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We begin our study of the book of Genesis with some general information about the first five books of the Bible, known as the Pentateuch or Torah, which the Bible itself attributes to Moses. There were about 560 years from the birth of Jacob/Israel to the Exodus. If the Exodus occurred around 1446 BC during the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep II, then the Pentateuch was likely written around 1400 BC. If so, the language was likely to have been Proto-Sinaitic, which was followed by Paleo-Hebrew. This in turn was eventually translated into the Greek Septuagint (LXX). Yet on the other hand, there is substantial— albeit controversial— research that argues for Greek being the mother of all languages.

When we speak of Biblical texts ascribed to an individual, it’s not necessarily that this person did the actual writing, but that they were the primary subject or authority. Thus when the New Testament writers quote from the Pentateuch and attribute it to Moses, it means by or about or on the authority of Moses. Consider also the book of Esther; certainly only Esther herself could know many of the details, but it’s unlikely that she herself wrote the words, since in her position as queen she would certainly have had a scribe write down what she said. In addition, at least some of the material likely came from her older cousin Mordecai. This hardly invalidates the historical accuracy of the account, or she being the author, and the same holds true for the Pentateuch and the rest of the Bible.

On Alleged Two Creation Accounts

Chapters 1 and 2 are not, as some claim, two separate creation accounts, but rather an introductory summary followed by details, per ancient near eastern custom. Please make use of the Resources links throughout the study of Genesis for comparison. Please also understand that the author makes no claims of expertise in Greek or Hebrew, but rather on understanding of the grammatical principles of language in general.

Paraphrase of Gen. 1:1 to 2:3

We will include ch. 2 verses 1-3 here, because they really are part of the first account both grammatically and contextually.

1:1-5 In the beginning, God made the sky and earth. At first the earth was a vast and featureless watery abyss, dark and invisible. But the Spirit of God compressed the water, and God gave a command: Let light appear! It did, and God was pleased with this. So he divided light from darkness, calling them Day and Night. Evening and morning passed, the first day.

1:6-8 God then gave a command: Let there be a strong support to divide the waters! So he made the strong support, putting some water above it and the rest below. He called the strong support Sky, and he was pleased with this. Evening and morning passed, the second day.

1:9-13 God then gave a command: Let the waters beneath the sky gather into one place, so that dry land can appear! It happened as God commanded; the waters gathered themselves and dry land appeared. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters Seas, and he was pleased with this. Then God gave another command: Now let the earth produce pasture plants with seeds to make more just like themselves. The same for trees; let them have seed-bearing fruit! So it was done. Plants appeared with their seed to reproduce, and trees appeared bearing fruit with seed to reproduce. God was pleased with this, and evening and morning passed, the third day.

1:14-19 God then gave a command: Let there be luminaries in the strong support of the sky, to give light on the earth and to distinguish between day and night! Let them also serve as signs, and to mark off times, days, and years! So it was done. God made the two primary luminaries― the greater one to mark the beginnings of days, and the lesser one to mark the beginnings of nights― and the stars. He put them in the strong support of the sky, to shine on the earth and mark the beginnings of days and nights, and to separate light from darkness. God was pleased with this, and evening and morning passed, the fourth day.

1:20-23 God then gave a command: Let living souls that crawl emerge from the waters, and let creatures with wings fly on the earth under the strong support of the sky! So it was done. God made huge sea creatures, along with the crawling things and winged creatures with feathers, each according to its own kind. God was pleased with this, and he blessed them with these words: Grow and multiply, fill the waters in the seas! And let the flying creatures also multiply on the earth! Evening and morning passed, the fifth day.

1:24-25 God then gave a command: Let all of these living souls emerge from the earth, each according to its kind: those with four feet, those that crawl, and wild animals! So it was done. God made all of these according to each one’s kind: the wild animals of the earth, the cattle, and all that crawl on the earth. God was pleased with this.

1:26-28 God then gave a command: Let us make Human, like us, not only in form but also in function, having authority over the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle all over the earth, and those that crawl on the earth! So Human was made, male and female, resembling God. He blessed them with these words: Grow and multiply, fill the earth and dominate it! Have control over the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle all over the earth, and everything that crawls on the earth!

1:29-31 God added, Look! I’ve given food from the earth’s seed-bearing plants, and trees with seed-bearing fruit. This is not only for you but also for the wild animals on the earth, the birds of the sky, and everything that crawls on the earth. Everything having the breath of life will have all the green plants for food. So it was done, and God was very pleased with it all. Evening and morning passed, the sixth day.

2:1-3 This completed the sky and earth, the entire system. On the sixth day God finished the task of creation, so on the seventh day he rested from that work. That’s why God pronounced a blessing on that day and set it apart from the rest.

Commentary on Gen. 1:1 to 2:3

1:1-5 The first sentence is essentially the introduction to the creation account. So any and all theories about whether earth started out this way or was ruined from an earlier state are inventing things that cannot be implied from the text. The Greek phrase rendered compressed here can mean either to come near or to press upon. Light as a thing or phenomenon did not yet exist, and of course it couldn’t have come from the sun at this point. But here and throughout the chapter, the phrase Evening and morning passed, the nth day leaves no room for speculation over its duration. Critics are challenged to present a case for how Moses could have made it any clearer that a normal solar day was meant.

1:6-8 The strong support (trad. firmament) in either Hebrew or Greek, along with its use in other passages and its context here, describes something hammered out and capable of holding something heavy. Here it holds up an unknown amount of water, which some try to claim can mean just about anything but literal water. Sky and heaven are part of the semantic range of one word, whether in Hebrew or Greek, and here it is singular. The result is that earth is surrounded by water.

1:9-13 God separates water and land, then makes land plants.

1:14-19 The luminaries are in the strong support, not above it. Their stated purpose is to serve not only as lights but also as a calendar and clock, and as indicators of warnings or messages from God. There is no hint of earth orbiting the sun (which was impossible for the first three days), nor that earth spins or moves.

1:20-25 Notice that birds and creatures that crawl under water were made from the water, not the ground, in contrast to the land animals. Notice also that birds fly under the strong support, though the grammar could possibly allow throughout.

1:26-31 When it comes to the creation of human beings, notice first of all that no mention is made here about them being produced by either water or ground. Remember that this is still a summary, more concerned with sequence than technicalities, especially for the creation of mankind. So when it says that male and female were made, it is not saying that Adam was androgynous or that there was an entire race of humanoids(?) before Adam; that is pure speculation. Of course, to dominate the world is not a license to abuse, pollute, or destroy. As for diet, all living things ate fruit with seeds in it. There was no death or decay or suffering, but this would soon change.

Does God resting from the work of creation mean that all mankind for all time must rest on what we call the Sabbath Day? Not at all; nothing is said here about people having any such obligation, but only what God did. We should also be aware that the Greek word translated God is theos up to this point, the same word used throughout the New Testament.

Here is a depiction of how Genesis describes the heavens and earth.

Paraphrase of Gen. 2:4-25

2:4-6 This is the book of when the sky and earth were brought into existence. On the day the Sovereign God made sky and earth, at first there were no fields of green plants, because the Sovereign God had not yet brought rain on the earth, and there was no human to work the ground. Instead, a spring came up from out of the ground and watered the surface.

2:7-9 Then the Sovereign God formed the human out of dust from the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the human’s face, and the human became a living soul. Then the Sovereign God planted a paradise in Eden, toward the east, and there he put the human he had formed. Now the Sovereign God had caused the earth to produce every sort of beautiful fruit tree. In the center of the paradise grew the Tree of Life, and also the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

2:10-14 There is a river that goes out from Eden to water the paradise, and from there it separates into four branches. The first river is called Phison, which encircles the whole land of Havilah― a land of the finest gold, and of red and green precious stones. The second river is called Gihon, which encircles the whole land of Ethiopia. The third river is called Tigris, which goes across from Assyria. The fourth river is called Euphrates.

2:15-17 Now the Sovereign God took the human he had formed and put him into the paradise, to cultivate it and to guard it. The Sovereign God then gave Adam this responsibility: You may eat from any tree in the paradise, except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If you eat from that tree, you will most certainly die!

2:18-20 Then the Sovereign God said, It is not good for the human to be alone. Let’s make someone to stand as his equal. Now the Sovereign God had formed out of the earth all the wild animals of the field and all the birds of the sky. So he led them to Adam to see what names he’d give them. Whatever Adam called a living thing, that was its name. He named all the cattle, the birds of the sky, and all the field animals. But for Adam himself there was no one to stand as his equal.

2:21-25 So the Sovereign God put Adam into a state of deep sleep. He took part of one side of Adam and attached flesh to it, and then built that into a woman. He presented her to Adam, who exclaimed, Now this is my own flesh and bone! She will be called Woman, because she was taken from the man. This is why a person leaves his father and mother to join closely to his wife, and the two are to be one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.

Commentary on Gen. 2:4-25

2:4-6 Here we see a slightly different wording for the beginning of creation: the book (Gk. biblos, Heb. generations) of the earth and sky being brought into existence. (Now no one can say that the word Bible doesn’t appear in the Bible!) Then we’re given details about how the earth was watered at first. Some say this statement about no rain only applied until Adam was made. But though it would be an argument from silence, we should be aware that scripture never speaks of rain falling before the Flood.

2:7-9 After a passing mention of the creation of the first human, we’re told that he was placed in the Garden of Eden, where the trees of Life and The Knowledge of Good and Evil were. Many call that second one merely the Tree of Knowledge and jump to the conclusion that it’s the Gnostic concept of enlightenment. This in turn is used to paint the serpent as the real savior from the bumbling demiurge who wanted to keep enlightenment to himself. Yet this is about a precise kind of knowledge, which essentially means the loss of innocence.

2:10-14 As for the rivers flowing from Eden, it’s significant that they’re described in geographical terms that would only have meaning after the great Flood, such as the territories of Ethiopia and Assyria. It’s often argued that the Flood wiped out Eden and its original river system, but why would Moses then describe the rivers in terms of post-Flood geography? Because he did, we can know the general area of Eden, and it describes roughly the area shown on this map. It takes more than picking out a few features to identify a land, which only needs to be mentioned because of the popular claim that Eden was really either at the Arctic Circle or somewhere on the African continent. However, directions in scripture are from the land of Israel, so east means east of there― not north, south, or west. This map is a rough estimate of Eden’s location:

Take a moment now to notice what we have not seen in this alleged second creation story: the luminaries, the firmament and what it separated, and the sea creatures. Starting a creation story with an explanation about why there weren’t any plants is like starting a book on how to make a car with what kind of oil it takes. Now as for the different names of God compared to chapter one, which only used Elohim (Gk. Theos), this one uses a phrase: YHWH Elohim (Gk. Kurios Theos, though often without Kurios).

2:15-17 Here we’re given more detail about the creation of the first human, who was given two primary tasks to perform: to cultivate and protect the Garden of Eden. What need could there have been for protection? First of all, we note that this is just prior to God giving the warning about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Such knowledge would certainly include understanding what at the time must have been quite puzzling: the concept of death.

Yet surely there is more here than meets the eye, since the garden needed guarding from something. We’re told in Rom. 5:12 that there was no death before sin, so we can rule out carnivorous animals. And we can rule out invasive plants, since that too only came after sin, as we’ll see in Gen. 3. Is this when the enemy later known as Satan was found to be sinful, since at creation all the angels shouted for joy, per Job 38:7? Is this why God said it was not good for the first human to be alone? Always be careful with speculation though; scripture does not tell us God’s reasons for these things. This becomes even more critical when we get to chapter 3.

2:18-20 The warning about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is immediately followed by the statement by God, not Adam, that the human should not be alone. The Hebrew text also shows that it isn’t until Eve is made that new terms are introduced for both she and Adam; he is eesh and she is esh-shaw, though at the end of the chapter Adam is used for the man. We’ll need to pay close attention to that in chapter 3.

Now if we’re paying attention to the context, we should ask why it is that between the first ever not good thing and the creation of woman, God brings the animals to Adam to see what he’d call them. We’ll elaborate on that in the final section. Some say that God created animals at the time he brought them to the human, because in both Greek and Hebrew the tense of the verb formed seems to indicate it being done at that moment. However, in the Greek text we see the word yet paired with formed, which together indicates something done earlier. Otherwise we have a conflict with creation sequence as given in chapter 1, where the human was the last thing created. Simpletons jump to the conclusion of two creation accounts, but they have to ignore a lot to do that, including the consensus of people who study linguistics for a living that had formed is the most likely rendering, and that this passage is not concerned with sequence.

2:21-25 Speaking of sequence, we now come to the creation of Eve. The fact that she was made last is often claimed to be proof of secondary status compared to Adam, but it’s fallacious to ignore the fact that Adam was made after all the animals, yet put in authority over them along with Eve. And of course God has never mandated authority on the basis of first to be made; that is a purely human construct, and one that only appeared after sin entered the world. If the Bible shows us anything about the times God does directly intervene in society, it is that he chooses the young over the old, the weak over the strong, the inferior over the superior, and the despised over the honored. This is stated explicitly in 1 Cor. 1:27-28.

Notice also that when Adam first sees Eve, it’s not her differences that he rejoices in, but her similarities. She literally had his flesh and bones! The stated purpose of God (remember, not Adam) was to make someone like Adam, not someone inferior like the animals― who, incidentally, were made from the dust just as Adam was. The sequence of not good, to naming animals, to Eve, tells us that God brought the animals to Adam to show him that none were his equal, not to show him he needed another subordinate. We must also ask which one is it that needs help, the weaker or the stronger? If one wishes to claim that helpers are weaker in spite of this, then they must say that God, as our helper, is weaker than us. There is no escaping this conclusion without committing a fallacy.

