Archive for the ‘Genesis’ Category

Joseph Undercover

Posted: August 9, 2018 in Genesis, Uncategorized

Genesis 42-43, “Joseph Undercover”

“Reality TV” is usually anything but reality. People, cast according to personality, are often put into stressful situations, just to see how they are going to react. Sometimes it works well; other times, not so much. One formula that seems to work is found on a program called “Undercover Boss,” where the owner or CEO of a large company puts on a disguise, and works entry-level jobs alongside his/her own employees. Sometimes, the boss learns some good lessons along the way – other times, he/she discovers some bad practices (and people) that need quite a bit of correction.

Scripture has its own “undercover boss” in the person of Joseph. In this case, it wasn’t the boss who disguised himself to go among others – Joseph had assumed a new life, and the “others” came to him. Joseph immediately recognized the opportunity, and didn’t let it go to waste. He needed to learn if things had changed back home, and that would let him know how to proceed.

Back up a bit: remember that Joseph was where he was by the grace of God. Although he was betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery, which led to later imprisonment, things drastically changed for Joseph when he had the opportunity to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. In an instant, Joseph went from being a prisoner to the prime minister, empowered by Pharaoh as 2nd in command of all Egypt, wisely guiding the nation through seven years of abundant agricultural blessing and seven years of terrible famine.

As we’ll see, it was while Joseph governed Egypt during the famine that he suddenly came face to face with his brothers. It was not yet a happy reunion, for Joseph did not yet know their hearts. The last time he saw them, they had just barely steered away from murdering him, instead choosing to sell Joseph into slavery. Why? All because he was the favorite son of his father, and because God gave him dreams of his eventual superiority (something not even his father appreciated!). As bad as it had been for Joseph, he still had a baby brother to think about. What had happened to Benjamin? What if Benjamin had received not only the favor of their father, but also the jealousy of their brothers? Had the 10 brothers treated Benjamin like they treated Joseph? Joseph had to find out, so he decided to put his brothers to the test.

What follows is a bit of deception, manipulation, disguise, and intrigue. (IOW, Jacob hatches a plot worthy of his father Jacob!) Yet it wasn’t for Joseph to gain the upper hand…after all, he already had all the power he needed; it was to gain an understanding of his brothers’ hearts and minds. Joseph had changed in the past 20 years – had they? Had they ever come to a point of repentance, or were they just as nasty as ever? Joseph needed to find out, so he could know how to go forward.

In these chapters, we don’t necessarily see Joseph at his best (though we do see him at the height of his power) – but we do still see the sovereignty of God in action. Old promises are kept as dreams are fulfilled, and the transformation that God makes in the lives of His people is evident. God’s promises are always true. Go to Him for provision and grace, and while you do, be sure to believe Him at His word!

Genesis 42

  • Jacob sends his sons (42:1-5)

1 When Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, Jacob said to his sons, “Why do you look at one another?” 2 And he said, “Indeed I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down to that place and buy for us there, that we may live and not die.”

  1. Remember that the dreams of Pharaoh illustrated the years of the famine being so severe, that it was as if the initial seven years of abundance were swallowed up, never having existed. A famine like that would not be limited to one geographical/political nation…it covered the whole of the ancient near east. Canaan, being barely 300 miles away, was easily included in the scope of the disaster.
  2. Of course, that included the family of Jacob. Although the majority of his sons were grown with families of their own, the clan all resided together, conserving their resources. As the patriarch, Jacob noticed his sons and their families going hungry, yet no one was lifting a finger to address the problem. He basically tells them, “Why are you looking around, doing nothing? If you’re hungry, do something about it!” Word had spread that Egypt had food, so they might as well go there to acquire basic supplies.
  3. Keep in mind that there was no other reason to go to Egypt except the famine. In the past, Abraham got himself into trouble when he went down to Egypt, and although Isaac went among the Philistines, he refused to go too far from the borders of the Promised Land. In his younger days, Jacob had travelled north (where he acquired his wives), but never south to Egypt. Yet at this point, they had little choice. If food was in Egypt, to Egypt they would go…and this was the hand of God. God compelled them to go to a place they would never normally considered, because that would be the place of their salvation (and yes, eventual slavery). God had a plan at work, and He made things happen in such a way as people had little option except to follow through.
    1. God does the same thing with us, too. It was like we saw with Joseph: God uses even the tragic things in our lives to bring about His plan and His glory. If Joseph hadn’t been a slave, he would never have gone to prison. If Joseph hadn’t been in prison, he never would have been brought to Pharaoh and later exalted as governor. Likewise with Jacob & his sons. If they hadn’t been starving, they would never have gone to Egypt, never been reunited with Joseph, never been saved as a nation until the point that Moses would bring them out, etc. Even this terrible famine was part of the perfect plan of God.
    2. What terrible things has God allowed in your life right now? Even those things will be used for His glory! Of that, we have His guarantee: Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” This is the perfect companion verse for the story of Joseph, because we see it so clearly in action. Joseph knew & loved his God, and God caused even the worst things of Joseph’s experience to be used for good. Beloved, we are no less God’s children than Jacob or Joseph – in Christ, we belong to Him, we love Him & are loved by Him. Look to Jesus to bring good out of your personal tragedies…He will do it!

3 So Joseph’s ten brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. 4 But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he said, “Lest some calamity befall him.”

  1. There seems to have been some trust issues between Jacob and the 10 elder brothers. Although he believed their cock-and-bull story about Joseph being dead, it seems that he reserved the possibility in his mind that the brothers were somehow at fault for what happened to his favorite son. In all likelihood, by this point, Benjamin had become the new golden-child, also being a son of Rachel, and Jacob feared the brothers doing something similar to this boy as well.
  2. Underscores the lack of fatherly leadership Jacob gave to his family. He had a tendency to sweep things under the rug, refusing to deal with issues directly. If he had, he could have saved himself (and his family) a lot of heartache!

5 And the sons of Israel went to buy grain among those who journeyed, for the famine was in the land of Canaan.

  1. The sons of Israel weren’t the only foreigners seeking to buy Egyptian grain. The famine was something that affected a large swath of land, and many nations were drawn to Egypt.
  • Joseph meets his brothers (42:6-24)

6 Now Joseph was governor over the land; and it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down before him with their faces to the earth. 7 Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them, but he acted as a stranger to them and spoke roughly to them. Then he said to them, “Where do you come from?” And they said, “From the land of Canaan to buy food.” 8 So Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. 9 Then Joseph remembered the dreams which he had dreamed about them, …

  1. The 10 eldest sons of Jacob make the 300+ mile trek to Egypt, go to the palace (along with everyone else) to buy food, and follow the typical ancient protocol when meeting a foreign leader or head-of-state: bow. What happened in that moment? A twenty year old dream was fulfilled! God had been 100% true to his word. For every dream that Joseph interpreted for others that came true, the two dreams of his own had not. Year-in and year-out Joseph waited, but there seemed to be nothing. Now, seemingly out of nowhere, in walk his brothers and they don’t even think twice about bowing. They do it because it was proper, it was right…and because it was the promise of God!
    1. Do you sometimes doubt the word of God? Do you waver regarding His promises? He never fails! Joseph wanted 20 years before this word was kept, and it surely knocked him back on his heels as he witnessed it. Noah waited for decades and decades while he built the ark, always preaching the flood was coming, but never seeing it…until it happened. Even the promise of Jesus took time! When did God first promise Jesus? In the Garden of Eden. When did Jesus come? Not until 3BC, thousands of years later. But God did it. God kept His promise. He always does, and He always will. Trust Him!
  2. Apparently, Joseph instantly recognized brothers, and he tested them to see if they would recognize him. They didn’t. Too much had changed over the past 20 years. Faces were wizened and wrinkled, beards were thick upon his brothers though not upon Joseph, Joseph’s wardrobe was that of the Egyptians, and so was his speech. Although he understood Hebrew fluently, he had adapted to the land of Egypt and spoke to the others as and Egyptian. The “undercover” disguise was too thorough, and his brothers apparently didn’t even see a passing resemblance to the 17-year old that they had betrayed so long ago.
  3. Not only did he recognize his brothers, but Joseph recognized that God had finally fulfilled the dream. Don’t miss this part. Yes, God keeps His promises – that much as already been affirmed, and God’s promise would have been kept whether Joseph recognized it or not. But the only way Joseph would glorify God for His promises was if Joseph recognized God’s handiwork…and he did.
    1. Too often we’ll pray asking God to move, but then forget to thank Him when He does. Granted, we don’t read of Joseph’s personal worship time in the passage, but at least he recognized the fulfillment of the dream. How often do we recognize God’s hand within our own lives? We’ll pass it off to skill, luck, or other things; we need to give glory to God! Every good gift comes from God (Jas 1:17) – we need to give Him glory for these things!
  4. Joseph remembered the dreams he had years earlier, which caused him to remember a missing detail: only ten brothers were present. Where was Benjamin? That was cause for concern…

…and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see the nakedness of the land!” 10 And they said to him, “No, my lord, but your servants have come to buy food. 11 We are all one man’s sons; we are honest men; your servants are not spies.” 12 But he said to them, “No, but you have come to see the nakedness of the land.” 13 And they said, “Your servants are twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and in fact, the youngest is with our father today, and one is no more.” 14 But Joseph said to them, “It is as I spoke to you, saying, ‘You are spies!’

  1. Why the accusation? To see how they responded. Would they make excuses? Would it shake them up? The brothers answered truthfully, as far as they knew. But Joseph’s accusation would have caught them so much off-guard that they wouldn’t have had time to come up with a credible story. So they just told him about themselves and their family background: they were 12 brothers, with one back home, and one dead.
  2. Even so, that wasn’t enough. They claimed Benjamin was alive, but Joseph needed to test them to see if they had harmed Benjamin. Keep in mind that Joseph had little reason to trust his brothers at their word. He needed to have some way to verify what it was they claimed…

15 In this manner you shall be tested: By the life of Pharaoh, you shall not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. 16 Send one of you, and let him bring your brother; and you shall be kept in prison, that your words may be tested to see whether there is any truth in you; or else, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies!” 17 So he put them all together in prison three days.

  1. All the brothers were imprisoned at first. The original idea was to jail all ten, then send one home to collect Benjamin while the nine remained. Would it have worked? Almost certainly. Was it necessary? Even so, it was a bit of retribution from Joseph. He gave his brothers a taste of what he had to endure. Joseph had been in the prison for a minimum of two years; they were there only three days.
  2. While there, the brothers feared what was to happen, but Joseph had a bit of opportunity to cool off. He soon came up with an alternate plan…

18 Then Joseph said to them the third day, “Do this and live, for I fear God: 19 If you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined to your prison house; but you, go and carry grain for the famine of your houses. 20 And bring your youngest brother to me; so your words will be verified, and you shall not die.” And they did so.

  1. One brother would be imprisoned on behalf of all. It was as if one life would serve as a deposit for the rest. This would have been seen to be an act of mercy on Joseph’s part, as this powerful leader let the rest of the brothers go. Even so, it demonstrated that Joseph still held all the cards, and if they wanted to see the 10th brother again, they would have to present Benjamin to him. Benjamin’s life was to be proof of their honesty, if they had any honesty at all. At this point, the brothers have no choice. Joseph had them over a barrel.
  2. Question: We can understand why Joseph did all of this, but was it right? After all, it seems pretty obvious from the text that Joseph is in many ways a type (pre-cursor) of Jesus Christ, but this isn’t something Jesus would do. Jesus does not deceive us, nor does He coerce us. He presents Himself to us openly and honestly, and invites us to follow Him in faith, freely offering us grace and forgiveness. Even with the unrepentant, Jesus is honest in His justice and wrath. At the Great White Throne, unbelievers will know exactly why they are punished. So what’s going on with Joseph? We need to remember that even though Joseph might be a type of Christ, he isn’t Types do not have to be 100% for them to be true. There are several times in the lives of Moses and David and Solomon that they prefigure Christ, but they do not mirror Him 100%. (If they did, they would be perfect & sinless, and they definitely were not!) So no – it seems here that Joseph did not mirror the Lord Jesus at this point. It’s not that he acted with wicked intent, but he might have gone about seeking the right thing in the wrong way.
    1. We can easily find ourselves doing the same thing. Not that we intend evil, or want to act contrary to the honest, holy, and merciful character of God – but we slip into trying to accomplish things through our own will and plans, rather than falling back on what the Lord is doing. It’s possible to be both right and wrong at the same time – and there is forgiveness when we find ourselves in that position. As we deal with the sins of others, we need to be mindful of our own sinful tendencies, knowing that we can easily fall.
  3. In any case, God used even Joseph’s test (whether it was right or wrong) to work His purposes…

21 Then they said to one another, “We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us.” 22 And Reuben answered them, saying, “Did I not speak to you, saying, ‘Do not sin against the boy’; and you would not listen? Therefore behold, his blood is now required of us.”

  1. The brothers recognize this as their deserved punishment. 20 years earlier they had abandoned/sold one of their brothers to strangers; now they were forced by a stranger to leave one of their brothers behind. Not to mention there was the connection between the brother they wronged & the brother they were commanded to bring to Egypt. It was too much of a coincidence for Joseph’s younger brother to be specifically commanded by the Egyptian governor for the brothers to know this wasn’t a “coincidence” at all. They were guilty concerning Joseph, and the time had come to pay the price. (We reap what we sow!)
  2. In the midst of all of this, Reuben’s “I told you so” rings a bit hollow. Yes, Reuben tried to save Joseph’s life, but he also maintained the deception of Joseph’s death in front of his father. Reuben had not pursued the Midianite traders, nor had he taken earlier responsibility. Although Reuben did have a bit of a plan to save Joseph, he was mainly interested in saving his own skin – something which was surely obvious to the rest.

23 But they did not know that Joseph understood them, for he spoke to them through an interpreter. 24 And he turned himself away from them and wept. Then he returned to them again, and talked with them. And he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes.

  1. Unbeknownst to the brothers, Joseph was listening to everything. Perhaps he learned of Reuben’s act for the first time, and that overwhelmed his emotions.
  2. Why did he choose to keep Simeon? Because after Reuben, Simeon was the next-eldest son, thus bore the weight of responsibility for what the other brothers did to Joseph. Thus Simeon would wait in Egyptian prison for as long as it took for the brothers to return with Benjamin. (Which would take some time!)
  • Brothers return to Jacob (42:25-38)

25 Then Joseph gave a command to fill their sacks with grain, to restore every man’s money to his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. Thus he did for them.

  1. Was this grace? Was it part of Joseph’s test? Scripture never explains this, and the money is only briefly addressed in Chapter 43. Perhaps Joseph wanted the brothers to be set on edge, afraid to return – or perhaps he truly wanted to ensure that his family clan had enough to eat. It’s impossible to know his motives; we know only the facts of what happened. And part of that was that it caused them to be quite afraid…

26 So they loaded their donkeys with the grain and departed from there. 27 But as one of them opened his sack to give his donkey feed at the encampment, he saw his money; and there it was, in the mouth of his sack. 28 So he said to his brothers, “My money has been restored, and there it is, in my sack!” Then their hearts failed them and they were afraid, saying to one another, “What is this that God has done to us?”

  1. No doubt the money was meant to be found much later on, but it was discovered by one brother early. It sent the group into a panic, but they were too afraid to go back and confess the issue then & there. Who knows what would have been the result?

29 Then they went to Jacob their father in the land of Canaan and told him all that had happened to them, saying: 30 “The man who is lord of the land spoke roughly to us, and took us for spies of the country. 31 But we said to him, ‘We are honest men; we are not spies. 32 We are twelve brothers, sons of our father; one is no more, and the youngest is with our father this day in the land of Canaan.’ 33 Then the man, the lord of the country, said to us, ‘By this I will know that you are honest men: Leave one of your brothers here with me, take food for the famine of your households, and be gone. 34 And bring your youngest brother to me; so I shall know that you are not spies, but that you are honest men. I will grant your brother to you, and you may trade in the land.’ ”

  1. They reported back to their father, and gave a summary of what happened. Only a few details are different, such as mentioning the brother “no more” before Benjamin (rather than the reverse). They left out some important details, as well: such as the group jailing, and the subsequent jailing of Simeon (though his absence was surely obvious and later explained).
  2. Keep in mind that Scripture isn’t always a transcript of everything that was said; it’s often a summary. The bottom line is simple: the brothers went home and told their father of their predicament. Yes, they had food, but their troubles weren’t over. In fact, they were only about to discover how much trouble they actually had…

35 Then it happened as they emptied their sacks, that surprisingly each man’s bundle of money was in his sack; and when they and their father saw the bundles of money, they were afraid. 36 And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me: Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you want to take Benjamin. All these things are against me.”

  1. Early on, they knew one brother had his money returned to him. Now they discovered that the same thing had happened to all 10 sons. Panic! The brothers feared, and Jacob assumed the worst, thinking that three of his twelve sons would soon be dead.
  2. Question: Where is anyone’s faith? Granted, the fear was understandable in the moment, considering that they had to go back and face this Egyptian governor looking like thieves on top of spies. Even so, there’s no mention of God in any of this – no recollection of His covenant. Jacob had received personal visions of the Lord, and had been promised blessing by YHWH Himself. Where was Israel’s faith in God? At this point (as it happens with so many of us), Jacob/Israel was operating in his flesh, thinking only of his circumstances rather than the God of his circumstances. And when Jacob’s eyes were everywhere except upon God, he despaired.
    1. It’s no different with us. When Peter had his eyes on Jesus, he could walk on water; it was when he looked at the waves that he sank. When our eyes are on Jesus, we receive the peace that passes understanding; when our eyes are everywhere else, we despair. What does that tell us? Simply this: despair is a choice. No Christian has to fear to the point of panic. Sure, we’ll get caught off-guard every now & again, but no Christian ever has to live in fear. We are never guaranteed an automatic escape from our troubles, but we are guaranteed that Jesus will be with us during them. Look to Jesus, and keep looking! When you do, you will know His peace.

37 Then Reuben spoke to his father, saying, “Kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you; put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.” 38 But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is left alone. If any calamity should befall him along the way in which you go, then you would bring down my gray hair with sorrow to the grave.”

  1. Stupid, rash offer from Reuben. This was born of flesh; not the Spirit! As if the execution of Jacob’s grandsons by his own hand would ease the pain of losing the life of one of sons…it was ridiculous on its face. And it was flatly rejected by Jacob. He neither trusted Benjamin with the group of brothers, nor with his eldest son. (1) Reuben had already broken his father’s trust when he slept with his father’s concubine. (2) Why believe Reuben would protect Jacob’s son, when Reuben was so willing to sacrifice his own two sons? As bad ideas come, Reuben’s ranked up with the worst of them.
  2. Question: What’s the difference between Reuben offering up his sons for Benjamin, and God offering up His Son for us? Much! (1) Christ was not executed in revenge for our sin; He was the perfect substitute for us. (2) Benjamin hadn’t done anything within the family worthy of death, requiring retribution; we have. We’re truly guilty of heinous sin against God, and without a substitute sacrifice for us, we’re lost. (3) Reuben’s character is not that of God, nor were his sons that of Christ. There is a holy perfection in the work of God that cannot be duplicated by sinful men. Again, Reuben acted in corrupt flesh; God planned out in holy justice and mercy. (4) Even in terms of sacrifice, sinful man cannot die for sinful man. What sinful man needs is sinless Man, and that can only be provided in Christ. Bottom line: Reuben’s offer was nothing like that of the Lord’s; any similarities are superficial at best. (There is no replacement for the gospel! There is only one perfect sacrifice!)

Genesis 43

  • Jacob sends his sons, again (43:1-14)

1 Now the famine was severe in the land. 2 And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the grain which they had brought from Egypt, that their father said to them, “Go back, buy us a little food.” 3 But Judah spoke to him, saying, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ 4 If you send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food. 5 But if you will not send him, we will not go down; for the man said to us, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ ”

  1. Time had passed (though we don’t know how much), and things were getting desperate. The supplies Joseph had originally sent were gone, and the clan was getting hungry once again. Jacob couldn’t be as forceful with his command to buy food as he had been the first time, but he still knew Egypt was their only hope for survival. Even so, without sending Benjamin, Egypt wasn’t an option. Judah tried to speak logically to his father, but Jacob wasn’t willing to hear it…

6 And Israel said, “Why did you deal so wrongfully with me as to tell the man whether you had still another brother?” 7 But they said, “The man asked us pointedly about ourselves and our family, saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?’ And we told him according to these words. Could we possibly have known that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?”

  1. Jacob was still blaming the brothers for telling the Egyptian governor about Benjamin. His trust in his older sons had not yet been restored, and this was the worst-case scenario in his mind. Of course, the brothers weren’t to be blamed – the question posed to them was totally unexpected. What else could they have said, other than the truth?
  2. That’s when Judah proposed a far better plan than Reuben…

8 Then Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. 9 I myself will be surety for him; from my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever. 10 For if we had not lingered, surely by now we would have returned this second time.”

  1. Judah offered himself as a substitution. He basically vowed on his life, that he would give his own life for that of Benjamin, not allowing anything to happen to his younger brother. What was the difference between Reuben’s offer & Judah’s? One was thoughtless, ill-planned, and shifted responsibility; the other was selfless and personal. Reuben was willing to let his sons die; Judah offered to personally die.
  2. In this moment, there is another type of Christ seen among the family of Israel: Judah. This is what Jesus did for us: He personally laid His own life down so that we could live. He gave Himself as a ransom for our sin, so that we could be free. He tasted death so that we could receive life. This is the gospel!
  3. BTW – Don’t miss the character change in Judah. The last time Genesis told the reader of Judah, it was in Chapter 38 when he treated his daughter-in-law Tamar so shamefully, only finally taking responsibility when publicly confronted with his own sin. That event seems to have been the starting point of a road of humility for Judah, to the point that he now acts selflessly, seeking the welfare of others before his own. It goes to show the type of transformation that can come in a person humbly submitted to the Lord God!
  4. This time, Jacob/Israel agreed…

11 And their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: Take some of the best fruits of the land in your vessels and carry down a present for the man—a little balm and a little honey, spices and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds. 12 Take double money in your hand, and take back in your hand the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks; perhaps it was an oversight.

13 Take your brother also, and arise, go back to the man. 14 And may God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may release your other brother and Benjamin. If I am bereaved, I am bereaved!”

  1. They decided to send some food to the Egyptian governor. Although it might seem strange to send food to someone, when you are so desperately hungry that you need to buy food, it makes sense. Apparently there were enough nuts to serve as a present; but not enough for an entire clan to survive. Better to give up a little now, in order to receive more later. In some ways, this was similar to the bribe Jacob sent to Esau (Gen 32). The whole idea was to put the best foot forward in a bad situation, and demonstrate humility to the opposing party.
  2. Ultimately, Jacob submits himself to whatever was to come: “If I am bereaved, I am bereaved.” If Benjamin is lost, then so be it. Question: is this fatalism, or faith? Different scholars come to different conclusions, but Jacob/Israel’s statement at the end of verse 14 cannot be separated from what he says at the beginning of verse 14: “May God Almighty give you mercy.” God Almighty = El Shaddai (אֵל שַׁדַּי), the self-sufficient, omnipotent God. The last time this title was used for God was when God appeared to Jacob in Bethel, reaffirming his name change to Israel (Gen 25:11). Thus, this was not fatalism; it was faith. Even in Jacob’s pessimism, he understood God was in control, and he entrusted himself into the hands of his Lord. There was nothing God Almighty would allow him to face that God Almighty could not handle. (And there’s not! He can do it all!)
  • Joseph sees his brothers, again (43:15-25)

15 So the men took that present and Benjamin, and they took double money in their hand, and arose and went down to Egypt; and they stood before Joseph. 16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Take these men to my home, and slaughter an animal and make ready; for these men will dine with me at noon.” 17 Then the man did as Joseph ordered, and the man brought the men into Joseph’s house.

