Archive for April, 2013

Genesis 43-45

Today’s reading begins with the return to Egypt of Joseph’s brothers and concludes with the return home of Joseph’s brothers to tell their father that Joseph is still alive.

With the famine in the land continuing, Israel’s family is running out of food and it becomes necessary for a return trip to Egypt for more. Judah reminds Israel that the Pharaoh’s commander would refuse to see them and likely not provide them with any additional grain unless they bring their youngest brother Benjamin along with them on the journey. Israel is extremely distraught but feels that there is no way out of the situation than to let Benjamin go on the journey. Judah promises Israel that he will bear all blame for all time if they do not return with Benjamin. After preparing a substantial gift for the Egyptian lord, and the money from the bags of grain and more money for additional grain, Israel sends his sons on to Egypt.

When they arrive in Egypt, Joseph’s steward greets them and Joseph’s brothers attempt to explain what happened with their money on their prior visit. Joseph’s steward tells the brothers that they needn’t worry because they had paid for the grain and that the money must have been a gift from God. Joseph meets them soon after and inquires about their family. Upon seeing Benjamin, Joseph leaves the room and goes to weep. After this, Joseph prepares a great feast for himself and his brothers.

Joseph commands that the bags of his brothers be filled full of grain, but also that Joseph’s cup be placed in Benjamin’s bag of grain. The brothers are then sent on their way back home, but soon Joseph sends his steward in chase of his brothers, and upon overtaking them the steward accuses the brothers of stealing Joseph’s cup. The brothers are incredulous and tell the steward that whoever has stolen the cup shall die. The cup is found in Benjamin’s bag and the brothers become despondent at the prospect of losing their youngest brother.

When they return to Joseph’s house, Judah does he very best to explain the situation and proclaim their innocence. He tells Joseph that he fears for his father’s life if they do not return with Benjamin. At this point Joseph cannot control himself anymore and admits to his brothers that he is their brother Joseph. Joseph tells his brothers not to be upset with themselves for their actions against him so many years ago because God was using their actions to preserve their family. He commands his brothers to return to Israel and tell him that he is alive and that they are to all return to Egypt and live because the famine will continue for five more years.

For their return journey, Joseph provides an abundance of supplies and equipment to assist in moving Israel and his entire family to Egypt to survive the famine. Upon their return, Israel is incredulous of the story he is told by his sons, but after telling their father all that Joseph had said his mood changes and agrees to move to Egypt to see his long lost son and to preserve his family.

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Genesis 41-42

Today’s reading begins with Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream and concludes with Israel distressed over the fact that his sons must make a return trip to Egypt with Benjamin.

Two years after Pharaoh’s cupbearer is restored to his position of service, Pharaoh has a series of dreams that distress him. Pharaoh seeks for an interpretation and the cupbearer then remembers that Joseph had the ability to interpret dreams and tells Pharaoh. Pharaoh immediately calls Joseph to interpret his dreams.

Pharaoh’s first dream began with him standing by the Nile River and seven cows came up out of the Nile. The cows were healthy and fat. Soon after, seven additional cows came up out of the Nile. The second set of cows was very thin and emaciated. These sickly cows devoured the seven healthy cows. Pharaoh awoke after this dream but then after falling asleep again he had another dream, this time he saw seven ears of grain that were healthy and filled out, growing on a single stock. They were followed by another seven ears of grain, shriveled and blighted. The second set of ears of grain swallowed the healthy ears of grain.

After Pharaoh described his dreams to Joseph, Joseph gave Pharaoh the interpretation: the dreams were two different versions of the same eventuality of a coming famine. Not only were the dreams prophetic but the events would transpire soon. The coming seven years would be years of great abundance. Abundance not before known in the land. The second seven years would be years of great famine so much so that the years of abundance would be forgotten. Joseph instructed Pharaoh to appoint someone to manage the coming years of abundance so that the famine could be endured.

Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph’s grasp of the coming events that he placed him in charge of all of his affairs and gave him charge of the entire kingdom just short of the actually throne of the kingdom. Joseph was thirty years old when Pharaoh empowered him with managing the affairs of the kingdom and did as he instructed the Pharaoh to do: collecting a fifth of all of the produce of the land during the seven years of abundance. During this time, Pharaoh gave him a wife and the couple was blessed with two sons: Manasseh and Ephraim.

