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B'resheet/Genesis 41:25 Pharaoh's dream is one; what G-d is doing, He has announced to Pharaoh.
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Yosef, Ya'akov's favourite son with his beloved wife Rachel, sold into slavery by ten of his brothers, bought as a household slave in Egypt and then thrown into prison under false accusations of sexual misconduct, has just been brought out of prison, given a quick shave and some clean clothes in order to hear Pharaoh relate two disturbing dreams he has had that night that none of his court officials and magicians can interpret for him. Pharaoh, who represents himself as being divine and is used to having everything just his own way and just when he wants it, is now is now totally dependent for his peace of mind on a scrubby Hebrew slave prisoner who happened to strike lucky interpreting dreams for two of Pharaoh's servants who were temporarily incarcerated in the same prison a couple of years back. Yosef has already told Pharaoh that he cannot interpret dreams - "Not I! G-d will see to Pharaoh's welfare" (B'resheet 41:16, NJPS) - and pointed to a divinity that the Egyptians do not know. Now, after Pharaoh has recounted the dreams to Yosef, adding perhaps with more than a touch of asperity, "I have told my magicians, but none has an explanation for me" (v. 24, NJPS), almost as if he is daring Yosef to do any better, Yosef starts his explanation with an assertion that he is largely to repeat a couple of sentences later: "It is just as I have told Pharaoh: G-d has revealed to Pharaoh what He is about to do" (v. 28, NJPS).
Yosef's words as recorded here are clearly split into two statements (by the atnakh accent under the fourth word): the dream is one; and, G-d is telling Pharaoh what He is doing. OvadiaSforno suggests that it is precisely because the both dreams are one that Pharaoh's magicians have failed to provide an interpretation: they have assumed that there are two dreams. Yosef therefore starts by correcting that assumption: putting them in their place and agreeing with Pharaoh. His "opening point", as Hillel Millgram points out, "is that Pharaoh's instincts are correct; that the two dreams are really simply separate aspects of a single revelation, in which G-d is revealing to Pharaoh the future."1 The words for 'dream', , 'one', , and the pronoun 'he' (implied "he is" and translated just 'is'), , are all masculine and singular; there is only one dream. Nahum Sarna confirms this, explaining that "both dreams, although separate and successive, form part of a single whole and give expression to the identical phenomenon."
The verb - the Hif'il affix 3ms form of the root , "to declare, show, tell, announce" (Davison) - in the second part of the verse attracts some comment. Richard Elliott Friedman says that "the pronoun is unclear. The verse could mean that G-d has told Pharaoh what He is doing, or that the dream has told Pharaoh what G-d is doing." Gunther Plaut reports that the Samaritan Pentateuch version changes just one letter in the word, the to an to make - the Hif'il prefix 1cs form - meaning "I will tell Pharaoh what G-d is doing"; this is a significant change in meaning, pulling a lot more focus and emphasis on to Yosef and away from G-d. On the contrary, Walter Brueggemann insists, "Yosef stays consistently theocentric. He is not distracted by the interesting phenomena of the dream itself. The focus is turned towards G-d, the one with whom Pharaoh finally must deal."2
The larger significance of Yosef's words is that G-d has - through the dream and then through Yosef - told Pharaoh what He is about to do.Rashi says that "G-d specifically told him this because it was about to happen". This is not a "might happen" thing, but G-d is already doing it; the word is a participle, denoting current ongoing action. The Sforno notes that - notwithstanding the presence of Pharaoh's court while Yosef is talking - the revelation is essentially private, "it has been declared to Pharaoh alone." Why does Pharaoh get a private inside preview of what G-d is going to be doing over the next fourteen years? Well, the Rashbam answers, "G-d told this to Pharaoh because it is Pharaoh's responsibility to issue the decrees that will cope with the situation." Or, put another way by the Bekhor Shor, "so that Pharaoh can take steps to remedy the situation. For he is the king and has the power to do so." If anything is to happen to save Egypt - and, as it happens, Ya'akov and his family, but they are not relevant to Pharaoh at this time - then decisions must come from the top. No-one else can do anything about it unless Pharaoh gives the word. Pharaoh needs to know what is happening so that he can take responsibility for all his people and his kingdom.
