That’s Good. No, that’s Bad.

December 22, 2010 at 10:47 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Genesis | 12 Comments
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Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren.

Genesis 45:1

Opinions are a lot like armpits. Everybody has them, and most of them smell pretty bad. Scripture, however, is where we find God’s opinion. I like to hear the opinions of people who have the same opinion as God. God is always right. If I want to be right I must agree with God. God’s opinion of reading and studying my Bible? It’s the right thing to do. God’s opinion on shoplifting? It’s wrong. God’s opinion on praying? It’s right. God’s opinion on fornicating? It’s wrong. God’s opinion on worshiping God every day and giving Him praise? It’s right.

I used to have a children’s book that I can’t remember the name of, but its premise was, “that’s good – no, that’s bad.” It went something like this: “My mom got me some ice cream.”

“That’s good.”

“No, that’s bad… because it melted on my favorite shirt.”

“That’s bad.”

“No, that’s good, because I got a brand new shirt…” And so on.

This can help us review the life of Joseph.

As a teenaged child Joseph’s father, Jacob, gives him a beautiful coat – that’s good.

No, that’s bad, because it makes his brothers insanely jealous, and they start to plot against him – that’s bad.

No, that’s good, because his brother Reuben intervenes, and talks the other brothers out of killing him – that’s good.

No, that’s bad, because they sell him into slavery instead – that’s bad.

No, that’s good, because he winds up in Egypt, where he gets put in charge of Potiphar’s household – that’s good.

No, that’s bad, because Potiphar’s wife starts lusting after him, and tries to seduce him – that’s bad.

No, that’s good, because Joseph doesn’t give in to temptation, and he resists her advances – that’s good.

No, that’s bad, because she gets mad and falsely accuses him of trying to rape her, and gets him thrown into prison – that’s bad.

No, that’s good, because Joseph is still faithful in jail, and winds up with Pharaoh’s personal assistant owing him a big favor – that’s good.

No, that’s bad, because the king’s cupbearer completely forgets about Joseph when he is vindicated – that’s bad.

No, that’s good, because Joseph gets a chance to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams – that’s good.

No, that’s bad, because the dreams forecast a great famine coming to Egypt – that’s bad.

No, that’s good, because God has given Joseph the solution of being a good steward of the harvests, and Pharaoh trusts him with the job.

Therefore, Joseph is in a position to save not only his family, but also his entire race.

Since we’ve been studying Joseph as an Old Testament type of Jesus, when we get to Genesis 45 we can also see Joseph’s brethren as type of New Testament Christians.

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

Romans 8:14-17

A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

Proverbs 18:24

If you are a Christian, the Lord Jesus is not only your Savior, Redeemer, Master, and Friend. He is also your Brother.

Let’s look at how Joseph revealed himself to his brothers. He cried, “Cause every man to go out from me.”

Has there been a time when Jesus wanted to talk to you alone? I hope there has. I hope you pray every day. We should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, but don’t let church time be the only time you pray. Praying in public is good and right, but public prayer should by no means be our main time of prayer.

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Matthew 6:5-6

Human beings develop friendships by talking – by communicating with each other. When the communication stops, the relationship suffers. How much more should we communicate every day with our Best Friend, Jesus Christ!

“And there stood no man with him.” No man stood with Jesus on the cross, no man came and took His part, no man argued for Him to be released. There will be times when you stand with Jesus – when you stand up for Jesus – that no man will stand with you. But you are not alone.

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

Hebrews 13:5-6

“Joseph made himself known unto his brethren.”

In Scripture the “brethren” are born-again believers in the family of God, brothers and sisters in Christ. Hasn’t Jesus already made Himself “known” to us? He has, but we need to spend time with Him and get to know Him better. We have a tendency to act like who we hang around. If I spend time with Jesus, I’ll start to act like Him. Reading my Bible, praying, and ministering to others in His Name are all ways to get to know Him better.

Jospeh’s brethren, like Jesus’s brethren, had an emotional encounter when he made himself known to them.

First, there was weeping (Genesis 45:2). When we begin to inquire of the Lord, and He makes known to us how we have treated Him, will we find Him weeping? The Bible says that we can grieve the Spirit of God.

And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Ephesians 4:30

That should motivate us to spend time with the Lord every day – and to obey His Spirit – not to grieve Him.

