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(Gen 41:1 - 44:17)

B'resheet/Genesis 41:40   You shall be over my house and on account of your mouth all my people shall be arranged ...


These words, spoken by Pharaoh to Yosef as he is promoting him to second-in-command over the entire kingdom of Egypt, have exercised commentators and translators alike from the earliest times. The first phrase - "You shall be over my house[hold]" - is everywhere approved, but the second phrase gives more trouble, being literally: "and on - your mouth - they shall kiss - all my people". Nahum Sarna says that "the first two words undoubtedly mean 'by your order [or command]'", as for example "as Pharaoh had commanded" (B'resheet 45:21), and this seems to be generally accepted, but then - although almost everyone wants it to mean the same thing - the discussion begins. is a Qal 3ms prefix form from the root , which according to Davidson has three meanings: 1. to be arranged or to regulate oneself (although he limits this meaning to this particular verse); 2. to arm oneself; and 3. to kiss (mouth to mouth) although this is usually accompanied by a preposition or sometimes . Certainly, the verb is used unambiguously in the Pi'el voice elsewhere to mean 'kiss'. Sarna suggests that "this could be a figurative expression for paying homage", but could Pharaoh really be saying that all the people of Egypt were to kiss Yosef on the mouth in order to make obeisance before him? Who Is ...

Hirsch: Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888 CE), German rabbi, author and educator; staunch opponent of the Reform movement in Germany and one of the fathers of Orthodox Judaism
Hirsch thinks not, claiming "we never find a kiss on the mouth being a sign of homage". Sarna agrees, commenting that "none of the ancient versions understood it that way". The sole exception appears to be the Who Is ...

Ba'al HaTurim: Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher (1269-1343 CE), born in Cologne, Germany; lived for 40 years in and around Toledo, Spain; died en route to Israel; his commentary to the Chumash is based upon an abridgement of the Ramban, including Rashi, Rashbam and Ibn Ezra; it includes many references to gematria and textual novelties
Baal HaTurim who insists on "kiss" because of a Masoretic note showing that word is found twice in the Tanakh (once with a patakh, once with a qametz), here "Because of [the words of] your mouth, all my people shall kiss [your hand]", and Proverbs 24:26 "One who gives an honest answer gives a kiss on the lips" (NRSV). The Tur explains: because Yosef responded with proper words (both to Pharaoh and to Potiphar's wife), he merited this honour.

The What Is ...

Septuagint: Also known simply as LXX, the Septuagint is a translation of the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, probably done during the 1st century BCE by the Jewish community in Alexandria to have the Scriptures in their "first" tongue; the quality is mixed - some parts, such as the Torah, were in frequent use and are quite well rendered, in other less used parts the translation is rather patchy and shows signs of haste; it was widely deprecated by the early rabbis
Septuagint, the oldest ancient translation, changes to , he shall listen to or obey. Targum Onkelos, translated a few hundred years later, changes , to , he shall be fed, a step further away from the Hebrew, but approved by Rashbam, Ibn Ezra and Chizkuni. Who Is ...

Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105 CE), French rabbi who wrote commentaries on the Torah, the Prophets and the Talmud, lived in Troyes where he founded a yeshiva in 1067; focuses on the plain meaning (p'shat) of the text, although sometimes quite cryptic in his brevity
Rashi seems to agree, commenting: "all the needs of my people will be carried out through you." Hirsch prefers to take the meaning "to make preparations, equip oneself", expands the words saying: "The meaning here would be: 'On your mouth, according to what you say, all my people shall equip themselves against the coming enemy, hunger'". Modern English translations take a variety of different positions: "according to your command all my people shall do homage" (NASB), "all my people shall order themselves as you command" (ESV, NRSV), "all my people are to submit to your orders" (NIV), "all my people shall be ruled according to your word" (NKJV).

These words were spoken to Yosef after The Name ...

HaShem: literally, Hebrew for 'The Name' - an allusion used to avoid pronouncing the Tetragrammaton, the so-called 'ineffable' name of G–d
HaShem had given him the interpretation for Pharaoh's dreams and Yosef had delivered them together with an outline plan to enable Egypt to survive the seven years of famine that were to follow. Pharaoh took a man out of prison and elevated him to the highest position of honour and authority in Egypt bar his own official throne. Yosef was given fine linen garments and a gold chain; more he was given Pharaoh's own signet ring, his symbol of authority, to sign and authorise laws and commandments (B'resheet 41:42). As he passed through Egypt, the people were told to "bow down" when Yosef passed (v. 43). He who was low became very high.