  1. How much time had elapsed, we don’t know. It was likely a journey of 2-3 weeks between Shechem and Egypt. Eventually they arrived, and prepared themselves to meet with this mysterious governor once again.
  2. Joseph initially saw his brothers, but he didn’t yet engage with the personally. Instead, it seems that he already had a plan, and he set things into motion.

18 Now the men were afraid because they were brought into Joseph’s house; and they said, “It is because of the money, which was returned in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may make a case against us and seize us, to take us as slaves with our donkeys.”

  1. They feared the worst (like their father). Of course, in their defense, they had reason to fear. Being brought to the home of the Grand Vizier of Egypt (governor / Prime Minister) might indicate that he was going to enslave them to be servants of his house. (Not unlike what happened to Joseph with Potiphar!)

19 When they drew near to the steward of Joseph’s house, they talked with him at the door of the house, 20 and said, “O sir, we indeed came down the first time to buy food; 21 but it happened, when we came to the encampment, that we opened our sacks, and there, each man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight; so we have brought it back in our hand. 22 And we have brought down other money in our hands to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.” 23 But he said, “Peace be with you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks; I had your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them.

  1. In their panic, the brothers explain their situation to the first servant they can find, hoping to gain an ally who can speak on their behalf to his master. Told the servant what had happened, and what was their current intent.
  2. The servant had no words of condemnation; only peace (shalom). The brothers could calm down, for nothing evil was going to happen. The servant claimed to have had their money all along. Question: Did the servant lie? We don’t know which servant Joseph used to replace the money in the brothers’ sacks, but it is highly unlikely that the rest of the household servants were ignorant to what had happened. In this case, the servant is keeping up with the deception of Joseph. For good or ill, that’s what happened.

24 So the man brought the men into Joseph’s house and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their donkeys feed. 25 Then they made the present ready for Joseph’s coming at noon, for they heard that they would eat bread there.

  1. Cleaned up, got ready to see the governor, and meet their fate. Can you imagine the butterflies in their stomachs?
  • Dining with Joseph (43:26-34)

26 And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed down before him to the earth.

  1. Joseph’s dream was fulfilled a second time…this time with all 11 brothers, more along the lines of his second dream (though without his parents).

27 Then he asked them about their well-being, and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” 28 And they answered, “Your servant our father is in good health; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads down and prostrated themselves.

  1. Joseph obviously longed for news of home, asking as much as he dared without giving away his identity. He could see Benjamin, but he knew his father remained in Canaan. All he desired was to be reunited as a family again.
  2. Dream fulfilled a 3rd time! Never doubt the promises of God!

29 Then he lifted his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your younger brother of whom you spoke to me?” And he said, “God be gracious to you, my son.” 30 Now his heart yearned for his brother; so Joseph made haste and sought somewhere to weep. And he went into his chamber and wept there. 31 Then he washed his face and came out; and he restrained himself, and said, “Serve the bread.”

  1. Understandably, Joseph was overwhelmed with emotion. Surely, this would have seemed strange to the 11 brothers, but they didn’t yet know the truth.

32 So they set him a place by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves; because the Egyptians could not eat food with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians.

  1. It’s well-documented that Egyptians rarely ate with foreigners. It makes one wonder if Joseph ate by himself due to his exalted position, or due to the continued bias of the Egyptians. Even as he ruled over them, they still considered him an outsider.

33 And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth; and the men looked in astonishment at one another. 34 Then he took servings to them from before him, but Benjamin’s serving was five times as much as any of theirs. So they drank and were merry with him.

  1. Joseph assigned seats for the rest, all based upon birth order. This should have provided a massive hint! And if the seating arrangements weren’t enough, there was the extra blessing for Benjamin, being Joseph’s full brother. Certainly they noticed the extra plates and food in front of the youngest brother, but for some reason they didn’t connect the dots back to Joseph. They probably just thought the governor played favorites with the younger, for his own reasons.
  2. Even with the obvious favoritism, notice the reaction from the other brothers: there was none! Instead, they rejoiced with him, and “were merry.” How different this was from their response to the favoritism shown Joseph! It wasn’t only Judah, but all the brothers had changed. That’s not to say they were all perfect, but they certainly weren’t what they were before…and that was to Joseph, a wonderful sight to behold!

Conclusion:

Chapter 43 concludes in the middle of dinner, with everyone joyful around the table…but it’s not over yet. Joseph has one more test for his brothers, and then finally would come the big reveal. But already, Joseph (and the reader) has seen a change. Judah has been humbled, and acts in selfless love. The other brothers show remorse over the past, and can rejoice in blessings given to someone else. They still have problems (like anyone else), but God’s work upon them is clear.

As for Joseph, he experienced some change of his own. Joseph never seemed to lose faith in God, but he still had to be content with waiting year after year for God’s promise to show itself true. Now it had! What Joseph had long shown to others was now shown to himself. God was (and is) faithful!

God is faithful. He is sovereign, all-powerful, and truly good. He works in ways we can see (such as in the humility of the brothers), and in ways we cannot (such as the famine as a tool to bring the brothers to Egypt). We need to trust Him in all those times, and simply take Him at His word!

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Genesis 41, “Joseph: A Cinderella Story”

We call something a “Cinderella story” when a person goes from rags to riches, from shame to fame. It’s when a person who was once lost in obscurity seems to suddenly shoot into the spotlight, and receive all kinds of honor that was previously denied. Sometimes it’s used of underdog sports teams that end up winning the championship – or movie stars that went from being unknown to an overnight sensation.

To some, the story of Joseph would fit the description well. One day, he’s a prisoner in the Egyptian dungeon, and the next day (literally) he’s the Prime Minister of Egypt. Talk about rags to riches! One could hardly rise faster and further within a nation if he/she tried! That said, Joseph didn’t do it alone, nor did it happen by chance. The fictional Cinderella had her fairy godmother, but Joseph had Someone far better: the very real Almighty God! God had previously led Joseph to where he was in the prison, but God had plans for Joseph far beyond the prison walls. In fact, God had a plan for Joseph beyond even the glories of the highest level of government. Even Joseph’s Cinderella rise from the ashes was meant for something greater: the preservation of the Hebrew people, and ultimately, the preservation of the Messianic line.

What we read in Genesis 41 is glorious, but we need to keep in mind that it is not the completion of the work of God in Joseph’s life; it was simply one more step Joseph needed to take in order for the covenant promises of God to remain alive. God had ordered things perfectly; Joseph simply needed to be faithful in the moment and watch God work things out in real-time.

Remember how he got to where he was. As a 17 year old lad, Joseph was the favorite son of his father Jacob (Israel), and he had received two dreams from God clearly showing him (and everyone else) that Joseph would be seen as superior to the rest of his family, as they would eventually bow to him. This angered his brothers, arousing their jealousy, and they took it out on Joseph at their first opportunity. They wanted to kill him, but settled for selling him into slavery and letting their father believe that Joseph was dead. In their minds, the issue was over, even though Jacob swore to go to his grave in grief.

Joseph’s slavery eventually took him to Egypt, where he was sold to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s captain of the guard. Joseph was faithful in his duties, and rose to the highest position of the household servants when Potiphar’s wife took an interest in Joseph and tried to seduce him. Maintaining his purity unto the Lord, Joseph refused her, and she took out her vengeance on him through false accusations of attempted rape. Potiphar threw Joseph into prison, and he had to start all over again…this time, from a far lower position than where he had been in the past.

Even so, Joseph was faithful, and rose in the ranks among the inmates until he was the most trusted person serving the prison-keeper (warden). The warden soon entrusted Joseph with serving a couple of Pharaoh’s personal staff who had displeased their king: a butler and a baker, each of which who had a troubling dream. Joseph interpreted each dream accurately, predicting that the butler would be restored to service, whereas the baker would be hanged…and it all came true.

At this point, one would think Joseph had an inside-track, which he tried to use to his advantage, asking the butler to remember him before Pharaoh, and put in a good word for him to the king. Although Joseph was faithful in every circumstance, he knew he didn’t belong in prison or in slavery, and he just wanted to go home. Hopefully the butler could help him.

As it turns out, the butler forgot all about Joseph, and two more years pass. Two years of waiting, of remaining in the dungeons, of praying to God asking when all of God’s promises to Joseph would come true. God had been faithful on every other count – why hadn’t He been faithful to Joseph? Of course, He had…even in those days in prison. God was working out His plan exactly according to His perfect timing, which was soon about to come to a head. God was in control of every one of Joseph’s circumstances at all times – Joseph simply needed to wait upon God and trust Him. So do we.

Genesis 41

  • Pharaoh’s need of an interpreter (41:1-13)
  • The dreams (1-8)

1 Then it came to pass, at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh had a dream; and behold, he stood by the river. 2 Suddenly there came up out of the river seven cows, fine looking and fat; and they fed in the meadow. 3 Then behold, seven other cows came up after them out of the river, ugly and gaunt, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the river. 4 And the ugly and gaunt cows ate up the seven fine looking and fat cows. So Pharaoh awoke.

  1. While Joseph sat in prison, the narrative changes to Pharaoh and his dreams. Why this account of the dreams is included, when Pharaoh is going to describe them again to Joseph is somewhat uncertain. Some have noted that it goes along with a general theme of “two’s,” but that seems rather contrived. After all, the other pairs of dreams were only described once, so there’s no reason why Pharaoh’s wouldn’t be as well. It could simply set up the idea that although Pharaoh had clear dreams, he did not have a clear understanding – neither he, nor his magicians and counselors.
  2. Dream #1: Cows. Although it might seem strange to dream about livestock, it makes a bit more sense for a king of an agricultural-based economic nation to dream of cattle. Rather like us having dreams about our workplaces. In this case, the cows were extreme versions of one another. On one hand, there were seven really good-looking cows, fattened and ready for slaughter; on the other hand, there were seven terrible-looking skin-and-bone cows, with their hides basically falling off of them. What really made it bizarre was that the skinny cows ate the fat cows (the opposite of what one might expect if the cows were to be cannibalistic), and that’s when Pharaoh woke up, no doubt totally confused.
  3. The description of the cattle is interesting. “Fat” = healthy, fat-fleshed. “Ugly” = evil, bad. (רַע) IOW, there’s more to this than how the cows look; what they are is what is represented. There was a moral quality to these cows, certainly adding to the confusion of Pharaoh.
  4. His confusion wasn’t enough to give him insomnia, because apparently he went right back to sleep and dreamed another dream…

5 He slept and dreamed a second time; and suddenly seven heads of grain came up on one stalk, plump and good. 6 Then behold, seven thin heads, blighted by the east wind, sprang up after them. 7 And the seven thin heads devoured the seven plump and full heads. So Pharaoh awoke, and indeed, it was a dream.

  1. Dream #2: Grain, or “heads of grain”…think ears of corn, or whole heads of wheat; not individual kernels. Again, the symbols reflected the agricultural economy, and again there was seven good and seven bad. And although grain doesn’t “eat,” the blighted (dried out, thin, scrawny) grain ate up the healthy grain.
  2. There’s a parallel description to 1stPlump” = same word as “fat” in 41:2. Also, the plump grain is described as “good.” (טוֹב) Put it together with the first dream, and there’s a distinction between good and evil. Again, there’s a moral aspect being represented that Pharaoh just couldn’t figure out.

8 Now it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. And Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them for Pharaoh.

  1. Pharaoh had these confusing dreams, but he also had a large staff of counselors. Surely he could appeal to these men, right? There was no help from his numerous magicians and wise men. The best that Egypt had to offer were of no use.
  2. Surely by this point, Pharaoh was getting pretty frustrated. Here he was, the most powerful man in the world (at the time), and he had two dreams that left him totally confused, with no interpretation in sight. There had to be someone in his kingdom who could help him, but who? That’s when the light turned on for his butler…
  • The butler remembers (9-13)

9 Then the chief butler spoke to Pharaoh, saying: “I remember my faults this day. 10 When Pharaoh was angry with his servants, and put me in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, both me and the chief baker, 11 we each had a dream in one night, he and I. Each of us dreamed according to the interpretation of his own dream. 12 Now there was a young Hebrew man with us there, a servant of the captain of the guard. And we told him, and he interpreted our dreams for us; to each man he interpreted according to his own dream. 13 And it came to pass, just as he interpreted for us, so it happened. He restored me to my office, and he hanged him.”

  1. Did the butler have “faults” (sin, חֵטְא)? You bet: Two years’ worth! Joseph had been totally accurate in interpreting the dreams of the butler, and the only thing he asked was that the butler make mention of him to Pharaoh. Such a small request from a fellow prisoner, and one would think it would have been the very first thing the butler said to Pharaoh upon his restoration. It wasn’t to be the case. Joseph immediately fell victim to out-of-sight, out-of-mind, as the butler completely forgot about him for two full years. Truly, he had sinned against his friend!
    1. Even so, in this is the sovereignty of God. The butler may have sinned against Joseph for two years, but for God, the two-year timing was absolutely perfect. Think about it: if the butler had mentioned Joseph earlier, Pharaoh may have thought it interesting, but done nothing about it. Or maybe, Pharaoh would have even pardoned Joseph, and Joseph would have left Egypt entirely. Either way, Joseph would not have come up in this future conversation & Pharaoh would have been left without his help. Thus, Joseph would never have won Pharaoh’s favor, would never have become the Prime Minister, would never have saved Egypt, been restored to his family, or kept his family alive during the famine. Those two additional years that Joseph spent in prison were necessary It was all part of the perfect plan of God.
    2. Have you ever considered what hardships and trials you suffer through today that might actually be necessary for something greater down the road? Perhaps the things you endure today are not merely used & turned by God for His glory, but are specifically intended by God for His greater plan. Some of these things are impossible to know from our current perspective, but once we get to heaven and look back on our lives, we might be surprised to discover just how many of our worst days were crucially necessary in order for us to experience some of the best days that followed.
    3. Bottom line: Trust the sovereignty of God! Our Heavenly Father truly knows what is best. The things He allows for us are things of which He is fully aware. He will not let His children go, nor will He allow our circumstances to lead anywhere else except His glory.
  2. As for the butler, he recounted the events of Chapter 40, reminding Pharaoh of how Pharaoh had his butler and baker jailed at the same time (perhaps an event that the butler did not want Pharaoh reminded of!), how each man dreamed while in prison, and how the individual dreams were interpreted by a Hebrew slave (unnamed by the butler at this time). Not only were the dreams interpreted, but more importantly, the interpretations were true. Although no specific request was made by the butler to have Joseph released, his implication was obvious: if Joseph could do this for Pharaoh’s servants, then Joseph could do the same thing for Pharaoh himself.
  3. Pharaoh took the not-so-subtle hint, and acted immediately…
  • Joseph’s interpretation and application (41:14-36)
  • Dreams recounted for Joseph (14-24)

14 Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him quickly out of the dungeon; and he shaved, changed his clothing, and came to Pharaoh. 15 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that you can understand a dream, to interpret it.” 16 So Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.”

  1. Joseph summoned and made presentable. There’s a bit of an interesting cultural difference highlighted between the Hebrews and Egyptians. Although Joseph would have grown a beard in the prison, beards were normal among Hebrews & culturally expected. Egyptians, on the other hand, were clean-shaven. If Joseph was to appear before Pharaoh, then he had to look his best according to Egyptian guidelines. Although a Hebrew being shaved might elsewhere be a sign of disgrace, here it was a sign of honor.
  2. Once Joseph was brought to the royal court, Pharaoh made his request. Pharaoh had a dream, and Joseph had a reputation. The king basically says, “Let’s see if you’re as good as what my butler says you are. Give it your best shot.” Surely to Pharaoh’s surprise, Joseph said the rumors were wrong! Joseph didn’t have the capability of doing this; it was all God. What an excellent answer! Joseph maintained his own personal humility, giving glory to the Lord. Every dream and interpretation he ever had was given him by God, and Joseph wasn’t about to take credit for the things God did. God deserved all the glory. (One wonders if Daniel didn’t remember this event, when he spoke to Nebuchadnezzar about his own dream; Daniel 2:22-28.)
    1. The same principle is important with all spiritual gifts. If God gives it, God should receive the glory for it. Spiritual gifts are never about us; they’re about Him. That’s just as true regarding the gifts of service, hospitality, and giving, as it is regarding the word of knowledge, faith, and healing.
  3. Interestingly, Joseph promised that God would give Pharaoh “an answer of peace,” (שָׁלוֹם). How did Joseph know? This was faith! God had always given a word when a word was required, and Joseph had no reason to question it now. He relied on God’s past experiences for the present times. Joseph had no doubt at all (1) that God would give an answer, and (2) that God’s answer would bring peace to Pharaoh. How could this be guaranteed? Because if the answer is of God, then it will be right. Peace is the natural result from being reconciled to the will of God. Even if there were hard truths to face (such as seven years of famine), facing those things while being in the will of God is far better than facing them without Him. God would give the peace and strength required for anything yet to come.
    1. The key here is simple: when we face it with God, we experience God’s peace. Too often in our prayers, we’re asking for solutions for our problems, most often some form of supernatural escape. Yet that’s not always God’s will for us. For Joseph, God wanted him to remain in prison for two extra years – for Pharaoh, God guaranteed that seven years of famine were on the way. God had zero plans for Joseph or Pharaoh to escape those trials. What God wanted was for them to rely upon Him and His provision during those trials. That’s where the peace came from. Think of Paul, and his thorn in the flesh. God had no intention of removing that thorn, no matter how many times Paul prayed. What God desired was that Paul rely upon God Himself: 2 Corinthians 12:9, “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” What we most need in the midst of our trials is not escape; it’s Jesus. Like the old bumper sticker says: “Know Jesus, know peace; No Jesus, no peace.”

17 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph: “Behold, in my dream I stood on the bank of the river. 18 Suddenly seven cows came up out of the river, fine looking and fat; and they fed in the meadow. 19 Then behold, seven other cows came up after them, poor and very ugly and gaunt, such ugliness as I have never seen in all the land of Egypt. 20 And the gaunt and ugly cows ate up the first seven, the fat cows. 21 When they had eaten them up, no one would have known that they had eaten them, for they were just as ugly as at the beginning. So I awoke.

  1. Pharaoh recited his dreams for Joseph, adding a few details along the way. For instance, the ugly cows were so ugly, that Pharaoh had never seen anything of the sort. These were hideous cattle that stood out in all of their “evil/bad” quality. And this evil totally did away with the good. When the ugly cows ate the fat cows, all the evidence of what was good was gone, and the ugly remained unchanged. It was as if the seven ugly cows hadn’t eaten a single bite – no nourishment was gained.

22 Also I saw in my dream, and suddenly seven heads came up on one stalk, full and good. 23 Then behold, seven heads, withered, thin, and blighted by the east wind, sprang up after them. 24 And the thin heads devoured the seven good heads. So I told this to the magicians, but there was no one who could explain it to me.”

  1. Same thing with the heads of grain – this time, there was no major difference from the earlier description.
  2. One of Pharaoh’s frustrations lay in the fact that his magicians and wise men were no help. How could they be? Only God knows what is in our hearts and minds – only God knows the truth behind the dreams He gives, and even the random thoughts of our subconscious. When we need to know truth, we have to go to God. Humans (no matter how “wise” they believe themselves to be) are no substitute for the Lord!
  • Joseph’s interpretation (25-32)

25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do: 26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads are seven years; the dreams are one. 27 And the seven thin and ugly cows which came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty heads blighted by the east wind are seven years of famine. 28 This is the thing which I have spoken to Pharaoh. God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do.

  1. One wonders if there is any time gap between verse 24-25. Did Joseph need any time for himself to go pray and wait for God to give him an interpretation? Or was it immediate? The text doesn’t tell us, though there seems to be an implication that Joseph did not hesitate in giving an answer. What confused Pharaoh was obvious to Joseph – only by the grace of God.
  2. One thing that was crystal clear was the idea that although there were two sets of symbols, it was only one dream. Both individual visions was one set of dreams, teaching the same lesson through different imagery. Two sets of seven years were at stake, which Joseph explained (and would explain more later on) as years of plenty and years of famine.
  3. Another thing that was crystal clear was that this dream was certain of the future. God had made His plans, and He revealed them to Pharaoh. There’s an emphasis not only on the certainty of these future plans, but also on God’s grace in revealing these things to Pharaoh. Pharaoh may have been king of the most powerful nation at the time, but he didn’t have all power and all Those things belong to the Lord God, and God is not obliged to share His knowledge with anyone. The fact that He did (and still does!) is an act of grace. God had reached out to Pharaoh with information impossible for Pharaoh to otherwise know, all of which underscored its importance. This wasn’t a message to ignore!
    1. Any message from God is a message that demands our attention. Such is the case with the gospel! We don’t deserve the grace offered us by Jesus through His cross and resurrection, nor do we deserve to be told of the grace offered us by Jesus. There is grace in merely hearing the good news of Jesus. That’s something we dare not ignore! God has told us of His love and His salvation…pay attention, and respond!
  4. Joseph continued his explanation of the dream…

29 Indeed seven years of great plenty will come throughout all the land of Egypt; 30 but after them seven years of famine will arise, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine will deplete the land. 31 So the plenty will not be known in the land because of the famine following, for it will be very severe. 32 And the dream was repeated to Pharaoh twice because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.

  1. Seven cows/grain = seven years. There would be 7 good years filled with abundance, and 7 bad years filled with famine. It would be extremely severe, with the famine being so bad that the abundance of the previous seven years would be forgotten. Thus, it would be like the skinny cows eating the fat cows, with the skinny cows remaining skinny. No matter how good the 1st seven years would be, the evil of the 2nd seven years would be overwhelming.
  2. And this would not change – there was no escape from this future. This thing was established by God, and the time was at hand. IOW, there was no time to wait. Preparations had to made now, if they were to be made at all. God had been gracious in revealing this future to Pharaoh, but now it was up to Pharaoh to do something about it. Pharaoh wouldn’t be able to change the future, but he could sure do something to ensure he & his people were ready for it.
  3. But what should he do? That’s when Joseph made the transition from royal interpreter to royal adviser…
  • Joseph’s application/counsel (33-36)

33 “Now therefore, let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, to collect one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven plentiful years. 35 And let them gather all the food of those good years that are coming, and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. 36 Then that food shall be as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which shall be in the land of Egypt, that the land may not perish during the famine.”

  1. When Joseph said a “discerning & wise man” was needed, just who did he have in mind? Himself, of course! One could hardly blame Joseph from providing a bit of a subtle hint to Pharaoh of how he would make a perfect administrator in the royal court. After all, wisdom was needed, and Pharaoh’s other “wise men” hadn’t been any help in the present situation. How could pagans be expected to rightly respond to the plans of God? Far better to use the man to whom God revealed His plans.
  2. And Joseph already had an idea ready to go. The basic plan was for a 1/5 tax over the 7 years of plenty, all of which would go into storage. One-fifth (20%) sounds like a lot, until we remember our own current tax brackets. Depending on one’s full-time income, a person might pay anywhere from 15% to 39.6%. Comparatively, Joseph’s 20% was pretty reasonable! So the farmers would grow their crops as usual, harvesting massively more than usual during those first seven years, all of which fell into this 1/5 (20%) tax. That taxed grain would be the foundation for how the nation would be fed throughout the famine.
  3. BTW: Note that Joseph told this plan to Pharaoh before he was offered a promotion. He didn’t hold back to use as a negotiating strategy or teaser for what Joseph might be able to do, if he were placed in the right position. Joseph simply gave a plan that could be implemented by anyone on Pharaoh’s existing staff. Why? This was part of God’s word for Pharaoh, and Joseph did not have the right to withhold it from him.
    1. What God says, we are to deliver, despite how we think we may or may not benefit from it. It’s His word; not ours. We are merely messengers. It’s not up to us to determine whether or not someone is “worthy” to receive the news (like Jonah did with the Ninevites), nor is it up to us to decide if we want to edit the news in certain ways to certain people. It’s God’s word, and God’s Share it, share it fully, share it freely! As Jesus said, “Freely you have received, freely give,” (Mt 10:8).
  • Joseph’s exaltation and administration (41:37-57)
  • Joseph made Prime Minister/Grand Vizier (37-46)

37 So the advice was good in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of all his servants. 38 And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?”