As the famine began and its effects began to be felt across the kingdom and the surrounding regions, Israel and his family became desperate for produce and having heard that Egypt had an abundance, commanded his sons to go to Egypt to acquire grain for their family. When the sons of Israel came to Egypt to buy grain, Joseph recognized his brothers and questioned them as to their intentions and accused them of being spies seeking to take advantage of Egypt. Joseph’s brothers denied this, but after giving grain to his brothers, Joseph insisted that his brothers confirm the story they had told him about their family and return with their youngest brother. To ensure their return, Joseph took Simeon captive.

In addition to providing grain to his brothers, Joseph had his servants place the money they had paid for the grain into the bags of grain that they had purchased. The brothers didn’t realize this until they were a long distance into their journey and decided to return home. After telling Israel of what happened on the trip, and that Pharaoh’s commander insisted that the brothers return to Egypt with their youngest brother, Benjamin; Israel became deeply distressed. Realizing that unless his sons returned with Benjamin that he would also lose Simeon, Israel instructs his sons to return to Egypt.

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Genesis 37-40

Today’s reading begins with Joseph’s dreams about his family and concludes with Joseph’s interpretation of the dreams of two fellow prisoners.

Of all of the stories in the Bible, the story of Joseph’s telling of his dreams to his brothers stands out as one of the most foolish. Many in the Bible make poor choices, evil choices; but Joseph telling his brothers that they will bow down before him strikes me every time as just plain foolish. I’m never really certain after reading through this passage if Joseph is truly naive or if he despises his brothers as much as they despise him and he seeks out opportunities to aggravate this tension.

As many would feel when a younger sibling is disrespectful, Joseph’s brothers are angry and being looking for an opportunity to get back at him. At first the brothers consider killing Joseph but Reuben, the eldest son of Israel intervenes and persuades his brothers not to kill Joseph. Reuben’s plan is to eventually rescue Joseph from the hands of his brothers, but before he’s able to do so, Joseph’s brothers decide to sell their brother for 20 pieces of silver to Midianite traders.

When Reuben returns to rescue Joseph he finds him to be gone and when he confronts his brothers about it, they tell him that they sold Joseph and to cover their evil deed they slaughter one of the livestock and spread the blood on Joseph’s coat of many colors that he had been given by Israel. The brothers tell Israel that Joseph was killed when he was torn apart by wild animals. Israel mourns greatly the death of his son while all along Joseph is being sold into slavery to the Egyptians.

A strange and unfortunate side story is included in Genesis 38 and it involves Israel’s son Judah. Judah has relations with a Canaanite woman and she bears three sons to Judah–Er, Onan, and Shelah. When Er comes of age, Judah takes a wife for him whose name is Tamar. God is displeased with Er and God puts him to death. In accordance with custom, Judah gives Tamar to his next oldest son Onan. Onan was to raise up children in the name of his deceased brother with his brother’s wife.

Now this is where this brief vignette takes its first lewd turn. Onan is unwilling to raise up children in his brother’s name and when he is having sexual relations with Tamar he withdraws prior to climax and wastes his semen on the ground. This is the passage that is traditionally used as evidence of God’s prohibition against self-gratification but in reality, that particular topic is never discussed. The sin of Onan was that he was to raise up children for his brother and instead of doing so chose not to and God punished him for this by taking his life. At this point, tradition would have it that Judah should give Tamar to his son Shelah to raise up children for Er. Judah argues that Shelah is too young at the time and promises that he will give Tamar to Shelah when he comes of age.

In time Tamar realizes that Judah has no intention of giving Shelah to her as a husband and she takes matters into her own hands. Again the story takes another lewd turn. Tamar changes out of her widow’s garments and puts on the garb of a prostitute and lures her father-in-law Judah into unknowingly having relations with Tamar his daughter-in-law. Before leaving he leaves the tent of who he assumes to be a prostitute, Judah is requested by Tamar to give her a pledge and he gives her his signet ring and his cord and staff.

Judah’s one night stand with Tamar results in her getting pregnant and Judah eventually finds out that his daughter-in-law is pregnant. He is furious with Tamar for her fornication and seeks to have her killed. Just before being burned to death, Tamar presents the items given to her by Judah to the executioners and Judah then realizes that Tamar is pregnant with his offspring. Judah forgives Tamar and she gives birth to twins: Perez and Zerah. The Bible rarely wastes text on insignificant stories and this one is no different. We’ll find when we come to Matthew that Perez is in the direct line of two very important people: King David and even more importantly, the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.