Joseph’s brothers were troubled at his presence (Genesis 45:3). Why were they troubled? Were they ashamed? Afraid? Probably both. Are you troubled at the presence of your Brother, the Lord Jesus?

The First Interpreter

November 30, 2010 at 9:58 am | Posted in Genesis | 9 Comments
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In Genesis’s account of the adventures of Joseph, we see yet another Biblical “first.” In Genesis Chapter 40, Joseph, the “dream expert” (Genesis 37:19) is in prison. The Pharaoh’s chief butler and chief baker happen to be imprisoned with him. They have some very odd dreams, and Joseph, realizing that God can help him, agrees to interpret their dreams. Thereby he becomes the first “interpreter” in the Bible.

An interpreter is a person who translates messages between people among whom there is some barrier to communication.

And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you.

Genesis 40:8

Of all the ways that Joseph reminds us of a type of Christ, here is one of the most poignant. For we, like the baker and the butler, were at one time separated from our King, and trapped in a prison of sin. We dreamed of ways to make peace with God. But our sinful condition kept Him from coming into forgiving fellowship with us. Then came a Man who could speak to both parties: King and prisoner; God and man. His name was similar to “Joseph,” but we know Him as Jesus. He was the only One Who could truly interpret our dreams of escaping prison. He brought the Good News from His King to us, and took our responsive message of repentance, and our cries for rescue, back to the King.

The word “interpreter” shows up again in the book of Job. Elihu is attempting to explain to Job the way God sometimes deals with those whose sins are bringing them into an eternal spiritual prison.

Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers. If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to shew unto man his uprightness: Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom.

Job 33:22-24

What a beautiful picture of Christ the Interpreter! Among all the angels of Heaven, One greater than an angel comes forward, One Who is unlike all the rest (“one among a thousand”). By His grace He imputes righteousness to lost sinners bound for the pit, offering Himself as their ransom.

Don’t Get Too Attached to Your Coat

November 1, 2010 at 10:30 am | Posted in Genesis | 8 Comments
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What was so special about Joseph?

And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.

Genesis 39:2, emphasis added

It’s not just that the Lord was all Joseph wanted. It’s not even that the Lord was all Joseph needed. The Lord was all Joseph had. We would all be better off if we realized the same truth. Joseph was a success and hero, but the real cause of it was that he trusted the Lord and wanted to honor the Lord.

It may have looked from a worldly point of view like Joseph was blessed to have Egypt, but from a Heavenly point of view Egypt was blessed to have Joseph. Remember the promise of God’s covenant. He would bless those that blessed Israel.

And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the LORD was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field.

Genesis 39:5

Joseph believed the covenant promise. To an Egyptian culture with 2000 gods that seemed to be fixated with death in its worship, Joseph must have seemed like a breath of fresh air as he emphasized life.

Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.

Proverbs 22:29

Joseph was diligent and hardworking, so God allowed him to work for the top men in Egypt. There is a principle for today in this lesson: If I am a lazy worker, I will probably wind up working for a bad boss. Both Jacob and Joseph had inherited their blessings from rich fathers, but God worked it out so they had to work hard and depend on Him.

And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.

Genesis 39:6

It appears that God made Joseph physically attractive, and, while this is often an advantage in life, it was a cause of trouble for Joseph. Potiphar’s wife lusted after him. Joseph glorified God by rejecting her advances.

There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?

Genesis 39:9

Joseph could envision the consequences of sin, but the only thing that kept him from falling into sin was that he knew Who sin was against.

And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.

Genesis 39:12, emphasis added

Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

II Timothy 2:22, emphasis added

This was the second time in Joseph’s life he had lost his coat, but he was clothed in Christ.

And it came to pass after these things, that the butler of the king of Egypt and his baker had offended their lord the king of Egypt. And Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers. And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound. And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them: and they continued a season in ward. And they dreamed a dream both of them, each man his dream in one night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream, the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, which were bound in the prison. And Joseph came in unto them in the morning, and looked upon them, and, behold, they were sad. And he asked Pharaoh’s officers that were with him in the ward of his lord’s house, saying, Wherefore look ye so sadly to day? And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you.

Genesis 40:1-8

Joseph focused on others – and gave the glory to God.

Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thine head, and restore thee unto thy place: and thou shalt deliver Pharaoh’s cup into his hand, after the former manner when thou wast his butler.

Genesis 40:13

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

Genesis 40:23

Should we be surprised the butler forgot Joseph?

