literature is full of discussions about this, but Sforno (a medieval rabbinical commentator) sums this up nicely;
This is the way God brings about salvation. It happens in a moment, as it is said (in Isaiah 56:1) ‘for my salvation is about to come and my righteousness to be revealed’. This is also stated in Psalm 81:14 ‘I would quickly subdue their enemies’...as our rabbis of blessed memory said ‘our forefathers did not have time to allow their dough to leaven before the King of Kings, the blessed one redeemed them’. This is likewise stated regarding the future redemption as it says in Malachi 3:1 ‘and the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come’.
And so it was and will be. Messiah will come and he will quickly be exalted as our ruler.
What is so interesting with Joseph is that he is a ruler in Egypt. This is one of the clearest pictures we have of Messiah been exiled from Israel and exalted by the Gentiles. Thus Joseph’s exaltation is not necessarily speaking of Yeshua’s second coming, but of Messiah in exile out in the world.
It’s actually a very comforting image for us to have, because this world is harsh and it is cruel, and we do live in times of famine, of both spirit and one day, of actual food. But the story of Joseph teaches us that Messiah has all in subjugation to him, even out here in the world. It also teaches us that Messiah goes before us and that from Him, and Him alone, are we able to live. Psalm 105:17 tells us that Messiah goes before us to prepare the way;
Psalm 105:17 (The Scriptures)
17 He sent ahead of them a man,
Yosěph, sold as a slave.
I.e. Messiah goes before us, though he was sold as a slave.
Moving ahead there are many connections to be made with Joseph and Messiah through his exaltation. But Joseph is the one who gather’s grain. Pharaoh however says something interesting in verse 56. It says that the scarcity of food came up on the earth, and that Pharaoh said to the people, ‘Go to Joseph, do whatever he says to you’. He doesn’t say, Joseph will give you grain, that’s a given in the plain sense of the story, but Pharaoh is actually alluding to a deeper truth of Messiah, that it is by His word that we live, and that yes food and the things we need will be added to us, but that we need to turn to Messiah, and live by his word.
Matthew 4:4 (The Scriptures)
4 But He answering, said, “It has been written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of יהוה.’ ”
Sitting with this deeper understanding of the story, we can infer that grain is therefore symbolic of something else.
Firstly it is symbolic of people. As Messiah says in Mt 13:38, referring to a field’s symbolism, that ‘the field is the world’, and so the grain, gathered from the field, is representative of Messiah gathering people in the exile. Remember Joseph’s dream where his brother’s bowed down to him, well despite his exaltation in Joseph’s dream he was still in the field gathering and binding sheaves.
We also see this in verse 49 which says;
Genesis 41:49 (The Scriptures)
49 Thus Yosěph gathered very much grain, as the sand of the sea, until he ceased counting, for it was without number.
Which is a clear remez, that is hint, to earlier verses in scripture with the patriarchs where it is stated;
Genesis 32:12 (The Scriptures)
12 “... ‘I shall certainly do good to you, and shall make your seed as the sand of the sea, which are too numerous to count.’ ”
So Joseph is Messiah, gathering in His people, the children of Abraham, who are living in exile.
But is it just people?
As we move on the symbolism of the grain actually shifts in Chapter 42. It begins by saying;
Genesis 42:1–2 (The Scriptures)
And when Ya‘aqoḇ saw that there was grain in Mitsrayim, Ya‘aqoḇ said to his sons, “Why do you look at each other?”
2 And he said, “See, I have heard that there is grain in Mitsrayim. Go down to that place and buy for us there, and let us live and not die.”
Now the word for grain is ‘bar’. But when we arrive in Genesis 42 an alternative word for grain is used. The word is ‘shever’. It is spelt ‘shin’ ‘beit’ and ‘reish’ in the Hebrew, and as I have explained in the past, Hebrew is a language without vowels, meaning that Hebrew words can be pronounced in different ways, depending on the vowels attributed to them. The point is though is that the vowels in the original text are not present, leaving it up to the reader to decide which word is been said, and which vowels to use. This is interesting because if you pronounce certain Hebrew words differently you can completely change the meaning of the word.
What this means, to try to be clear, is that a Hebrew word can mean different things, what it specifically means at times depends on the pronunciation that is attributed to that word, which is usually decided in the context of its use.
