(last edited 4/16/18)
The word "genesis" means "beginnings." In this book we will find the first mention of important concepts as creation, sin, marriage and family, murder, sacrifice, and the beginning of civilization, languages, and culture. As in any good book, the main characters are introduced--God, man, and Satan--as well as the conflict between God and Satan and between God and man. We will follow this conflict throughout the Bible and see how it is resolved. We will find the first promise of the Messiah to come, Jesus Christ.
The first 11 chapters cover about 2,000 years or so and are a short history of the earth. The rest of the book covers only about 350 years and follows one particular family in depth for several generations.
Genesis was written by Moses and is the first of a section of five books called the books of Moses. Obviously Moses wasn't there to see these things, but even in those early days, oral and written information was handed down and preserved. And the Bible tells us that God inspired the various Bible writers to write what He wanted them to write. Archaeological evidence and fulfilled Bible prophecy have proven the Bible to be reliable, and point to the fact that it could not have been written by mere man.
BEFORE WE DO A VERSE STUDY, LET'S TALK ABOUT SOME ISSUES:
Did the six days of creation literally happen that way? Or is it allegory, poetry? (Christians disagree here.) Does it really matter if it happened this way? Might the Bible not really mean six 24-hour days? No. See what the Bible teaches about the Sabbath: Read Ex. 20:8-11. The Sabbath was the most important thing the Jews observed; if the days were not regular days, this weekly reminder would be meaningless.
There are several theories that try to explain the Bible in terms of long ages.
DAY-AGE THEORY: Each "day" was millions of years long, even though they are in the wrong order for evolution, and each has a morning and an evening. What day was the sun created? Plants? Which came first, plants or animals? Evolution says sun before earth, animals before plants. Many animals lived and died before man came along.
GAP THEORY: There is a gap of millions/billions of years between verses 1-2, even though it is not stated. There was an earlier creation that all died, leaving their remains as fossils in strata.
THEISTIC OR PROGRESSIVE EVOLUTION: Maybe God used evolution, even though it says six days, each with a morning and evening. Some believe there were pre-humans before Adam and Eve, but when God breathed the breath of life into them, they became the first humans.
PROBLEMS WITH THESE THEORIES:
These theories are trying to accommodate the geological evidence for long ages. However, if you choose to believe any of these theories, then you say the Bible isn't literally true; it doesn't mean what it says. If words can be interpreted loosely here, then they can be in other places too. Jesus might not have REALLY been born of a virgin, and He might not REALLY have risen from the dead, and there might not REALLY be such a place as hell. Anything hard to believe can be rationalized away. If the Bible doesn't mean what it says, you might as well not read it or say you believe it.
The miracles of Jesus and the apostles actually confirm God's ability to create instantly, just as at creation. Creating aged wine from grapes would normally take years; Jesus did it instantly from water. The lame man's atrophied muscles were instantly strong and "conditioned" enough to leap. Raising Lazarus who had been dead four days meant instant changes of unheard-of magnitude. If God can create the universe from nothing in six days, He can easily do those miracles. And if you can believe in those miracles, then you can easily believe in six-day creation.
Strata contain fossils--dead animals. So if long periods of time occurred before Adam and Eve, death was in the world before Adam and Eve. Which does the Bible say came first, death or sin? If death is not the result of sin, then Jesus did not need to die to save us from the eternal death that results from sin. Rom. 5:12, I Cor. 15:21. This is the most basic truth of the Bible; if any form of evolution is true, you might as well throw out the Bible.
Could Adam and Eve be the result of ages of evolution? Read what Jesus said in Matt. 19:4. Might Jesus be lying or confused? The Bible says God is truth and cannot lie.
Evidence at Mt. St. Helens proves that strata CAN form rapidly; strata do NOT need thousands or millions of years to form. Because of Mt. St. Helens (and much other evidence), we can be confident that we do not have to compromise the truth to accommodate geologic evidence and radioactive dating. The effects of the worldwide flood described later in this book can account for the strata and the fossils; the evidence found in strata and fossils do not support the theory of evolution, but rather rapid catastrophic burial of animals. Species appear suddenly in the fossil record, showing no change over time. Evolutionary scientists are stumped by this fact and find many ways to try to explain it away. Much evidence that refutes evolution and supports the biblical account of recent creation has been compiled by many creationist scientists.
For information on Mount St. Helens, click here and scroll down to #9, Earth Age.
NOW LET'S LOOK THROUGH BY VERSE:
1 How does the Bible introduce God? Does it start with a big explanation about Him? Does it argue for the existence of God? The best proof of His existence is the creation, which is described for us. The Hebrew word for "God" is "Elohim," a plural word used as a singular. So we already are introduced to the concept of the Trinity, three persons in one. What do we learn about God here that is not stated? His existence, He is eternal, He is powerful. How did He create the world? The Hebrew word "create" means something from nothing. He spoke, it happened. We see the origin of time ("in the beginning"), space ("heaven") and matter ("earth"), the elements of the universe. According to Rom. 1:19-20, what can be learned about God by observing what He has made? Is this knowledge hidden, so you have to be really smart to figure it out? Who will be held accountable for this knowledge? Everyone; it's there for all to see.
The Bible speaks of three heavens: the first heaven, where the birds fly; the second heaven, where the sun, moon and stars reside; and the third heaven, where God's throne is, II Cor. 12:2. This is the second heaven, with the heavenly bodies.
Information about God is scattered all through the Bible. For an accurate picture of who God is and what He is like, read the WHOLE Bible. For starters, try Job 38:1-42:6, Ps. 8, 18:1-3, 30, Ps. 19, 23, 103, 145, Is. 40-66, esp. 53, Acts 17:16-31. Today it is popular to think that God is whatever you want Him to be; He is not a Person, an objective truth, but a subjective figment of one's imagination and belief. It is popular to think that we are all worshipping the same God, but the Bible says there is only one true and living God, the God of creation, the God of the Trinity, the God who has a Son named Jesus Christ who died for our sins and was raised from the dead to prove He is God, the God who says there is no other God but Him.
Just knowing these facts about God, how should we think about Him? How should we approach Him? How should we see ourselves in comparison to Him? (Puny.) How do we know He is even interested in us? (The Bible says so--WOW!) Thank Him.
Application to prayer: Should we worry about whether God is really able to do something about our problems? Try starting your prayer by recognizing that He is the Creator of heaven and earth, and thanking Him for that. That will put your requests in their proper perspective. Examples: II Kings 19:15, I Chron. 29:10-13. We tend to start our prayers with "gimme, help me!" Notice the order in the Lord's Prayer; focus first on God, then on self, Matt. 6:8-13.
2 Is a date given? The only time frame we have for dating the creation is the lists of genealogies in the Bible; this is where many conservative Bible scholars come up with the rough estimate that the earth was created 10,000 years ago or even less. Here we have the Holy Spirit. The Hebrew word translated here as "was moving" ("moved," KJV) is only used in two other places and is translated there as "shake" (Jer. 23:9) and "flutter" (Deut. 32:11). Here we have the divine origin of the force we call energy. Now we have time, space, matter, and energy. None of these things could have come into existence by themselves. Contrary to what evolutionists teach, matter could not just happen nor could it have always existed. Those possibilities contradict all known science.
Those who believe the gap theory say the earth "became" formless and void, although the text says "was." They say that God would not have made the earth formless and void on purpose; this was the result of Satan's fall. They think the earth was populated by Satan's fallen angels, in some sort of pre-Adamic human-like creatures. But who are we to say that God would not make the earth formless and void at first? When He first made it, it was empty and uninhabitable. The Bible tells us how He made it into a habitable place. The Bible shows us that God operates through processes. He could have made everything in the creation week in one moment, but He didn't; He used the process of time and a series of events. Likewise, when Satan is defeated at the cross, we see that his final defeat does not take place. God allows a further series of events to take place over time until the end of the millenial kingdom before Satan's actual destruction.
3-5 God's first recorded words are about what? Compare John 8:12 and II Cor. 4:6. God spoke; that is His Word. What does John 1:1 say? What does that tell us about Jesus? What role in creation does He play according to Col. 1:16? He was at creation; He was not a created being, as some religions teach. So we already have the Trinity. God the Father (1), the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit (2), and Christ, the Son, the Word (3).
Was the sun created before there was light? What, or who, was the source of light? Read Rev. 22:5. Yet it mentions evening and morning all the way through. An indication that regular 24-hour days are referred to, as we know them, and that the author intended them to be understood as such. Day is defined as light.
How does evolution claim it happened? The Big Bang (a theory which is now falling into disrepute). There are other theories, but none offer an explanation of the origin of the original matter or forces. None can explain how the Second Law of Thermodynamics was overcome, which says that all things decay over time; things DO NOT naturally become more organized and complex, as evolution says.
6-8 Some think this is a vapor canopy. This would explain the long lifespans which then decrease after the flood, when the canopy would have collapsed. The invisible vapor canopy would protect the earth from ultraviolet rays which speed the aging process; it would create a greenhouse effect over the whole earth. Scientists know that there is lush vegetation buried under the ice at both poles, but they have no explanation for this phenomena. It explains why there was no need for rain (2:5). It explains where much of the water came from at the flood (7:11). It would cause a change in air pressure which would explain how the large winged dinosaurs could fly (they couldn't now).
9-10 Were there continents then as we know them now? It sounds like one land area. This would allow Adam to rule the earth as commanded, and would explain how various animals got to the different continents. When might they have separated and moved? Possibly during or just after the Flood, or possibly 10:25. Continental drift, tectonic upheaval.
11-13 God made plant life, but it was not created out of nothing. The earth brought forth plant life; it was fashioned from what had already been created. Evolution claims the first simple cell (animal life) formed in the ocean. What does the Bible say? Plant life came first. Even the most simple cell is far from simple. It is irreducibly complex; none of the parts could have evolved before the others. All are interdependent. There is no such thing as "simple life forms." No experiments have shown that life can form spontaneously, only with human help. Did God make cells and seeds? No, He made mature life, ready to reproduce. Evolutionists ridicule that idea, saying that creating life with the "appearance" of age would be a lie on God's part. Not so; it is the most efficient way to start life.
14-19 Evolutionists believe that life could form spontaneously, and that therefore it is unlikely that Earth is the only place it happened. That is why there is a big push for space exploration. The Bible does not say there are no other places with life, but it does say that the earth was unique, central in His plan. Evolutionists say that if stars or the moon were created at this time, it would take a long time for their light to travel to earth to be seen. God created mature trees, animals, and humans; it would be no problem for Him to create "mature" stars with their light already visible.