Summary of Gen. 1 and 2

There is only one creation account in Genesis. Nothing in Gen. 1 or 2 meshes with evolutionary theory, or simulation theory, or gives us the impression that this is all just an allegory of the struggle between good and evil. Neither is there a hint of any form of hierarchy between one person and another, regardless of their attributes. This is written as literal history, and we must be careful not to read too much between the lines on one extreme, or to gloss over important details on the other. We will never understand how the creation account will be used as an analogy for spiritual lessons until we first know what the real thing is. The only way to make the creation account an allegory is to call it fiction, which means everything else, including Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, could also be fiction. If the Bible is all allegory, there’s no point in studying it, and those who say it is have no right to tell other people that their interpretations are wrong.

Gen. 3

This section will be about how the very good creation turned sour, along with the promise of redemption. But the details in the original languages are critical to our understanding, so as in prior section we will present the scripture and then analyze it.

Paraphrase of Gen. 3

3:1-4 Now the serpent was the most perceptive among all the wild animals that the Sovereign God had made on the earth, and it spoke to the woman: Why is it that God told you so sternly that you must not eat from any tree in the paradise?

We may eat the fruit of the trees in the paradise, she replied, except the one in the middle. God said not to eat from it or touch it, so we won’t die.

That’s not true, you won’t die! the serpent replied. God really knows that in the day you eat its fruit, your eyes will be wide open and you’ll be like gods who perceive both good and evil.

3:6-7 The woman determined that the tree had good quality fruit, ripe for picking. So she took it and ate it, then gave some also to her husband who was with her, and they both ate the fruit. Their eyes were opened wide, and they realized that they were naked, so they sewed together the leaves of a fig tree to make loincloths for themselves.

3:8-13 Then at dusk they heard the sound of the Sovereign God walking in the paradise. So both Adam and his wife hid from the Sovereign God's face, behind the tree in the middle of the paradise. God called out to Adam, Where are you?

I heard the sound of you walking in the paradise, Adam answered. I was afraid because I’m naked, so I hid.

Who informed you that you’re naked? God asked. Did you eat from that tree I told you not to eat from?

You’re the one who gave me the woman! exclaimed Adam. She gave me fruit from that tree and I ate it.

Then the Sovereign God turned to the woman and asked, What have you done? She answered, The serpent tricked me into eating it.

3:14-15 So the Sovereign God said this to the serpent: Because you did this, you are accursed from among all the cattle and wild animals on the earth! You will crawl on your chest and belly, and you’ll be eating dirt for the rest of your life! I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will target your head, and you will target his heel.

3:16 To the woman God said this: Your grief and groaning will be greatly multiplied; in grief you will bear children. You will turn away to your husband, but he will dominate you.

3:17-19 To Adam God said this: Since you heard your wife’s voice and ate from the one tree I told you not to eat from, the land is accursed because of you. All your life you will only eat its produce in grief. Thorns and thistles will make it difficult for you to get food from the field plants. You will eat your bread with sweat on your face, until you return into the earth from which you were formed. You came from dirt, and you will return to dirt!

Adam gave his wife the name Lifegiver (Heb. Eve, Gk. Zoe), since she was the mother of all the living, and then the Sovereign God made clothing out of animal skins for both of them.

Then God said, Look, Adam has become like one of us, perceiving good and evil. We must prevent him from reaching out to take food from the Tree of Life and live perpetually. So the Sovereign God expelled him from the pristine paradise and sent him to work the ground from which he had been taken. And after he threw Adam outside of the pristine paradise, he ordered cherubim with the flaming broadsword to turn away any intruders, to guard the way to Tree of Life.

Commentary on Gen. 3

For some reason, Moses didn’t think it necessary to explain the serpent’s cunning, but simply to report it. Yet Rev. 20:2 identifies what it calls the ancient serpent as the same entity as the dragon, the devil, and Satan. Still, we can’t ignore the fact that snakes have always moved according to the result of the curse, so this seems to be a both/and situation. Moses emphasizes the serpent’s cunning rather than its nature.

Now notice that in the Greek text the serpent does not say Has God really said, but Why has God said. The Hebrew text has the serpent sowing doubt about what God said, but the Greek text has the serpent getting Eve to ask why God said it, a question she certainly would never have asked without the serpent’s influence. To me, that strategy seems more aligned with the serpent’s cunning and calculating, and Eve’s response is the key: she gave the reason for the rule. Not one place in the entire Bible faults Eve for changing the wording of the rule, or being mistaken about it.

The serpent’s tactic is familiar in our everyday lives, in the form of steering and manipulation, which is an effective strategy because it’s very subtle, planting ideas rather than forcing them. It had never occured to Eve that God would withhold something good from her, so she was unprepared for such a thing. She thought the reason for the rule was that she would die, but the serpent made up a new reason, and she had no exprience to tell her that the serpent, or anyone else, would lie to her.

Can we really fault Eve for having no concept of deception? Scripture never tells us why it was Eve rather than Adam that was targeted for this deception; we can only speculate, and again we must use extreme caution in doing so. But per the question asked in the analysis of ch. 2, why did God say it was not good for the first human to be alone, and why was that human charged with guarding Eden? All we can speculate at this point that Eve was targeted because she had no direct observation of God’s creative power, and she was the guardian’s guardian, so to speak.

What the serpent was offering was the promise of being not only like God, but also what today is called being enlightened or awake. This is the very definition of Gnosticism: hidden knowledge given only to those who are made worthy by taking a certain path of discovery, marked out by those claiming to be wiser. There are variations within Gnosticism, but the teaching that the serpent was trying to free mankind from the clutches of the evil demiurge creator is at the core of Gnosticism in general. This is what fooled Eve, and what continues to fool many others to this day. At least she had a valid excuse.

Keep in mind that none of this has to do with any fictional story about Eve lusting after some imaginary authority Adam held over her, and especially not with the vulgar Gnostic (or Talmudic, or Kabbalistic) belief that Eve had sexual relations with the serpent. In order to allegorize the fruit in this context to mean lust, one would have to allegorize the entire creation account with its description of trees and fruit. This is a dishonest and prejudiced approach to scripture, and one which renders all Bible study pointless since allegories can mean just about anything.

Notice also that Adam was there with Eve when she was being manipulated by the serpent’s cunning, per verse 6. So by the absurd theory about Eve mating with the serpent, we could also lay the same charge against Adam, who also ate the fruit. Yet neither of them got the fruit from the serpent, but from the tree. This particularly vulgar teaching is known as the serpent seed theory, one that only the vile serpent could invent, and it’s easily debunked by Gen. 4:1.

Now we must put to rest the equally absurd notion that Eve tempted Adam to eat the fruit. Scripture never hints at such a thing; rather, it clearly portrays Eve as the victim of temptation and deception. Only a sinful desire to make Eve the real villain can result in such victim-blaming. The text states that she handed the fruit to Adam who was with her, and he ate it without having to be fooled as Eve was. Many try to take the phrase listened to the voice of your wife as proof of her enticement of Adam, but no part of scripture ever gives it that meaning. In the few instances where Eve is mentioned outside of Genesis, she is the victim of the serpent’s trickery.

Rom. 5:12 states that Adam, not Eve, is the reason death entered the world. But how can this be, since both of them ate the fruit and both eventually died? Again, there is more going on here than meets the eye, and again we must be cautious. We will see the probable reason shortly.

Some claim that Adam was charged with sin and confronted first because he was the federal head of humanity, which of course is not found in scripture. The real reason is the structure of this confrontation, namely that it is in the form of a chiastic argument, pictured by the Greek letter chi which looks like an X. Someone makes a series of points toward a central point, then traces back through the points in reverse order. Thus we can find the central point being made by watching for where the pivot point begins. In this case the pivot point is the curse on the serpent and subsequent remedy through the seed of the woman. The order is man / woman / serpent / woman / man. So this order of confrontation has more to do with making a point than with some alleged Adamic authority.

But notice Adam’s reaction when God asks him about the fruit; he blames Eve directly and God Himself indirectly, by saying the woman you gave me! The serpent and the temptation are never mentioned by Adam; he takes no responsibility and shows no remorse or compassion for Eve, as some claim. He had stood silently by while listening to the serpent deceive his wife, and he took the fruit from her without comment or question.

When Eve is confronted she simply states the truth: The serpent deceived me and I ate. No passing blame to Adam, no argument about what a great idea eating the fruit was supposed to be, no protest about it being unfair that she was beneath Adam… just telling what happened.

At this point God doesn’t even ask the serpent any questions but simply curses it. But notice that God begins with Because you have done this. And in this context of cursing the serpent, God pronounces the ultimate remedy: the seed of the woman. No one has thought to ask why it would be the seed of only the woman that would bring the remedy for this disaster. Why was Adam not to be a part of this? Scripture never says. But it’s a question everyone should ponder.

God never says to Eve, Because you have done this. And what God does say is disputed: Was it I will multiply your suffering in childbirth, or A snare has increased your sorrow; in sorrow you will bear children? Regardless, the point is that Eve is never told that something she did is the reason for this, as was the case with Adam and the serpent.

Then God makes a prediction (not a command): Eve would turn toward her husband. The Greek word is apostrophe, but many study tools give the wrong definition. This turning is lifted from context and given all sorts of imaginative meanings, such as that it must be sexual desire or lust for power, but scripture says no such things. Whatever anyone insists, the fact remains that it did not exist until after the serpent tempted her. Genesis 2-1/2 is pure fiction.

God is telling Eve that she is about to make a critical choice, and that this choice would result in something that did not exist before, or it wouldn’t be predicted: her husband would rule over her. Had this rule already existed God would have only said that it would be stronger or harsher, but since no such rule is stated anywhere before this in any form, the context only supports the existence of rule by Adam over Eve after sin. It is the man who will now usurp authority over the woman, whom God had created as his equal. Ironically, today many men accuse women who want equality of attempting to usurp the very authority they themselves got by usurping.

We must also consider the fact that God had just finished telling the serpent that the woman he beguiled would be his ultimate undoing, and that God himself would put hostility between them. This is no physical fear of snakes (besides, fear and hostility are two completely different things) on the part of only women, but a special seething hatred between the forces of Satan and the progeny of only Eve, since from her seed alone would come the promised Savior. Eve was clearly being compensated for her having been the victim of a cruel deception, and Adam was truly in need of her help.

Finally we come to Adam. God begins with Since you did this, so we know that Adam is being held responsible for his actions, just as the serpent was. But remember that the only penalty God had stated for eating the fruit was death. Both Adam and Eve ate the fruit and eventually died, but no other penalty was stated. So why were there additional penalties for Adam alone, whom the text clearly and repeatedly aims at? The only option the text gives us is that it was for his open and unprovoked rebellion against God, his blaming God for making Eve.

Notice that it is not Adam himself but the ground he was made from that is cursed; there is no curse on Adam, Eve, or human nature. Then Adam is told he would have to work hard to get this cursed ground to produce food, and it is only to Adam that God says you came from dust and will return to dust.

Eve, just as God predicted, chose willingly to share in Adam’s fate and follow him out. Tragically, many teach that Christian women should make the same mistake and follow men rather than God, because they are all temptresses who need a sinful, blame-shifting man to keep them in line.

As for the class of angels called cherubim who were put there to guard the way to the Tree of Life, we have little to explain any details, other than that scripture seems to portray them as having very high rank.

Summary of Gen. 3

There are few passages of scripture more badly twisted than Gen. 3. Because of this, any New Testament references to it are also badly twisted. Everything that was to happen after this point would be the result of rebellion against God, not what God would call very good.

Gen. 4

Genesis 4 begins the second great epoch of human history, the first of course being from creation to what is called the Fall of Man. God had given Adam and Eve dominion over all the earth, but the serpent conned them out of it. Treachery and death would be the common experience of all their progeny, and Cain and Abel the pattern of violence and victimization.

Paraphrase of Gen. 4:1-7

Adam was intimate with his wife Eve, who conceived and gave birth to Cain and said, God has given me a man! Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. He grew up to be a shepherd, while Cain worked the land.

After some time passed, Cain brought a sacrifice to the Master from the produce of the land, but Abel brought the first and best of his sheep. God looked favorably on Abel and his offerings, but he did not accept Cain and his offerings. So Cain was extremely disturbed and became depressed. But the Sovereign God said to him, Why are you dejected and depressed? Isn’t it still a violation if you indeed brought a sacifice but not a proper one? Calm down; it is being returned to you, so you can decide what to do.

Commentary on Gen. 4:1-7

The first thing we see in this chapter is that children began to be born, the first of whom was Cain. Recalling the debunking of the serpent seed theory in the previous section, it states clearly in verse 1 that it was Adam, not the serpent, who fathered Cain. Some claim that the serpent fathered Cain and that this bloodline was what Jesus meant in John 8:44 when he told some people that they were of their father, the devil. But not only does the context there clearly speak of spiritual matters rather than genetics, verse 1 here explicitly states that Cain’s father was Adam.

Another question to address here is the claim of some pre-Adamic race that was wiped out between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2, since when Cain later went to a distant city and married, there had to be prior civilizations for him to go to. But Rom. 5:12 says that sin entered the world through one man, that being Adam. If there had been a pre-Adamic race or un-named children from Adam and Eve, any who lived before Adam’s rebellion would be sinless and probably immortal, since none of them would have been part of God’s curse.

Adam and Eve certainly had many other children after Cain and Abel, who were simply not mentioned because they weren’t key personages in the Bible’s overarching theme and purpose. And if anyone objects to the practice of what we now call incest, which had to be the case when the human race was just beginning to multiply, such a law was not yet given nor needed. The reason God would later prohibit it is because of the ever-degrading nature of our genome, and the errors that had built up by then.

God's conversation with Cain is significantly different in the Greek compared to the Hebrew, but either way it’s the first failed attempt at persuasion, and no less than God who was rejected. The Hebrew text has God saying to Cain that sin was crouching at the door but that Cain would need to resist it. But the Greek text has God telling Cain that he would have his offering returned to him so he could have another chance at doing the right thing. We can only speculate as to the reason for the rejection, but it seems that since the text points out that Abel brought the best he had, then Cain did not. I don’t believe it was that Cain didn’t bring an animal, but that the produce he brought was of inferior quality. Admittedly, the Greek wording is difficult to follow, but I think this interpretation makes better sense of the immediate context, though most seem to view it as the reason for what happens next in the chapter.