When it comes to shever, meaning grain, and without the vowel pointings, you can come up with a completely different word than ‘grain’.
The alternative word that ‘shever’ can mean is ‘sever’, depending on the pronunciation that you attribute to ‘shin’, ‘beit’ and ‘reish’.
‘Sever’ means hope.
Thus the sons of Israel heard that there was ‘hope’ in the land of Egypt, and they went not to seek grain, but the word, and the hope of Messiah.
Joseph was gathering more than just people; He possessed and distributed hope to the world.
One of the beautiful things of that is that Joseph here demonstrates that whilst the world and Israel may not know him, that Messiah sustains us all. He is the one, Joseph/Messiah, that gives in secret, as Messiah himself says;
Matthew 6:3–4 (The Scriptures)
3 “But when you do a kind deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
4 so that your kind deed shall be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret shall Himself reward you openly.
Just like when Joseph returned the brothers silver to them, and refused to accept their payment when they later offered it back.
Messiah is the one who is the hidden hope, like Joseph remained hidden, but the one who also holds hope for all humanity to seek and find him.
Tears Of Exile
Joseph demonstrates Messiah’s heart; not just for the hope he has for us, but that He is the Messiah who weeps in secret for us. Like Joseph wept in Gen 43 whilst remaining unknown to his brothers, though desiring to be reconciled; and He who weeps when He sees and thinks upon the sins of Israel. Messiah is the one ‘who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth’ (2 Tim 2:4) ‘not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance’ (2 Peter 3:10).
Joseph’s weeping for Israel demonstrates Messiah’s heart for reconciliation, like Joseph’s heart for reconciliation with his brothers and his sorrow for the loss of his brothers.
Time unfortunately is a symphony of tears it would seem. You may recall Rachel weeping for her children in Jeremiah 31.
Jeremiah 31:15 (The Scriptures)
15 Thus said יהוה, “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing, bitter weeping, Raḥěl weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”
You may recall in an earlier Torah Portion I explained that the latter part of Jeremiah 31:15 is actually singular. So not ‘weeping...because they are no more’; but rather ‘weeping...for He is no more’.
Thus Rachel weeps for the loss of her children gone into exile; however that singular ‘He’ at the end of that verse speaks of Messiah. In essence though, it is Rachel weeping for her lost son Joseph who was sold as a slave and who was thought to be dead. Rachel is weeping for Joseph ‘for He is no more’.
If only Rachel knew the tears of her son longing to be reconciled with his brothers. If only Rachel knew that at the end of the path of exile for Israel, as they went deep into the depths of Egypt, that there was Joseph/Messiah, the hope of the world.
Though He was concealed and unknown to us, Messiah came with us into the exile, weeping for us as the concealed hope of the world. Though we too weep for the journey we are on, Messiah is by our side the whole way, and He will redeem us, and He will restore us.
If only Rachel and Israel knew the truth.
There he is hope though, ‘for with weeping they shall come, and with their prayers [God] will bring them’, ‘God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’, so ‘hold back your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work...’. (Jer 31:9, 16; Rev 21:4)
The word ‘shever’ is even more interesting. It is also a root word that can also be understood and translated as ‘to break, shatter, or smash’ and in its agricultural context, i.e., the fact the word means grain, this makes sense as grain needs to be crushed and ground down.
So yes, Messiah is the hope of the world and we live by His word, but our journey is one that follows in the footsteps of Joseph. We too will be tested, we too will be broken down, and hopefully, like Joseph, our refining will reveal the character and integrity of our Master, Yeshua, and that like Joseph, we too can reveal the hope of the world. Seeing this play on words the rabbis have even rendered ‘shever’ to mean ‘destruction’. Thus, there is ‘destruction’ in the land of Egypt - all the more reason to cleave to Messiah – but there is also hope.
Shever clearly speaks to the testing of Israel in exile, and if we allow ourselves to skip ahead, we can understand the episode where Joseph hides his silver chalice into the grain sacks of his brother as a test.
Joseph is often accused of cruelty in dealing with his brothers in ‘miketz’, especially when it comes to chapter 44.