Yet the words of men pale into insignificance compared to the words of HaShem. He said through David, "'But I have installed My king on Zion, My holy mountain!' Let me tell of the decree: the L-RD said to me, 'You are My son, I have fathered you this day. Ask it of Me, and I will make the nations your domain; your estate, the limits of the earth. You can smash them with an iron mace, shatter them like potter's ware'" (Psalm 2:6, JPS). Could this possibly be Solomon, David's son? Great though his kingdom was, it was clearly not the limits of the earth and neither did Solomon shatter the nations in that way. Then David reported HaShem's words, "The L-RD said to my lord, 'Sit at My right hand while I make your enemies your footstool'" (Psalm 110:1, JPS). Who could David be talking about? Who is David's lord that sits at HaShem's right hand? To whom could HaShem say, "You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (v. 4, ESV)? When we let Scripture speak for itself, answer its own questions, then things become clear.

In the early days of Yeshua's ministry, He went to the River Jordan to be baptised. "As soon as Yeshua had been immersed, He came up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, He saw the Spirit of G-d coming down upon Him like a dove, and a voice from heaven said, 'This is My Son, whom I love; I am well pleased with Him'" (Matthew 3:16-17, CJB). Later on during His earthly ministry, Yeshua took a small group of the disciples up a mountain: "As they watched, He began to change form, and His clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than anyone in the world could possibly bleach them. Then they saw Eliyahu and Moshe speaking with Yeshua. ... Then a cloud enveloped them; and a voice came out of the cloud, 'This is My Son, whom I love. Listen to Him!'" (Mark 9:2-7, CJB). Writing to the believers, years later, Peter confirmed Matthew's words with his own personal eyewitness testimony: "For when He received honor and glory from G-d the Father, and the voice was borne to Him by the Majestic Glory, 'This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,' we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with Him on the holy mountain" (2 Peter 1:17-18, ESV).

John's apocalyptic vision also recognised Yeshua: "I saw heaven opened, and there before me was a white horse. Sitting on it was the One called Faithful and True, and it is in righteousness that He passes judgment and goes to battle. His eyes were like a fiery flame, and on His head were many royal crowns. And He had a name written which no one knew but Himself. He was wearing a robe that had been soaked in blood, and the name by which He is called is, 'THE WORD OF GOD'. The armies of heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and pure, were following Him on white horses. And out of His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down nations - 'He will rule them with a staff of iron'. It is He who treads the winepress from which flows the wine of the furious rage of ADONAI, G-d of heaven's armies. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS" (Revelation 19:11-16, CJB). Notice how this picks up the "rod of iron" imagery from Psalm 2:6 and reflects both the figure seen by Joshua - "Joshua ... looked up and saw a man standing before him, drawn sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and asked him, 'Are you one of us or of our enemies?' He replied, 'No, I am captain of the L-RD's host. Now I have come! ... Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy'" (Joshua 5:13-15, JPS) - and by Daniel - "As I looked on, in the night vision, one like a human being came with the clouds of heaven; He reached the Ancient of Days and was presented to Him. Dominion, glory, and kingship were given to him; all peoples and nations of every language must serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, And his kingship, one that shall not be destroyed" (Daniel 7:13-14, JPS). Could this also be the one who matches the words of Isaiah: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty G-d, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the L-RD of hosts will do this" (Isaiah 9:6-7, ESV)?

As He was about to be taken up into heaven - from whence He shall return in glory - He told the disciples: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore, go!" (Matthew 28:18-19)). He was no doubt and neither were the disciples. What about you?

Further Study: Psalm 2:10-12; Philippians 2:5-11; Isaiah 55:6-7

Application: Do you have difficulty accepting who Yeshua is and the authority He has? Read the Scriptures and let them speak for themselves. Let the written word answer that question for you, so that you too may bow the knee and come into relationship with Him.

© Jonathan Allen, 2012



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