Following this salacious interlude, the story of Joseph continues in earnest. Joseph was sold into slavery to the captain of the Pharoah’s guard, Potiphar. Potiphar had a wife who found Joseph to be quite desirable and sought to satisfy those desires. Time and again she approached Joseph to have relations and he refused until one day he was left alone with her and she literally rips his clothes off. Instead of complying with her advances, Joseph flees from Potiphar’s wife and leaves his torn clothes in her hands. She is furious at him and convinces Potiphar that Joseph was the one who had made inappropriate advances and Potiphar has Joseph thrown in jail.

As he had done in Potiphar’s household, Joseph earns the trust of the jailer. He is placed in charge of a great deal and is very successful in all that he does much as was the case in Potiphar’s household. During his time in prison, Joseph comes into contact with two former servants of Pharaoh: a cupbearer and a baker. Both of these men had recently had dreams that perplexed and concerned them. Joseph convinced the men to tell him their dreams and that God would provide the interpretation. The cupbearer’s dream had a favorable interpretation resulting in the cupbearer being restored to Pharaoh’s service while the baker’s dream had a disastrous interpretation, resulting in his execution.

After interpreting the cupbearer’s dream, Joseph requested that when the cupbearer returned to Pharaoh’s service that he speak favorably to Pharaoh about Joseph and appeal for his release. Unfortunately for Joseph, the cupbearer forgets about Joseph and Joseph is left to wonder when, if ever, he will be freed.

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Genesis 34-36

Today’s reading begins with the defiling of Dinah and concludes with a listing of the descendants of Esau.

Dinah is Israel’s only daughter and although the term isn’t used in the Bible, she is raped by Shechem. As the story goes, Shechem then falls in love with Dinah and asks his father to negotiate with Jacob for her hand in marriage. The series of events greatly and rightly angers Jacob’s sons and they seek out a way to take exact vengeance on Shechem for this act of violence against their sister.

The deal that Jacob’s sons make with Shechem and his father Hamor is that if all of the men of Hamor and Shechem become circumcised, then Shechem may marry their sister. Although Jacob’s sons are dealing deceitfully with Hamor and Shechem, the text makes it apparent that Hamor and Shechem intend to take advantage of the riches of Jacob and his family.

Jacob’s sons never intended to let Shechem marry their sister and while he and all of his men are recovering from their circumcisions, they raid their city and slay every single male. In addition to slaying all of the men, they take all of the livestock and riches of the city. Jacob is rightfully frightened of the backlash from the surrounding peoples and he takes his family and flees for Bethel as God instructs him. God protects Jacob and his family while they travel and it during this trip that God comes to Jacob a second time and tells him that he will no longer be called Jacob and shall instead be called Israel.

Israel and his family don’t stay at Bethel, and on their journey to their ancestral homeland Rachel gives birth to Benjamin. Unfortunately she dies while giving birth and is buried outside of Ephrath which is also called Bethlehem. Israel completes his travels and settles at Mamre where his father Isaac still lived. It is after Israel’s return to his father Isaac that shortly after Isaac passes away at the age of 180.

The reading concludes with the recording of the generations of Esau. Although Esau doesn’t play a large role in the Biblical narrative, a recording of his generations is placed in the Bible. I don’t really understand the reason for this other than he was a son of Isaac, because it’s clear that Esau was despised by his family for marrying Canaanite women. Looking in a Bible commentary from John MacArthur, he notes that this genealogy reflects back on the word of the LORD given to Rebekah in Genesis 25:23 that:

“Two nations are in you womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.”

The telling of the story of Israel (Jacob) would be incomplete without identifying the second nation born of Isaac and future conflicts and history will be told using this genealogy.

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Genesis 31-33

Today’s reading begins with Jacob fleeing from Laban and concludes with Jacob meeting his brother Esau.

Even though Jacob abided by the terms of the agreement that he made with Laban, Laban’s sons were growing tired of Jacob’s skill in providing for himself while giving their father the weakest and smallest of the flocks. Jacob senses that he is loosing favor with Laban and God speaks to Jacob and tells him to leave and return to his home land.

