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The Messiah in Genesis

Lecture Notes

by Michael Bugg

(The following were my notes for a lecture I delivered to Prince of Peace Catholic Church on April 23, 2008.  For the second part of my lecture, I spoke on The Feasts and the Exodus.)

Seeking Messiah in the Torah

Luke 24:27 – Beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, He explained to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

Luke 24:44-45 – [Yeshua] said to them, “This is what I told you, while I was still with you, that all things which are written in the Torah of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms, concerning me must be fulfilled.”  Then He opened their minds, that they might understand the Scriptures.

John 1:45 - Philip found Nathanael, and said to him, “We have found Him, of whom Moses in the Torah, and the Prophets, wrote: Yeshua of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

John 5:45-47 – “Don’t think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you, even Moses, on whom you have set your hope.  For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.  But if you don’t believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

Where is He?

Genesis 3:15 – The Seed of the Woman

Genesis 49:10 – Judah’s rule and tribal identity will not pass away until Shiloh comes.

Deuteronomy 18:18 – The prophet like Moses

Look For Pattern, Not Just Prediction

Western view of time – a straight line (timeline), prophecy is prediction-and-fulfillment

Eastern view of time – a circle, no beginning or end, no ultimate purpose to history

Biblical view of time – a spiral, with a beginning and end, but with a repeated pattern

The pattern of history is revealed in the Torah.

What the prophets were destined to prophesy in subsequent generations they received from Mount Sinai. . .  Moses gave utterance to all the words of the other prophets as well as his own, and whoever prophesied only gave expression to the essence of Moses’ prophecy.  (Sh’mot [Exodus] Midrash Rabbah 28:6, 42:8)

[Yeshua] said to them, “Therefore, every scribe (Torah-teacher) who has been made a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who is a householder, who brings out of his treasure new and old things.” (Mat. 13:52)

Levels of Interpretation (PaRDeS = “Paradise”)

P’shat – “To make a road,” the plain meaning, our road in the wilderness

Remez – A “hint” of a deeper meaning

Drash – To “dig,” the homiletic meaning, reading back into the text, often told as stories

Sod – The “secret” or mystical meaning, kabbalah


See The Way of Paradise for more information.

The Story of Genesis

Abraham and Isaac

Abraham = “Father of a Multitude”

·         Gen. 22:18 – “In your seed will all the nations of the earth be blessed . . .“

o       Gal 3:16 – “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He doesn’t say, ‘To seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘To your seed,’ which is Messiah.”

    • “Seed” in Hebrew (zera) is a collective noun; no plural form.  Paul is making a midrash

Isaac = “Laughter”

·         A miraculous birth

o       Jacob, Joseph, Samson, Samuel, John the Immerser – and Yeshua

·         Oppressed by the would-be heir, Ishmael, who is removed by his father

o       Yeshua was threatened by the Herods, the would-be rulers of Judea

The Bindings of Isaac (The Akkedat Yitzchak – Genesis 22)

·         Abraham told to sacrifice Isaac as a test

o       “Your only son, whom you love . . .” (v. 2)

·         Takes Isaac to Moriah (v. 2), three days away (v. 4)

o       Yeshua also sacrificed on Mt. Moriah, possibly on the same spot.

By faith, Abraham, being tested, offered up Isaac. Yes, he who had gladly received the promises was offering up his one and only son; even he to whom it was said, “In Isaac will your seed be called;” concluding that God is able to raise up even from the dead. Figuratively speaking, he also did receive him back from the dead. (Heb. 11:17-19)

·         A Hint:  “God will provide Himself the Lamb . . .” (v. 7)

o       God provided a ram for Abraham (v. 13)—He provided the Lamb later

·         Isaac bound

o       Isaac was a grown man, likely 37 years old at this point

o       He did not resist, but submitted to his father’s will – “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