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God: Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever:

Psalm 146:3-6

When Pharaoh had his dreams, then the butler remembered Joseph.

Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon: and he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh.

Genesis 41:14

Joseph dressed up for his appointment with Pharaoh. It is important to take care about our appearance, because that is how we are often judged by others.

Joseph lost his coat for the third time. He had been given a coat by his earthly father, and now his Heavenly Father gives him a coat through Pharaoh.

And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck;

Genesis 41:42

Joseph was given an Egyptian name.

And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnathpaaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.

Genesis 41:45

Joseph’s Egyptian name spoke of the abundance of life and the Sustainer of life. It pointed to the type of person who enjoys life and lives it with a purpose – who brings life to others. Joseph got a gentile wife, which is a kind of picture of Christ marrying a gentile bride after His rejection by the Jews.

Here is another similarity between Joseph and Jesus:

And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do.

Genesis 41:55, emphasis added

And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.

John 2:3-5, emphasis added

When your provision runs out, look to Jesus, and whatever HE says: DO IT.

And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph’s brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.

Genesis 42:6

Joseph provided bread to the nations; Jesus Christ provided the Bread of Life.

For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

John 6:33

Jacob’s family had multiplied – often in immorality. Now God showed that He was still in control. It’s great to have a big family – except in a famine!

But Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, Jacob sent not with his brethren; for he said, Lest peradventure mischief befall him. And the sons of Israel came to buy corn among those that came: for the famine was in the land of Canaan. And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph’s brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.

Genesis 42:4-6

This incident almost fulfilled the prophecy of Joseph’s dream, but one brother was missing. That fact may explain much of Joseph’s thinking in how he dealt with his brothers from that point forward. He knew that all the brothers – and Jacob – needed to bow before him. He also knew that the brothers needed to repent because, for all he knew, they could still hate him.

And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly unto them; and he said unto them, Whence come ye? And they said, From the land of Canaan to buy food.

Genesis 42:7, emphasis added

The incident reminds us of the two disciples who encountered the resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.

Luke 24:15-16

Even before Joseph’s brothers recognized him, they started to feel conviction.

And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required. And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter.

Genesis 42:21-23

Beware of Fabrics, Frolicking, and Friends

October 18, 2010 at 9:36 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Biblical friendship, Genesis | 7 Comments
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Joseph was sold into slavery at about age 17. He reached the throne of Egypt at around 30. The narrative account of Joseph is put on hold for a little while in Genesis Chapter 38.

Garments or raiment or clothes or coats are a big deal in Genesis. Judah was deceived by his daughter-in-law Tamar while he was at Timnath for sheep-shearing. Getting fleece for garments, he was deceived by a garment. Isaac had been deceived by a garment when Jacob dressed up like Esau. Jacob was deceived by a garment at least once (Joseph’s torn coat), and maybe twice (his first wedding night). There is often a discernible symmetry when God applies his principle of reaping and sowing. God Law says that our coverings should be distinct, and He is the only One Who is never truly fooled by outward garments, which He establishes early on in the account of Adam and Eve (fig leaves versus animal skins).

Genesis 38 also gives us the account of the infamous “sin of Onan.”

And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar. And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.

Genesis 38:6-7

This brought into play what is called the “levirate” (Latin for brother-in-law) marriage. The sin of Onan is difficult to discuss in mixed company, although the text makes it plain enough. When people who are supposed to be spiritual and faithful to God get involved with the world, the result is often some kind of sexual sin.

And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.

Genesis 38:1

“Turned in to” is a helpful play on words. The Hebrew word for “turned” is natah. It means more than just to change directions; it means “to incline to;” “to bend to the will;” “to pervert.” Judah “turned in to (into) a certain Adullamite.”

“Hirah” meant “a nobleman” of the Canannites.

And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her.

Genesis 38:2

“Shuah” meant “wealth.”

And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er.

Genesis 38:3

“Er” meant “awake.”

And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan.

Genesis 38:4

“Onan” meant “strong.”

And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name Shelah [a petition]: and he was at Chezib [false], when she bare him.

Genesis 38:5, bracketed descriptions added

Judah’s family was getting more and more worldly as he looked for wealth and strength and influence and deception.

God killed Er because He did evil in the sight of the Lord. He was “awake” – aware of what he was doing and he did it openly. All evil is done in the sight of the Lord. He sees everything, but some people take special pleasure in wickedly defying Him.