20-25 Again God created something from nothing--life, 21. Contrary to what evolutionists teach, life only comes from life. Life cannot come from non-life. Unlike plant life, the life that is in living creatures was created from nothing. It is a different kind of life than plant life. God created creatures that live in the water and in the air. But in 25, God "made" beasts, cattle and creeping things. Animal life had already been created; now God was making another kind of animal, but it is the same kind of life. "After their kind." During that week, did God make every species of animal that ever lived? Some say there would not be time enough in one day for Adam to name them all. (Nor could that many species fit on the ark, which is true.) No, God made basic kinds, and allowed for variation within species. (He made a basic dog; we now have many breeds.) Adaptation is micro-evolution, which creationists DO believe in. Macro-evolution is evolution from one kind to another kind; the Bible says this did NOT happen, and there is no scientific evidence that it has ever happened. All the examples that evolutionists give are of micro-evolution. Evolutionists often confuse the issue by only using the term "evolution," rather then clarifying with the terms "macro" or "micro."
26 Key words: LET US, OUR IMAGE, OUR LIKENESS. Plural, more than one. Who are they? God is three persons in one. Read Deut. 6:4. Can the Bible contradict itself? Those who say "yes" do not believe in the Trinity. Is the word "Trinity" found in the Bible? No, but it does teach that the Father is God, that Jesus Christ is God, that they Holy Spirit is God, and that there is only one God. There are numerous verses that can't be explained apart from the Trinity. God/Jesus/Holy Spirit are used interchangeably in many places.
27 For the third time, God creates something out of nothing. Human life is a different kind of life than animal life, and is created, not made, as were the beasts in 25. Again we see that life only comes from life, never from non-life. Man is not just a higher animal; animals were not created in the image of God. How many times is the word "created" used here? How about "in His image"? God wants us to be VERY clear on this. The language and the repetition emphasize that Man is a unique creation.
Now instead of "Us" and "Our," we have "His" and "He." God is both singular and plural. He possesses all the characteristics of both male and female humans. Man, in the generic sense, or mankind, is created in God's image. Man is composed of both males and females. Although God is consistently referred to as "He," we see from this verse that that does not mean He only resembles males and not females. He presents Himself as the Father and as the King; He has ordained a patriarchal arrangement where males are to be in authority. They are to be the head, but not the "boss." They are given certain responsibilities. This is clarified in Eph. 5:22-33. In Gen. 3 we will see why that is. In Mark 10:6, Jesus confirms the Genesis account, stating that God made them male and female from the beginning. Adam and Eve did not descend or evolve from anything else.
28 What is the very first thing that God commands Man? To what and what? What is the modern vernacular of that command? Have sex! Sex is not only God's plan and design--it is commanded by God! God wove sexual desire right into our physical makeup and our instinct. He created it perfect; since the Fall, sex has become tainted by sin in many ways. It can be used for evil, but it was created for our good. Also note that God commanded and blessed sexual relations between a man and a woman--heterosexual sex. Homosexual relations are outside of God's will, although like any other sin, God permits them. The Bible records many sexual sins. Some people say that because something is in the Bible, it must be OK. But God doesn't force anyone to keep His commandments; He gave us free will, and He permits us to sin. That does not mean He condones it.
What is God's next command to man? Are men to bunch up in one place and stay together? We will find in the next few chapters that man disobeys this also.
What is the next command? Work is God's plan for man. As with the first two commands, man spends much effort trying to twist God's plan. Today many put much effort into decreasing their work and increasing their leisure.
Does the Bible have anything to say about such current issues as animal rights and environmentalism? Environmentalists point to these verses and say Christians think they have been given a mandate to use and abuse nature. How would you answer that charge? We are to be responsible stewards. The environment is to be tended, not left in an untouched condition. Also compare Ps. 8:6-8, 115:16, II Pet. 2:12. If evolution is true, then the earth was not made for Man, and Man is a johnny-come-lately, even an intruder in the minds of some radicals. This section of the Bible refutes that thinking. Man was to be a rancher and farmer from the beginning!
29-31 Why were both Man and animals vegetarians at the beginning? (Before sin, there was no death, no killing of animals.) Everything God created is described as good, and here, as very good. Sin had not yet entered the world. It would seem that Satan's rebellion could not have yet happened at this time, for God to say this.
For further reading on the creation/evolution debate, read my online book: Evolution: Fact or Philosophy? This is a non-religious critique of evolution geared toward the junior high/high school level.
Here are some other good books:
Austin, Steven A., ed. Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe. Santee, Calif.: Institute for Creation Science, 1994.
Coffin, Harold. Origin by Design. Hagerstown, Maryland: Review and Herald Publishing Assoc., 1983.
Denton, Michael. Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Bethesda, Maryland: Adler & Adler, 1985.
Johnson, Phillip E. Darwin on Trial. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1991.
Johnson, Phillip E. Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1997.
Johnson, Phillip E. Reason in the Balance: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law & Education. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1995.
Morris, Henry M. and Gary E. Parker. What is Creation Science? El Cajon, Calif.: Master Books, 1982.
Whitcomb, John C., Jr. and Henry M. Morris. The Genesis Flood. Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publ. Co., 1961.
1-3 God commanded Israel to observe the seventh day as the Sabbath, a day of rest. Are we still supposed to observe the Sabbath, as some believe? For the New Testament Christian, the Sabbath pictures rest from works; we rest in Christ every day, not just one day a week. Salvation is by faith, not by works, Eph. 2:8-9. The Sabbath was a "type" that was fulfilled in Christ. When we trust in Christ, we put aside the idea that we can do anything to make ourselves good enough. Read Heb. 4:9-10. The seventh day is not mentioned as having an evening and a morning. Our Sabbath rest in Christ is eternal. Nowhere in the New Testament are we commanded to worship on any particular day, although there are several references to the early church meeting on the first day of the week. What happened on the first day of the week that they were commemorating? In the Old Testament, creation was the event that defined who God is; in the New Testament, the resurrection is the event that defines who God is. These are the two main events in history.
Did God rest because He was tired, or because His work of creation was done? Compare Ps. 8:3. The rest of the Bible makes it clear that God continues to work. Is. 52:10, what other work has God done that was much more demanding than creation, that required Him to "bare His arm," to roll up His sleeve, so to speak? "Sanctified" means set apart for a special purpose. 2, would there be any more creation after those six days? The creative processes that God used in that week are no longer operating in the world. Evolutionists maintain that things have to happen uniformly from the beginning until the present, and although it is not happening, they go to great lengths to try to identify these non-existent processes. Creation is not a uniform, ongoing process, but was confined to those six days.
The rest of this chapter gives an expanded version of day six. Chapter 1 gave a very sketchy version. (Bible critics say this chapter is another creation story, and that these contradict. Not so.) This method of explanation is used elsewhere in the Bible; the overview first, then filling in details that are relevant to the author's point.
4-6 No rain before the flood, just a mist. 5, was man an intruder, as some environmentalists say, or was he necessary? Why did the earth need him? Was the earth made to function without man's help?
7 Did life just happen? Was this said of the animals? The life that is in man is different in some way than the life that is in animals. Read I Cor. 15:39.
8-9 Man's home; two important trees. What two functions did trees serve? God gave man a nature that could appreciate beauty; are animals given this nature?
10-14 The garden of Eden is located geographically for us. What country is this today? Iraq. This area is known as the Fertile Crescent. What natural resources did God give that are mentioned here? What other important Bible location is in this area? Babylon, and the Tower of Babel. (You might want to look on your Bible maps.)
15 Who was this command given to? What did God command the first man to do as an occupation? Again we see that the environment was designed to thrive on cultivation, not neglect. Does your lawn or garden do better if left in its natural pristine condition, or when cared for? Working up ground, planting, pruning, and harvesting are not only necessary to a healthy environment, but are referred to in the Bible as pictures of how God works in our lives.
16-17 The plot thickens! What was the first and only restriction? What was the penalty? Here is the Bible's first reference to death. Does the context (through Gen. 3) refer to physical or spiritual death? This is what the message of the Bible is about. Humans seem much more concerned about physical death than spiritual death; which is more important? It's interesting that they weren't forbidden to eat of that other tree, but they will be soon. Here we are introduced to the concept of man's free will. God has made clear what HE wants, but He has given man a choice to obey or disobey. This is a test. Man is in the perfect environment, with no sinful nature; what will he do? Only one rule; surely it will be easy to keep.
18 Adam is lonely; we were not designed to be alone. The woman is designed to be a what for the man? Some think that makes her inferior; Jesus did not think so, Mt. 20:25-28. Here we have the first mention of marriage in the Bible, although that term is not used here. (It is also implied in 1:28.) The first mention of something in the Bible is significant and should be noted. What does God give as the two purposes for marriage? And what purpose can we find in 1:28? (This is not to say that these are the only purposes of marriage, just that we don't want to read more into God's words than what He has said.) What is the main purpose of marriage today? To be with the one you are in love with. Is love mentioned here? Is God's plan for marriage that our spouse would fulfill our needs? Who should we look to for that fulfillment? If our spouse fulfilled that need, would we be as motivated to look to God to fulfill that need?
The first mention of love in the Bible is in Gen. 22:2. This is interesting, because Isaac is a type of Christ, and his being offered as a sacrifice by his father is a foreshadowing of Christ's death. Mount Moriah is where Christ was crucified. What did Abraham tell Isaac that God would provide for the sacrifice, 8? And what did God provide, 13? When did God provide the lamb? John 1:29. Notice the similarity of "your son, your only son, whom you love" to verses about Jesus, John 3:16,35. The next mention of love is Gen. 24:67, again used of Isaac, who is said to love his wife. If Isaac foreshadowed Christ, who is the bride of Christ? Eph. 5:23-32. And in this passage, the husband IS told to love his wife. He is told to love his wife as what, 5:25? And as what, 5:28? How does Christ love the church? Is He "in love" with the church? How does the man love his own body? Is he "in love" with it? Love is about choices, actions. It is interesting that nowhere in the Old Testament does God give directions about marriage that refer to love, except in Hos. 3:1, where He commands Hosea to go take again his unfaithful wife and love her, as an object lesson for Israel, to show them how God loves them. Again, we see love as a choice, not a warm fuzzy feeling. According to the Bible, love is about doing what is best for the other person, regardless of our feelings or how deserving they are.