Paraphrase of Gen. 4:8-16

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, Let’s go out to the field. After they got there, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Sovereign God confronted Cain: Where is your brother Abel?

How should I know? he retorted. I’m not his guardian.

What have you done? the Master demanded. Your brother’s blood shouts to me from the ground! So now you are accursed from the earth that opened up its mouth to take your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground and it no longer yields good produce for you, you will be miserable and weak.

Then Cain replied to the Master, My crime is too great for me to be forgiven. If you banish me from the earth and from your presence, I will hide in misery and weakness on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.

Not so, replied the Sovereign God. Anyone who tries to kill Cain will suffer seven times as much punishment. So the Sovereign God marked Cain, so that any who would find him would not kill him. Then Cain left God’s presence and settled in the land of Nod, across from Eden.

Commentary on Gen. 4:8-16

What is particularly striking about Cain’s retort to God is the dripping sarcasm of not being his brother’s guardian. His father Adam failed at guarding Eden, and his mother Eve failed at guarding Adam. He seems to be trying to shirk responsibility for his actions by rubbing in God’s face the fact that he, unlike his parents, was not charged with protecting anyone. But just like his father Adam, he shifted blame from himself to God. This attitude was already evident in his prior attempt to appease God with a substandard offering.

Of course, God wasn’t having any of that, and he pronounced a curse on Cain himself, as opposed to when God cursed the ground on Adam’s account. Here again, the Greek wording is significantly different from the Hebrew, which has Cain saying his punishment was greater than he could bear, rather than that his crime was too great to be forgiven. The Hebrew almost seems to try and garner sympathy for Cain.

Gen. 4:17-26

First off we see that Cain marries, and we’ve already addressed the issue of where his wife might have come from. But keep in mind that names are often given to more than one person, just as people have always done since then. We see the name Enoch, but we know this isn’t the Enoch mentioned by Jude 1:14, because that Enoch was in the 7th generation after Adam, while this one is only the 3rd.

Then we see that Noah’s father Lamech traces his genealogy back through Methuselah, to Mehujael, to Enoch, to Cain. Then what becomes of the serpent seed theory from the line of Cain, since Noah is in Cain’s genetic line?

Some claim that the Dead Sea Scrolls cite Satan as Cain’s father, but you can see the text yourself here. This source shows that the man fathered Cain.

The rest of the chapter is genealogy, but it includes some interesting remarks about the originators of things like music and instruments, metalurgy, and raising cattle.

Verse 23 begins the account of Lamech, who killed a young man. Though it isn’t clear in the Greek text whether the young man was killed for wounding Lamech or that Lamech was grieving over the youth’s death, it’s interesting that he claimed even more protection for himself that God gave to Cain, though God doesn’t say so here.

The last two verses name Seth as another of Adam and Eve’s children, and then Seth fathered Enos. Notice that it’s been Eve naming her children, and that she considered them blessings from God. The Greek text differs from the Hebrew in the final sentence. The Greek says that Enos hoped to call on the name of the Sovereign God, but the Hebrew says then men began to call. Neither reading is actually very informative; we have no details on what that meant.

Gen. 5

This chapter, like the first, begins with a subtitle, this time saying that what follows is focused on genealogy from Adam to the three sons of Noah. Some information is repeated from ch. 4 but with added detail such as ages and lifespans. The famous Enoch, called by Jude the 7th from Adam, must include Adam as the 1st if you check the number of generations here. Aside from being the father of the longest-lived person ever, Methuselah, Enoch was taken alive at the age of 365 years to be with God. The Greek word there is also in Heb. 11:5 when it reports on this event. It indicates that he was transported, not simply that he disappeared.

Everyone wants to know if this Enoch wrote any books, and if so, whether those books have survived intact. But rather than try to settle the impossible here, the reader is encouraged to study this source on the subject. There are books called Enoch 1 through 3, but 2 and 3 are so much lower in quality and substance as to be easily dismissed. That leaves us with 1, but we have to be careful whether we have the one deemed authentic. Even so, there is nothing in it to give the impression that it contains hidden or secret knowledge, or that it supplies information vital to our understanding of the things of God. It may be an interesting historical book, if accurate, but there is no justification to force it into the Biblical canon.

Gen. 6

This is where we first encounter the term sons of God. Many approach the text with the presumption that this cannot refer to angels, based on two points: that angels aren’t physical so they can’t mate with people, and what Jesus said in Mat. 22:30: that marriage will no longer apply to the dead because they will be like the angels in heaven.

The claim that spirit beings cannot be physical is refuted by Gen. 18, where Abraham is visited by what appeared to be three men, who ate and drank with him. The context clearly indicates that these men were really God, in what is called a theophany. God has no physical form, and Jesus would not incarnate for thousands of years after this. One may object that only God can do this and not angels, but Heb. 13:2 says that some have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. To this we could add the account of Balaam in Numbers 22, where God allowed him to see the angel blocking his way, or Luke 24, where the women at Jesus’ empty tomb saw two men who gleamed like lightning, or Gen. 19 where the men of Sodom wanted to rape the angels who came to rescue Lot, but referred to them as men.

This source is a good study on angels in the Bible. It points out that though they always appear to people as adult male humans, they are only doing so temporarily and for our benefit. The point is that they can take on real physical flesh that can eat and drink as any human. As for the other point referencing what Jesus said, he specified that the angels in heaven don’t marry— not the fallen angels, and not by inability but by choice.

We might wonder why this is even an issue until we remember the serpent seed theory. The presumption that no angelic being could mate with humans leads to what is called the Sethite theory, which developed in the 5th century a.d. This theory claims that while the line of Cain was wicked, the line of Seth was righteous. So they equate sons of God with the Sethites, and daughters of men with the Cainites (not to be confused with Canaanites). But it is based on nothing but presumption and poor logic.

Why would only the daughters of Cain be wicked, and the sons of Seth be righteous? Why would the children of such unions result in what Gen. 6 describes as giants, who were renowned from ancient times, from Moses’ perspective? And why would Jude later describe the fallen angels as having left their proper place and chased after strange flesh? The ancient myths of godlike beings, some apparently part animal, likely came from these hybrid offspring of the fallen angels and human women and animals. And when they died, being part angel, they would not go to the grave as human souls did, but would wander the earth and become known as demons. This might also explain why demons seem to crave taking over the body of a person or animal. At least the argument for sons of God being angels has some support in scripture and history.

In verse 5-7 and 11-12 we see the reasons God decided to flood the earth: everyone’s mind was continually focused on evil, and the earth was filled with corruption. The Greek text has a word meaning sin in verse 11, but the Hebrew has the word for violence. And what does it mean that Noah was found to be perfect in his generation, per verse 9? Some say that it means he was the only good person of his time, but generations overlap and all the rest of humanity was wiped out. Others say that it means he was genetically pure, having no mixture with the fallen angels. This idea fits better with the context regarding giants.

Now to the building of the Ark. Check this web archive of a site dedicated to studying the dimensions and seaworthiness of the Ark itself. Keep in mind that the Ark was not built for speed or distance, but simply to stay afloat in rough seas. There is no problem fitting the pairs of animals onboard, and we can’t assume all of them were fully grown at the time. Keep in mind also that there would not need to be every variation within a kind. For example, one pair of wolves could result in all kinds of what we call dogs without requiring millions of years. And compared to the evolutionary fable about life arising from electrified pond scum, the Bible’s account is much more believable.

Gen. 7

This is when God finally tells Noah to enter the ark along with his wife, his three sons, and their wives. As for the mention of clean animals, remember once again that Moses is using the word clean during a time when such a term had meaning. All of this preparation likely took place during the 120 years God marked out in 6:3. But now they are told that the rains will come in 7 days, when Noah was 600 years old.

Verse 11 states that the fountains of the abyss were broken up, and the torrents (or the flood-gates to release them) of the sky were opened. The traditional interpretation is that torrents of the sky simply refers to rain, but we can’t rule out a supernatural release of at least some of the waters above the sky per Gen. 1. The objection to this view is that there could not possibly be waters coming from beyond the stars to the earth. Yet who is to say that the stars are that big and far away? Few are aware of just how much guesswork and imagination goes into what is passed off as the science of cosmology or astronomy. And we should ponder the question of how the surface of a ball could flood.

Verse 19 states that the Ark was lifted by the waters over the tops of the highest mountains, though we can’t be sure how they compared to the mountains as we know them. Since the waters below ground were released by it being broken up, the land mass and everything on it was likely to be changed in significant ways. The fossil record and the layers of strata in which they’re found are best explained by the processes of floods, including the rapid deposition of silt and other debris. Smaller creatures would be the first to die while larger ones could get to higher ground at first, explaining why smaller, simpler creatures are found in lower rock strata. Flood geology is a much more straightforward explanation of what we observe, than any gradualistic story.

The issue of Flood aftermath and why evolution is a fable are beyond the scope of this writing, so please visit this website for a thorough debunking of evolution. Also visit the Youtube channel Wise Up for evidence of the level of technology wiped out by the Flood— which of course was the Flood’s purpose. Much of what we have been told is alien rock-cutting or people wearing out simple copper tools to carve rocks with great skill, is really just wood, straw, concrete, metal, and other materials buried under salt water for a year or more while the earth went through violent changes.

Gen. 8

This chapter reports on the end of the great Flood, which according to verse 13, lasted about a year. Noah then built an altar to God and sacrificed some of the clean animals. This is when God made the first Covenant or Promise, and you may want to study this chart of Biblical covenants. God promises to Noah that he will never again wipe out the earth with water, though in 2 Peter 3:7 he will wipe it out in the future with fire. Until then, God promised that the seasons will continue.

Gen. 9

This chapter explains why animals seem to have a natural fear of people, that being because God commanded it. We may wonder why God would do this, until we read in verse 3 that the animals themselves would become food for humans. Keep in mind that God is blessing Noah, and the eating of meat is part of that blessing. God further commands that if anyone, human or animal, takes a person’s life, that human or animal must pay with its own life. And as God’s habit is throughout the scriptures, he puts a seal on this Covenant with a sign: the rainbow.

Verse 20 begins the account of Noah and his son Ham. Some commentators interpret the incident to mean that Ham actually violated the body of his drunken father, while others only take what’s actually stated in the text, though pointing out that an accidental glimpse of his father’s body would not in itself be sinful. Rather, they think it’s reasonable to infer that Ham went out and mocked his father to his brothers.

But why is it that when Noah became sober and found out what had happened, he cursed Ham’s son Canaan rather than Ham himself? Scripture doesn’t tell us, but perhaps it was because the son of Noah would suffer the exprience of having a wicked and cursed son of his own.

Gen. 10

Gen. 10 details the expansion of the human race after the Great Flood. The reason this information is important is because scripture refers back to it in historical and prophetic passages, so we should be familiar with key names and places. God had commanded people to multiply and cover the earth, and this is the account of how that began. Here is a map of where the various people groups went after the Flood:

But before we look at the Table of Nations, one issue needs to be clarified: the meaning of the Greek word ethnOn, which is typically translated as Gentiles. In the New Testament the context always tells us that it refers to all who are not Jews, hence the translation Gentiles. But this has no meaning before Israel as a nation existed, so before Abraham at least, the literal meaning nations should be used.

Take a moment to study this Table of nations document, and notice some of the key names and concepts. Nimrod is the first person scripture cites as having a kingdom, and he tried to prevent the spread of people over the earth to consolidate his power. But Nimrod was said to have become a giant; is that a physical giant, or just a human tyrant? There are 3 points to consider in answering that question, as posed by this source:

  1. Nimrod became a giant, so how could it refer to his body size?
  2. Gen. 6 says the giants’ fathers were fallen angels.
  3. Nimrod descended from Cush, not fallen angels.

Now there is ample historical evidence that physical giants have existed. However, Greek mythology describes them as having super-human strength, but not always super-human size. Either way, there would be no reason for only one line of people to produce ordinary human tyrants. Yet all the physical giants were also tyrants, and it’s reasonable to conclude that in time the word for physical giants came to just mean powerful tryants of any size.

Now let’s look at this source: The hunter becoming king is a common pattern in history, likely after Nimrod’s example. All things considered, the context paints a picture of the first world tyrant defying God, not that he was a physical giant.

As for Magog, that is covered in the study of Ezekiel 38 regarding a once and future enemy of God and the Chosen People.

Gen. 11

As we move on to ch. 11 we come to the account of the Tower of Babel. Most researchers see evidence that the instigator of this project was in fact Nimrod. This was a defiant gesture against God, not only to prevent the spread of the population over the earth, but also to set up a world government. Some speculate that it was meant to literally reach the sky so they could storm the abode of God and destroy him. But the text simply indicates that the purpose was to unify the world and keep everyone in one place. So God instantly created numerous languages to prevent the builders from communicating, and the project was abandoned. The Table of nations document includes a brief discussion (in the blue box near the end) of the secular evidence for such languages having their own origins, rather than all evolving from one source.

Before going on to verse 12, study this image regarding the corrected timeline of the descendants of Shem. Compare the Greek and Hebrew for that verse and following, and you’ll see the missing 100 years each from Arphaxad, Shelah, Eber, Peleg, Reu, and Serug.

The end of ch. 11 reports the death of Terah, father of Abram (whose name wasn’t changed to Abraham until later). This is the likely event God waited for before telling Abram to go to what would become known as the Promised Land, which we’ll study in the next section.

Gen. 12

This is where God first speaks to Abram. He tells him to pick up everything and everyone who belongs to him, and go someplace without knowing where he’s going. Then God promises to make a great nation out of him, in spite of the fact that he was 75 years old and childless. On top of that, God promises that whoever blesses Abram will be blessed, but whoever curses him will be cursed.

