is amazing that every week there is so much to explore, discover and
uncover! Never a dull moment in the Torah, this week’s Parsha dives
headfirst into the lives of Jacob and his sons. In this Parsha (Portion)
it starts out telling us, “Now Jacob dwelt in the land where his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan. This is the history of Jacob. Joseph…”For starters, I want to focus in on verse 2,“Eleh toldot Ya’akov. Yosef…” which is Hebrew for the verse “This is the history (genealogy) of Jacob. Joseph…”
From the way this verse starts out we would expect to read a genealogy of Jacob’s family, but instead we are whisked straight away into the story of Joseph, stopping only once in the next 14 chapters (Until the end of Genesis) to seemingly rudely interject and interrupt the story of Joseph with a rather out-of-place account of the interaction between Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar. Which is a story I hope to deal with later in this observation.
First, to ask the obvious question…why does Jacob’s genealogy immediately start into the story of Joseph instead of listing out Jacob’s sons and their respective families?
If we read in the portion/chapter before this, we read of the lineage and offspring of Esau. It takes one chapter to list out Esau’s family tree and there are no stories behind it. However, maybe the genealogy of Jacob starts out by telling the story of Joseph, because the lineage of Esau is mentioned just before this portion.
For the past 3 weeks we have learned a lot about the character traits of Jacob and Esau. One of the biggest differences I want to stress here are their family lines. Jacob’s lineage would eventually bring the Messiah, while Esau’s lineage would bring the nation of Amalek. These two descendants are at war with each other, as we read in Exodus 17, God Himself says, “I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven…‘the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.’”
Amalek and the Messiah are at war with each other, and Amalek must be, as the Hebrew says in Exodus—“Ma’cho Emcheh-Wiped out and exterminated.”
The spirit of Amalek is the spirit of the Antichrist. It is a spirit and people that are totally opposed to the Spirit of God and His Messiah. This is why God is at war with Amalek and why Amalek must be eliminated.
Right after we
finish reading Esau’s family tree about the birth of the spirit and
nation of Amalek, God gives us a hint about the antidote to this spirit.
“This is the history (genealogy) of Jacob. Joseph…”
In Tanhuma Vayeshev (A compilation of Rabbinic texts containing folklore, historical accounts, moral and practical advice) we read the following, “…our patriarch Jacob became terrified at the sight of Esau and the chiefs, and cried out: “Who will be able to assist me against them?” The Holy One, blessed be He, answered: A spark from you will consume them. And Joseph was that spark, as it is said: ‘And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall kindle in them, and devour them’ (Obad. 19). Therefore it is written: ‘… these are the generations of Jacob. Joseph.’”
Joseph was the answer to combat the spirit of Esau and Amalek. He was the spark that would consume the house of Esau as fire consumes stubble.The reason this idea is so important to understand, is because Joseph represents the Messiah. From the story of Joseph we see a clear picture of the purpose of the coming of the Messiah.
But before I go any further, I have to stop and bring in an important concept that is hinted at throughout the Bible, but is often overlooked. There are two Messiahs! Or rather, let me explain…throughout the Bible we find two different roles described that the Messiah is to fulfill. They cannot be reconciled, one with the other…they are different, distinct tasks with different missions to accomplish.
We read of one Messiah, who comes as a suffering servant. In Rabbinic writings this Messiah is referred to as “Mashiach Ben Yosef—Messiah son of Joseph.”
The other Messianic figure is described as a conquering King. This Messiah is commonly referred to as “Mashiach ben David—Messiah son of David.”
Though I said before, these tasks cannot be reconciled, in the sense that, the missions of each are specific in their roles; the same person can accomplish these two missions and roles at different times.
This is where the gap begins coming together. Remember, two observations ago, I brought up the idea that the Messiah has different names or different qualities described by each of His names. This is a similar case. Yeshua came as Mashaich ben Yosef—Messiah son of Joseph, the suffering servant and laid down his life for us.
The clearest picture of the role of Mashiach Ben Yosef is seen in the life of Joseph, whence the name comes from.
The story of Joseph is exactly how the story of Mashiach ben Yosef=Yeshua will come about. Both were sold and thought of as dead. Both where exiled and estranged from their family. Both received honor and power apart from their family, in a foreign land, among foreign people. Both saved the world, one saved the known world of the ancients; the other saved the whole of humanity. One (Joseph) was reconciled to his brothers, the other (Yeshua) will return again and be reconciled to His brothers.
