Hello! This week I bring you a post from PassionSchmitz blog. I love that God’s truth is timeless and that both He and His message remain constant in the midst of our changing times. Charles Haddon Spurgeon was England’s best known preacher for most of the second half of the nineteenth century. I hope you are encouraged as I am after reflecting on his message.
Below is a devotion by Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) from the May 12th evening entry of Morning and Evening. I’ve bolded a few quotes that stood out to me. ‘Fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation: I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I […]
Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, ‘Have everyone leave my presence!’ So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it. . . . ‘I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.’” -Genesis 45:1-2, 4-7
While chapters 43 and 44 depict Joseph’s tender love and tough love respectively, chapter 45 display Joseph living out of God’s sovereignty.
You may read Genesis 45 here: Bible Gateway.
This account of Joseph meeting up with his brothers finally comes to a resolution when Joseph reveals his identity. Layman’s Bible Commentary notes: “The response of the brothers to Joseph’s revelation of his identity is a term translated dismayed or dumbfounded. This is a term used of paralyzing fear as felt by those involved in war (Exodus 15:15; Judges 20:41; 1 Samuel 28:21; Psalm 48:5).”
Joseph’s emotional display of weeping, embracing, and explaining finally convinces his brothers that he doesn’t intend revenge, but is actually favorable toward them.
How in the world could Joseph forgive his brothers?
After all, they had rejected him, sold him into slavery, and made it possible for Joseph’s 12-13 year stretch of being imprisoned during young adulthood, (from the age of 17 to 30). The natural response to that kind of treatment is bitterness and revenge.
But not Joseph.
His ability to discern God’s providence over events and keeping an eternal perspective mark his life. He also lays the ground work of forgiveness by seeking God’s heart. Joseph’s graciousness, not only in forgiveness, but also in sharing his prosperity, reflect God’s forgiveness and blessing to those who ask.
Is there anyone God wants you to forgive and seek restitution?
One last thought. Joseph’s father, Jacob, was stunned to learn that Joseph was still alive.
Good news is hard to believe when going through difficulties. But God’s ultimate plan for his children is a future filled with joy and blessings. Have a great weekend!
I’d like to share Bruce Sims’ post, “A Test of Integrity” with you. He has some great thoughts on Genesis 44. I hope you are having a wonderful summer. Enjoy!
Saying you are going to do something is one thing, but to follow through with it no matter what is quite the other. What if doing what you say will do may cause you harm? What is more valuable to you, your promise or your personal safety? That was the question Judah had to answer in Genesis 44.
Pharaoh paced. There would be no rest until he discovered the meaning of these two dreams. Not even the purring fountain or musicians could console him. Surely his blood-kin gods sent him a message. For these were no ordinary dreams. But no one could interpret the vivid scenes that haunted him.
Then the chief cupbearer brought to his attention a young Hebrew slave whom he met in prison. This Joseph guy—whom the cupbearer forgot about the past two years—supposedly interpreted not only the cupbearer’s dream, but also the head baker’s dream. Each with complete accuracy. And both dreams, according to the cupbearer, involved him!
What do I have to lose? My gems are smarter than all the magicians and wise men combined!
“Merkha, fetch Joseph immediately!”
Pharaoh’s servants hastily retrieved Joseph from Potiphar’s dungeon. With clean clothes and a freshly shaven face, Joseph stood humbly before Egypt’s king. Pharaoh measured the Hebrew from head to toe. Although he was white as a sheet from lack of sunlight the past 13 years, his calm manner intrigued him. And his eyes shimmered with intelligence. Pharaoh liked that he didn’t twitch or shuffle his feet like so many others in his presence.
“I have heard that you interpret dreams. Is this true?”
“No Sir, I can’t interpret dreams.” Joseph didn’t cower under his piercing gaze. “But my God can.”
“Alright then,” Pharaoh sat on the edge of his gold engraved throne. “Here are my dreams: I was standing on the bank of the Nile. Suddenly, seven healthy, well-fed cows came up from the river and began to graze among the reeds. Seven other cows—scrawny and sick—snuck up behind them. I’ve never seen such gaunt cows in all of Egypt! The sickly cows ate up the seven healthy ones. But no one could tell they had eaten them. For they looked just as scrawny as before.”
Pharaoh inhaled deeply. “In my second dream I saw seven healthy, full heads of grain growing on a single stalk. Behind them, seven other heads of grain sprouted. But these were withered, thin, and scorched by the east wind. The withered heads of grain swallowed the seven good heads.”
A servant wiped the beads of perspiration from Pharaoh’s forehead. “No one in all of Egypt can tell me the meaning.”
Joseph looked Pharaoh directly in the eyes and spoke in a quiet, respectful tone. “Pharaoh had the same dream twice. God has told Pharaoh what he’s going to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years. It’s all the same dream. The seven thin, sickly cows that came up behind them are seven years. The seven empty heads of grain scorched by the east wind are also seven years. Seven years of famine are coming.”
Joseph paused a moment to let the news soak in.
“God has shown Pharaoh what he’s going to do. Seven years are coming when Egypt will have plenty of food. But then seven years of famine will follow. The plenty in Egypt will be forgotten as a severe famine ruins the land. God will send it very soon. This matter is irrevocable, as signified by your recurring dream.”
Incredible. This Hebrew clearly spoke truth. “What shall I do Joseph?”
Joseph’s gaze rested on the vegetable garden outside Pharaoh’s window. “Look for a wise, experienced man to put in charge. Then appoint managers throughout Egypt to organize during the plenty years. They should collect all the food produced in the good years ahead and stockpile the grain under your authority, storing it in the towns for food. This grain will be used later during the seven years of famine. This will save your country from the famine’s destruction.”
Genius. Surely this man has the spirit of the living God in him!
“I’d say you’re the perfect man for this job. From now on, you’re in charge of my affairs; all my people will report to you. Only as king will I be over you. Your name shall be Zaphenath-Paneah, for God speaks and He lives! I also give you Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, the priest of On (Heliopolis) to marry.”
Pharaoh motioned for Merkha. “Place a gold chain, robe, and signet ring on Joseph. Give him my second-in-command chariot to ride among the people.”
And Joseph took up his duties over the land of Egypt. Joseph was thirty years old when he went to work for Pharaoh the king of Egypt. As soon as Joseph left Pharaoh’s presence, he began his work in Egypt.” -Genesis 41:45-46 (MSG)
You may read Genesis 41 here: Bible Gateway.
Most of us won’t be interpreting kings’ dreams anytime soon. But like Joseph, we may find ourselves thrown into a situation in any given moment. We can ready ourselves to be used by God when we invest in knowing Him more. Like Joseph, do others see God’s Spirit living in us?
Joseph gave Pharaoh a survival plan for the next 14 years. Through careful planning and implementation Joseph prevented not only the Egyptians from starving, but also all the other countries affected by the severe famine.
How can we translate God’s plan for us into practical steps as Joseph did?
The reward for service is often delayed, but it will always come.”
“Good morning. What’s with the sad faces?” Joseph set a tray of food before the king’s cupbearer and baker. The only other time he had seen both of them this upset was after they had been thrown into this dungeon. While he was being unjustly punished because Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him of rape, they were partners in something that greatly offended the king.
The cupbearer grit his teeth while clawing at his bald head. “We had dreams. But no one can tell us what they mean.”
Joseph gently lifted his chin as he spoke to him at eye level. “Don’t interpretations come from God? What did you dream?”
The head cupbearer told Joseph his dream: “In my dream there was a vine before me with three branches on it: It budded, blossomed, and the clusters ripened into grapes. I was holding Pharaoh’s cup; I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and gave the cup to Pharaoh.”
Joseph’s eyes lit up. “The three branches are three days. Within three days, Pharaoh will get you out of here and put you back to your old work—you’ll be giving Pharaoh his cup just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. Please remember me when things are going well with you again—tell Pharaoh about me and get me out of this place. I was kidnapped from the Hebrews’ land. And since I’ve been here, I’ve done nothing to deserve being put in this prison.”
The head baker perked up after hearing Joseph’s interpretation. “Listen to my dream: I saw three wicker baskets on my head; the top basket had various pastries from the bakery. Birds were picking at them from the basket on my head.”
Joseph looked down. Why did the truth have to sting sometimes? “This is the meaning: The three baskets are three days; within three days Pharaoh will take off your head, impale you on a post, and the birds will pick your bones clean.”
Two days passed uneventfully. But on the third day, Pharaoh threw himself a birthday party and invited all his servants. He placed the cupbearer and baker up front in seats of honor.
“Cheers!” Pharaoh bellowed. “I officially restore my head cupbearer.” He extended his hand toward him.
“And for my baker . . . may he be disgraced as he has disgraced me!” He signaled his soldiers. They immediately seized the baker and impaled him on a post, exactly how Joseph had said.
But though the cupbearer was exonerated, he didn’t give Joseph another thought.
You may read Genesis 40 here: Gateway Bible.
God used Joseph’s hardships to prepare him for the future position He had for him.
Even though Joseph would have to wait 12-13 years before being released from a crime he didn’t commit, God’s presence and blessing continued to be with him. As the warden entrusted all of the prisoners to Joseph’s charge, Joseph used his position to serve them.
Has God placed you in a position where He wants to use you to serve those around you?
When the subject of dreams came up, Joseph directed everyone’s attention to God and used it as a powerful witness. He sets a great example of being bold as he effectively witnessed. His example challenges us to recognize opportunities to relate God to another person’s experience.
It wasn’t Joseph’s knowledge of dreams that helped him interpret their meaning, but rather his knowledge and relationship with God. Joseph was always careful to give God the credit instead of taking the honor upon himself.
In what situations can we be like Joseph and give God the glory due Him?
Although the cupbearer had Joseph to thank for his freedom, it would be two more years before he remembered Joseph. But Joseph’s faith ran deep. He trusted God to work things out. Are you in a situation that seems hopeless? Hold on! God knows. He may be preparing you for a greater work, as He did with Joseph.
Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the LORD’s sight; so the LORD put him to death.” -Genesis 38:6-7
Genesis 38 tells of Joseph’s brother, Judah, moving away from home and settling in Canaan where he marries and raises his children to adulthood among a people his family deems unclean.
This chapter provides enough drama to start a TV series. How about a spin on Housewives? Hmm . . . I can see it now: Tent Husbands.
You may read Genesis 38 here: Bible Gateway.
When Judah’s firstborn, Er, errors through persistent wicked living, God takes his life. Since Tamar is now a childless widow, Judah follows the levirate marriage custom as described in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. He tells his second born, Onan, to fulfill his duty and sleep with her so she might have a son to carry on her late husband’s inheritance.
For the highest value in this culture is to carry on the bloodline.
Onan has no problems sleeping with Tamar, but he purposely denies Er an heir. What benefit would that be to him anyway? (vs. 9)
Needless to say, God isn’t happy with Onan. “For what he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight.” So He also kills Onan, (vs. 10).
As the saga continues, Judah tells Tamar to live under his tent and he will give her his third son in marriage when he is older.
However, the marriage ceremony never happens.
In the meanwhile—after a long time—Judah’s wife dies. After the grieving process, Judah sets out to shear sheep in Timnah.
The plot thickens. With the realization that Judah lied about giving her his third son in marriage, Tamar devises a plan to provide legal heirs.
Since shepherds aren’t sheepish at sheep-shearing time. And abundant sexual temptation abounds, she disguises herself as a prostitute and places herself in Judah’s path.
Judah takes the bait. So Tamar agrees to have sex with him in exchange for a few of his personal items: his seal, cord, and staff.
When Judah learns that Tamar, the so-called prostitute, is pregnant he sidesteps the usual punishment of stoning her (Deuteronomy 22:20-24; John 8:4-5). Instead, he demands that she be burned. (Burning was reserved only for a priest’s daughter found guilty of prostitution in the Mosaic Law, Leviticus 28:9.)
But as Tamar is brought out, she sends a message to Judah: “I am pregnant by the man who owns these. . . . See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are,” (vs. 25).
Guilty! Judah confesses his wrong in denying Tamar his third son and lets her off the hook.
Judah and Tamar have twin sons, Perez and Zerah. Perez becomes the ancestor of David (Ruth 4:18-22). And David becomes the ancestor of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:3). Wow!
Immersed in a culture where prostitutes were common, the question of sexual morality never seems to enter Judah’s mind.
While Judah was driven by lust, Tamar was driven to be the matriarch of Judah’s oldest family line. Layman’s Bible Commentary observes: “There is evidence that among ancient Assyrian and Hittite peoples, part of the levirate responsibility could pass to the father of the widow’s husband, if there were no brothers to fulfill it. Thus Tamar was, in one sense, claiming what was due her. She had tricked Judah into fulfilling the levirate responsibility and now would bear his children.”
Neither Judah nor Tamar, however, were justified in their actions.
Although Judah concealed the very sin he thought Tamar committed, fury fueled him as he demanded her death. When we become angry over a sin we see in others, maybe we should ask ourselves: “Am I struggling in this same area?”
Next week we will read how Joseph’s integrity stands in striking contrast to Judah’s immorality. Have a wonderful weekend!
Here comes that dreamer! . . . . Let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams!” –Genesis 37:19-20
While chapter 36 depicts Esau’s descendants as mighty kings and chieftains, Jacob’s descendants continue to struggle. Fast forward 400 years from Jacob’s day and Israel is enslaved under Egypt’s harsh rule until they escape under Moses’ leadership. And while Edom—an established nation—has power to refuse their “brother” Israel passage through their land, Israel still has no claim in land ownership.
The last 14 chapters of Genesis (37-50) primarily focuses on Joseph, the obvious favorite son of Jacob (and firstborn of Rachel). In fact, the story of Joseph comprises one fourth of the entire book of Genesis. However, a few references of Jacob’s other 11 sons are also mentioned.
You may read Genesis 37 here: Bible Gateway.
Seventeen year-old Joseph probably held his head high and maybe walked with a strut. Not only did he have insight into God’s plans for his future, but he also was Jacob’s favorite as signified by the richly ornamented robe given to him. This only further fueled the fire of rivalry with his 10 older brothers. For they were constantly reminded that they didn’t measure up in their father’s eyes. Not like golden boy, Joseph.
If that weren’t bad enough, Joseph told his brothers of his dreams.
Joseph’s dreams always come in pairs, (perhaps for confirmation). His first dream involves sheaves. These symbolize his future role in overseeing the grain distribution in Egypt. The second dream involves the sun, moon, and 11 stars bowing down to him. The fulfillment of these dreams happen 23 years later when all 11 brothers submit to Joseph at least five different times (46:6-7; 43:26, 28; 44:14-16; 50:18).
Maybe Joseph shared his dreams in faith. However, the boys didn’t take the dreams lightly. And they hate him all the more.
Joseph’s Brothers Conspire
In their jealousy, Joseph’s brothers conspire to kill Joseph. (This probably involves Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher whom Joseph gives a bad report in verse 2.) But Reuben the first-born advocates for Joseph: “Why kill him? Let’s just throw him into a well!” (What a thoughtful guy!)
Although his plan was to rescue Joseph, Reuben’s concern appears to be more about himself if his brother is killed, rather than concerned for Joseph’s fate (vs. 29-30).
Judah also persuades the guys not to kill Joseph. Instead, why not make some money and let someone else do the dirty work?
So after ripping off Joseph’s robe and throwing him into a dry well, they drag him back out and sell him to some traveling Ishmaelite merchants. (Nice brothers!)
But God is in control of Joseph’s life.
Joseph ends up being sold to one of Pharoah’s officials, Potiphar, captain of the guard. And where most would fail, Joseph survives. When we continue his saga, we’ll see that with his knowledge of God—sculpted by pain—Joseph adds quiet wisdom to his confidence.
Meanwhile, Jacob (though blessed by God) meets up with his previous trail of deceit. But this time his sons deceive him into thinking that Joseph has been killed by a wild animal. In his grief, he refuses any comfort.
Favoritism seems to be a theme in Jacob’s family history. Isaac favored Esau. Rebekah preferred Jacob. Jacob desired Rachel. And in Jacob’s old age, Joseph is the apple of his eye.
