28th November 2021 – Torah Portion Genesis 37:1-40:23 The story of Joseph called “Veyeshev” meaning “and he dwelt.” The Prophetic portion is from Daniel 11 including John 10:22 The Feast of Dedication and Matthew 24 “Signs of the end” to link it altogether for Hanukkah.
Last week’s Torah reading recounted how Jacob had wrestled with the angel of the Lord before returning to the promised land to be reconciled with his estranged twin brother Esau. No longer named “Jacob the deceiver” but now called “Israel contender with God”, a transformed Jacob finally returned to Hebron to see his father Isaac, 34 years after he had left home. However, on the way back his beloved wife Rachel dies while giving birth to his 12th son Benjamin in Bethlehem.
The Torah reading begins, “Jacob settled in the land of his father’s sojourning, in the land of Canaan” but then, immediately, the story turns to Joseph, who was 17 years old at the time. He was the favourite son of Jacob, and his brothers were jealous of the preferential treatment he received from his father. He received a precious coat that Jacob had made for Joseph. It was a “coat of authority” of the firstborn son destined for Reuban. However, Reuban, son of Jacob and Leah, slept with Bilhah the handmaiden of Rachel, his father’s other wife, and loses his birthright as firstborn. Jacob gave the birthright to Joseph, the firstborn of his wife, Rachel signified by the coat of many colours.
It says in Genesis 37:2 that Joseph brought an “evil report” to his father. It does not elaborate on this point, but this tittle-tattle caused a lot of trouble for Joseph. Sibling rivalry and faceless jealousy and hatred so disrupted the peace of Jacob’s family that his children were eventually led into exile and slavery. But there is redemption, healing and forgiveness even in the midst of betrayal and loss.
Vere 4 reads “When the brothers saw that Jacob loved Joseph more than all the brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him”. Joseph relates to his brothers two of his dreams which foretell that he is destined to rule over them, increasing their envy and hatred towards him. Simeon and Levi plot to kill him, but Reuben suggests that they throw him into a pit instead, intending to come back later and save him. While Joseph is in the pit, Judah has him sold to a band of passing Ishmaelites. The brothers dipped Joseph’s special coat in the blood of a goat and showed it to their father, leading him to believe that his most beloved son was devoured by a wild animal.
There is a break in the narrative of the story of Joseph relating the story of Tamar and Judah and it seems out of place but I’m not going there today.
Joseph is taken to Egypt and sold to Potiphar, the minister in charge of Pharaoh’s slaughterhouses. God blesses everything he does, and soon he is made overseer of all his master’s property. Potiphar’s wife desires the handsome and charismatic lad. When Joseph rejects her advances, she tells her husband that the Hebrew slave tried to force himself on her, and has him thrown into prison. Joseph gains the trust and admiration of his jailers, who appoint him to a position of authority in the prison administration. In prison, Joseph meets Pharaoh’s Chief Butler and Chief Baker, both incarcerated for offending their royal master.
Both have disturbing dreams, which Joseph interprets; in three days, he tells them, the Butler will be lifted up and restored to his position and shall live and the Baker will lose his head and be hung on a tree. Joseph asks the Butler to intercede on his behalf with Pharaoh as Joseph’s predictions are fulfilled, but the Butler forgets all about Joseph and does nothing for him.
You will be interested to know that the Butler is the Cupbearer to the king who tastes the wine before offering it to him. It’s a symbol of the life blood of Christ – there is life in the blood and so he is raised to life.
The Baker carries the bread to the king – bread representing the broken Body of Christ which is hung on a tree.
Joseph has received the revelation through Holy Spirit of the elements of bread and wine and is able to interpret the dream. It's a hidden picture in the Old Testament of the Bread and the wine of the New Covenant.
Joseph is a picture of Jesus. Both were betrayed by their brothers and stripped of their robes, they were both sold for pieces of silver, they were both raised up and given power over the nations, they were both hated by their brothers and accepted by the Gentiles and they both became saviours for the nations albeit nearly completely forgotten by their true brothers.
It is no accident that the story of Hanukkah falls on the very same week that the Torah portion regarding the quarrelling and the sale of Joseph by his brothers, is read.
Hanukkah which is also called “The Festival of Lights” is a wonderful time of celebrating God’s faithfulness, retelling the stories of His miraculous deliverance of His People once again from the clutches of their enemies.
It is the story of the First Temple being destroyed and desecrated 168 BC by baseless hatred and the flame of the menorah is put out and the Torah Scrolls burned. Here we see that the enemies of Israel want to assimilate them into their culture and paganism which brings hatred and division.
The Maccabees, were a band of Jewish freedom fighters who freed Judea from the Syrian-Greek occupiers during the First period. Led by Judah the Maccabee and his four brothers, they trounced the Greek interlopers and restored the Holy Temple in Jerusalem to the service of God. Judah Maccabee said that we must defend ourselves even on the Sabbath.