·         God called off the sacrifice

·         A Hint:  “Abraham called the name of that place Adonai-Yireh (‘The Lord Will Provide’ or ‘The Lord Will Be Seen’). As it is said to this day, “On the Lord’s mountain, He will be provided.” (v. 14)

Said R. Abbahu, “Why do we blow a ram’s horn?  Said the holy one, blessed be he, ‘Blow a ram’s horn before me so that I will remember in your favor the binding of Isaac, the son of Abraham, and will credit [that act] to you, as though you bound yourselves [before me, willing to offer yourselves as a sacrifice].’”  (b. Rosh Hashanah 16a)

The Lord will see this ‘akedah to forgive Israel every year and rescue them from trouble; so that it will be said, “On this day” in all coming generations, “on the mountain of the Lord is seen” the ashes of Yitzchak heaped up and serving for atonement. (Rashi)

·         Gen 22:19 - So Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba. Abraham lived at Beersheba.

o       Isaac “disappears” from the Biblical record

o       Yeshua “disappears” from view after His Resurrection

·         Isaac only reappears when his father’s trusted servant (Eliezer, “God of Help,” Gen. 15:2) brings him a bride from outside the Land

o       Yeshua will only reappear when the Holy Spirit brings Him a Bride from among all the nations (Mat. 24:14, Rev. 7:1-7).


·         The son of Isaac (a Messianic type) and the father of Joseph (also a Messianic type)

o       Isa 11:1 - A shoot will come out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots will bear fruit.

o       Rev 22:16 – “I, Yeshua, have sent my angel to testify these things to you for the assemblies. I am the root and the offspring of David; the Bright and Morning Star.”

·         Heb. Ya’akov = “He grasps the heel,” a metaphor for “the supplanter”

·         Was prophesied to rule over his elder brother (Gen. 25:23)

·         Buys Esau’s birthright from him (“So Esau despised his birthright” Gen. 25:34), and later tricked his father into giving him the firstborn’s blessing

o       He tried to gain by human effort that which God had already promised him

o       Rom 9:31 - But Israel, following after a law of righteousness, didn’t arrive at the law of righteousness. Why? Because they didn’t seek it by faith, but as it were by works of the law. They stumbled over the stumbling stone; even as it is written, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and a rock of offense; and no one who believes in him will be disappointed.”

·         As a result of his deception, he had to flee the Land to escape Esau’s wrath

o       As a result of trying to gain the Messianic kingdom by force, the Jews were driven out of the land by the Romans

·         Jacob lives among the Gentiles, where his father-in-law Laban tries to cheat him by changing the terms of his wages ten times, but he nevertheless prospers.  Finally, Jacob leaves to escape Laban’s anger.

o       The Jews were forbidden to own land in much of Europe, so they cultivated the intellect, becoming doctors and lawyers and loaning money to Europe’s rulers—only to be kicked out of every land where they went whenever the local rulers owed them too much.

·         Jacob does not leave completely righteous; Rachel steals her father’s idols and brings them with her

o       The Jews have not escaped being Gentilized, but even when returning to the Land have brought pagan and atheistic ways with us

·         Jacob returns to the land, but is greatly afraid when Esau is coming up to meet him

o       The Jews have returned to the Land, but live in fear of the Gentiles around them.

·         When his brother comes up against him in an armed company, Jacob first sends gifts to placate him, divides his people so that at least some will escape, and then spends the night wrestling with God, dislocating his hip.  God changes his name to Israel (“Prince of God” and “Wrestles with God”).

o       The Jews are seeing the Gentiles coming against them. 

o       They have tried to placate the Arabs with gifts of land – “Land for Peace”

o       Israel wrestles with Yeshua

§         Hos 12:-4 - In the womb he took his brother by the heel; and in his manhood he contended with God.  Indeed, he struggled with the angel, and prevailed; he wept, and made supplication to him. He found him at Bethel, and there he spoke with us.

o       Israel has received a permanent limp – the Holocaust (Shoah)

o       The day is coming when they will seize Him and refuse to let go until He blesses them, and on that they, the Jews will truly become Israel.