Amos - thought to be the first of the 'writing' prophets - saw two visions of what was going to happen to Israel, the northern kingdom of the divided monarchy in the eighth century BCE. The first vision was about locusts: "This is what the L-rd G-D showed me: behold, He was forming locusts when the latter growth was just beginning to sprout, and behold, it was the latter growth after the king's mowings. When they had finished eating the grass of the land, I said, "O L-rd G-D, please forgive! How can Ya'akov stand? He is so small!" The L-RD relented concerning this: "It shall not be," said the L-RD" (Amos 7:1-3, ESV). The second vision was about judgement by fire: "This is what the L-rd G-D showed me: behold, the L-rd G-D was calling for a judgment by fire, and it devoured the great deep and was eating up the land. Then I said, "O L-rd G-D, please cease! How can Ya'akov stand? He is so small!" The L-RD relented concerning this: "This also shall not be," said the L-rd G-D" (vv. 4-6, ESV). In both cases, Amos acted upon his 'private' revelation to try and save his people; he interceded for the nation and HaShem relented. But, as the third vision that followed made clear - "This is what He showed me: behold, the L-rd was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in His hand. And the L-RD said to me, "Amos, what do you see?" And I said, "A plumb line." Then the L-rd said, "Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of My people Israel; I will never again pass by them; the high places of Yitz'khak shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword" (vv. 7-9, ESV) - the dreams were one: judgement was unavoidable and what G-d has decreed would happen.
Through the years, the prophets brought a consistent message to the people of Israel about the coming of a Messiah figure. Moshe spoke of a 'prophet' who was to come, "The L-RD your G-d will raise up for you a prophet from among your own people, like myself" (D'varim 18:15, NJPS), Isaiah spoke of the servant who would come, "My servant, whom I uphold, My chosen one, in whom I delight. I have put My spirit upon him, He shall teach the true way to the nations" (Isaiah 42:1, NJPS), and Ezekiel spoke about the shepherd who would tend G-d's people, "I will appoint a single shepherd over them to tend them -- My servant David. He shall tend them, he shall be a shepherd to them" (Ezekiel 34:23, NJPS). What G-d said He would do, He has done; He sent Yeshua, the Son of David, "a shoot shall grow out of the stump of Jesse, a twig shall sprout from his stock" (Isaiah 11:1, NJPS), who spoke as a prophet in Israel - "There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down" (Mark 13:2, ESV) - whose message of salvation has gone out to the nations - "you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8, ESV) - and who has gathered the peoples of G-d, both Jew and Gentile, into one flock, "I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd" (John 10:16, ESV).
What is G-d saying to us today? What is He showing us and how are we supposed to respond? In the seven letters that John wrote to the churches of his day at the beginning of the book of Revelation, Yeshua speaks clearly. Can you hear Him speaking those same words today?. To one church He wrote, "you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first" (Revelation 2:4-5, ESV). How have the churches today forgotten the love and passion that they once had for the L-rd? To the second church He wrote, "Do not fear what you are about to suffer ... Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life" (v. 10, ESV). Is your church paralysed by fear: fear of society today, fear of being politically incorrect, fear of ridicule and shame for our beliefs? To the third church He wrote, "you have some there who ... put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols" (v. 14, ESV). Many churches are steeped, even if they deny it, in replacement theology and destroy the identity of Jewish believers. To the fourth church He wrote, "you tolerate ... sexual immorality and ... eat food sacrificed to idols" (v. 20, ESV). Divorce, re-marriage, adultery and fornication are rife in some churches. To the fifth church He wrote, "You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead" (3:1, ESV). How many churches put on a great show and are active in social justice and all things politically correct, but do not live, teach or even believe the gospel? The sixth church is encouraged with the words, "I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept My word and have not denied My name" (v. 8, ESV). Does your church keep Yeshua's word and always uphold His name? Lastly, to the seventh church, Yeshua writes, "because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth" (v. 16, ESV). How many times to we try to steer a middle course, afraid to stand out by sending a clear message?
What response should we make today? At the end of each letter in Revelation, Yeshua specifically says, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 2:7, ESV). Not just twice, but seven times. We need to hear, to listen, to take note and act upon the Master's words, lest we fail Him and our mission in this crucial age before He returns. He has spoken and He is doing. He is doing it now. Where are you and what are you doing about it?
1. - Hillel I. Millgram, The Joseph Paradox: A Radical Reading of Genesis 37-50, (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company Inc., 2012), page 83.
2. - Walter Brueggemann, Genesis, Interpretation (Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press, 1982), page 330.
Further Study: Psalm 98:2-3; Daniel 2:28-29; Mark 13:14-23; Revelation 4:1
Application: Do you hear the words of Yeshua speaking to you and your fellowship - church or congregation? How can you relate those words to your friends, colleagues or elders and share the urgency that the Spirit is impressing in these days? Which one of the seven words speaks most loudly to you - ask the L-rd what He would have you do about it in your context.
Comment - 10:05 08Dec18 Brian and Anne Nelson: Very challenging words. We support Almighty G-d's purposes for Israel and The Jewish People, and our Church Minister is taking a teaching tour to Israel next year.
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© Jonathan Allen, 2018
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