Judah ended up being deceived by his daughter-in-law, Tamar, thinking she was a harlot – a prostitute. He tried to buy his way out of it when she got pregnant, and his sin was ultimately exposed.

Tamar delivered twins, and they struggled in their birth the way Jacob and Esau did. The baby with the scarlet thread came out second.

I just want to make one other point before we move on to Genesis Chapter 39 next time.

And in process of time the daughter of Shuah Judah’s wife died; and Judah was comforted, and went up unto his sheepshearers to Timnath, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.

Genesis 38:12, emphasis added

And Judah sent the kid by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman’s hand: but he found her not.

Genesis 38:20, emphasis added

And Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick for his sister Tamar; for she was a virgin; and Amnon thought it hard for him to do any thing to her. But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David’s brother: and Jonadab was a very subtil man. And he said unto him, Why art thou, being the king’s son, lean from day to day? wilt thou not tell me? And Amnon said unto him, I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.

II Samuel 13:2-4, emphasis added

Choose your friends carefully.

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.

Proverbs 13:20

The Down Side of being the Favorite Son

September 27, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Posted in Genesis | 5 Comments
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Joseph didn’t create problems in Jacob’s home. Joseph’s presence revealed problems that were already there. Unlike his brothers, Joseph couldn’t stomach disobedience to his father. When Joseph brought back to Jacob a bad report of his other sons’ dealings with the flocks, Joseph’s way of handling the matter did not so much reveal him to be a snitch as it did to reveal that he was naïve.

As a father, I can sympathize a little with Jacob. It is a challenge to train one child, and an even bigger challenge to train siblings. Part of the challenge is training them to be loyal to their friends and siblings, while still maintaining their integrity in exposing right and wrong.

Jacob repeated the sin of Isaac in having a favorite son. The problem with Joseph’s coat wasn’t the colors so much as that it looked like the coat of a ruler. Reuben and Levi had fallen out of favor with Jacob (Reuben because of his affair with Bilhah, and Levi because of the incident at Shechem), and Jacob may have seen Joseph as the firstborn of his favorite wife.

And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed:

Genesis 37:5-6

We can probably sympathize with the brothers’ annoyance for one who shares his dreams.

And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?

Genesis 37:10

Jacob’s reference to Joseph’s mother does not seem to make sense at this point since Rachel was dead, but Jacob is referring to Leah, even though she is not Joseph’s biological mother.

Dreams were one of the ways that God communicated with people in the Old Testament. The only recorded actual prophetic dreams in the New Testament are Joseph’s in Matthew 1 and 2, and Pilate’s wife in Matthew 27. Acts 2:17 says that in the last days “…your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:” We would do well to be cautious of dreams, but probably foolish to ignore them altogether. Jeremiah 23 is a good place to find out what God has to say about people who say, “God spoke to me in dream. I have a prophecy from the Lord for you. God told me this or that. God told me to tell you this or that.”

And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here am I.

Genesis 37:13

It did not make a lot of sense for Jacob to send Joseph, knowing how the brothers felt about him, but God’s hand was at work. Note that God calls Jacob “Israel” in this passage. Jospeh’s “here am I, send me” reminds us of Isaiah’s response to the Lord in Isaiah 6.

We are left to speculate as to what Jacob’s sons were doing near Shechem after all the trouble they had experienced there.

And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.

Genesis 37:19

This verse in Hebrew gives the connotation that when Joseph’s brothers referred to him as “this dreamer” they were sarcastically calling him “the dream expert.” And, as it turned out, Joseph’s skill as a dream expert would serve him better than any shepherd’s skill. Warren Wiersbe likes to say that an “expert” is a regular “spurt” under pressure.

When it came time to decide what to do with Joseph, Reuben did not get his way even though he was the first born. It is probable that Simeon and Levi were feared after the Shechem incident. In any case, it is clear that this was a family that walked disorderly.

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

II Thessalonians 3:6

“Disorderly” means “out of rank.” It is important that we establish order in church and in our homes.

The outcome of the brothers’ discussion was Joseph being thrown into the pit, only to be raised up, sold into slavery, and ultimately to rule.

Look at how Jacob’s sons “comforted” Jacob:

And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son’s coat or no. And he knew it, and said, It is my son’s coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces. And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters [*] rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.

Genesis 37:32-35

Proverbs 12:10 says the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

* The “daughters” in Genesis 37:35 are “daughters-in-law.”