·         God brings about a change in Esau so that the two brothers live in peace, Esau departing from the Land and establishing Edom

Joseph and Ben Joseph

Joseph is so much a picture of the Messiah that the Talmud twice refers to a Mashiach ben Yoseph, a suffering servant who would die for the sake of the nation and who would appear either just before or alongside the Mashiach ben David, the conquering King.  We know from the Dead Sea Scrolls that there were several theories in the 1st Century that there would be more than one Anointed; it seems quite possible that the Mashiach ben Yoseph idea was around in Yeshua's time, perhaps being referenced in Luke 3:23, which states that Yeshua was "being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph"--a bit of a pun engaged by the good Doctor.

Rejection of His Brothers

Joseph's first parallel to the Messiah is in his relationship to Isaac:  Isaac, another type of Messiah, was born before Jacob/Israel and indeed gave birth to him, and Joseph was born to Jacob in turn.  This prefigures that Yeshua would be both the Root and the Branch of David (Isa. 11:1, 10; Rev. 22:16).  Secondly, as did many other figures in Israel's history, both Isaac and Joseph were the products of a miraculous conception, a barren womb being opened.  The Holy One one-upped that miracle with the Virgin Birth.

Joseph's next parallel to Yeshua is in the relationship with his brothers.  Why did Joseph's brothers hate him?  Because he was the favored son of Israel (and had the gift, the amazing techonocolored dreamcoat, to prove it; Gen. 37:3), was prophesied to rule over them and even his father despite his low rank in the birth order (vv. 7-8), and because he gave a bad report about them (v. 2).  Why did Israel's 1st Century leaders hate Yeshua?  Because He was the favored Son of God and Israel (and had the gifts to prove it, arousing their envy), because He was prophesied to rule over them—and even His father David (Psa. 110:1, Mat. 22:42ff)—and they didn't think this hick from Galilee had the right ("Search, and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee" [John 7:52]), and because instead of siding with them, He brought a bad report, exposing their hidden sins (Mat. 5-7 and 23).

When Joseph went to look into his brothers and found them goofing off yet again (hanging out in Dothan instead of tending the flocks), that's when they decided to do away with him (Gen. 37:13ff).  It was when Yeshua cleared out the Temple courts the second time that the plans to get rid of Him kicked into high gear (Mat. 21:12ff, cf. John 2:13ff).  Judah was the one who got the bright idea to sell Joseph (Gen. 37:28).  Judah/Judas was the one who sold Yeshua, and Judah/Judea handed Him over to the Gentiles (Mat. 26:15).  Both were stripped of their clothes (Gen. 37:23, John 19:24).  Rabbinic tradition has it that Joseph kept his brothers in prison for three days because he was kept in the cistern for three days (based on Gen. 42:17). It's interesting that there's a whole theme in Scripture of life from death being granted on the third day (the third day of creation, the Akkedat Yitzchak, Jonah, Esther, etc.).

Joseph was falsely accused before Potiphar, the official representative of the then-ruling empire (Gen. 39:13ff).  Potiphar essentially washed his hands of someone that he knew to be innocent to save his own honor.  Yeshua was falsely accused before Caesar's representative Pilate, who also washed his hands of an innocent man (Mat. 26:60).  Both were mourned by Israel (Gen. 37:33f, Luke 23:55).

Salvation of the Gentiles

Through his trust and obedience even in the midst of unjust shame and suffering, as well as through his wisdom and gifting to correctly interpret prophecy, Joseph was raised to the right hand of Pharaoh (Gen. 41:39).  He was given all of Pharaoh's authority--only in regards to the throne itself was Pharaoh Joseph's superior.  Through His trust and obedience even in the midst of unjust shame and suffering, as well as through his wisdom and gifting to correctly interpret all Scripture, Yeshua was raised to the right hand of God (Mark 16:19).  All judgment is given to the Son (John 5:22, 27), yet the Father is still the Father.