Is the term or the idea of "in love" found anywhere in the Bible? Is it the biblical basis for marriage? Is the lack of it a biblical basis for ending a marriage? Does God love us, or is He in love with us? Some Christians talk or sing about God being in love with us. What is the difference between loving someone and being in love with someone? Love is focusing on the other person; being in love is focusing on how the other person makes ME feel. Is love about feelings or actions? What does John 3:16 say about how God loves? Feelings, or actions? Does the Bible say God loves us because we are so cute, lovable, or likable? Or does He love us because of HIS nature, because He chose to? Rom. 5:8. Luke 10:25-37 explains what love is, as Jesus answers someone's question about loving one's neighbor. In this example, is love about feelings or actions? Does the Samaritan like, or even know, the man he showed love to? So, according to the Bible, do we need to like the one we show love to? Does Eph. 5:23-32 command the husband to have certain feelings? Can feelings be commanded? How might these considerations change our ideas about marriage? Love is a choice, not a feeling, although it often includes feelings. Some of our ideas and expectations about marriage are based on the values of this world, not God's values.
19-20 Adam names all the animals; does he sound like a caveman? Does he communicate with grunts and gestures? Does he sound like he has excellent mental and language skills? Sounds like an agronomist/zoologist. (By the way, evolution has no explanation for human language.) Scientists believe that today we only use a small percentage of our mental capacity. Before the fall, when man was still perfect, he had access to 100% of his brain capacity. Far from being a "caveman," he would have been more intelligent than man today. Adam was probably the smartest man in history.
Some who believe this can't be a literal account, with six literal days of creation, argue that it would be impossible for Adam to see and name all the creatures in one day. Not so, if God had only created the basic kinds, with genetic capacity for variation and adaptation over time. Also, this might be a daunting task for modern man, with his limited intellect. But surely Adam had much greater intelligence than modern man. In Gen. 4, we see early man building cities, farming and ranching, creating music and musical instruments, and working with various kinds of metal. Considering these clues, it is even possible that pre-flood civilization was more advanced than our own; however, all traces of it have been destroyed by the flood. 19, "formed" can also be translated "had formed." 20, what did Adam realize he was missing? God allowed him to discover this on his own; the woman would fulfill the longing that was now in his heart. This is another account of the creation, focusing this time on man and the things that concern him.
So where do cavemen fit into the Bible? After the worldwide flood, men probably lived in caves and used crude implements because all their technology had been destroyed. What if there was a worldwide flood today and only your family was left? Even though you knew about houses and tools, you wouldn't have the immediate means or ability to reproduce those things for perhaps generations. No records of earlier technology existed because all evidence would have been destroyed by the worldwide flood. Noah and his family had only their own knowledge and whatever they could take on the ark.
"Cattle" can be translated beast or large animal. Adam sees all the creatures, in pairs of male and female; each has a counterpart, but he realizes he does not. None of them are like him. 21-22 What happens now? What is woman created from? Why do you suppose God fashioned woman from man, instead of just making a woman? "Fashioned" can be translated "built." God built a woman to be different than man, yet complementing him--physically, mentally, emotionally. They have different marital roles, but neither is said to be superior or inferior to the other. God made man first. He is the head, the woman is his helper. Whether we like it or not, this is God's plan. Genesis 1 sounds like man and woman were made at the same time on the sixth day, but now we have the detailed story of how both man and woman were made.
23-24 The practice of the woman taking her name from the man is found here in the Bible. What does cleave mean? Adhere tightly. (It actually has two opposite meanings.) God's definition of marriage is a husband and a wife--a man and a woman. In God's eyes, there can be no same-sex marriage. Here we have God's plan for marriage and the home. Are we told here that the woman is to be subject to the man, as we see in the rest of the Bible? No, that comes later, as we will soon see, and we will see why. That apparently was not God's original plan. 24, are these the words of Adam or Moses? Some think "one flesh" implies permanence; some think it refers to sexual intercourse or the child that results. We see that God's plan for marriage is monogamous and heterosexual. After sin enters the world, we will see that God permits us to disobey Him.
25 At this point, nakedness does not bring shame. Shame is a result of sin. They had nothing to hide. (Why weren't they cold? The earth had a uniform tropical climate at that time; we have no mention of winter, cold or seasons until after the flood, Gen. 8:22.)
1 What new character is introduced here? Who is the serpent? Or maybe the question is, who is inhabiting and speaking through the body of this serpent? Rev. 12:9, 20:2. The serpent may be a snake, or may be what we would call a dragon. It apparently had legs at this point, because the curse, 14, makes it go on its belly. The serpent may be considered one of the beasts which the Lord made, and so be described as craftier than any of them. Or it may be something different than one of the beasts of the field, and is being contrasted with them. So now we have the 3 basic players in the Bible: God, Satan, man. And like any good book, a basic conflict is introduced here in the very beginning, which will not be completely resolved until the end of the book. What is it? Sin, man's separation from God. This chapter introduces free will and original sin.
As we saw with God, Satan is not explained, he just comes on the scene. But we are told a little about him in this verse. So did sin originate in the Garden of Eden? No. When and where? With Satan, we don't know how long before this, but when he sinned and fell. The origin of evil is not explained here, but hinted at elsewhere. Apparently there was a revolt in heaven. Satan, a high angel, took 1/3 of the angels with him (we now call those demons). Angels are not portrayed as having free will, so it must have been a one-time test.
Some think Rev. 12:7-9 describes this event, but I don't think so. If you read the context, the chapter and the book, things appear to be happening in chronological order, during the seven years of tribulation preceding the second coming of Christ. 12:1-5 seem to be summarizing the events of history leading up to the events of 6-17, which are about the second half of the tribulation. 6, 1260 days; 14, "a time, times and half a time," or 3 1/2 years. Time = a year, times = 2 years, half a time = half a year. This terminology is also found in Dan. 7:25 and Dan. 12:7. Rev. 13 goes on to describe more events of this last 3 1/2 years, referring to it as 42 months, 13:5. Rev. 11:2 refers to 42 months. Rev. 11:3 refers to 1260 days. Revelation gives us many details about the events of the second half of the tribulation, defining those 3 1/2 years in several ways so that there would be no doubt about what period of time is being talked about, and that a literal 3 1/2 years is in view here. 12:4 is a reference to the original rebellion of Satan and his angels/demons. 7-9 refer to their final expulsion from heaven, which precipitates great satanic activity on earth during the second half of the tribulation, when the world ruler reveals his satanic power, Rev. 13. (See notes on Matthew 24.) They could not have been completely expelled from heaven at their original rebellion because Job 1:6 and 2:1 make it clear that they continued to have access to heaven.
Compare Is. 14:12-15; in 12, "star of the morning" or "son of the morning" may also be translated Lucifer. According to this passage, what was Satan's sin? Ez. 28:11-20; 12 addresses the "king of Tyre," but could this be a man? 13 says he was where? We know from Genesis 3 who was in the garden. Ez. 28:1-2 begins by addressing a man, the prince of Tyre, who pictures or is a "type" of Satan because of his pride; then in 12 the reference is to the "king" of Tyre, and we see that no man fits this picture. Who is the "I" in 14? (compare 11) What does 14 tell about Satan in the beginning? What does 15 tell? Who is the "I" in 16 and 17?
So are God and Satan two equal, eternally existent powers of good and evil? No, but many people mistakenly think so. Is Satan as powerful as God? I John 4:4. However, God has temporarily, for His own purposes, allowed Satan a degree of power. John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11, II Cor, 4:4, Eph. 2:2, 6:12, I John 5:19.
Why do you think Satan tempted the woman, not Adam? Is it possible that women are more easily deceived than men in spiritual matters? Perhaps there is a warning here for women. Or could it be because her knowledge was second-hand, given through Adam, and that made her more vulnerable?
What word describes Satan here? What is his first act? What are his first four words? He questioned what God had already said. Does he still use this tactic to deceive people? Right from the first, the Bible characterizes Satan for us, and we should pay attention, because his tactics haven't changed. One favorite tactic is to confuse us about God's Word. How can we keep this from happening, or deal with it when it does happen?
2-3 Does the woman answer correctly? Compare her answer to 2:16-17; she leaves out some, adds some. Do people still make this mistake today? Cults add to God's Word, liberals leave out. How does she describe the tree? She either changed what Adam told her, or else Adam failed in his duty to her, not repeating God's exact words to her. Sometimes we reword what God has said, and inevitably, the meaning is changed. The lesson for us: whenever God's truth is watered down, trouble follows. When we repeat what others have told us, do we always use the exact words and tone? Doesn't even the smallest change in wording or tone of voice change the meaning? Isn't this how gossip starts?
4-5 Today there are cults and religions that promise godhood to their followers. New Age religious thought says we are all gods, or can be, or that there is a spark of the divine in everyone, "the christ in all of us." We just have to learn to act on it or bring it out. So where did this lie originate? In the garden. Instead of becoming more like God, they became sinful.
Satan focused on a desirable end; a common tactic--the end justifies the means. "How can anything that feels so right be wrong?" But it doesn't matter if we understand or even agree with what God has said; we are to obey. Are feelings an accurate guide to truth? What should we do if our feelings clash with truth, the facts? Satan denies God's words and offers instead his own attractive lie. In so doing, he says that God was misleading them, tricking them, lying. Surely He could not be a good God then? Does he still do this? What did Satan appeal to? Pride, the desire for god-like knowledge, self-inflation. And what was Satan's original sin?
6 The woman rationalizes her actions. Don't we often want the same thing Eve wanted, to find out for ourselves instead of just believing what we have been told? It sounds like Adam could have been right there when this all took place, observing and listening and not speaking up. He failed as spiritual leader. Now Adam sins. Eve ate first, but who does the Bible place the blame on? Rom. 5:14,19, I Cor. 15:22. Why might this be? Who did God give the commandment to? The woman was deceived by the serpent, but Adam has no excuse. Perhaps he saw that she had eaten the fruit and had NOT died, as God said, 2:17, so he questioned what God had said. Can their sin be blamed on heredity--inherited character weakness? Can it be blamed on environment--bad influences in their lives? They have no excuse except their own nature, their own choices. What are the three main temptations found in the world, according to I John 2:16? Aren't all these found in Gen. 3:6?
7 Did they get the knowledge they wanted? But it backfired on them. So did they really know better than God? Do we? Are God's rules designed to deny us true happiness, or are they for our best? Do feelings ever lie? They cover their nakedness; man tried to cover his sin but man's efforts are not enough, we will see. (Again we see highly sophisticated skills, sewing leaves to make clothing. Where did they get this idea? What did they use for sewing? These are not cavemen.) We have no idea how long after their creation that this happened, but it seems likely that it wasn't long at all, since no child had yet been conceived.
8 Sin results in what? (shame, separation from God) It sounds like walking with God in the garden might have been a regular occurrence. Doesn't the Bible say no man has seen God? When God came to earth in human form, He came as Jesus Christ. The Bible says God is Spirit, not flesh. Jesus Christ is God Incarnate. Col. 1:15, 19. Before Jesus was born as a human, the pre-incarnate Christ often appeared in the Old Testament (Gen. 18, for example), often identified as "the angel of the Lord" (Judges 6:11-27, for example). See John 1:18. Moses spoke with the Lord, Ex. 33:7-23, but it doesn't say he saw the Lord in a physical form; God's presence appeared in the pillar of cloud. He didn't see His face, 20, but 11 says they spoke face to face. This was a figure of speech indicating friendliness, openness.