Rabbi Daniel Krentzman sums up the role of Mashiach ben Yosef amazingly well in his article (Yonah as MBY—Reference found on Ladder of Jacob by Ben Burton) where he writes, “…the need for the mission of Mashiach ben Yosef came about as result of the sin of Adam. In theory, had Adam not sinned and brought about tremendous spiritual damage to himself and the world, there would not have been a need for the tikun olam (world rectification) efforts of Mashiach ben Yosef, in every subsequent generation. Mashiach ben Yosef thus comes to rectify that damage and return mankind to the state of Adam before the sin.”
Mashiach ben Yosef’s role was to destroy the power of Esau/Amalek and to rectify the sin of Adam by returning mankind to his pre-fallen state. This is what Yeshua accomplished at His first coming.
But before we can wrap everything up nicely, I said I hoped to deal with the whole Judah and Tamar story. Why is this story even mentioned? And why is it mentioned right in the middle of the story of Joseph? It seems totally out of place and is one of the more strange stories found in the Bible.
What the story encapsulates is the fulfilling of the positive commandment of Yibbum = Levirate marriage. (This is no longer in practice today. The Torah also gives instructions on how to deal with such a situation in another way, called Chalitzah. Deuteronomy 25:5-10) Judah was supposed to give his son Shelah to his daughter-in-law Tamar so Shelah could raise up offspring for his dead brother, but Judah didn’t. Instead what ends up happening is, it says Judah’s wife dies, Judah consoles himself and then he goes with his friend up to Timnah to shear his sheep.
Tamar hears where her father-in-law is headed, so she removes her widow’s clothes, veils her face and sits on the way to Timnah at Enaim. Enaim can be translated as “springs.” But Rashi makes an interesting point about this verse, because there can be another translation/understanding, “…AND SHE SAT AT THE ENTRANCE OF ENAYIM (literally, at the opening of the eyes) — at the place where the eyes become opened.”
Enaim can also mean “eyes,” meaning she sat, as Rashi stated, “at the place where the eyes become open.”
Yet Judah’s eyes were not open. He went in to her not knowing it was his daughter-in-law. Judah gives Tamar his seal, his cord and his staff as a pledge to bring her a young goat from his flock. But she disappears not waiting for the young goat.
From this encounter between Judah and Tamar, came twin boys, Perez and Zerah. We know when Jacob blesses his sons he blesses Judah with the Kingship of Israel as it says in Genesis 49, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes.” Shiloh is one of the names of the Messiah. Whatever you think of this story, it was through this union that the line of Mashiach ben David—Messiah son of David came through.
When Judah finds out Tamar is pregnant he is shocked and says Tamar must be burned. Tamar bring out Judah’s seal, cord and staff and says she is pregnant by the owner of those three things. Here is the interesting thing…Chazal (“?akhameinu Zikhronam Liv’rakha—Our sages, may their memory be a blessing) write that the seal represents royalty, the cord/tassels/cloak represents the priesthood and the staff represents the scepter. All these things connect to the Kingship and Priesthood of Mashiach ben David—Messiah the son of David.
Yeshua came as Mashiach ben Yosef, the suffering servant, he’s returning as Mashiach ben David the King of Israel and the whole world. Within the story of Joseph, the story of Judah and Tamar is placed to show us that there is a connection between the two Messiahs, because Yeshua is both.
The twins of Tamar represent the two comings of Messiah.
Perez in Hebrew means “breech” which correlates to the verse in Micah 2, “The one who breaks open (Poretz=Perez) will come up before them…their king will pass before them, with the Lord at their head.” This is the first coming of Yeshua as Messiah son of Joseph. He is the one who made the breech between God and man. This was the purpose of His first coming.
The other twin, Zerah comes from the Hebrew word “Zarach” which means, “dawning.” Which connects to the verse from Isaiah 60 where it says, “Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen (Zarach) upon you.” This is speaking of the second coming of Yeshua as Messiah son of David. In Isaiah 60 it continues speaking about what happens when “Zerah—Zarach—Messiah son of David” comes. It says, “But the Lord will arise (Yizrach-future tense of Zarach) over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. (Zaruhech-Zarach) This is the coming of Mashiach ben David! His kingdom is established and God’s glory fills the earth.
In both stories (Judah and Joseph) there is a concealing of identity. In both there is also a revealing that takes place. The identity of the Messiah is concealed and will be made plain when the question is asked of Judah, “Do you recognize whose these are-the seal, the cords and the staff.” And when the question is asked of Jacob, “We have found this. Do you know whether it is your son’s tunic or not?”
Israel will be the one to recognize and proclaim to the world the coming and the revealing of the Messiah!
Yeshua is returning as the son of Abraham, the son of Joseph, the son of David, the son of Man, the Son of God. He has all the credentials to His position of authority and will fulfill all things pertaining to both Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David.
He is the one who is returning to sit on the throne of David as the flame of Joseph and the root of David, He is the bright and morning star who brings the rising dawn of God’s glory into the world. May it be soon and in our days!