Through his wisdom, Joseph fed the entire Gentile world bread in the midst of a great famine (Gen. 41:57).  Through His wisdom, Yeshua feeds the entire Gentile world the Bread of Life (Mark 6:44, John 6:33ff), which is the Word of God (cf. Deu. 8:3, Psa. 119:103, Eze. 3:3, Amos 8:11, Mat. 16:12 and 26:26).  Joseph gave to all who came to him, accepting their goods, livestock, lands, and finally their very lives in return for food--and everything they gave him he made them stewards over for Pharaoh.  Yeshua gives His Bread to all who come unto Him, gradually accepting our goods, livestock, lands, and finally our very lives--and everything we give unto Him He makes us stewards over for the King of Eternity.

Joseph and His Brothers

Joseph fed the entire Gentile world the Bread of Life (so to speak) before his brothers came to him.  This is the first prophecy of Gentile inclusion in God's Kingdom, corresponding with other prophecies that first the Gentiles would come to the Root of Jesse and be called by the Holy Name, and only after that would Israel be restored (cf. Isa. 11:10ff, Amos 9:11f).

When Joseph's brothers come to buy bread, they don't recognize him (Gen. 42:7)!  Why not?  Because he was dressed in Egyptians clothes, with his head and beard shaved in Egyptian fashion, and speaking to them in Egyptian through an interpreter.  Why haven't Yeshua's brothers recognized Him for two millennia?  Once again, because we have dressed Him up as a Gentile, given Him a Gentile haircut, and He speaks to His brothers in Gentile language (Greek).  Look through the whole corpus of Christian art and try to find a portrait of Yeshua that shows Him with a long, uncut beard, a head covering of some sort, tefillin (phylacteries), or tzitzit (tassels) on His cloak.  Only a few old Eastern Orthodox works get it right.  More to the point, look at how most Christian commentators exaggerate to cartoonish proportions the differences between Yeshua and the rabbis, never noticing the similarities in teaching, teaching styles (e.g., parables), gathering disciples, emotional makeup (Yeshua was clearly no stoic), etc.  Small wonder His brother's can't recognize Him!

When Joseph is faced with his brothers, he falsely accuses them, throws them into prison, and binds Simeon before their eyes and takes him away, requiring that they bring him Benjamin if they wish to see his face again (Gen. 42:9ff).  In the same way, the Church has in Jesus' name falsely accused the Jews, thrown them into prison, and taken away from the Jewish people, binding Jews who wished to follow the King of the Jews from being among their brothers.  (See here for some examples.)  Sadly, the Church went even further: Joseph never tortured or slew any of his brothers, but the Church has done so to the brothers of Yeshua! 

(Note: Here, I am obviously referring to the visible, cultural institution of the Church, comprised of both wheat and tares.  Even so, unless the beneficiaries of the Protestant Reformation wish to repudiate Martin Luther, author of The Jews and Their Lies, as not being truly saved, one cannot simply escape corporate responsibility by saying, "Well, real Christians wouldn't do any of that.")

But notice here that even in testing his brothers with persecution, Joseph still gives them the Bread of Life they need to live.  In fact, he does so freely, giving back the silver that they try to pay him with.  Why?  Because his brothers already belong to him, whether they know it or not.  Is Yeshua less generous than Joseph?  And if He is as generous, in what sense has He fed the Jewish people who didn't recognize Him? 

Also let us note that Joseph seats his brothers in birth order to show that he knows them, much to their amazement and consternation (Gen. 43:33).  Today in Judaism, there are increasing numbers of scholars who are studying the NT and discovering how well Yeshua knows them.  Indeed, He is increasingly becoming known as a Jew of the Jews and a rabbi ahead of His time.  It's not where my people need to be, but the momentum is clearly in the right direction.

