Watch Parasha Vayeshev: 2023: Faith in Aflliction!
B’reisheet (Genesis) 37:1-40:23, Amoz 2-3, Yochanan (John) 2-4
Shalom and welcome to this week’s “Parasha Vayeshev”. I am your host, Ulices Rodriguez.
Have you ever aspired to achieve something great that Yahweh set on your heart to do? And along the way you have faced various trials and difficulties that seemed like they were setting you off course? It is in this parasha where we will study and learn from Yoseph’s (Joseph’s) life and how Yahweh put dreams of greatness upon the heart of His servant. Even though there were many obstacles, difficulties, and trials along the way, Yahweh used all those things to build Yoseph into a noble man. A man who would go on to become governor of all Mitsrayim (Egypt).
I am sure Yoseph never dreamed about anything that big for himself and I am sure we do not dream of anything that big for ourselves. Mishle 16:9 says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but Yahweh directs his steps”.
Mishle (Proverbs) 16:9
9 “A man’s heart plans his way,
But Yahweh directs his steps.”
Whether our plans for greatness are big or small, it is Yahweh who directs our steps. It is Yahweh who carries us through the trials and obstacles before us. Whether or not we end up going through the trials with a humble and dedicated attitude is dependent upon our relationship with Him. Sometimes Yahweh gives us a mission in our heart to accomplish for Him, but we are too immature and lack the necessary character needed to accomplish the mission. As a result, He brings us through various trials and obstacles to help us mature and grow in our faith to be ready for the mission that He has given to us.
Ya’akov chapter 1 verses 2 and 3 say, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience”.
Yaakov (James) 1:2-3
2 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”
Romim chapter 5 verses 3 and 5 says, “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of Elohim has been poured out in our hearts by the Set-apart Spirit who was given to us“.
Romin (Romans) 5:3-5
3 “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;
4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope.
5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of Elohim has been poured out in our hearts by the Set-apart Spirit who was given to us.”
We may have been given smaller individual missions that are specifically designed for us, but as far as the greater overall mission to build the Kingdom of Yeshua’s, that applies to all disciples. If we are to learn our specific role in that greater overall mission, we have to be humble and willing to be molded by the process that Yahweh has for us and let Him be the captain of our ship. Please join me as we study Yahweh’s word.
In this week’s Torah portion, the first thing mentioned about Yoseph is that he is seventeen years old, he is out feeding the flock with his older brothers, and he brings back a bad report to his father about his brothers.
Following this report, Scripture says that “Israel loved Yoseph more than all his children and he made him a tunic of many colors. When Yoseph’s older brothers noticed this, they hated him and could not even peaceably interact with him.”
B’reisheet (Genesis) 37:2-4
2 “This is the history of Ya’akov. Yoseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers. And the lad was with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to his father.
3 Now Israel loved Yoseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors.
4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.”
With just the first few verses of this chapter, we get an insight of the sort of maturity and character that Yoseph had when he was seventeen. If Yoseph’s brothers all could see that he was the favorite and spoiled child, then I am sure Yoseph himself knew this as well and probably exploited his father’s love for him. I do not mean this in a negative way as it was not that he did not love his father or brothers and simply sought selfish gain. But when you are the spoiled child or the favorite child, it gives you a certain boldness and even a certain kind of smugness if you will.
If we take a deeper look at the significance of Yoseph’s tunic or robe of many colors, there are a few schools of thought on this subject. One being that it was a robe or tunic of many different patches of colors sewn together. The other school of thought is that it was a robe or tunic that extended down to the ankles and out to the wrists and was an elaborate tunic of many different colors and different patterns.
I am of the latter opinion and reason being is that it seems to make more sense this way and why Joseph’s brothers hated him and were envious of him. In this time frame of history, clothing was a big deal (especially colored clothing). One, clothing is not as easily or readily available as it is today in the modern world. It is not so easy to dye clothing as well. Long colorful robes or tunics were clothing that were really only worn by the wealthy or by royalty. The fact that it is long and extending out to the ankles and wrists, lets others around you know that you are not meant to do manual labor. A long robe or tunic would impede your ability to work. The fact that it is colorful adds that little cherry on top to say that you are wealthy or come from royalty.
You can imagine the sort of hatred that might be brewing amongst Yoseph’s brothers. To make matters worse, Israel spoiled Yoseph, and his brothers noticed this. I am sure Yoseph takes note of this as well.
With all those factors mixed together, I am sure Yoseph was a bit spoiled and smug. Scripture does not say what the bad report was about, but either way I think it is safe to assume that Yoseph was probably not very humble about his confrontation with his brothers. And more than likely was condescending in his report about his brothers. Israel in a way encourage this kind of behavior in Yoseph by sending him out to bring back word about his brothers. Israel showed this kind of favoritism to Yoseph because he loved Rachel more than all his other wives. If he was willing to display this sort of favoritism amongst his wives, naturally speaking, it is going to happen amongst his children.