The Best Representative of a Generation

September 9, 2010 at 10:19 am | Posted in Genesis | 4 Comments
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The birth of Benjamin brought rejoicing and sorrow. His mother, Rachel, died right after giving birth. The incident was later invoked as a time of sorrow when Herod killed the babies in Bethlehem near Rachel’s burial place at the time of Jesus’s birth. Famous Benjaminites in the Bible include Saul, the first earthly king of Israel, and Saul of Tarsus who became the Apostle Paul after his conversion.

Back in Genesis 35, Reuben – the mandrake-gatherer – takes up with one of his father’s concubines. This was a way of challenging Jacob as head of the household.

Chapter 36 contains the genealogies of the descendants of Esau. Esau’s family was much bigger than Jacob’s family, but this is pretty much the last you hear of Esau in the Bible. There are numerous references to the Edomites and the Amalekites, but they are usually negative. Jacob is mentioned around 2500 times in the Bible. Esau is only mentioned around 150-200 times.

These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.

Genesis 37:2

This is a new “generations” (“toledoth) statement. Jacob is the head of the family and of God’s people now. But the narrative focuses on Joseph.

The story of Joseph is very detailed, and, for many people, very familiar. Joseph is a picture of Christ. Many times the New Testament clarifies the Old Testament.

But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph. The same dealt subtilly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live. In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father’s house three months:

Acts 7:17-20

This is part of Stephen’s sermon, and he is highlighting the fact that God used Joseph to save His people, and that Joseph was instrumental in getting them into Egypt until the time of Moses.

By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.

Hebrews 11:22

Of all the faith of Joseph, the one testimony to his faith mentioned in the New Testament is his faith in looking ahead to the Messiah.

Here are some comparisons between Jesus and Joseph:
1. Both were the beloved of their fathers.
2. Both were obedient to their fathers’ wills.
3. Both were hated and rejected by their brethren.
4. Both were betrayed into bondage.
5. Both were falsely accused
6. Both were unjustly punished.
7. Both were elevated from suffering to a throne.
8. Both saved their people.

But, in all of these, Christ was a “greater-than” Joseph.

The Dangers of Fatherhood

August 24, 2010 at 11:33 am | Posted in Biblical Parenting, Genesis | 6 Comments
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In Genesis Chapter 33 Esau and 400 men are coming to meet Jacob. Jacob was afraid. He feared men more than God.

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Matthew 10:28

Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?

Isaiah 2:22

Jacob managed to get past Esau without the violent incident he feared, but he treated Esau as an obstacle, not an opportunity.

And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth. And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the city. And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for an hundred pieces of money.

Genesis 33:17-20

Delayed obedience is not really obedience at all. In this case, delayed obedience proved very costly for Jacob. Here are three good principles to remember about obeying the Lord: Obey immediately. Obey sweetly. Obey completely.

Jacob should have been going to Bethel instead of hanging around Shechem.

And he erected there an altar, and called it Elelohe-Israel.

Genesis 33:20

Elelohe-Israel means “God, the God of Israel.” This sounds like a name that honors God, but God wanted Jacob and his sons at Bethel. Bethel means “House of God.” We need to remember that our homes should be God’s homes, but our homes are no substitute for the “house of God,” a local church fellowship.

Genesis Chapter 33 ends with the name of the Lord, But His name is not mentioned once in Chapter 34. Jacob’s new name, Israel, is not even used. It is the chapter which contains the account of Dinah, and it is difficult to tell if she was raped or seduced. Perhaps it was the first “date rape.” It is a strong reminder to fathers not to let our daughters be put in that situation. One of our society’s greatest disservices is convincing women they don’t need men for protection, and compounding it by failing to train them to protect themselves – especially by staying out of dangerous situations where they will be alone and vulnerable.

These Shechemites were wicked. Sex of any type held no shame to them. Jacob’s sons were out with the flocks.

And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land.

Genesis 34:1

Dinah went to hang out with the women of the land. Here is the result:

And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her.

Genesis 34:2, emphasis added

And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, and said, because he had defiled Dinah their sister:

Genesis 34:13, emphasis added

The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister.

Genesis 34:27, emphasis added

The pagan practice of the Canaanites/Hivites was to treat immoral intimacy as a very common thing. Dinah was “defiled” – violated – and made to feel dirty.