Favoritism breeds rivalry and division. Feelings about a child may be difficult to change. But as parents and grandparents, we can change our actions of giving special treatment to one over another.
The time to deal with jealousy is when we find ourselves keeping score with what others have.
Joseph’s brothers’ jealousy over a robe and anger over a couple of dreams grew into a blinding monstrous rage. Worried about carrying the guilt of Joseph’s death, they chose the lesser of two evils by selling him as a slave instead. Although they avoided murder, their action was still wrong.
When faced with problem solving, let’s first ask, “Is this right?”
Have a great weekend!
Oholibamah. Try saying that 10 times fast! Who was Oholibamah? She was one of two Hittite women that Esau—Jacob’s twin brother—married according to Genesis 36.
Even though intermarriage with the Canaanites was strictly forbidden by his family, Esau defies his parents’ religious principles when he marries two idolatrous Hittites. Isaac and Rebekah are miserable with this arrangement (26:35). So Esau decides to add a third wife. But this time he’d marry Basemath, an Ishmael descendant (28:9).
You may read the list of Esau’s descendants here: Bible Gateway.
Although the theme of infertility plagued Abraham’s line, it doesn’t seem an issue in Esau’s line. Esau’s descendants, however, would eventually vanish at God’s hand due to their hostile treatment toward their brothers, Israel, Jacob’s descendants.
Due to insufficient pasture and water for both brother’s herds, Esau moves his family south and east of the Dead Sea. This division of territory between Esau and Jacob sounds a lot like Abraham and Lot’s episode (13:1-13). However, Esau may have also moved with the acceptance that Canaan (the promised land) is to be passed on to Jacob.
The name Esau means “red.” Esau becomes known as Edom from his foolish decision to trade his birthright and father’s blessing for some red stew. So, the Edomites are his descendants.
Interesting Edomite Tidbits
- Esau’s sons—who walk away from God—appear wise in worldly ways and reign as kings in Edom before any king reigns in Israel. And while Esau’s descendants become rulers, Jacob’s sons remain lowly shepherds for generations (47:3).
- As Esau and Jacob grew up fighting, both of their descendants followed suit. Israel, (Jacob’s descendants), looked down on the Edomites because of their intermarriage with the Canaanites. God, however, commanded the Israelites during the exodus to give their “brothers,” special treatment despite the Edomites defiance and hostility (Deuteronomy 2:4-5).
- Like their father, the Edomites were fierce and rugged. As warriors who prided themselves in their self-sufficiency, they mistakenly thought their rock cliffs were impregnable.
- Edom—Israel’s neighbors and relatives—constantly harassed the Jews. They later looted Jerusalem and rejoiced at the misfortunes of Israel and Judah. God spoke strong words of judgment against them through the Old Testament prophet Obadiah in a dirge of doom format. You may read it here: Obadiah. (It’s only one chapter and the shortest book in the Old Testament!)
- When Obadiah prophesied, Judah may have seemed less likely to survive than Edom. But—exactly as God foretold—the Edomite nation vanished. They were routed by Judas Maccabeus in 164 B.C. and were completely nonexistent by the first century A.D.
As I wrap this up, a hail storm accompanied with loud thunder and lightning sweeps over our house. Thankfully I’m inside, safe from the hurling chunks of ice. What a great visual reminder of God’s protection for His children!
One day, God will judge and punish all who harm His people. I can’t think of a more terrifying scenario than being caught out in the storm of God’s wrath.
Those who rebel against God and take advantage of others’ misfortunes will someday answer to God.
Those who have trusted Christ for forgiveness and are faithful to Him, however, have hope for the future. Let’s be mindful of those around us and be willing to help in their time of need.
Enjoy your weekend!
Then God said to Jacob, ‘Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.’” –Genesis 35:1
Once again, God tells Jacob to settle in Bethel (and build an altar). Bethel is where Jacob first encountered God and built an altar to worship Him. It’s also where Jacob is first told about God’s plan to bless him.
You may read Genesis 35 here: Bible Gateway.
Jacob gives his clan a spiritual prep talk as he seeks a fresh start with God. Purification would involve the removal of all foreign gods, and be symbolized through the changing of their clothes.
Why did the people have idols in the first place? These were sometimes viewed more as good luck charms rather than gods. Their earrings were also viewed as good luck charms to buffer evil. But Jacob didn’t want anything—not even good luck trinkets—to distract his family’s spiritual focus.
As Jacob and his people set out to Bethel (in the land of Canaan), “the terror of God fell upon the towns all around them so that no one pursued them” (vs. 5).
Small wonder after what Jacob’s sons did to the people of Shechem! But God’s protective hand is also evident as Jacob obeys and sets up an altar in Bethel.
God renews His promise to give Jacob many descendants and the land (vs. 9-12), just as He first promised Abraham and Isaac. God also affirms Jacob’s new name, Israel, which means “he struggles with God”.
Jacob sets up a second pillar in Bethel as a memorial to God’s faithfulness. Similar to 30 years earlier, he sanctifies (sets apart) the stone and pours oil over it. By using the most expensive olive oil with the finest grade in purity, Jacob demonstrates his great respect where he meets with God. He also gives God an offering and reaffirms the name Bethel, which means “house of God”.
The Deaths of Rachel and Isaac
Rachel—who had desperately wanted a child—sadly dies while giving birth to her second son (vs. 16-19). She names him Ben-Oni, which means “son of my trouble”. But Jacob renames him Benjamin, which means “son of my right hand”.
Along with a list of Jacob’s sons, Isaac’s death is also recorded at the end of chapter 35. Isaac lives for 12 years after Jacob relocates to Hebron. He also grieves Joseph’s seeming death. He dies soon after Joseph’s promotion in Egypt—at the age of 180—and is buried near Hebron in the Machpelah Cave.
Reuben—Jacob and Leah’s firstborn—is now an adult. He helps himself to Jacob’s concubine, Bilhah (vs. 22). (Although Bilhah held some privileges of a wife, she didn’t share in all of a wife’s benefits.)
Why would Reuben do such a foolish thing?
Layman’s Bible Commentary asserts: “Reuben’s relations with Bilhah are a power move as much as anything else. In that culture, a man who wanted to assert his superiority over another man might do so by having sexual relations with that man’s wife or concubine. It may have included a play for asserting his mother’s role as ‘first wife.’ With the death of Rachel, who had been Jacob’s favorite, Bilhah, Rachel’s servant, may have been able to move into a favored role. Reuben’s actions make Bilhah detestable to Jacob; thus Leah has a better chance for power in the household.”
Reuben may have thought he got away with his ruse. His actions, however, cost him in the end when Jacob gives his double portion to Joseph (1 Chronicles 5:1-2). The use of Israel instead of Jacob in verse 22 may indicate that the patriarch responds in a correct manner, instead of how the old Jacob might have responded.
Sometimes—instead of a steady pace—my walk with God feels more like two steps forward and one step back. How about you?
Jacob the patriarch wasn’t perfect either. Setbacks marked his life. But I love that his new name characterized his desire to stay close to God. Despite life’s challenges and upsets, he learned to prevail with God.
If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you know that being a believer doesn’t make life easier. But we have a powerful God who is always ready to help us through life’s storms. Like Israel, let’s determine to prevail with God and cast aside all idols (anything that we put before God).
Have a great week!
Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and violated her. His heart was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her. And Shechem said to his father Hamor, ‘Get me this girl as my wife.’” –Genesis 34:1-4
Shechem was not only the name of a place, but also the name of the man that Dinah encounters. Jacob probably didn’t foresee the immediate crisis looming. But the consequence of compromising God’s directive to go to Bethel (31:3, 13) would wreck havoc not only on his family, but also on the Shechemites.
You may read Genesis 34 here: Bible Gateway.
Dinah—Leah’s youngest child—must have been at least a teenager at this time. This suggests that Jacob and his family had been living in, or near, Shechem for several years.
Who could blame Dinah—living with 11 brothers—for wanting to get out and socialize with other girls her age? After all, a girl needs girlfriends!
Jacob, Leah, and Rachel must have been somewhat uncomfortable with their children living so close to pagan influence. Maybe they planned on moving to Bethel (as God had directed) in the near future to find mates for their growing kids. Maybe Jacob remained near Shechem in hopes of spreading a godly influence. Whatever their reasons, by-passing God’s command to return to Bethel put themselves in a tangled mess.
It wasn’t long before Shechem, the city’s chieftain, took notice of Dinah. This soon turned into an obsession. Beautiful Dinah, being of a different nationality, probably held a certain charm that the Canaanite girls lacked. For they were immersed in a culture of immorality and idol worship.
Henry Morris (The Genesis Record) writes: “Unattached women were considered fair game in cities of the time, in which promiscuity was not only common but, in fact, a part of the very religious system itself. It seems likely that Dinah must have been warned about such dangers by her parents, but perhaps she felt she could look out for herself and resented their overprotective attitude.”
Scripture doesn’t say if Dinah encouraged Shechem’s affection. But in light of her age, statutory rape would probably be applied in our times.
Even though Shechem violated Dinah, he pursues her as his bride. Since marriage was arranged by parents even in pagan cultures, he asks his dad to approach Jacob in the matter.
Jacob learns what happened, but waits until his sons come in from the fields. In the meanwhile, Hamor and Shechem show up. Without a hint of an apology, or indication that a wrong has been committed, Hamor suggests that Dinah be given to Shechem as his wife.
Jacob’s sons overhear their wild proposal and burst into the room. Jacob seems to fade into the background as his sons take charge.
The brothers are furious.
Not only has their only sister been violated, but Shechem has “done a disgraceful thing in Israel,” polluting their national purity that’s necessary for God’s continual blessing upon them.
(Side note: The name Israel in verse 7 refers to God’s chosen people for the first time.)
Adding insult to insult, Hamor suggests a general intermarrying between his people and Jacob’s clan. He also throws in a bonus: trade and land deals.
Jacob’s sons—following Jacob’s previous devious ways—devise a plan of revenge. (Never mind the defilement of God’s holy meaning of what they are about to propose!) They pretend to go along with Hamor’s proposal on one condition only: “That you become like us by circumcising all your males,” (vs. 15).
Why did Jacob’s sons include all the Shechemite men?
Maybe they felt they deserved punishment for their indifference to Shechem’s crime. Or perhaps they reasoned that they couldn’t carry out revenge on Shechem the Chieftan as the townsmen would surely kill them.
Surprisingly, the Shechemite men agree to circumcision. I guess the temporary inconvenience paled in light of the financial gain they would reap from this alliance.
So, on the third day—when the men are most debilitated—Simeon, Levi, and possibly their servants charge the city. Going from house to house, they slay all the men (including Shechem and Hamor) and rescue Dinah. Maybe the other brothers join in the looting and capture of the women, children, animals and possessions.
So where is Jacob during all of this?
His infuriation with his boys’ retaliation shows that he wasn’t in on this plan of vengeance. But his verbal response also indicates a selfish viewpoint: “You have brought trouble on me by making me a stench to the Canaanites and Perizzites,” (vs. 30).
Jacob’s silence—along with Simeon and Levi’s reference to Dinah as their sister (rather than Jacob’s daughter)—could infer that Jacob didn’t give her much attention. Maybe that’s why her protective blood brothers (Leah’s sons) felt justified in their actions.
Simeon and Levi were right to be angry at both the injustice done to Dinah and Hamor’s proposal of mixing the chosen Israelite seed with the Canaanite seed. However, taking the law into their own hands was flat out wrong. Their arrogance led to the slaughter of innocent people.
This horrific account shows the high price of compromise. If Jacob had obeyed God’s command to return to Bethel, this tragedy wouldn’t have happened.
The following questions come to my mind: Am I settling for compromise? Am I putting off what God has asked me to do (or not do)? My consequences may not seem as huge, but do I really want to just coast in my relationship with God and miss His best for my life?
Thanks for staying the course! I appreciate you!
Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men.” –Genesis 33:1
Twenty years have passed since Jacob cheated Esau of his birthright and blessing. For twenty long years, Jacob most likely imagined how and when Esau would settle the score.
After a unique wrestling match with God, however, we witness a change in Jacob. No longer enslaved to the domination of fear and deceit, God changes Jacob’s name to Israel. This signifies his changing character, (see Jacob Wrestles With God).
Chapter 33 marks an important time in Jacob’s life. You may read Genesis 33 here: Bible Gateway.
With a new limp, Jacob boldly precedes his family in meeting Esau and his 400 men. Using precautionary measures, he bows to the ground seven times before Esau. This was an ancient court protocol used before kings.
Men didn’t run in Esau’s culture. But Esau breaks the cultural norm and sprints toward his brother. Jacob’s heart must have felt like it would explode. Would this be his end?
Amazingly, Esau embraces Jacob in a big bear hug. Esau’s kiss indicates forgiveness. And the two brothers weep. . . . I would have loved to see their reunion!
Esau’s refusal to accept Jacob’s herds as gifts shows he is not the taker that Jacob has been. But upon Jacob’s insistence, Esau finally does accept the gifts. The word gift is translated from a word that means blessing. By receiving the gifts, Esau grants Jacob the opportunity to feel forgiven.
Jacob’s comparison of Esau’s face likened to God’s face expresses his profound relief in Esau’s acceptance of him.
Although Jacob claims he is headed to Seir, he travels to Succoth instead. Scripture doesn’t say why. But this is the exact opposite direction from Esau. Did he fear that their reconciled relationship might be in jeopardy if they lived side by side? Did he reason that the land couldn’t support both of them for pastures? Did he fear facing his father?
Sadly, Jacob would never see his father again (unless Scripture didn’t record it). In fact, the next time Jacob and Esau would meet up again in Scripture is 27 years later at Isaac’s graveside (35:29).
Against God’s directive to settle in Bethel (28:21; 31:3, 13), Jacob settles near the city of Shechem instead. This is where Jacob builds his first altar, (just as Grandpa Abraham had done when entering Canaan).
Jacob names this altar El-Elohe-Israel, which means “the mighty God is the God of Israel.” This is the first record in which an altar is named. By using his new name, Israel, Jacob not only acknowledges God as the God, but also as his God.
Although Esau usually gets a bad rap, I really admire his example of not allowing bitterness to rule his life. Instead, he chooses forgiveness. Esau also demonstrated contentment with what he had.
As in Esau’s case, life dishes out times when we feel cheated. What can we do when we feel cheated and used?
The Psalms are full of honest expressions and cries for God’s help. We can also express our hurt, anger, and disappointment to God. And then—with God’s help—choose to forgive and not be bound to bitterness.
Have a great week!
That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.” –Genesis 32:22-24
I would love to be an owl in a nearby tree and watch this fascinating event unfold.
You may read Genesis 32:22-32 here: Bible Gateway.
Several questions surface after reading this passage. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
Why did Jacob send everyone on ahead as he stayed behind prior to meeting up with Esau?
After 20 years to ponder how—or when—Esau might kill him (for cheating Esau of both his birthright and blessings), tomorrow would be the big day. Would Jacob live or die?
Distressed and terrified, Jacob lagged behind to pray. Hosea 12:3-5 tells us that Jacob’s wrestling not only involved physical tenacity, but also weeping and supplication.
Is this passage to be taken as an allegory or literal account?
It seems apparent that the writer of this passage (probably originally Jacob) meant for this account to be taken literally. Even the name Jabbok means “Wrestler” in memory of Jacob’s amazing experience. If Jacob ever chalked his experience up to just being a dream, he had a permanent limp to remind him of his physical wrestling match.
Layman’s Bible Commentary notes: “The man [Jacob’s wrestling opponent] is deliberately crippling Jacob at the point of his greatest strength [the thigh being the largest and strongest muscle connection of the body].”
“Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon,” (vs. 32).
Hmm . . . an interesting development, especially prior to meeting Esau. Jacob would be weak from wrestling all night. Definitely not in his best fighting form!
But why would God send Jacob off limping (besides a reminder of this unique encounter)?
