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Commentary on Parashat Vayechi (And he lived)

Beresheet (Genesis) 47:28–50:26

The Word of God is rich and full of astonishing revelations of our Creator and His incredible plan for us; the more we dwell in the Word, the more we will discover the amazing treasures within it! This week we are reading from the incredibly dense final chapters of the Book of Beginnings (Genesis). In this blog, I will address some of the highlights from chapters 48 and 49, but I want to encourage you to read the entire portion from chapters 47–50…and even more, the entire Word, from the beginning!

One of the most significant parts of our reading speaks of the “blessing” which Jacob pronounced over his sons, before his death. It’s important to note that the ancient biblical blessings always had a prophetic element to them. This is especially true of Jacob’s blessing over his sons. In Genesis 49:1, many of the English translations write, “Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, “Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what shall befall you in the days to come.”

A more accurate translation would be, “Jacob called his sons and said, ‘Gather together and I will tell you that which will happen to you at the end of days (the last days).’” Clearly, this gives the verse a more specific meaning, and also gives us insight into Messiah Yeshua, and His role in fulfilling this prophetic word.

I want to take a look specifically at Jacob’s blessing over Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Menashe, as they hold great significance for us as followers of Messiah Yeshua:

And he blessed Joseph, and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and may my name live on in them, and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” (Genesis 48:15–16)

These verses reveal an intimate relationship between Jacob and his God, a relationship that was passed on to him from his fathers, Abraham and Isaac.

Note the powerful words that Jacob uses when referring to God; these words directly point to the Messiah. Jacob refers to God as the “One who has been [his] shepherd,” which suggests a personal, intimate relationship, as well as the fact that Jacob relied 100% on God, his provider. He also referred to God as the “angel who redeemed me,” acknowledging God as his redeemer and protector.

We know that Yeshua is our eternal Shepherd, and we are like sheep who have been brought back to the fold and redeemed by His sacrifice and love: “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” (Isaiah 53:6)

In the second part of verse 16, Jacob asks God to bless Joseph’s sons and that his name, and the names of his fathers, Abraham and Isaac, would live on in them (i.e., that the covenant of the blessing would be manifest through them.) It was at this point that he says to the boys something incredibly important, that is, sadly, mistranslated in almost every bible: “And may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” The literal translation of the Hebrew is actually, “And may they fish greatly in the earth (or land).”

Why is this so important? And what does it mean for followers of Messiah? Well, I personally believe that these words are a prophetic utterance, and speak of something profound that we see again when Yeshua began His ministry in Israel.

In Matthew 4:18–22, we find an account that, for a long time, I did not understand its meaning and significance:

And walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He *said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And they immediately left the nets, and followed Him. And going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. And they immediately left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

I could never understand why these men immediately left everything to follow Yeshua. Clearly, He said something they understood to be significant, but what exactly was it? The answer, I believe, is found in the words, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” The disciples were Jewish men, who from a young age studied the Torah (first five books of God’s Word), and memorized the Word of God (since back in those days they did not have the Bible as we have it today). We can safely assume that they knew the portion of Scripture that we are studying and therefore, knew that when someone would say, “Fishers of men,” He would be the One they had been waiting for…He would be the One to fulfill the prophetic words of Genesis 48:15–16!

In closing, I want to remind us of one more thing as we finish our reading from Beresheet. In my blog, Parashat Beresheet: In the Beginning, I wrote about the translation of Genesis 3:8, “‘And they heard the sound (voice) of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden’…In the ‘Onkelos Tirgom’ (an ancient Aramaic translation of the Torah), it translates this verse as, ‘And they heard the voice of the Word of God walking in the garden…’ (emphasis mine)’”

In this week’s reading, we also find “the Word” in chapter 48:21“Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you, and bring you back to the land of your fathers.” Both the Onkelos and Yonatan Targumim translate it as, “And Israel said to Joseph, ‘Behold I am going to die, and the Word will be with you (will take care of you), and will bring you back to the Land of your Fathers.’”

Do you know the Living Word? Is He your Shepherd and Provider?

This article originally appeared on Hope for Israel, December 28, 2017, and reposted with permission.

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Moran Rosenblit
Moran is the Founder and Executive Director of Hope for Israel, which is a service and resource-providing ministry that aims to bring the hope of the Messiah back to Israel. It is also a resource center for current and timely news updates concerning Israel that provides daily prayer alerts, Bible teachings, and weekly blogs in order to help believers across the world understand what God is doing in the Land, how to pray for Israel and filter everything through the Word of God.

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