Evidence Of Things Not Seen

Dear friends, as this horrible war continues, bringing so much grief and suffering on both sides, so does continue my journey through the Bible, in an attempt to find there the eternal answers to today’s questions.  We will begin today with a Psalm.

Psalm 69 says: “O God, You know my foolishness; And my sins are not hidden from You” – but, two verses later it says, “Because for Your sake I have borne reproach; Shame has covered my face”. These are the keywords for my message today. Nobody would say – and least of all I – that Israel is a godly nation (which nation is?):“my sins are not hidden from You”; and yet, Israel is being hated, not because of her sins, but because God’s name is on this people: “For your sake I have borne reproach”. The connection between Israel’s spiritual condition and the suffering she is going through (we are going through) is a great lie that has to be broken down.

We have the same scenario in the Book of Job: Satan, who started by trying (unsuccessfully) to slander Job before God, ended up slandering him before his friends – and this time he was successful indeed: he convinced them of the connection between Job’s spiritual condition and the suffering he was going through. Have you ever thought about the unusual structure of this book? Why, all of a sudden, do we find this heavenly Prologue, which is very atypical in biblical literature? The answer is: God wants us to recognize Satan’s activity beyond all these human accusations of Job, beyond all the statements connecting Job’s sins with his suffering. As for Israel, Satan knows perfectly well he couldn’t slander her before God; he just would not succeed, so he is working hard to slander Israel before the people. As we look through history, and as we look around the world today, we see that he has been highly successful in that.  And God also wants us to recognize Satan’s activity behind all these human accusations against Israel.  He wants us to see how different the human perspective is from God’s perspective. He wants us to see things the way He sees them – to see the invisible.

One of the Torah Portions we read lately was Miketz, where Joseph saw Benjamin, after 20 years. In Genesis 43 we witness this scene: 11 brothers are standing before this “weird Egyptian” who seems to them, if not cruel, at least arrogant and capricious. Ten of them had been here previously, and for them, this whole scene was just a déjà vu from the past, they just couldn’t wait until it was all over. Benjamin, on the other hand, was curious: he had heard a lot about this man – and now he was watching him, wondering why in the world he insisted so much on his, Benjamin’s, coming. And, as Joseph sees Benjamin, “his heart yearned for his brother”. In Hebrew, we have here a very strong expression, one of the strongest descriptions of love we find in the Bible. (For instance, when King Solomon was pretending to divide the child with a sword, the same words are said about the true mother). So, Joseph was overwhelmed by his love and his emotions, and he was about to weep – ויבקש לבקות. He hurried out to hide his emotions and his tears: he entered his private room and wept there.

Now try to imagine how this whole episode was seen by the brothers: all of sudden, just in the middle of their talk, this strange Egyptian turned away and ran out! They don’t see him in his inner private room, as we do, and they have no idea what the reason was for his sudden disappearance – and this is the crucial point for me.  The things that are seen by the brothers, and the conclusions they draw from these visible things, are worlds apart from the reality God is showing to us in this inner room. Only those seeing Joseph in the inner room, see the true Joseph and understand his heart and his feelings. And now, as we saw him weeping, please remember these tears of love in the inner room: in just a few verses we will be very puzzled by what’s going on. Because, what does Joseph do after these tears? Something opposite to what we would expect him to do (and more importantly, something opposite to what he would like to do): he washed his face, and went out, and restrained himself – ויתאפק.

Please remember this word – restrained, ויתאפק – because this is a very important word for us today. Of course, everyone knows the narrative, everyone remembers the most dramatic line of all the further events in this chapter which connect the two points: the one where Joseph “restrained himself” (Gen.43:31) – and the one where “Joseph could not restrain himself“ (Gen.45:1). From our school math, we know that two different points could be connected by an endless number of lines, but only one of these lines will be straight. This is exactly the case here. We have these two points – and two different lines. One is visible, this is the only line that the brothers see, and it goes like this:  Joseph commands the steward of his house to “put the silver cup in the sack’s mouth of the youngest”; the brothers depart; the steward overtakes them and searches the sacks; the cup is found in the sack of Benjamin; their way back, their talk with Joseph, the self-sacrifice of Judah—and finally, the tears of Joseph, who “could not restrain himself”. This is the visible line, but there is also the invisible line, and this line is straight, it directly connects Joseph, who wept secretly in the inner room, with Joseph weeping openly.

Like in the book of Job, we witness here this deep and profound distinction between the things that are seen by those participating in this story, and the things that they don’t see, but which God purposely shows us; this distinction is consciously built in by the author of the Word. And the most amazing thing is that the mystery which is thoroughly hidden from the participants is—Love. God loved Job, but it was hidden from Job himself and from his friends up to the very end of this story. Joseph loved Benjamin, but again, nobody knows that, it is completely hidden from all the brothers. And only the readers know that everything that is taking place with Benjamin is happening precisely because Joseph loves him. We have no doubt that the Joseph that puts the cup in Benjamin’s sack, is the same loving Joseph whom we see in chapter 45—the only difference is that the Joseph of chapter 43, restrained himself.

Where are… the yearning of Your heart and Your mercies toward me? Are they restrained?” asked Isaiah the prophet many centuries ago. How many times has this question been asked in our tragic history? And today, once again, we all are asking the same question.I am weary with my crying; My throat is dry; My eyes fail while I wait for my God.” Maybe, this story will help us with the answer. Why could Joseph no longer restrain himself? There is a remarkable division of Torah portions here: Torah Portion Miketz suddenly ends in the middle of chapter 44 to give way to a new portion, Vayigash. Thus, the flow of chapter 44, completely uninterrupted in translations, for a Hebrew reader, breaks in the middle of the chapter. There is a pause, something significant is about to happen—and then we read the first sentence of the next Portion, Vayigash:  Then Judah came near unto him.  It is here, in Vayigash, after Judah’s significant move, and his heart-rending speech, that Joseph reveals himself to his brothers.

I will leave it to you to decide who is represented by Judah and what is foreshadowed by this whole scenario. It is clear, however, that for Joseph to release his ‘restrained’ tears there had to be  Judah who was ready to step in and approach JosephVayigash. Only when Judah, and those represented by him, are finally prepared to lay down their lives for this brother – the precious son of their father – does Joseph allow his restrained tears to flow, and, falling on the neck of his brother, he weeps! This is the moment we all are waiting for…

 

 Excerpts from my books are included in this article  (and many other posts here), so if you like the articles on this blog, you might enjoy also my books, , they all are Bible-based and have a lot of Hebrew insights you can get them here.  These days, you may be especially interested to read my book “If You Be the  Son of God”, which reveals God’s plan with Israel and explains the suffering of my people.  

If this blog whets your appetite for discovering the hidden treasures of the Hebrew Bible I would be happy to provide more information (and also a teacher’s discount for new students) regarding our wonderful courses  (juliab@eteachergroup.com).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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  1. Rebecca

    That was beautifully said Julia. This is the moment I am waiting for as well. Praying for His kingdom to come and for the peace of Jerusalem!

  2. Carla

    Thank you, Julia. I’ve been looking forward to reading your article. Praying for you and for Israel.