The Apostle Paul—who had a lengthy list of credentials—said: “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” (2 Corinthians 11:30). Why?
Our weakness, when given to God, gives Him an opportunity to fill us with His power. God was teaching Jacob to rely on Him instead of relying solely on his smarts and energy. Henry Morris (The Genesis Record) writes: “He [Jacob] must know fully his own weakness, but even more he must know the power of God and his right to claim that power.”
I think God was teaching Jacob to look at the big picture, instead of focusing so much on his stressful situation of meeting Esau again. There was more at stake here. God had an important mission for Jacob. For the Messiah would come through his descendants.
Was Jacob’s wrestling opponent a man, an angel, or God?
Angels often appeared in the form of men in those days. The passage from Hosea 12:3-5 also indicates that Jacob “had power over the angel, and prevailed.” However, according to Jacob, this was no ordinary angel: “Because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared,” (vs. 30). So Jacob names the place Peniel, which means “face of God”.
But how could Jacob touch (and see) God’s face and still live?
Morris writes: “This would have been utterly impossible, had not God veiled Himself in human form (Exodus 33:20; 1 Timothy 6:16).
If the man was God, why does verse 25 say He couldn’t overpower Jacob (vs. 25)?
Morris explains: “This, of course, does not suggest that God was weaker than Jacob, but does show that God desires men to persist in prayer and that He delights to yield to such prayers. . . . There is such a thing as prevailing prayer, when the request conforms to the will and the word of God, (Luke 18:7; Luke 18:1). Jacob’s experience symbolizes all such prayers.”
God gave some Bible people new names to symbolize how God had changed their lives. In fact, Revelation 2:17 says: “To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.”
These white stones are significant because they represent new hearts that God has cleansed from sin. The new names given show that God has accepted and declared his children not guilty.
Israel means “he struggles with God”. Jacob, the ambitious “heel-grabbing” deceiver had grown to one who struggles with God and overcomes. Morris also notes that Israel means “One Who Fights Victoriously with God.” It has also been rendered “A Prince with God” and is translated in this verse, “as a prince hast thou power.”
I love that God answered Jacob’s prayer in such a personal way: in the form of a real wrestling match! Jacob, who had formerly twisted situations and manipulated people probably never imagined that he would literally wrestle God (and learn some important lessons in the process!) God definitely knows how to get our individual attention. He longs for a personal relationship with each of us (Revelation 3:20).
God is still in the business of transforming lives. God initiates the change, but we must press on if we want to grow in Christ-like character.
I love that God can take the weak and broken strands of our lives and weave them into something beautiful for His purpose. . . . Have a terrific week!
Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home. Jacob also went his way, and the angels of God met him.” – Genesis 31:55-32:1
After Laban departs from Jacob on good terms, Jacob obeys God and travels on to Canaan. You may read Genesis 32:1-21 here: Bible Gateway.
God Sends Angels to Meet Jacob
Why did God send angels to meet Jacob?
Fear and distress overwhelmed Jacob at the report of Esau’s 400 men. How often did Jacob replay Esau’s threat of killing him over the past 20 years? Weekly? Daily?
Not only did Jacob cheat his brother of his birthright (25:33), but he also stole the family blessing from him (25:29-27:42).
But God reassures Jacob of His protection by giving him a glimpse of the angels’ presence. Jacob names the place Mahanaim, which means “double host” or “double camp”.
The Bible records many instances of angels intervening in human situations. Perhaps Jacob recognizes these angels from his previous dream (see Jacob’s Dream At Bethel).
Jacob Prepares to Meet Esau
First, Jacob would iron out the physical details of his trip (vs. 3-8). When he learns of Esau coming to meet him, he divides the people and animals into two groups. If Esau attacks, he thought, the group that is left may escape (vs. 8).
Jacob sends messengers on ahead to shower his brother with gifts. He applies wisdom in the wording that he instructs his servants to use: He calls Esau “lord” and humbles himself as his servant.
Maybe, just maybe, he could buy Esau’s favor. Perhaps the 550-plus animals would be viewed as an act of reconciliation. Or maybe Esau would realize that Jacob isn’t returning for his inheritance after all since Jacob is already wealthy.
After doing everything he can to physically prepare in meeting Esau, Jacob preps spiritually. His prayer in verses 9-12 is the first and only extended prayer in Genesis. Jacob’s prayer could be summarized as the following:
- He restates God’s words to him: “Go back to your country and relatives, and I will make you prosper.”
- He admits that he doesn’t deserve God’s kindness and faithfulness.
- He pleads for safety.
- He reminds God of His promise to bless and multiply him and his descendants.
How would you feel if you were about to meet the person you had tricked out of his/her most prized possession? Jacob must have been trembling in his sandals! But instead of fleeing, (as he fled from Laban), Jacob demonstrates that his faith is growing.
Instead of drowning his worries in a bowl of ice cream, or frantically running around, he makes practical plans and then releases his anxieties to God in prayer.
Now that would be a good thing to remember the next time I reach for that bowl of chocolate ice cream!
This section ends with Jacob spending the night in the camp. Next week, I’ll wrestle with—excuse the pun—the short, but intriguing passage of Jacob wrestling with God (vs. 22-32).
I hope you are enjoying spring. Despite catching a heavy cold, I am loving the warmer weather. Have a super week!
Jacob had heard that Laban’s sons were saying, ‘Jacob has taken everything our father owned and has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father.’” –Genesis 31:1
After Jacob grows exceedingly rich, some of Laban’s sons become jealous and accuse him of stealing their inheritance. But despite Laban’s harsh work environment, God has proven Himself faithful to Jacob (vs. 4-13).
You may read Genesis 31:1-55 here: Bible Gateway.
Twenty years slipped by since Jacob’s last recorded revelation from God. Jacob was still in the promised land at the time (28:10-22). Finally, God tells Jacob to go back to the land of his fathers (vs. 3). I wonder if God’s directive felt like a breath of fresh air to Jacob. Or, did the potential dangers gnaw at him with the high probabilities: Laban’s pursuit from behind and Esau’s revenge up ahead?
Whatever thoughts and anxieties swam through Jacob’s mind, he states the facts to his wives, Rachel and Leah. God is mentioned by name seven times during their discourse. Even the tension between the sisters can’t squelch their unanimous conclusion. Possibly for the first time, the awkward threesome agree on something: Laban, (their dad), doesn’t hesitate to walk over his own flesh and blood if it benefits him financially. (Okay, that’s my interpretation.)
The NIV Life Application Study Bible notes: “According to custom, they [Rachel and Leah] were supposed to receive the benefits of the dowry Jacob paid for them, which was 14 years of hard work. When Laban did not give them what was rightfully theirs, they knew they would never inherit anything from their father.”
Small wonder, Rachel and Leah support Jacob’s plan. Together they would take Jacob’s acquired wealth and vamoose.
So Jacob saddles up his camels with family and belongings in tow for the 300 mile trek from Haran to mountainous Gilead. But first, Jacob and Rachel would combine for a double whammy on Laban: 1) Rachel steals Laban’s small household idols while he shears sheep; 2) Jacob goes against God’s way by not informing Laban of their departure, (despite following God’s will to go home).
Small wonder, Laban chases after Jacob when he learns they skedaddled. Fortunately for Jacob, God reveals Himself to Laban in a dream. After traveling seven days, (Jacob had a three-day head start), Laban confronts Jacob in Gilead: “Why did you run off and secretly deceive me? . . . . Why did you steal my gods?”
Jacob confesses his fear of Laban taking his daughters by force as the motivating factor. Clueless that Rachel stole her father’s idols, Jacob tells him to search their belongings. “If you find anyone who has your gods, he shall not live.”
Neither Laban nor Jacob realize Rachel is the culprit as she hides the idols inside her saddle. When Laban searches Jacob’s tents, Rachel—matching her father’s wit—gives a female excuse for not getting off her camel. (I don’t know why he swallowed the fly, I mean bait, but fortunately he does!)
With Laban’s unsuccessful search, Jacob releases twenty years of pent-up frustration. But even in his rebuke, Jacob’s faith is evident (vs. 36-42).
This section ends with Jacob setting up a stone as a pillar. The two men make an agreement that neither party would harm the other, nor Jacob mistreat Laban’s daughters. Although both Jacob and Laban use God as their witness to make the agreement binding, Laban swears by the pagan god his father worshiped (31:53). This is the last mention of Laban in the Bible (vs. 55).
Why did Rachel steal her father’s idols? Was she reluctant to let go of her father’s religion, thinking it would bring her luck? Did she do it out of revenge? Or was it to secure her family’s inheritance? Whatever her reasons, God makes His position clear on idol worship: Exodus 20:30; Deuteronomy 5:7; 32:16.
Jacob was so sure no one had stolen Laban’s idols that he vowed to kill the crook. How horrible it would have been for everyone, especially Jacob, if Laban found out the truth. That’s a good lesson to take to the bank: It’s safer to avoid making rash statements, (even when we’re sure of something!)
Jacob’s work ethic under Laban was commendable. Although Jacob followed God’s will to go home, his way of fleeing without first telling Laban, however, showed his faith still had room to grow.
Lastly, Laban mastered using people. He controlled two generations of marriages in Abraham’s family (Rebekah, Rachel, Leah). But despite his efforts, God’s plan still carried on. And in the end, Laban was the one used.
As we’ve heard in the news, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck near the central coast of Ecuador Saturday, April 16. On April 21, reliefweb.int reported:
According to the latest report from Ecuador’s National Secretariat for Risk Management (SNDGR), there have been 238 deaths, 1,577 injuries, 50 people have sought shelter in emergency collective centers, 370 buildings have been destroyed and 151 others have been affected, and 26 schools have been affected; no official information has been provided on the number of affected people. Ecuadorian Red Cross estimates that the numbers of affected people could reach up to 70,000-100,000 and with 3,000 to 5,000 needing emergency shelter.”
One of the great things about being a child is having all kinds of hopes and dreams. Compassion International, one of the world’s leading child development organizations, helps connect sponsors with children who don’t have a fair shot at making their dreams a reality through local churches and centers.
Compassion International has 22 centers within 60 miles of the earthquake’s epicenter. My family has sponsored Dennis from Ecuador since 2009. Thankfully, Dennis’ center was unaffected, but my heart still breaks for the children and families who have not only lost loved ones, but also their homes.
Compassion International has set up a fund to aid families of Compassion-assisted children who’ve been adversely affected by Ecuador’s earthquake. 100% of donations go to relief efforts.
Through our contributions we can help provide the following urgent needs: temporary shelter, medical aid, water and sanitation, and emergency food.
Will you join me in helping these precious people? You may access Compassion’s fundraiser page through this link: Provide Urgent Care to Ecuador.
I will continue my Bible Study in Genesis next week.
After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, ‘Send me on my way so I can go back to my own homeland. Give me my wives and children, for whom I have served you, and I will be on my way. You know how much work I have done for you.” –Genesis 30:25-26
Jacob probably never dreamt that he would spend 20 years of hard labor under his uncle Laban in Paddan-aram (31:38). His first seven years would seem a breeze, at least in comparison to receiving his dream wife, Rachel. But Laban outwitted his nephew.
Jacob’s deception with Esau and his father came back to haunt him. Instead of receiving Rachel as his bride, Laban gave him Leah.
And the Trickster got tricked.
But even though Laban conned Jacob into another seven years of toil in exchange for Rachel, Jacob kept his end of the bargain. However, another six years would slip through the hourglass before Jacob finally breaks free from Laban. Meanwhile, eleven sons and one daughter are born.
You may read Genesis 30:25-43: Bible Gateway.
Jacob couldn’t just pack his bags and leave at leisure. Shared ownership complicated the authority structure in this Eastern family. To leave without receiving his uncle/father-in-law’s permission could lead to war within the family clan.
Laban’s desire for Jacob to stay isn’t because he loves him, but rather because his prosperity is due to Jacob’s presence. When Laban claims that his idols have enlightened him to this fact, Jacob candidly tells him that God’s blessing is due to His faithfulness and Jacob’s hard work.
Jacob’s answer to Laban’s increased wage offer indicates that he has prepared for this moment (vs. 31-33).
Don’t give me anything. But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: Let me go through your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages,” (vs. 31-32).
Laban agrees to this arrangement.
Jacob’s proposal favors Laban. Layman’s Bible Commentary notes: “Goats in the Middle East are generally black or dark brown (Song of Solomon 4:1), and the sheep are always nearly white (Ps. 147:16; Song of Solomon 4:2; 6:6; Daniel 7:9).”
Laban, however, still attempts to cheat Jacob (vs. 35-36). He places the speckled animals under the care of his sons. Then he separates them from Jacob with a good three-day journey distance.
Meanwhile, Jacob continues caring for the rest of Laban’s flocks and counters with a God inspired plan involving tree branches (31:10). How did these visuals help increase the streaked characteristics in the young? Although some herdsmen believed that vivid impressions at mating time influenced their offspring, God’s promise of provision and selective breeding were most likely the contributing factors to Jacob’s success.
Selfishness is concern for self at the expense of others.
While most of us battle selfishness at times, some—like Laban—embrace it with outstretched arms. In a culture steeped in “me-ism,” how do we free ourselves from its grasp?
Another tool to oust selfishness is to exercise kindness. “[T]here’s a great deal of evidence showing the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to upward spirals of love and generosity in a relationship,” says Emily Esfhani Smith.
This past week I was treated to a random act of kindness. After unplugging our bathroom faucet and checking a couple of other dripping faucets, our plumber says, “I won’t charge you. It was a simple procedure.”
I’m sure my jaw dropped. There had always been a service fee just to have him drive to our home. I couldn’t help but think: Who does that? Obviously my plumber does! Needless to say, he made my day as I thanked him (and God) for his gift of generosity during a bill filled month.
Not only is it refreshing to observe and/or receive an act of kindness, but it’s also rewarding to be on the giving side. Jesus Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” (Acts 20:35).
There are many ways to give of one’s time, talent, spiritual gifts and money. Let’s ask God: who, what and where He desires for us to give. Then let’s go ahead and make someone’s day by stepping out in obedience.
Have a great week!🙂
When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I’ll die!’” –Genesis 30:1
With Jacob’s double marriage to Leah and Rachel, the sisters’ jealousy and rivalry isn’t a surprise. Each sister wants what the other has: Leah longs for Jacob’s love. She strives to earn his affection by bearing him children. Rachel already has Jacob’s love, but she envy’s Leah’s ability to bear children.
For all of Leah and Rachel’s efforts in their bitter childbearing race, it is God who opens the womb.
You may read Genesis 29:31-30:22 here: Bible Gateway.
All of the great patriarch’s (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) had wives who struggled conceiving. While Jacob followed Grandpa Abraham’s example of having relations with his maidservant in order to have his own child, Isaac chose another path. Instead of following the legal and culturally accepted practice of having children through his wife’s maidservant, he prayed to God when Rebekah was barren. God eventually answered his prayer and blessed Rebekah with twins.
The twelve tribes of Israel descend from a very blended and conflicted family. The following chart shows Jacob’s children in the order they were born.
Names in the Old Testament
Names in the Old Testament were often given to reflect the situation at the time of birth. Sometimes a person’s name was later changed because his/her name and character didn’t match.
Six of Israel’s tribes descend from Leah. She birthed the following children.
- Reuben means “see, a son”.
- Simeon means “hear” or “listen”.
- Levi means “attached” or “associated”. The royal priesthood descends from Levi’s tribe.
- Judah means “praise”. The Messiah would come from this tribe.
- Issachar sounds like the Hebrew word for “reward”.
- Zebulun probably means “honor”.
- Leah’s seventh baby was a girl (Dinah).
In Rachel’s frustration of infertility, she adopts her maidservant Bilbah’s babies. Rachel falsely assumes God is pleased with this move. Bilbah birthed two boys.
- Dan means “He has vindicated me”.
- Naphtali means “my struggle”.
When Leah isn’t pregnant, she also offers Jacob her maidservant, Zilpah, who births two boys.
- Gad means “good fortune” or “a troop”.
- Asher means “happy”.