Then we see that Yoseph begins to have dreams. Again, this is no fault to Yoseph because it is Elohim who has given the dreams to him. This of course is no fault to Elohim because He is perfect in all of His ways but with these dreams the stage is being set for greater things to come.
I do not think it was right that Israel spoiled Yoseph the way that he did or displayed the outright favoritism that he did towards Yoseph. But all of that along with the dreams that Elohim gave to Yoseph was setting the stage for something greater.
So, take this moment to stop and think about how this applies to your life. Look back on your life and can you see how Elohim was at work and all that you have been through? Even through our mistakes and the mistakes of others, He can still use that to bring about greater things.
What Yoseph’s brothers did to him was completely wrong. Yoseph might have been a spoiled brother but that was no reason to sell him into slavery. Yoseph deserved none of what happened to him and for that reason we can see how Israel’s failed leadership amongst his son was transmitted to the elder brothers. Re’uven (Re’uben) stepped in to try and stop his brothers from killing Yoseph, but did not really try to deal with the fact that his brothers wanted to kill Yoseph to begin with. I suspect Re’uven was trying to save Yoseph’s life so that he could end up back on Israel’s good side.
Just a few chapters before all this, Re’uven was found out when he slept with his father’s wife; Naturally, advocating his rights as the firstborn son just as his Uncle Esau did. I suspect this is the reason because when Re’uven went back to find Yoseph in the pit and he was not there, Re’uven says “The lad is no more; and I, where shall I go?” indicating to me that Re’uven did not really care about his brother’s life in that moment, but rather cared about his position amongst the family.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 37:29-30
29 “Then Re’uven returned to the pit, and indeed Yoseph was not in the pit; and he tore his clothes.
30 And he returned to his brothers and said, “The lad is no more; and I, where shall I go?”
Again, these are just my thoughts and pure speculation, but it seems to fit given some of what is written in Scripture.
And then Yehudah (Judah). What can we say about Yehudah? There is a lot we can say, and a lot of it, not very good. Yehudah is one of the older brothers and he comes up with the idea to sell Yoseph into slavery. We can see the lack of leadership all the way through Israel’s children. First, Re’uven sleeps with Bilhah and tries to redeem himself by trying to save Yoseph for being killed but not much beyond that. Then Shimon and Levy say nothing in rebuke nor do anything except slaughter a whole city of men because their sister engaged in a promiscuous relationship. Thus, they demonstrated their lack of maturity to be leaders. Then Yehudah suggested that Yoseph be sold as a slave and all the other brothers follow suit. All of Israel’s children abandoned the responsibility of doing the right thing; to lead the family and set a good example and lead others in that example.
Naturally speaking, the last one in line to lead the family is Yoseph because Benjamin is too young. And this is why I think Yahweh carried Yoseph through the years of suffering as a slave in prison for a crime he did not commit. To humble him and to teach him certain lessons and skill sets to eventually go on to become governor of all of Mitzrayim. Yehudah’s lack of leadership and his lack of relationship in Yahweh is evident in the way that he treats his daughter-in-law, Tamar, as well as the way his sons do.
Yehudah has three sons by the name of Er, Onan, and Shelah. The first two, Er and Onan, were wicked in the sight of Yahweh so he killed them. Scripture does not say what it was that made Er a wicked man in the sight of Yahweh, but it is likely because he was a deadbeat of a husband. Same for Onan. He was supposed to provide an heir to Tamar so that the heir would then grow up to take care of his mother and provide for her as Onan was also supposed to do as her husband. Instead, Onan took advantage of her by sleeping with her for his own selfish pleasure. This is why Yahweh killed him.
Timotheus Aleph chapter 5 verse 8 comes in mind with these two men which says, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever”.
Timotheus Aleph (1 Timothy) 5:8
8 “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
So if Er did not provide for his own household and neither did Onan, it makes sense why Yahweh would kill them both because in Yahweh’s eyes, they would be wicked and worse than a non-believer. They know the truth, they know better, and still refuse to do it. But where did Yehudah’s sons learn this example if not from Yehudah himself? Perhaps Yehudah still worked hard to provide for his wife and children, but can the same be said about him when he sold Yoseph into slavery?
If living beings reproduce after their kind, it makes sense that Er and Onan would adopt that same kind of self-seeking attitude from their father and no less that their mother was also a Canaanite (someone who I am sure was not a part of the faith). I am sure there were some mixed worship practices that took place there. Yehudah did not fully understand why his children were being killed off by Yahweh and it is evident that his relationship with Elohim was lacking because he tells Tamar “Remain a widow in your father’s house till my son Shelah is grown. Lest he also die like his brothers.”