That last part is where a lot of controversy comes from, regarding how Christians should treat Jews. This isn’t limited to Abram himself but extends to all his progeny, the great nation. Recalling the previous section regarding ethnos, it would seem silly to say that God was going to make of Abram a great Gentile. Does this mean Christians can never criticize the nation of Israel? On the other hand, does it mean we can wish to wipe them off the map without suffering the curse of God?

Those who believe that God is finished with the physical nation of Israel will dismiss details such as a great nation as now only referring to some vague spiritual state. But there are three specific elements of this promise, which will be repeated and expanded in chapters 13, 15, and 17, and none of them depend on any conditions.

  1. Abram himself is promised that his name will be held in high regard.
  2. Abram will have uncountable numbers of physical children that will become a great nation, and this includes a physical land with physical borders. Nothing in this promise hints at anything spiritual or allegorical. Later God will narrow down the blessed line of descent to be through Isaac and Jacob, such that not all of Abram’s descendants are part of this promise. This is made very clear in Gal. 4.
  3. Through Abram all the nations of the world will be blessed. We aren’t given the details of what this means, but in hindsight we know of course that at the very least it includes redemption through the Messiah. Yet this blessing to the nations depends on whether they bless or curse Abram and his descendants. This is the only part of the Promise that is conditional. We can see throughout the Old Testament that nations mistreating Israel suffered God’s wrath, but this seems to have held true for the modern nation as well.

This map shows the area of land promised to Abraham:

The Promise is reduced to nonsense if we treat all this as merely allegorical or ultimately only spiritual. What sense can we make of the phrases great nation and all the families of the earth, if they’re all the same in the end? What is the meaning of a land with boundaries marked by rivers and mountains, if it’s only spiritual? To take a context that is literal in every sense of the word, and blur it into undefined and arbitrary spiritual fulfillment, is to render Bible study pointless. On what basis do we believe that Jesus rose from the dead, if the scriptures are only codes or allegories about good and evil? Some argue that since people not of Abram’s line could become members of Israel, then literal genetic bloodlines are irrelevant. But this again robs God’s promise of all meaning, of a literal son from Abram’s own body. What’s the point of such a miracle?

This is not to say that no spiritual blessing is involved at all; we have explicit statements of this in the New Testament, such as in Rom. 4:11 and Gal. 3:7 and 29. But there is no warrant to throw out the physical just because of the spiritual. Even within the physical line of Abram, individual faithfulness was required, and it is those physical descendants with faith who are spiritual Israelnot the church. This is the point in Gal. 3. The three recipients of God’s promise to Abram cannot be blended into one without twisting the scriptures beyond recognition.

So what should the church do with modern Jews and the modern nation of Israel? The answer depends on whether we take the scriptures literally, or whether we take them as cryptographic and bendable to every possible interpretation. For both approaches, it is never proper for any Christian to hate, or to wish destruction, or to ignore the sins of our own people while pointing out the sins of Israel. But the literalist must find the balance between blessing them as a people and blindly supporting everything their secular government does.

After such a promise from God, one might expect Abram to live a nearly flawless life. But the rest of ch. 12 tells of his plot to pawn off his wife Sarah just to save his own skin when they passed through Egypt. Even so, God made sure the Pharaoh never touched her, and he sent Abram out with a lot of wealth. God is very patient and merciful!

Gen. 13

This chapter tells of the parting of the households of Abram and his nephew Lot, and the fateful choice of Lot to settle in Sodom. But we see again, in the last half of the chapter, God’s repeating of his promise, which once again concerns physical land and descendants. The fact that the New Testament often uses these real, physical, literal people and events as object lessons, cannot mean they have no literal and physical fulfillments.

If these chapters show us anything, it’s that our approach to scripture has wide-ranging implications. The allegorist could get as much life advice from any other source, yet cling nonetheless to a literal Jesus rising physically from the dead. This is inconsistent at best. But the literalist enjoys all the riches of the unfolding plan and mercy of God through the ages, which also gives us a concrete hope for the future and a mature, confident grasp of the times in which we live. This does take much more effort than required of the allegorist, but things of great value are rarely easy to obtain. Through the centuries, many have suffered and died to preserve the pages of the Bible; will we honor them by considering it precious, or will we treat their sacrifices with contempt? People don’t suffer and die for an allegory.

Gen. 14

This chapter begins by introducing the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, who were allies in various battles against surrounding armies near the Dead (Salt) Sea. But the enemies won, and 14 years later the conquerors also decimated the Rephaim per the Hebrew term, which the Greek text simply gives as giants.

From what I could find, the figurative meaning refers to the spirits of the dead, but the literal meaning is of fierce, strong people of tall stature who lived in Canaan. Deut. 2:20-21 is one source for this, and 3:11 describes King Og of Bashan as the last of them, and that his iron bed was 13 feet long and 6 feet wide. From the various names in scripture, it seems that they referred to different tribes or family lines of angel-human hybrids, just as people are separated by tribes or family lines. This is likely where some popular conspiracy celebrities got the idea that there are races of space aliens. But such beings don’t come from space; their fathers fell from heaven, and they are the demons, the disembodied spirits of the giants of long ago.

We see in verse 12 that Lot was among the captives when Sodom was defeated. Someone ran to tell Abram, who mustered an army of his own servants and recovered all the captives from Sodom. This takes us to verse 18, where Abram meets the mysterious Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of the Most High God. As was the custom of the time, Abram gives this person a tenth of the spoils of war. This is the one and only time Abram is said to tithe, and it was not from his own crops and herds but from those of his defeated enemy. Some try desperately to use this as a proof that Christians must tithe to churches, since it predates the laws of Moses. But so also does the law of circumcision, and we don’t see those same people clamoring to make that binding on all Christians.

Gen. 15

This where God appears to Abram again and reminds him of his promises. But this time, Abram asks God how this will happen, since he has no child. The closest legal heir would be the son of one of his slaves, but God states again that the promise was that the child would come from him. Verse 6 is where we find the famous statement that Abram was considered righteous solely on the basis of his choice to believe what God promised him.

But right away, Abram asks God for proof that he will inherit the land. Why this required proof, and the promise of physical descendants did not, we aren’t told. But God granted his request anyway, and in verse 13 God tells him that his descendants will travel to a foreign land where they will be enslaved for 400 years, after which they’ll leave with great wealth. Verse 16 has a curious statement as well: that the sins of the Amorites needed time to reach a certain point. We should remember this whenever God seems to let a lot of time pass when to us it seems inexplicable.

We also see in this section the practice of making a covenant by killing animals and dividing the pieces into two rows, then having the parties to the covenant pass between the halves. It’s a literal cutting of a blood covenant, meaning may this happen to me if I don’t keep my oath. But it was only God, represented by the flaming torch and pot of smoke, who passed between the halves, so only God was responsible for keeping the covenant. This is what Heb. 6:13-18 refers to.

God also gives specific details about what Abram and his descendants would receive: land from the Nile to the Euphrates, where many people groups lived, including the Rephaim. Critics cite the eventual genocide of these people as an indictment against God, but the presence of the Rephaim, known for their viciousness as all the giants were, should tell us that God was doing mankind a service. Many who fault God for violence would gladly commit violence against God and all who worship him.

Gen. 16

This chapter focuses on Abram’s wife Sarah, who also would eventually have her name slightly changed. But she became impatient regarding God’s promise, so she decided what social norms would advise for reasons of legal inheritance: She told Abram to have a child with her handmaid Hagar. To say this was a big mistake is quite an understatement, just as Eve made a big mistake in following Adam out of Eden. From this union would come people groups that would be thorns in the side of Israel right up to the present day.

So Abram agreed, and nothing is said or implied that Sarah nagged or manipulated him. But when Hagar actually became pregnant with the child Sarah wanted, she flaunted her success in front of Sarah, setting the tone for the rest of middle eastern history as we know it. Once again we see why taking the Bible literally helps us understand the times we live in, particularly the deep, underlying causes of middle eastern conflict being ancient and supernatural.

Of course, Sarah was irate about this, but she goes to Abram and says This is all your fault!, in a kind of echo of Adam’s blame-shifting against Eve. So Abram tells her she can do as she pleases with Hagar, and she proceeds to mistreat her. Then Hagar runs away, but verse 7 says that an angel of God comes to comfort her and tell her to go back to Sarah, apparently since Sarah was really the instigator of all this.

But is this merely an angel, or a phrase many interpret as referring to the pre-incarnate Christ? The wording would suggest that this is the latter. So God himself has appeared to a mere slave woman, and he promises her that she too will be the mother of uncountable descendants. Notice that verse 10 speaks of her seed. Some claim that scripture never speaks of women having seed with the lone exception of the virgin Mary. Curiously though, the rest of scipture speaks of only male lines of descent.

Now this promise is not all rainbows and lollipops; her child, whom God tells her to name Ishmael (God Hears), will be wild and antagonistic. But then in verse 13 it is the lowly woman who gives God a name: Beer Lahai Roi (God Sees Me). So much for the claim that Adam naming Eve was proof of his authority over her.

The chapter ends by noting that Abram was 86 years old when the child was born, and again we would ask why this matters if this were all an allegory.

Gen. 17

This chapter states that Abram was 99 when God appeared to him again, 13 years after the birth of Ishmael. This is when God changes his name from Abram (Exalted Father) to Abraham (Father of Many Nations). God adds that kings will be among his descendants, and again one wonders what the allegorists do with such details.

Let’s pause at verse 7 to address a teaching known as Fulfillment Theology, taught in recent years by people such as Dr. Gary Burge at a conference in Bethlehem called Christ at the Checkpoint. This view claims that since Paul in Gal. 3:16 says the promises were only to one particular descendant of Abraham, that being the Messiah, then either the promises are completely fulfilled and nothing remains, or Paul contradicts Moses; after all, verse 7 says that this covenant is not just with Abraham himself but also his descendants forever. This sort of teaching underscores the importance of the whole counsel of God, of knowing all the scriptures so we don’t twist Paul’s words, which Peter said was already happening in his time.

Didn’t this same Paul also state in Rom. 11 that God has not rejected his people, whom he defines there as the family of Abraham, and that God chose the people of Israel before they were born? Paul calls himself an Israelite from the seed of Abraham. The context makes it clear that he is referring to physical Israel. In fact, the entire letter to the Romans is about the unity of two groups, not the abandonment of one, and ch. 11 is a warning to any who would boast over the natural branches. The wild do not replace the natural; they are both joined to the vine, not to each other.

So is there a conflict between God’s promise to Abraham that his physical descendants would be uncountable and have a specified land, and Paul’s statements in Galatians 3:16? See this article on the issue. Whether or not one agrees with the rationale there, the fact remains that God’s promises to Abraham were undeniably physical and included countless physical descendants, and that Paul would not contradict such clear statements. Certainly Jesus did fulfill everything, and all the promises and prophecies point to him. But it is terrible theology and logic to leap from there to turning God’s promises to the nation of Israel into allegorical mush. Does the Messiah need the land God promised so clearly in Gen. 17:8?

Then in verse 10 we see the sign of circumcision. Why is the sign only for males? Scripture does not tell us, and it also applied even to men who were not Abraham’s direct descendants. From that it’s clear that this covenant includes a nation, which is more than just Abraham’s own descendants. Other nations also practiced this, so again we ask why God ordered it. The only difference is the precise physical land, and the nation in that land. So the first point we can make is that it signifies the covenant with the nation of Israel.

A second point we could make is that it may be because Abraham should not have fathered Ishmael in the first place, and this would remind them all of the dire consequences of breaking faith with God. But speculation aside, what we cannot say is that this is some kind of sign of male entitlement, or that it was replaced by water baptism, especially since women can also be baptized.

Now in verse 15 God renames Sarah as well, but this change is more subtle since both forms meant Princess. It is believed that her former name meant My Princess, as if God was expanding her royalty to many rather than one.

When Abraham heard God say that Sarah, who was 90 years old, would physically bear a child, he laughed. God seems to have ignored that for now, but later he asks why Sarah also laughed, and she was embarrased at being called out for it. Why God only did that to her and not Abraham, scripture doesn’t say. But it does say that God would also bless Ishmael, though he would only establish his covenant with Isaac.

In time it would turn out as God warned: Ishmael would be a wild and hostile man, who would not be included in the covenant with Abraham. Thus we see the separation and distinction even among Abraham’s physical children, and the importance of the promise extending through only the line of Sarah to Isaac.

Knowing all this, the term Abrahamic religions should make us cringe. Abraham did not pass on any religion, and his obedience to the one true God only continued with Isaac and his line, not Ishmael and his line. We will see elsewhere in the Old Testament that only Israel could trace physical lineage back to the faith of Abraham through Isaac and his son Jacob— but not through Jacob’s twin brother Esau. Only Torah Judaism and Christianity can remotely be called Abrahamic religions.

Gen. 18

This chapter begins with what most interpret as a theophany of the Trinity. Abraham sees what he treats as three ordinary men, but the context is clear that this is God. Remember in the previous section that Abraham laughed to himself at the prospect of Sarah bearing a child in her advanced years? Now in verse 12 we see that Sarah laughs as well, also not out loud, yet God calls her out for this. But God’s response in verse 14 is one we all should remember: Is anything impossible for God? Trust is everything. And that’s pretty much the gist of ch. 18.

Gen. 19

In this chapter, instead of God appearing as three men, there are two angels, and instead of going to Abraham they go to Lot. The reason for the visit is immediately clear: The men of Sodom are so evil that they want to rape the angels. As mentioned in an earlier section, these angels appeared to be ordinary men, because that’s what the Sodomites called them.

Lot goes out to try and dissuade the crowd that had surrounded his house, but what he offers them in place of the visitors are his own daughters. The casual reader recoils in horror that any father would say such a thing, especially one that in 2 Peter 2:7 is called a righteous man who was distressed by the depraved people around him.

Commentaries on this incident generally argue that Lot was bound by the social custom of protecting guests at all costs, even by only trading one sin for another deemed less offensive to the culture. They note what Peter said about Lot, but make excuses for Lot being less than perfect, since after all he had chosen to live there. Some commentators are brave enough not to buy that excuse, but the fact is that we have nothing in this context to defend Lot— though Peter defends him.

