Parashah Vayyechi 2018 (And he lived) Genesis 47:28 – 50:26

This is the last Sedrah of the Book of Genesis. Jacob is now living in the land of Goshen along with his entire family. He calls to Joseph and tells Joseph that he will adopt Joseph’s two sons so that they will have an equal share with the other tribes of Israel. He makes Joseph swear to him that when he dies, Joseph will bury him in the cave with his fathers and not in Egypt.

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Before dying, Jacob blesses his sons; however, when we hear the blessings they don’t all come out very nice. He chides Reuben for having slept with one of his concubines and he tells Simeon and Levi they have a terrible temper and they will be split amongst the other tribes (which comes true- Simeon’s inheritance is within that of Judah and the Levites are distributed throughout the land, each of the other tribes giving them a little piece of their inheritance.) The other sons receive more favorable blessings, and Joseph receives the most compassionate and loving blessing of all. Jacob also tells his sons that these blessings are what will happen to them in the future.

Finally, Jacob dies and is carried by his sons into the land of Canaan so he can be buried in the cave at Machpelah with Isaac and Abraham. After this, when they have returned to Egypt, the brothers make up a story saying that Jacob said they should ask Joseph to forgive them. They did this because they were afraid that with their father dead, Joseph would exact revenge on them for what they did to him as a child. However, Joseph consoles them and tells them that what they meant for evil, God meant for good and they shouldn’t worry. This is the same thing he told them many years before when he first revealed himself to them in Genesis 45. Before Joseph dies (at the ripe old age of 110) he tells his brothers that God will bring them back to the land of their fathers, and when that happens they are to carry his bones there and bury him in the plot Jacob purchased for him in Shechem. Then Joseph dies and is embalmed.

This ends the Book of Genesis.

There is one line in this parashah that is considered to be Messianic, but not so much by Jews. It is part of the blessing Jacob gave to Judah and is found in Genesis 49:9-10. This is what Jacob says (NIV):

You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his. 

Yet, in the NKJV there is a significant difference:

Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

Other versions include the word “Shiloh” in some form of the phrase, “until Shiloh come.”  Shiloh, which is the place where the Tabernacle was located until David brought it up to Jerusalem, has also been considered to represent the Messiah.

In the JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh, considered one of the best Tanakh translations, they don’t use the word “Shiloh” in the English translation, although it is present in the Hebrew. There is a footnote referencing the use also of “until Shiloh come” but in the translation, they say, “So that tribute should come to him and the homage of peoples be his.”

Why such a different translation? The Hebrew uses the word Shiloh, so why isn’t it used in the English? And why not the same with all translations? To me, the answer is obvious: the Jewish rejection of Yeshua as the Messiah is weakened if we recognize “Shiloh” as representing the Messiah in this verse. Jacob said he will tell his sons what will happen to them in the future, so this is not just a blessing, it is also a prophecy. Judah will be the leader of the tribes until a new leader come who will have the homage and rule over the peoples. This has to be the Messiah.

When Yeshua began his ministry, the king of Judea was Herod. He was not of the tribe of Judah. The people of Israel lived in their land but did not have a member of the tribe of Judah as king over them, so the scepter had passed from between Judah’s legs. In the past, under Babylonian rule, they still had a member of the tribe of Judah ruling over them; although he reported to Babylon, there was still a “scepter between the legs of Judah.” However, under Roman rule with Herod as king, the Sanhedrin was the high court but they were not able to pass a capital punishment sentence; that power rested with the Governor, Pontius Pilate, and the power over life and death is the ultimate form of kingship.

I believe the prophecy about the scepter passing from between the legs of Judah is a Messianic prophecy that definitely points directly to Yeshua. I understand, being a Jewish man, why the translation in the Jewish texts may not reflect this. In the Chumash, they talk about this usage of Shiloh at the end of chapter notes, under the title “Alleged Christological References in Scripture.” My, my… do you think the commentator was trying to dissuade us from accepting this as a legitimate Messianic prophecy?

Ultimately, no matter who translates what we find written in the Bible, it will be up to the individual to choose what he or she will believe. For those that have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah, asked for and received the gift of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), trusting in the spirit will help them to see the truth of scripture. For those that are not so blessed, it will be much more difficult to discern truth from bigotry. Yes, bigotry: there are as many anti-Christian inferences in the Jewish translations as there are anti-Semitic inferences in the Christian translations.

But, we can take solace and have faith in what Joseph told his brothers in this parashah (Genesis 55:20): that which you intended for evil, God turned to good. The translations that reflect the personal and religious bias of the translator can still be overcome by God’s Spirit within us showing us the truth. And since Isaiah (55:11) told us that the word of the Lord never returns void, we can trust in God to make sure that those who are open to hearing the truth will find the truth, no matter which translation they are using.

As we say at the end of each book of the Torah: Hazak, Hazak, v’nit’chazek! (Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened!)

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Until then, tonight begins Shabbat so Shabbat Shalom and Baruch HaShem!

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