Jacob’s sons plotted vengeance. Dinah’s name meant judgment, and, boy, did these men of Shechem meet judgment! Jacob’s sons were justified in being angry, but Simeon and Levi were not justified in using deception. They used the sign of the Covenant as a means of deception.

Why did the men of Shechem agree to do what they did? One reason is that they were perverts who were probably into mutilation, anyway.

And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.

Genesis 34:30

What I practice in moderation, my children may very well debase themselves in to the point of excess. The actions of his sons brought shame to Jacob, even though they are viewed as heroic in Jewish tradition. The bride price that David paid for Michal was 200 Philistine foreskins which he took from the dead and gave to Saul. (I Samuel 18:27)

The last verse of Genesis 34 is a question:

And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?

Genesis 34:31

This question goes unanswered – maybe because Jacob would have been two-faced to condemn them for practicing deceitfulness, considering his own history.

Jacob was probably between 97 and 100 years old when he finally obeyed God by heading on to Bethel. (He had left home at 77.) The death of Isaac is recorded in Genesis Chapter 35, and he was probably 157 when he died. Chapters 37-40 record events that occurred while Isaac was still alive. Isaac was 180 when he died.

Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments: And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went. And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.

Genesis 35:2-4

As spiritual leaders, fathers must instruct their households.

And he built there an altar, and called the place Elbethel: because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother.

Genesis 35:7

We are to make our house the house of God, and worship God as the God of our house. We should do what Jacob did: look for God to meet with you.

And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he talked with him, even a pillar of stone: and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon.

Genesis 35:14

Pour your life out before Him.

Choosing the Right Watering Hole

August 2, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Posted in Genesis | 3 Comments
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It was time for Jacob to move on – to get away from Laban. However, Laban had yet another trick up his sleeve.

And Laban said unto him, I pray thee, if I have found favour in thine eyes, tarry: for I have learned by experience that the LORD hath blessed me for thy sake.

Genesis 30:27

Laban and Jacob began to bargain back and forth a little.

And he said, What shall I give thee? And Jacob said, Thou shalt not give me any thing: if thou wilt do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep thy flock. I will pass through all thy flock to day, removing from thence all the speckled and spotted cattle, and all the brown cattle among the sheep, and the spotted and speckled among the goats: and of such shall be my hire. So shall my righteousness answer for me in time to come, when it shall come for my hire before thy face: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the sheep, that shall be counted stolen with me. And Laban said, Behold, I would it might be according to thy word.

Genesis 30:31-34

Jacob had a good understanding of animal husbandry. He apparently knew some tricks for creating striped and speckled sheep and goats. I wonder if he started thinking about how he and his father had both met their wives at the watering hole. Personally, I think the animals were more likely to mate with the ones they associated with drinking water (positive association). Also, remember the spiritual application: You are going to covet what you see. That is the nature of our fallen flesh. Therefore, we need to do our “drinking” – not at the “watering trough” of the world – but at the Well of Living Water. If we do that, we’ll produce “like offspring.” The trees which bear the most fruit are the ones planted near the water.

Although the tricks of Jacob’s animal husbandry methods are not clearly spelled out in Scripture, the Bible does tell us that Jacob knew what the cause of his success really was: God did it.

Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me.

Genesis 31:9

The Name Game

July 15, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Posted in Genesis | 9 Comments
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Laban had two daughters: Rachel was the youngest; Leah was the other one. It appears that Rachel was more physically attractive. Jacob agreed to work seven years for Laban in exchange for the right to marry Rachel. But Laban was trickier than Jacob.

However, the seven years seemed to pass very quickly for Jacob.

And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.

Genesis 29:20

On the wedding night Jacob got tricked in way reminiscent of the way Isaac got tricked – but worse. Jacob couldn’t even rely on his senses.

And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.

Genesis 29:22

The word for “feast” here probably means an eating and drinking party.

And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?

Genesis 29:25

The Bible records Jacob walking with a limp from his wrestling encounter with the Lord or the Angel of the Lord, but if he reacted that way with Leah, he might have wound up with a limp anyway! In the 18th and 19th Centuries there was a ribald expression about going to bed with a Rachel and waking up with a Leah.

In any event, Jacob ended up serving another seven years for Laban in exchange for Rachel. That makes fourteen years working for Laban (minus two weeks off) and two wives – who were not too happy with each other! You can see from the names which the wives gave their children that Jacob the supplanter turned into Jacob the struggler. He just becomes kind of a pawn – kind of a man-toy in this power struggle where Rachel wants sons, and Leah wants Jacob to really love her and thinks having sons is the way to get that.