After the war, when the Priests rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem, they only had enough oil for one day to keep the everlasting light of the Menorah burning in the Holy of Holies, but miraculously, this sacred oil lasted 8 days during the siege of Jerusalem giving the Levites time to refine new oil and so the flame was not extinguished.
Hanukkah is about rededicating God’s Temple and rededicating our own lives to God and rekindling the flame of our first love. Jesus kept the Feast of Dedication. It is also about being persecuted for righteousness’ sake. That is what Hanukkah is all about, being persecuted for worshiping God and for reading His Word and sharing the gospel with others and being victorious overcomers, too.
It is also about not hiding your light under a bushel and the Torah is the light and this is the most important thing – it is written “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God,” and the enemy would love to extinguish this light.
In Ecclesiastes 1:9 Reads: “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”
In the Book of Daniel 11 – 31-34 it says 31” Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate. 32 He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action. 33 And the wise among the people shall make many understand…..”
In Matthew 24:2 Jesus and the disciples were leaving the Temple and He tells them “there will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down”. Jesus takes them to the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem and tells that it will happen again.
That is why when you look at Matthew 24 vs 3 again and I quote “as He sat on the Mount of Olives his disciples came to him privately saying when will these happen and what will the signs be of your coming and the end of the age” and then read verse 15 again “when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand)”. This is a direct reference to Daniel 11:33. Jesus was telling the disciples that Hanukkah was going to happen again. Everything is cyclical – everything that happened before will happen again. It goes on…
“You will be delivered up – they will kill you and many will be offended and betray one another and hate one another and the love of many will grow cold. Let those in Judea flee to the mountains.” That is what happened in 168 BC and they all fled to the mountains.
and so all the things Jesus is saying in Matthew 24 is a reminder of what happened to them at Hanukkah. Their victory is celebrated during this season of the Rededication of the Temple.
When Jesus talks with His disciples on the Mount of Olives He is prophesying that the Temple, which was desecrated 180 years earlier will be desecrated again - and it was.
The fall of Jerusalem
In April 70 CE, about the time of Passover, the Roman general Titus besieged Jerusalem. Since that action coincided with Passover, the Romans allowed pilgrims to enter the city but refused to let them leave—thus strategically depleting food and water supplies within Jerusalem. The Romans encircled the city with a wall to cut off supplies to the city completely and thereby drive the Jews to starvation. By August 70AD the romans destroyed the second temple and massacred the remaining population. The loss of the Temple for a second time is still mourned by Jews during the fast of Tisha be-Av called the 9th of AV. Rome celebrated the fall of Jerusalem by erecting the triumphal Arch of Titus.
Matthew 24:2 Jesus says, “pray your flight will not be in winter or on the Sabbath” – Hanukkah is in winter!
Persecution of the Jewish people is at an all time high around the world today compared to 1935 when Hitler was on the rise.
In Bergen Belson during the second world war, on the eve of Hanukkah, the Nazi soldiers randomly took the Jewish men from the concentration huts and shot them throughout the night for sport? Inside the huts, the survivors that night made a Hanukkah lamp.
They took a wooden clog filled it with boot polish for fuel, pulled thread from their prison clothes to make a wick and lit the Hanukkah flame. In the shadows of the light were the dead bodies of their families and friends murdered that night, and in that light, they recited the blessing of Hanukkah, thanking God for keeping them alive to celebrate this night - while the Germans were singing Christmas carols!
If we as Christians don’t know the events leading up to Hanukkah, the desolating sacrilege spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place” we will not know what is happening before our very eyes.
Keep your eyes on Israel. They are the canary in the coal mine – when the canary falls get ready – you can be sure that what is happening to the people of Israel will happen to the church, too.
Let’s pray: Avinu Malkeinu – Our Father our King, we pray that you would give us a heart of love for You and for one another and a heart of love for the Jewish people. Lord we want to be a light against the darkness that is coming from every corner of the world. Father we thank you that you enable us to take your light – the light of the Torah and your gospel message to the world.
Blessed are you Lord our God creator of the universe. You have blessed us with your Torah of Truth. You have blessed us with the whole counsel of your living word. By the power of your Holy Spirit through the completed work of Jesus Messiah, you alone have planted among us life eternal. Blessed be the name of the Lord our God Most High. Amen.
Research: Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37 – c. 100) was a Jewish historian born in Jerusalem four years after the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth in the same city. Because of this proximity to Jesus in terms of time and place, his writings have a near-eyewitness quality as they relate to the entire cultural background of the New Testament era. But their scope is much wider than this, encompassing also the world of the Old Testament. His two greatest works are Jewish Antiquities, unveiling Hebrew history from the Creation to the start of the great war with Rome in A.D. 66, while his Jewish War, though written first, carries the record on to the destruction of Jerusalem and the fall of Masada in A.D. 73.
Wikipedia: The Maccabees
Notes from El Shaddai Ministries on Torah Portion Veyeshev (Joseph)
Notes from Hebrew4Christians on Hanukkah.
Chabad – Veyeshev in a nutshell