9 Does God not know where Adam is? Doesn't the Bible say God is all-knowing, all-seeing? Then why did He ask? Why do we sometimes ask our children what they have done when we already know? God is giving Adam the opportunity to confess and ask forgiveness.
10-12 Does Adam admit his sin, humble himself, say he's sorry, accept personal responsibility for his actions? Feeling bad is not the same as repentance. We can feel bad that we got caught but still not repent. What was the right answer to God's question? ("yes") But what are Adam's first two words? (probably with finger pointing!) What do we call this? Passing the buck. "It's not my fault! I couldn't help it!" Is that excuse still used today? So has human nature changed since the beginning? What doesn't Adam just say "the woman" in 12? What is he implying by adding "whom Thou gavest to be with me"? He is blaming God; do we ever do that? If God is just, holy, loving, perfect, all-knowing, and all-powerful, is He ever to blame? Who has God been addressing in 9-12? Who does God hold responsible for this sin? Read Rom. 5:12, 19. Throughout the Bible, it is Adam. Why? God's Word was given to Adam; God held him accountable. He was responsible to pass God's word on to his wife and later to his children and grandchildren.
People often wonder why God called David "a man after My own heart" (Acts 13:22) even though David committed some very sinful acts. All Bible characters are sinful, because all men are sinners. Many responded to their sin in a similar way to Adam. But David didn't. Compare just two incidents; read II Sam. 12:1-13, noting David's response in 13, and II Sam. 24:1-10, noting David's response in 10. When confronted with his sin, what is David's first reaction? Repentance, humility. What is ours?
13 So does the woman accept the blame? Who does she point at? It wasn't her fault either.
14 The serpent is cursed for his role in this event. Who else is cursed along with him? What must the serpent have been like before? Isn't it interesting that humans, particularly women (and even animals), have a strong natural aversion to snakes?
Some take the heretical view that God is responsible for bringing sin and evil into the world. The Bible says God is perfect, so that is impossible. Deut. 32:4, Ps. 18:30, Mt. 5:48, Rom. 12:2. God knew everything that would happen, and everything is under His sovereign control, but that does not mean He caused sin. We can't fully understand God because we are merely human, with limited intellects tainted by the Fall. A parent does not explain all his ways to a child, because the child is not capable of understanding even if he did explain.
God's ideal will is that we do not sin, but He gave us a free will and has permitted us to choose sin. That is not His ideal will, but it is His permissive will. God holds man (and Satan) responsible for sinful choices; if God had forced us, then He would be wrong to hold us responsible. Some people refuse to believe because they can't fully understand with their intellect, but it is rather audacious to think we could fully understand God. Is. 55:8-9. God has given us enough information about Him to believe; He even provides the faith so we can believe, Eph. 2:8. Some think that you must turn off your mind to become a Christian; this is far from the truth. God wants us to use our minds to think about Him. God's truth appeals to the intellectual mind, and the Bible has a lot to say about God's mind and our minds and our thinking. Mt. 22:37, 42, Rom. 11:34, 12:2-3, 14:5, I Cor. 2:16, 8:2, II Cor. 3:14, 10:5, Eph. 3:20, Phil. 4:7-8, Heb. 4:12, I Pet. 1:13.
15 Now God speaks directly to Satan. What is significant about this verse? It is the first prophecy of Christ. "Her" seed--someone who will descend from the woman. Usually seed refers to the man's seed; here is a hint of the virgin birth. It is also the first prophecy, or perhaps just a hint, of the anti-christ to come--the serpent's seed. Is a heel bruise fatal? What about a head wound? Can a mere man crush Satan? So we know that this One to come must be God in the flesh. When was this prophecy fulfilled? The crucifixion and resurrection. Satan thought he won when he got men to kill Jesus Christ, but it turned out to be only a heel wound, so to speak. When Christ rose from the dead, Satan's defeat was sealed--the head wound. Read Heb. 2:14.
16 Is the woman cursed? But there will be consequences. What changes for her? Troubles and pain in childbirth, the raising of children, and marriage--in other words, in her main responsibilities. Apparently this was not the way things were originally planned. Actually "pain" (King James Version, sorrow) is the same Hebrew word as "toil" (KJV, "sorrow") in 17. Strongs Concordance: labor, pain, sorrow, toil. The second use in 16 is a different word: toil, painful toil, grievous, labor, sorrow. "Yet": because of woman's built-in desire for marriage and children, we seldom manage to escape this trouble. The husband will rule, have dominion, over the wife, but there will be a power struggle; she will desire to rule over him, to usurp his authority. Things that should have come easy and been pleasant are now going to bring trouble. If sin had not entered the world, the marriage relationship would not have been characterized by this power struggle. Before, in 2:18, she was to be his helper, which implied differing positions of responsibility, but now that will be complicated and tainted by clashing wills.
We often think lack of harmony, clashing of wills in marriage is an evil to overcome, a sign of our lack of faith or spiritual maturity. Remembering WHY things are that way should keep us humble, recognizing our human sinfulness. Keeping the right perspective on it will help us to deal with it and accept its inevitability. Is a harmonious marriage the mark of a good Christian life? Not necessarily. Is the lack of harmony a mark of failure? Not necessarily. Nowhere does the Bible promise us that we can expect harmonious marriages, but it does give directions for the Christian husband and wife. According to Eph. 5:22, wives are to behave how? Because the wife constantly has the desire to usurp her husband's authority, she is to curb that natural desire. What does I Tim. 2:12 say about how this tendency of women should be controlled in the church setting?
This probably has less to do with whether the woman or man has a dominating personality, than it does to the fact that Self is strong in everyone--man and woman alike. Self never wants to submit to anyone. Self wants to be in charge, to be in control. Now that sin has entered the world, Self has become the problem. Apparently before sin this was not the case. Perhaps also in "her desire shall be for her husband" may be the wife desiring her husband rather than desiring God. The woman's desire to usurp authority over men requires that restrictions must be placed on her activities even in the church. And the husband, who often dominates his wife, is to curb that nature by acting how, Eph. 5:25? How does I Tim. 2:15 hold out hope for the trouble and heartache that having and raising children brings? What does "saved" mean? Strongs: save, deliver, protect, heal, preserve, do well, make whole. Bearing children: childbirth, maternity, the performance of maternal duties. As the Christian mother seeks the Lord in her struggles, she will find that leaning on the Lord is her strength, and will learn from the parent/child relationship so much about the Father's care and discipline of His children.
17-19 Who had Adam listened to? Who was he supposed to listen to? Who had the woman listened to? Who was she supposed to have listened to? Is the man cursed? God has NOT cursed mankind. People often mistakenly say, "Christ redeemed us from the curse;" read the entire verse, Gal. 3:13. Again, there will be consequences. What is cursed? So all creation bears the curse--the earth (ground) as well as all living creatures (14). In Romans 8:19-22, Paul speaks of creation as if it were capable of feelings and desires; what does he say happened to the creation, and what does the creation long for? When and how will that happen?
Adam's penalty is the same as the woman's. His main responsibility, making a living, would now be difficult. Has modern man escaped the curse of sin by no longer living off the land or sweating? How does this apply? Whatever you do for a living, it will have many built-in frustrations and difficulties.
What about women who work, and do not marry or have children? Have they escaped the curse of sin? We can never do away completely with painful childbirth, difficulty in making a living, male domination of women, and physical death. No matter what we do with our lives, God has built in a reminder. Instead of constantly grumbling about how things never seem to go right, we should be constantly reminded and humbled about our basic condition before God, and how man's sin nature caused things to be this way.
Before, there were no weeds. The curse brought the possibility of disease, and that would include mutations of genes. It is very possible that animals, originally created to be vegetarians, began changing. With sin entered death, and probably animals killing each other, and then eating each other. But man is still a vegetarian, which changes later as we will see in a few chapters.
19 Physical death is promised; God said in 2:17 that in the day they ate of it, they would die. Did it happen the moment or day they sinned? Physical death began to work in their bodies but wouldn't take place immediately. When did spiritual death take place? The moment they sinned. Apparently sin brought about a new condition, what scientists describe as the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the law of increasing entropy. All things decay, become less organized, become more random. All branches of science recognize this fact, and there are no known exceptions in the entire universe. Yet to believe in evolution is to believe in increasing order, that randomness can organize itself (without outside help) into information and complexity. Evolution contradicts the basic facts of science.
Here we see that God held Adam responsible, because God had commanded Adam, and because the woman, his responsibility, had disobeyed. Compare Rom. 5:12-21. We call this the doctrine of original sin, although that phrase is found nowhere in the Bible. This means that because of Adam's sin, all his descendants are born in that same sinful condition (Gen. 5:3, Ps. 51:5). We aren't sinners because at some point we commit a sin; the Bible says we commit sin because we are born as sinners. Many believe man is basically good but the Bible does not teach that. Rom. 5:12-21 also shows how Adam is a type of Christ (5:14). Just as his one transgression brought sin into the world, Christ's one act of righteousness brought the gift of life. Paul goes on to explain that the two are not just alike, though; Adam's act brought death to all, but Christ's act brings life only to those who receive God's gift of grace, even though it is available to all.
20 Could Adam and Eve be the result of some sort of evolution? The woman is now given a name. "All" the living;" none before. Was Eve a mother yet? Adam had faith that God would fulfill His promise of "her seed," 15, and children, 16.
21 The first death; apparently God killed an animal or animals to cover their nakedness, the effects of their sin. Can you imagine how shocking and upsetting this must have been to Adam and Eve, who knew nothing of death? Now physical death had entered their world, and they saw how ugly it was. They knew they had caused it. Nothing would ever be the same.
What is the spiritual significance to this act? Sinners must have their sins covered to be acceptable to God. We can't provide it by anything we do; man's effort to cover sin (fig leaves) is ineffective. God must do it, and it involves the shedding of blood. Here we have the teaching of substitutionary atonement; the penalty for sin is death, but instead of requiring OUR blood, God allows someone else's blood to be shed to pay for our sin. Animal sacrifice did not remove or forgive sin but pictured the future sacrifice of the promised Lamb of God whose blood would cover the sins of all who believe and receive God's gift of forgiveness. Man would like to take care of sin by trying to do enough good works, without the shedding of blood; many find the idea of Christ's shed blood on the cross a repulsive idea. Read Lev. 17:11, John 1:29, Rom. 5:9, Eph. 1:7, 2:13, Col. 1:20, Heb. 9:11-14, 22, 10:10-14, I Pet. 1:18-19, I John 1:7, Rev. 1:5, 5:9.