  1. Don’t miss this: Pharaoh saw the spirit of God in Joseph. He recognized what God had done within Joseph, and the wisdom of God evident in the words of Joseph. Joseph had credited God at the beginning, spoke the words given him by God, and simply got out of the way…and it was effective. That was exactly what Pharaoh needed to see the evidence of the spirit of God for himself.
  2. This is what we desire from our witness & testimony! Just as Joseph’s relationship with God was evident to Pharaoh and the entire Egyptian court, we want our relationship with Jesus to be evident to those around us. That’s something that can (and should!) be said to others, but’s also something that ought to be able to be seen. The more vibrant a relationship we have with Jesus in our own prayer, personal worship, and Bible study, the more evident it will be to those around us. People will look at us, and know that “This is a person in whom is the Spirit of God!”

39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. 40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.” 41 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.”

  1. Finally, after all of his time of suffering as a slave and a prisoner, Joseph was vindicated. More than that, Joseph was promoted by Pharaoh to being his own Prime Minister (Grand Vizier), the Second in Command of the Egyptian kingdom. This was Pharaoh’s domain, and he said to Joseph, “You shall be over my house.” Sound familiar? It should! Joseph had been promoted to being the head of the house of Potiphar, and then he was promoted to be the head of the house of the prison. Now he was promoted to the head of the house of Egypt. Joseph had been faithful in the other areas of his life, and now he was given the opportunity to be faithful in this new position.
  2. Why did Pharaoh promote him? Because ultimately he saw that God gave Joseph wisdom, and Pharaoh wanted the wisdom of God. Wisdom belongs to God, as God is the author of wisdom. This was the praise of Daniel when he sought God on the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream: Daniel 2:20–21, “(20) Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His. (21) And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding.” Wisdom is God’s, for He not only knows all, but He knows what to do with all. It’s one thing to know the facts; it’s another to know how they fit together and how to apply them. That’s wisdom, and God has it all. (Which is why, if we need wisdom, we are to ask God; Jas 1:5).
    1. Where did Pharaoh see Joseph’s God-given wisdom? In his ability to distinguish good from evil, and knowing what to do with them. (I.e. the fat cows/heads of grain vs. the skinny cows/grain). Hearkening back to an earlier history in Genesis, neither Adam nor Eve properly distinguished between good & evil, but Joseph did…but only by the grace of God.
  3. Pharaoh went on to give Joseph the benefits & symbols of his new exalted position…

42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring off his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand; and he clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. 43 And he had him ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried out before him, “Bow the knee!” So he set him over all the land of Egypt. 44 Pharaoh also said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no man may lift his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” 45 And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnath-Paaneah. And he gave him as a wife Asenath, the daughter of Poti-Pherah priest of On. So Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.

  1. Pharaoh exalted Joseph in a list of ways:
    1. Ring of authority, via the signet ring.
    2. Clothed in glory – all the rags of slavery were gone.
    3. Commanded to be shown respect, as people bow their knees.
    4. Empowered by Pharaoh’s word with total authority. Even Joseph’s former master Potiphar would need his permission to act.
    5. Given a new name. It is Egyptian, which scholars translate “The God speaks and he lives.” Appropriate, given how Pharaoh recognized God’s message through Joseph.
    6. Married into nobility, as Pharaoh gives him a bride from the priestly class. Again, culturally fitting considering that Pharaoh saw God’s hand on Joseph.
  2. In some ways, much of this prefigures what God would later do with Jesus. Just as Joseph went from the lowest position of being a prisoner-slave to being Prime Minister of Egypt, Jesus went from the lowest humility (a bondservant slave crucified as a sin sacrifice for men) to being given the name which is above every name, seated at the right hand of God.

46 Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt.

  1. Notice the age of Joseph: “thirty years old.” He was 17 when his brothers sold him into slavery (37:2). He had spent 13 years as a slave and in prison. Were these wasted years? Not when seen through the lens of God’s sovereignty! It led to Joseph being in just the right place at just the right time with just the right word for just the right person…which in turn led to God being known even among the pagans.
  2. Keep in mind that even in all of Joseph’s exaltation, he still hasn’t personally seen the fulfillment of his own God-given dreams. 13 years have elapsed, and Joseph is still waiting on the Lord. Would God do it? Absolutely! It would just take a little more time.
    1. God cannot be rushed, but that doesn’t mean He procrastinates. God does not waste time.
  • Years of plenty (47-52)

47 Now in the seven plentiful years the ground brought forth abundantly. 48 So he gathered up all the food of the seven years which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities; he laid up in every city the food of the fields which surrounded them. 49 Joseph gathered very much grain, as the sand of the sea, until he stopped counting, for it was immeasurable.

  1. Seven years of abundance, exactly as Joseph had foretold.
  2. There was massive economic/agricultural growth. So much came in, that they “stopped counting.” Surely, the 15% tax was nothing in comparison. The farmers were still reaping profits hand over fist.

50 And to Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, whom Asenath, the daughter of Poti-Pherah priest of On, bore to him. 51 Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: “For God has made me forget all my toil and all my father’s house.” 52 And the name of the second he called Ephraim: “For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

  1. Joseph’s sons. Named them after God’s work in his own life. “Manasseh” = “Making Forgetful.” “Ephraim” = “Fruitfulness.” Joseph surely trusted God had been working during the past 18 years (13 + 7 – 2), but that didn’t mean that he didn’t experience personal hurt. After all, he was still betrayed by his brothers, and falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife. Joseph had a great deal of pain, but God had been faithful to strengthen him and help him heal. Finally, Joseph could start to put the past behind him and enjoy the current blessings of God.
  2. How do we know this was based in faith? The names of the boys. Notice that although Pharaoh had given Joseph an Egyptian name, Joseph gave his sons Hebrew In all his success and power within Egypt, Joseph never forgot who he was. He never gave up his Hebrew faith.
  • Years of famine (53-57)

53 Then the seven years of plenty which were in the land of Egypt ended, 54 and the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. The famine was in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. 55 So when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Then Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph; whatever he says to you, do.” 56 The famine was over all the face of the earth, and Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians. And the famine became severe in the land of Egypt.

  1. Seven years of famine, also as foretold.
  2. Joseph’s plan was successful, and he was able to sell back the grain that had been previously taxed. (Some of this will be detailed later in Chapter 47.)

57 So all countries came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine was severe in all lands.

  1. So much grain was in Egypt that they were even able to sell to foreigners. This set the stage for the future encounter with his brothers. The only reason they left their father in Canaan was because Egypt had grain, and they did not.
  2. Consider for a moment the importance of this fact: Egypt was the only place in the ancient world at the time where other nations could find food during this severe seven-year long famine. The sons of Jacob had no choice except to go to Egypt, or they would die. This very prospect was perhaps the reason that God allowed Joseph to be sold as a slave in the first place. This is the thing that would preserve the Messianic promise. If Jacob’s family perished in the famine, the Abrahamic covenant would be void – the line of Judah would be destroyed – even the promises to Noah and to Adam would be in vain. There had to be a line stretching from Adam to the Messiah (the seed of the woman), and it ran through the tribe of Judah in the family of Israel. Without Joseph being exactly where he was when he was, his family would have perished, along with the ancestry of David & Jesus…and we would have no gospel. Without Joseph as a slave, we have no Jesus as a sacrifice. Without Joseph as a prince, we have no Jesus as a King.
    1. This is why we trust the sovereignty, knowledge, and wisdom of God! He alone sees the end from the beginning, and He alone has the power to make His plans come to pass.

Conclusion:

How awesome was the work of God in the life of Joseph! How amazing was God’s blessing upon his life! Just remember: God’s blessing did not start with Joseph’s exaltation by Pharaoh…that’s simply where it found its culmination. God’s hand of blessing had been on Joseph his entire life – even during the times Joseph experienced his worst betrayals. It was those trials that God used to make the future victories possible. God was in full control of all of Joseph’s circumstances at all times. God had a plan in mind for Joseph – Joseph simply needed to wait on God’s timing and be faithful with the opportunities God gave him.

God’s timing is always perfect! God’s hand is always in control! No doubt there are times it doesn’t seem like it. There are times it seems like everything is spiraling out of control. They aren’t. God can, and does, use all things for His glory. Trust Him do to so! Never forget how much Jesus loves you, and to what extent He sacrificed Himself for you. Do we honestly think Jesus would do that in vain, simply to let us fly into chaos? Heaven forbid! He has us right where He has always had us: in the palm of His hand.

So what do we do in the meantime? We wait upon God – we trust Him. His timing is perfect, and we need to believe it. That doesn’t mean that we will experience an exaltation along the lines of Joseph (at least, not in this life) – we may never experience power, wealth, fame, etc. What we will experience is the peace of Jesus. We will know our Savior in ways never before possible, and we will learn the sweet sufficiency of His grace.

Genesis 39-40, “The Slave Who Was Blessed”

“It was a blessing in disguise…” “When God closes a door, He opens a window…” “Things are always darkest just before dawn…” Well-meaning clichés like this are sometimes empty platitudes, said by folks who don’t know what else to say – but other time, they are entirely accurate. When we’re stuck in the middle of a trial, it very often seems that things get worse before they get better. And it makes sense…we’ve got to bottom out somewhere before we start heading up. What we don’t often realize is that even those worse things are used by God to prepare us for the better. At the time, it may be difficult (if not impossible) to see, but when we look back over our lives it becomes clear what God was doing. If it had not been for the darkest days, we would never have been prepared for the glory that was to follow.

Such was the case with Joseph. This was a guy who had it bad. For a long period of his life, it would be difficult to think of too many people who had been dealt as tough of a hand as had Joseph. And just when things started to look up, Joseph would get hit again, and seemingly start from a lower position than before. It was “one step forward; two steps back” for Joseph, never fully able to get ahead…or so it seemed. God never once left Joseph, and He continually blessed Joseph; God was patiently arranging everything the way it needed to be in order for Joseph to be exalted beyond his wildest imagination.

The last time Genesis showed Joseph, he had been betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery. It was the result of a long war against jealousy and resentment, with the brothers giving into their worst evils. Joseph had been the favorite of their father Jacob/Israel, with Jacob setting the younger Joseph apart from the rest of his brothers by treating him as the supervisor, rather than the laboring shepherds. They resented their brother for his reports back to Jacob regarding their work, and resented him in general simply for being the golden child.

It didn’t help matters when God granted Joseph two dreams showing his divinely-given superiority over the rest of his family. One day his brothers would bow to him – in fact, one day, his whole family (including his parents) would bow. This had been determined by God, and was unavoidable. Yet that was exactly what the brothers attempted to do. Fueled by their resentful rage, upon seeing their younger brother miles away from home, they initially desired to murder him – only to be stopped by their eldest brother Reuben. Instead, Joseph was thrown into a pit to suffer while his brothers stopped to have some lunch. Reuben wasn’t entirely successful, however, because as soon as he left, Judah suggested selling Joseph as a slave to some passing Midianites/Ishmaelites, and that was exactly what they did.

Though Joseph was alive, they treated him as dead, deceiving their father with Joseph’s special tunic dipped in goat’s blood, and Jacob grieved the loss of his favorite son. To him, it was the end, and he vowed to grieve forever.

Yet it wasn’t the end…not by a long shot! At this point in his life, Joseph had suffered in tremendous ways, and things would only get worse. But God was with Joseph, and He blessed Joseph. God’s blessing was not dependent on the circumstances that surrounded Joseph – in fact, God blessed Joseph even while using those circumstances of suffering.

We need to trust God in every circumstance, for He is sovereign over all of them. He is always working things out for His glory…of that, we can be sure!

Genesis 39 – Joseph and Potiphar

  • Favor in Potiphar’s house (1-6)

1 Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. And Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him down there.

  1. This repeats the information given at the very end of Chapter 37. Moses (as the chief editor/author of the book) took a tiny break to record some of the events of the life of Judah – important not only from the aspect of showing what led to Judah’s change of heart, but ultimately following the lineage of the future Messiah. But with that parenthetical section complete, the narrative returns to Joseph, and just a brief recap is given.
  2. Joseph had been sold to an Egyptian officer: “Potiphar, captain of the guard.” Though this is still the evil of slavery, in this we still see God’s sovereignty at work. After all, this was not just any Egyptian, or even any Egyptian official; it was the right Of all of the Egyptians to whom Joseph could have been sold (if any at all), it was the one Egyptian official who could put him into a position of contact with Pharaoh (if only indirectly). God was at work, even in the horrendous human sale of Joseph.
    1. Can God turn our tragedies to His glory? Yes! That’s exactly the case with Jesus, and therein is the gospel! The hope of our salvation lies in an instrument of execution (the cross) and its empty burial plot. By themselves, those things would be tragic – but in the hands of Jesus, they are glorious!

2 The LORD was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. 3 And his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD made all he did to prosper in his hand.

  1. If there is one thing the writer of Genesis makes clear in this passage, it is that the covenant God of Israel (YHWH) was always with Joseph, helping him. Though Joseph was a slave, he was by no means forsaken by the Lord, nor was he being punished by the Lord. On the contrary, YHWH God blessed Joseph immensely, always watching him – always being present with him – even granting him as much prosperity as Joseph’s position would allow.
  2. This goes against the grain of our worldly thought. Typically, we equate suffering with punishment, and comfort with blessing. God clearly demonstrates the opposite with Joseph. Joseph was anything but comfortable as a slave, yet there can be no doubt of God’s hand of blessing upon him.
    1. Blessing is found in God; not our circumstances.

4 So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. 5 So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had in the house and in the field. 6 Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate. …

  1. The word used for “favor” in verse 4 is interesting, in that it could also be translated as “grace,” depending on the context. In the midst of Joseph’s suffering, he found grace. And this grace came from the most unlikely of sources: his earthly Egyptian master! Potiphar showed favor to Joseph, granting him more kindness than Joseph ever deserved, at least from an earthly point of view. Think about it: to Potiphar, Joseph was less than an employee; he was property. Potiphar didn’t have to be kind to Joseph at all. He didn’t have to treat Joseph as a human being, or give him anything beyond basic food and water to keep him alive & in his service. But he did. Why? The Lord God. Potiphar saw the hand of God upon Joseph, which in turn blessed him, so he was gracious beyond measure to his slave.
    1. What Potiphar did to Joseph out of selfishness, God does for us out of purity. He shows us grace. God does not have to give us anything – He doesn’t even have to give us life! But He does, and then He gives us so much more!
  2. From a human perspective, Potiphar chose Joseph for this position of “overseer,” (literally “chosen/appointed”) because Joseph showed himself capable of responsibility. No matter what task was assigned to Joseph, he did it with skill and efficiency. He demonstrated himself capable in the little things, and that led to bigger things.
    1. There is a balance here of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Did God have all things under His control? Absolutely – it’s impossible read verses 3-5 any other way. But Joseph was still active. He still “served” Potiphar – he still worked with diligence for his earthly master, even though he didn’t want to have an earthly master in the first place. Joseph trusted God, even while he did everything he could with the utmost he had for the glory of God.
    2. From a practical perspective, we want to do the same. We want to do the most we can with whatever we have. Colossians 3:22–24, “(22) Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. (23) And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, (24) knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” It comes down to this: who do we serve? Jesus! We all have employers, or other people to whom we’re responsible to one extent or the other. But as Christians, we work for the glory of Christ – He is our driving factor behind everything we do. So we ought to do it with our very best!
  3. So we know Potiphar was selfish in his motives of grace. He was blessed because Joseph was blessed. Don’t miss this: YHWH blessed Potiphar because of Joseph. Much of this was due to the covenant God made to Abraham. He would bless those who blessed him (Gen 12:3), and thus when Potiphar showed grace to Joseph, God showed grace to Potiphar. God gave Potiphar success he didn’t deserve simply because of his relationship with Joseph. (Not unlike the grace we receive from God because of our relationship with Jesus!)
  4. In the end, Potiphar knew he had a good thing going. He trusted Joseph completely, not even knowing what it was he possessed. Joseph was more than a slave; he was the CEO of Potiphar’s household. That’s the result of good, hard work! That’s the result of the grace of God!
  • Furor with Potiphar’s wife (6c-18)

… Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. 7 And it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.”

  1. Apparently, Joseph was blessed with more than a good work ethic; he had good looks as well. Interestingly, the previous time this description was used, it was about Joseph’s mother Rachel (Gen 29:17). Whatever the cultural standard for beauty was at the time, it seemed to run through the family of Abraham & Nahor: Sarah and Rebekah were both beautiful enough even in their senior years to be desired by foreign kings, and Rachel’s beauty basically caused Jacob to experience love at first sight.
    1. It should be noted that not all those who are blessed by God experience good looks. People complained about Paul, that he seemed weak in person when he was bold in his letters (2 Cor 10:10), and Isaiah prophesied about Jesus that there was nothing about His appearance that anyone would desire Him (Isa 53:2). Beauty on the inside is far more valuable than beauty on the outside. What is considered “handsome” or “pretty” changes from culture to culture and from time to time, but godly character transcends all.
  2. That said, Joseph was handsome, and Potiphar’s wife wanted this handsome slave. Like the foreign kings who desired the women of Abraham’s house, so did this wife of a foreign ruler desire this particular son of Abraham. The major difference being that as a wife, she had no legal/cultural right to take on a lover. (The other husbands shouldn’t have done it, but it was culturally acceptable for them to do so.) When she asked Joseph to bed her, she made a blatant offer of adultery, and Joseph knew it immediately.

8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. 9 There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”

  1. Joseph both understood his blessing and the full wickedness of sin. He didn’t want to be a slave, but even in his position, he had a good thing going. He was basically the head of Potiphar’s house, having access to anything he desired – all except personal freedom, and the wife of his master. Why would he risk it all? Besides, it was “great wickedness.” To throw away his privileges was one thing, but to do so in order to commit willful sin was something else. Joseph understood this wasn’t a “one night stand,” or a casual “hookup,” or anything of the like. He wasn’t about to sanitize the act for anything less than what it was: sin.
    1. We have the tendency to whitewash our actions in order to justify our sin. It’s just a “little white lie,” or it’s only a “minor thing.” Boys will be boys, after all, and everyone does it anyway. – No! It’s sin. It is great wickedness, and it ought not to be done. The moment we change the label is the moment we’ve left the heart of God. We’ve departed His holiness, and started rewriting the rules of morality in our own image. There is great danger in this, for it just leads to more & more sin to come.
    2. This is why confession is so important when it comes to repentance. If we’re going to repent from sin, we need to be able to call it what it is. It’s not just a look of lust; it’s adultery of the heart. It’s not just hatred; it’s murder of the heart. It’s sin – it’s rebellion – it is contrary to the heart and character of our Holy Creator, and until we recognize that we will never truly kill off the desire to engage in such wickedness.
  2. Joseph recognized something else: ultimately, the sin was not against Potiphar, but against God. Yes, to sleep with his master’s wife was to sin against his master – but that wasn’t the one to whom Joseph was ultimately responsible. Eventually, Joseph would give account to the Lord God. The same YHWH who had been with Joseph and protected Joseph would also judge Joseph…and this sort of adulterous sin would be exposed for what it was. To engage in this sin was to transgress against God, and Joseph could not bear the thought of that.
    1. When it comes to sin and temptation, we often try to fight it through legalism. If we just set up more rules and more boundaries for ourselves, then we’ll stay far from sin (or so we think). A far better deterrent than legalism, is love. It’s one thing to set up a boundary as we look at sin in the distance; it’s another thing to have our sight focused somewhere else entirely. The more we look to the Lord Jesus in love and worship, the less we’ll desire sin in the first place. Why desire something that takes us away from Jesus, rather than to Him? Boundaries aren’t bad (and can be helpful!), but love is always more effective than legalism.
  3. So Joseph responded well, and said “no.” But it didn’t end that easily…

10 So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her. 11 But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, 12 that she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside.

  1. Joseph faced this temptation on a daily basis, and day-by-day he was successful in resisting her. His mind was determined not to sin against God, and he simply wasn’t going to allow himself to do it. Potiphar’s wife, on the other hand, was just as determined. Desiring Joseph all the more because he was someone she couldn’t have, she plotted some form of catching him off-guard, and eventually succeeded with an ambush. All of a sudden, Joseph and the wife were alone without witnesses, and she grabbed him “by his garment.” What exactly this piece of clothing was, we do not know. The word could be used for anything ranging from an outer coat, to a tunic, to a loincloth. It all depends how the servants of Potiphar dressed in his house. Whatever the piece of clothing was, the wife took hold, and she thought she had Joseph cornered. Any act of force on his part would leave physical evidence of potential “manhandling,” and she could continue to wear him down and try to seduce him as long as she held on.
  2. Joseph’s solution? Run away! He wriggled his way out of his clothing, and fled. Although to some, this doesn’t exactly scream out “bravery,” it’s been often said that “Discretion is the better part of valor,” and that was the case here. The easy thing for Joseph to do would have been to give into temptation. He could have explained it away as not having a choice, as following the commands of the woman of the house, etc. Instead, he bravely stuck to his devotion to God, and did the only thing he could do: run. Joseph did literally what Paul instructed figuratively: 2 Timothy 2:22, “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”1 Corinthians 6:18, “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.” Sexual temptation is so vicious, that sometimes the very best thing to do is literally get up & go. Leave, get out of the room, run away from the computer, hang up the phone, etc., …do whatever it takes to get out of the current situation. In writing of how to fight temptation, Paul tells the Corinthians that God always provides a “way of escape,” (1 Cor 1:13), and sometimes that way is literal. Instead of looking for inner moral strength, perhaps we ought to be looking for a door!
    1. One of the most effective strategies Satan employs against Christians is to isolate us, and make us believe we need to face our temptations alone. That’s a recipe for disaster. When you’re alone and tempted, one of the very best things you can do is to get up, get out, and get around other brothers or sisters in Christ.
  3. Joseph succeeded in resisting temptation, having fled, but he still had a problem. No doubt knew he had his garment torn off, and that would leave some incriminating evidence behind. Surely she would twist this to her advantage (which she did). Even so, Joseph knew better than to go back. He had done the right thing, and now he needed to trust the Lord. He risked his own reputation for the sake of righteousness.

13 And so it was, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and fled outside, 14 that she called to the men of her house and spoke to them, saying, “See, he has brought in to us a Hebrew to mock us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. 15 And it happened, when he heard that I lifted my voice and cried out, that he left his garment with me, and fled and went outside.”

  1. Humiliated, the wife came up with a plan B. If she couldn’t have Joseph, then she would punish him. She tested a lie on the other household servants, establishing the fake back-story with them, so that they would be corroborating “witnesses,” even though they never saw anything. In her version, Joseph approached her & attempted to seduce her, only to be stopped when she “cried out with a loud voice.” That’s when Joseph ran from the room, leaving his clothing behind. 
  2. The problems: (1) There’s no indication she cried out, although she could have shouted after Joseph fled. (2) Surely the servants knew of her desire for Joseph. If she waited for her ambush until all the other servants were outside, then it probably meant that some of her previous advances had been while the servants were inside. In any case, it seems that the other servants remained silent. The wife had basically given her orders as to what they were to say, if asked, and they were obedient (much to Joseph’s chagrin).