To bring ourselves up to speed; basically, Joseph’s brothers arrived in Egypt without Benjamin in order to acquire grain. Joseph accused them of been spies and sent them away whilst keeping Simeon locked up. Joseph informs his brother that they are not to return to Egypt without Benjamin or else he would believe that they were spies. Some time having passed, the brothers again return to Egypt, but this time with Benjamin too, they acquire grain, have a meal with Joseph, and are sent back to Israel only for Joseph to have his silver chalice hidden in Benjamin’s sack in order to accuse them of theft. Joseph then sends his steward to catch up with the brothers, he locates the silver chalice, and the brother’s are brought back to Joseph expecting Benjamin to be enslaved as punishment.
But this is not cruelty; this is Joseph testing Israel to see if their hearts have changed since they sold him, and to see if they could actually be reconciled to one another. That was always Joseph’s heart, for his family and for reconciliation.
Joseph however needed to see the true nature that was now within his brothers and whether they had changed and truly repented for that they had done. It is not popular teaching, but God will test us and he will shatter us just like he did to Israel here.
The sack that Joseph hid his silver chalice in is interesting. In Genesis 44 the Scripture uses the word ‘amtahat’ as the word for sack. This word is only used here in Scripture and is not the common word used to describe a sack in Hebrew.
It’s fascinating because the first three letters of the word for sack spell a Hebrew word that is ‘emet’. Emet is the word for ‘truth’.
So, within the grain sacks of the brothers, lay the truth that was within the heart of the matter. Joseph here, as Messiah will do, will test us, may even have us accused and tried, but all in His search for who are truly His and who are truly not.
Thankfully the brother’s return and Judah, who having been a class above his brothers in Miketz finally solidifies his position as the true firstborn of Israel.
Judah understood the true nature of their situation, not that this was about stealing from Joseph, but that this was their recompense for the sin they had committed against Joseph all those years earlier. Judah here, like Joseph, embodies the heart of Messiah as he pours his heart out and lays bare the truth.
Judah is the one who said to Jacob earlier, when leaving with Benjamin for their second trip to Egypt;
Genesis 43:8–10 (The Scriptures)
8 ....“Send the boy with me, and let us arise and go, and live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones.
9 “I myself shall stand guaranty for him—from my hand you are to require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever.
10 “For if we had not delayed, truly by now we could have returned this second time.”
And Judah, already willing to lay his life down for Benjamin, further demonstrating the heart of Messiah, is the one that speaks up in the end of our portion, he says;
Genesis 44:16 (The Scriptures)
16 ... “What do we say to my master? What do we speak? Or how do we clear ourselves? Elohim has found out the crookedness of your servants. See, we are my master’s slaves, both we and he also with whom the cup was found.”
As soon as Judah acknowledges that God has discovered their sin, and as soon as says these words unbeknown to his brother Joseph, Messiah reveals himself.
Hidden From All Israel
And so it is for us.
Judah here sets out a fine example of how to reveal Messiah, that is, through repentance.
Too often these verses become a ‘Jewish’ thing; where this is not about Messiah been revealed to Israel, but Messiah been revealed ‘to those Jews’ who have not known him until prior to this revelation.
Understand that we too are part of Israel and that Joseph’s revelation here is not prophetic of just his reconciliation with Israel (as we know it today), but of his reconciliation with ourselves too. Sure, we have said the sinners prayer, we have a name that the Jews don’t know, be it Jesus or Yeshua, but regardless, ‘mikets’, that is ‘at the end’ we will stand just in as much shock and just in as much awe as our Jewish brothers will be of Messiah. Like they, there is so much we also do not know and need to learn about His hidden identity.
He is truth, and the hidden hope of the world, we should not think that we have figured it all out because whilst He was hidden from Israel He has also been hidden from us. Just like Judah here we too need to be searched and tried in order to be judged and deemed worthy of one day having Him take off His Egyptian garb and truly reveal his truth to us. Like ‘those Jews’, we too still have so much to know of our Messiah. Perhaps, just like with Joseph, there are those in Israel who bow to Him whilst not knowing his true name. So we should be careful about making this ‘a Jew thing’.
It is best that we understand this part of the story as been addressed to our very selves. Like Judah here we too need to lay bare our sin and be completely humbled. Perhaps then, having been stripped down to our very core, having our own personal true selves revealed, will Messiah then see the hope He put within us; and in doing so reveal Himself to all of Israel.
Therein lay the point of exile, to reveal truth, and to reveal the hope of the world.
Come soon Messiah.