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"Joseph and Squanto" two men used by God (A Thanksgiving devotional)

THANKSGIVING and the Bible, what’s the relation? And
JOSEPH AND SQUANTO, two men used by God

Today we celebrate the day of Thanksgiving, which had its start in 1621 when the Pilgrims celebrated a year in the new world. However, Thanksgiving has its roots in God’s Word. What does God’s Word say about giving thanks?
All we have to do is look up the words “giving thanks” and we would probably discover many scriptures which talk about the action of “thanks-giving”.

One of the major “pilgrim” feasts (no pun on the word “pilgrim”) was the “Feast of Tabernacles” or “Sukkot”. This was a harvest feast and celebration when all of Israel came up to Yerushalayim. It was a feast that lasted eight days. During the harvest festival of Thanksgiving in Plymouth, the pilgrims celebrated three days. But let’s go back to the beginning.

The Pilgrim’s voyage to the New World was similar to the “Exodus” in the Hebrew Bible called “Shemot” or in English, the same word; “Exodus”. The People of Israel were enslaved by “Pharaoh” and were slaves for four-hundred years. They were surrounded by Egyptian religion. They knew a little about the great “El Shaddai” but they needed to learn more and worship freely.

In a similar manner, there was a group of fundamental Bible believers who knew the truth and wanted to worship freely, but the king of England was very strict, and there was persecution against them. They were “spiritual slaves” to the ways of the “Church of England”. The group of fundamentalists got together, got some money together and rented two ships, the Mayflower and the Speedwell. With a few hundred pilgrims that sought a new life, they departed across the Atlantic Ocean to the “promised land”.

Moses was sent by Adonai to lead his people out of Egypt, from under the slavery of king “Pharaoh” (which in a way is double-talk. The word “pharaoh” is just another way of saying “king”.) The Israelites, of course, didn’t need a ship. They walked across the section of the Red Sea known as “Yam Suf” or today, the “Gulf of Aqaba”. It is a ten-mile stretch of water, they crossed it during the night.

The Israelites arrived at Sinai, to receive the Torah and be united as “One People’ (Am Echad), with Moses as their leader. The pilgrims arrived in the new world and established their colony of Plymouth in 1620. They chose their leader, Governor Bradford and drew up the “Mayflower Compact”. They based their new life according to God’s Holy Writ.

Now we will see God’s special intervention. There was something in the making which started in 1609. It would assure the survival of the pilgrims. Just as the Israelites went through trials and tribulations, so did the pilgrims. They lost half of their folk the first winter. That was the reason that the LORD sent “Squanto” to the rescue.

Squanto was just a small boy from one of the native American tribes of that area when his life was changed in 1609. A group of Englishmen came in a ship and captured him, took him prisoner and sold him as a slave in Spain, arriving at the port of Malaga in that same year. Adonai, however, was looking after him and was looking up the corridor of time at the year 1621. Squanto would be a kind of missionary to help and save the pilgrims in that year.
A group of Spanish monks bought him and took him to their monastery, taught him God’s word, taught him Spanish and five years later, sent him on to England, as Squanto expressed desires to return home. In England, he waited another five years to go home but lived with a kind, Christian family. They were kind to him and there he learned English. He finally found a ship and returned home to what is now Massachusetts.

We could assume that he arrived there in 1619, the same year my ancestors, John and Elizabeth Ellis, arrived in the new world in that same area. (They are on my paternal grandmother’s side of the family). Squanto found that his tribe had died from disease, so the Wampanoag tribe adopted him. In 1620, he met the pilgrims through another Indian named Samoset. (This name is similar to the pharaoh of Egypt who made Joseph a ruler, Pharaoh “Senuset”.

Now his English would come in handy. As we know from our history books, he taught the Pilgrims how to fish, grow corn, find food, etc. God’s timing was perfect. Just as Squanto taught the pilgrims the necessary things to live, God taught the Israelites the necessary things to live a holy lifestyle through His Torah, and through his chosen prophets.

Thanksgiving was celebrated by inviting the Wampanoag tribe. 90 members came besides the 53 Pilgrims present. Squanto stayed with the pilgrims and continued teaching them things. The Wampanoags brought deer, while the pilgrims hunted wild turkey, duck, and geese. The three-day celebration consisted of those items plus corn, pumpkins, and other vegetables grown by the pilgrims (through the guidance of Squanto). They also had fish, clams, and oysters from the bay. (not so kosher items)Yet at least back then, the water was cleaner than it is today.

The Apostle Paul was in fact, similar to Squanto. He went to the pagan nations and taught them the Word of God, He taught them and gave them guidance in the knowledge of the One God; Adonai-Elohim. Squanto taught the pilgrims how to survive physically, Paul taught how to survive spiritually. Both men were used mightily by God to serve others.
Sukkot is the Biblical thanksgiving time. It is celebrated towards the end of September to middle October in accordance with the lunar Hebrew calendar. As we can see, the American Thanksgiving and the Biblical Thanksgiving are very close together.