And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.

Genesis 29:31

Hatred sounds harsh – but if you don’t love your wife, the fact is, you hate her. Hating your wife is bad, but there is a worse degree than hatred – indifference. Say what you will about Jacob, but he was not indifferent. Leah had six sons and one daughter. Jacob had twelve sons altogether: They were the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel.

The name “Reuben” meant “see, a son.” At Christ’s birth and at His baptism, God announced: “Behold, My Son.”

The name “Simeon” meant “one who hears.” God heard Leah’s prayer, and God would one day tell people to hear His Son. “Faith cometh by hearing.”

The name “Levi” meant “attached.” Levi was the priestly tribe. Jesus called disciples to attach themselves to Him.

The name “Judah” meant “praise.” Judah was the tribe of David and of Jesus. As Jesus ministered on earth, many rejected Him, but some began to praise Him.

Leah got to be the mother of the priestly tribe (Levi) and the kingly tribe (Judah). Christ is both Priest and King.

The name “Issachar” meant “reward” or “wages.” Christians have earned the wages of sin which are death, but we have received the undeserved reward of eternal life by grace through faith in Christ.

The name “Zebulun” meant “honor.” Christ was honored and exalted by God at His Ascension.

And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son’s mandrakes.

Genesis 30:14

The nickname for mandrakes was “love apples.” Later, Reuben, the collector of mandrakes, would sleep with Bilhah (Genesis 35:22) and lose his birthright.

Bickering and bargaining characterized Jacob’s household. His attitude seemed to be one of patient submission.

Rachel had a son through Bilhah named Dan. The name “Dan” meant “judgment.”

The name “Naphtali” meant “struggle.”

Leah, through Zilpah, had Gad. The name “Gad” meant “good fortune has come” or “a troop.”

The name “Asher” meant “blessed.”

You can see the constant “one-upswomamanship” in this naming contest. Finally, Rachel has Joseph, whose name meant both “to add” and “to take away.” She would have one more son, first named “Benoni” (son of sorrow) then later “Benjamin,” which meant “son of my right hand.” Rachel died giving birth to him.

Shove at First Sight

June 29, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Posted in Genesis | 3 Comments
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And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.

Genesis 28:18

Jacob’s pillow became a pillar. When you find yourself unable to sleep at night, when your pillow feels like a rock… then get up and kneel on it instead of lying on it – trade your bed for an altar. Trade your rock for The Rock.

In Genesis 29 Jacob continues on his journey.

And he looked, and behold a well in the field, and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks: and a great stone was upon the well’s mouth.

Genesis 29:2

This may have been the same well where Abraham’s servant met Rebekah while searching out a bride for Isaac.

And he said unto them, Is he well? And they said, He is well: and, behold, Rachel his daughter cometh with the sheep.

Genesis 29:6

In a dramatic reading of this portion of Scripture this is probably the place where you would hear the romantic music strike up. Jacob would appear to forget his own name for a few moments – and then snap out of it.

And he said, Lo, it is yet high day, neither is it time that the cattle should be gathered together: water ye the sheep, and go and feed them.

Genesis 29:7

Jacob is obviously anxious to have a chance to interact with Rachel. “Whoo, boy! You fellas are burnin’ daylight out here! You had better get these sheep watered and rounded up!”

And they said, We cannot, until all the flocks be gathered together, and till they roll the stone from the well’s mouth; then we water the sheep.

Genesis 29:8

The stone would have been huge and heavy.

And while he yet spake with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep: for she kept them. And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother.

Genesis 29:9-10

Jacob: “Here, let me get this huge stone off the well. I’ll help you out here…” It’s fun to imagine Jacob heaving and shoving with all his might to improve his chances at impressing Rachel.

Then we meet Rachel’s father. To get an idea of Rachel’s father, here is typical Laban:

And it came to pass, when Laban heard the tidings of Jacob his sister’s son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house. And he told Laban all these things. And Laban said to him, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh. And he abode with him the space of a month. And Laban said unto Jacob, Because thou art my brother, shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? tell me, what shall thy wages be?

Genesis 29:13-15

Tune in next time to see what happens when Jacob the trickster meets his match in Laban the trickster.

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