The Fall is the basis of the message of the Bible. If it didn't happen (which it couldn't have if Adam and Eve weren't literally the first man and woman, or the first creatures to experience death), the Bible is pointless and unnecessary. Jesus's death would be pointless, salvation would be unnecessary. Yet many so-called Christians believe just that. For them, Christianity isn't about the need for salvation. It is just emulating a good man named Jesus.
Today, many do not believe in original sin, in man's fallen nature. Modern psychology says man is basically good. Your view on this subject has major implications for the family, schools, politics and government. If man is evil, we need controls and punishments. We must protect ourselves from the evil that will inevitably be done to us by other men. Even government must be controlled, because it is run by sinful men. But if man is good, children will grow up best if left to their own natural good tendencies, with minimal interference from adults. Attempts to stifle their behavior or mold them to adult standards will warp them or cause poor self-esteem. No one is sinful, evil or just plain bad; they are only dysfunctional, and surely that is not their own fault. Man does not want to be held responsible for sinful choices.
These concepts have so infiltrated modern psychology and become accepted by so many Christians that Christian families are experiencing many discipline problems. This basic concept needs to be thought through by every Christian parent. It will become the basis for how and why you raise your children the way you do, and will give you the confidence to be a good disciplinarian in spite of what you read and hear.
It's the same in the schools. We are reaping the results of letting kids rule, refusing to discipline, train and have definite expectations. In government, the push for ever greater bureaucratic control over our lives implies that leaders, being good, will do what is good for the people and will not take advantage of their power. Other indications of this thinking are the letting down of military defenses, and the belief that our interests would best be served by a benign and trustworthy one-world government, in which all will be treated equally and all will play by the rules.
We may be tempted to think God over-reacted to man's sin. As humans, with our limited and fallen nature, we lack a real understanding of how serious sin is. We tend to think that sin is not REALLY that big a deal. We hope God will grade on the curve. That's because we don't understand how holy and perfect God is, how far He is above us. Here we see God's reaction to one sin--how serious He thinks it is. It doesn't matter what WE think about it; what matters is what HE thinks about it. We only learn that by reading His Word.
22-24 "Us" again. The trinity, one God in three distinct persons. Now man has knowledge of what? Here we read a little more about that other tree; it was not forbidden before, but it is now. We WLL eat from it some day; read Rev. 22:1-3, a description of heaven--rather, the new heaven, which is the heavenly city called the New Jerusalem (21:1-2). Man is expelled from the garden, which is now guarded by angels.
1 "Knew" or "had relations with": sexual intercourse. This does not mean they did not have sexual intercourse until this point; it is merely a way of saying that at this point, they conceived a child. What does the terminology "to know" say about God's intent for the sexual relationship? Are we like animals, having sex with just anyone, just to satisfy the desire of the moment? Is Cain the first child born to Adam and Eve? It doesn't say, but it would seem probable. Cain's name means "gotten one" or "man, the Lord." What had God promised back in 3:15? What did Adam and Eve probably think about their first son?
2 Is Abel the second child? It doesn't say, and it is not necessary to assume so. Are Cain and Abel the only two children of Adam and Eve? We are obviously not told every detail of Adam and Eve's life, only the details that we need to know, and that have to do with God's plan for us as revealed in the Bible. Does the Bible record every incident in the life of each person mentioned? Should we assume that if the Bible didn't record something, it didn't happen? Why doesn't the Bible tell us the details of the rest of Adam and Eve's life, or all their other children? Why aren't we told every detail about Cain and Abel? We read of only one other child, Seth, but compare Gen. 5:3-5. What did God command them in 2:28? Look how many years they lived. It's possible that they had hundreds of children, but these are the two that figure in this story of the first murder. We also see here the first conflict between farmer and rancher.
3 "In the course/process of time" can be translated "at the end of days." Some think this means at the end of the week, the Sabbath. "Brought … to the Lord" could imply a designated place. What example had God set as an acceptable offering for sin in 3:21? The shedding of blood, the death of an animal in their place so they would not have to die to pay for their own sin. Adam and Eve's bloodless covering for sin had NOT been acceptable. What type of sacrifice is Cain bringing? Do we know how young or old Cain and Abel are at this point? Look at the life spans in Gen. 5. This could have happened at any point in their long lives. What clue tells us they were probably at least grown men?
4 Why did Abel bring an animal sacrifice? We are not told specifically, but we know that God had already introduced the concept. Apparently Adam and Eve had continued to sacrifice for sin, and had taught their children to do so.
5 If they hadn't taught their children about sacrifice, God would be judging Cain unfairly. He must have known, because God holds him accountable. What was Cain's response to God's displeasure? Did he show shame, sorrow, repentance, or humility? What does this tell us about Cain? What does Heb. 11:4 tell us Abel had that Cain didn't?
6-7 God chastises, warns him. When we are tempted to sin, is it inevitable that we give in to temptation? I Cor. 10:13. God is telling Cain that he has a choice here. Here is the first use of the word "sin" in the Bible. It is always interesting to note the context of the first use of important Bible words.
Just as with Adam in the garden, God asks a question. In the gospels, Jesus often answers His accusers' questions with another question, instead of a direct statement. Why might God use this method? Do you think He is more interested in what we do, or why we do it?
Has the Law been given yet? So has any law been broken? What standard is God holding him to? ("If you …", and "if you do not …") Apparently at this point in history, man is operating in the dispensation of conscience. God tests men in different circumstances, or dispensations, over time. After the flood, we will see man under human government, then under the Law, and today, under grace. When Christ returns to rule His earthly kingdom, with Satan bound, man will be tested in another way. But man fails every test; in every circumstance, God is showing us that we are unable to satisfy God's standard of holiness. God must do it for us, so He provided the perfect sacrifice, His Son Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament times, animal sacrifices pointed to the sacrifice of the Lamb of God who was yet to come. Today, we look back to His sacrifice every time we re-enact the Lord's Supper.
8 The first murder. Was it premeditated?
9 Doesn't God know where Abel is? Why does He ask? Is Cain repentant or remorseful? What tone of voice do you hear in his answer? Does he answer truthfully? So what sins has Cain committed that we know of? What do we learn about Cain in I John 3:12? In Jude 11, Cain is grouped with Balaam and Korah. What do these three have in common? Read Num. 22:1-24:25 and Num. 16:1-50. Were Cain, Balaam, and Korah pagans, those who did not know (or know of) God? They were all outwardly religious, but what did their actions reveal about them?
10-11 Again God confronts him by asking a question. Why? NOW a man is cursed (one man, not all men). Later in the Bible, we will see that murder is a capital crime; God has not yet given any laws to keep, and apparently man has not yet either. So we assume that human government has not yet been instituted; God will institute this after the flood, Gen. 9:5-6. Before the flood, man is guided by his conscience. We will see in the next few chapters how that works out.
12 What is Cain's penalty?
13-15 If this statement was true, what should Cain have done at this point? Is he repentant? Is he more concerned about his sin or his punishment? Although no one has committed murder so far except him, what does he assume about other men? Since he isn't concerned with pleasing or obeying God, why would he be concerned about being hidden from God's face? What part do you think God played in his life?
16 Did Cain obey God? What had God commanded him to do in 12? Cain continues to defy God. "Out from the presence of the Lord" again implies that they met with the Lord at a particular location.
17 Interestingly, the first mention in the Bible of a city is one built in defiance of God. The first mention of something in the Bible tends to be important, giving a context for the biblical interpretation and understanding of it. Cities are often where civilization flourishes, but civilization also tends to go hand in hand with the godless world system. This is what the Bible often means by "the world" (Greek, "kosmos"). In the New Testament, believers are often warned against "the world." Jesus speaks much about "the world" in John 14-18. Also compare I Cor. 1:20-21, 2:12, 3:19, Rom. 12:2, Eph. 2:1-2, James 4:4, I John 2:15-17.
The next city mentioned in the Bible is found in Gen. 10:10; what city is it? Chapter 11 tells the story of this city and its defiance of God. Babel is the city that later become Babylon. At the end of the Bible, in the account of the judgment at the Lord's return, we again find Babylon, called "the great city Babylon," Rev. 18:10-21. (This city may be the actual rebuilt city of Babylon, or Babylon may be symbolic of the godless world system, or the major cities of the world where the world system is centered.) We find that God's judgment is on this city and the godless world system that it personifies. We find in Revelation that God judges the world system in three specific areas: big government, organized outward religion, and big business--the one world system to come. The Bible ends with a description of a holy city where God reigns. What city is this, Rev. 21-22?
A big question for many people is, where did Cain get his wife? Do you have any ideas? Why would there be no problem with Cain marrying a sister (or a descendant of a sister)? Was there a law against this practice at that time? When was that law given? Lev. 18:9. Why were such laws given? To protect us from what genetic problem? Such mutations would not be present early in man's history, so intermarriage was practical. As mutations accumulated in the gene pool over time, following the curse of sin, intermarriage became unsafe, so God protected us by giving a law against it. Over time, we have come to think of this restriction as a moral issue too, but that was not its origin.
Adam and Eve obviously had many children. Some say there must have been other humans along with Adam and Eve, and that we are only told their story. However, this does not fit with the account of creation, of original sin, or of I Cor. 15:45. Eve was the mother of all the living, 3:20. They had other sons and daughters, 5:4. In 14, Cain is concerned that other men will kill him, so we must assume that there were many men already. This tells us this incident did not happen early in his life, but we have no idea how old Cain and Abel were. Consider the life spans mentioned in Gen. 5, and consider the mathematical possibilities if Adam and Eve had children regularly throughout their lives. Those children would marry each other, and have children throughout their long lives. Many generations would be alive and reproducing at the same time. Someone has calculated that with an average of only six children per family (which is probably a ridiculously small assumption), Cain ALONE could have had 100,000 descendants by age 400.
18-26 Now we have some genealogical information. By comparing the Bible's many genealogies, Bible scholars have come up with very recent dates for the earth's creation, compared to the evolution theory. Many date it around 10,000 years. The only reason for the long dates postulated by evolutionists is to allow enough time for everything to evolve slowly and uniformly. Uniformitarianism requires billions of years for the universe, the earth, and all of life to evolve. Catastrophism, on the other hand, recognizes that catastrophes (the flood, in particular) are responsible for many major geological changes. The dates proposed by evolutionists cannot be independently verified by any known process. Many of them are arrived at by circular reasoning; strata are dated by the fossils found in them, and fossils are dated by the strata in which they are found.