After 14 years of infertility, Rachel births Joseph. She would also eventually birth Benjamin.
- Joseph means “may he add”.
- Benjamin means “son of my right hand”.
Although Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah, he would have saved his family some grief if he would have considered the long term consequences of taking both Leah and Rachel’s maidservants as concubines. However, the most heated rivalry sparked between Leah and Rachel’s children (and descended tribes).
When Rachel couldn’t bear children she lost sight of Jacob’s commitment to her. Instead of accepting what he had already given her—devoted love—seeds of envy toward Leah took root. Heated competition of who could give Jacob the most children sprouted thorns of disunity among the family.
Rachel’s attempt to earn what Jacob had already given her, (love), paints a bigger picture. Perhaps the following question is what we should ask ourselves: Like Rachel, are we trying to earn God’s love?
Without God’s Word, it’s easy to believe these false ideas: 1) We’re good enough—at least better than many—to earn God’s love; 2) God’s love will never be ours because we can never attain it.
While it’s true that we can’t earn God’s love, we can know His love because He gives it freely. If the Bible only paints one picture, it’s this: God loves us! The vibrancy of His incredible mercy and patience are highlighted throughout His Word. He already took care of the problem that separates us from Him—our sin—when He sacrificed His Son on the cross.
When we accept and embrace God’s love, we are free from striving to earn His approval. We can walk with Him in joy and thankfulness.
The plan was simple. Jacob would stay in Haran a few months, find a wife, and then return home to Beersheba. But unbeknownst to him, his stay would encompass 14 long years of labor after being fooled by uncle Laban. (This would not be a funny April Fool’s joke!)🙂
You may read Genesis 29:1-30 here: Gateway Bible.
Now that Jacob has God’s promised blessing—which he previously strived to gain by his own efforts—Jacob is infused with purpose. After days of travel from Bethel, Jacob finally arrives in Haran. He stumbles across a field where three flocks of sheep lie near a well. He learns from the shepherds that they won’t remove the large stone from the well’s mouth to water their flocks until all the sheep have arrived.
But when Rachel draws near with her father’s flock, Jacob springs to action. Smitten by her beauty, he not only removes the big stone from the well’s mouth, but also plants a kiss on—or near—Rachel’s mouth.
Layman’s Bible Commentary notes: “Most likely, he [Jacob] kisses her on both cheeks, a traditional greeting. However, it is worth adding that this appears to be the only case in the Bible of a man kissing a woman who is not his mother or wife. So it is possible that this was more than just a ‘holy’ kiss.”
Laban Negotiates Wages with Jacob
Jacob is welcomed into the family. Even though Laban owns many sheep, he doesn’t negotiate payment for Jacob’s labor until Jacob has toiled a month for him. But Jacob is quick to respond to his wage inquiry: “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”
Verse 17 says, “Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful.” Rachel in Hebrew means “ewe lamb,” while Leah (the oldest daughter) means “cow”.
Layman’s Bible Commentary suggests that verse 20 is often misunderstood to mean that time passed quickly for Jacob. “More likely it means that the price seems insignificant when compared to what he is getting in return.”
The Deceiver is Deceived
Finally! Seven years of toil have passed for Jacob. The wedding ceremony has arrived. But when Jacob opens his eyelids the next morning, he is astonished to find Leah next to him.
Jacob is enraged. “Why have you deceived me?”
“It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one.”
How could Laban fool Jacob? Layman’s Commentary notes: “The most likely explanation is that when Laban brings his daughter Leah to Jacob, it is late and dark, and she is veiled from head to toe. It seems that the wedding feast hosted by Laban is an intentional ploy to dull Jacob’s senses with wine (29:22).”
After Jacob’s marriage consummation to Leah, Jacob receives his true love, Rachel, in just eight short days. However, Laban has also conned Jacob into working another seven years as an exchange.
Ironically, Jacob meets his own sin of deception in uncle Laban. Jacob’s previous scam and dishonor of the firstborn’s birthright and blessing principle is now honored through the union of Laban’s firstborn daughter—Leah—to Jacob.
Although tricked by Laban, Jacob keeps his part of the bargain. Patient and diligent, he works another seven years without plotting revenge.
When we nurse a grudge and/or plot revenge, we are not only blind to God’s perspective, but also become imprisoned to bitterness. Offering forgiveness is never easy when offended or hurt. But God expects it, especially since He forgave us.
For many, Easter stirs memories of family gatherings, chocolate bunnies, egg hunts and the traditional church visit.
But the roots of Easter form the core of Christianity. Easter is a celebration of God’s unconditional love.
God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life:
- “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” –John 3:16
- In regards to a full and meaningful life, Jesus said: “I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.” –John 10:10
First the Bad News
Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, we have all inherited the sin nature. Because of our stubborn self-will our fellowship with God has been broken. Our sins—both active rebellion and passive indifference— have separated us from God: his love and plan for our lives.
- “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” –Romans 3:23
- Because God is holy and just He will punish sinners: “The wages of sin is death,” [spiritual separation from God]. –Romans 6:23
But God doesn’t want to leave us in our wretched sinful state. From Genesis to Revelation, His sovereign plan enfolds.
- Jesus died in our place: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” –Romans 5:8
- Jesus rose from the dead: “Christ died for our sins. . . He was buried. . . He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures . . . He appeared to Peter, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred.” -1 Corinthians 15:3-6
Jesus Is the Only Way to God
Jesus bridged the gulf that separates us from Him when He died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.
- Jesus said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” -John 14:6
But it’s not enough just to know these truths.
We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Then we can know and experience God’s love and purpose for our lives. “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” -John 17:3
God’s offer of salvation and fellowship is a free gift that we receive in Christ through faith: “By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works that no one should boast.” –Ephesians 2:8-9
- “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” -John 1:12
- We experience a new birth when we receive Christ. (See John 3:1-8.)
Salvation is not dependent upon our emotions, nor does it stand alone on intellectual agreement. Receiving Christ is as an act of the will through faith. Repentance involves removing self from the throne to placing God on the throne of one’s life. When we place Christ on the throne of our heart, He offers peace and joy, even when circumstances would dictate otherwise.
My prayer for you—if you have never entered into a relationship with God—is that you would seize this moment. The following is a suggested prayer, (although God isn’t as concerned about your words as He is with your heart’s attitude): “Lord Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross in my place. Please come into my life as my Lord and Savior. Thank you for giving me eternal life and forgiving my sins. Help me to be the person you desire.”
For those of us who have already placed our trust in Christ, may we continue to grow in Him, be thankful for Christ’s sacrifice, and share the reason for our hope with others.
I will pick up with Genesis 29 for Bible study next week. Have a wonderful Easter!
Although Jacob had been given the birthright by his older brother years before, he still needed his father’s blessing to make it binding.” –NIV Life Application Study Bible
This long chapter could be written as a play with five scenes. Two short passages of Esau’s pagan marriages (26:34-35 and 28:6-9) frame the main portion: Isaac giving his blessing to Jacob. The short Esau passages serve as a kind of prologue and epilogue.
You may read Genesis 26:34-28:9 here: Bible Gateway.
SCENE 1: Isaac Asks Esau for a Meal (27:1-4)
Despite the knowledge that Jacob was to get the blessing (25:23), Isaac in his old age determines to bless his favorite—Esau—in secrecy. Similar to Esau’s earlier insistence of Jacob’s stew (25:27-34), Isaac tells Esau to hunt some wild game and prepare his favorite dish before the blessing.
SCENE 2: Rebekah’s Scheme (27:5-15)
This scene intensifies as Rebekah plays the role as spy and urgent initiator.
“The word used to describe Rebekah’s listening suggests that this is a habit, a pattern of behavior, not happenstance. Her behavior gives us an idea of the level of mistrust and poor communication in the family.” –Layman’s Bible Commentary
SCENE 3: Jacob Imitates Esau (27:18-29)
Although Rebekah is the mastermind behind this scheme, Jacob joins in her ruse and manipulates Esau once again. Jacob had already secured the birthright with the promised land blessing. But now—duped into thinking Jacob is Esau—Isaac blesses Jacob with fruitfulness in the promised land (Deuteronomy 7:13) and dominion over the nations and his family.
In regards to the blessing, Layman’s Bible Commentary notes: “The dew of heaven provides irrigation. The fatness of the earth is rain. Grain and new wine evoke the image of a banquet, overflowing with joy (Psalm 4:7). . . . The curses and blessings equate to God’s protection and are particularly linked to dominion (Numbers 24:9).”
SCENE 4: Esau’s Horror and Revenge (27:30-45)
Since a person’s word was binding in ancient times—much like a contract today—Isaac’s blessing was irrevocable.
When Esau realizes Isaac’s ploy, he weeps aloud.
SCENE 5: Jacob Leaves
In his fury, Esau determines to kill Jacob after their father dies. Rebekah once again manipulates Isaac in attempt to protect Jacob. She sends Jacob away to her brother Laban in Haran. Her cover story feeds from their frustration of Esau’s marriage to pagan women: “If Jacob takes a wife from the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.”
Esau’s next move is to marry again—this time to an Ishmaelite. Perhaps his aim is to please his parents since his third bride isn’t a foreigner, (Ishmael was Isaac’s half-brother). But this arrangement only further disappointed his parents. Ever since Isaac received Abraham’s blessing, instead of Ishmael, family strife between Isaac and Ishmael’s descendants have sparked.
- Much heartache and division could have been avoided had Rebekah waited on God and His timing. For God had already clarified that Jacob would be the family leader (25:23-26). But Rebekah and Jacob became trapped in sin by resorting to lies and manipulation to achieve their goal.
- No matter how worthy our goals may be, God never endorses wrong doing for desired results. It might be painful to correct ourselves in the middle of a mistake, but that will free us from being a prisoner to sin.
- Where we see the shortcomings of the patriarchs, it’s clear that God is the real hero. Thankfully, He is the expert craftsman of all our human intentions and actions—for good or evil—weaving His purposes into His ongoing plan (Romans 8:28).
Have a wonderful week!
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” –Matthew 5:9
You may read Genesis 26:1-33 here: Bible Gateway.
Genesis 26 precedes Genesis 25:21-34 chronologically. Layman’s Bible Commentary points out: “If Isaac and Rebekah had Jacob and Esau by this point, the fact that they were husband and wife would have been obvious. Here, the promised seed is with Isaac and Rebekah, but no child has yet been born.”
While Isaac is mentioned in other chapters, he is the main character in Genesis 26. The following parallels emerge between Isaac and his father, Abraham, in their life events:
- Isaac travels to Gerar—the land of the Philistines—when famine strikes (vs. 1-6). This is the same area Abraham and Sarah journeyed after Sodom’s destruction (20:1).
- Due to famine, Isaac plans on travelling to the same place that Abraham went: Egypt (12:10-20).
- The Lord appears to Isaac—telling him not to go to Egypt—and uses the same covenant language that He used with Abraham (12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15:18-21; 17:6-8, 16; 22:17-18).
- In fear of losing his life, Isaac lies about Rebekah’s identity just as Abraham withheld the truth of Sarah’s full identity. (The Abimelech in verse 8, however, is most likely the son or grandson of the Abimelech that ruled Gerar in Abraham’s day).
- As Abraham and Isaac’s prosperity grew, both needed more space and water for their flocks. Abraham sought peace when disputes broke out between Lot’s herdsmen and his herdsmen. Likewise, Isaac avoids escalating conflicts when Gerar’s contentious herdsmen plug the first two wells he and his men dug.
The names of the wells in verses 20-22 reflect the situations. Esek means “argument” in Hebrew, a reminder of the conflict its discovery created. Sitnah comes from a Hebrew verbal root meaning “to oppose; to be an adversary,” and signals that the digging of this well causes opposition from the Philistines. Rehoboth comes from a verbal root meaning “to make room,” and reminds all how God has made room for them. Since he finally has a well that is uncontested, Isaac might logically have decided to stay there. Instead, he moves on to Beersheba (26:33).” –Layman’s Bible Commentary
Isaac’s second revelation from God is in Beersheba (vs. 23-25). God reviews the promises He gave earlier (vs. 2-5) and stills Isaac’s fears. In response, Isaac builds an altar and worships God. The fact that he settles in Beersheba seems to indicate God’s pleasure in his relocation from the Philistine region.
Verses 26-33 end on a sweet note. King Abimelech approaches Isaac with a peace treaty as he acknowledges God’s blessings on Isaac. Not one to miss an opportunity to make peace, Isaac throws a celebration for him.
Isaac followed Abraham’s life pattern. We should be intentional in what we model to our children. Do our words, attitudes, and actions reflect Christ?
The Philistines grew jealous of Isaac’s success. How can we guard ourselves from the misery of divisive jealousy? Consideration of the consequences of an angry reaction—perhaps loss of a relationship or job—and thankfulness for what we have is a great starting point.
By plugging up Isaac’s wells, Gerar’s herdsmen were declaring war. But Isaac compromised his father’s former wells and moved on. Would we be willing to compromise a valuable item or important position for the sake of peace?
Isaac’s pursuit of peace spread godly influence and won Abimelech’s respect. Are we willing to forgive and meet our enemy’s attempt to make amends?
The entire book of Genesis emphasizes the sovereignty of God and the wisdom of His “delays.” The struggles that Jacob and Esau face, as described in retrospect in Genesis, reveal God’s plan rising to the surface against the odds.” –Layman’s Bible Commentary
Victory is especially sweet when the odds are pitted against us. Isaac and Rebekah would attest to this.
Isaac—now approaching sixty—has inherited everything from his deceased father, Abraham, including God’s promise of making his descendants into a great nation. But twenty years have passed since Isaac and Rebekah married. Similar to his parents’ circumstance—despite God’s promise—Rebekah is unable to give her husband what this ancient culture deems significant: a baby.
You may read Genesis 25:19-34 here: Bible Gateway.
Isaac, who modeled a life of submitting to God’s will, prayed on behalf of his wife. The word used to depict Isaac’s prayer does not suggest a simple formality of prayer, but rather a fervent plea (25:21).
God answers his plea by enabling Rebekah to become pregnant.
Jacob and Esau
I’m guessing it wasn’t long before Rebekah surmised she was the carrier of twins. Her joy of becoming pregnant must have been challenged with pain and anxiety as her babies jostled inside her.
The words describing the struggle of the twins in Rebekah’s womb carry the idea that they smashed themselves inside her. In retrospect, this struggle of the children foreshadows the fact that these twins would father conflicting nations.” –Layman’s Bible Commentary
“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” – God (vs. 23)
Jacob and Esau’s differences are obvious at birth. Esau—red and hairy—comes out first. His name reflects his appearance and means “hairy one.” Jacob comes next grasping Esau’s heel. The term “heel holder” is connected with a wrestling term, but also indicates a scoundrel. Unlike Esau’s name, Jacob’s name reflects his future character: “God will protect.”
As the boys grow older, Esau—Isaac’s favorite—becomes an avid outdoorsman. As a skilled hunter he loves roaming the countryside. While quiet Jacob—Rebekah’s favorite—prefers the more ordered life around the tents (vs. 27-28).
Esau Trades His Birthright
A birthright was traditionally given as an honor to the firstborn son. It not only included a double portion of the family inheritance, but also the privilege of being the future family leader. In this family’s case the birthright would also include a spiritual blessing, the promise God gave Abraham: the covenant of a land, a nation, and the Messiah.
After romping outdoors, Esau felt the cruel gnaw of hunger pains. From the waft of Jacob’s homemade stew Esau exclaimed: “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he is also called Edom, which means red –vs. 30.)
Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright” (vs. 31).
“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”
But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob (vs. 33).
By caving into the pressure of instant gratification, Esau threw away the spiritual blessings that would have been his. And “so Esau despised his birthright (vs 34).”
Unlike Esau’s compulsive act, Jacob’s response suggests premeditation. Jacob doesn’t hesitate to capitalize on his brother’s weakness as he secures Esau’s birthright for himself.