B’reisheet (Genesis) 38:11
11 “Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, “Remain a widow in your father’s house till my son Shelah is grown.” For he said, “Lest he also die like his brothers.” And Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house.”
It is my opinion that if Yehudah had really been seeking Yahweh, had Yehudah had that deep intimate relationship with Yahweh, he would have known the real reason why Yahweh killed his two eldest sons. That was because they were following in their father’s poor example of leadership. Shayla very well could have been too young to marry Tamar, but even after some time, Yehudah never gives her to Tamar as a husband, but rather kind of casts her off and chooses to ignore her. This is not good. As women in this time frame really relied on the male leadership to protect and provide for them and Yehudah, Er, and Onan really are lacking in this department. It is no wonder that Tamar was led to a point of desperation to disguise herself as a harlot and deceive her father-in-law to sleep with her in order to conceive children that might be raised up to take care of her. It is not necessarily an honorable or noble act on her part, but it is one out of desperation. Who can really blame her? This is why Yehudah said to her “She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son”.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 38:26
26 “So Yehudah acknowledged them and said, “She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son.” And he never knew her again.”
Yehudah does not say that she is a righteous person, he simply says that she has behaved more righteous than he has because he has failed to provide for her and do what is right, which was also the case with his brother Yoseph. Now that Yoseph has been sold as a slave and taken to Mitzvahim, he will have to overcome a whole host of trials and challenges in Elohim.
First, we see that “Yahweh was with Yoseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Mitsrian”.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 39:2
2 “Yahweh was with Yoseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Mitsrian.”
As Joseph had prospered and all that he did, he found favor in the sight of his master. And his master elevated him from the humble beginnings of a slave to the overseer of all that was in his house. This should go to show everyone that if we remain humble and focused on Elohim and His Kingdom, and seeking His righteousness (despite whatever trials and challenges come our way), Yahweh can use us and bless the work of our hands which then we sow good and reap what is good.
As we break down Yoseph’s life as a child in Canaan and as a slave in Mitzrayim, and his life in prison, we see that from the time he was 17, he has been on a journey through all these trials he is going through.
First, he was wrongly sold as a slave. Secondly, he was wrongly convicted of rape (because he stood for righteousness and not wanting to sin against Elohim by refusing to sleep with his master’s wife). Thirdly, he was able to interpret the dreams for the butler and the baker. As the dreams came true according to the interpretation that Yoseph gave to them, the butler forgot about him.
Imagine for yourselves going through these same trials that Yoseph did. It is enough to make you go crazy. Your entire life has been one injustice, taking place after another. It was not Yoseph’s fault that he was Israel’s favorite son and thus incurred the hate from his brothers, but yet he was sold as a slave by his own family. Imagine that sort of betrayal and what that felt like. I am sure it was similar to the type of betrayal the Yeshua felt when Judas betrayed him with a kiss.
Imagine that once you have accepted your circumstances as a slave, you then focus on Elohim and seeking His righteousness, for which you are then elevated to the highest position that a slave can be in his master’s house. Then, because you stand up for Elohim and His righteousness, you are then falsely convicted of rape and thrown in prison. With just these two injustices in a person’s life, it is enough to make even the strongest people quit on the relationship with Yeshua.
To add insult to injury, Yoseph is then elevated to the highest position in the prison. So much so that the keeper of the prison does not even have to overlook any of Yoseph’s work. That is how much trust that the keeper of the prison had in Yoseph, and we can see how much Yahweh loved Yoseph and how much Yoseph loved Elohim.
If we sum it up, Yoseph’s life can be summed up with these few verses in Galatim chapter 6.
Galatim (Galatians) 6:7-10
7 “Do not be deceived, Elohim is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
Yoseph might have started off as a spoiled brat, but through the trials, challenges, and temptations in his life, he was molded and shaped to become more like Yeshua. Yeshua suffered even though He did nothing wrong. Yoseph suffered even though he did nothing wrong. This is not to say that Yoseph was without sin. But when we examine his life, he had several injustices done against him. He could have let those injustices lead him down a dark path where he could have become self-seeking and desiring to sow things according to his flesh. Yet, despite all that he went through, he never grew weary in doing good.
So brothers and sisters, how many of us have had several injustices committed against us where we have allowed those sins of others to lead us down a dark path. And either abandon our relationship with Elohim wholeheartedly or even cause us to have a half-hearted commitment to Him? As we will soon discover what happens when we take Galatim chapter 6 and put it into practice.
My brothers and sisters in the faith, regardless of what has happened to you and regardless of what is going to happen, do not grow weary in doing good for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.