Sukkot is celebrated for seven days. Seven being the “perfect” number, and a special ceremony on the “eighth day” (Hoshanah Raba) “8” being the number for “new beginning”. The pilgrims celebrated Thanksgiving for three days, “3” being the number for “Elohim” who is “Father” “Son” and “Holy Spirit” (Av, Ben, Ruach HaKodesh)
Sukkot is also when our Messiah Yeshua came to earth to live among men and teach his Torah to all. (not Dec 25th)
When we think about it, we have many things to be thankful for. Let’s tie together Sukkot and Thanksgiving in thanking Adonai for;

Our homes, our families, the food on our tables which is usually more than we need, our health, the education we receive through HIS Word, our friends and fellow believers who look after us and check in on us, our teachers who teach us or who have taught us reading and writing, so we can read the Word of God and write articles about it, our congregations and pastors/rabbis who teach us God’s Word, opportunities to serve and minister to others using our spiritual gifts, the birth of our Messiah Yeshua, who clarified and fulfilled the whole Torah, our salvation through Messiah Yeshua’s death, our spiritual growth through HIS word, his mercy and longsuffering, not being punished when we deserve to be whipped within the inch of our lives, the promise of a World to Come where there will be no more suffering, chocolate egg-claires, and cream puffs, and the list can go on.

There is a custom of calling Thanksgiving “Turkey Day” yet why the emphasis on the turkey? Why don’t they call it “corn day” or “pumpkin pie day” we eat those things too right? The emphasis should be on the creator of the turkey, and He who makes all things to grow from the ground so that we might harvest and eat them.
So, Happy Thanksgiving to all, it is a very Biblical festivity.


The time of Thanksgiving is here. Time for Turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, squash, corn, and then watching football on the tube, (for those who are sports minded, that leaves me out). This is a time to give thanks to God for all of His blessings throughout the year.

I’d like to bring to mind two very important men, young men at that, who God used mightily. Even though these two men lived thousands of years apart, they had some similar experiences, and some contrasting experiences. These two men are; Yosef Ben Jacob (Joseph, the Son of Jacob) and “Tisquantum” or using his familiar name, “Squanto”, a native American who lived in what is now Massachusetts. How are they similar, how are they different?

Yosef of course we remember, was sold as a slave to slave traders and taken “south” to Egypt, where in Egypt, he of course learned the Egyptian language, summitted himself to G-d’s will. He was falsely accused, put into prison, gained favor by Pharaoh, and at the right time, saved all of Egypt from starvation, and not only Egypt, but those nations close around. He invited his family to come to Egypt, so Egypt became Joseph’s and his family’s permanent home. So Joseph was used by God to bring physical salvation to the near-by nations of the world.

A few thousand years pass by and we come to the year 1614. A young Native American from the Pawtuxet tribe in Massachusetts, namely “Tisquantum” or “Squanto” was captured by the English and sold as a slave and brought to Spain. He somehow escaped his masters in Spain and somehow, made it to England. In England, he was cared for by a family, taught to speak English, then in 1619, he returned to America only to find his tribe and family all deceased by cause of disease. He was adopted by the Wampanoag tribe and served as an interpreter for the pilgrims. He because a “mediator” between the tribe and the pilgrims. He taught the pilgrims to fish, grow corn, and, well, to survive! So how do these two men relate? How does God use them both in his divine plan of things, (since nothing is by chance).

Joseph is taken captive and sold to the Egyptians (taken south from Canaan). Squanto was taken captive and sold to the Spaniards (taken east to Spain) . Joseph submitted to his captors and learned Egyptian. Squanto, however, escaped his captors, went to England and learned English. Joseph remained in Egypt, Squanto returned home. Joseph is reunited with his family. Squanto receives two new families, the Wampanoag people and the pilgrims. Joseph intervenes and saves thousands of lives by providing food to those in Egypt and to those nations close to Egypt. Squanto saves the lives of the 50 remaining pilgrims by teaching them to fish, to plant corn and other veggies.

In time, more joined the pilgrims and the town of Plymouth was founded, then more settlers came, and now we have almost 7 million who live in Massachusetts. Joseph saves his family, and from his family of 70, now there are millions of the “Nation of Israel”. In the Nation of Israel, and in the extended families of Israel, there are those who cry out to G-d and serve Him who sits on the throne, the Lamb of G-d who has taken away the sins of the world. There are those in Massachusetts who also cry out to G-d, and serve Him who sits on the throne, The Lamb of G-d who has taken away the sins of the world.

Joseph had a large audience, while Squanto had a small audience, yet BOTH were used by G-d to preserve life. Was Squanto exposed to the gospel while in Spain and England? I sure hope so. I would say yes, by faith.
Here are some interesting facts which I just learned too. The Feast of Thanksgiving was for three days, and some believe that it took place in mid-October, to commemorate the Feast of Tabernacles and not in November.

The next year, 1622, the pilgrims suffered a dry and hot summer, so not much food could be harvested. Governor Bradford called for “Prayer and Fasting” the 29th of November. They all prayed for rain and G-d DID send rain. So, the “Thanksgiving” was for the rain, and it wasn’t a feast of food and drink it was of prayer and fasting! Well, at least that is what I just learned. Well, who knows for sure, I wasn’t around back then.

The year 1619 is special in my life since that was the year that some of my great ancestors came to America from England. On my paternal grandmother’s side of the family came John and Elizabeth Ellis, with young Richard Ellis. They settled in Watertown, which was close to (what would become) Plymouth.

Rabbi Ben Avraham