The song “I Want It All” by Queen summarizes the mindset that comes way too easy for us: “I want it all! And I want it now!” But this trap of instant gratification often clouds our view of long-term consequences. The wrecking ball of caving to immediate pleasure surrounds us: broken relationships, marriages and families. The list could go on and on.
Jesus endured all kinds of temptations, but never gave way. He is more than able to help us in the face of temptation. We would do well to model Isaac’s fervent prayer life. For God alone has the power to enable the believer to push through any pressurized moment. And although sin results in pain, Christ also has the power to restore joy and wholeness to broken lives.
Have a great week!
Altogether, Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people.” –Genesis 25:7-8
These verses imply that Abraham experienced great satisfaction in his life. Before passing away, he leaves his legacy with his family.
God’s promises would not be forgotten.
You may read Genesis 25:1-18 here: Bible Gateway.
Abraham married Keturah after Sarah died. Several Far East tribes originated from their six sons. All of Abraham’s sons were blessed with many gifts. However, Isaac—his legal firstborn—received all that he owns: authority and property.
Verse 11 relays God’s blessing upon Isaac, who dwells in Beer-Lahai-Roi: “well of the living One who sees me.” This is where Isaac came to meditate while waiting for his bride Rebekah (24:62), and would later pray for his barren wife (25:21). Ironically, this is also the place where God delivered Hagar (16:14).
Abraham is buried in the same field he bought from Ephron the Hittite for his wife Sarah. This once again affirms his belief that God would grant the land He promised his descendants.
Verses 12-18 sandwich Ishmael’s descendants between major references to Abraham (11:27-25:11), Jacob (25:19-35:29), and Joseph (37:2-50:20). God’s pronouncements concerning Ishmeal’s descendants are fulfilled here: twelve princes would be born of Ishmael; they will live in hostility toward their brothers (17:12; 16:12).
We can learn a lot from Abraham’s life. (He is also mentioned in Exodus 2:24; Acts 7:2-8; Romans 4; Galatians 3; Hebrews 2, 6, 7, 11.) Abraham’s faith pleased God “and He [God] credited it to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6). God also desires that we place our trust and dependence in Him, not faith in our efforts to please Him.
I wonder if Abraham realized the long-term magnitude of his decisions: whether he would cling to God’s promises or push them aside. His obedience of journeying to an unknown land—leaving behind security—affected the history of the world.
God’s promise of blessing the world through Abraham was fulfilled when Jesus Christ came to earth as Abraham’s descendant, through the nation Israel.
It’s easy to push through the day without thinking through the long-term results of our decisions. But our choices not only affect our future, but also the future of our children, churches, nation, and possibly people worldwide.
How often do we seek God’s guidance in prayer? He promises wisdom to those who don’t doubt (James 1:5-8).
Let’s make the most of our time here. Let’s seek God’s guidance and ask for the courage to act!
Have a wonderful week!
Abraham was now old and well advanced in years, and the LORD had blessed him in every way. He said to the chief servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, ‘Put your hand under my thigh. I want you to swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.’” –Genesis 24:1-4
This chapter makes a great Valentine’s story.
The main character in this story may surprise you.
He is mentioned seventeen times (even though He never speaks).
He is none other than the Lord Himself!
You may read Genesis 24 here: Bible Gateway.
Why didn’t Abraham want Isaac to marry a Canaanite woman?
Marriage within the family is common and acceptable in this era. The family is also the key educational source (Deut. 6:6-7; Prov. 1:8). Abraham would not compromise intermarriage with a local pagan gal.
Why didn’t Abraham send Isaac back to his home land to find a wife?
Eliezer must have felt the brunt of the odds stacked against this request. Before he takes Abraham’s oath, he asks a valid question: “What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land?” (vs. 5).
It certainly would have been easier for Abraham to send Isaac back to marry a relative. For blind faith would be required from any lady opting to leave her home to marry a stranger in a foreign land.
But according to Abraham, there would be no trial dates here.
For elderly Abraham—forged from fiery tests and experience—clings to God’s promise of abundant descendants and the land. Committed to obedience, he fully trusts God for the arrangement in this seemingly absurd mission.
Eliezer’s trek would entail hundreds of miles—and several months—with his caravan of camels to Mesopotamia.
Upon arrival at a well where the townspeople begin drawing water, Eliezer prays: “. . . . May it be that when I say to a girl, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac.”
His request pits more odds against him. Although it was customary for women to offer water to tired travelers, the animals were not their responsibility, especially 10 thirsty camels! In 10 minutes alone a camel can drink up to 25 gallons of water. This would have required many descents into the well while carrying a three-gallon water jar.
But Eliezer counted on God’s guidance for a woman with a servant’s heart.
This story ends on a Cinderella note. Although Rebekah is whisked away on a camel caravan, she receives gold and silver jewelry, nice clothes, and a husband who loves her (vs. 67). Isaac, mourning his mother’s death, finds comfort in his new wife who is beautiful inside and out.
Abraham’s determination for Isaac to settle in the promised land was another demonstration of his trust in God’s promise concerning the future. God sovereignly works through those who act on faith. Is God asking you to do something seemingly absurd and/or impossible?
Eliezer learned firsthand from Abraham: faith, God, and prayer. What do others glean from our lives?
Eliezer’s response to answered prayer was praise and thanksgiving. He also shared his story with Laban and exclaimed God’s goodness. How do we respond to answered prayer? Do we openly share with others what God is doing for us?
God’s fingerprints of faithfulness and divine blessing bathe this chapter:
- Although it was common practice for the parents to choose the son’s wife, Isaac’s wife would be chosen by none other than God Himself.
- God not only directed Eliezer to the right place, but also brought Rebekah out of the well before Eliezer finished his prayer. She fit his request perfectly.
- Rebekah not only showed initiative, but she was also beautiful (vs. 16).
- After Eliezer relayed his mission and prayer to Rebekah and her family, Rebekah courageously leaves with him the next morning instead of waiting the requested 10 day period offered by her family (vs. 55-61).
Finally, a love deeper than Isaac and Rebekah’s calls out to everyone of us.
His love is unmistakable and unshakable. Your Creator longs to fellowship with you. Are you in a relationship with Him?
Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. She died at Kiriath Arba (that is Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her.” -Genesis 23:1-2
Genesis 22 recorded Abraham’s crisis of faith as he successfully passed God’s test involving Isaac (Abraham Tested). The end of this chapter, along with chapter 23, ties up loose ends and transitions from Abraham to his son, Isaac. We’re given good news that Abraham’s brother Nahor has fathered twelve sons, who later become the ancestors of twelve Aramean tribes. Rebekah, the future bride of Isaac, is introduced here as the daughter of Bethuel.
You may read Genesis 23 here: Bible Gateway.
The first two verses in chapter 23 record Sarah’s death in Hebron, the center of the promised land. Until this time, Abraham wandered through Canaan as a nomadic herdsman.
Tribute to Sarah
Sarah is honored by being the only woman in the Bible whose age is listed at death (127 yrs.), (although most women don’t want their age revealed!) Sarah is also the only woman whose name God changes. Although she struggled with her faith, she is the first woman listed in the Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11). Sarah became the mother of the nation Israel and an ancestor of Jesus.
Abraham Mourns for Sarah
Layman’s Bible Commentary observes: “Abraham mourns and weeps, indicating that, in addition to crying, he goes through the traditional mourning customs of his day: tearing clothes, cutting his beard, spreading dust on his head, and fasting. This is all done in the presence of the dead body. The Israelites had a very elaborate and intense process that they went through when someone died. This is the first record of a man’s tears in the Bible.”
Abraham Purchases Burial Ground in Canaan
The next 18 verses focus on Abraham purchasing Sarah’s burial plot in a foreign land. Abraham’s determination to bury Sarah in Canaan show his faith for the future. Although Abraham has no roots in this area his reputation as a “mighty prince” has spread and the Hittites respect him.
All Abraham wants to purchase is the cave of Machpelah, but the owner, Ephron, aims for a profit and adds the field at an outrageous price. The custom was to ask double the fair market value, expecting the buyer to counteroffer half the asking price. But Abraham refrains from bargaining or demanding the land God promised. Instead, he pays the initial price.
The NIV Life Application Study Bible notes: “The polite interchange between Abraham and Ephron was typical of bargaining at that time. Ephron graciously offered to give his land to Abraham at no charge; Abraham insisted on paying for it; Ephron politely mentioned the price but said, in effect, that it wasn’t important; Abraham paid the 400 shekels of silver. Both men knew what was going on as they went through the bargaining process. If Abraham would have accepted the land as a gift when it was offered, he would have insulted Ephron, who then would have rescinded his offer. Many Middle Eastern shopkeepers still follow this ritual with their customs.”
Sarah’s grave at the cave of Machpelah is not only well attested to archaeologically, but is also the first grave mentioned in Scripture. Later, Abraham is buried there (25:8-9) along with Isaac, Jacob, Rebekah, and Leah (49:30-33; 50:13).
Ancient Israelites placed great significance on location of burial sites in their homeland. At this point, Abraham doesn’t even own one acre of the promised land. Yet, he insists on burying Sarah in Canaan. Why? Abraham isn’t looking at his current situation—living in a tent—or backward to where he came from. Abraham is looking forward, standing on the promises God gave him.
God’s promises are sure. Which promises have helped you through difficult times? I’d love to hear from you!
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.” -Hebrews 11:17-19
As evidenced in his second encounter with King Abimelech (The Treaty at Beersheba), Abraham’s faith in God had grown.
In Genesis 22 we arrive at one of the greatest crisis recorded in Scripture. God tests Abraham with someone dear to his heart, his long awaited promised son.
You may read Genesis 22:1-19 here: Bible Gateway.
Abraham had learned the hard way the importance of obedience. This time he didn’t question or hesitate when God told him to sacrifice his only son. The next morning he saddled his donkey and gathered wood, two servants, and his son, Isaac.
I wonder what went through Abraham’s heart and mind as he journeyed three days—50-60 miles—to Mount Moriah. His heart undoubtedly agonized over the difficult task ahead.
Several questions surface from this passage. I found the following commentaries both informative and encouraging.
How are God’s tests different than Satan’s tests?
God tests to confirm and strengthen; Satan tests to corrupt and weaken.” –Layman’s Bible Commentary
Why did God test Abraham?
God tested Abraham, not to trip him and watch him fall, but to deepen his capacity to obey God and thus to develop his character.” –NIV Life Application Bible
Why did God ask Abraham to perform human sacrifice?
The Bible does not explicitly give God’s reasons. Child sacrifice was common among the pagan Canaanite religions of the time. In this case, however, it was a test of faith, never an intention to eliminate a child’s life (Genesis 22:12). It was also a unique test that has not been used since and likely will never be used again. The test carries significance for us because it prefigured the act of God Himself offering His own Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for us.” –500 Questions & Answers from the Bible
How does this account foreshadow Jesus Christ?
- Abraham placed God first by being willing to sacrifice his only son. God the Father loved us so much that He also was willing to sacrifice His only Son (John 3:16).
- Isaac was willing to do what his father instructed. Jesus also obeyed His Father, even unto death (John 10:17-18).
- Abraham’s sacrifice took place on Mount Moriah (Jerusalem). Jesus was sacrificed on the edge of Jerusalem (John 19:17-18).
- A ram was provided as a substitute for Isaac. God the Father provided Jesus, the Lamb of God, as a substitute for us. He paid our sin penalty by death on the cross to spare us the eternal death we deserve. In exchange, He offers us eternal life (Romans 6:23; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
- Abraham’s son (Isaac) was the child of the promise; he was connected to the idea of resurrection (Hebrews 11:17-19). God’s Son, Jesus, is the child of promise (Isaiah 9:6) who is resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:1-11).
Just as fire refines ore to mine precious metals, God refines us through difficult circumstances.
Abraham trusted that God would keep His word, even if that meant raising Isaac from the dead. Abraham’s story—along with many others in the Bible—entails sacrificing lives, desires, and wishes.
Abraham received abundant blessings for not holding back. God not only gave Abraham’s descendants the ability to conquer their enemies, but also promised Abraham that his descendants would bless the whole earth as a result of knowing his faith.
God’s blessings far outweigh our sacrifices. His gifts are meant to overflow to others. The greatest rewards, however, await God’s children in eternity.
Is God asking you to give up something of great value? What can we learn from Abraham’s example?
At that time Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, ‘God is with you in everything you do. Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you are living as an alien the same kindness I have shown to you.” – Genesis 21:22-23
After waiting years, God blessed Abraham and Sarah with their promised baby, Isaac. God also took care of Hagar and Ishmael, remembering His promise to greatly multiply their descendants (see Birth of Isaac).
You many Read Genesis 21:22-34 here: Bible Gateway.
Abimelech reenters the picture with his enforcer, Phicol. Having witnessed firsthand God’s power and blessing in Abraham’s life (see Abraham and Abimelech), he respectfully approaches Abraham with a treaty proposal: “. . . . Do not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you are living as an alien the same kindness I have shown to you.”
We see a change in Abraham since his last conflict with powerful King Abimelech. Instead of being fearful, Abraham boldly confronts him with the issue that his servants had taken his well. Layman’s Bible Commentary notes: “The Hebrew verb translated complained implies that Abraham had to complain several times.”
And instead of Abimelech exhibiting generosity, Abraham supplies the sheep and cattle for their treaty.
The well is named Beersheba, which means “well of seven” (from the seven ewe lambs Abraham supplied), or “well of the oath”. Abimelech’s acknowledgment of Abraham’s legal right to water makes a permanent residence possible for Abraham. He now owns a small piece of the land God promised.
The existence of several wells may be the reason why Abraham settled in the land of the Philistines. His son, Isaac, also made his home in Beersheba, the southern city of Israel bordering a vast desert that stretched as far as Mount Sinai to the south and Egypt to the southwest. The phrase “from Dan to Beersheba” was often used to depict the traditional boundaries of the promised land (2 Samuel 17:11).
This passage depicts Abraham as bolder, more generous, respectable and patient with King Abimelech. I wonder if Abraham ever questioned his progress in relationship with God, especially the dry times when he distorted the truth under heated pressure.
Tamarisk trees can grow in drought areas with rocky soil. Perhaps the Tamarisk’s growth reminded Abraham of his own spiritual growth as he worshiped God.
Because God is eternal, all His promises and covenants are also everlasting. I love His promise in Philippians 1:6: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
When Christ took our place through death on the cross, He began His work for us. When we first believed, He began His work in us. Now we can be more like Christ daily because the Holy Spirit lives in us.
When God starts a project, He also finishes. Let’s not let anything rob us from the joy of knowing Christ or growing closer to Him in worship.
Have a great week!
Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.” Genesis 21:1-2
You may read Genesis 21:1-21 here: Bible Gateway.
Finally! After doubting repeated promises over the years, 90 year-old Sarah now has tangible evidence that God keeps His promises.
Can you picture Sarah cradling her newborn’s warm body against hers as she studies her son’s tiny features in adoration? In joy and awe she exclaims: “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me. . . . Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have born him a son in his old age,” (vs. 6-7).
Abraham, at the ripe age of 100, responds to his son’s birth with obedience: 1) He names the baby Isaac (17:19; 21:3). Isaac means “he laughs,” or “may [God] smile”; 2) He circumcises Isaac on the eighth day (21:4).
Hagar and Ishmael Sent Away
The ripple effect from Abraham trying to jump-start God’s plan by previously sleeping with Hagar now hits him with hurricane force.
After 14 years of Ishmael being Abraham’s only heir, Ishmael despises the crowding of this new addition. His bitterness boils into mockery of Isaac at his weaning party. Sarah’s joy and laughter flee as fury steps in. She demands Abraham get rid of Hagar and her son.
Aware of Abraham’s angst, God tells him: “Do not be distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned,” (vs. 12).
God encourages Abraham, “I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring,” (vs. 13).
So Abraham sends Hagar and Ishmael into the desert of Beersheba with some food and water. As the water empties, Hagar—unwillingly to watch her son die—puts Ishmael under a bush while she sobs several yards away.
