Join us for this week’s reading of Parashat Vayechi as we take a deeper look into the last verses in the book of Genesis (47:28-50:26). The other passages included in this week’s reading are 1 Kings 2:1-2:12, Hebrews 11:21-22, and 1 Peter 1:3-9.
Throughout the book of Genesis, we learn about our fathers, their interesting lives, their wives and children, and their process of passing on blessings from generation to generation. We also learn that our ancestors are mere mortals, and yet they were chosen by God to be eternal legacies that impact future generations. Our ancestors have paved the way for faith in God and in showing us how to walk in step with Him.
In these last few chapters of the book of Genesis, we will discover more about the end of Jacob's life in the land of Egypt and the way he blessed each of his children and grandchildren. Here are the instructions and blessings he gave:
The first instruction that Jacob gave to Joseph was: “When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, ‘If I have found favour in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt, but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried.” (Gen. 47:29-30). At this point, Jacob was 147 years old, and together with his sons and their families, they were living in Egypt with Joseph for 17 years. Joseph was the second-most powerful man in the Egyptian kingdom, and yet he agreed to his father’s request and brought his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to see their grandfather before he died.
“Now Israel’s eyes were failing because of old age, and he could hardly see. So Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them. Israel said to Joseph, ‘I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.’” —Genesis 48:10-11
Picture Jacob lying in his bed about to die with all twelve of his sons by his bedside. Each of the sons was probably eager to hear what blessing they would receive from their father. Jacob blesses all twelve of his sons and then gives one last instruction for him to be buried in the cave in the field of Machpelah where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah were buried.
When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people.” —Genesis 49:33
As soon as Jacob breathes his last breath, Joseph throws himself on his father weeping over him and kissing him. He has his father embalmed and then asks Pharaoh for permission to bury his father in Canaan. With the blessing of Pharaoh, Joseph went to Canaan to bury his father, accompanied by Pharaoh’s officials and Joseph’s family. Joseph and his brothers fulfilled their promise to their father by burying him in the cave in the field of Machpelah.
As Joseph and the whole company return to Egypt, Joseph’s brothers are filled with fear that Joseph will try to pay them back for all the wrongs they did to him. Therefore, they lie to him and tell him that their father left one last instruction for Joseph to forgive his brothers. As Joseph sees his brothers, he graciously explains to them, “‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.” (Gen. 19-21)
Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years, embalmed and placed in a coffin kept in Egypt.
Can you see a similarity between the life of Joseph and the life of Yeshua? They were both hated by their brothers, sold, suffered greatly, and yet became powerful men who saved many lives. Joseph provided food for the hungry and saved many lives. Yeshua fed millions, not only physical food but also spiritual food. Yeshua gave up his life to save all who would believe in him. Joseph was hidden from his brothers and they did not recognize him when they came to Egypt. Yet, Joseph knew his brothers right away, had compassion and love towards them, and even chose to forgive them for betraying him. Yeshua is hidden from the eyes of his people and betrayed by many, and yet he knows his people, loves them, forgives them, and gave up his life for them.
As we reflect on Joseph’s life, we see the long-suffering he had to endure. He stood up before his family and expressed his interpretation of his dreams, and because of this his brothers hated him, were jealous of him, and even collaborated against him. All the hate was simply because he stood up and told them the simple truth, which may have caused them to feel that Joseph was being arrogant. How would one feel if we were in his position? Lonely, angry, upset, ashamed, embarrassed, or maybe blaming himself? His brothers threw him into a pit to let him die, then sold him to the Egyptians. Later, he was put in prison for 12 years. Joseph was the only one who was able to interpret the dream that Pharaoh had, and because of this his life was saved and he was promoted to the second most powerful position in Egypt.
When Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt in need of food, Joseph could have taken advantage of the situation for revenge and return to them a portion of what they had done to him. But instead, Joseph was only interested in one thing… to find out about his father and if he was still alive. Then in this parashah, we learn how he was longing to get the blessings from his father. He knew that this blessing was the most important element he needed in his life, in order to pass it on to his children.
As we reflect on the lives of our ancestors, we pray that we gain a deeper understanding of the blessings and instructions our Heavenly Father is personally speaking over each one of us. God, please help us bless the way Jacob blessed his sons and grandsons, forgive the way Joseph forgave his brothers, and love the way Yeshua loves and cares for His people.