Torah – Genesis 44:18-47:27 Haftarah – Ezekiel 37:15-38 Brit Chadashah – Ephesians 2:1-10
Vayigash is Hebrew for “hand he drew near.” This refers to the opening verse where Judah drew near to Joseph as he plead for his younger brother Benjamin to be allowed to return to his father Jacob. The parasha (portion) has many memorable events including Joseph “revealing” himself to his brothers, which lead to a rather emotional reunion. We read of the revelation that Joseph was indeed still alive and a ruler in Egypt to his father Jacob. Also, we see other relocation of Jacob and his family to the land of Goshen.
While all of this is packed with many deep and valuable lessons, I am going to depart from my usual teaching style, at least for this one lesson. I will share a couple verses here in a moment, actually from last week’s parasha, but the main thrust of what we will look at is extra-Biblical references to an overriding back drop to this whole unfolding drama.
I will link at the bottom of this lesson to a couple sources for the historical references you can look at for yourself. The two main ideas we will look at are the worldwide famine and the chariot given to Joseph.
Science is a great thing, however, it is all too often used as a tool to attempt to disprove the veracity of the Bible. In fact, as science progresses and makes more discoveries it is satisfying to see it actually confirm Biblical accounts. So when I read last week’s parasha and the mention of the famine being for seven years worldwide, I immediately thought that if this was true, and of course it was, that there would have to be historical evidence of this event.
First, let’s look at a verse from last week’s portion Miketz.
Genesis 41:53-54, “Then the seven years of plenty which were in the land of Egypt ended, 54 and the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. The famine was in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.”
There is clear and abundant evidence that the famine during the time of Joseph was indeed worldwide! A simple search of the internet reveals plenty of sources. Again, a few will be listed below.
Sources seem to generally agree that a seven year famine or drought happened about 1704 B.C.E. through 1697 B.C.E. This week’s parasha takes place during the second year of the famine, with five years remaining. This would have been in 1702 B.C.E. With the world providentially coming to Egypt for food, this could be one possible explanation for the appearance of similar structures in many cultures around that world that are the local interpretation of the Egyptian pyramids. There are accounts of the famine coinciding with the listed dates of famine above that were in such varied places as Europe, Yemen, South Africa, China and even North American Indians. There are recordings of a famine that lasted seven years at the beginning of Emperor Cheng Tang. Chariots were said to have been invented around 1749 B.C.E. and were part of China at the time of the famine. It is speculated that the Chinese gave some chariots to the Pharaoh of Egypt as a gift or some part of payment for food. This is one possible explanation of the following verse which states that Joseph was the “second” chariot.
Genesis 41:42-43, “Then Pharaoh took his signet ring off his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand; and he clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. 43 And he had him ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried out before him, “Bow the knee!” So he set him over all the land of Egypt.”
Here are a few links for you to explore.