Parashat Vayeishev (And He Dwelt)
Beresheet (Genesis) 37:1–40:23
This week's reading brings us to some very rich and important passages; we learn of the story of Joseph, and the deep connection between Joseph’s story and Messiah Yeshua's story. We also learn of the roots of the terms "Messiah Son of Joseph" and "Messiah Son of David" which are key concepts to understanding the two eras of Messiah in Jewish thought (Messiah the suffering servant, and Messiah the King). If you want to read more about this topic please read my blog from last year on this portion Parashat Vayeishev (And he dwelt). As a quick summary, I previously wrote on a few key elements that Joseph and Messiah Yeshua share in common such as the Father’s love, the jealousy of the brothers, prophetic truth, the plot to kill Joseph, the woolen coat, being betrayed for money, and the empty pit.
However, as I was reading the portion again, I noticed that sandwiched in between Genesis 37 and 39-40, which are devoted to the account of Joseph, is Genesis 38, which is devoted to a completely different story. This is not just any story, but rather a story that on the surface is full of ungodliness, lies, immorality, etc. I have to admit that for the first time, I had to stop and think about why this account is included here, in the middle of Joseph’s story, which is so clearly about God's incredible plan of redemption.
While I encourage you to read the entire portion by yourself, let me remind you of the account we read in Genesis 38. Judah breaks away from his brothers, marries a Canaanite woman, and has children with her. Judah then takes a wife for his firstborn (Er) named Tamar. The LORD puts Er to death and leaves Tamar both a widow and childless. According to law, Judah’s second son, Onan, is supposed to marry Tamar and have children with her. Onan refuses to do so, does evil before the LORD, and dies. Since Shelah (Judah’s third son) is too young, Judah tells Tamar to go away to her father's house, and wait until he grows up so that he can marry her.
In short, Tamar does not marry Shelah, and after Judah’s wife dies, the scripture tells us that he was traveling on the road, sees Tamar, and since she covered her face, he thinks she is a harlot and has relations with her, not knowing that she is Tamar. She becomes pregnant, and when Judah hears about it, he commands her to be burned. However, she was smart and took from him his signet, cloak, and staff, as protection from being accused by Judah. Tamar proves to him that it was he who had relations with her, to which Judah has to admit. As a result, Tamar ends up giving birth to two sons, Perez and Zerah.
So what do we make of this? In this story, we find evidence of God’s truly amazing grace and His sovereign plan. Both His grace and sovereignty were evidenced to Tamar; He had a specific plan to continue the genealogy of Judah in a very specific way. Judah tried to do it in his own power through his own agenda. However, God did not accept it, and chose a different way! It was through Perez that the line of Messiah continued all the way to Joseph, the husband of Miriam, who was the mother of Yeshua our Messiah.
I believe that this story appears in the middle of Joseph's story to emphasize the importance of God's sovereign will, and the fact that it cannot be thwarted. God's plan was for Messiah to fulfill two roles, of which Joseph and King David were very important forerunners (Messiah Son of Joseph, Messiah Son of David). King David was a direct descendant of Perez, who was the son of Judah, from which the Redeemer was prophesied to come. Isn't it amazing to see God's plan come to fruition, even in ways that we cannot possibly foresee?
Be encouraged that what He has willed will come to be. Rest in His promises!