16 So she kept his garment with her until his master came home. 17 Then she spoke to him with words like these, saying, “The Hebrew servant whom you brought to us came in to me to mock me; 18 so it happened, as I lifted my voice and cried out, that he left his garment with me and fled outside.”

  1. What she told the servants, she told her husband. Few details (if any) changed, and she stuck to her lie.
  2. Notice that she blamed Potiphar for what had happened. As she had said with the servants, it was this Hebrew slave that Potiphar “brought to us.” Potiphar was the one who introduced this foreigner into their household – he was the one who trusted the Hebrew with his finances and house economy. If Potiphar had been more wary of the Hebrew, than none of this would have happened. Of course, it was all her way of shifting the blame. She had been humiliated, so she blamed Joseph (who denied her) – she blamed the other servants (who weren’t around, and had to be called inside) – and she blamed her husband (who trusted Joseph). She blamed everyone except herself, yet she was the only one who had sinned.
    1. Isn’t that what we so often do? We sin & experience the natural guilt, so instead of dealing with it directly, we find other people to blame for our problems. “It’s my parents’ fault I am the way I am…” “It’s my boss’ fault for forcing me to do this…” “It’s my husband/wife/ex’s fault for pushing my buttons…” Stop blaming others, and simply confess. You can deny your sin all day long in your mind, but it doesn’t change the truth – and it sure doesn’t cleanse you from the guilt. What you need is the forgiveness of Jesus, and it only comes through confession and faith. (1 Jn 1:9)
  • Favor in Potiphar’s prison (19-23)

19 So it was, when his master heard the words which his wife spoke to him, saying, “Your servant did to me after this manner,” that his anger was aroused. 20 Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were confined. And he was there in the prison.

  1. Potiphar was angry, but cautious. He had the right to kill Joseph right then & there without a trial, but didn’t. Instead, he put Joseph in a controlled environment – even a (relatively) comfortable prison, “where the king’s prisoners were confined,” i.e., minimum security. It indicates that Potiphar knew there was more to the story than what he heard from his wife. He knew something had happened, but he didn’t know exactly what.
  2. It was good that Potiphar didn’t kill Joseph; it would have been better if he interviewed him and learned the truth! Even so, this was part of God’s ultimate plan. Remember, things had to get worse for Joseph before they got better. But this doesn’t mean that God was punishing Joseph. The Bible specifically tells us otherwise!

21 But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.

  1. YHWH was still with Joseph! In fact, He showed him “” This is the word hesed (חֶסֶד), which often refers to the covenantal-keeping lovingkindness of God. Far from abandoning or punishing Joseph – far from forgetting about His promises to Joseph; God was keeping them. All of this was the process for God’s promises to Joseph to be fulfilled.
  2. How often do we miss this? There we are, enduring suffering or some other trial, believing that God has somehow forgotten us or that He’s disciplining us for some unknown reason. Yet perhaps it isn’t a punishment at all; it could simply be part of the process. Like heavy cream that needs to be shaken for butter to be the result, perhaps God wants us to be transformed, and it requires a bit of shaking. God sees infinitely more than we do – He knows infinitely more than we do. He knows exactly what it will take to get the result that He wants. In Joseph’s case, it required that he be sent to Egyptian prison; only afterwards could he be made the Egyptian prime minister. In our case, it may be something different – but God knows exactly what it is, and He will do exactly what it takes for us to get there. That isn’t Him forgetting His promises; it’s Him keeping
  3. With Joseph, God did in the prison exactly what He did in Potiphar’s house. He caused the prison-keeper to extend grace. The warden gave to Joseph privileges he did not deserve, ultimately because God moved upon his heart to do so. From the warden’s perspective, it was self-serving, just as it had been with Potiphar, because Joseph was so good at what he did…

22 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. 23 The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper.

  1. Joseph was still chosen to receive responsibility, and still trusted by the Egyptian leadership with all kinds of tasks. Think about that for a moment. Joseph was trusted by someone who directly reported to the same captain of the guard who had thrown Joseph into prison on the charge of adultery. The things Joseph did spoke volumes about his character, far more than the rumors swirling about him. In fact, Joseph even received more responsibility than he had in Potiphar’s house. Instead of being responsible for a large household, Joseph was now responsible for all of the inmates of the prison. He was so good at what he did, the warden never even had to double-check Joseph’s work. That’s a good worker!
  2. Question: Was all of this success due to Joseph? Not at all! Joseph was a good worker, being faithful in his duties, but it was God who “made it prosper!” Again, there is a balance between human responsibility and divine sovereignty. Joseph could not have sat on his hands and done nothing, but it wouldn’t have mattered what he did if the Lord had not been his help. If God hadn’t moved on his behalf, nothing would have happened. All of Joseph’s success (even in the prison!) belonged to the Lord God. 

Genesis 40 – Joseph and Pharaoh’s Servants

  • Servants troubled with dreams (1-8)

1 It came to pass after these things that the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their lord, the king of Egypt. 2 And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief butler and the chief baker. 3 So he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison, the place where Joseph was confined. 4 And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them; so they were in custody for a while.

  1. Time passes, more prisoners arrive, and Joseph is given even more responsibility. More work to do?! Yes, but more blessing. Remember that the Lord was with Joseph. Everything that was given to Joseph came through the hands of God. God was not overworking Joseph; He was putting Joseph in contact with all the right people leading up to the right time.
  2. In this case, the two prisoners were closely connected to Pharaoh, personally serving him. The butler served as Pharaoh’s personal attendant & food taster, whereas the baker was the man who cooked his food and prepared his (literal) daily bread. Both of these men had the potential of bringing physical harm to their king, so they needed his utmost trust and confidence. For some reason, they had offended Pharaoh, lost his trust, and ended up in jail. It was there that they came under the care of Joseph, who was specifically charged by “the captain of the guard” (Potiphar?!) to attend to them. This was a high-profile case, something that wouldn’t be given to just “any” prison worker. It was given to the very best: to Joseph.

5 Then the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison, had a dream, both of them, each man’s dream in one night and each man’s dream with its own interpretation. 6 And Joseph came in to them in the morning and looked at them, and saw that they were sad. 7 So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in the custody of his lord’s house, saying, “Why do you look so sad today?” 8 And they said to him, “We each have had a dream, and there is no interpreter of it.” So Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell them to me, please.”

  1. Each prisoner had an unusual dream. It bothered them so much that they were both visibly affected by it the following day. What to do? Normally, they would have had access to the court pagan-magicians and counselors, but not while they were in jail. A need had arisen, and a man was available to meet it: Joseph. It was as if God arranged the entire thing. (He did!) Joseph was right there to encourage the two men and offer them his services as an interpreter. He had his own experiences in the past with dreams, and he thought he could be of some help to them.
  2. Note: Joseph doesn’t promote himself as the all-wise Hebrew prisoner; he promotes the Lord God. “Do not interpretations belong to God?” It’s reminiscent of Daniel, who later did the same thing with Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (Dan 2:28). It isn’t in Joseph, Daniel, or any man to interpret the things which are secret and mysterious. Any one of us might have our own opinions, but opinions aren’t what are needed in interpretations; truth is. Where can we find the truth? In God alone.
    1. That’s just as true of theology, as it is of dreams. When we want to learn about God, we don’t need another one of the opinions of men. We don’t need stories & anecdotes; we need truth. Where can we find truth? The word of God! We look to what God has to say about Himself, and that is where we find the interpretation.
  • Butler’s dream and interpretation (9-15)

9 Then the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, “Behold, in my dream a vine was before me, 10 and in the vine were three branches; it was as though it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and its clusters brought forth ripe grapes. 11 Then Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand; and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.”

  1. Butler’s dream: pressing new wine/grape juice into Pharaoh’s cup. He was doing what he had always done before. He was simply serving his king, and his king received the service.
  2. Is this good or bad? Wine is often symbolic of blessing, but it can sometimes be a picture of blood/judgment. The butler didn’t know, and this was what troubled him.

12 And Joseph said to him, “This is the interpretation of it: The three branches are three days. 13 Now within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your place, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand according to the former manner, when you were his butler.

  1. The interpretation: restoration. This was good news! Three days, and he would be free & back to normal. Pharaoh would “lift up” his head, symbolically exalting him, restoring him to his former position.
  2. In light of the good news, Joseph asks for a favor…

14 But remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house. 15 For indeed I was stolen away from the land of the Hebrews; and also I have done nothing here that they should put me into the dungeon.”

  1. Joseph appealed to the butler to intercede to Pharaoh on his behalf. Remember that although Joseph was in slavery and prison by the sovereign hand of God, he was innocent! He had not betrayed his brothers; he had been betrayed by them. He had not mistreated his master’s wife; she had mistreated him. Joseph surely had seen God’s favor upon him where he was, but that didn’t mean he wanted to stay where he was! Like any normal person, he wanted to get out, so he asked for a bit of help.
  2. Even this was part of God’s plan. Although it would take longer than Joseph expected or desired, it was the intercession of the butler that would eventually cause Joseph to stand before Pharaoh. Every bit of this is marked with the sovereignty of God!
  • Baker’s dream and interpretation (16-19)

16 When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he said to Joseph, “I also was in my dream, and there were three white baskets on my head. 17 In the uppermost basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, and the birds ate them out of the basket on my head.”

  1. Baker’s dream: he was also doing what he had done before, but instead of Pharaoh receiving the baked goods, the birds were eating it.
  2. Is this good or bad? This one was a little less ambiguous. Birds were often symbolic of judgment, as in the carrion birds that feasted on a battlefield. Even so, because the butler received a “good” interpretation, the baker was hoping for something similar.

18 So Joseph answered and said, “This is the interpretation of it: The three baskets are three days. 19 Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head from you and hang you on a tree; and the birds will eat your flesh from you.”

  1. The interpretation: death. He would also be given three days, but instead of three days until exaltation, it would be three days until execution.
  2. NKJV takes a bit of liberty with the translation. Literally, the text reads: “He will, Pharaoh, lift up your head,” mirroring exactly what Joseph said earlier to the butler, but then Joseph goes on to add, “from upon you.” To the butler, Joseph said, “Pharaoh will lift up your head,” using the phrase figuratively as an expression of exaltation. To the baker, Joseph made it literal: “Pharaoh will lift up your head from upon you,” referring to the method of execution. The baker would be hanged (impaled), and likely beheaded at the same time, left for the carrion birds to come and devour.
  3. The other difference between the butler and the baker is what Joseph went on to say: nothing. To the butler, Joseph asked for future intercession; to the baker, Joseph didn’t bother. Why ask for a favor, if the baker wasn’t going to live to grant it? If the baker got the opportunity to ask about Joseph, then Joseph’s interpretation would have been false & the baker wouldn’t have wanted to mention Joseph anyway. Joseph was so certain of the baker’s demise that he knew it didn’t matter what he said after this point. God had revealed the man’s death, and God’s word would prove true.
    1. Demonstrates something important: Joseph still believed God’s dreams/interpretations to be valid. Even after all his years of suffering and waiting, not seeing his own dreams fulfilled, Joseph held out hope that eventually they would be. Why? Because God had granted them, and God does not lie. In all of his trials, Joseph still had faith.
    2. We give up on faith too soon – we give up on God too soon! We pray & pray, even pleading God’s promises from His word…but when we don’t see them fulfilled in our expected timeframe, we give up. We stop praying – we stop believing – we stop trusting God. Don’t stop! Don’t quit! God is good to His promises, every time! What He has written, He fulfills. But He does it in His way; not ours. Trust Him!
  • Dreams fulfilled (20-22)

20 Now it came to pass on the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast for all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants. 21 Then he restored the chief butler to his butlership again, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand. 22 But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them.

  1. Both dreams were accurate to the tiniest of details. Three days passed, and the butler was restored while the baker was killed. Exactly what Joseph said came to pass. God’s word proved true…as it always does.
  • Joseph forgotten (23)

23 Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.

  1. We don’t read of the butler’s response to Joseph when Joseph made his request for intercession, but apparently the man agreed to do it. But when he had the opportunity, he didn’t. The butler forgot Joseph.
  2. Thankfully, God did not. The overriding refrain through the last two chapters was that God was with Joseph, so even in the butler’s forgetting, God was working. He was waiting on the right time, which would come an excruciating long two years later. (Gen 41:1) But it did God never forgot Joseph – the thoughts He had towards him were innumerable! (Just like His thoughts towards us!)

Conclusion:

Things had been bad for Joseph, and they seemed to get a lot worse before they got better. He went from sibling betrayal to slavery, from slavery to sexual temptation, from seduction to slander, and from slander to prison. Even at the moment in prison when it seemed as if Joseph might have a way out, that seemed to flounder as he languished day after day for years on end.

But that’s not really the story of Chapters 39-40 of Genesis. The real story is this: “The Lord was with Joseph.” YHWH God was always with Joseph, superintending his circumstances, blessing his efforts, giving him favor with his masters, and guiding Joseph to exactly where he needed to be at exactly the right time he needed to be there. God was fulfilling His promises to Joseph, showering him with lovingkindness and mercies, even if it seemed that God was silent the entire time.

In what circumstances in your life does it seem that God is silent? Where does it seem that God has forgotten you? He hasn’t! God knows you just as well as He knows Joseph, and His sovereignty over your circumstances is just as total. There isn’t a single trial you (as a born-again Christian) endure that God cannot and will not turn to His glory. God does not waste the tears of His children! He will use them for the glory of Jesus.

Sin v. Sovereignty

Posted: July 19, 2018 in Genesis, Uncategorized

Genesis 37-38, “Sin v. Sovereignty”

If you follow the news, you know that President Trump has recently nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court. And just like every other time a Supreme Court nomination rolls around, the headlines are full with all kinds of questions of how the judge would rule on certain cases. Everyone seems to become an overnight legal expert, rattling off case names such as Roe v. Wade (which decided abortion), Obergefell v. Hodges (which decided homosexual marriage), National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (sometimes referred to as Sebelius, which decided the mandate for health insurance), and more. Whether the commentator knows anything about the subject, or not, is another issue – usually the goal is just to rattle off the name.

Of course, many struggles (perhaps most struggles) take place outside the legal arena, and they could be labeled in much the same way. One is mankind’s sin versus the sovereignty of God. By definition, sin is an act of rebellion against God, so the question is often asked: Can God’s will be thwarted? When men and women are successful in sin, are they also successful in throwing off the plans of God? Does God ever lose control – does God ever have to improvise? The Biblical answer to these questions is a resounding no. Men and women do indeed sin (often, and to terrible extents), but our sin does not dismiss or deny the plans of God. What God wills to be done, will be done. He is always sovereign, no matter what.

This is on display within the family of Jacob (Israel). There is terrible sin that takes place among the brothers, some of which is intentionally committed to circumvent God’s revealed will. None of it, however, defeats God’s plans…quite the opposite! The sinful works of these men are the very things God uses to bring about His perfect plan, ultimately bringing forth Jesus as our Savior. Sin cannot stop the Savior – when it comes to Sin v. Sovereignty, God’s sovereignty wins every time!

Contextually, Jacob and his family are back in the Promised Land, having settled in Canaan. Jacob had placed his faith in God, was renamed Israel, and was reconciled with his twin-brother Esau. Even so, things were far from perfect, and Jacob’s lack of leadership among his own family led to a terrible tragedy resulting in the rape of his daughter and the massacre of the local townspeople by his sons. Resentment towards him was bubbling up within his sons – something that would continue for many years. Even with his imperfections, Jacob renewed his commitment to God, and God reaffirmed Israel’s new name & the covenant promises that God would fulfill through Israel’s family. Life went on for Jacob and the rest, experiencing the bittersweet birth of the 12th son Benjamin, along with the death of the beloved wife Rachel, and the betrayal by Jacob’s firstborn Reuben when Reuben committed incest with his father’s concubine.

Put it all together, and there is a family committed to the Lord as God, but by no means walking in faithfulness with the Lord as God. In other words, the family of Israel was like a lot of families in the modern church! As Genesis continues, no much changes along these lines. The sons of Israel still deceive and betray, even considering the act of murder among their own. Yet this is still the family chosen by God to bring a blessing to the entire world by bringing forth the Messiah. Men sin & cause much suffering, but God’s grace & sovereignty is stronger. Sin cannot stop the Savior…sin is why we need the Savior!

Genesis 37 – Joseph v. his brothers

  • Joseph’s dreams (1-11)

1 Now Jacob dwelt in the land where his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan. 2 This is the history of Jacob. …

  1. The chapter begins with a bit of contrast to the previous one. Chapter 36 had been the genealogy (toledoth, תֹּלְד֣וֹת) of Esau; Chapter 37 is the genealogy/history of Jacob (same word, תֹּלְד֣וֹת). Whereas Esau settled in Mount Seir & the surrounding area, Jacob settled in Canaan which was the land of the covenant promise. Just as had the previous generations who inherited Abraham’s covenant, Jacob dwelt in the same land.
  2. What makes this interesting is that what follows isn’t so much the “history of Jacob,” but the history of Jacob’s sons – particularly Joseph (with a minor emphasis on Judah). Even so, that is the history of Jacob, because it follows his family line. Remember that there is only one family tree that the Bible follows all the way through: that of the Lord Jesus. That emphasis is seen throughout the book of Genesis as it not only shows the ‘beginnings’ of various nations and things, but particularly the beginning of the nation of Israel & the Messianic line.

… Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers. And the lad was with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to his father.

  1. At “seventeen years old,” Joseph was more than a typical adolescent as we might imagine today; he was a young man. To this day, Jewish families celebrate their sons’ entry into manhood with a Bar Mitzvah on their 13th birthday, and this was even more true in ancient times as it is today. Even so, as a young man, one would imagine Joseph being on the low rung of the ladder, not having seniority. He acted to the contrary, and “brought a bad report” of his brothers to their father. This wasn’t “tattling,” so much as it was whistleblowing. Depending on the context, the word could be used of defamation or a report that exposes the evil of another. Most likely, it was the latter. The sons of Leah had already demonstrated a tendency towards violence (seen in their act of revenge for their sister); now it was the sons of the other two concubines who had committed some sort of wrong in the fields, and Joseph became the bearer of bad news to his father. It was probably the right thing to do, even if it came with consequences to himself.
  2. Of course, it only confirmed what the other brothers already knew: Joseph was the golden child…

3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors. 4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.

  1. Interestingly, Joseph is described as the “son of [Jacob’s] old age,” rather than Benjamin. Benjamin isn’t specifically mentioned at all throughout the passage, with only one possible oblique reference. It’s possible he was not yet born, these events being written as a flashback to an earlier time. If Benjamin was born, then Joseph had Jacob’s favor as the firstborn of his favorite wife, and his own birth coming after a very long wait.
  2. Either way, it’s clear Joseph was the favorite. Jacob/Israel personally knew the problems that came with favoritism – he and his own twin brother struggled over the same issue with their parents. Even so, Jacob ignored his past and committed the same mistakes with his own family. Not only was Jacob’s love for Joseph apparent in unspoken ways, but Jacob made it blatantly obvious with this “tunic of many colors.” Scholars differ on how best to translate the phrase. The existing Hebrew text actually implies a long-coat, such like a tunic reaching far to the ends of Joseph’s hands & feet. The ancient translations (LXX & others) are the versions that speak of a many-colored coat (the famous “Technicolor Dreamcoat”). Whatever it was, it was a piece of clothing that stood out from the rest. It wasn’t the tunic of a laboring shepherd, but of a foreman. Jacob set Joseph apart from his brothers by appointing his youngest son (or at least, youngest son of working age) as the boss.
  3. It’s no wonder his brothers hated him! The text implies that they were “overwhelmed with anger,” unable to say a kind word to him. Not only did their father show immense favoritism towards Joseph, but this favoritism was thrown in their faces every single day when Joseph walked into the room wearing his tunic.
    1. None of this excuses the brothers’ actions towards Joseph, but it does give us insight to them. Family favoritism always causes problems, and it ought to be avoided at all costs. Not that Jacob is 100% to blame…the grudges among the brothers began early, and were left unaddressed. It was bound to erupt at some point, and when it did, it was awful.
    2. Both the favoritism and the grudges were unspoken family problems. Everyone knew about it, but no one was willing to talk about them or deal with them. These things don’t just “go away.” It may be difficult to confront deep-seeded family issues, but it needs to be done. Problems left to rot only get worse. – That’s just as true in church families, as anywhere else. That’s exactly why Jesus gave us ways to deal with them through church discipline & forgiveness. We just have to be willing to engage.

5 Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. 6 So he said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: 7 There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.”

  1. Joseph’s life would be marked by a ministry of dreams: two of his own at the start of his journey – two of others that he interpreted while in prison – and two of Pharaoh, which propelled Joseph to prominence. His 1st dream: sheaves. “Sheaves” are bundles of wheat, perhaps indicating a prophecy on two levels. Not only did it show Joseph having a superiority recognized by his brothers as they bowed to him, but the context of the dream is wheat/food. The day his brothers bowed would be the day they came asking for grain during a famine.

8 And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

  1. Of course the dream made the relationship between the brothers worse. Joseph’s superiority was now divinely established, or at least according to his claims about this dream (which seemed to be questioned by the brothers). If this was of God, there was nothing the brothers could do about it…or was there? This set their minds racing for anything they might be able to do down the road to change the future. They now expressed open hatred toward Joseph, possibly shielding it from their father, but most likely not bothering to do so.
  2. Tellingly (and sadly), it seems Jacob did nothing about it. Just like when troubles erupted over the crime against Tamar, Jacob remained out-of-touch and absent as a family leader. If he had intervened, who knows what would have been the outcome?

9 Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.” 10 So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?”

  1. Joseph’s 2nd dream: stars. Basically, it was the same as the previous dream, but intensified, as his siblings and his parents bowed. It was as if the whole solar system bowed to Joseph’s superiority. For anyone else, this might indicate a massively overinflated ego; as it was, it was just Joseph trying to figure out these images given him by God. His youth left him without the wisdom to keep some of the details to himself, and it earned a rebuke not from his brothers this time, but his own father.
  2. Question: who’s the mother & 11 stars/brothers? If Benjamin was born, Jacob’s mother no longer lived. If Benjamin wasn’t born, then are the 11 stars only brothers, or his 10 brothers and 1 sister? The text doesn’t make it clear. It’s possible that with Rachel dead, Jacob referred to Leah as the “mother” of the clan – it’s possible that Rachel appeared in the dream to bow, and Jacob interpreted it as such. Don’t miss the forest for the trees…the important aspect is that all of Joseph’s family bowed to Joseph, and that much was plainly understood.

11 And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

  1. No one liked the meaning, but notice that Jacob did not dismiss it out of hand. He probably remembered how God had also appeared to him in earlier visions, and how he (as the younger son of twins) was divinely given the position of favor. If God had done it with Jacob, surely God could do it with Joseph. This was something he “filed” back in the memory of his mind, no doubt holding for a later time.
  2. One wonders what Jacob thought about all of this after he assumed his son was dead. Surely God cannot be wrong, so something must have happened – either in the way Joseph related the dream, or in the way they all interpreted the dream, or something else altogether. For the 20 years of Joseph’s absence, there was probably an unsettled question hanging in Jacob’s mind every time he thought about this.
    1. For the record, God is never wrong! If God’s promises are clear, God’s promises are trustworthy. When there’s a problem, it’s with us; never with God!
  • Joseph betrayed and sold (12-36)

12 Then his brothers went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem. 13 And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers feeding the flock in Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” So he said to him, “Here I am.” 14 Then he said to him, “Please go and see if it is well with your brothers and well with the flocks, and bring back word to me.” So he sent him out of the Valley of Hebron, and he went to Shechem.

