Torah Portion for week 12: Genesis 47:28 – 50:26
Vayechi (And he lived)
Did Jacob predict Yeshua’s first miracle? In this week’s Torah portion, we will be looking at Genesis 47:28 – 50:26, one of the most important passages in the Torah. It is not an exaggeration to call this passage one of the most important Messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Bible.
Before we look specifically at our verses, I want to show you from the larger context why this is such an important passage. Though people typically think of the Torah as a law book only, a bird’s eye view reveals something amazing: the Torah, like the other prophetic books in the Hebrew Bible, was written specifically to foretell a glorious future. In four strategically positioned passages in the Torah, we find people prophesying about “the last days” (sometimes, as in ESV, translated as “the days to come” or “the latter days”)!
In the early years of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt, Jacob says to the twelve tribes: “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in the last days” (Gen 49:1). Then, at the end of the wilderness wanderings, Balaam tells Balak “what this people will do to your people in the last days” (Num 24:14). Finally, in Moses’ closing instructions to the people of Israel before his death, he speaks about the last days twice! In Deuteronomy 4:30 he says, “When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the last days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice.” Again in chapter 31:29, Moses says, “And in the last days, evil will befall you.” Remarkably, in three of the four places where the Torah mentions the last days, the speaker then goes on to describe the coming of the King-Messiah!
We will discuss the other two end-time passages about the coming king in later studies. For now, let us look at Jacob’s prophecy about a king from the tribe of Judah who will arise in the last days. Jacob says,
“Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.” (Gen 49:8-12)
Jacob’s prophecy about this future king literally becomes the “talk of the town” for Israel’s later prophets and for the New Testament writers as well. For example, the Prophet Zechariah speaks of the coming of Israel’s king “on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zech 9:9). It is clear from the reference to the Messiah coming on a colt and foal of a donkey that Zechariah’s prophecy is based on Jacob’s words about the Messiah “binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine.” And here is an interesting question to consider: Could it be that Yeshua’s very first miracle, changing water into wine, is intended to be the very first installment of Jacob’s prophecy about the future days of blessing? There will be such plenty in the promised land when Yeshua comes again that he will even wash his garments in wine and in the blood of grapes!