But God hears the boy’s cries. (Ishmael means “God hears”.) He remembers His promise to greatly multiply Hagar’s descendants (16:10). God not only provides a well of water, but also fathers Ishmael as he grows up in the desert and becomes an archer. This section ends with Hagar retrieving a wife for Ishmael from Egypt when he lives in the Desert of Paran.
Who are Ishmael’s descendants?
“Ishmael became ruler of a large tribe or nation. The Ishmaelites were nomads living in the Desert of Sinai and Paran, south of Israel. One of Ishmael’s daughters married Esau, Ishmael’s nephew (28:9). The Bible pictures the Ishmaelites as hostile to Israel and to God (Psalm 83:6).” – NIV Life Application Study Bible
It seems a long stretch in reaching Genesis 21 with the birth of Isaac. Abraham and Sarah’s 14 year wait for their promised son probably felt like an eternity.
But God’s timing is not our timing. His ways are not our ways.
Who could have guessed that God would use a barren elderly couple to birth and raise a boy whose descendant would be Jesus the Messiah?
But our compassionate God is in the business of doing the impossible. He sees all of our problems. He hears all of our cries. Where we only see a piece of the puzzle, He sees the whole picture.
God’s timing and ways are perfect.
Let’s not forfeit God’s peace through worry as Sarah did. Instead, let’s bring our burdens before God and leave them with Him. Then let’s not forget to thank Him for loving us and acting on our behalf.
Have a great week!
Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, ‘She is my sister.’ Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.” – Genesis 20:1-2
You may read Genesis 20 here: Bible Gateway.
This account seems like a replay of Genesis 12:10-20 (see Abram In Egypt). As Abraham had schemed to protect himself from the Pharaoh in Egypt, he does so again with Abimelech. By falsely assuming the king is wicked, Abraham resorts to his half-truth/half-lie trick.
Believing Sarah is unmarried, Abimelech takes her as his wife. But God mercifully keeps him from the sin of adultery by somehow preventing him from touching her.
It must have been quite the shock when God confronted Abimelech in a dream: “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman” (vs. 3).
Naturally, Abimelech questions Abraham’s motives. And we see a not-so-glorious moment for Abraham. He blames his conduct on God, saying that He made him wander from home to a place that doesn’t fear Him (vs. 11, 13).
As sin usually snowballs, Abraham’s fear of being killed also compels him to pull Sarah into his deception: “This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, ‘He is my brother.’”
God Punishes Abimelech
God punishes Abimelech for taking Sarah as his wife by preventing the women in his household from bearing children. In his dream, God commands him to return Sarah to Abraham. For “if you do not return her, you can be sure that you and all yours will die.”
This sounds harsh. But I found The NIV Life Application Study Bible footnote helpful when questioning why God would punish innocent Abimelech:
- Even though Abimelech’s intentions were good, as long as Sarah was living in his harem he was in danger of sinning. A person who eats a poisonous toadstool, thinking it’s a harmless mushroom, no doubt has perfectly good intentions—but will still suffer.
- The punishment, “closing up every womb in Abimelech’s household,” lasted only as long as Abimelech was in danger of sleeping with Sarah. It was meant to change the situation, not to harm Abimelech.
- The punishment showed that Abraham was in league with Almighty God. This incident may have made Abimelech respect and fear Abraham’s God.
Abimelech not only returns Sarah, but also generously showers Abraham with gifts and grants him permission to live anywhere on his land.
In response to Abraham’s prayer, God heals the women’s inability to bear babies. But so far in the Genesis account, Sarah remains childless.
Although Abraham is a hero of faith, apparently he didn’t learn his lesson the first time. He also risked setting the pattern of lying anytime he felt threatened by danger. But God watched out for Abraham, and He does the same for us.
Sin’s poison not only hurts ourselves, but also those around us. No matter how sincere our intentions or love for God may be, all of us are vulnerable to certain temptations. Thankfully Jesus, who endured temptation without sinning, is more than able to help us in our struggles.
God kept Abimelech from touching Sarah and sinning. It may seem at times that God is silent. But He works as much in the invisible realm as He does in the obvious. I wonder how many times God has protected us from sin without us knowing?
Happy New Year! I’m not sure how this past year has flown by so quickly. But I’m sure having two teens and a preteen has something to do with it!
Thank you for your visit(s) and encouragement; I appreciate you!🙂 I love how God opens our eyes to His truths and rich blessings through Bible Study.
Although I’m a fan of New Year resolutions, I’m trying to stay within Scripture and use the “newness” theme. But instead of picking up with Genesis 20, I’m jumping forward—backwards for us—with an overview of God’s plans and timing through His old and new covenants.
You may read Hebrews 8 here: Bible Gateway.
Why did God initiate these covenants in the first place?
Scripture declares that “the whole world is a prisoner of sin” (Galatians 3:22). So God set into motion a means to provide forgiveness of our sins.
Fast forward about 450 years from when God gave Abraham His promise (Genesis 17:7, 8). God temporarily remedied our sin problem through His Old Covenant.
Under the old Jewish sacrificial system sacrifices were offered daily for forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 7:12-14).
The law God introduced to the Israelites through Moses included three categories: Ceremonial, Civil, and Moral laws. Although the moral laws still apply to us today (Ten Commandments – Exodus 20:1-17), the ceremonial laws primarily pointed forward to Jesus Christ.
And although the old laws revealed God’s character and will, they also pointed out our sin. For no one could please God by completely obeying every law. Hebrews 8-9 shows that the old covenant was a shadow of the real Christ. So the old covenant—a covenant of law between God and Israel—are no longer necessary.
Although thousands of years have passed since God gave Abraham His promise (Genesis 17:7, 8), He has never revoked it. He saved Abraham through his faith, and blessed the world through his descendant: Jesus, the Messiah.
His new covenant reaches beyond Israel and Judah to include everyone. Christ offers a new way to forgiveness through faith. And instead of being bound to a temporal, external set of rules He writes His laws on our hearts and minds, reminding us of His words through the Holy Spirit.
Jesus’ death was the perfect sacrifice ending all need for further priests and sacrifices. “He sacrificed for their sins once and for all when He offered himself,” (Hebrews 7:27).
“Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous will live by faith,” (Galatians 3:11).
Even though time marches on and circumstances change, I love that God remains the same. He doesn’t break His promises. We can be sure of His promise to forgive our sins through Jesus Christ.
Have you entered into this new covenant and enjoyed the better way with free forgiveness and unlimited access to God?
As you reflect on 2015, I hope you’ve evidenced God’s blessings through both the good and difficult times. Next week I will pick up with Genesis 20.
The inward area is the first place of loss of true Christian life, of true spirituality, and the outward sinful act is the result.” – Francis Schaeffer
I hate being a bad news bearer. But there’s no getting around it. This passage is the sad sequel to Sodom’s destruction (Genesis 19:1-29).
You may read Genesis 19:30-38 here: Bible Gateway.
The angels—who admonished Lot to flee to the mountains—granted Lot’s request to flee to a nearby town instead (Gen. 19:18-22). But fear prompted him to move further away from the burning sulfur’s ashes. With his wife gone—turning into salt for disobediently looking back—he and his two daughters finally settle in a lonely mountain cave.
Neither daughters’ future grooms from Sodom had believed Lot when he warned them to flee because of God’s impending judgment, (Gen. 19:12-14). They died along with all the others.
So out of desperation, Lot’s daughters (who also adopted Sodom’s morals) stoop to manipulation and incest with their father to preserve their family line.
And both daughters become pregnant. The older daughter births Moab, while the younger daughter births Ben-Ammi. These two boys’ descendants would become two of Israel’s greatest enemies, the Moabites and the Ammonites. But interestingly, Ruth—David’s great-grandmother and ancestor of Jesus—was from Moab.
This section (verses 30-38) has similarities to Noah’s last days after his rescue from the flood.
Layman’s Bible Commentary observes: “In Noah’s case, he became drunk with wine and uncovered himself in the presence of his children. In both narratives, the act has grave consequences. Thus, at the close of the two great narratives of divine judgment—the flood and the destruction of Sodom—those who are saved from God’s wrath subsequently fall into a form of sin reminiscent of those who die in judgment. This is a common theme in the prophetic literature (Isaiah 56-66; Malachi 1).”
We are more apt to sin when we find ourselves in a desperate situation.
Why didn’t Lot help his daughters find husbands? Abraham’s family wasn’t far away. But Lot’s lack of initiative and habitual compromise only complicated matters.
Although this passage simply reports these events without openly condemning the sisters’ actions, Scripture elsewhere clearly condemns incest: Leviticus 18:6-18; 20:11, 12, 17, 19-21; Deuteronomy 22:30; 27:20-23; Ezekiel 22:11; 1 Corinthians 5:1.
We may never stoop to this kind of sin, but we have all sinned (Romans 3:23). Compared to our holy God even our best efforts “are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). And the wages of our sin is death (Romans 6:23).
But the great news is that God remedied our sin problem through the death and resurrection of His son, Jesus Christ. He stepped down from heaven’s glory into our dark, sinful world and offers us the gift of forgiveness and life (Romans 6:23), along with transformation of the heart.
By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the LORD out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” Genesis 19:23-26
Genesis 19 seems more like a Hollywood scene than a real historical account with its action packed drama. I find myself both disgusted and intrigued after reading this chapter.
In review of Genesis 18:16-23, the Lord—along with two angels in the form of men—visit Abraham and share the news of God’s impending judgment upon wicked Sodom. Although Abraham prayed/negotiated for God to withhold destruction on Sodom and Gomorrah if ten righteous people could be found there, which God conceded, this small remnant apparently didn’t exist.
Aside from feeling like a movie, Genesis 19 gives us a snapshot of the Sodomites—and Lot’s—moral decay.
You may read Genesis 19:1-29 here: Bible Gateway.
The two angels find Abraham’s nephew, Lot, at Sodom’s gate. His presence there implies that his social and political goals have been realized since this was a place of authority and status.
There is no indication that Lot recognizes these men as angels. But like Uncle Abraham, he extends gracious hospitality and insists they stay at his house instead of in the square.
“Urged them persistently” (NET) translates from a Hebrew verb meaning “to press; to insist.” Layman’s Bible Commentary notes: “This word [persist] ironically foreshadows the hostile actions of the men of Sodom, where they pressed hard against Lot and came near to break the door (19:9).”
Lot’s hospitality and attempt to protect his guests seem noble, at first anyway. But offering his virgin daughters to the males outside in place of his guests show his rapid plunge down sin’s slippery slope.
As the lust hungry mob presses hard against the door, the men/angels pull Lot back inside while striking the guys with blindness.
“The word used to describe the blindness these men experienced (19:11) is a rare word that may indicate ‘a dazzled state,’ or a combination of partial blindness and a kind of mental bewilderment. Yet, despite their physical blindness, these men and boys persist to the point of weariness in their effort to satisfy their sexual cravings. . . . When the guests/angels explain to Lot the fate of the city the word translated destroy is the same word used twice in Genesis 6:13 of the judgment of the flood (19:13).” – Layman’s Bible Commentary
Although the angels warn Lot of the devastating consequences of sin, his attachment to this life is difficult to release (19:15-22; 1 John 2:15-17). But in God’s mercy—probably influenced by Abraham’s prayer—the men/angels grasp Lot, his wife, and daughters by the hands and safely lead them out of the city.
Flee for your lives! Don’t look back!” (19:17)
Lot’s wife doesn’t want to go either and she looks back. “The word translated ‘looked back’ signifies an intense gaze, not a passing glance” (Layman’s Bible Commentary). Reluctance and disobedience are her demise as she turns into a pillar of salt.
This section ends with Abraham witnessing the dense smoke rising from the plains that God destroyed. Lot and his daughters narrowly escape by God’s grace.
Many argue: A loving God would never fire down judgment and/or send anyone to hell.
As difficult as this truth is, God—completely perfect in morality—hates sin. He has and will judge sinners. The consequence of our sin is death/hell – eternal separation from Him (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; Revelation 21:27).
But praise God that He is just as thorough in His mercy for those who love and trust Him as He is severe in His judgment (Romans 6:23; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-9; John 3:36). He graciously provides forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ to those who repent (1 John 1:9; Romans 5:8; John 3:17) and longs to transform us with His abundant, eternal life (John 3:16).
Where are you in relation to God?
Then the LORD said, ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” Genesis 18:20-21
This week’s theme shifts from fellowship and faith (Gen. 18:1-15) to judgment.
You may read Genesis 18:16-23 here: Bible Gateway.
After Abraham provides a meal, he accompanies his guests—the Lord and two angels—on a walk. As a master teacher or skilled parent, the Lord grabs Abraham’s curiosity with a question to His angels: “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” (vs. 17).
Before anyone responds, the Lord reassures and admonishes Abraham through His talk. Once again He connects His promise with Abraham’s obedience.
If Abraham—chosen by God—directs his family after him to walk in righteousness and justice then God would carry out His promise. Abraham would become a great and powerful nation. And all nations would be blessed through him. For Jesus Christ—the Messiah who conquered sin and death’s sting—would descend from Abraham’s line.
God’s plan for Sodom and Gomorrah are revealed in verses 20-21 (above).
The word translated outcry in verse 20 is used to describe cries of the oppressed and brutalized. In this case, the term may have two meanings: (1) It may mean the outcry against Sodom caused by its injustice and violence, or (2) the cry of its rebellion against God (19:13). The Lord speaks of personally observing sin (18:21). The Hebrew text here could be rendered, “I will go down personally and see if their sin is made complete.” – Layman’s Bible Commentary
Abraham Pleads for Sodom
Verses 22-33 record the first time that a man—Abraham—initiates a conversation with God. Abraham appeals to God’s justice as he watches the angels head toward Sodom. In the form of a negotiation-prayer, he petitions the Lord: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city?”
The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people . . . . I will spare the whole place for their sake.”Abraham respectfully persists pleading for the city.
He dwindles the righteous people count down from fifty to ten as he negotiates four more times. Each time, the Lord patiently listens. They end their conversation with the Lord graciously agreeing to not destroy the city if only ten righteous people dwell there.
Why did God reveal His plans to Abraham? Isaiah 41:8 refers to Abraham as God’s friend. Although Abraham wasn’t perfect, his faith pleased God (see Rom. 4).
Why did God let Abraham question His justice and intercede for a wicked city? The NIV Life Application Study Bible notes: “Abraham knew that God must punish sin, but he also knew from experience that God is merciful to sinners. God knew there were not ten righteous people in the city, but he was merciful enough to allow Abraham to intercede. He was also merciful enough to help Lot get out of Sodom before it was destroyed.”
Although God is merciful, He is also just. He doesn’t enjoy destroying the wicked. As with Sodom, He patiently waits for people to repent (2 Peter 3:9). But as we’ll discover next week, His patience with rebellion won’t last forever.
Have a great week!
The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.” – Genesis 18:1-2
You may read Genesis 18:1-15 here: Bible Gateway.
God appears to Abraham again. But this time, He visits Abraham in the form of a man. Many believe that this was Jesus reincarnate (John 1:18) accompanied by two angels (also in human form).
This visit must have been only a few weeks or months after God appears to Abraham in chapter 17 with the news that his eighty-nine year old wife, Sarah, would bear a baby this time next year (vs. 21). For there is no record that Sarah was pregnant yet.
Does Abraham recognize these men’s identities? Although he addresses the leader, “my Lord”, this name was also used as a respectful title for men. But as these men suddenly appear, Abraham—possibly in prayer and reflection of God’s last baby news—seems to sense these men are important and may shed additional insight.
Although Abraham’s hospitality is common in the Ancient East, he goes beyond the call of welcome duty. Instead of handing off all the duties to his servants, he personally caters to these three visitors. First, he runs to the men and bows before them. Next, he attends to any traveling needs, namely feet washing. Then he oversees all the food preparations, ensuring the tastiest meal is served. Finally, he stands nearby waiting attentively.
Abraham doesn’t have to ask twice what The LORD says concerning Sarah: “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”
Sarah—who is at the tent’s entrance behind them—laughs to herself when she hears this incredulous news.