  1. Notice that even though Joseph was of age to work, he wasn’t laboring in the fields with his brothers. Instead, he was sent to supervise them and bring back a report. Jacob had known Joseph to faithfully report on his brothers in the past, so he sent the young man to go do the same thing all over again. These would turn out to be the last words he spoke to Joseph for 20 years! 

15 Now a certain man found him, and there he was, wandering in the field. And the man asked him, saying, “What are you seeking?” 16 So he said, “I am seeking my brothers. Please tell me where they are feeding their flocks.” 17 And the man said, “They have departed from here, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’ ” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them in Dothan.

  1. The brothers were not where Joseph (or Jacob) expected them to be. Instead, they were about 15 miles north/northwest of Shechem.

18 Now when they saw him afar off, even before he came near them, they conspired against him to kill him. 19 Then they said to one another, “Look, this dreamer is coming! 20 Come therefore, let us now kill him and cast him into some pit; and we shall say, ‘Some wild beast has devoured him.’ We shall see what will become of his dreams!”

  1. Notice when they began plotting: “when they saw him afar off.” They wanted to kill him even before they knew his purpose. They hated their younger brother so much that they didn’t even give him the benefit of the doubt. They treated him as an enemy on sight…true hatred!
  2. Remember, not only did they hate Joseph for being the favored son; they hated the dreams given him by God. By conspiring to kill him, they were ultimately trying to defeat God’s plans.
    1. Question: What happens when we fight against God? We lose. God’s plans can never be defeated, no matter how hard we struggle against them. As if we can outsmart the all-knowing, ever-present God. He knows the end from the beginning – He has designed our bodies from the atomic level upward – He knows our pasts, presents, and futures. How exactly are we supposed to outwit the God who has infinite knowledge? It can’t be done. Don’t fight God’s will; surrender to it! When we surrender to God’s will, we surrender to Jesus – when we surrender to Jesus, we find we have a friend, a Savior, and a King who loves us more than we can imagine. 

21 But Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands, and said, “Let us not kill him.” 22 And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit which is in the wilderness, and do not lay a hand on him”—that he might deliver him out of their hands, and bring him back to his father.

  1. Reuben tried to be merciful, and (for once!) acted like the firstborn he was. He took leadership among his brothers, and arranged it so that Joseph would be placed in a safe place, away from the other brothers’ anger & violence. Would it have been better if Reuben openly opposed & rebuked the brothers? Certainly…but it might have backfired, with both of them getting killed. Reuben seemed to go about this as safely and wisely as possible.
  2. Some speculate that Reuben thought this was an act that might get him back into his father’s good graces, after the Reuben’s sexual encounter with Bilhah. The text does not give too many clues whether this was the case. Either way, it doesn’t take away from Reuben’s attempt at mercy.

23 So it came to pass, when Joseph had come to his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the tunic of many colors that was on him. 24 Then they took him and cast him into a pit. And the pit was empty; there was no water in it. 25 And they sat down to eat a meal. …

  1. The cruelty of the rest of the brothers was on full display. They took away the sign of his father’s love, roughly threw him into a dry cistern/pit normally used to collect water, and then sat down to eat lunch. No doubt their younger brother was crying for mercy and help, and they didn’t care in the slightest. They weren’t even bothered by his pleading, not having their appetites affected. Such was their callousness.
  2. Beware resentment! Unforgiveness among the brothers led to resentment, which led to violence. When we don’t address these issues at their roots, they turn into far worse things. Hebrews 12:14–15, “(14) Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: (15) looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;” The brothers pursued vengeance; they should have pursued peace. Seek peace! In doing so, you’ll seek after the heart of Christ. Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.”

… Then they lifted their eyes and looked, and there was a company of Ishmaelites, coming from Gilead with their camels, bearing spices, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry them down to Egypt. 26 So Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh.” And his brothers listened.

  1. Apparently Reuben had left by this point, perhaps to wait out his brothers & entice them to leave so that he could rescue Joseph. He wouldn’t get the chance. Rich nomads came along (far-distant relatives, being Ishmaelites), and Judah saw an opportunity to make some quick cash.
  2. Judah claimed this was an act of mercy; it wasn’t! It was betrayal fueled by greed, no matter what he decided to call it! If we’re creative, we can always find some sort of justification for our sin. But it’s like putting lipstick on a pig…what it is, doesn’t change.

28 Then Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

  1. Scholars disagree on the value of the amount paid for Joseph, ranging from a pitiful sum to a large profit. Most think it was a little less than the average price paid for a slave at the time. The saddest part isn’t the price, but that it took place at all! These was their flesh & blood, after all. 

29 Then Reuben returned to the pit, and indeed Joseph was not in the pit; and he tore his clothes. 30 And he returned to his brothers and said, “The lad is no more; and I, where shall I go?”

  1. Reuben was genuinely grieved. He wasn’t present when the sale took place, and the loss of his brother truly shocked him. He tore his own clothes in grief, realizing that even his best plan wasn’t enough to save his younger brother.
  2. Yet even Reuben’s grief had a limit. His conscience did not bother him enough to tell the truth.

31 So they took Joseph’s tunic, killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the tunic in the blood. 32 Then they sent the tunic of many colors, and they brought it to their father and said, “We have found this. Do you know whether it is your son’s tunic or not?” 33 And he recognized it and said, “It is my son’s tunic. A wild beast has devoured him. Without doubt Joseph is torn to pieces.”

  1. The brothers brought the bloody tunic to Jacob, and posed the stupid question of whether or not the coat’s was Joseph’s. Of course it was Joseph’s – everyone knew it was, because such a big deal was made of Jacob giving it to him. Imagine the brothers feigning eyes of innocence, pretending concern. This was a sad manipulation of their father, who assumed the worst without asking any questions. He saw the blood, knew Joseph would not willingly part with the tunic, and he proclaimed his son to be dead.
  2. There’s no small amount of irony in this. Years earlier, Jacob deceived his own father with his brother’s clothing & a dead goat. All of it now came back around to him. (We reap what we sow!)

34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth on his waist, and mourned for his son many days. 35 And all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and he said, “For I shall go down into the grave to my son in mourning.” Thus his father wept for him.

  1. Jacob was completely brokenhearted, understandably so. The “comfort” offered by his other children was empty. How could it be otherwise? They were responsible for their father’s loss. Any comfort they now offered was deceptive.

36 Now the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and captain of the guard.

  1. A bit of a coda to set up the next chapter in Joseph’s life.
  2. Most importantly: this is God’s provision & His plan at work! Of all of the people in Egypt to whom Joseph could have been sold, he was sold to Potiphar. Technically, the Midianites didn’t even have to sell Joseph in Egypt at all! He could have remained their slave, or been sold to any other people along the way. Instead, Joseph went to one specific house in one specific nation, and that would pave the way for his later act of deliverance for all of the family of Israel. The sale of Joseph as a slave to Potiphar is nothing less than the sovereign work of God!
    1. Question: Can God turn our sin to His good? Absolutely! God does not excuse our sin, but He can redeem it. …

Genesis 38 – Judah v. Tamar

  • Judah’s sons (1-11)

1 It came to pass at that time that Judah departed from his brothers, and visited a certain Adullamite whose name was Hirah. 2 And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua, and he married her and went in to her.

  1. Notice the timeframe. Judah left his brothers soon after their sin against Joseph. Perhaps he was guilt-stricken after the sin?
  2. Whatever his reason for leaving, Judah’s actions didn’t necessarily improved. He moves away from his family, lives among the Canaanites, and marries a Canaanite.

3 So she conceived and bore a son, and he called his name Er. 4 She conceived again and bore a son, and she called his name Onan. 5 And she conceived yet again and bore a son, and called his name Shelah. He was at Chezib when she bore him.

  1. Three sons were born. Er = “rouse,” Onan = “vigorous,” Shelah = “quiet/ease.” Whether these names were prophetic or simply preferred to Judah is unsaid. The point isn’t so much the meaning of the names, but the fact that Judah is living among the Canaanites, raising a family of Canaanites. He has removed himself from the covenant protections of his family, and this is going to bring bad results.

6 Then Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. 7 But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD killed him.

  1. What the sin of Er was, is unknown. What is known is that it brought immediate punishment. Judah might have removed himself from the worship of YHWH, but YHWH did not allow Himself to be removed. “The LORD killed” Er for this sin, whatever it was. As seen with Ananias & Sapphira (Acts 5), there is sin that leads to death.

8 And Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife and marry her, and raise up an heir to your brother.” 9 But Onan knew that the heir would not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in to his brother’s wife, that he emitted on the ground, lest he should give an heir to his brother. 10 And the thing which he did displeased the LORD; therefore He killed him also.

  1. Although the law of Moses was not yet written, the custom of levirate marriage was common. This duty was commanded by Judah to Onan, and Onan obeyed…half-heartedly. He didn’t mind having a woman to bed, but he refused to give an heir to his dead brother. As a result, the Lord “killed him also.
  2. By this point, YHWH has killed two of Judah’s sons. The text doesn’t shy away from this at all. It’s not that God “allowed” them to die, or “removed” His hand of protection from them; He killed Question: Is this still the God, of whom the Bible says that “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8)? Yes! But His love is only one of His attributes. The Bible says that God is love, but it also says that God is holy (Ps 99:9). In fact, this is one of the things that God explicitly says about Himself: Leviticus 11:44–45, “(44) For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. (45) For I am the LORD who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” Judah and his family may not have been acting as God’s people, but they were God’s people. And what God made clear through Moses was still God’s heart to Jacob & all his children. They were to be holy, because God Himself is holy. And God guards His holiness & His holy reputation. Thus sin is not tolerated, and will be judged.
    1. That doesn’t mean that God will strike us dead at the first sign of our own sin. We live through faith in Christ, whose death at the cross is all-sufficient for our sins. The price has been paid, hallelujah! It does mean that God will not hesitate to discipline us when we sin. His holiness does not end simply because we are saved by the blood of Jesus. God’s character never changes, and He will do what needs to be done in our lives to bring us to a place of humble repentance.

11 Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, “Remain a widow in your father’s house till my son Shelah is grown.” For he said, “Lest he also die like his brothers.” And Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house.

  1. Outwardly, Judah promised what was culturally righteous: a 2nd levirate marriage, to be fulfilled when Shelah became of age. Inwardly, Judah had no intention of fulfilling his vow. He already lost two sons, and he feared losing his third.
  2. Sadly, this says as much about Judah’s fatherhood as it does his sons’ sins. He’s so convinced that his third son will act in a similar fashion & die, but why is that? Because Judah apparently had not raised his children with a righteous fear of the Lord. He neglected his primary spiritual duty, and his children suffered the consequences (even while bearing their own responsibilities).
  • Tamar’s pregnancy (12-30)

12 Now in the process of time the daughter of Shua, Judah’s wife, died; and Judah was comforted, and went up to his sheepshearers at Timnah, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. 13 And it was told Tamar, saying, “Look, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.” 14 So she took off her widow’s garments, covered herself with a veil and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place which was on the way to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given to him as a wife.

  1. With Tamar living at her father’s house, she was out-of-sight, out-of-mind for Judah. His third son grew to marrying age, and Judah did nothing. He even left town for a bit, and forgot all about Tamar. By this point, Tamar had seen the writing on the wall, and decided to take matters into her own hand.
  2. What she did was no small matter! Knowing that Shelah would never be given to her, she decided to dress as a cultic prostitute and wait to be propositioned by her father-in-law. Ultimately, it will prove successful, but she took a massive risk in doing so. (1) Even though she covered her face with a veil, it was possible she could have been recognized and discovered. (2) She had no guarantee of pregnancy. She had one opportunity to get pregnant by her Judah, and if that didn’t work, she’d have no hope. (3) She had no guarantee that she wouldn’t be struck dead herself. Granted, she was owed a child according to the levirate custom, but her own deception and incestuous act was no less sin than that of her father-in-law. – All of this to say that although Tamar is a victim of sin, she was by no means perfect. There is a whole host of sin that takes place through this entire series of events, and no one is innocent.
    1. What was her only hope? The same as ours: the mercy & grace of God!

15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, because she had covered her face. 16 Then he turned to her by the way, and said, “Please let me come in to you”; for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. …

  1. Judah took the bait, and propositioned the woman along the road. In the process, he demonstrates more of his own sin. Although he was newly widowed, he still had no right to engage a prostitute, particularly one associated with cultic pagan practices (as the context implies). Not only was Judah engaging in sins of the flesh, but also sins of the heart.

… So she said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?” 17 And he said, “I will send a young goat from the flock.” So she said, “Will you give me a pledge till you send it?” 18 Then he said, “What pledge shall I give you?” So she said, “Your signet and cord, and your staff that is in your hand.” Then he gave them to her, and went in to her, and she conceived by him. 19 So she arose and went away, and laid aside her veil and put on the garments of her widowhood.

  1. Typical negotiation. Ultimately, Tamar acquired important identifying objects of Judah. It’d be like asking for his driver’s license and Social Security cards. These were things he would not be able to deny as belonging to him, and willingly lent to her.
  2. Note Tamar did not remain in that place. She wasn’t permanently changing habits; this was a one-time only event. She removed her disguise and no doubt waited nervously for the day she discovered she was pregnant, and the eventual day when everyone discovered she was pregnant. She was well aware this was a possible death sentence for her, and no doubt the following days & weeks were painful waiting.

20 And Judah sent the young goat by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman’s hand, but he did not find her. 21 Then he asked the men of that place, saying, “Where is the harlot who was openly by the roadside?” And they said, “There was no harlot in this place.” 22 So he returned to Judah and said, “I cannot find her. Also, the men of the place said there was no harlot in this place.” 23 Then Judah said, “Let her take them for herself, lest we be shamed; for I sent this young goat and you have not found her.”

  1. It’s no wonder no one knew who she was or where she had gone. She had never been there before, and would not be there again. Tamar presented herself to Judah & Judah alone.
  2. Like it or not, Judah was already shamed!

24 And it came to pass, about three months after, that Judah was told, saying, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has played the harlot; furthermore she is with child by harlotry.” So Judah said, “Bring her out and let her be burned!”

  1. Talk about overkill! He had the right to demand the death penalty, but burning was reserved for the very worst of crimes. As it was, Judah was a hypocrite, which probably added to his desire for violence. He didn’t do any investigation, having asked no questions – he just wanted her dead. In his mind, he likely held her responsible for the death of his two sons, and this was his twisted way of getting vengeance. But there was a twist coming that he didn’t see…

25 When she was brought out, she sent to her father-in-law, saying, “By the man to whom these belong, I am with child.” And she said, “Please determine whose these are—the signet and cord, and staff.” 26 So Judah acknowledged them and said, “She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son.” And he never knew her again.

  1. She produced her proof, and Judah had no way to argue against it.
  2. Although the text it’s subtle, notice the change in heart for Judah. Immediately he humbled himself and realized his own sin & lack of righteousness. Tamar’s own act wasn’t righteous, but in comparison with an Israelite who knew differently, it was far better than what he had done. This seems to have been a turning point for Judah, and the next time we see him, his attitude is completely different.
  3. As for Tamar, she lived & she gained her children. Even so, she still had ongoing consequences for the rest of her life. Surely Judah cared for her as a member of his house, but she never again had a husband. She lived in the house of Judah, but she lived alone. (Sin always has consequences.)

27 Now it came to pass, at the time for giving birth, that behold, twins were in her womb. 28 And so it was, when she was giving birth, that the one put out his hand; and the midwife took a scarlet thread and bound it on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” 29 Then it happened, as he drew back his hand, that his brother came out unexpectedly; and she said, “How did you break through? This breach be upon you!” Therefore his name was called Perez. 30 Afterward his brother came out who had the scarlet thread on his hand. And his name was called Zerah.

  1. Interestingly, as has been seen so many times before, there is a reversal of birthright where the older is supplanted by the younger. There is a close parallel between this birth-story & that of Esau & Jacob (Gen 25:24-26). Esau came out first, but Jacob was close behind, catching hold of his heel. In this case, Zerah originally was to be first born, but somehow he was pulled back in the womb and Perez came out in his place. Perez “breached” the order, which was the reason for his name. It demonstrates God’s sovereignty over their births.
  2. Why does this matter? Why is any of this included in our Bibles? Because Judah’s lineage is a very important lineage! Matthew 1:1–6a, “(1) The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: (2) Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. (3) Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. (4) Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. (5) Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, (6a) and Jesse begot David the king.” Even with all the deception and controversy, this is all part of the ancestry of Jesus. Tamar may have been initially treated with contempt by her father-in-law, but she had a Heavenly Father who loved her and included her as the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother of David…and a direct ancestor of the Lord Jesus!

Conclusion:

Two branches of Jacob’s family tree with two examples of severe sin. Yet when that sin comes face-to-face with the sovereignty of God, God wins hands-down! Joseph, though sold into slavery by his brothers who sought to save their own pride, was saved by God & directed by God to exactly the place God needed him to be. On the opposite end, Judah was the committer of sin: reneging on his fatherly commitments, indulging in sins of the flesh, engaging in hypocrisy that almost led to terrible violence – yet even in all of that, he could not overcome the will of God. God used even the terrible sin of Judah with Tamar to lead directly to Christ. God’s sovereignty always overcomes the sin of man!

And what glorious news this is for us! Not only from the perspective of the invitation to have our own sins forgiven by Jesus (which is wonderful!), but from the perspective of born-again Christians who routinely screw up on our own. There is no mistake you make that is too difficult for God to work for His glory. God’s sovereignty overcomes all sin – even yours & mine.

What rest there is in that fact – what comfort! God can (and will) work these things out for His glory, and He has always had a plan to do so. Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” This isn’t a blank check for us to go and commit sin, but it is truly good news for when we’ve fallen! All tragedies (even self-caused) can be used by God for His glory. That’s something in which we can rest.

Family Issues

Posted: June 28, 2018 in Genesis, Uncategorized

Genesis 34-36, “Family Issues”

Families can be like roller-coaster rides: one moment you’re riding high with them, and the next you’re in a freefall. They can be the greatest comfort this side of heaven, or they can anger you so much you never want to see them again. 

The family lineage descended from Adam had its own issues, as has been seen through every generation. The first brothers invented homicide – one of Noah’s sons took joy in humiliating him – Abraham’s first two sons were from two different women, arousing quite a bit of jealousy – Isaac showed favoritism among his own sons which split the family apart. Jacob had his share of issues as well, beginning with his wedding night onward! In Chapters 34-35, some more family issues come to light (some good, some bad), while Chapter 36 closes the Genesis account on Jacob’s twin brother Esau. What is it they all have in common? Apart from God, they all get into trouble! When we do things on our own, we struggle (and usually fail); when we follow the Lord, that’s the only way we do things pleasing to Him.

A lot of previous storylines come to a close in this section, so a bit of review is in order. Jacob and Esau had been estranged for twenty years. Jacob had tricked his way into receiving the covenant blessing (which God had previously declared would be his, anyway), and due to Esau’s anger & hunger for revenge, Jacob was sent far away to Padam Aram in Syria. There, he married the daughters of his uncle Laban (though not entirely by choice), and between them & their two maidservants, Jacob eventually left Syria with 4 wives, 11 sons, and a daughter named Dinah. He had much trouble with his uncle, but he grew in his trust of God, finally to have it blossom into full worship the night before he was to see his brother Esau. Jacob had feared Esau’s wrath, and though he did all he could through human effort to make things right, Jacob’s sole hope was in the mercies of God – and in a vision, Jacob grabbed hold of God & would not let go until God blessed him.

In response to this act of surrendered faith, God renamed Jacob “Israel,” (strength of God / God perseveres), and gave His blessing to him. Jacob/Israel and Esau were reconciled, and although Esau wanted Jacob to return to Mount Seir with him, each went their separate ways. 

What happens after that? Jacob may have surrendered himself to the Lord, but he didn’t live perfectly in the ways of the Lord. Like all of us, Jacob had his failings – and in what is described, he profoundly failed with his children. Thankfully, that didn’t stop him from worshipping God, and though his family would continue to struggle, Jacob stepped into the shoes of being the spiritual leader of his home. As for Esau, nothing is known of his faith, but it is known that God kept His promises regarding Esau. He grew into a great nation, and this book which is dedicated to the origins of Israel even shows the origins of Edom.

All of it is family. It isn’t perfect, but perfect isn’t expected. All we can do, even in our imperfect families, is follow Jesus. Follow Him!

Genesis 34 – Jacob’s Daughter

  • Dinah violated (1-4)

1 Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. 2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her and lay with her, and violated her.

  1. Horrible. Although surely rape had surely happened in the past, this is the first time it is recorded in Scripture. No family is exempt from tragedy, even the family of Israel.
  2. There is a bit of question as to whether this was rape, or a case of pre-marital sex. Either one would be seen as a terrible sin & violation, although only one involved truly criminal intent. The word used in Genesis could be translated “humble, afflict, oppress, humiliate.” It is never used in a good sense, almost always being tragic. Although the following circumstances make this unusual for a rape, that was most likely exactly what it was. Attempts to place some responsibility on Dinah (her being in a place she shouldn’t have been) are wrong. Shechem bears 100% responsibility for his actions – he alone is to blame.
    1. Sexual assault is rampant, and should be quickly condemned and reported. Too many stories exist of too many Christian institutions that try to “handle” reports of sexual assault internally, and it ought never be done. God has granted the government the ministry of the sword for the specific purpose of exacting justice (Rom 13:4). The Church (or Seminary, as the case may be) has no business in ministries not appointed to it by the Lord.

3 His soul was strongly attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the young woman and spoke kindly to the young woman. 4 So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this young woman as a wife.”

  1. He wronged her, but somehow he loved her. For as much as Shechem committed a crime, the text shows him doing his best to do the right thing afterward.
  2. Culturally speaking, this was the best-case scenario of a truly bad situation. A raped woman had virtually zero chance of marriage after the crime against her, thus no chance for children, no hope for her old age, etc. At least with Shechem, he desired to take her as a wife. There’s no indication of what she thought of the proposal, but culturally speaking, that was rarely considered anyway. (It doesn’t make it right or recommended; it just was what it was.)
  • Negotiations (5-12)

5 And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter. Now his sons were with his livestock in the field; so Jacob held his peace until they came.

  1. Jacob took his time to react…not necessarily a bad thing. It is good not to be ruled by one’s emotions, and to carefully consider a response to even things that are emergencies. But there needs to be some The troubling part was that Jacob didn’t seem to react at all. To say that “Jacob held his peace,” is literally to say that “he was silent.” His daughter (perhaps his only daughter) was raped, and he said nothing. In fact, he takes a back-seat to the entire matter – something which doesn’t speak in his favor.
    1. Leadership (including family leadership) requires leading. At some point, action needs to be taken – especially those who are charged with a family’s protection & provision. God has given that responsibility to husbands/fathers, and Jacob failed miserably on this count.

6 Then Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him. 7 And the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved and very angry, because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, a thing which ought not to be done.

  1. The brothers were exceedingly angry, and their anger was understandable. After all, this would have been bad enough to happen to any woman, but this was their sister. And not only that, their father had been silent. What would happen? Anything? No doubt, it was infuriating – just as any occasion in which it seems that injustice isn’t answered.
  2. What had happened was totally unjust: “a thing which ought not to be done.” Some things ought not even be in existence. Rape, child molestation, and other similar crimes are examples.
    1. The good news is that there will be justice in all of these things. God will see to it!
  3. FYI: This is the first instance in the Bible when “Israel” is used to describe a nation/land, rather than an individual.

8 But Hamor spoke with them, saying, “The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter. Please give her to him as a wife. 9 And make marriages with us; give your daughters to us, and take our daughters to yourselves. 10 So you shall dwell with us, and the land shall be before you. Dwell and trade in it, and acquire possessions for yourselves in it.”