Now we come to Benjamin, whose significance in this type is so often overlooked.  What does he represent in this tale?  Let us consider his attributes:

  • He is the brother of the same mother as Joseph
  • His birth brought about the death of his mother.  For this she named him, "Son of My Sorrow," but his father Israel would rename him, "Son of the Right Hand."
  • He was not involved in the betrayal of Joseph; he and Joseph obviously loved each other very much
  • He disappears from the narrative, only being mentioned while "off-screen" until the very end
  • Israel will not let him go forth with his brothers, fearing to lose him as he lost Joseph and Simeon
  • Joseph weeps when he sees Benjamin among his brothers again
  • While Joseph feeds all the brothers, he gives Benjamin five times as much
  • Finally, Benjamin is "outed" by the possession of Joseph's silver cup

I propose that Benjamin represents the remnant of Jewish believers, Messianic Jews if you will, that Paul assures us the Eternal One always reserves for Himself in Romans 11.  Like Benjamin, the faithful remnant were born at the time of the death of their mother, Jerusalem (which dwells in Benjamin's territory).  We are the sons of sorrow and the sons of the Right Hand, Yeshua Himself.  Like Benjamin, the remnant has always loved Yeshua and vice-versa.  Like Benjamin, the remnant has virtually disappeared from the narrative of history, being mentioned only by our enemies when they try to suppress us.  Like Benjamin, Israel has not allowed us to be seen among our brothers, and for the same reason: Fear that like Simeon, we will be carried away by the Gentiles, assimilated and lost to a Christian culture.  And like Benjamin, we are ultimately "outed" by the discovery of our Lord's Cup in our hands.

Benjamin receives five times as much food as his brothers (Gen. 43:44).  We have already established that food, bread in particular, is a type of the life-giving sustenance of the Word of God.  It's interesting that in Israel, it is becoming well known that the Messianics are ardent students of the Scriptures.  In fact, if you want to know if you are talking to a Messianic, there is a simple test:  Ask a question about the Law.  A traditional Jew will answer from his rabbi or the Talmud; a Messianic will answer from the Scriptures, as our Great Rabbi has taught us.

Notice also that only when Benjamin is among his brothers is Simeon returned to them.  Simeon, we believe, represents those Jews who were converted to Christianity, bound by law in front of their brethren to no longer live as Jews, and taken away.  With the advent of Messianic Judaism, many in the world have become aware that they are descended from Jewish converts to Christianity, and are seeking to know what that means as far as their personal identity goes.  Many are even returning to Judaism, both Messianic and traditional, to return to their roots.

When Benjamin is caught with Joseph's cup, the brothers face a decision-point:  Do they let him be carried away by the Gentiles as Simeon was, or do they protect him as a brother at their own risk.  Today, as more and more Jews declare themselves for Yeshua, Judah/Judaism faces the same decision:  Do they reject the Messianics and force them out of the community to be assimilated by Gentile Christianity, or do they embrace us as brothers, even at the risk that they believe such inclusion could bring to Judaism? 

Believe it or not, Israel is starting to come to the same decision as Judah.  Among an increasing number of rabbis, there is no longer any question whether born Jews who identify as and live as Jews should be counted as part of the community.  The resistance now is to Jews who have converted to Christianity and no longer keep the Torah at all and how to handle our proselytes.  (This is why many Messianics completely reject the label of "Christian," which is virtually synonymous with “Gentile.”) 

When Judah embraced and protected Benjamin as his brother, Joseph revealed himself at last for who he is.  Likewise, as we see Judah embracing Messianic Jews, we see another sign that our Lord is soon to return.

The more I study the Torah, the more I see the truth of what the Midrash Rabbah says of it:  "What the prophets were destined to prophesy in subsequent generations they received from Mount Sinai. . .  Moses gave utterance to all the words of the other prophets as well as his own, and whoever prophesied only gave expression to the essence of Moses’ prophecy" (Exo.R. 28:6, 42:8).




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