Laban realizes too late that Jacob has fled and attempts to pursue him. Shortly before Laban catches up with Jacob, in a dream, God tells Laban that he is not to speak anything good or bad to Jacob. Laban and Jacob both feel wronged by one another, but essentially agree to disagree and make a covenant to separate from each other and go there separate ways.

Shortly after Jacob separates from Laban he is informed that his brother Esau is coming to meet him and is traveling with a cohort of 400 men. Jacob is afraid of his brother because of how Jacob took both Esau’s birthright and his blessing from Isaac. Jacob plans to essentially bribe Esau with a generous gift and hopes that this gift will quell Esau’s anger.

The same night, Jacob sends his wives and children away from him to protect them, and in the night an unknown man wrestles with Jacob all night. Jacob is relentless in the fight and refuses to yield to the man. The man finally relents from the fight and touches Jacob’s hip socket and his hip is dislocated. Obviously this ability to dislocate another man’s hip isn’t typical of men, and Jacob knows this too and demands a blessing from the man. The man who is a incarnation of God, blesses Jacob and gives him a new name: Israel. God gives the name Israel to Jacob because He says that Jacob has “striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

When the sun rises, Jacob see that his brother Esau is upon him and sets himself between Esau and his family. In spite of the terrible history between Esau and Jacob, Esau runs to meet Jacob and hugs him.

It’s really not in the least bit understandable why Esau reacts with joy to seeing Jacob. The Bible really doesn’t ever speak to why Esau is so pleased to see his brother after all of the years of being apart. Jacob in concert with his mother truly acted in deceit to deprive Esau of the rightful blessing of his father and Jacob took advantage of Esau when he took his birthright in exchange for a simple meal. This had to have been God’s grace to Jacob, but it’s so unusual that not even the least inference of God’s hand in softening Esau’s heart is mentioned. Definitely something to ask God about when I get to heaven…

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Genesis 28-30

Today’s reading begins with Jacob being sent to his uncle Laban to find a wife and concludes with Jacob prospering as a shepherd for his now father-in-law Laban.

Shortly before Isaac’s death he sends Jacob to his brother-in-law, Jacob’s uncle Laban. He did so because he did not want his son to marry a woman from the people among whom he lived. On his journey to the home of Laban, Jacob had a dream. In the dream Jacob saw angels ascending and descending the ladder. God stood at the top of the ladder and from here He promises Jacob the land on which he laid and that God would multiply his offspring. In honor of the dream, Jacob named the place Bethel and vowed to God that of all God blessed him with that he would give God a tenth.

When Jacob reached the territory of Laban he met Rachel, Laban’s daughter and fell in love with her. Laban said he would give Rachel to Jacob if he worked for seven years as a shepherd for Laban. Jacob agreed and happily served the seven years. When it came time to marry Rachel, Laban tricked Jacob and gave him his oldest daughter Leah as a wife. Obviously, Jacob was displeased with the switch, but it was too late because the marriage had already been consummated. Laban told Jacob that it was improper for his younger daughter Rachel to be married before her older sister and if Jacob would work another seven years for Laban that he could also take Rachel as a wife.

Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah and in response, God blessed Leah with children while Rachel remained barren. Leah and Rachel were rivals for Jacob’s affections and as Leah continued to bear children, Rachel decided to give Jacob he servant as a wife through whom to bear children by Rachel to Jacob. Leah did the same in turn when she ceased bearing children. Finally Rachel was able to conceive and she bore Joseph. At this point in his life, Jacob had 11 sons–Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph–and 1 daughter, Dinah.

As if Laban’s treachery regarding the giving of his daughters in marriage wasn’t bad enough, he also attempted to deprive Jacob of the pay he was due for serving as a shepherd. Jacob was a wise shepherd and was able to manipulate the breeding habits of the goats in order to abide by his agreement with Laban while at the same time raising up a large strong flock of goats for himself. Through his wise shepherding of Laban’s flocks, Jacob was able to become a very wealthy man.

 

 

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Bible in a year…falling behind…

Well, if you follow my blog, you realize that I started doing a series of posts of my reading of the Bible in a year. If you’ve been checking back over the last few days, you realize that there hasn’t been any activity lately.

Sometimes life gets a little too busy and things get skipped. My reading and posting were one of those things, but I hope to get back on track. I’ll be a little behind for awhile, but I hope to catch up by week’s end.

Hopefully…

Thanks for stopping by!

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