To add my own speculation to the mix, I would go with the minority view that Lot was only buying time, since he knew the men of Sodom were not interested in his daughters. If that was the case, it would be like insulting someone who demands your car by offering your child’s tricycle instead. The reaction of the men of Sodom seems to support this scenario, since they say that not only will they defile the visitors, they’ll do even worse to Lot. By this time the city had chosen to forget that it was only by virtue of Lot’s uncle Abraham that they were still there at all, but that’s also probably the only reason they had tolerated him living there, since they were known for hating all outsiders.

At this point, the angels pull Lot back into the house and strike the men outside with blindness, who wore themselves out trying to find the door. They gave Lot a chance to plead with the men pledged to marry his daughters, but the men thought he had lost his mind. By morning, the angels had to literally drag out Lot, his wife, and his daughters by the hand so they wouldn’t be destroyed. Even so, Lot begged the angels to let him stay in a little town nearby, in spite of what the Sodomites had just tried to do to him. Remember, the Bible just honestly reports things.

Then the fire and brimstone rained down from the sky over the whole area, but verse 26 is where we read about Lot’s wife becoming a pillar of salt. Some take looked back as not just a quick glance but rather a case of having second thoughts, as if she considered returning after the destruction was over. Either way, scripture doesn’t say that she was being punished by God for looking back. What Jesus said in Luke 17:32 about remembering Lot’s wife only states the folly of looking back after a person has chosen a path, especially of following him.

Meanwhile, we’re told in verse 27 that Abraham woke up that morning to see in the distance flames shooting up from the land, and smoke as if pouring from a furnace. But instead of saying more about what Abraham might have been thinking, the narrative turns to Lot and his daughters. Remembering that these women were raised in Sodom, their solution to the problem of hiding in a cave without any real prospects for finding husbands was both desperate and ill-advised. No mention is made as to what Lot thought of this afer it became obvious that his daughters were pregnant, not here or anywhere else in scripture. What it does say is that the older daughter’s son was called Moab, who would be the ancestor of the Moabites, and the younger daughter’s son was called Ben-ammi, ancestor of the Ammonites. These would turn out to be nations suffering God’s wrath for their wickedness.

So again we see that when people act on what seems best to them at the time, without bothering to ask God or at least people who seem to be wise, they can’t complain about the consequences, which can be much more long-lasting and far-reaching than we expect.

Gen. 20

Now the narrative goes back to Abraham, who at times seems to have the memory of a goldfish. He moves away to a new area, but along the way he comes to a city where he’s again afraid they’ll kill him to get Sarah for themselves. So he repeats his plan to pass her off to the local king as his sister. Not surprisingly, he gets the same result: The king is irate at Abraham for bringing potential disaster upon him and his kingdom. But maybe Abraham isn’t so dumb after all, since once again he leaves the place with riches from the king. Not the kind of business plan I’d recommend, but it worked for him.

It’s interesting, though, that the king admonishes Sarah and her handmaids to tell the truth from then on, after Abraham said that he told her to tell this half-truth wherever they go. This heathen king seems to have more moral and practical sense than Abraham in this instance.

Gen. 21

This chapter begins with the birth of Isaac, whose name means laughter, which the text says is about people rejoicing with Sarah, but is also certainly a reference to the fact that both Abraham and Sarah laughed at the prospect of having their own child in their old age.

But one day the older son Ishmael was caught mocking Isaac, just as Ishmael’s mother had mocked Isaac’s mother, so Sarah told Abraham to get rid of him and his mother. This time Abraham didn’t want to do what Sarah wanted, but God told him to listen to her, which no self-respecting man would tolerate in today’s Christianity. And the reason God gives is Abraham’s offspring had to be traced through Sarah’s son Isaac. Again we see that not all of Abraham’s natural children are heirs of the promise and covenant, which is confirmed in Gal. 4:30.

So Abraham sends them off with provisions, but when those run out, Hagar expects they’ll both die. Yet God, still showing mercy, and still showing that he keeps his promises to even a slave woman, showed her where water was. They stayed in the wilderness, while Abraham settled in the land of the Philistines.

As a historical note, when the nation of Israel was expelled from the land late in the 1st century a.d. by the Romans, they further humiliated the Jews by naming the land after their arch-enemies the Philistines— which in their language was pronounced Palestine.

Gen. 22

This chapter is where we see an incident widely condemned by Bible critics and anti-theists: God tests Abraham’s faith by telling him to sacrifice Isaac. But before we go over that, we need to clarify that Isaac was likely not a small child by this time, so please take a look at this article.

So God tells Abraham to take his nearly full-grown son, the one he kept promising him, to go to a certain place to kill him in sacrifice. But while the text here tells us nothing of what was going on in Abraham’s head, Heb. 11:19 does: Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead. This is Abraham’s deep faith: that God will keep his promises, even if it means raising someone from the dead. We do have a hint of that in verse 5, when Abraham tells the servants that came with them: Wait here while we go off to worship, and then we will return.

Be careful not to gloss over verse 8, where Abraham answers Isaac’s question about needing an animal for the sacrifice by replying, God will provide himself a sheep for the offering. This is clearly a prophetic reference to the eventual sacrifice of the Lamb of God, to which the later Passover feast would also point in more detail. Not only is this a test of Abraham’s faith, it’s a type and shadow of the Messiah. That’s the purpose of this incident— not to appease a bloodthirsty demigod as the critics allege, but to illustrate Abraham’s faith in the God who raises the dead.

Notice also that verse 11 says no sacrifice actually took place anyway. God waited till the last second, when Abraham had raised the knife in the air, to stop him. Abraham had passed the test, one that must also have been for the benefit of the angelic beings who always watch what goes on in the world. God needed no test to know what was in Abraham’s heart, but others need something tangible to point to.

To make a quick side note, isn’t this the essence of what the book of James is teaching? James doesn’t say that someone is unsaved if they don’t do certain good works, which works salvationists can’t agree on anyway. Rather, he’s saying that a hidden and inactive faith does no one any good. If God tested Abraham for the benefit of angels and people, then we too should demonstrate our faith in tangible ways— not to become saved or stay saved, but because we are saved. If we grasp the essence of the Gospel, we will naturally want to act on it. James is simply warning those who fail to do so, that they need to ask themselves if they really are saved.

Now back to Genesis, starting in verse 13. Not only does God prevent the sacrifice of Isaac, he also provides the animal: a ram caught in a thicket nearby. And when God repeats his promise of making a great nation out of Abraham, he refers to Isaac as his only son, even though he also had Ishmael. God also swears this by himself, so it can never depend on what anyone would do or fail to do in the future. But notice that starting in verse 11 God is described again as the angel of the Lord, and as noted in an earlier section, this is clearly a Person of the Trinity, and likely the pre-incarnate Christ. Who better to provide the sacrificial sheep?

Gen. 23

The rest of ch. 22 lists the children born to Abraham’s brother, so take a quick look at ch. 23 in this parallel Greek and NIV source, which is all about the death of Abraham’s wife Sarah at the age of 127.

Gen. 24

This chapter is about Abraham not wanting Isaac to get a wife from the local Canaanite women, so he sends his servant to get one from his relatives. But she is not to be taken by force; if she (or her family, per social norms) refuses, then the servant is released from his oath to carry out Abraham’s wishes.

So the servant asks God to help him identify the one, and the prayer was answered even before he finished it. He learns that the woman, Rebecca, is among Abraham’s relatives, and he is invited to spend the night among them. Her brother Laban will turn out to be a conniving man, but we’ll learn more about that later.

In verse 63 we see that just when the servant reaches home with Rebecca, Isaac has gone out to a field to meditate. Some commentaries take the word to mean pray, but since verse 67 tells us that his marriage to Rebecca comforts him after the death of his mother Sarah, the meaning may lean more toward him just processing his grief by walking alone in nature. The idea that this meditation resembled in any way the heathen practice of silencing the mind or opening chackras is complete nonsense.

Gen. 25

This chapter states that after Sarah’s death, Abraham took another wife named Keturah, who bore more children. These would be seen as legitimate by the culture, since they were by his legal wife and not a servant or concubine. Even so, they still weren’t in the line of promise through Sarah’s son Isaac. But God did include in the promise the fact that he would be the father of many nations, not just one.

Notable names of clans here include Sheba and Dedan. There are two sets of these names, one descending from Ham and the other from Abraham and Keturah, who according to Josephus settled in the Arabian peninsula. Some say that the queen of Sheba who visited King Solomon was from sub-Saharan Africa, but Sheba was in the area of modern Yemen. You can read more about it at this source, which includes more insight into modern political alliances with the Saudis and the US and UK— all of which is significant in Bible prophecy.

But as verse 5 states, Abraham’s entire estate went only to Isaac, not any of the children of Keturah. Even so, he did give some gifts to them, before sending them off to eastern lands. Then Abraham died, and we see the phrase gathered to his people. We should be careful not to read too much into ancient statements of the afterlife, even from the Old Testament, which doesn’t give a lot of detail about it. They certainly understood that their souls would rise at a final judgment, since even Job knew this and lived around this time.

Then God blessed Isaac, who certainly knew first-hand about God, seeing that God stopped him from being sacrificed when he was a young man. But the text first turns to chronicle the line of Ishmael, who according to the promise to Abraham, God also allowed to form 12 clans. Though the Greek text merely says that his descendants lived in the presence of his relatives (verse 18), the Hebrew text says they lived in hostility toward them. Remembering the prediction God gave about Ishmael being a wild and antagonistic man, this would seem to make sense.

In verse 19 the text turns back to Isaac, and his wife was barren just as his mother had been. But he prayed for her and she became pregnant with twin boys, who literally fought each other before they were born. It got so unbearable for Rebekah that she asked God why this was happening, and God replied with something every Bible student should know in order to fathom the endless feud between Arabs and Jews.

God told her that two nations were within her, one stronger than the other, and that the first one born would serve the younger one. The first was called Esau because he was covered in red hair, and the second was called Jacob because he was grasping his brother’s heel. Esau grew up to be a skilled hunter, while Jacob was a quiet man who preferred to stay home— another example of how God does not define a real man as people do. As God will point out much later when choosing a replacement for the first king Israel demands, he looks on a person’s heart, not their flesh.

Verse 28 is probably the first recorded example of Parenting Blunders 101: Each parent had their favorite child. Dad preferred the rugged outdoorsman, and mom preferred the quiet, thoughtful man. This set the stage for what is arguably the the most influential family rift in history.

Esau comes home from hunting and is famished, and homebody Jacob is in the kitchen with a freshly-made pot of red stew. This earned Esau the nickname Edom. It mainly means to boil, which was also used figuratively for someone who is arrogant or aggressive. But it’s also very similar to a word meaning red, which is why it also sounds very much like the name Adam, for the red dirt he was made from. The stew being red as well makes this nickname for the red-haired man rich with meaning. Edom would also become a tribal name, sometimes in the form Idumean.

But Jacob seizes this opportunity to make a trade for something with a priceless quality that Esau despised: his birthright as the firstborn son. The chapter ends by pointing out that Esau can’t really blame anyone but himself for this, though later he will try.

Gen. 26

Due to a famine, Isaac went to the land of the Philistines. But God told him to stay there and not continue on to Egypt, and he repeated the blessing he had given to Abraham. Now since God had directly spoken to him, you’d think that would assure him that he and his family would be safe. But you’d be wrong, because Isaac decides to carry on the family business: Since he, like his father, has a beautiful wife, he thinks the men of the land might kill him to get her, so to save his own skin he passes her off as his sister. Lather, rinse, repeat; even God must be face-palming by now. But again, he will leave there with great wealth because of this, so go figure. But the difference here is that they had been in the land for a long time before anyone finds out the truth, though somehow none of the men had touched her.

Another difference is that in this case the king didn’t give him his wealth, God did, by blessing his crops and herds. Again, go figure. But this blessing was not without cost: The Philistines became envious and tried to hurt him by plugging up all the wells his father Abraham had dug in the area. So he moved away by the king’s request, but he also reopened the wells.

Yet after discovering another well, the locals claimed it was theirs, so he moved on and dug another, with the same results. Finally he digs a well nobody else claims, and he’s able to settle. But later the king who had sent him away out of envy came to him and wanted to make an alliance, since it was clear that God was blessing him.

The chapter ends with a return to focus on Esau, who marries two Hittite women who bring endless grief to Isaac and Rebekah. And now we’ll see who else brings grief, at least to Isaac. Esau already has lost his birthright to his younger brother, but now he will lose much more.

Gen. 27

Isaac realizes that his end is near, so he calls for his favorite outdoorsman and asks him to go hunting and bring him venison to eat, after which he will give him his final blessing. But Rebekah has been eavesdropping, so she hatches a plan to make sure her favorite son gets the blessing instead. She makes a meal to taste like the venison Isaac loves, and then dresses up Jacob in animal skins to mimic Esau’s hairy arms and wild game smell, since Isaac had become blind.

So Jacob goes to Isaac, and when Isaac wonders how he got back so soon, Jacob quickly comes up with a clever excuse: It was a miracle! But the voice made him suspicious, so Isaac tells him to come closer. He still identifies the voice as Jacob’s, but the touch and smell convince him it’s Esau. Again he asks if this is really Esau, and again Jacob lies through his teeth.

Finally Isaac goes ahead and gives the blessing, but no sooner than Jacob leaves the room, in comes his brother Esau with the meal his had father asked for. When they both realize what happened, Esau becomes histerical and reminds Isaac that Jacob, the literal heel grabber, was also the figurative deceiver. Now he piles on the past incident of losing his birthright and cries some more, but still manages to get a mixed blessing from Isaac: He will be a fighter who nonetheless serves his brother, but in the end he will be free of him.

So Esau lives with a death wish on Jacob, biding his time until Isaac dies. But again, Rebekah finds out about it, so she sends him off to her brother Laban, a name you might recall from an earlier section. But she needs a cover story, so she tells Isaac that she’s sending Jacob away to get a wife from elsewhere because the Hittite women are despicable— which is technically true, but a cover story nonetheless.