We see Lamech defying and rejecting God's pattern for marriage, and justifying revenge killings. This brings up the topic of polygamy, which we find often in the Bible. Don't many people make the mistake of assuming that everything Bible characters did was OK, because it's in the Bible? These are historical accounts; we need to compare them to God's commands before we draw conclusions. The Bible records many sinful acts, even by believers.
20-22 Do these people sound like primitive cavemen? No; more evidence of intelligence and technology.
25-26 Many think of Adam and Eve as having three children; one died, now the third is born. Does it say that? All we know from this verse is that Seth was born after Abel died. Surely they had many children, 1:28 and 5:3-4, but we are only told about these three because their stories are crucial to the message of the Bible. Do you think Adam and Eve realized that Cain was not the promised man? The Bible indicated that Cain was not righteous, yet he was the closest in time and relationship to the only two people who knew God in a perfect relationship. Did they fail to pass on their knowledge of God, as Adam failed to pass God's words on to Eve? We don't know; we do know that each person is held accountable for his response to whatever knowledge of God he has. Being godly parents does not guarantee godly children. A relationship with God cannot be inherited from parents.
26 "Then men began to call upon/by the name of the Lord." Something began to change at this time. Some think "by" is the better translation, meaning perhaps at this point, some began to identify themselves as God's people, while others did not. Another interesting possibility hinges on various negative Hebrew meanings of the word for "began," including: wound, profane, break (as one's word), defile, pollute, prostitute, slay, sorrow, stain.
A theme we find throughout the Old Testament is genealogies, particularly two lines: the line leading to Christ, and the rejected line. This concept is first hinted at in 3:15. The rejected line is given first, followed a little ways, then dropped. Then we have the line leading to Christ, which is followed on through the birth of Christ. Here this thread is introduced. We have Cain's line, through 24, then Seth and his line, which leads to Christ.
In this chapter, we see man in rebellion against God and the beginning of the spread of godless society.
A genealogical section.
1-2 This genealogy begins with Adam's origin. In what way was Adam made in the likeness of God? He was without sin. Adam's descendants were not, as we will see in 5:3. The term "create" is again used three times, like 1:27. No mistaking the meaning--no evolution here. 2, are they cursed? No, but they do suffer the consequences of the curse.
Him/them/Man/they. Radical feminists have a real problem with "man/him," but it has always been understood as in INCLUSIVE term. They are now making it out to be an exclusive term. Humans include what and what, 2?
3 In Gen. 4, we had the rejected line given first--Cain. His line is dropped and we are given the chosen line--Seth. Now we will follow the chosen line further. Eventually this line leads to the Messiah. This is an important theme of the Old Testament.
How many of Adam's children are mentioned? Was Seth the third child? How many might they have had? Was Seth in the likeness of God, as Adam was created? What was different? All mankind is born with Adam's inherited sinful nature. This is explained in Rom. 5:12-21.
4-20 For each father, only one son is mentioned, the one through whom the line is being traced. Does it say these are the firstborn? How could people live so long? Life spans become gradually shorter after the flood. Something was different before the flood. Many scientists believe that before the flood, there was a vapor canopy surrounding the earth, 1:6-8 and 7:11, which would have protected humans from the aging effects of ultraviolet rays.
21-24 The next interesting character is Enoch. Who was his son? Was Enoch a godly man? At least he became so at some point, apparently after the birth of Methuselah, whose name means "when he dies, it shall come, or, a sending." What came, what did God send, after his death, Gen. 6? According to Jude 14-15, what did Enoch do? What was his message about? Even back then, the Lord revealed that He would return some day, and that judgment was coming. Apparently God told him about a judgment coming after the death of his son. Apparently Enoch was a preacher and a prophet.
Did Enoch die like other men? Heb. 11:5. What other man did not die but was taken up alive? II Kings 2:1-12. These are a "type" of the "rapture," a word translated from the Greek "harpazo," that can also be translated as "caught up" or "snatched." The New Testament tells that before the second coming of Christ, He will catch up the church, His bride, all believers who are alive at that time, I Thes. 4:13-18. They will be caught up--spirit, soul and body, I Thes. 5:23--and instantly changed, I Cor. 15:51-52.
The Old Testament has many symbols, pictures, types and foreshadowing of truth that God will not reveal until later. (When God reveals more truth than He had previously revealed, the New Testament refers to this as a "mystery." Rom.16:25, I Cor. 2:7, Eph. 3:9.
What does Jesus tell His disciples in John 14:3? This can't be the Second Coming when He comes to earth to reign over His kingdom for 1,000 years. Compare this verse with I Thes. 4:16-17. They are apparently describing the same event, when Christ snatches up all believers on the earth (the church) before the judgment and destruction of the wicked.
Many Christians do not believe the church will be snatched away; this doctrine is often referred to as the "rapture," a term that comes from an old English translation of the Greek word "harpazo." But it is amazing to see how many places the Bible teaches this concept. It is foreshadowed in the Old Testament here, in Gen. 7:7-10, II Kings 2:11, Song of Solomon 2:8-13, and Is. 26:19-20. We find the same word used in Acts 8:39 to tell how Philip was snatched away by the Lord. Compare the New Testament passages of I Cor. 15:51-53, I Thes. 1:10, 3:13, 4:14-18, 5:23. Note the chronological order of I Thes. 4 and 5, with chapter 5 speaking of the time immediately following the removal of the church. Especially note 5:9, which promises that the church will not experience the pouring out of God's wrath. If God poured out His wrath on the church (the body of Christ, I Cor. 12:27, Eph. 4:12), He would be pouring out His wrath on His Son, who already paid for our sins ONCE FOR ALL, Heb. 10:10. This same promise is found in Rev. 3:10.
Paul also teaches this in II Thes. 2:1,3,6-8. "Our gathering together to Him" does not refer to the Second Coming because He will come here, whereas at the catching up, we will be gathered to Him. In 2:3, the "apostasy" (KJV, "falling away") can't refer to apostasy from the faith, for that has always been around. Paul is speaking of a particular event (THE apostasy), well-known to his readers because he has taught them about it. The seven English translations of the Bible prior to the King James Version all translated "apostasia" as "departure" or "departing." For more on this interpretation, click here.
The departure of the church comes first, then the Antichrist will be revealed. Paul repeats this teaching in 2:7-8. The Holy Spirit, indwelling believers in the church age, thereby restrains evil in the world; when the church is snatched away, the restraining influence of the indwelling Holy Spirit will cease, releasing the full power of evil in the form of the lawless one, the man of sin--the Antichrist. The Holy Spirit will continue to operate on earth as He did in the Old Testament, and because God is omnipresent, He IS still present on the earth, but not in the same way He was in all the individuals known collectively as the church.
25-27 How long did Methuselah live? This is the longest age recorded in the Bible. What had God said would happen at the end of his life? Is this why God allowed him to live longer than perhaps any other man, to allow as many as possible to repent before this happened? But we will see in Gen. 6 how many actually repented. Because of the overlap of these long life spans, many of these Bible characters lived during the same periods of time. According to charts of this genealogy, Methuselah was born before Adam died. All men before the flood had access to direct knowledge of God (IF men were passing on that knowledge as they should be). Adam and Methuselah bridged the time span from creation to the flood.
28-29 Who was Methuselah's grandson? There seemed to be something special about Noah. Who in Noah's line would ultimately bring this prophesied rest from work and freedom from the curse? Heb. 4:9-14, Rev. 22:1-4.
32 Why are we told of three of Noah's sons instead of just one, like the others in the list? We will find out in the next few chapters.
So far, we've been introduced to the concepts of life, death, and sin. Now, in this chapter on the flood, we see judgment and salvation.
1 Man has multiplied. With such long life spans and large numbers of offspring, it's possible that the world population could be in the billions. According to one calculation, it would only take 1100 years to reach 3.5 billion.
2 Who are the sons of God? There is much disagreement over what this means. Some think it means the godly line of Seth, although the Bible does not say that the line of Seth was a godly line. This thinking comes from confusing the idea of "the line leading to Christ" with "the godly line." These are not the same thing. "The sons of God" is used three other times in the Old Testament, Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7. Read the context of each; does it refer to angels or men? Does Mt. 22:30 says angels CANNOT marry? Does this verse say that angels are sexless, neither male nor female? Actually, angels are always described as male, or at least as materializing in a physical male body.
So in Gen. 6 we see disobedient or fallen angels--demons--having relations with women. Perhaps this is the origin of the numerous myths of many cultures about gods and demi-gods and how they came to earth and had sex with women. If so, this is saying that such men, and the giants that resulted, were NOT of divine origin, but rather satanic. Mythology makes it clear that these gods were not "godly" but very lustful and wicked. Look carefully at the wording and the range of meanings in the original language. They saw the "daughters of men," human females to satisfy their lust and their interbreeding experiments. They "took"; "took" could also be translated "carried away" or "seized." "Wives" could also be translated as just "women." "Whomever those chose," because they were "beautiful"--selected for physical appearance. Their offspring were tyrants, bullies, "of old"--antiquity, ages, ancient times, eternal, everlasting, forever, long ago. So the implication is that these were not regular human beings. Giants apparently were commonly known in the distant past, since they appear frequently in folk tales that have been passed down over time, and in the history of the "berserkers."
3 What is the meaning of this statement about striving with man? Some say that 120 years will now become the shortened life span of man, but this does not make sense. AFTER the flood, life spans begin to decrease, and continue to decrease to well under the age of 120. Rather, it is the time left until God quits striving with man and judgment falls. Strive (Strong's): contend, judge, minister judgment, execute judgment, plead the cause. So apparently this was how God was dealing with man in that dispensation, when man was held only to the standard of his own conscience. But at some point God said, it will not be this way forever, only for 120 more years.
4 The word "Nephilim" doesn't occur in the KJV, which uses "giants" (Strong's: tyrant, bully) The Nephilim, referred to after the flood as the sons of Anak, or the sons of the Anakim, are thought to be a race of giants, which we read about in various places in the Old Testament, also called Rephaim, Emim (Strong's: terrors), and Zamzummin. They appear even after the flood; apparently demonic activity continued to occur but on a smaller scale. I Pet. 3:18-20, II Pet. 2:4 and Jude 6 seem to refer to these wicked angels of Gen. 6, that they are no longer free to pursue such activities. These verses don't say at what point these angels were put in bonds. Apparently wicked angels interbreeding with human women had offspring, some sort of mutants or hybrids. Perhaps human DNA was genetically altered to be no longer 100% human. "Mighty" seems to have a negative connotation, including the ideas of warrior, tyrant, giant (Strong's).
5 "Then." After specifying the situation with the sons of God, the daughters of men, and the Nephilim, it says "then." The judgment was directly related to this situation. Things on earth were bad: wickedness, great, every intent of man's thoughts, only, evil, continually. Mythology is also full of images of creatures that are half human, half animals. Could this have been another facet of the demonic breeding experiments? Could this be why God's judgment included animal life, saving only enough to make a clean start?