The LORD asks Abraham why she is laughing. “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” Then He patiently repeats that she will have a son next year.
Fearful, Sarah denies that she laughed. But God calls her out: “Yes, you did laugh.”
Fear of our motives and/or inner thoughts exposed can pressure us to lie. But God, who loves us and knows all of our struggles, wants our complete honesty.
What impossible situation are you currently facing?
When we come up against seemingly impossible circumstances and/or relationships, God wants to help us. He desires that we seek His guidance and power.
Next week, we’ll explore the remainder of Genesis 18 and learn of God’s mission for the two angels who accompanied Him. . . . I hope you had a great Thanksgiving!
The following is a short summary of Genesis 17:1-14, which I broke into my last two posts:
Thirteen years slipped by since Abram last heard from God. Abram had believed God’s promise. But perhaps he misunderstood the piece about many descendants coming from his wife, Sarai.
For Sarai (age 89) and Abraham (age 99) failed to conceive. And their window of opportunity slammed shut, humanly speaking.
But since Abram had followed Sarai’s advice—taking Hagar as his wife—the promise of many descendants would surely come through their thirteen year-old son, Ishmael.
God’s plans, however, rarely line up with ours (humankind).
So God visits Abram again, reminding him of His covenant. After changing Abram’s name to Abraham—meaning “father of a multitude”—He outlines His expectations of Abraham: “Walk blameless before me.” And circumcision will be the sign of the covenant (Genesis 17:1-14).
You may read Genesis 17 here: Bible Gateway.
Change is in the air as the clock counts down to God’s launch of His covenant. For God also changes Sarai’s name to Sarah, (the names are two different forms of a word meaning “princess”). And He declares that she will bear a son by this time next year.
I will bless her [Sarah] and surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” – Genesis 17:16
God’s covenant would be established through this son.
With this crazy news, Abraham falls facedown again. This time—instead of in worship—he tries to hide his laughter. For at the age of ninety-nine, Ishmael had been his only son for the past thirteen years!
Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”
Ironically, God names their promise baby: Isaac, meaning “laughter”.
As the truth soaks in, Abraham implores God for Ishmael’s blessing in an “if only” sort of way.
God hears Abraham’s plea and outlines both sons’ future in verses 19-22: Although Ishmael wouldn’t be the covenant child, God still blessed him. As Isaac’s descendants would stream from 12 tribes, Ishmael would also have 12 sons/rulers who would become a great nation (see Gen. 25:13-15).
Chapter 17 ends with Abraham’s obedience in circumcision: a sign of participation in God’s covenant.
Abraham, the man God credited righteous due to his faith, struggled to believe the “how” of God’s plan. Yet, he still obeyed.
The NIV Life Application Study Bible challenges us: “When God seems to want the impossible and you begin to doubt his leading, be like Abraham. Focus on God’s commitment to fulfill His promises to you, and then continue to obey.”
I hope you have a blessed week and Thanksgiving! May we take time to reflect on God’s goodness!
My last post covered God’s perfect timing as He clarified His covenant with Abraham prior to launch (Gen. 17:1-8). This post covers God’s expectations of Abraham and his descendants in relation to His covenant. We’ll explore Abraham’s reaction to God and the remainder of chapter 17 next week.
You may read Genesis 17 here: Bible Gateway.
A covenant is a contract. While most contracts require an even trade, God’s terms were quite lopsided.
What exactly were God’s terms?
Abraham’s responsibility: “Walk before me and be blameless. . . . This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised . . . . It will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.” – Gen. 17:1, 10-11
And God’s part?
He would give Abraham property, heirs, wealth, and power (Gen. 17:4-8).
God’s requirement for Abraham to circumcise the males in his household, however, was not conditional to His promise. But disobedience to this command would be costly: “Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
Typically, this is a reference to execution, sometimes by the Israelites, but usually by God, in the form of premature death.” – Layman’s Bible Commentary
Circumcision: The Sign of the Covenant
The word circumcision means ‘cutting around.’ It refers to a minor operation that removes the foreskin from the male organ. Only males underwent circumcision. In the patriarchal society of the ancient Near East, people considered that a girl or woman shared the condition of her father if she was single, or her husband if she was married. . . . It [circumcision] is to an Israelite what a wedding ring is to a bridegroom.” – Layman’s Bible Commentary
Circumcision was personal for the individual concerned, his parents, and his wife. This outward sign symbolized an inward commitment.
Although following God requires commitment and obedience, His benefits and blessings far outweigh our cost of discomfort or inconvenience.
How does the biblical command for circumcision relate to us today?
Once an individual was circumcised, there was no turning back. Similarly, God wants us to commit our lives to Him, walking blamelessly before Him by not turning back and indulging in sin. Deuteronomy 30:6 speaks of the kind of circumcision that counts—circumcision of the heart—operated by the Holy Spirit. It involves cutting away the old sinful nature instead of mechanically observing the written code.
For more on this concept please see The Meaning of Circumcision. . . . Have a wonderful week!
Thirteen years passed since Ishmael was born. Although Abram seemed to be doing well financially and Ishmael was growing into young manhood, Scripture is silent during this time. It would be easy for Abram to give up hope of having a son through Sarai and forget God’s covenant promise.
But God—who is not bound to our time table or expectations—didn’t forget. He would carry out His plan in His perfect timing.
And His time was ripe.
Although God had spoken His covenant to Abram four different times (Gen. 12:1-3; 12:7; 13:14-17; 15:5-21) and used the term “covenant” (Hebrew berith) once defining the boundaries of the promised land (Gen. 15:18), God sharpens the focus by using the term “covenant” thirteen times in chapter 17.
The adjectives attached to the word (covenant) are significant. Nine times it is called “my covenant,” three times it is called “an everlasting covenant,” and once it is called “the covenant betwixt me and you.” – Henry Morris (The Genesis Record)
This post covers Genesis 17:1-8. But you may read the entire chapter here: Bible Gateway.
When God appears again, Abram is 99 years-old. He and Sarai are well beyond child bearing age. In response to God’s powerful and glorious presence Abram falls face down.
I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”
God’s admonishment to be blameless is not conditional to His covenant. Rather, it is a command.
God sharpens His promise: 1) He would give Abram many descendants. 2) Many nations would descend from Abram. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham “father of a multitude”. 3) God would keep His covenant with Abraham’s descendants. 4) God would give the land of Canaan to Abraham’s descendants.
Only God’s strong arm would accomplish all of this in His perfect timing.
Morris writes: “No action on the part of Abraham’s descendants can ever permanently sever the land from them . . . . ‘I will be their God’: Though many have gone astray, and the history of Abraham’s seed has been long and sad, there has always been at least a remnant in every generation that continues to worship and obey the God of Abraham. . . . This promise no doubt applied primarily to those who are his seed according to the flesh, but also encompassed the spiritual seed of Abraham, who is the father of all them that believe.”
God’s command to Abram, “Walk before me and be blameless” still applies to us today. My NIV Study Bible sums it up: “We are to obey the Lord in every respect because He is God – that is reason enough. If [we] don’t think the benefits of obedience are worth it, consider who God is – the only One with the power and ability to meet [our] every need.”
Next week we’ll look at the covenant terms God gave Abraham (Gen. 17:9-27). Have a great week!
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, ‘The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.’ Abram agreed to do what Sarai said.” –Genesis 16:1-2
Genesis 16 is bittersweet.
Bitter from the consequences of Abram and Sarai’s efforts to “help God by helping themselves”, which have snowballed into the Israeli-Arab conflict we see today. (The Arabs descended from Ishmael.)
But this chapter is not without some sweet spots. In compassion, God reaches out to Hagar—who is forced into an ugly situation—and graciously promises that her son, Ishmael, will also have many descendants.
You may read Genesis 16 here: Bible Gateway.
The Back Story
Abram and Sarai, now 85 and 75 respectively, have demonstrated great faith in God’s promise of many descendants. But after years without conceiving—not to mention the human impossibility to birth babies in their old age—the thin scraps of their faith finally snap.
Unwilling to forfeit the possibility of having a family, Sarai proposes a last-ditch effort that aligns with the common practice of their day.
Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
Since Hagar is their own personal property, any children she might bear to Abram would belong to Sarai (according to customs).
Abram concedes. And Hagar conceives.
Naturally, sparks begin to fly between Sarai and Hagar with this newly arranged marital affair. As tension builds, Sarai—who instigated this plan—blames Abram. So Abram allows Sarai to handle Hagar however she pleases.
The result? Sarai’s burning anger and frustration—against Abram, herself, and Hagar—boil into harsh mistreatment. In desperation, Hagar runs away.
El Roi: The God Who Sees
As the journey through the wilderness (probably towards her home in Egypt) would be tough, the “angel of the Lord” meets Hagar and tells her to go back to Abram.
This is the first use of the “angel of the Lord” in the Bible. The context (vs. 13) implies that this “angel” was God Himself, another preincarnate appearance of the Messiah.
I love that God addresses Hagar by name. Although He gave special promises to Abram, His love and concern for individuals are shown here. And though it wasn’t God’s will for Abram and Hagar’s union, He promised Hagar a son who would also have many descendants. God gave him the name, Ishmael, which means “God hears”. Hagar would likely remember how God met her need. She also named the well where God spoke to her “the well of the Living One who seeth me” (Beer-lahai-roi), and called God El Roi: “the God who sees”.
God also reveals Ishmael’s future disposition to Hagar: “a wild donkey of a man” who will live in hostility toward all his brothers (vs. 12).
Encouraged from her encounter with God, Hagar returns to Abram. She must have told Abram her experience because when their baby is born, Abram (86 yrs.) names him Ishmael.
- Sometimes our biggest test is waiting for God to act. The temptation to fix things is strong, but even our best intentions—apart from God—interfere with His plans. Although our motives may begin with a pure heart, God never justifies sinful means.
- Anger, if left unchecked, can be dangerous. . . . Instead of blaming others, do we need to fess’ up and ask forgiveness in an area?
- God often wants us to face our problems head-on instead of running away (even though it may be justified) . . . . Do we need an attitude adjustment? Which promise(s) of God do we need to stand on?
My last post covered God’s renewal of His promise to give Abram the land (Part 1, Genesis 15:7-11).
After inquiring God about possessing the land of Canaan, Abram obeys God’s instructions regarding an animal sacrifice. On completion of the sacrifice, Abram’s patience and perseverance are stretched as he drives away birds of prey swooping down on the carcasses. In the meanwhile, Abram waits for God’s response to his question.
We pick up with Genesis 15:12-21. You may read this section here: Bible Gateway.
As the sun sets Abram falls into a deep sleep. God is about to connect Abram’s sacrifice with His promise through a vision.
“Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him (Genesis 15:12).”
Although fear is often the response of people in the Bible who have encountered God, Henry Morris (The Genesis Record) suggests: “This [dreadful darkness] could only symbolize death itself, from which Abram was to be delivered by God’s covenantal grace. In the case of the nation sired by Abram, it also symbolized their long tribulation in the land of Egypt before they could inherit the promised land. Perhaps ultimately it also symbolized, as Adam’s ‘deep sleep’ had symbolized, the death of Christ and the glory that would follow.”
During Abram’s vision God prophesies the enslavement of Abram’s descendants in Egypt for 400 years. (The book of Exodus tells this story and how God powerfully delivers them.) Abram wouldn’t live through this horrible enslavement, however, or see the fulfillment of the promised land. But God advised him that he would die peacefully at a ripe old age.
Why Did God Delay His Judgment on the Canaanites?
The reason God delayed judgment on the people of Canaan was that “the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure” (vs. 16). God—not willing that anyone perish (2 Peter 3:9)—delayed His judgment just as he did with the Flood for 120 years.
In Abram’s day involved parties legalized an agreement with a graphic ceremony. The dividing of an animal sealed the covenant. After the animal was cut in half the two parties would pass between the halves and repeat the covenant’s terms. In this way they were agreeing: “If I fail to fulfill my commitments to this covenant, may I suffer the same fate as this animal.”
Although Abram had divided the animals in his sacrifice, he could now only observe God pass between the animal halves as he was still engulfed in terrified darkness.
In an unforgettable scene, God portrays Himself as a smoking firepot with a blazing torch as He alone passes between the pieces and seals His covenant. God—in response to Abram’s believing faith—was not dependent on Abram to fulfill His part of the contract.
The fire and smoke suggests God’s holiness, His zeal for righteousness, and His judgment on the nations. God took the initiative, gave the confirmation, and followed through on his promises.” (The NIV Life Application Study Bible)
After sealing His covenant God specifies the boundaries of the promised land (vs. 18-21). (For more on God’s covenant land borders see: Israeli Frontline.)
Next week we’ll see how Sarai, impatient with God’s timing, devises a plan in hopes of jump-starting God’s promise of many descendants. Have a terrific week!
I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.” – Genesis 15:7
In summary (Genesis 15:1-6):
- God’s word came to Abram in a vision. He told Abram to not be afraid, for He would be his shield and very great reward (15:1-2).
- Abram questioned God: “What can you give me since I remain childless?”
- As God’s vision to Abram continued, He told Abram that his son would come from his own body. Once again, God renewed His promise to give Abram many descendants. This time He told him to count the stars—if indeed he could count them—“So shall your offspring be,” (15:4-5).
- Abram believed God, and God credited (imputed) it to him as righteousness (15:6).
This post covers Genesis 15:7-11. You may read it here: Bible Gateway.
God renews His promise to give Abram the land, (Part 1).
Unlike us, Abram didn’t have access to a Bible for guidance. We know that Abram believed God’s words (Gen. 15:6). So Abram’s questions were more of an inquiry, seeking confirmation of details and assurance, rather than an expression of doubt:
O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it [the land of Canaan]?” – vs. 8
God’s answer ends in an unforgettable ceremony. But first, God gives Abram specific instructions.
God tells Abram to bring: a heifer, a goat and a ram, (each three years old), along with a dove and a young pigeon.
Animal sacrifices in the Old Testament sound strange. But when Abram practiced God’s instructions, he knew that sin’s curse could only be removed by sacrifice in the shedding of blood.
Layman’s Bible Commentary notes: “The sacrifice that God instructs Abram to make involves the same ceremonially clean animals that are used later in the sacrificial system under the Law of Moses. The use of five different kinds of sacrificial animals underlines the solemnity of the occasion. The text implies that Abram is familiar with the ritual to take place, because God does not explicitly state what to do with the animals; he also sacrifices them and lays them out as an offering (15:9-10).”
In His perfect timing, God would connect the sacrifice with His promise. When God finally responded, (which we will explore next week), Abram could only observe in an unforgettable, sensory enriched ceremony (vs. 12-21).
But after Abram prepared his sacrifice, God was silent.
Abram waited. . . . And he waited. . . . And he waited.
In the meanwhile, birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses. But Abram held his ground and successfully drove them away.
Why Did God Wait to Respond?
Satan’s tactics include:
- Doubt – of God and His Word
- Discouragement – taking our focus off of God and onto our problems
- Diversion – making the wrong things appear more attractive than the right things
- Defeat – making you feel like you’ve failed, so why try?
- Delay – convinces us to procrastinate, so we don’t act on the right choice
When you find yourself waiting on God, keep praying and hold tight to His promises (Eph. 6). Our all-knowing God will act in His perfect timing.
Stay tuned . . . Next week we’ll discover how God seals the deal concerning the land (Part 2, Genesis 15:12-21). Have a great week!
After God promises Abram that He will be his shield and very great reward (Gen. 15:1), Abram voices his concern:
O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus? . . . .You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir,” (Gen. 15:2-3).
You may read Genesis 15:1-7 here: Bible Gateway.
The custom in that day held that if Abram died without a son, his oldest servant would become his heir. Even though Abram valued Eliezer, his chief administrator (Gen. 24), he yearned for a son to carry on the family line. And his nephew, Lot—with no record of appreciation for Abram saving his life—had returned to Sodom.
God’s promise of many descendants didn’t align with Abram’s present reality.
But our God—being the God of the impossible—reminded Abram that his son would come from his own body.