Gen. 28:1-9

In spite of everything, Isaac sends off Jacob with his blessing. Esau sees this so he knows where Jacob is going. But he also sees that both his parents despise the local women, so he goes to his father’s brother Ishmael to get another wife. You can check this source for a discussion of the names and numbers of Esau’s wives, due to differences between this passage and the genealogy in Gen. 36.

Gen. 28

This is the account of Jacob’s dream of seeing a stairway reaching into the sky, with angels ascending and descending on it, and God Himself at the top. God then repeats to Jacob the blessing that had been given to Abraham and Isaac. The phrase the ground you’re lying on can’t be taken any way but literally, and neither can the references to all four compass points and the families of the earth. The Hebrew expresses this in much more engaging terms that what is typically considered a technically accurate translation, and the Greek does the same. Ancient historians put the reader into the scene, whereas English translators tend to make it as dry and boring as possible, in a misguided effort to achieve technical accuracy.

So Jacob, who for some reason had not yet formally accepted his father’s God, decided that if the journey went well for him, he would do so. It’s possible that Jacob stole his brother’s blessing because he was trying to get it by his own efforts, rather than by accepting and trusting his father’s God.

Notice also that he vows to return a tenth of everything God gives him. Is this a command for all people of all time to tithe, since it predates the laws of Moses? As we noted before in the account of Abraham giving Melchizedek a tenth of the plunder of war, nothing is said here about a continual practice, nor that it would be binding on the wages of all his descendants.

Gen. 29

Remembering that Jacob knew his brother was waiting for the chance to kill him, the encounter with God certainly changed his life from that point on. So his frame of mind is quite different as he meets his future wife Rachel, who was tending sheep. He is overjoyed, and she runs home to tell her father Laban, who rushes out to meet him.

Jacob had spent a month with Laban’s household, during which time he fell in love with Rachel. But she had an older sister named Leah, and the custom was for the older daughter to be married before the younger. But Laban neglects to tell any of this to Jacob, who accepts his offer of working for him for 7 years and then being given Rachel as his wife. Laban is delberately deceiving and defrauding Jacob, because he has no intention of marrying off Rachael before Leah.

So when Jacob finds out seven years later that Laban had done a bait and switch on him, he confronts Laban, who only then tells him about the custom. Verse 30 tells us that though Jacob grudgingly agrees to work seven more years to get Rachael, he gets her at the end of what was called the bridal week for Leah, rather than having to wait another seven years.

We could rightfully ask the sarcastic question, What could go wrong?, especially when verse 30 also tells us that Jacob loved Rachael more than Leah. Like the Bad Parenting 101 we learned about in the account of his parents, this is another disaster waiting to happen. In our culture and time, we might wonder why such problems weren’t more common, since men often slept with concubines and servants as well, with the blessing of their wives. But we should also remember that God often tolerates what he never intended or ordained and lets us deal with the consequences of our choices.

Now as if things aren’t bad enough already, God intervenes on behalf of less-loved Leah by making her fertile and Rachael barren. Leah’s first four sons would turn out to be the heads of tribes to be known eventually as the tribes of Israel, and two would be the subjects of later covenants: Levi and Judah.

Gen. 30

Shockingly, Rachel gets jealous. So she demands children from Jacob, who, again shockingly, asks her if she thinks he’s God or something. So in a familiar move with predictable results, she decides to solve the problem by having her servant bear children for her. Thus were born the heads of the tribes Dan and Naphtali.

Now begins Round 2 of the sister feud. Leah, who by this time had stopped having children, decides to have them through her servant, who gives birth to the future tribal heads Gad and Asher.

Verse 14 starts a section that makes no sense to us today: that somehow mandrake plants could make women fertile (see this discussion on the use of mandrakes as possible witchcraft). Coincidence or not, the sisters wheel and deal over them, and Leah conceives again and gives birth to Issachar and Zebulun. Her last child would be a girl named Dinah, who will turn out to be the catalyst of bloodshed later on.

After all those babies from Leah and her sevant, God decides to have pity on Rachel and she gives birth to Joseph— who will turn out to save their entire clan from extinction. One more son will come from Rachel, but first the text turns to the matter of tension between Jacob and Laban on the occasion of his completing the second set of seven years of work.

But Laban wants to keep him around because he realizes that he has only become wealthier due to God blessing Jacob. Jacob agrees to stay, but he has an ulterior motive, a plan to benefit from Laban’s greed. It’s complicated indeed. You can read the details in the section starting with verse 32.

Gen. 31

Now Laban’s sons see how it’s mainly Jacob who is getting richer, and they turn Laban against him. So God tells Jacob to return to his homeland, and this is where we find out what else has been going on: Laban has changed Jacob’s wages ten times and made a fool out of him. In spite of everything, Jacob credits God for his success, rather than his own conniving.

He pleads with his wives to come with him rather than staying with their father’s clan, and they are more than willing since Laban treated them like garbage and squandered what should have been their inheritance. But verse 19 tells us that before they all took off, unbeknownst to Laban, Rachel stole her father’s idols.

It takes Laban three days to even notice that Jacob had left, so he quickly musters an army from his clan and goes after him. But when he catches up to Jacob, God tells him to do nothing. So instead, he has a shouting match with Jacob, but Jacob had known nothing about the stolen idols. He allows a search to be done, but Rachel keeps them concealed in an ingenious way, per verse 35. The shouting match continues in verse 36, until they finally call an uneasy truce in verse 45, and Laban returns to his home.

Gen. 32

Jacob continues his travels, and along the way God appears to him again. But he knows he will have to deal with his brother Esau, so he sends messengers ahead to try and soften him up. But they return from the mission with the news that Esau is coming for them with a force of 400 men. As a precaution, Jacob divides his people into two camps, so that if one is attacked the other will escape. Then he prays to God for protection.

Still trying to appease Esau, Jacob sends ahead a gift of many animals but tells the servants to keep distance between the various herds, in the hope that a string of surprise gifts might work. Meanwhile, he sends his family and possessions to another place so he would face his brother alone and his family might have a chance to escape.

Now as we see in verse 24, he was met that night by a mysterious man who fought with him until daybreak. But the man couldn’t defeat him, so he struck one of Jacob’s hip sockets and dislocated it (this might be the first recorded case of sand-bagging). Even so, the man finally asks Jacob to let him go since the day was dawning, but Jacob responds with a very curious request for a blessing, without even knowing who this was.

But instead of a blessing, the man asks Jacob his name, and then changes it— to Israel, which means God Fights. So Jacob then asks the man who he is, but the man finally blesses him, and only then does Jacob realize that this was God appearing in human form. The timing certainly pertains to Jacob’s impending meeting with Esau.

Ch. 32 ends with Jacob limping due to his dislocated hip, and it explains that this is why the Israelites wouldn’t eat the tendon attached to the hip of any animal they ate. The text still refers to him as Jacob for a while, even though God changed his name to Israel.

Gen. 33

Finally the big day comes when Jacob meets up with Esau, who is coming toward him with 400 men. His last effort at appeasement is to divide his people into three groups in a line: servants first, Lea and her children second, and Rachel and Joseph last, with Jacob himself at the front of the line. Notice that Jacob puts his least-valued people first, in case Esau attacks. We can assume that jealousy continued to grow in Jacob’s household because of his obvious favoritism. And we should learn the lesson that the first in line isn’t necessarily the most important, but the most expendable.

The resource Constable’s Notes has a great statement about faith: Faith does not mean trusting God to work for us in spite of our irresponsibility; that is presumption. Faith means trusting God to work for us when we have acted responsibly, realizing that without His help we will fail. Many Christians today think that faith is practically a means of controlling God and putting him under obligation to us, and if we don’t get what we want, it’s because we lacked enough faith. This leads to blaming the victim when it comes to healing or deliverance. Rather than such presumption, faith is trust in God to do what we cannot, after we’ve done what we were responsible for doing.

So on his way to meet Esau, Jacob stops seven times to bow before him, not knowing what will happen. But to everyone’s great surprise, Esau gives Jacob a big hug and they both cry. Talk about an anticlimax to a story! But then, maybe all that preparation actually worked… or maybe this was God’s doing.

So after a big meet-and-greet, Esau returns home to Mt. Seir, while Jacob moves at a slower pace due to all the young people and animals, but to a place called Succoth. God wants him to go to the family homeland, and he still doesn’t know if Esau has genuinely forgiven him or is just luring him to let down his guard. Eventually he arrives in Canaan and camps near a city called Shechem.

Gen. 34

Do you remember that daughter of Leah named Dinah? She decides to try and make friends with the local women, but a Hivite man, named the same as the city for some reason, sees her and rapes her. Then he decides he’s in love with her and wants to marry her, and only then does he decide that things should be done properly according to custom. Selective morality is nothing new.

But when Jacob found out what had happened to Dinah, he waited till his sons came in from tending the livestock to decide what to do, if anything. Constable points out the contrast between Jacob’s passive non-reaction to Dinah’s rape with his later bitter lament over what he believes to be Joseph’s death. If actions speak louder than words, inaction shouts. Far too many Christians in positions of influence show no concern for sins or heresies committed by either their followers or their associates. They should not think that just because God delays his judgment, that it will never come, or that he approves of them and their ministries.

Now Jacob and his sons were all together when Shechem and his father arrived to try and offer a large sum of money to appease them and still keep Dinah, but Jacob’s sons followed in their father’s footsteps by making up false pretenses for the deal: All the men of their city would have to be circumcised, and only then could the two groups of people intermarry.

Verse 24 is where the true intentions of Jacob’s sons are made known: All the men of Shechem were in pain and unable to defend themselves when Dinah’s brothers went there and slaughtered them all. But neither the brothers nor Shechem had considered the consequences of their actions. In verse 30 Jacob tells them that not only have they made his people a stench to the locals for breaking an agreement made in good faith, they have also just motivated the much larger forces of the area to attack them. Even so, the brothers justify their actions in defending the honor of their sister.

At least the brothers showed some indignation on behalf of their sister, but they should not have used such deception, and they should have warned everyone else so they’d have time to get to safety or muster an army. The great irony here is that Jacob’s main objection was to this deception, when they likely learned it from his examples.

As Constable points out, this is the likely reason Jacob will eventually skip over these two of his sons when giving his final blessing, which will go to Judah— the tribe from which David and then Jesus would come. Time and again we see how God works through and around his chosen people to keep his promises, in spite of all they do to thwart them. This holds true for us today as Christians; we should never take God’s blessings and mercies as tacit approval of our choices.

Gen. 35

Now God has to step in, so he tells Jacob to go immediately to Bethel. Curiously, many in his entourage had still been holding on to their idols, but now they have to give them up. As they travel, other towns along the way leave them alone because they know enough to fear God. Eventually they come to the place where Jacob had that vision of the stairway reaching to the sky, and it is there that Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, dies and is buried.

In verse 10 we see God reinforcing Jacob’s name change to Israel and his promise to Abraham and Isaac, which again has to do with physical land and genetic descendants. In verse 16 Rachel goes into labor before they reach what would become known as Bethlehem, and she gives birth to another leader of the tribes of Israel. But her labor is very difficult, and with her dying breath she names her son Ben-Oni meaning son of my suffering. Jacob decides to name him Benjamin instead, meaning son of my right hand. It’s from this point on that Jacob is, at least sometimes, called Israel in the text.

After this is when we begin to see the character of Israel’s sons: Reuben decides it’d be a great idea to sleep with his father’s concubine Bilhah. This was likely more than what we think: He was trying to establish leadership over the clan. But the text itself simply reports the incident, and that Jacob knew about it but again did nothing, then abruptly moves on to a genealogy.

What we’re seeing so far in all these accounts of multiple wives and concubines, is that to the ancients, sex was mostly about power and property. Women, being physically weaker in general, and vulnerable due to the bearing and weaning of children, had no real choice in the matter and seem to have just accepted their lot in life. But we must not accept the leap from there to the trite phrase, God’s natural order, since God cannot be blamed for what human society decides is proper. When Moses wrote at the end of Gen. 2 that a man leaves his parents to join to his wife, and they become one flesh, he was only talking about two people, not a man with a harem, and that rather than owning or possessing or controlling his wife the man joins to her. That is God’s natural order. And we’ve seen plenty of evidence so far why God’s way is better, though he makes many concessions and helps us through our unwise decisions.

At the end of ch. 35 we learn that Isaac was still alive when Jacob arrived home, but he finally died and both Jacob and Esau buried him. And this is the time Jacob has likely been dreading, since Esau had said long ago that he would kill him after Isaac died.

Gen. 36

Finally, in another anticlimax, Esau just moves away with all his people, and the rest of the chapter is his genealogy. Though many names are listed, we aren’t given their ages or lifespans. But two of the names— the Edomites and the Amalekites— will appear again in the recorded history of Israel. At last, by Esau’s leaving and Jacob’s staying, Jacob does indeed inherit their father’s estate.

Gen. 37

Ch. 37 begins the detailed account of Jacob’s son Joseph, whose life would turn out to be an amazing type and shadow of the coming Messiah. Though Judah son of Leah will inherit the promise, Joseph son of Rachel will foreshadow the ultimate salvation of his people. Again referencing Constable’s notes, Joseph will eventually get a double portion of his father’s inheritance, but it will be Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh who become tribal heads of Israel, completing the twelve.

The chapter begins in verse 2 by saying that Jacob’s son Joseph is 17 years old and helping his older brothers by shepherding the sheep. But the family tradition of favoring one son over another has made his brothers hate him, and all the more since their father gave him a special tunic that signifies royalty or privilege. There doesn’t seem to be a firm concensus on whether it had many colors or was just ornate or fancy, but it indicates a special position either way.