6-7 How can God be "sorry"? (KJV: "it repented the Lord") Strong's: sigh, breath strongly, pity. Did He make a mistake? Is He sovereign? Did He know from the beginning how things would be? There is no implication in the word that one has done WRONG and now should do RIGHT. Sometimes it looks to us like God is changing His mind, but is that really possible? But sometimes He does something, then does something different. He knew all along He was going to do that, and that people would act the way they did. God knows the outcome, but He also has a will/desire/plan (His "ideal" will) that we are not locked into because He has given us free will; He permits us to do something other than His ideal will (hence, His "permissive" will).
If humanity had indeed been corrupted by Satan's fallen angels, this could explain why Satan would want to do such a thing. If he could cause God to destroy all mankind, then the Promised One, the Messiah, the Redeemer, could not come, and God's plan would be foiled. Spiritual warfare between God and His angels, and Satan and his fallen angels, is one of the themes we find throughout the entire Bible. The book of Revelation records the end of this conflict.
What happened to those wicked angels? I Pet. 3:18-20
8 Apparently Noah was the only righteous man left. "Favor" in the NASB is "grace" in the KJV, the first use of "grace" in the Bible. Because of God's grace, Noah will be saved, physically and spiritually. What does Eph. 2:8 say about God's grace? Does it say Noah found grace because of good things he did?
9 Noah is described as righteous (KJV: just) and blameless (KJV: perfect) in his time (KJF: generations). Noah is described as Job was, "perfect." Were they sinless? Was anyone, ever? A reading of the whole Bible confirms, definitely not. "Perfect" (Strong's): without blemish, complete, full, without spot, undefiled, upright. Other passages in the Bible counsel us to be "perfect." So sinless is not the meaning. "Times/generations" may be a reference to the genetic contamination of mankind mentioned earlier; perhaps Noah's line was the only one still pure. Noah walked with God; obviously, no demonic mutant would do such a thing. But since we read of these giants after the flood, we might wonder if such altered genes were carried on the ark. Noah's line was still unaltered, but what about the wives of his sons? If such altered DNA was found in the land of Canaan, this could explain why God often told the Israelites to wipe out entire groups of people, not sparing man, woman or child, so there would be no chance of that line being carried on. (We will see in Gen. 9 that Canaan was a grandson of Noah--wicked, base, possibly perverted. So perhaps his mother, Ham's wife, was the one with the faulty genetic makeup.)
10 Again we are told of Noah's three sons. As in Genesis 1 and 2, we are first given the outline, the big picture, in the end of Gen. 5, then Gen. 6-9 give us the details of Noah and his three sons.
11-12 If the earth was filled with violence, it must have been filled with humans--a large population. "Corrupt" (Strong's): decay, ruin, destroy, mar, perish, spoil. The end of 12 states that "all flesh had corrupted their way." It hadn't just happened; choices had been made.
Jesus likens the endtimes destruction of mankind, at the end of the tribulation, to the destruction of mankind in Noah's day in the worldwide flood, Mat. 24:37-38, Luke 17:26-27. All who take the mark of the beast are destined for hell. The taking of the mark cannot be repented of; it cannot be undone. We know God desires all to be saved--why would He not allow this one group of people to repent and be saved? This is said of no other people in the Bible; something is different with this group of people. Apparently taking the mark permanently changes the individual in some way that makes them ineligible for eternal life. .
These Nephilim/demigods were unnatural--neither human (and redeemable) nor angelic. Even though Noah preached for 120 years as he was preparing the ark, no one believed--only his immediate family was saved. Why did no one respond to his preaching? Apparently all mankind but his family were evil and corrupted by their very nature, 6:5. God had to wipe out mankind in order to save the future of mankind, that His promise of a future Redeemer, Gen. 3:15, could be fulfilled.
Jesus' comparison between the days of Noah and the last days lends weight to the idea that once again, mankind will be corrupted at an elemental level, so that none who receive the mark can be saved, or probably would even desire to. Again, the future of humanity is at stake, and God must intervene: "And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved," Mat. 24:22. All those who have taken the mark will be removed to judgment, and the tribulation saints will be left to inherit the kingdom.
The original sin was based on the desire to be god-like, Gen. 3:5. Mankind still hopes to accomplish this goal. Evolution claims that man is evolving, and the next step up the evolutionary ladder is to evolve beyond our human limitations into a higher state. Today's computer technology holds out the possibility, in the near future, of combining man and machine, so that man will be a hybrid human/machine. Could something like this scenario explain the mark of the beast, and the inability of those who take it to repent? The beast will control a powerful cashless global economy, and the power to buy and sell. He might offer people the power to become super-human, like him; he could force it on people by controlling their ability to buy and sell. Christians, knowing the truth, would not believe "The Lie," and be willing to pay with their lives.
13 God speaks to Noah. What does Mt. 24:38 tell us about Noah's day, comparing the two accounts? What's wrong with eating and drinking, with marrying and giving in marriage? But when we compare with the Genesis account, we see that Matthew is not depicting innocent pastimes. What is he depicting? What didn't they understand? What did they finally understand when the flood actually came? What won't people (most people) understand before Christ's return? What will they understand when He does return and it is too late? What we see pictured is a godless approach to life (not necessarily "evil"), a lifestyle devoted to the pursuit of Self and of pleasure, the godless world system that we as believers are warned about.
Why did God destroy the earth too? Couldn't He just have destroyed man instantly and cleanly, like II Kings 19:35 or Rev. 19:21? Because of the major geologic upheaval in connection with the worldwide flood and its aftermath, there is virtually no record of that civilization. That must be the way God wanted it, for some reason, perhaps to protect later generations.
14-16 The blueprint for the ark; who designed it? It is 450 feet long and the same ratio of dimensions as modern ships--very stable. This boat was designed to be a floating barge, not a ship that can navigate to a destination. Does Noah sound primitive, like a caveman? We don't know if ships were even known or common then; it appears that the earth's landmass was one large continent at that time. How many doors did the ark have? Thinking of the ark as a type of Christ, how many ways are there to God? John 14:6, 10:9. Many think that all roads lead to heaven, as long as you are sincere in what you believe. Does the Bible teach this?
The NASB uses "cover" where the KJV uses "pitch." It is the same Hebrew word translated "atonement" in Ex. 29:33 and used frequently in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. So even though "atonement" is first found in Ex. 29:33, it is in a sense first found here in Gen. 6:14, and the context is interesting. What is the meaning of atonement? Strong's: cover, expiate, condone, placate, cancel, appease, cleanse, disannul, forgive, be merciful, pacify, pardon, purge away, put off, reconcile. The only time the word is used in the New Testament tells us what about atonement? In the Old Testament, atonement was made with the blood of animals, Ex. 30:10. Did the blood of animals remove sin? Heb. 9:6-14, 22-23, 10:11-14. So the blood of animals was a picture of Christ's death and His blood that would remove the sin of all men, all who believed before and after His death and resurrection. In Gen. 6, we see the covering of the ark provided salvation for all who believed the judgment was coming, who were godly and had not followed the way of the world, who accepted God's invitation and entered it. The ark is a type of Christ.
17 Was this flood something that just happened? Does a loving God ever bring catastrophes? Does "love" involve only warm fuzzy pleasant-feeling things? What might be some differences in the way we think of "love" and the way God is love? Is God's love about feelings or actions? When the Bible says God loved us, does that talk about His feelings for us (how cute and lovable we are) or what He did for us? Love without judgment (consequences) is not real love; to allow someone you are responsible for to do anything at all, even forbidden things, with no punishment or consequences, is to harm them in the long run. To consider only the short-term (how someone feels toward you when you say "no" or punish) rather than the long-term (the ultimate result of that person's behavior) is not true, unselfish love. A wrong understanding of the idea of love leads to a wrong understanding of the Bible and of God's character and actions.
18 What is a covenant? Who did God make it with? Noah's entire family was not mentioned as finding favor in God's eyes; Noah was, and the covenant is with him. But the covenant includes safety for who?
19 The covenant also includes safety for who? Some say the logistics here are impossible. Not every species, but every what? Within every "kind" is the built-in genetic code that allows for variation and adaptation, or micro-evolution. (What evolutionists mean by the term "evolution" is macro-evolution, or kinds evolving into other kinds. This is not only not supported by scripture, it is unscientific, since there is no evidence that this has ever happened. All the examples and fossil evidence used to "prove" evolution are of micro-evolution, or adaptation and variation within kinds.) Some creatures are very large; is it necessary to assume those who entered the ark were full-grown?
Were dinosaurs on the ark? Of course; they were created when all the other creatures were created. How could they fit? Small young ones would not be a problem. Evolutionists claim that dinosaurs came and went before man arrived, but that claim does not fit the facts of the Bible or of scientific evidence.
Many dinosaur fossils are found in dinosaur "graveyards," places where a great number of bones and complete skeletons are found. Evolutionists speculate about how and why so many died in one place and were buried there; flood geology (which will be discussed more in the next chapter) explains this phenomena easily. Fossils are evidence of catastrophes and rapid burial, not gradual buildup of sediment.
Dinosaurs died out gradually following the flood, probably due to climate and environmental change. Before the flood, the earth apparently was a uniform, semi-tropical climate. Winter and summer are first mentioned after the flood, Gen. 8:22. Yet there have been reports throughout history, even recently, of dinosaur-type creatures. Why do virtually all cultures have folk tales about dragons, living at the same time as civilized man? What did dragons look like? In all cultures, they are described and drawn as the same type of creature, some sort of dinosaur.
The Bible mentions dinosaurs in the book of Job, who is thought to have lived before the time of the patriarchs. This would place Job's life in the period of Gen. 10-11. Job 40:15-24 describes a creature referred to as "Behemoth;" many Bibles have "hippopotamus" in the margin, but that is not the biblical term, nor does the description fit. 40:17, what is his tail like? What is a cedar tree like? It is huge. What type of dinosaur does this sound like, with a huge, long, strong tail? It is herbivorous, inhabits marshes, and is quite at home in the water. Actually, all dinosaurs were herbivorous in the beginning; so were all the animals and man, Gen. 1:30. Job 41 describes Leviathan, another type of dinosaur, even though many Bible margins label it a crocodile. This is definitely not a description of a crocodile. It is actually what would be called a sea dragon. Again, we have come to think of sea dragons as mythological, but what were those folk tales based on? Stories from long ago. This account as well as many folk tales lead us to believe that some of these creatures had an unusual physical structure and ability to make and exhale flame and smoke. Numerous verses in the NASB mention "jackals" but that word is not found in the KJV; it uses "dragons" (Strong's: sea or land monster, dragon). These dinosaurs lived contemporaneously with man in those days, but over time most died out. Not only does the Bible reference these creatures, living after the flood alongside man, but there are numerous secular eyewitness accounts of sea and land dragons.