  1. Again, one of the unusual aspects about this crime was that Shechem really seemed to care for Dinah. His “soul” longed for her. (נֶ֫פֶשׁ) There is a sincerity implied. People can put on faces & try to say the “right” words, but you can’t fake what’s on the inside. Apparently, he truly longed for this woman he wronged.
    1. It doesn’t make it right; the ends never justify the means.
  2. Hamor begins the process of negotiating for the life of his son. Truly, he should have been killed for his crime, but Hamor attempted to make some form of restitution. That’s why he proposes the intermarriages. Shechem had wrongfully taken a daughter of Israel; the sons of Israel were invited to take the daughters of the city.
  3. That wasn’t all Hamor attempted to do! He also looked to expand his own people, being a ruler of them (Shechem was a prince, vs. 2). He wasn’t simply trying to negotiate justice; he was negotiating trade and commerce. To Jacob’s family, he suggested that they would be able to “acquire possessions” for themselves; in reality, he had a much more selfish motive in mind (which will later be apparent).

11 Then Shechem said to her father and her brothers, “Let me find favor in your eyes, and whatever you say to me I will give. 12 Ask me ever so much dowry and gift, and I will give according to what you say to me; but give me the young woman as a wife.”

  1. Was this a sincere offer from Shechem? He seems to have been willing to do anything, pay any price in order to acquire Dinah as a wife.
  • Deceit (13-24)

13 But the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father, and spoke deceitfully, because he had defiled Dinah their sister.

  1. Before we go any further, notice who gave an answer to Shechem & Hamor: “the sons of Jacob.” Where was Jacob? His silence continued far too long! He disengaged himself from the entire process, thus he had only himself to blame for the results. If he had taken the point of leadership (as he should have), who knows what would have happened?
  2. Notice also that Jacob’s sons had no intention of seeking justice or reconciliation. They “spoke deceitfully,” purposefully lying in order to seek revenge. Whether they learned this from their father or their great-uncle Laban is uncertain, but it was certainly a sad family tradition. They had a plan for their own brand of vigilante justice.
  3. How exactly did they lie? They brought their religious faith into the equation.

14 And they said to them, “We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a reproach to us. 15 But on this condition we will consent to you: If you will become as we are, if every male of you is circumcised, 16 then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters to us; and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people. 17 But if you will not heed us and be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and be gone.”

  1. The issue was circumcision, but what did it mean for a Hebrew to be circumcised? It was the sign of their covenant with God. It was the outward sign of their commitment to the Lord as their God, and their trust in Him. When the sons of Jacob proposed circumcision to Hamor, they were basically inviting them to become Hebrews. They used the covenant sign of conversion for their deceit.
    1. Imagine using the promise of salvation in order to exact revenge. That’s the basic equivalent. The sons of Jacob used the holy things of God for their own purposes, and they entered into sin themselves.
  2. They also proposed unity as a people, which was another problem. This was a direct violation of God’s covenant commitment to grow them into a nation. The reason Jacob had 11 sons was because he went away from Canaan in order to find a wife and family. His family was supposed to remain separate & pure, as they trusted God for their growth. So not only were they abusing the covenant sign of God, they were proposing an abandonment of the promises of God.
    1. Of course, this was all deceit – something not intended to come to pass. Even so, it was wrong. No one (with the exception of Dinah) is without sin in this situation.

18 And their words pleased Hamor and Shechem, Hamor’s son. 19 So the young man did not delay to do the thing, because he delighted in Jacob’s daughter. He was more honorable than all the household of his father.

  1. The plans of the sons sounded wonderful to Hamor & Shechem. Shechem didn’t even hesitate at the prospect of circumcision.
  2. The note on verse 19 is interesting: “He was more honorable than all the household of his father.” How can this be said about an admitted rapist? What Shechem did was evil, but that act was not his defining characteristic. Truth be told, we’re all Some acts of evil are more public than others, and some people sit in prison because of what they’ve done – others of us live as free men and women. Shechem did something terrible, no matter what culture & age in which it was committed – but according to the culture of the day, he tried to make things right, and apparently he truly loved (“delighted in”) Dinah. There is a whole lot of wrong in the situation, but Shechem cannot be caricatured as a single-sided villain.
    1. Aren’t you glad God sees you for more than your sin? Aren’t you glad God extended you His grace in spite of your sin? We are just as deserving of God’s eternal death sentence as anyone sitting on death row; we just know the grace of Jesus. What we’ve experienced, we ought to extend.
  3. Hamor & Shechem took the proposal back to their city. 

20 And Hamor and Shechem his son came to the gate of their city, and spoke with the men of their city, saying: 21 “These men are at peace with us. Therefore let them dwell in the land and trade in it. For indeed the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters to us as wives, and let us give them our daughters. 22 Only on this condition will the men consent to dwell with us, to be one people: if every male among us is circumcised as they are circumcised. 23 Will not their livestock, their property, and every animal of theirs be ours? Only let us consent to them, and they will dwell with us.” 24 And all who went out of the gate of his city heeded Hamor and Shechem his son; every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city.

  1. As Hamor presented it (Shechem is listed along with him, but it seems that the words were primarily Hamor’s), it all sounded like a winning scenario.
  2. Ultimately, Hamor believed that it was his people who would reap the benefits. They might all experience the pain of circumcision now, but it would be Jacob’s family that was assimilated into Hamor’s people; not the other way around. Thus Hamor’s people would receive Jacob’s wealth & all that went with it.
    1. Consider for a moment what would have happened if the sons of Jacob had been sincere in their offer, and had actually joined with Hamor & the city? The nation of Israel would never have existed! The Messianic line would have been broken!
    2. This is what happens when we do things outside of the will of God. We inevitably make bad situations worse!
  3. The people of the city agreed with Hamor’s proposal, and the men followed in circumcision. Note: They were circumcised; not converted. Circumcision was the outward sign of the covenant, but a true Israelite is circumcised in the heart in addition to the flesh (Dt 10:16, Rom 2:29). The men of the city engaged in religious ritual; not true religion.
    1. Ritual does not equal relationship. Sacraments do not equal salvation. We need what is real; not the mere symbols of the reality.
  • Vengeance (25-31)

25 Now it came to pass on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and came boldly upon the city and killed all the males. 26 And they killed Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and went out.

  1. Simeon and Levi attacked the men at their weakest. They totally slaughtered the men.
  2. For all that could be said about this, this was not justice.

27 The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and plundered the city, because their sister had been defiled. 28 They took their sheep, their oxen, and their donkeys, what was in the city and what was in the field, 29 and all their wealth. All their little ones and their wives they took captive; and they plundered even all that was in the houses.

  1. If Simeon and Levi shed the most blood, the rest of the sons of Jacob (or at least, the sons of Leah, the brothers of Dinah) came back and plundered the rest of the city.
  2. This was the converse of verse 23. Originally, Hamor and the men of the city believed that they would gain everything that belonged to Israel; as it turned out, the sons of Israel plundered the city.

30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have troubled me by making me obnoxious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and since I am few in number, they will gather themselves together against me and kill me. I shall be destroyed, my household and I.” 31 But they said, “Should he treat our sister like a harlot?”

  1. Finally, after all of the bloodshed, Jacob speaks. Too little, too late! Beyond that, he spoke about the wrong thing: self-preservation. That’s not to say that his fears weren’t legitimate. War was indeed possible, as the surrounding cities could gather themselves to fight the household of Jacob. Granted, he had many servants in addition to his sons, but it’s doubtful that he commanded an army.
  2. The problem was that Jacob was concerned for himself. He may have now been worried about his household being destroyed, but he hadn’t done anything in Dinah’s defense when she was violated. It was only when he was personally endangered that he said anything. He should have spoken up for his daughter. (As a dad of a girl, I cannot understand this!)
    1. Again, Jacob may have had faith at this point, but he was far from perfect!
  3. Simeon & Levi justified their actions, saying that their sister had been treated like a prostitute (implying that Jacob had known, and done nothing about it). They had a righteous cause, but a wrong action.

Genesis 35 – Jacob’s faith and family

  • Rededication at Bethel (1-15)

1 Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.”

  1. For all the trouble that seemed to brewing where he was, God moved Jacob away (at least, temporarily). Where was he to go? Bethel – back to the foundations. [Genesis 28:10-22] This was where Jacob made his initial vow to the Lord, and God reminded him of it – this was to be its culmination. Jacob needs some reminders, and God ensures he will get them!

2 And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments. 3 Then let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me in the way which I have gone.” 4 So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods which were in their hands, and the earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree which was by Shechem.

  1. The household of Jacob had “foreign gods”! Literally, they had “Foreign Elohim.” The one household in all the world that ought to have been totally dedicated to the true God had idols in their midst. Some had initially been carried out from Padan Aram, others may have been part of the plunder of Shechem. Where it all originated, we don’t know – but it shouldn’t have been there in the first place!
    1. There are times we might want to do some self-examination. How much of the world have we allowed to come into our Christianity? How much do we find us relying on ourselves, rather than Jesus – or depending on legalism rather than grace? Paganism can come from more than one source, and it can sometimes be subtle.
  2. Paganism may have been in his house, but Jacob himself was committed to the Living God. He knew that God “answered” him, and continually answered him, always being with him. God had been faithful, even when Jacob was not. Jacob had been the recipient of much grace – and would receive much more! (As do/have we!)
  3. Jacob finally took leadership of his home, and purified his family away from the pagan influences. It may have seemed like a small step, but it made a big difference. Burying the earrings and idols was like putting them in the grave, killing off the stuff of the world in order to follow God. Jacob obviously could not force his family to have faith, but he could certainly set an example for them.

5 And they journeyed, and the terror of God was upon the cities that were all around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.

  1. Remember that Jacob feared war in 34:30; here it shows how God protected the family. A supernatural “terror of God” fell upon the various surrounding cities. They hadn’t feared Simeon & Levi, but they certainly feared the omnipotent God!

6 So Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him. 7 And he built an altar there and called the place El Bethel, because there God appeared to him when he fled from the face of his brother.

  1. All of this ought to seem very familiar, as Jacob is retracing some previous steps. “El Bethel” = “God of the House of God.” This is where he had first heard from God, having a vision from God. In the past, he had erected a pillar; now he built an altar. It truly became a house of worship.
  2. Why did Jacob name the altar? Jacob remembered his beginnings: “because there God appeared to him.” — Remember your beginnings in the faith! Remember how you first met Jesus, and followed Him as Lord. Remember your “first love.” (Rev 2:4)

8 Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried below Bethel under the terebinth tree. So the name of it was called Allon Bachuth.

  1. Interesting side note. This is the first mention of Rebekah’s nurse, and we are not given any reason why she would have been traveling with Jacob’s family. She must have been with him for quite some time, considering there’s no indication that Jacob had seen his parents after arriving back in the land. Before Jacob went to Padan Aram, his mother had told him that she would send for him when Esau calmed from his anger (Gen 27:45). Perhaps Deborah had been sent at that time, and remained with Jacob ever since. (Surely she was quite aged by this point!)
  2. Allon Bachuth” = Terebinth/Oak of Weeping.

9 Then God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Padan Aram, and blessed him. 10 And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.” So He called his name Israel.

  1. It was back in Peniel/Penuel that God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. Here, God confirms the change. This time there was no vision of wrestling, no crisis to be averted – it was just God and Jacob. The change that God declared upon Jacob had never been meant to be temporary; it was a complete and total change of identity. (Same with us in Christ!)

11 Also God said to him: “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. 12 The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land.”

  1. God Almighty” = El Shaddai (אֵ֤ל שַׁדַּי֙). This is only the 2nd time the title has been used, the first being Genesis 17:1, when God appeared to Abraham at 99 years of age, commanding him to walk before God and be blameless. Most people are familiar with the title from the popular song, but don’t have much of an idea of what it means. Scholars are actually uncertain as to the definition. It is a common title God uses for Himself, and perhaps linked to the idea of mountains. The translation of “God Almighty” comes due to the Latin Vulgate (omnipotēns), which was their best guess of how to refer to the strength that is implied. The point is that it does seem to refer to strength – the immovable might of the Creator God. God can do what He says He can do.
  2. For Jacob, this is especially important in terms of the covenant. God reiterates to Jacob that the covenant land and blessing is officially passed to him. The promise of a land, a people, and a Messiah are now Jacob’s to expect.
    1. For us, it is especially important in terms of our covenant of salvation!

13 Then God went up from him in the place where He talked with him. 14 So Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He talked with him, a pillar of stone; and he poured a drink offering on it, and he poured oil on it. 15 And Jacob called the name of the place where God spoke with him, Bethel.

  1. This is the 2nd pillar at Bethel, and the 2nd naming of Luz as Bethel. It is a total rededication of Jacob, based on his renewed calling from God. (There come moments when rededication is necessary.)
  • Rachel’s death (16-20)

16 Then they journeyed from Bethel. And when there was but a little distance to go to Ephrath, Rachel labored in childbirth, and she had hard labor. 17 Now it came to pass, when she was in hard labor, that the midwife said to her, “Do not fear; you will have this son also.”

  1. Although Rachel had longed for many children, over the years she had only borne one: Joseph. Finally she was pregnant again, but it cost her life.
  2. Do not fear” – not an exhortation that she would live, but a comfort that her son would live.

18 And so it was, as her soul was departing (for she died), that she called his name Ben-Oni; but his father called him Benjamin.

  1. Terribly sad circumstances for the birth, but her son was to be a son of joy. Rachel originally named him for her death (“son of my sorrow”); Jacob overruled and named him as a blessing (“son of my right hand”).

19 So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). 20 And Jacob set a pillar on her grave, which is the pillar of Rachel’s grave to this day.

  1. Interestingly, Rachel was not buried in the family tomb at Mamre. Apparently Jacob had been on his way there, but Rachel died too soon. She was buried near Bethlehem – a site that was apparently still known to the Hebrews of Samuel’s day. (1 Sam 10:2)
  • Reuben’s betrayal (21-22)

21 Then Israel journeyed and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder. 22 And it happened, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine; and Israel heard about it. …

  1. This was a terrible betrayal by Jacob’s firstborn. Not only was it incestuous, it was likely a preemptive move by Reuben to establish himself as the leader of the clan. Reuben was the firstborn of Jacob and Leah, and with Rachel dead, Reuben made a move to defile (so to speak) the maid of Rachel, leaving the line of Leah as pure.
  2. Although Genesis says nothing of Jacob’s (Israel’s) response, he clearly remembered the act, citing it as the reason Reuben lost his birthright (Gen 49:4). Interestingly, the right of the firstborn was denied to the 3 eldest sons of Israel: Reuben, Simeon, and Levi (Reuben for his betrayal, and Simeon & Levi for their vengeance), which made none other than Judah next in line. From which tribe did Jesus arise? Judah.
  • Summary of sons (23-26)

… Now the sons of Jacob were twelve: 23 the sons of Leah were Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, and Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun; 24 the sons of Rachel were Joseph and Benjamin; 25 the sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s maidservant, were Dan and Naphtali; 26 and the sons of Zilpah, Leah’s maidservant, were Gad and Asher. These were the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Padan Aram.

  1. Strictly speaking, only 11 of the 12 sons were born in Padan Aram; this is simply a summary of the 12 patriarchs.
  • Isaac’s death (27-29)

27 Then Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre, or Kirjath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had dwelt. 28 Now the days of Isaac were one hundred and eighty years. 29 So Isaac breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people, being old and full of days. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

  1. Amazingly, Isaac had survived this entire time. Rebekah seems to have died long before, but Isaac lived to the grand old age of 180. Isaac’s death brought Esau & Jacob back together, perhaps for the last time. They seem to have maintained the peace between them, even as they lived far apart.

Genesis 36 – Origin of the Edomites

Due to the length of the passage, and the repetition of many of the names, we will cover only the highlights. Keep in mind, it’s not that the names are unimportant. Surely to the people who knew them, they were very important – they were family! Each individual was a man or woman made in the image of God, and God loved them as His own creation. Yet as they relate to the nation of Israel, and the history leading to the Messiah, the names have far less importance to modern readers today. The remainder of the chapter shows the rise of Esau’s family to prominence among the people of Mount Seir, and why eventually the entire people group became known as the Edomites. Esau’s children married into prominent families among Seir, and themselves became the majority of the chiefs of Mount Seir. Because they were able to hold onto their authority throughout their generations, the region became Edom.

Question: Why does the Bible include any of this? Simple: They were family. Like Genesis did with the family of Ishmael (Gen 25:12-18), it does with the family of Esau. These were relatives of the Israelites, just as much descended from Abraham as was Isaac and Jacob. Like any family tree, Genesis follows out those bloodlines a bit to show the later generations of Israelites what happened.

Additionally, the Edomites had a lot of interaction with the Israelites through the centuries. In Moses’ day, God forbade the Hebrews from fighting the Edomites, even though Edom had denied passage to the Hebrews after they left Egypt (Dt 2:5, Num 20:14-21). They were kin, so they were to be left alone. Things didn’t stay that way for long, and Saul fought against Edom during his reign (1 Sam 14:47), whereas David actually conquered them, making them his servants (2 Sam 7:14). Eventually, Edom would throw off the rule of Judah, and they even cheered the conquest of the Jews by Babylon…something for which they would incur the everlasting wrath of God.

Even so, it all began somewhere, and Genesis (this book of beginnings) details it here.

Some of the highlights:

1 Now this is the genealogy of Esau, who is Edom.

  1. This is emphasized throughout the chapter, some form of it being repeated at least 4 times in Chapter 36. To the reader, there was to be no doubt of the kinship relation between the two countries.

6 Then Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters, and all the persons of his household, his cattle and all his animals, and all his goods which he had gained in the land of Canaan, and went to a country away from the presence of his brother Jacob. 7 For their possessions were too great for them to dwell together, and the land where they were strangers could not support them because of their livestock.

  1. Like Lot & Abraham, the land was not large enough to support both the households of Esau and Jacob. Esau had moved away prior to Jacob’s return (Gen 33:16), and the fact that he did indicates that Esau had submitted to the reality of Jacob receiving the covenant blessing. The land promised to Isaac rightly belonged to Jacob; not Esau, and over the course of 20 years, Esau had come to grips with this and moved someplace else that he could call home.
  2. There is not much in the Biblical text that speaks of Esau’s faith (if any), but there is at least some submission to God in this.

12 Now Timna was the concubine of Eliphaz, Esau’s son, and she bore Amalek to Eliphaz.

  1. Although it is uncertain that this Amalek is the Amalek that later became a nation and a threat to Israel, this is the first mention of the name in the Bible. It would not be unlikely that this distant relative of Israel became jealous of God’s blessing on Israel, and sought to take things for their own nation.

24 These were the sons of Zibeon: both Ajah and Anah. This was the Anah who found the water in the wilderness as he pastured the donkeys of his father Zibeon.

  1. Among all the listings of names, there is this unusual account of finding water in the wilderness. It must have been a famous event at the time, for it to be included in the annals of Scripture. Water in the wilderness is a rare occurrence, which was one of God’s miraculous provisions for Israel as they wandered for 40 years.

31 Now these were the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the children of Israel:

  1. Although Moses was the writer/compiler of Genesis, already there was a view towards a future kingdom, as was even proclaimed by God in Genesis 35:11. Kings were to come from the line of Jacob, specifically one king: King Jesus!
  2. That said, the kingdom of Edom was established before the kingdom of Israel. Even so, the kingdom of Israel would last longer. Edom has long since passed away, and we already taste the kingdom of Jesus…soon to come in all its glorious fulness!

43 … Esau was the father of the Edomites.

  1. The chapter wraps up as it began, focusing on Esau as the patriarch of the Edomites. This was his family & history. Even as eventual enemies of Israel, they found their origin in the God of Israel. Likewise, they found their judgment in the God of Israel, as God cleared that no survivor of theirs would remain (Obad 18).
  2. Whether they admit it or not, all people find their origin in the Lord, and all people will face the Lord for judgment. The only question is if we will face His judgment as His enemies or as His children.

Conclusion:

Much happened within the family of Jacob! There was terrible tragedy & silence in the face of it – there was vengeance, paganism, and betrayal. But there was also renewal and rededication. In the midst of all that Jacob did wrong, God’s plans and promises for him never changed. God still called him Israel, and God still gave him the promise of Messiah Jesus. All Jacob needed to do was to trust Him, and follow Him (something with which his brother & descendants struggled).

There aren’t many guarantees in life, but we can guarantee this: we’re going to screw up. There will be times we drop the ball, and other times we purposefully do what is obviously wrong. When that happens, don’t give up. Don’t think that because you failed once (or twice, or however many times) that you are always a failure & that God has given up on you. He hasn’t! Don’t you give up on God!

Those aren’t the times to run away from the grace of Jesus; those are the times to cling even harder to Him than ever. Remind yourself of His promises – remind yourself of your beginnings with Him – rededicate yourself to His service, if need be, but don’t give up! Admit your sin, ask His forgiveness, and then walk forward in grace. 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Wrasslin’ with Jesus

Posted: June 21, 2018 in Genesis, Uncategorized

Genesis 32-33, “Wrasslin’ with Jesus”

In the South, it’s not “wrestling;” it’s “wrasslin’.” I didn’t watch much wrasslin’ growing up as a kid, but I watched a few episodes of WWE (WWF at the time). Guys like Hulk Hogan and André the Giant and Randy Savage were the rage – massively huge men who seemingly had the capability of throwing people across the room. Was it fake? Sure, but not to a kid…to a kid, it was superhuman strength! The only time it would really cause trouble was when we’d try out the moves on each other. Somehow, a clothesline or an elbow drop looked like it hurt a lot less on TV! 

Real-life wrestling is different. To grapple with another human being is a tough (but ancient) Olympic sport, which requires strength, skill, and (perhaps most of all) endurance. If you don’t have the stamina to last in the ring, you’ll end up on the losing end of the match.

Genesis 32 has its own version of a wrestling match, as Jacob goes toe-to-toe with an unnamed Man, who is none other than the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. For all that Jacob lacked, one thing he had in abundance (by this point) was endurance. Once he got a clue whom it was he was wrestling, he understood that he could not afford to let go. He had to hold on to God for all he was worth, because all he had & all his hope was in God alone. It had taken Jacob a while to get to this point, but he had finally arrived, and he wasn’t about to leave!

Because much of what is narrated in these chapters had their beginnings earlier in the book, we need to review a bit of the context. The last time Jacob had seen his twin brother Esau was twenty years earlier, when Jacob had deceived their father Isaac and received the blessing that Isaac intended to give to Esau. Technically, the blessing rightfully belonged to Jacob, both by prophecy of the Lord & by right of sale, acquired from Esau for a bowl of stew. Even so, Jacob was still at fault for trickery and Esau wanted blood. His father and mother thus sent Jacob to his uncle Laban in Syria to find a wife (and to let tempers cool). Along the way, God promised to return Jacob to the land, and Jacob promised to worship God when it happened.

Time passed. Jacob had arrived in Padan Aram and learned some hard lessons in humility at the hand of his deceptive uncle Laban. Even so, God blessed Jacob, and at the end of twenty years, now with four wives, eleven sons, at least one daughter, and massive numbers of livestock – it was time for Jacob to return home. Laban didn’t make things easy, but eventually he and Jacob came to an agreement, and Jacob was free.

By this point, Jacob was starting to walk by faith, having a righteous fear of the God of his fathers. But what would Jacob’s own relationship with God look like? And how would that affect his other relationships and challenges? That is all settled in Chapters 32-33. This is when Jacob finally surrenders himself in faith, refusing to let go of God. Getting right with Jesus got Jacob ready for everything else.

Jacob may have wrassled with Jesus, but it brought him to surrendered faith. What will it do for you?

Genesis 32

  • Preparing for Esau (32:1-21)

1 So Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2 When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is God’s camp.” And he called the name of that place Mahanaim.