The incident where he tattled on his wicked brothers certainly didn’t help, but it was about to get orders of magnitude worse. As Constable points out, God’s revelations have transitioned from physical appearances, to dreams and visions, and finaly to what is called providence or divine activity hidden from our view. In this context the second method is predominant, since God gives visuals but does not speak.

In verse 5 Joseph has a dream and immediately blurts it out to his brothers. Whether he did this because of knowing the dream was from God, or by arrogance or immaturity, we don’t know. But he has a second dream in verse 9 which gives the same message: His brothers, and then even his parents, will bow down to him. The repetition confirms the message, which infuriates his brothers even more, and it has his father beginning to wonder what’s going on with his favorite son. So he rebukes him, probably for the first time in his life, but he also seems to wonder what it might mean.

So once again we see God intervening to choose the lowliest and most despised for his purposes, based on inner qualities and not the flesh. Society picks the strong, the persuasive, the charismatic, even the arrogant and oppressive. But what people think is an ugly duckling often turns out to be a beautiful swan. God doesn’t pick the already-formed diamond, but rather the lump of coal that needs to be put under tremendous pressure to become the diamond. Yet Christians through the centuries have not paid attention to God’s ways, preferring instead to follow pied pipers. A. W. Tozer, no perfect theologian by any means, nonetheless had a good statement about this over 50 years ago:

Many tender-minded Christians fear to sin against love by daring to inquire into anything that comes wearing the cloak of Christianity and breathing the name of Jesus. They dare not examine the credentials of the latest prophet to hit their town lest they be guilty of rejecting something which may be of God. They timidly remember how the Pharisees refused to accept Christ when He came, and they do not want to be caught in the same snare, so they either reserve judgment or shut their eyes and accept everything without question. This is supposed to indicate a high degree of spirituality. But in sober fact it indicates no such thing. It may indeed be evidence of the absence of the Holy Spirit.

Gullibility is not synonymous with spirituality. Faith is not a mental habit leading its possessor to open his mouth and swallow everything that has about it the color of the supernatural. ‘Try the spirits’ is a command of the Holy Spirit to the Church. We may sin as certainly by approving the spurious as by rejecting the genuine. And the current habit of refusing to take sides is not the way to avoid the question.

One other point to make before we go on, is that the symbolism of the sun, moon, and stars in Joseph’s dream is referenced in Revelation ch. 12. This passge in Genesis makes it clear that the one in Revelation is describing the nation of Israel, not necessarily a prophetic sign in the sky involving the constellation Virgo, as some believe. Revelation refers to the Old Testament hundreds of times, so if we truly want to understand Bible prophecy, we must be familiar with passages such as this one in Genesis.

Now back to the text, and in verse 13 Jacob sends Joseph to check up on his brothers— as one might send a lamb to supervise a pack of wolves. What was he thinking? Not much, because as soon Joseph gets within eyesight of his brothers, they begin to plot his death. But Reuben, surely by divine providence and not a sudden twinge of conscience, tells them just to take him captive. He was actually deceiving them though, because in verse 22 it says he planned to release Joseph secretly to be returned to their father.

When Joseph gets there, his brothers take away his fancy tunic and throw him into a dry well. Then along comes a caravan on its way to Egypt (verse 25), and Judah sees the opportunity to sell Joseph to them so they can dispense with him without killing him themselves. But Reuben was away when this all happened, so when he returns and realizes that Joseph is missing, he knows he’s doomed, since as the oldest son his father would hold him responsible for Joseph’s safety.

So in keeping with family tradition, the brothers hatch a cover story (verse 29). They put the blood of a goat all over the fancy tunic, then take it to Jacob and say, Hey, we found this, see if you think it belonged to your son. They couldn’t even call him their brother, they hated him so much. And as Constable points out, the irony is that it was the skin of goats that fooled Isaac into giving his blessing to their father.

Israel sees this and presumes that Joseph had been torn apart by wild animals, so he goes into deep mourning for a long time. This is the most emotion he has ever shown, another indication to the brothers that they were still second class, even with Joseph out of the way. Constable also points out that Jacob should have remembered the dreams at this point.

The chapter ends by reporting that Joseph was eventually sold to an Egyptian official named Potiphar, who according to Constable was likely the captain of Pharaoh’s bodyguards and executioners.

Gen. 38

Now the text turns away for the time being to focus on Judah and his children. He picks a woman named Tamar (verse 6) to marry his oldest son Er, but God kills Er because he’s so wicked. Per the tradition of carrying on the bloodline of the childless heir, Judah gives Tamar to Er’s brother Onan. But as verse 9 tells us, Onan doesn’t want his estate to go to his brother, so he refuses to impregnate Tamar, and again God steps in and puts the man to death. By now we should be getting the impression that God takes his promises of physical heirs very seriously.

At this point, Judah doesn’t want to see any more of his sons killed, and apparently it never crosses his mind to tell them not to be wicked. So he tells Tamar to remain in his household as a widow until his young son grows up. But he was really only stalling, and likely hoping Tamar would not want to wait that long.

Verse 12 tells us that after a long time had passed, Judah’s wife dies, and then after he mourns for her, he goes off to a certain place to sheer sheep. Tamar, who sees that the young son had grown up but was not being married to her, decides to carry on the family tradition and use deception to get what was her legal right and Judah’s responsibility. Constable explains that it was indeed acceptable for a father to have a child with his daughter-in-law if he had no more sons for her to marry. But Judah had no concern for her rights or his duties and promises.

So Tamar changes her clothing from widow to prostitute and sits in the square of the city where Judah is headed, keeping her face veiled so she won’t be recognized. Then in verse 16 when Judah asks to sleep with her, she first demands payment. He promises her a goat, but she wants a security deposit in case the goat never arrives, so she demands his ring, his necklace, and his staff. The text doesn’t explain it now, but later we’ll find out that she knows exactly what she’s doing.

After she realizes she’s pregnant by Judah, she changes back into the widow clothes and returns home, per verse 20. Meanwhile, Judah sends the goat to where he had met what he thought was a cult prostitute, but she is nowhere to be found, and the locals tell the shepherd who brought the goat that there was never a prostitute there in the first place! So the shepherd returns to Judah with the goat, and Judah decides to just hush up the whole affair, likely due to the embarrassment of being swindled by a woman… not because he had been with a prostitute.

According to verse 24, three months pass before Tamar can’t hide her condition any longer, and she is reported to Judah as being guilty of prostitution. Judah demands that she be burned to death— never mind that he himself had no qualms about going to prostitutes, even though he could have as many wives and concubines as he could support. How many people today would stand for their spouse having so many partners? How would we feel? This double standard has continued through history and in most cultures, even when society pretends to disapprove.

Now on the way to her execution, Tamar sends Judah a message: Tell me if you recognize these things I got from the man who impregnated me! As we’d say today, Busted! Judah knows he can’t hide the truth anymore, but rather than trying to lie about it as we’ve come to expect, he actually admits his own guilt and Tamar’s righteousness. This whole sordid mess was his own fault, and the woman he had treated like garbage turned out to have the moral high ground.

But we can’t end this chapter and return to Joseph’s account without one more proof of God’s intervention and his choosing of the younger over the older. In verse 27 Tamar gives birth to twins, and as the first baby’s arm appears the midwife quickly ties a red ribbon around it to mark him as the older child. But the baby retracts his arm and out comes his brother! The actual firstborn of God’s choosing was named Perez, who would go on to become the ancestor of David.

One thing we can say about this whole family line is that there are many repeating patterns and ironies, and that God clearly has his hand in all this. Above all, it emphasizes God’s seriousness in keeping his promises to Abraham, and the purity of the line through Isaac and Jacob, along with his valuing of women— which, again, is not the sort of fiction any Jew would have invented.

This needs to be kept in mind when we read about the laws of Israel that forbid them to mix with other nations. We, and they, dare not presume that their being the Chosen People has had anything to do with their moral superiority. So they should not look down on Gentiles, and Gentiles should not look down on Jews, or on the other extreme, turn a blind eye to their sins. Chosen they are, and God is not finished with them as a people, but it’s for his glory and not theirs. One thing we can say so far and in the chapters to come, is that this plot has more twists than a bag of pretzels.

Gen. 39

The first 6 verses here describe Joseph’s having been sold to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard, and that since Joseph’s arrival his household had prospered. So Potiphar appoints him as manager over his whole estate and the future was looking bright for Joseph, even as a slave. But soon we’ll see that no good deed goes unpunished. Joseph had grown up to be a handsome and well-built man, and Potiphar’s wife wants him. But unlike his brothers, Joseph has high moral standards and refuses her many attempts to seduce him. So she decides to give him a choice between giving in to her or giving up his life. She makes everyone else leave the house before Joseph arrives to work one morning, then seizes him by his outer garment and tries one last time. But he leaves the garment in her hands and runs away. So the next thing she seizes is the opportunity to tell everyone that he had tried to rape her, and that he only ran because she screamed for help, which no one could confirm or deny since she had told them all to leave the house. Nobody would think of considering the testimony of a slave, so when Potiphar hears his wife’s story, he is enraged and throws Joseph into prison.

As Constable’s notes point out for verse 19, this event prefigures the eventual betrayal and enslavement of the nation of Israel in Egypt. But though it looks like the end of the story for Joseph, God has other plans. Just as Potiphar had prospered with Joseph around, now the prison also prospers, and the warden puts him in charge of the whole prison!

Gen. 40

Meanwhile, Pharaoh had thrown two members of his court into that prison: his cupbearer and his baker. After they’d been there a while, they each have a dream that leaves them bewildered. So Joseph asks them what’s bothering them and to tell him about the strange dreams, because somehow he knows that God will give him the interpretations.

We see in verse 9 that the cupbearer’s dream turns out to mean he will be restored to his job, so the baker thinks that he too will be released and restored. But instead, as we see in verse 16, the dream turns out to mean he will be executed. Joseph is nothing if not brutally honest, and everything he had said came true. But though he asks the cupbearer to put in a good word for him to Pharaoah, he is forgotten and abandoned. Not only do good deeds not go unpunished, they can also be ignored and forgotten.

Gen. 41

Two years pass and then Pharaoh himself has a bewildering dream, one that his soothsayers can’t interpret. Only then (verse 8) does the cupbearer remember what Joseph had asked him to do, but this delay is undoubtedly God’s doing.

So Pharaoh summons Joseph from prison and tells him he heard he can interpret dreams. But Joseph, ever mindful of the fact that he does so only by the gift of God, boldly gives God all the credit. After telling him the dream, God gives Joseph the interpretation: Egypt is about to experience seven years of abundance, followed by seven years of extreme famine. In fact, the famine will consume that whole part of the world. So he advises Pharaoh to choose someone to oversee the collection and storage of grain during the abundant years, so they won’t starve during the famine years.

To Joseph’s likely surprise, Pharaoh chooses him to be the savior of Egypt, to be second only to Pharaoh himself. He has gone from favorite son, to hated brother, to slave, to business manager, to prisoner, and now to what is essentially vice president of the Egyptian empire— and all by the age of 30, a real a roller-coaster ride. We should stop to realize that not only is Joseph’s life to this point a prophetic picture of the Messiah to come, including even his approximate age at his being lifted up, it also prefigures the life of the prophet Daniel. He too would be a captive who rises to power in a foreign land, due to interpreting the king’s dream when no one else could, and would demonstrate his character at every turn.

So Joseph gets busy immediately seeing to the storage of grain, and in the meantime he starts a family of his own. He has two sons, Manasseh (God made me move beyond my former life) and Ephraim (God blessed me in the land of my persecution). Their mother was the daughter of the priest of On, whom the Greeks called Heliopolis. These two sons would be the heads of the last 2 tribes of Israel. As with the dreams of Pharaoh’s prisoners, Joseph’s own dream also comes true as he had said: People from Egypt and also the surrounding nations start coming to him to buy food.

Gen. 42

We haven’t had enough plot twists yet, so now the text picks up again with Jacob and the rest of the family. The famine has reached them too, and one day Jacob says to his sons, You gonna sit around and stare at each other till we all die, or go down to Egypt and buy some food? So he sends off all his sons except the youngest, Benjamin, because he remembers what happened the last time he sent a youngster to be with the rest of his sons.

Remember those dreams that had gotten Joseph in so much trouble back home? Here he sees the beginning of their fulfillment, at least 20 years later: His older brothers are bowing down to him. But they don’t realize who he is, so he decides to test them by playing the role of harsh Egyptian tyrant. The memory of how they treated him must have made that fairly easy to do. But fear of the death penalty, as pointed out by Constable, would make them honest. Joseph accuses them of being spies, then detains them until they agree to fetch their youngest brother, whose safe passage would stand in stark contrast to his own experiences.

The one they had sold into slavery was now throwing them into prison. But after three days, possibly to represent the three years of his own imprisonment in Egypt, Joseph cuts them a little slack: They can all go except one, so they can bring grain to their starving people. It’s at this point that the brothers finally see what’s happening to them as revenge from God over how they had treated Joseph, who they still didn’t recognize. And Joseph knows this because he has been pretending not to know their language by using an interpreter.

Upon hearing that his brothers have a smidgen of conscience after all, he leaves the room to cry, proof that he never hated them, or anyone else who had mistreated him. Then he composes himself and goes back to the room to select Simeon as the one to be handcuffed and thrown into prison while the rest return home. This choice may have been, per Constable’s notes, due to his overhearing Reuben say that he had prevented his brothers from killing him. But he isn’t done dealing with them just yet: He frames them by having the money they paid for the grain put into each sack.

On their way home, they stop to feed their donkeys and are horrified to see their money in the sack they open. So they begin to wonder what God is up to— as if God had ever mattered to them before. But at least they know why it’s happening, unlike many today who think that they can ignore God as long as things are going well, then hate God for not rushing to help them when bad things happen.

Now when they get home and tell their father Jacob all this, they open the rest of their sacks of grain only to see that all their money is there! Now Jacob is also afraid of what this all means, since at this point he has essentially lost yet another son, Simeon. When the food runs out, the brothers will have to go back to Egypt and bring the money in the sacks plus more to buy more grain. They also intend to take their youngest brother Benjamin with them per the Egyptian official’s orders, but Jacob refuses to release him to them.