Once again, God confirms His promise to Abram (12:2; 13:15-16).
God Credits Abram with Righteousness
Abram’s response in Genesis 15:6 is considered by some to be the most important verse in the Old Testament: “Abram believed the LORD, and He credited [or imputed] it to him as righteousness.”
For the first time, the principle of true salvation is set forth in the Bible. The New Testament not only confirms salvation by faith, but also sets Abraham as a type of all who would be saved (Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6; James 2:23).
God declared Abram clean and morally right—righteous—not from his outward actions of obedience and/or works, (although these are by-products of faith), but rather on the basis of his faith.
In Noah’s case, ‘grace’ comes before ‘righteousness’; in Abram’s case, ‘faith’ comes before ‘righteousness.’ The one stresses God’s sovereignty, the other man’s responsibility. Both are true and necessary. ‘By grace are ye saved through faith. . . . For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Eph. 2:8, 10). – Henry Morris, The Genesis Record
- There are many times when we can’t see God’s big picture for our lives, but He is constantly working to accomplish His purposes. “In all things He works for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28).”
- God has always yearned for His people to trust Him: to believe He is who He says He is and does what He says He will do.
- Today, we live under God’s new covenant: God graciously provides forgiveness of our sins and gives salvation (unto righteousness) through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, because of His atoning sacrifice on the cross.
- Have you taken this step of faith? (For more on salvation and righteousness see: Peace Through Christ.)
After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.’ – Genesis 15:1
Because there are so many great insights in chapter 15, I am breaking this chapter into four sections/posts.
It’s easy to gloss over Genesis 15:1. But a deeper inspection reveals many great firsts in Scripture. This is the first time the words “vision”, “shield”, and “reward” are used. More importantly, this is the first of the great “I am’s” mentioned. God’s very name is: “I am that I am” (Exodus 3:14). Christ began many of His words with “I am”:
- the light of the world
- the way, truth and life
- the door
- the Alpha and Omega
- the root and offspring of David, and the bright and morning star
This is also the first time “word” is used. It is significant that this first occurrence of “word” conveys God’s message to man—not man’s message—and communicates a huge claim and promise to Abram.
God considers His word so important that He values it over His name (Psalm 138:2).
Henry Morris (The Genesis Record) writes: “The concept of the Word of God includes both the written Word, Holy Scripture, and the living Word, God the Second Person [Jesus]. . . . He is the sum of all that can be communicated. [His title] “Alpha and Omega” are, of course, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, the language chosen by God in which to inscripturate His new covenant with man. This proclamation seals the oneness of the written and living Words.”
Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”
God had just given Abram victory over the eastern kings. So why was he afraid? Like everyone else, Abram fought fear. Maybe he was exhausted and feared the wrath of the kings he just defeated. Or—as verse two implies—maybe he feared that his servant, Eliezer, would inherit his estate since he was childless.
Whatever the root of Abram’s anxiety, God knew, just as He knows our fears.
I love how God encouraged and comforted Abram with a familiar hands-on tool. The Old Testament warrior’s primary defensive weapon was the shield. This mobile fort protected the soldier’s flesh from the enemy’s blade.
Not only would God be Abram’s great reward, He would also be his defender.
When fear knocks on our doors, remember: God is the great “I am”. Not only is He near, but He is also bigger than the sum of all our fears.
I like Morris’ commentary: “For the believer, Christ is both protection from all harm and provision of all needs. He provides our ‘shield of faith’ (Eph. 6:16)—indeed the “whole armor of God,” so that we can be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might (Eph. 6:10-11). He is also our ‘exceeding great [literally abundant] reward. . . . He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us’ (Eph. 3:20).”
Bleak, costly, and consuming, from ancient times to the present its ugly head still strikes:
The first war recorded in Scripture—between five southern kings and four eastern kings—is found in Genesis 14:1-14.
You may read Genesis 14 here: Bible Gateway.
Verses 1-14 not only serve as an introduction, but also relay the political and geographical climate of this large territory in Abram’s day. This area stretches north and west of the Sea of Galilee, and winds south through the Jordan Valley to the Red Sea. This prime land bridge between Egypt and Mesopotamia would seal a monopoly on international trade for the king in control.
Shinar, (Babylon, modern day Iraq) launches this war after being subdued for 12 years—along with the other southern kings—to Kedorlaomer. Thinking that the tar pits in the valley of Siddim will be a natural defense, Sodom and Gomorrah kings, along with their southern allies, prepare for battle. But instead, they meet defeat.
Lot and his family—who separated from Abram and moved to prosperous Sodom—find themselves trapped in a nightmare as they are taken captive by the eastern kings.
Although Abram could have left Lot and his family to the consequences of their new move, he didn’t.
Abram and 318 of his trained men march a great distance—240 miles one way—in pursuit of the enemy. Their tough trek begins in the hill country south of Jerusalem to Dan, (the most northern region that came to be called Israel).
As the enemy revels in their victory at night, Abram divides his men and launches a counter attack. They successfully rescue Lot’s family and all his possessions.
Abram’s victory stemmed from his desire to save his nephew, but the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah also benefited. Sodom’s king confers a reward upon Abram for being a conquering hero. But Abram denies the gifts. Before all the people he tells the king of his oath to God. He would take nothing—except for his men’s rewarded share—so that the king couldn’t say: “I have made you rich.”
Melchizedek, “king of Salem and priest of God Most High” (vs. 18), tributes Abram’s success to God as he blesses Abram. In response, Abram recognizes his priestly role and gives him a tithe.
Who is Melchizedek?
The NIV Life Application Study Bible notes: “Melchizedek means ‘king of righteousness,’ and king of Salem means ‘king of peace.’ He was a ‘priest of God Most High’ (Hebrews 7:1-2) who recognized God as Creator of heaven and earth.”
Four main theories have been suggested about Melchizedek:
- He was a respected king of that region. Abram was simply showing him the respect he deserved.
- The name Melchizedek may have been a standing title for all the kings of Salem.
- Melchizedek was a type of Christ [illustrating a lesson about Christ] (Hebrews 7:3).
- Melchizedek was the appearance on earth of the pre-incarnate Christ in temporary bodily form.
- Prosperity can be enticing. But like Lot, we can easily become enslaved if our aims don’t line up with God’s agenda.
- What trial(s) are you going through? The trouble we face today is training us to be stronger for the more difficult tasks of tomorrow.
- Like Abram, we should: Prepare for difficult tasks; seek courage from God; and be willing to act immediately when others need our help.
Over and over again the Bible has been vindicated from Genesis to Revelation. The superiority of Genesis 1–11 has been established, and the patriarchal backgrounds have been endorsed.” – Clifford Wilson
Before moving on to The Abrahamic Covenant, Genesis 14-17, I thought it would be interesting to investigate archaeology discoveries that confirm the account of Genesis. Although I believe the Bible is God’s revealed Word and that God doesn’t need further proof of His truth, archaeology is a great tool for understanding Bible history and growing one’s confidence in the accuracy of biblical accounts.
Henry Morris in The Genesis Record writes: “It is significant that these excavations do not show primitive, half-bestial cultures, newly evolved from an animal ancestry, but high civilization, exactly as suggested in Genesis. . . . Not only did the ‘intelligentsia’ of Ur know how to read and write long before the time of Abraham, but so did even the ordinary citizens. When Abraham lived there, Ur had already begun to decline somewhat from a former glory.”
Although the exact chronology of Genesis 11 is uncertain, there is ample archaeological evidence that suggests the names and events in Genesis are not just legendary Jewish heroes and places, but were real people and places.
Clifford Wilson in “Does Archaeology Support the Bible?” writes: “Archaeologists are scholars, usually academics with interest in the Bible as an occasional source book. A substantial number of scholarly archaeologists are committed Christians, but they are a minority. Many people believe that all archaeologists set out to verify biblical history, but that is not the case. Many excavators have virtually no interest in the Bible, but there are notable exceptions.”
“Where confirmation is possible and has come to light, the Bible survives careful investigation in ways that are unique in all literature. Its superiority to attack, its capacity to withstand criticism, and its amazing facility to be proved right are all staggering by any standards of scholarship. Seemingly assured results ‘disproving’ the Bible have a habit of backfiring.”
“The more this new science of archaeology touches the records of the Bible, the more we are convinced that it is a unique record. At many points it is greatly superior to other writings left by neighboring people.”
Clifford Wilson’s article may be found at this link: Does Archaeology Support the Bible? It’s long, but an interesting read. Wilson delves into three major evidences for each of the following biblical accounts:
- Genesis 1–11, 11-36, 37-50
- Exodus to Deuteronomy
- Joshua to Saul
- David to Solomon
- the Assyrian Period
- the Babylonians and Nebuchadnezzar
- Cyrus and the Medes and Persians
- Ezra and Nehemiah
- the Dead Sea Scrolls
- the Person of Our Lord Jesus
- the New Testament, the Early Church, and the Early Years of Christianity
I hope you are enjoying the end of summer. It rained most of today, which is a refreshing change. Have a wonderful weekend!🙂
Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” – Genesis 13:14-17
This is the second part from last week’s post, Abram and Lot Separate.
The idea of walking through the land (vs. 17) appears to be symbolic. Armies in the ancient Near East declared their victory by marching through a defeated territory.
Layman’s Bible Commentary makes three observations about God’s third revelation to Abram:
- God will give the land to Abram and his descendants forever.
- Abram’s heir will be his own child.
- Abram’s descendants will be innumerable.
These promises were great news for Abram, especially as Lot parted east toward the more fertile plain of Jordan and Abram headed back into the hill country of Canaan. The reality of God’s promises, however, would not come into fruition for a long time.
For neither Abram, nor his descendants (especially the promised seed Isaac) owned the land for most of history. And although Israel regained possession as a nation in 1948, they currently possess only a fraction of the land God has promised.
The Land of Canaan
Of the promise of the land, Henry Morris in The Genesis Record notes: “This promise must either be taken in the spiritual sense (applying it to a spiritual land of promise, as so interpreted by many expositors) or else ascribed to a time yet future. Since God promised the land to Abram and his seed forever, this can ultimately, if taken literally be fulfilled only in the new earth of Revelation 21. It will quite probably be fulfilled precursively, however, during the coming millennial age.”
Along with the Jews, Abram’s descendants include the Arabs. Although these two groups add up to a large number, the literal promise of Abram’s seed numbering “as the dust of the earth” and Abram becoming a great nation still awaits fulfillment.
Morris observes: “The New Testament makes it clear that ‘Abram’s seed’ was Christ Himself (Gal. 3:16), and that Abram is ‘father of all them that believe’ (Rom. 4:11), so that he also has a spiritual seed. It is evidently not a case of either this or that, but of both! The Jewish nation is to be eternally blessed as a nation, chosen of God in Abram. Likewise, the Christian Church, genuine believers in Christ from all nations, is itself a ‘holy nation’ (1 Peter 2:9), ‘Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise’ (Galatians 3:29). Abram indeed was to be the ‘father of many nations’ (Gen. 17:5).”
Chapter 13 ends with Abram building another altar where he makes his home base in Hebron (18:1), which means “communion.” This is also where he is later buried (25:9).
So Abram said to Lot, “. . . . If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.” – Genesis 13:8-9
I am breaking Genesis 13 into two posts. This post will look at Abram and Lot’s separation. Next week, I’ll explore Genesis 13:14-18 where God gives Abram a third revelation concerning his offspring and the land of Canaan.
You may read Genesis 13:1-13 here: Bible Gateway.
How long did Abram spend in Egypt due to famine? Scripture doesn’t say. Scripture also doesn’t mention Abram seeking God, or building an altar in Egypt. And instead of being a witness for God, Abram receives a rebuke from Pharaoh for not telling him Sarai is his wife. Even though Abram left Egypt very wealthy, he probably also carried shame and embarrassment with him.
Lot may have felt jilted as he had no choice in this Egyptian detour, which probably also served to escalate the tension between his herdsmen and Abram’s as they journeyed back through the Negev. No doubt, the damaged goodwill and trust set a poor example to the unbelieving Canaanites and Perizzites as they once again entered Canaan.
In this passage we see different attitudes in the heat of conflict from Uncle Abram and Lot.
Abram went back to the altar he built between Bethel and Ai and called on God (13:1-4). He most likely asked for forgiveness and once again enjoyed fellowship with God. When Abram and Lot’s combined possessions became so large that the land couldn’t support them together and their herdsmen began quarreling, Abram took initiative. He graciously offered Lot the first choice of land—at the risk of being cheated and denial of personal desires—in effort to resolve family peace.
Lot, on the other hand, should have insisted that Abram—his elder Uncle—choose first. But after surveying the fertile oasis of the Jordan—and not thinking through the influence wicked Sodom might have on his family—he made his decision. By outward appearance, Lot single-handedly won the trophy land. However, his choice revealed his character and priorities: greed, the desire for immediate gratification over long-term benefit, and vocation over family.
Questions to Consider
- How do you handle family conflict?
- How did Abram and Lot’s attitudes differ?
- What can we learn from Abram’s approach to conflict and/or disunity?
This is the second part to last week’s post, Abram’s Call, Genesis 1-9. In summary, Abram obeys God by journeying to Canaan (Shechem). He then sets up camp between Ai and Bethel where he worships God. But when a severe famine strikes, Abram detours to Egypt: a land of plenty for both food and good land for his flocks.
You may read Genesis 12:10-20 here: Bible Gateway
Why would God call Abram to a land of famine?
Some commentators say this was a test of Abram’s faith, which Abram passed with flying colors. Instead of questioning God in the face of difficulty, he used his intelligence to temporarily move and wait for new opportunities.
Other commentators suggest Abram lacked faith that God would supply his needs in the midst of a famine. Although the Bible doesn’t comment either way, God clearly protected Abram and worked through his mistakes.
Verses 10-20 sound like an ancient soap opera. And though Abraham is a hero of faith, we glimpse a crack in his faith shield.
In fear of Pharoah noticing Sarai’s beauty (his wife)—and killing Abram—he devises a half-lie. Seventy-five year old Abram instructs Sarai, who is also his half-sister, to say she is only his sister if questioned. Beauty in those days was viewed differently than in our time and culture.
Medieval commentators suggest that what Abram hopes to get out of being Sarai’s brother is the right to receive and deny all suitors’ requests to be Sarai’s husband, in this way protecting her from adultery or bigamy. However, Abram is also acting in fear to save his life.
As if on cue, Pharoah does notice Sarai and takes her into his household. He also showers Abram with provisions of gifts: sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels, menservants and maidservants (12:15-16).
However, this arrangement is short lived. God inflicts Pharoah and his household with serious diseases. After pinpointing when and where his troubles began, Pharoah summons Abram and confronts him with the truth. For absolute truthfulness was a central feature of Egyptian ethics.
Abram appears to get away scott-free as Pharoah sends Abram, Sarai, and all their gifts away with just a scolding. But Layman’s Commentary Bible observes: “Everything Abram receives in Egypt later causes him trouble. Because of the great wealth he acquires from Pharaoh, Abram and Lot choose to separate (13:5-6). Hagar, the Egyptian maidservant who Pharaoh gives to Abram, brings division and sorrow with far-reaching consequences (16:1-16).”
Food For Thought
- Have you ever told a half-lie only to find it spiral out of control? I’ve found that half-lies usually make matters worse.
- “Faith is holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods.” – C.S. Lewis
Next week I’ll pick up on Genesis 13, Abram and Lot Separate. Have a great week!
I’ve been reading different authors’ perspectives on Joseph’s life. This post is from thebrokenchristian2016. Enjoy!
Recently I’ve been reading the story of Joseph in Genesis. I’ve honestly read this story hundreds of times, each time with a different emphasis. This time through I noticed that I wasn’t really enamored by all of the suffering that Joseph went through. I wasn’t enamored by the fact that he was sold into slavery, […]
If God gave you a responsibility, what would you do with it? What is the best way to honor God with the power He gave you? As we look in Genesis 42, we see the right way to use authority as Joseph faces his brothers for the first time since they sold him to slavery.