  1. The Hebrew text actually includes 31:55 as the first verse in Chapter 32, so when it says “Jacob went on his way,” it should be thought as the equal response to Laban’s leaving. They both left the place where they had formed a covenant, each going their separate ways.
  2. Jacob didn’t remain alone for long; “the angels of God met him.” Not much about it is described, but Jacob actually had an angelic encounter – something that might have gotten a larger write-up anywhere else. If nothing else, it was a sign that Jacob was on the right path, doing the right things. After all, if he’s camping out in the same place as the angels of God, there’s no place better that he could be!
  3. The most important thing about the angels wasn’t the angels; it was Who the angels represented: the Lord God. God was there – this was His Being in the presence of God is the privilege of every believer in Jesus Christ. How so? We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit indwells each and every born-again believer. We don’t have to search for a specific physical location in which we can worship God – we can worship God anywhere, in spirit and in truth, for God is always with us.

3 Then Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 4 And he commanded them, saying, “Speak thus to my lord Esau, ‘Thus your servant Jacob says: “I have dwelt with Laban and stayed there until now. 5 I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight.” ’ ”

  1. There’s an interesting parallel between verse 1 & verse 3 that doesn’t come across in English. The Hebrew word for “angel” and “messenger” is the same (as it is for Greek). It is the context that determines the translation. But the word for both is “malach,” (מַלְאָךְ). (“Malachi” = My Messenger) Just like God sent messengers to Jacob, Jacob sent messengers to Esau. In a sense, Jacob is following God’s lead. Of course, in God’s case, He already knew everything about Jacob. God’s messengers (angels) were sent for Jacob’s benefit. In Jacob’s case, he needed his messengers to not only communicate to Esau, but learn what was on Esau’s mind – again, primarily for Jacob’s benefit.
  2. In the midst of it all, notice the humble attitude: “my lord…your servant.” This was a vastly different tone than what he had when Jacob originally left. Twenty years ago, Isaac had promised Jacob that he would be master over his brother (27:29), and that Esau would have to break off the yoke of Jacob (27:40). Even if Jacob hadn’t flaunted this in front of his brother, it was still the proverbial ‘elephant in the room.’ This is why Jacob went to such extremes regarding the titles – he was trying to put this as far away from him as possible. This wasn’t simply cultural humility; it was planned wisdom.
    1. Humility goes far in defusing bad situations. Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:18, “A wrathful man stirs up strife, But he who is slow to anger allays contention.” The way we answer someone can sometimes be just as important as the content of our answer. Even the truth of the Scripture can be quoted in such a way that it becomes a bludgeon & not a balm. By all means, speak truth! But speak it in love & humility.

6 Then the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he also is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.”

  1. 400 men! This had all the appearance of war, and it probably was. Dangerous sight!

7 So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two companies. 8 And he said, “If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the other company which is left will escape.”

  1. Jacob’s fear was natural! If you were facing the possibility of staring down an army with nothing more than your family & farmhands, you’d be fearful, too!
  2. Jacob did two things. The first was to plan – initially described here, as splitting up his people. This was only the first step. The bulk of his plan was to send an appeasement gift/tribute to his brother – something already mentioned by the messengers, but fully planned later in the chapter.
  3. The second was to pray. 

9 Then Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you’: 10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies. 11 Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children. 12 For You said, ‘I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’ ”

  1. This was a prayer of faith! It is some of the strongest faith thus far seen from Jacob. Jacob may have his own plans in the works, but ultimately his hope is not in those plans, but in the Lord. He appeals to God in faith, doing so on several levels.
  2. First, Jacob knew God as the God of his fathers. Just as he had done with Laban, he remembered God as the true God – the God his fathers worshiped and feared. This was not a generic god of a generic people; this was the God of all the Universe who promised an everlasting covenant with Jacob’s family. And that wasn’t all…Jacob also knew God as the God who spoke to him. Jacob’s faith wasn’t only mirrored off the faith of his fathers, but also his own personal encounter with the Lord.
    1. This is key! Which god do we worship? To whom do we pray? Many people pray, but few pray with knowledge of the true God – and to have that knowledge, it needs to be first-hand. No one is saved by second-hand faith. If the only way we know Jesus is through the stories of our parents, grandparents, or friends, then we don’t know Jesus at all. We have to know Him for ourselves.
  3. Second, Jacob remembered God’s promises. He quotes/summarizes two of God’s specific promises to him (31:3, 28:14). Jacob did not appeal to God based on Jacob’s own merit, for he had none. His prayer was predicated on God’s own promises. Because God said these things, God would ensure they came to pass. God promised to bring Jacob back to the land, to bless him, and to make him a great nation, so God would see it done.
    1. We do the same thing when we quote Scripture in our prayers. Caveat: we don’t rip the word of God out from its context & try to make truths apply to us that don’t fit. (Example: Jeremiah 29:11. That’s a national promise for national Israel; not a promise for individual application.) But what better to inform our prayers than the Bible? How can we best know what is on God’s heart for us, other than reading His inspired word? Our Bibles and our prayer journals go hand-in-hand!
  4. Third, Jacob had a humble view of himself, and an understanding of God’s greatness and merciful blessing. “I am not worthy” wasn’t a facetious statement giving the appearance of humility…it was truth! Jacob wasn’t worthy of the blessings of the Lord, and he knew it. He had come to grips with his history of deceptions and scheming – those things became painfully clear when he was walking through the desert twenty years ago holding his staff & nothing other than the promises of God. Jacob had come from one of the wealthiest families in the middle east, and at that point he had nothing but his clothes and a walking stick – soon to be dependent upon his uncle to give him a job tending sheep. That was where his own “worth” and efforts led him. Quite literally everything he had was due to the gift of God.
    1. Likewise, God has been merciful with us. We aren’t worthy of God’s blessings…not by a long shot! If our futures depended upon our worth, we would have nothing to expect except fire and brimstone. Our “worth” is worthless! Having that honest view of ourselves keeps us in the place of holy humility. We see us for who we are, and Jesus for who He is, and that’s the right perspective in prayer.
  5. Fourth, Jacob was honest! He didn’t pretend he wasn’t afraid; he freely admitted it. “…For I fear him.” Truth! Jacob didn’t pretend a holy courage that he didn’t have. By this point in his life, he understood that there was no point in pretenses with God. God knew his heart, and God would know if Jacob was lying. Jacob feared…and Jacob still trusted the Lord. His fear didn’t send him running away from God; it sent him running to God.
    1. Faith isn’t having a lack of fear; it is trusting God despite our fear. Fear shuts so many people down from prayer, but when we fear, it is what we most need to do! Prayer takes our eyes off our circumstances and puts them back onto the Lord (whom we need to fear reverently).
  6. Jacob’s prayer is a great model for us. Pray to the God who has revealed Himself to us – pray according to God’s promises – pray according to God’s character – pray honestly.
  7. Now that Jacob has prayed, he sets about with his planning. Faithful prayer is essential, but it isn’t a substitute for faithful action. Action is subservient to prayer, but it also needs to be subsequent to prayer.

13 So he lodged there that same night, and took what came to his hand as a present for Esau his brother: 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty milk camels with their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten foals.

  1. This is a massive gift! 550 various animals of livestock were sent to Esau. It emphasizes the abundant wealth held by Jacob. Surely, this was a significant percentage of Jacob’s herds, but it hardly left him penniless. God had blessed him abundantly! 

16 Then he delivered them to the hand of his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, “Pass over before me, and put some distance between successive droves.” 17 And he commanded the first one, saying, “When Esau my brother meets you and asks you, saying, ‘To whom do you belong, and where are you going? Whose are these in front of you?’ 18 then you shall say, ‘They are your servant Jacob’s. It is a present sent to my lord Esau; and behold, he also is behind us.’ ” 19 So he commanded the second, the third, and all who followed the droves, saying, “In this manner you shall speak to Esau when you find him; 20 and also say, ‘Behold, your servant Jacob is behind us.’ ” For he said, “I will appease him with the present that goes before me, and afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.”

  1. Consecutive waves of gifts – meant to soften Esau’s heart. One would follow the other, which would follow the other, giving Esau time to think and consider the humility of his brother.
  2. Some criticize this planning, claiming that although Jacob prayed, Jacob didn’t have faith that God would actually act. Not so. Jacob prayed, and his prayer was sincere – as seen in his later wrestling match. Jacob is simply being proactive, which is good! The last time Jacob saw his brother, Jacob had stolen a blessing from his brother. Upon his return, Jacob is giving a blessing to his brother. Was Jacob’s intent to save his skin? But it was still the right thing to do. Jacob has finally started to take responsibility for his actions, and he did what he believed necessary to make amends.
  3. Keep in mind, reconciliation with his brother was a must. Not only did it need to happen if Jacob was ever going to live safely in the land, but it was just the right thing. How could he move forward in his relationship with God and with the covenant blessing, if there was the unsettled stigma of how he had left his brother? Jesus addressed the same principle in the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5:23–24, “(23) Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, (24) leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Is our invitation to worship God bound as to whether or not we are forgiven by someone we’ve offended? After all, we cannot force anyone to do anything. But we are bound if we never seek forgiveness, or some form of reconciliation. How can we offer God our worship, trusting in His forgiveness, if we’ve got outstanding debts of sin towards others? (Let your conscience be clear!)

21 So the present went on over before him, but he himself lodged that night in the camp. 22 And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok. 23 He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had.

  1. At this point, there was nothing left to do but the waiting. He sent the gift, and prepared himself for the outcome. Time would tell as to what would happen.
  2. Actually, there was one There was one more meeting to be had – only Jacob didn’t know it was coming. 
  • Wrestling for a blessing (32:24-32)

24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. 25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him.

  1. Who was the Man? Jesus, at least in His pre-incarnate form. Earlier, Jacob met with multiple angels of God, but here it was no angel; it was God Himself!
  2. Question: Was it real – or was it a vision? In the end, it doesn’t matter – the actions and the result were the same either way. Just like Paul had a vision of heaven, not knowing if he really travelled there or just dreamt it, Jacob had his own encounter with Jesus. Together, they wrestled all night. Though infinitely outmatched, Jacob was persistent – to the point that Genesis says of Jesus “He did not prevail against him.” By normal physical means, Jesus did not outlast or overcome Jacob in wrestling. Jacob simply would not give up. It wasn’t until the Son of God used His supernatural power that the match came to an end.
  3. Who prevailed over who? Jacob hadn’t let go, but it only took a single touch to knock his hip out of joint. God let Jacob “win.” Jesus was in control the whole time. In fact, God showed mercy in allowing Jacob to wrestle with Him at all! … It’s not unlike dads engaging in horseplay with their young children. Could a grown man put down a 5 year old? No question, no problem. But sometimes dads let their kids win…especially when the kid wants it so bad that they don’t give up. That was Jesus with Jacob. Almighty God the Son could have stopped the wrestling before it started – He could have put Jacob down with a mere glance & not a touch at all. Jesus let Jacob wrestle Him, because Jesus wanted to see Jacob endure. In the past, Jacob had always taken the easy way out…not this time. No doubt, it thrilled the Lord that “He did not prevail against” Jacob!

26 And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”

  1. Why didn’t Jacob let go? Because Jacob’s one hope was in the Lord. Finally, he had the right perspective of God. In the past, Jacob believed some of the promises of God, but thought Jacob’s own plans for achieving those promises were better. In the past, Jacob relied far too much on himself. Now, he saw the worthlessness of his own self-reliance. What he needed was the blessing of God, and he had absolutely no hope without it. Jacob was going to cling to Jesus, and he was determined to always cling to Jesus.
  2. Don’t let go of Jesus! The problem with many people is that they let go of God too soon. They might ask for an initial salvation, but believe they can get through the rest of life on their own. They want a promise of eternal heaven, but not much to do with God along the way until they get there. Or they think God needs their help, and that they know better. IOW, they think God needs to cling to them, rather than them cling to God. Not so! He is our hope – He is our only What do we have to offer God, apart from faith? Nothing! There is nothing we can give Him that He cannot get on our own. The single exception is our willing worship…and for that, we need to cling to Christ. That requires total surrender; not a half-hearted pseudo-faith.

27 So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” 28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

  1. Jacob is renamed. He was “heel-catcher / supplanter” – now he is “strength of God / God persists/perseveres.” His entire identity was changed. The old name reminded him of his past – his new name signified his future. His encounter with Jesus changed everything!

29 Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there.

  1. Question: Didn’t Jacob already know? That much was made clear in his request for a blessing. So why did Jacob ask? That’s exactly the question Jesus asked him. Basically, ‘If you already know who I am (which you do), why do you ask Me my name?’ Of course, God knew the answer to what was in Jacob’s heart – even if the Scripture doesn’t tell us directly. Jacob had already shown much faith to this point, but Jacob wasn’t perfect. God wasn’t about to enter into some tit-for-tat with him – this was not a relationship-of-equals, yet that was seemingly how Jacob wanted to treat it. God had full rights to know Jacob & name him, but that didn’t go the other way around. God gave mercy to Jacob in revealing Himself to Jacob – but Jacob needed to come to God on God’s terms; not his own.
    1. People often do the same! We cannot come to God apart from His invitation on His terms.
    2. And when we do, we can never forget that we are not Yes, we are joint-heirs with Christ Jesus, graciously blessed to share in His inheritance and future. But at the end of the day, God is God & we’re not. We are not in a relationship-of-equals – we are privileged to be sons and daughters of the Most High God.

30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” 31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip.

  1. Peniel/Penuel are alternate spellings of the same thing: face of God.
  2. At this point, Jacob recognized the mercy shown to him. He was one of a few people in history who spoke to God face to face (Abraham & Moses being another couple of examples). Normally, that would mean death – in this case, it meant life.
  3. BTW: John 1:18 says that no one has seen God at any time – how can that be true, in the light of Jacob’s declaration & Moses’ experience, etc.? Simple: God the Father is spirit, and has no physical form. When people see God, usually they see some representation of God’s glory (burning bush, thick cloud, etc.). Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15), and when we have seen Him, we have seen the Father (Jn 14:9). Jacob had not looked upon the face of God the Father (1st Person of the Trinity), but he did look on the pre-incarnate face of God the Son (2nd Person of the Trinity). Thus he had seen God face-to-face, even while preserving the truth that none can look at God and live.

32 Therefore to this day the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because He touched the socket of Jacob’s hip in the muscle that shrank.

  1. A bit of epilogue & extra info from the author (and/or Moses, the compiler). Tells of a then-current (and sometimes still-current) custom among the Hebrews to refrain from eating the muscle that shrank. It became a memorial of Jacob’s moment of faith.
  2. Jacob had his own personal memorial in his permanent limp! Every time he moved, he would be reminded of the night he wrestled with God.

Genesis 33 – Encountering Esau (33:1-20)

1 Now Jacob lifted his eyes and looked, and there, Esau was coming, and with him were four hundred men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and the two maidservants. 2 And he put the maidservants and their children in front, Leah and her children behind, and Rachel and Joseph last.

  1. Jacob may have settled his faith with the Lord, but that didn’t remove the challenges ahead of him. Esau was still on the way. Now, however, Jacob was prepared to face him! Once Jacob’s relationship with God was right, that set the tone for everything else.
  2. Sadly, the favoritism shown among his wives and children remained. Jacob arranged his family in order of importance/rank, with “Rachel and Joseph last,” being with him.
    1. Keep this in mind for later, when Joseph’s brothers have issues with his favored status. Joseph was so favored by his father, that the other sons were basically expendable to the army of Esau.

3 Then he crossed over before them and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. 4 But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.

  1. There was incredible humility in Jacob’s approach. Not only had he sent ahead the many waves of gifts, but he continually bowed on the way to meet his brother. Jacob went above & beyond to demonstrate he posed no threat.
  2. Esau’s response? Reconciliation! Despite arriving with an army’s worth of 400 men, Esau had not come to execute his brother, but to embrace him. This was the best scenario possible – something which Jacob would never have even dared to dream. It would have been enough for Esau to leave him alone or even turn away; this was nothing less than a miracle of God!
    1. Do you trust God for miracles in your relationships? One of God’s specialties is bringing dead things to life, and that includes friendships & marriages as much as it does eternal souls. Nothing is too hard for the Lord. What relationship are you afraid to entrust to Him?

5 And he lifted his eyes and saw the women and children, and said, “Who are these with you?” So he said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” 6 Then the maidservants came near, they and their children, and bowed down. 7 And Leah also came near with her children, and they bowed down. Afterward Joseph and Rachel came near, and they bowed down.

  1. Remember that twenty years had passed. Esau had never known his nephews & niece. The twin brothers had much catching up to do!
  2. All of them demonstrated the same submission as had Jacob. This was the cultural practice, but it was also necessary due to the situation. Jacob wasn’t yet sure if Esau might change his mind & bring down the sword. He needed to keep things as friendly as possible.

8 Then Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company which I met?” And he said, “These are to find favor in the sight of my lord.” 9 But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” 10 And Jacob said, “No, please, if I have now found favor in your sight, then receive my present from my hand, inasmuch as I have seen your face as though I had seen the face of God, and you were pleased with me. 11 Please, take my blessing that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough.” So he urged him, and he took it.

  1. Negotiating the gift. Both men were extremely wealthy, and neither truly needed the livestock to further enrich themselves. The fact that they could argue over this (in a friendly way) does to show the fulfillment of the prophetic blessing given them by their father. Both of them were enriched from “the fatness of the earth,” (Gen 27:28,39). Neither of them lacked for bread or provision. To be sure, only one brother had the covenant, but both were blessed by the Lord.
  2. In the end, Jacob insisted on the gift. All he wanted was peace, and he wanted his brother to know that was his heart’s desire. (Blessed are the peacemakers – Mt 5:9)
  3. The expression Jacob used to express his gladness at Esau’s response was interesting. “Inasmuch as I have seen your face as though I had seen the face of God.” Jacob knew a little something about seeing the face of God! Though Esau didn’t understand, Jacob knew that this was part of the very blessing that God had promised him the previous night. This was confirmation of God’s hand on his life, and his newfound (newly renewed) faith in God.

12 Then Esau said, “Let us take our journey; let us go, and I will go before you.” 13 But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are weak, and the flocks and herds which are nursing are with me. And if the men should drive them hard one day, all the flock will die. 14 Please let my lord go on ahead before his servant. I will lead on slowly at a pace which the livestock that go before me, and the children, are able to endure, until I come to my lord in Seir.” 15 And Esau said, “Now let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.” But he said, “What need is there? Let me find favor in the sight of my lord.” 16 So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir. 17 And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, built himself a house, and made booths for his livestock. Therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.

  1. Reason not to travel together – but also an excuse for Jacob to remain separate and independent. Although he promised to follow his brother to Seir, he lied.
  2. Question: Should Jacob have gone to Seir? God had called him to Canaan; not Edom. Jacob’s commitment to remain in the Promised Land was part of his obedience to God. His insistence to lie about it, however, was not.
  3. Jacob had taken a giant step of faith, but he wasn’t perfect. (Neither are we!)

18 Then Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padan Aram; and he pitched his tent before the city. 19 And he bought the parcel of land, where he had pitched his tent, from the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred pieces of money. 20 Then he erected an altar there and called it El Elohe Israel.

  1. This the setting and background for Chapter 34.
  2. Jacob is back home in Canaan, per God’s promise.
  3. Jacob formally declares his faith in God, per his own promise. Back in Genesis 28:21, when Jacob received God’s promise that God would return him to the land and bless him, Jacob had then made a conditional promise that he would worship God as God. That condition had been fulfilled, and Jacob made his faith known. “El Ehohe Israel” (אֵ֖ל אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל) = “God, (the/is the) God of Israel.”

Conclusion:

By definition, there has come a point in the life of every Christian when we made the decision to follow Christ in faith – that Jesus would be our God. What was yours? For Jacob, it was the night he wrestled with Jesus, refusing to let go, knowing that his only hope for blessing (his only chance for survival!) would be if God acted on his behalf. For you, you may have had your own experience wrestling with the Lord. 

The thing about wrestling with the Lord is that it is something God graciously allows us to do, but it is something we cannot win. Or, we win – but we only win when we surrender. “Winning” is persistent surrender to the Lord Jesus. We recognize His lordship & grace, and we do not let go. In Him is our only hope.

Perhaps tonight is your wrestling match. Will you surrender and hold on?

Perhaps as a Christian, there’s a challenge in your life that still requires surrender to the Lord. Maybe there’s a sin to which you’ve clung – maybe there is resentment towards someone else, or fear of certain consequences. Whatever it is, you need to come to the point that you realize: (1) you aren’t in control; God is, and (2) you can’t fix it; God can. The way we tackle these problems isn’t by trying to handle it ourselves; it is to handle them with Jesus. Get your relationship with Jesus right first, and the rest will follow.

Schemer vs. Schemer

Posted: June 14, 2018 in Genesis, Uncategorized

Genesis 30:25 – 31:55, “Schemer vs. Schemer”

After purchasing the birthright of Esau and deceiving his father Isaac to receive the covenant blessing, Jacob fled for his life to his uncle Laban in Padan Aram (Syria). As he left, he formally received his father’s blessing as well as a vision from the Lord, being promised by God Himself that God would never leave him & would bring Jacob back to the land of Canaan. Upon arriving in Syria, Jacob experienced love at first sight with Laban’s younger daughter Rachel, whom Laban gave as a wife – but only after tricking Jacob into marrying the older daughter Leah. The two sisters were unequally loved, and tried to win Jacob’s affection through a bizarre battle of childbirth. Eventually, Jacob has a huge family with four wives, and though dysfunctional, it was the foundation of the nation of Israel. The Messianic promise was alive and well, despite the manipulations of men.

The narrator of Genesis picks up at this point, with Jacob and his family now ready to depart for home. The years in Syria were filled with hard lessons for this heel-catching schemer Jacob, and the lessons weren’t yet done. He would go a few more rounds with his father-in-law, but in the end Jacob would learn the best lesson of all: to trust God as his provider. God had brought him to this point, and God would take him home. God’s word was always true, and God’s ways are always good! How we respond to God’s ways is up to us.

Genesis 30:25–43 – Scheming for the Sheep

  • Jacob’s offer & Laban’s deceit (25-36)

25 And it came to pass, when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my country. 26 Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go; for you know my service which I have done for you.”

  1. 14 years had passed. It was time to go home. Jacob’s leaving was connected to Joseph’s birth. Once Rachel bore children of her own, it was apparently a sign to Jacob.
  2. My own place…my country” – it wasn’t Syria! Jacob had lived in Padan Aram for many years, but it wasn’t his home.
    1. Neither is this world our We are here, temporarily – ultimately in preparation for our heavenly home with Jesus. The moment we lose that perspective is the moment we get into trouble.

27 And Laban said to him, “Please stay, if I have found favor in your eyes, for I have learned by experience that the LORD has blessed me for your sake.” 28 Then he said, “Name me your wages, and I will give it.”

  1. Laban knew he had a good thing! His son-in-law was a better ranch-hand than any other, and Laban’s own wealthy had grown by leaps & bounds while Jacob was with him. Jacob had done his work well, and he had the promise of God’s blessing upon him, so Laban had reaped some of the benefits. This wasn’t something he wanted to give up easily!
  2. So why ask Jacob to stay, only to turn around and ask him his price? Perhaps because Laban (1) believed that Jacob was determined, and (2) he thought he could weasel his way out of it. Laban had always been a conniver, and it’s likely that the wheels in his head were turning to see what benefit he could gain from this.
  3. BTW – NKJV translates that Laban knew the Lord’s blessing “by experience,” but NASB, ESV & others translate this as “by divination.” The NKJV isn’t necessarily wrong, in that it was experience; it was just pagan Question: Why does Laban use the Divine Name in reference to the practice? IOW, how could Laban know through pagan divination anything about YHWH the true God? The Bible doesn’t say. Laban was not a worshipper of YHWH (as will become apparent in Ch 31), but even pagans sometimes understand some true aspects about the true God. [i.e. Balaam, Num 22-24] Just because someone can speak some truth about God doesn’t mean that everything he/she speaks about God is truth. We’ve got to be willing to look at their fruit & take all questions of doctrine back to the Scripture.

