Friday, December 25, 2020



Once appointed as Pharaoh’s deputy, with all the appropriate regalia, Joseph was also given a new name: Tzofnat Pa’a’ne’ach (transliteration according to the Hebrew original), which in Modern Hebrew means “the decoder of the hidden”. There is much about the story of Joseph which is associated with “codes” that require decoding. For starters, of all the various figures in Scripture who prefigure Yeshua, Joseph is one of the most obvious. But even with that, the text has to be examined quite closely in order for a clear picture to emerge. Another such example is the vision cast by Joseph’s life upon the eventual destiny of his progeny, and that of the progeny of those related to him. Here too a close deciphering is required of text and facts.


When it comes to Joseph, the Hebrew narrative is very deliberate in its vocabulary, especially in certain episodes. One such example is the usage of the root letters shin, bet/vet, resh – which form the word “sheh’ver”, with its primordial meaning being “to break” or “to sever”. Joseph’s specific role as well as his family’s efforts to obtain sustenance is couched in this term with its variety of meanings, such as: sell, grain, buy, provider etc. Moreover, in chapters 41-44 of Genesis it appears 18 times, although Joseph himself uses this term only once (in 42:19).


Admittedly, the repeated usage of such a term to describe the situation that revolved around Joseph is indeed strange, and therefore begs the question: Why? What is its significance?  There are two more times in which this term is used by the Sacred Text related to Joseph. Psalm 105:16-23 tells the story of Joseph with some additions, such as: “They hurt his feet with fetters. Iron pierced his soul, until the time that his word came to pass, the word of YHVH tested him” (vs. 18,19). This passage is introduced by: “He [Elohim] called a famine in the land; He destroyed all the provision, - sheh’ver – of bread” (v. 16).


The next passage is in Amos 6:6. Those of the house of Israel, in Samaria, are being chastised in the entire chapter for being self-serving, selfish, complacent and living in ignorance of their impending judgment. The thrust of the charge leveled at them (‘them’ being those who were part of the “house of Joseph”) was for not grieving over the “affliction of Joseph – the shev’ver – the brokenness, the fracture, the crisis of their own household. And indeed they suffered the consequences. “Their house was left desolate to them” and they ended up scattered and lost.


Thus we see that decoding the usage of sh.b/v.r in Joseph’s story leads to more than just provision, buying, selling, grain etc. but to a very serious crisis of near annihilation that YHVH expects His people to be very concerned about – then AND now. The Hebrew word used in Amos 6:6 is “ne’ch’lu” – literally to become sick and weak, over the fate of the entity called Joseph. Our Father seems to regard this issue very seriously, can we do any less?

One more “she’ver”, which appears in Scripture, is found in Judges 7, when a dream that Gideon happens to overhear confirmed to him his assured victory over Midian by the hand of YHVH.  Gideon is said to have heard the telling of the dream and “its interpretation” – shivro… (v. 10).


Decoding, or interpreting (discerning), is also what is before us at this present time, so that the only “breaking” will be that of the “heart”, as YHVH isnear to those who have a broken heart” (Psalm 51:17; 34:18). That contrite heart and humble spirit is of utmost import at a time such as we are in, a time which is not unlike the seven years of famine that prevailed in the world covered by the Biblical narrative. In the midst of tribulation, the faith and humility of Joseph and the brokenness of Judah stand out as major traits that were needed for the events to take their course.


Viewing these events of the seven year famine from a historical perspective, it is quite clear that this upheaval had as its central pivot the family of Jacob/Israel, for the sake of their ultimate destiny - to be formed into a nation. This of course took place not without having its effect far and wide, just as things are in our day. From Genesis 48:14 we learn that further on into the famine, Joseph took gradual managerial steps in order to be ‘on top” of the situation. He first gathered all the money that was ‘floating’ in Egypt and Canaan and handed it over to Pharaoh (v. 14). When the people found themselves bereft of sustenance, both food and money, Joseph appropriated all of their livestock in exchange for food (v.17). Shortly after, when there was nothing left to pay with and the people offered themselves and their land, in exchange for seed. And although it is not recorded that Joseph had actually made them into slaves, he did buy all the land and turned it over to  Pharaoh in return for seed (vs. 20, 23). “And as for the people, he moved them into the cities, from one end of the borders of Egypt to the other end” (Genesis 47:21). This was nothing short of population transfer, which caused the now totally weakened people to become even more subject to governmental control. A firth of the produce that, they were to grow from the seeds that Joseph provided for them was to be handed to the monarch (v. 24).


Joseph’s methodology is quite totalitarian, but under whose orders was he operating? It does not say anything about Pharaoh instructing him thus. Was Joseph getting his ideas from a “Higher Power”? Remember Psalm 105:16, and who “called famine on the land”? Even so today, no matter what is happening and ‘fixing’ to happen in the near future, our trust is in Elohim Almighty who is navigating our ship to the port that He has in mind. With that said, it is worthwhile to note that in Judaism, and especially now, the Messiah is said to not just “come”, but mainly “to be revealed”. We wait for the Greater Son of Joseph to reveal Himself to His brethren, perhaps at such a time as this, just as Jacob’s favorite son did during the days of adversity to his brothers. But before we sign off, there is another question that comes to mind: “Could this prospective revealing come, at least partially, through the Body, the “sons of the living Elohim”, whose head is Messiah? Here again sh.v/b.r helps us to do some “decoding”. There are two passages where this root word comes into play: “Today is a day of trouble, rebuke and disgrace. Children are ready to be born – “mishbar”, but there is no strength to bring them to birth” (2nd Kings 19:3), and especially Hosea 13:12-13: “The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hidden. The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him: he is an unwise son; for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth – mishbar - of sons”. However, Revelation 12:5 tells us of a birth that is not aborted. Let us therefore get ready for the birth, and remember to decode the hidden things!


  1. Thank you, Ephraim: in these awful days of "Jacob's Trouble," may we not be "slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken"--and decode it properly and in time.

  2. Before I read this, I was looking out the window of our living room thinking about Yoseph and the taking of land and moving people into the cities. A thought hit me that Goshen was given to the sons of Yisrael. So it was the sons of Yisrael that owned property and were not part of the movement into cities. Now there's a decoding to ponder! Toda for motivating the people of Ephraim to seek the Ruach HaKodesh for decoding his messages to His people in this day and hour we live in!

  3. I find it interesting that the HafTorah reading for today is Ezekiel 37 and the 2 sticks becoming ONE in the hand of YHVH. This is truly not a coincidence! YHVH knew that the reunion/reconciliation of Yosef and his brothers/and father would be a theme repeating itself in our day. Only this time we look to that reunion and reconciliation in the LAND of promise, not in Mitzryim! No wonder the adversary is bent on keeping us out at this time! That is something to truly ponder in these days.
    You always spark such good thought. Thank you.