Gen. 43

Now the brothers cannot return without Benjamin, so they wait until the food is gone and their father tries again to send them to Egypt without him. Jacob demands to know why they even told the official they had another brother, but they reply that they were asked a lot of questions about their family and had no way of knowing Benjamin would be at risk.

This time it’s Judah who guarantees Benjamin’s safety, and he adds that they could have gone to Egypt and back twice by now, had Jacob not dragged his feet. This is the point at which scripture considers Judah the head of the clan, rather than his older brothers, per Constable’s notes on this passage. Finally Jacob relents, apparently forgetting all the promises and miracles of the past, resigning himself to die in grief from the loss of his sons. But he sweetens the deal by sending along lavish gifts to the Egyptian official, as he had done to appease his own brother Esau many years before.

When they arrive in Egypt and stand before Joseph, he sees that Benjamin is there too, so he tells his steward to invite them to his house for lunch. They are naturally afraid and expect to be accused again and kept as slaves permanently. So they plead with the steward for mercy and explain all that had happened. But the steward does something completely inexplicable: He assures the brothers that all is well, and adds that their God must have put the silver in their sacks of grain. He then gets Simeon out of prison to join them and makes sure they’re comfortable.

Taking this as a positive sign, they prepare all the gifts they brought, and again they bow low before Joseph when he arrives. Now at the sight of Benjamin he hurries out to cry again, then composes himself and returns. But what happens next is truly bizarre to the brothers: They’re seated at the dinner table in order by age. And the fact that they were eating with the Egyptian official meant, in that culture, that they were being assured of safety in spite of everything. Also, Benjamin is given 5 times as much food as the rest, which as Constable explains, is a very high compliment. It was likely a test of the older brothers’ jealousy, since again the youngest was being given the most honor.

Gen. 44

Joseph’s final test of his brothers’ sincerity of repentance for what they did to him would center on Benjamin, who was just greatly honored in front of them all by being given five times as much food as his brothers at the luncheon Joseph had invited them to. Joseph tells his steward to load up the brothers with food and provisions, and to also add the silver to the sacks as before. But this time he also has his own special silver cup put into Benjamin’s sack of food, then sends the brothers on their way home.

Shortly after they leave, he tells the steward to run after them and accuse Benjamin of stealing the silver cup. He is to say that the cup was used for divination, but that doesn’t mean Joseph actually did so, and why would Joseph need it anyway since he already had God’s gift of interpreting dreams? Rather, it seems that Joseph is still playing his role as a worshiper of heathen gods, who could find out their plot by divination, but he’s framing it to look like they stole the divination cup so he couldn’t do that.

The steward catches up to them and does as he was ordered, and while he searches their food sacks, the brothers offer themselves as slaves and the one found with the silver cup to be executed. But the steward says he will only take the thief as a slave and let the rest go. Now when the thief turns out to be Benjamin, the brothers tear their clothes in despair and return to the city. Unbeknownst to them, Joseph had set up a test to see if they’d still abandon their little brother to save their own skin, but they have passed this test. Even so, they are now experiencing the depth of grief they had caused their father so long ago, and both instances had come through false pretenses.

In verse 14 they all arrive at Joseph’s house and once again bow to the ground before him. They don’t even try to plead their case anymore but have resigned themselves to what they expect will be their fate, deserved not from the current false accusations of theft but from their past sins.

Joseph repeats what the steward had said about letting them go but keeping Benjamin as a slave, but Judah pleads with him to listen to their whole story. Now keep in mind that Joseph never knew what they had said to Jacob until the famine, and only now does he learn that they had told him Joseph had been killed by wild animals. Judah adds that his father will literally die of grief if they return without Benjamin.

Notice also that in contrast to his having left his brother Joseph to die, Judah offers to die for his brother Benjamin. It is this willingness to sacrifice himself for his brother that would be ultimately fulfilled in the Messiah. All the trials and strife have refined the entire clan into a people who, at least for the time being, exemplify the kingdom of God. If only modern Christian leaders would also choose to be brought to the point of refinement, so they too could model the King whose name they bear.

Gen. 45

At this point Joseph can stand it no longer, so he orders his staff to leave him alone with his brothers. But he breaks down and begins to sob so loudly that all of Pharaoh’s household can hear him anyway. Finally he tells them who he is and he asks if his father is still alive, but the brothers are too dumbfounded to speak, probably also because he’s speaking their language.

Then Joseph displays his exemplary character again by showing great forgiveness, since it was all God’s plan to save his people from the famine, which would last another five years. The lesson we should learn from this is that God often allows great hardship and tragedy, not to break us but to discipline us and to achieve a greater goal. As the apostle Paul would put it much later, the sufferings of this life are not worthy to be compared to the honor to be revealed in us in eternity. We should strive to be like Joseph also in the way he recognized God’s hand in the events of his life, ordinary though our own lives might seem.

One might wonder why God would have had to take such measures at all, but we could have asked that question back in chapter 3 when Adam and Eve first sinned. God could have snapped his fingers and simply created us all in our eternal state, but surely such a thing would be unworthy of the God who created us in his image. Only a love freely given from a life genuinely lived would be worthy of God.

Constable’s notes include a short list of the many parallels between the life of Joseph and that of the Messiah, and I will add some of the other points to his list here:

Once again we are reminded that God can be trusted to have good reasons for the pain, tragedy, grief, hardship, and bewilderment of life.

Finally, Joseph’s brothers― who couldn’t say a kind word to him before― are able to talk, and we can only imagine what they said. Meanwhile, the word spread throughout Pharaoh’s household that Joseph’s brothers had come, so Pharaoh tells Joseph to spare no expense in seeing to it that all of his brothers, their families and possessions, and their father, all move to Egypt and settle in the best land.

Joseph sends them off with a gentle warning not to fight among themselves alone the way. It takes a bit of convincing for Jacob to believe that Joseph is alive and well, but finally he agrees to move to Egypt.

Gen. 46

Along the way, Jacob gets a visit from God at the place where he had that vision of stairs to the sky so many years before. God tells him that this move to Egypt is his doing, and that his people will become a great nation as promised. But though he himself will die there, his descendants will eventually return to Canaan. Constable points out that the text calls him Israel again here, after he finally believes his son is alive after all. Also, his joy at the realization could be compared to the future joy of the women when they would realize that Jesus had risen from the dead.

Most of the rest of this chapter is a list of all the families, which the Greek text totals as 75 people rather than the Hebrew text’s 70. The difference is possibly due to the Greek text including Joseph’s family, and this is the number also given by the first Christian martyr Stephen in Acts 7:14. Then Joseph meets them in Goshen and they all have a good cry. He also tells them that Egyptians find shepherds repulsive, which would turn out to aid in the people of Israel remaining separate from the surrounding culture, as opposed to their mingling with other people in Canaan.

Gen. 47

Joseph then takes five of his brothers to see Pharaoh, where they repeat what Joseph advised them about their being shepherds. Not only does Pharaoh grant the best land to them, he also puts them in charge of his own flocks and herds, especially since his own people considered that kind of work beneath them. Finally Joseph presents his father to Pharoah, and Jacob gives him a blessing. Pharoah sees to it that he and all his people have whatever they need.

Meanwhile, the famine is reaching the point where Egypt and Canaan have run out of money to buy food, so Joseph tells them to start selling their animals, and when the famine still continues, they have nothing left to offer but themselves and their land. The result was that everyone had to move to the cities where the food was stored, and Pharaoh owned everything and everyone. Only the priests and the Israelites were left untouched. Clearly, God’s promise to Abraham that he would father a great nation and also bless Gentiles is at least partially fulfilled in all this. And Jacob, who had taken his father’s blessing by deceit, would not live as long as his father or grandfather, and would not die in the Promised Land. As for Pharaoh calling the land Rameses, see Constable’s notes on various theories dealing with the fact that the Pharaoh by that name had not yet been born.

This chapter ends with the account of how the group of 75 souls grows exponentially in Egypt, and Jacob’s eventual demand that Joseph must swear to take his bones back to the Promised Land when he dies. This is indisputable proof that Jacob believes God’s promises at the end of his life.

Gen. 48

Now Joseph presents his sons to Jacob, who formally adopts them as his own, making them equal heirs with his other 11 sons. In this way, Joseph actually receives the double portion of birthright normally given to the oldest son. As Constable points out, this also symbolically makes Joseph on an equal level with his father, and he was actually the oldest son of Jacob’s intended first wife Rachael. This is probably why the text has Jacob mention Rachel in verse 7, which otherwise seems to break the flow of Jacob’s train of thought.

After this, Jacob pronounces his blessing on Joseph’s two sons, but he blesses the younger more than the older, which at this point should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with how God has a habit of going against social norms. Joseph sees this and presumes that his nearly-blind father has put his right hand on the younger son, so he tries to move Jacob’s hands, but Jacob refuses and proceeds with the blessings. This habit of laying on hands was the ancient method of indicating spiritual blessing or power, and especially in this situation, a formal legal act.

Gen. 49

Now Jacob is ready to pronounce prophetic blessings (and sometimes shame) on all of his own 12 sons, in order by age. Reuben had been the strong firstborn son, but his immorality and wildness mean that he will no longer be prominent— a process we’ve already seen in motion. Constable notes also that the tribe of Reuben would turn out to never figure prominently in the future of Israel.

Next he addresses Simeon and Levi together, the two who had plotted and executed the slaughter of the men of Shechem. Not only are they rebuked for their quickness to shed blood, but also for having a habit of maiming oxen for fun. Their tribes would turn out to be without their own land, reduced to being scattered among the other tribes. But we will see eventually that the tribe of Levi redeems itself in the time of Moses.

In contrast to the others so far, Jacob blesses Judah as the lion who rules over both his brothers and his enemies. His descendants would always include rulers and leaders until the very day the Messiah comes, as indicated in verse 10. However, this does not mean there will be no interruptions. After all, not even Judah was such a great person all his life, but he was the one to repent and unify his brothers. Verse 11 continues the blessing of Judah, but in terms that undeniably point to the Messiah exclusively, pointing back as they do to the end of verse 10. This is where predictions are made about him tying a donkey’s colt to a choice vine and washing his robes in wine. We may be thinking this refers to his crucifixion and death, but Constable points out that these terms refer instead to the eventual Millennial Kingdom, being symbols of prosperity, blessing, and security. This is further supported by the descriptions of his eyes and teeth. However, we can probably take it as symbolic of Jesus’ death as well, or even the winepress of the wrath of God during the future Tribulation.

Now Jacob moves on to the other sons, each of whose blessing is a kind of play on words with their name. Zebulun is promised seafront property, Issachar will excel at farming, and Dan will be a judge in Israel. But he adds that Dan will also be like a snake along the road who lies in ambush. It seems from verses 17-18 that the victims will be his own brothers, who cry out to God to be delivered from him. This is the reason many believe the future Antichrist will come from the tribe of Dan. William Dankenbring, who in my opinion has done some good research on the integrity of the Greek text over the Hebrew, nonetheless argues primarily from extra-Biblical sources. But they carry no weight in my estimation, since they’re claiming to be prophetic rather than simply historical.

The few Biblical citations besides this passage include Rev. 7:5-8 which omits Dan from the list of the tribes of Israel, and Jeremiah 8:16-17 which speaks of Dan, the tribe farthest north in in Israel. But that passage also says Dan would be the first to sight the enemy approaching, and it’s the city of Dan rather than the whole tribe. Yet it also speaks of God sending serpents to bite the people of Israel, matching Jacob’s words here. So while it’s remotely possible to make a connection to the Antichist with the tribe of Dan, there is certainly no firm or clear scriptural basis.

Now Jacob moves on to Gad, but in spite of the reference there to attacking the heels of raiders, nobody tries to say that the Antichrist must come from the tribe of Gad. This inconsistency helps us to not be careless in listening to such claims. Asher is simply promised riches, and Naphtail is promised what seems to mean some kind of admiration or attraction.

Then it’s Joseph’s turn, and he is described as the victim of oppression who was ultimately vindicated and avenged by God, who is referred to as the mighty one of Jacob. The final blessing on Benjamin is of a successful warrior. Then Jacob gives instructions about where he wants his final burial place, near the graves of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah. And no sooner than Jacob finishes these instructions and blessings, he breathes his last.

Gen. 50

Joseph then orders the Egyptian undertakers to prepare his father’s body for burial, which undoubedly involved mummification, since the process took forty days. Then after the additional seventy-day period of mourning, Joseph was granted permission to go to Canaan to bury his father. So off he went, along with a large entourage including his Egyptian household and all his own brothers. The locals, thinking they were all Egyptians, named the place after that event. Note in the Hebrew text that their word for Egypt is Mizraim, which refers to Egypt being divided into two parts, upper and lower.

Now that their father is gone, Joseph’s brothers are afraid that he’ll avenge himself anyway. So they make up a story about Jacob telling them to tell Joseph to forgive them, and Joseph cries as he hears this. He explains again that he can’t be angry with them since it was all in God’s plan to save the entire nation.

In spite of being the second youngest, Joseph realizes in time that he will be next to die. So he makes his brothers swear to take his bones with them in the distant future, after God comes to rescue them— a statement which must have sounded very strange at the time, since they were well-protected and, as far as we know, not aware of the prophecy of their eventual enslavement. So though Joseph’s body is embalmed per Egyptian custom, he is not buried but placed in a coffin to await his eventual departure to the Promised Land when his people will return there.

This concludes our study of the book of Genesis. We have learned that God chooses to work both through and around his people for their ultimate good— or ultimate downfall— depending on their choices. We’ve also learned that in this process God habitually chooses the least likely vessels to carry out his plans. His focus is always on character, though never at the expense of his promises of physical blessings. He looks past a person’s present condition to their future potential, a theme that will be reinforced again in the life of David the despised son of Jesse, and then the lowly town of Bethlehem.

Genesis Resources

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