29 So Jacob said to him, “You know how I have served you and how your livestock has been with me. 30 For what you had before I came was little, and it has increased to a great amount; the LORD has blessed you since my coming. And now, when shall I also provide for my own house?” 31 So he said, “What shall I give you?” And Jacob said, “You shall not give me anything. If you will do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep your flocks: 32 Let me pass through all your flock today, removing from there all the speckled and spotted sheep, and all the brown ones among the lambs, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and these shall be my wages. 33 So my righteousness will answer for me in time to come, when the subject of my wages comes before you: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the lambs, will be considered stolen, if it is with me.”

  1. Jacob’s offer was good: God had already abundantly blessed Laban. According to Jacob’s plan, Jacob would continue to work for Laban, and God would continue to bless Laban. It would be from out of this increase that Laban would acquire his future wealth. Jacob would take the ‘imperfect’ livestock for himself. It was a generous offer, in which both men would be blessed – a win-win.
    1. The best agreements aren’t compromises; they are mutually beneficial. Compromises are inherently lose-lose; it takes creative solutions to find win-win. That being said, the very best agreements are the ones in which God is glorified. Occasionally, that might require us taking a loss. But a loss for Jesus isn’t a loss at all; it is a sacrifice of praise.
  2. Not only was there benefit; there was also accountability. Jacob didn’t propose this & simply say “Trust me.” He suggested a method by which Laban could ensure that Jacob followed his end of the agreement.
    1. Accountability ensures integrity, and Christians should always act with integrity. We ought to be able to live our lives as openly as possible – especially with those to whom we are responsible. We ought to be the most trustworthy employees on the payroll or the most honest of contractors. Anything less brings shame on the name of Christ – and that includes the work of pastors as well as anyone else.
  3. From a business perspective, all of this sounded great to Laban. From a theological perspective, this required tremendous faith in the Lord…which apparently was growing in Jacob. After all, Jacob had no assurance that the livestock would breed speckled or spotted – he had no idea how long it might take to gather enough animals in order to have freedom to leave. The only hope Jacob had in any of this was the provision of God…and that hope was well-placed!
    1. Keep in mind, this is not the health/wealth gospel. This isn’t name-it-and-claim-it prosperity. This is simple trust in God. This was the equivalent of Jacob trusting God for his daily bread, just as Jesus commanded us to pray today. God can be trusted with our physical provision. We don’t expect Him to make us rich for our selfish egos; we simply trust Him to give us our food and clothing in line with His care for us as His children.

34 And Laban said, “Oh, that it were according to your word!” 35 So he removed that day the male goats that were speckled and spotted, all the female goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had some white in it, and all the brown ones among the lambs, and gave them into the hand of his sons. 36 Then he put three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks.

  1. Laban recognized a good deal when he saw it, and quickly agreed! Jacob’s wealth wouldn’t cost Laban a dime. Laban’s flocks would (ideally) continue to increase, and Jacob would receive a small percentage of that increase.
  2. Even so, that wasn’t enough. Not content to let things lie, Laban twisted things to his own favor, his sons being in full conspiracy with him. He took away any existing livestock that might potentially contribute to the gene pool of the future generations. Like redheaded parents tend to have redheaded children, so would spotted sheep bear spotted sheep. Laban’s plan was to stealthily remove the existing sheep and send them to his sons far away. That left Jacob with nothing from which to start.
  3. The act of splitting out the livestock may not have been specified in the terms, but it was a violation of the spirit. It was deceit, plain and simple. It was one more shot against his son-in-law.
  4. Question: What would you do when faced with similar deceit? Would you demand retribution – back out of the deal – take him to court? Or would you trust the Lord? What did Jacob do? Verse 37…
  • Jacob’s selective breeding (37-43)

37 Now Jacob took for himself rods of green poplar and of the almond and chestnut trees, peeled white strips in them, and exposed the white which was in the rods. 38 And the rods which he had peeled, he set before the flocks in the gutters, in the watering troughs where the flocks came to drink, so that they should conceive when they came to drink.

  1. If Jacob was upset, his temper was not recorded in the Scripture (at least, not yet). Jacob did not let Laban’s deceit change the deal; Jacob simply adapted as necessary, trusting the Lord to provide for him & taking proactive steps in that direction. It’s not that Jacob did nothing; but (as will be made clear later on) what Jacob did was done in light of God’s provision and sovereignty.
    1. Sometimes courts and other authorities are needed, but in all things we need to remember that God is our defense. Even when we call upon the courts, our trust isn’t in the court; it ought to be in God.
  2. Interesting play on words in verse 37. The word for “white” in Hebrew is “laban,” (לָבָן). When Jacob “exposed the white which was in the rods,” it was as if he was exposing Laban himself. Jacob used Laban’s own tactics against him, although ultimately Jacob’s trust was in the Lord God.

39 So the flocks conceived before the rods, and the flocks brought forth streaked, speckled, and spotted. 40 Then Jacob separated the lambs, and made the flocks face toward the streaked and all the brown in the flock of Laban; but he put his own flocks by themselves and did not put them with Laban’s flock. 41 And it came to pass, whenever the stronger livestock conceived, that Jacob placed the rods before the eyes of the livestock in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods. 42 But when the flocks were feeble, he did not put them in; so the feebler were Laban’s and the stronger Jacob’s.

  1. The whole practice has nothing to do with true animal husbandry & everything to do with superstition. The book of Genesis is not commending this as a scientific practice, nor commands animal breeders to do the same for similar results; it simply records what it was that Jacob did according to the cultural understanding he had at the time. 
  2. The amazing thing is, even in all of the superstition, God still chose to bless him! Jacob didn’t need to have a precise scientific understanding of genetic engineering; he simply did what he thought needed to be done and trusted God for the results. God met Jacob where he was. Grace!
  3. Note that Jacob still had an eye for himself in this. He specifically bred the stronger animals for himself, and left the weaker animals for Laban. Was this spite or justice? It’s difficult to say without more information…perhaps it’s better to assume the best.

43 Thus the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks, female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.

  1. The end result: Jacob became rich! The Hebrew idiom is interesting, in that the text basically says that “broke through (increased) exceedingly exceedingly,” with great emphasis. This was more than simply a good breeding season; this was a massive supernatural windfall!

Genesis 31 – The Chase and Covenant

  • Leaving Laban (1-21)

1 Now Jacob heard the words of Laban’s sons, saying, “Jacob has taken away all that was our father’s, and from what was our father’s he has acquired all this wealth.” 2 And Jacob saw the countenance of Laban, and indeed it was not favorable toward him as before.

  1. Hypocritical complaint! The sons had been a part of the deceit in the first place. They simply complained that they hadn’t had the benefit they expected.
  2. Also a big change from Laban. Back in 30:27, he was practically begging Jacob to stay because Jacob was a blessing. Laban thought differently now.

3 Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you.”

  1. If Jacob doubted the writing on the wall, he received confirmation from the Lord. God gave him very specific instructions to leave.
  2. This was part of God’s covenant promise to Jacob. Genesis 28:13–15, “(13) And behold, the LORD stood above it and said: “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. (14) Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (15) Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.”” Notice the specific promise to be with Jacob & return him to the land. What God promised to do in Ch 28 is about to be fulfilled in Ch 31. God was good to His word!
    1. He always is! Jesus said He would be with us always, even to the end of the age – God never leaves us nor forsakes us – the Holy Spirit permanently indwells us as His temple, being the seal of our salvation. The Triune God promised to be with us, and He is – ever good to His word!
    2. Do you believe it? Sometimes Christians get the idea that God has forgotten them or (worse) abandoned them. Perish the thought! If you are a born-again Christian, God cannot forget you, and will never abandon you. You are His child, born of the Holy Spirit, given the Spirit of adoption. You are a co-heir with Christ Jesus, destined to receive of His inheritance. Trust the promise of God’s presence!

4 So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field, to his flock, 5 and said to them, “I see your father’s countenance, that it is not favorable toward me as before; but the God of my father has been with me. 6 And you know that with all my might I have served your father. 7 Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me. 8 If he said thus: ‘The speckled shall be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore speckled. And if he said thus: ‘The streaked shall be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore streaked. 9 So God has taken away the livestock of your father and given them to me. 10 “And it happened, at the time when the flocks conceived, that I lifted my eyes and saw in a dream, and behold, the rams which leaped upon the flocks were streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted. 11 Then the Angel of God spoke to me in a dream, saying, ‘Jacob.’ And I said, ‘Here I am.’ 12 And He said, ‘Lift your eyes now and see, all the rams which leap on the flocks are streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family.’ ”

  1. Jacob made the case to his wives. There was a potential of a divided loyalty, and Jacob needed to ensure they agreed with him. Over the previous 20 years, he experienced much division simply between the two sisters…he wasn’t sure how they would react in regards to their father!
  2. Jacob recounts the facts clearly, showing how their father had consistently wronged him (and them), but how God consistently protected him. Over & over, Jacob gives credit to God for provision and protection – and it was right to do so. God had been faithful, so Jacob gave God the glory. (Are we so quick to recognize the hand of God in our lives?)
  3. It was also God who directed him. In addition to the word spoken by YHWH to Jacob, Jacob also received a dream. Among the provision of livestock (wealth) God had given him was an angel of God. Although not specifically named as the Angel of YHWH, this angel spoke the words of God in the 1st God had seen him, and God was specifically telling him to leave.
  4. Question: Why did God refer to Himself as “the God of Bethel,” instead of by His covenant name YHWH? Answer: This was how Jacob knew Him. Remember that Jacob worshipped God half-heartedly, having promised a future vow to worship God if God brought him back to the land of his fathers. Genesis 28:18–22, “(18) Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. (19) And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously. (20) Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, (21) so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. (22) And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.””  Jacob had made a conditional promise, but it was a promise nonetheless. God not only reminded Jacob of Jacob’s promise, but God also spoke to Jacob in a way that Jacob would understand. This is grace.
    1. This is gospel! How is it that God approaches us? In a way we can understand: in the person of Jesus Christ. We cannot fathom the all-holy, all-knowing, ever-present God – there is no way we can approach Him on our own. But He can approach us. And He did!

14 Then Rachel and Leah answered and said to him, “Is there still any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house? 15 Are we not considered strangers by him? For he has sold us, and also completely consumed our money. 16 For all these riches which God has taken from our father are really ours and our children’s; now then, whatever God has said to you, do it.”

  1. Wives agree. There’s a mixture of selfish and spiritual reasons.
  2. So Jacob had perceived it was time to go, God had twice told him to go, and Jacob’s wives confirmed that they were willing to go…Jacob went. Verse 17…

17 Then Jacob rose and set his sons and his wives on camels. 18 And he carried away all his livestock and all his possessions which he had gained, his acquired livestock which he had gained in Padan Aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan. 19 Now Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel had stolen the household idols that were her father’s.

  1. Jacob took it all! He had arrived in Padam Aram with a single staff; he left with four wives, eleven sons, at least one daughter, and a ton of animals and other possessions.
  2. Unbeknownst to Jacob, he also took a few other items that were unplanned. “Rachel had stolen the household idols that were her father’s.” These are the “teraphim,” (תְּרָפִים), small idols of some sort thought to bring protection to the family. Some believe these were passed from head-of-house to head-of-house in terms of the inheritance, but there is no doubt they signified superstitious protection. This is why Laban is later so upset. To Laban, this meant he & his remaining wealth was vulnerable. Jacob had already received much of what was his, and perhaps this meant Jacob would come back for the rest. As for Rachel, the idols seem to have represented that which she believed her father had stolen from her – that which supposedly rightfully belonged to her.
  3. Whatever the meaning of the idols, they were still idols. They had no business being among purported worshippers of YHWH. (We are called to be separate from the world!)

20 And Jacob stole away, unknown to Laban the Syrian, in that he did not tell him that he intended to flee. 21 So he fled with all that he had. He arose and crossed the river, and headed toward the mountains of Gilead.

  1. Jacob left, and he was right to leave…but he didn’t leave rightly. He “stole away,” which could literally be translated, “And he stole, Jacob, the heart of Laban the Aramean (Syrian)…” This was a harmful act – something not done out of love, but out of fear. It was the right action, taken in the wrong way.
  2. What could he have done? He could have been open & honest, and trusted God to be his defense.
  • Laban’s pursuit (22-42)

22 And Laban was told on the third day that Jacob had fled. 23 Then he took his brethren with him and pursued him for seven days’ journey, and he overtook him in the mountains of Gilead.

  1. Jacob had a three day head-start, and it’s possible that Laban was far off – perhaps the three days’ journey that had lay between Jacob & Laban’s sons. That’s why it took an additional week for his quickly-formed posse to catch up to the slow-travelling band of Hebrews.
  2. Jacob had nearly made it home, being that he was “in the mountains of Gilead” when Laban finally overtook him.

24 But God had come to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said to him, “Be careful that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad.” 25 So Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mountains, and Laban with his brethren pitched in the mountains of Gilead.

  1. God warned Laban to speak cautiously, though it’s questionable how well Laban obeyed the warning. Laban certainly felt free to criticize Jacob even while quoting God’s warning. Perhaps the warning wasn’t so much against Laban’s speech, but against a potential curse. Remember that Jacob was the recipient of the Abrahamic covenant with God. If Laban had cursed Jacob, Laban would himself be cursed. Laban was a scoundrel, but God was mercifully protecting him from future harm.
  2. How many times did God give us mercy before we came to faith in Jesus? 

26 And Laban said to Jacob: “What have you done, that you have stolen away unknown to me, and carried away my daughters like captives taken with the sword? 27 Why did you flee away secretly, and steal away from me, and not tell me; for I might have sent you away with joy and songs, with timbrel and harp? 28 And you did not allow me to kiss my sons and my daughters. Now you have done foolishly in so doing. 29 It is in my power to do you harm, but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Be careful that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad.’ 30 And now you have surely gone because you greatly long for your father’s house, but why did you steal my gods?”

  1. Laban basically accused Jacob of acting like a criminal. In a sense, Jacob had been a thief, as he stole the heart of Laban (vs 20), but he hadn’t been a kidnapping terrorist as made out by his father-in-law. True to form, Laban exaggerated the sins of others, while denying his own – even claiming that Jacob’s departure could have been joyful with songs and blessing (highly doubtful!). Bottom line: Laban was a hypocrite, through & through.
  2. Even so, Laban heeded the warning of God, but he wasn’t happy about it. He flat out tells Jacob that he had the right to go to war with him & destroy him, but the only thing stopping Laban from doing it was God’s intervention.
  3. Almost as an afterthought, he accuses Jacob of stealing his gods (the teraphim idols). The question is logical: “If you’re a worshipper of YHWH, then what are you doing stealing my idols?”
    1. Ever get a similar question? “If you’re a Christian, what are you doing with ____?” Obviously Jacob wasn’t at fault in this case, but we often are. Be careful of your witness! 
  4. Note: Laban was still an idolater; he wasn’t a worshipper of YHWH God. Even after recognizing YHWH’s blessing through Jacob (30:27), and after receiving a specific spoken word from YHWH in a dream (31:24), Laban still worshipped idols.
    1. People can receive all kinds of mercy from God and still end up rejecting Him. That’s not God’s fault; it’s theirs. Jesus has reached out to them & made provision for them, just like Jesus had made provision for every human being on planet earth. When someone dies without Jesus, it’s not Jesus’ fault – it’s their own.

31 Then Jacob answered and said to Laban, “Because I was afraid, for I said, ‘Perhaps you would take your daughters from me by force.’ 32 With whomever you find your gods, do not let him live. In the presence of our brethren, identify what I have of yours and take it with you.” For Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them.

  1. From the perspective of men, Jacob had a logical reason for his stealthy flight: fear. Jacob knew Laban wouldn’t have sent him out with song & dance – there had been the opportunity for that long ago, and Laban didn’t do it.
  2. From the perspective of faith, Jacob acted entirely irrationally. God had promised to protect him; Jacob had no reason to be afraid! If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:31)
    1. Faith is trusting the promises of God, period.
  3. As to the charge regarding theft of the teraphim, this was something unknown to Jacob and he made a terribly rash promise: death to the one who stole the idols. Of course Jacob’s honor was at stake, but this wasn’t justice; it was (literally) overkill. Surely someone could be punished for the theft, without it being the death sentence. If Jacob had known it was Rachel, there is no chance at all he would have agreed to such a thing. 

33 And Laban went into Jacob’s tent, into Leah’s tent, and into the two maids’ tents, but he did not find them. Then he went out of Leah’s tent and entered Rachel’s tent. 34 Now Rachel had taken the household idols, put them in the camel’s saddle, and sat on them. And Laban searched all about the tent but did not find them. 35 And she said to her father, “Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise before you, for the manner of women is with me.” And he searched but did not find the household idols.

  1. Rachel deceived her father (having learned from the best), as well as her husband. Was her act justified? It saved her life, but it was done without righteousness. No doubt everyone was in the wrong: Laban, for his repeated acts of deception that drove them to this point – Jacob, for his rash over-the-top vow – Rachel, for the initial theft, and her lie of coverup. It was just a bad situation overall.
    1. What do we do in bad situations? Stop making them worse. 1st rule of holes: stop digging. Confess & repent! (1 John 1:9)

36 Then Jacob was angry and rebuked Laban, and Jacob answered and said to Laban: “What is my trespass? What is my sin, that you have so hotly pursued me? 37 Although you have searched all my things, what part of your household things have you found? Set it here before my brethren and your brethren, that they may judge between us both! 38 These twenty years I have been with you; your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried their young, and I have not eaten the rams of your flock. 39 That which was torn by beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it. You required it from my hand, whether stolen by day or stolen by night. 40 There I was! In the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night, and my sleep departed from my eyes. 41 Thus I have been in your house twenty years; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times.

  1. Jacob’s fuse blew! He let Laban have it for 20 years’ worth of deceit and mistreatment. From the time of his marriages, Jacob had endured lie after lie from Laban, even taking financial hits for things that weren’t Jacob’s fault. He labored harder for his father-in-law than any hired hand, yet was never once appreciated in sincerity. Should Jacob have lost his temper? Probably not – but it’s difficult to see how he can be blamed for doing so.
  2. The good news in all of this: Jacob had learned to work with integrity, despite the deceit and manipulations of others. He was a different man than when he first arrived in Padan Aram. In the past, he had schemed his way to the top; now he simply worked hard and trusted the Lord.
  3. The better news: Jacob ultimately credited God for his blessing. Verse 42…

42 Unless the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the labor of my hands, and rebuked you last night.”

  1. Once again, it was God who protected Jacob & God who provided for Jacob. God knew his needs, his afflictions, and his hard work. God watched over Jacob every minute of every day, just as God promised He would…and Jacob finally realized it for himself. He may have made a conditional promise to God, but God had made an unconditional promise to him!
    1. Jesus has made unconditional promises to us! He is our Savior, no matter what! His forgiveness is not something He takes back. He is our protection & provision. He sees us and knows our need – our greatest need being deliverance from sin. 
  2. Who is God? To Jacob, He is “the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the Fear of Isaac.” The first two descriptions are clear, being perhaps repetitive. It’s the third description that stands out: “the Fear of Isaac.” “Fear” is exactly as it says in the original language: fear, dread, terror, trembling. The God before whom Isaac trembled was the God who cared for Jacob.
    1. We don’t often think of trembling in terror before Almighty God, but we should. Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” This is a good fear!
  • Covenant of witness (43-55)

43 And Laban answered and said to Jacob, “These daughters are my daughters, and these children are my children, and this flock is my flock; all that you see is mine. But what can I do this day to these my daughters or to their children whom they have borne? 44 Now therefore, come, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me.”

  1. What Laban said is both true & false. Yes, these children (technically grandchildren) were his, but they were no longer his, due to the marriage covenant. Likewise with the flocks. They had been his, but his own agreement transferred ownership. Laban had no proper fear of the Lord, so he continued to look to his own selfish interests.
  2. With all of this animosity, why make a covenant with Jacob? This wasn’t to be a covenant of mutual blessing; this was to be a formalized contract as to how the two of them moved forward. This was to be more or less a restraining order or terms of separation.

45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46 Then Jacob said to his brethren, “Gather stones.” And they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there on the heap. 47 Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. 48 And Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me this day.” Therefore its name was called Galeed,

  1. Covenants weren’t always made with pen & paper at the time (or stone tablets, as the case may be), but there were still to be physical reminders of the agreement. Two were set up here: a single stone pillar erected by Jacob, and a heap/pile of various stones put up by Laban’s other sons. Anyone coming back to this spot would immediately see the stones, and wonder the reason for their arrangement. If the traveler had come from either Jacob or Laban, they would instantly know they had come too far.
  2. The idea of “witness” plays heavily, being repeatedly requested by Laban, and the various stones were named as witnesses in two different languages. Why the emphasis on witnesses? Because they were required to establish a matter as legal and valid. Two arrangements of rocks = two witnesses.
    1. All covenants have witnesses: ways to remember what the covenant means. What are ours? The two ordinances given us by the Lord Jesus: baptism and communion.
  3. “Witness” wasn’t the only name or intent that Laban had for the stones. Verse 49…

49 also Mizpah, because he said, “May the LORD watch between you and me when we are absent one from another. 50 If you afflict my daughters, or if you take other wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us—see, God is witness between you and me!”

  1. Mizpah = “watchtower, lookout.” Laban certainly has gall! He does not worship the Lord YHWH, but he is willing to call upon YHWH to serve as an overseer for Jacob, guarding against any potential sin Jacob might commit against his wives. Laban was the one who made Jacob commit polygamy to begin with, but now Laban demands absolute faithfulness to these wives alone. Of course, Jacob had no plans to take other wives, and God never at all commands multiple marriages (one man + one woman, for life), but Laban was attempting to make himself appear more righteous than he was.

51 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Here is this heap and here is this pillar, which I have placed between you and me. 52 This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not pass beyond this heap to you, and you will not pass beyond this heap and this pillar to me, for harm. 53 The God of Abraham, the God of Nahor, and the God of their father judge between us.” …

  1. Finally, the stones were to serve as boundaries. Laban pretends as if he was the one deceived by Jacob, wronged by his son-in-law, and needs protection against any future crimes. He acts as if Jacob is the one who needs to be exiled. As Shakespeare might have written of him, “The man doth protest too much!”
  2. Laban goes so far as to swear by the God he does not worship. He never once says, “My God” or “the God of my father,” but almost treats the God of Abraham as different than the God of Nahor – who likely worshipped the same God when originally called out of Ur of the Chaldees.
    1. Unbelievers are happy to call upon God when it suits their liking. They won’t worship Him, but they like to use His words when it fits their purposes. God knows the difference.

… And Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac. 54 Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain, and called his brethren to eat bread. And they ate bread and stayed all night on the mountain.

  1. Unlike Laban, Jacob swore by the God he knew (at least, in part).
  2. He swore, and he gave a sacrifice. Words mean little without worship.

55 And early in the morning Laban arose, and kissed his sons and daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his place.

Conclusion:

Jacob ended his time in Padan Aram much like he began: on the run. This time however, he was (mostly) in the right, seeing the hand of God upon his life. Where Jacob was justified, it was the times he did things the right way, trusting Almighty God as his Defender & Provider. When Jacob took matters into his own hands, that was when he got into trouble.

As believers in Jesus, we have none other than Almighty God as our Defender & Provider! Trust Him to do His part – trust Him to keep His promises. When you act, do things the right way with integrity, giving glory to God. All the rest can be left in His hands.