20 Some question how Noah could have gathered all these creatures and got them into the ark. Did he have to gather them? God could have used the natural migratory and homing instincts, or these instincts we see today could be "left-overs" from this time and this incident (or neither). Others question the geographical difficulties in gathering animals from the various continents as we have them today. This is further evidence that before the flood, the earth's land mass consisted of one continent. Compare Gen. 9:1-2, immediately following the flood; there would now be changes. So before the flood, were "wild" animals afraid of man? It also seems likely that at that time, animals were not attacking and killing each other, which would create chaos on the ark and result in Noah not ending up with the required number of each creature still alive; that probably also changed after the flood.
21 Here again, some say the logistics make this impossible. But if young small creatures were involved, representing the basic kinds, and if God used or caused some form of natural hibernation with many creatures, this would not be impossible. Obviously man at that time knew how to preserve food and animal fodder. There are many good books that answer questions and criticisms about the Bible's account of the ark.
22 Noah's response. Much can be surmised from this brief statement. Did Noah argue with God, or not believe Him? Did he say OK, then not follow through? Apparently he did his best to obey. What is our response to God's Word, as He asks us to choose Him and His way in every decision and situation in our lives? What if it is hard to obey, or we face ridicule? How does II Pet. 2:5 describe Noah? Ez. 14:14,20 list Noah with Daniel and Job as an example of what kind of men? Heb. 11:7, what did Noah have? Was he skeptical while he was preparing the ark? Was he considered righteous because of his good deeds? What makes us righteous? Based on the description of society at that time, and the number who joined him in the ark, what do you think was the response to his preaching? How did Noah's actions, his life, back up his message? How long did Noah have to face this? Do you ever feel alone in your stand for God? Is it really the end of the world if you are? Does God call us to get results, or just to be faithful to do what He says? We can cultivate the ground, plant and water the seeds, but only God can cause the seed to bear fruit.
Many Christians believe and teach that this was only a local flood, not worldwide. If so, why would God have Noah build an ark and have every kind of creature on earth come into it? Why not just tell Noah and his family to migrate or flee to higher ground until it was over? They would have had plenty of time. Most of the animals would have managed to flee also. Of course, if it was merely local, and all mankind was NOT killed, then God either lied to Noah, or the Bible is lying or in error in this entire account of what God was doing at that time, and why. Jesus was either lying, confused, or knowingly passing on untruths, Mt. 24:38-39, Luke 17:26-27, and so was Peter, II Pet. 2:5, 3:5-6. If the Bible is not true in one part, how can we know it is true in any other part? If we pick and choose, how can we know which parts to believe? The parts we want to believe? The Bible becomes a book of stories and fables, and God is not truly loving, powerful, and righteous as the Bible claims He is. You cannot throw out one part of the Bible without in effect throwing out the whole book.
Judgment is coming, but God has provided a way for the righteous to escape the judgment, to be saved. This pictures the future time when God will again bring judgment on the earth, the tribulation described in Mt. 24, I Thes. 5, and Revelation, and the removal of the righteous, those who are "in Christ," before judgment falls. It also pictures the safety of believers from eternal damnation. The ark is a type or symbol of Christ. It is always God's desire that men repent and be saved, I Tim. 2:4; He calls, but does not force anyone to choose Him, Mt. 22:14.
1 God gives final instructions. "Righteous before Me:" we are not actually righteous, in ourselves, but if we have come to God on His terms (by faith, with our sins covered by the blood sacrifice He requires), then we are righteous in His eyes. For the believer in Christ, when God looks at us, He sees Christ. The KJV reads, "Come into the ark." Compare Mt. 11:28, Heb. 11:7. Who is the ark a picture of? Ex. 25:22, 30:6. Where would God choose to meet with them? How do we meet with God today? John 14:6.
"You and all your household." Did Noah have other sons and daughters than the three sons mentioned? It is possible that he did not; compare the genealogies in Gen. 5, which list one son by name, followed by "and he had other sons and daughters." This is never said of Noah. Is it possible that Noah only had three sons in all his 950 years (9:29)? This verse doesn't say he took some of his sons; if he had any others, apparently they were not alive at this time.
2-3 First use of clean/unclean. How would Adam know what is clean and unclean? (God had obviously already revealed this to man.) Why seven clean? See Gen. 8:20. What about marine life? Some would survive, on their own, but many would die. Fossils buried in strata attest to this.
4 How long would it rain? Who would die? How long were they on the ark before the rain began? Do you think they may have wondered if God was REALLY going to send a flood? Would the appearance of the animals have served to increase their faith that God was doing what He said? Didn't everyone else see it too though? Did it change their minds? Did any of them need to die? Did Noah tell them the consequences? What could they do to avoid death? Did they have plenty of time to think about it, and ask questions if they didn't understand? So was God "cruel" to destroy them? Was it their choice or not?
5 How much of what God commanded did Noah do?
6 His sons were born when he was 500, 5:32, but apparently God spoke to him before they were born, announcing that there were only 120 years until judgment fell, 6:3.
7-10 How many people on the ark? How many had responded to Noah's preaching? The fact that not even one person responded and repented again makes me wonder if these people were demonically influenced. Noah, his family and the animals obey God's instructions.
The Old Testament has many symbols, pictures, types and foreshadowing of truth that God will not reveal until later. (When God reveals more truth than He had previously revealed, the New Testament refers to this as a "mystery." Rom.16:25, I Cor. 2:7, Eph. 3:9. Noah and his family were the only believers on the earth; where do all the believers go now? How long are they there before the destruction of the wicked? After the destruction of the wicked, where do they go? Back to the earth, to solid ground.
The ark pictures Christ; what does He tell His disciples in John 14:3? This can't be the Second Coming when He comes to earth to reign over His kingdom for 1,000 years. Compare this verse with I Thes. 4:16-17. They are apparently describing the same event, when Christ snatches up all believers on the earth (the church) before the judgment and destruction of the wicked. Might the seven days on the ark before the destruction of the wicked picture the seven years the church is in heaven with Christ during the Tribulation and before the destruction of the wicked on the earth, following which the church returns to the earth with Christ to rule and reign with Him in His kingdom?
This interpretation is confirmed by Christ in Mt. 24:37-39. Just as the wicked in Noah's day ignored God's message and were caught totally by surprise when the water began to rise, so today the wicked are going about their business and pleasure, totally oblivious to the fact that judgment is about to fall. Mt. 24:39 says that as they did not understand UNTIL the flood came, so today they will not understand UNTIL the seven years of tribulation come upon the earth. Then they will experience God's judgment.
Many Christians do not believe the church will be snatched away; this doctrine is often referred to as the "rapture," a term that comes from an old English translation of the Greek word "harpazo." But it is amazing to see how many places the Bible teaches this concept. It is foreshadowed in the Old Testament here, in Gen. 5:24, II Kings 2:11, Song of Solomon 2:8-13, and Is. 26:19-20. We find the same word used in Acts 8:39 to tell how Philip was snatched away by the Lord. Compare the New Testament passages of I Cor. 15:51-53, I Thes. 1:10, 3:13, 4:14-18, 5:23 (some will be preserved "complete"--spirit, soul and body--at the coming of the Lord. Note the chronological order of I Thes. 4 and 5, with chapter 5 speaking of the time immediately following the removal of the church. Especially note 5:9, which promises that the church will not experience the pouring out of God's wrath. If God poured out His wrath on the church (the body of Christ, I Cor. 12:27, Eph. 4:12), He would be pouring out His wrath on His Son, who already paid for our sins ONCE FOR ALL, Heb. 10:10. This same promise is found in Rev. 3:10.
Paul also teaches this in II Thes. 2:1,3,6-8. "Our gathering together to Him" does not refer to the Second Coming because He will come here, whereas at the catching up, we will be gathered to Him. In 2:3, the "apostasy" (KJV, "falling away") can't refer to apostasy from the faith, for that has always been around. Paul is speaking of a particular event (THE apostasy), well-known to his readers because he has taught them about it. The seven English translations of the Bible prior to the King James Version all translated "apostasia" as "departure" or "departing." For more on this interpretation, click here.
The departure of the church comes first, then the Antichrist will be revealed. Paul repeats this teaching in II Thes. 2:7-8. The Holy Spirit, indwelling believers in the church age, thereby restrains evil in the world; when the church is snatched away, the restraining influence of the indwelling Holy Spirit will cease, releasing the full power of evil in the form of the lawless one, the man of sin--the Antichrist. The Holy Spirit will continue to operate on earth as He did in the Old Testament, and because God is omnipresent, He IS still present on the earth, but not in the same way He was in all the individuals known collectively as the church.
11-12 The exact day the flood began. This account does not follow the pattern of myths or legends. Facts and details are very clear. There is probably not enough water in the present atmosphere to cover the whole earth more than a couple inches deep. Two water sources available at that time are mentioned here which solve that problem. What are they? These events begin simultaneously, and will continue for 40 days.
13-16 Now we are told that the eight people and all the animals entered the ark all on the same day. Did Noah have to halter-break all those animals to load them? Noah had not spent days and weeks loading these animals. God orchestrated this event. Who closed the door? Then they sat for seven days. What sounds they heard outside? At first laughter and derision, later crying and terror. Might some of those now repent, recognizing that God's message was true? Like those in the tribulation who believe after the church is removed, they will suffer the consequences of not believing while there was still time to get to physical safety in Christ, even though their souls are saved. But maybe none did. Notice the account of Noah, his family, and the animals entering the ark is told three times in this chapter, in slightly different ways. God knew that this account would be questioned, twisted and rejected by many. He is making it very clear.
Great tectonic upheaval. It is very likely that back then, the ocean basins were not as deep, but after they burst, and the underground sources emptied themselves, they also collapsed, forming the deep rifts and trenches on the ocean floor we have today. Along with such a phenomena, we could expect other great movements in the earth's plates--volcanic activity, mountain building, shifting of plates.
17-18 The flood begins. A great amount of water is involved.
19 Was this a little local flood? If it was, how would any mountains be covered? Wouldn't the water spread out first? If it wasn't worldwide, why would God have Moses (the writer) use the words that are recorded here? "Prevailed," "more and more," "all," "high mountains," "everywhere under the heavens." These are strong statements. God is making sure there is no doubt about what He is saying. Whether or not you choose to believe it is up to you. But keep in mind that denying the literal interpretation throws this and all the rest of the Bible into error.
20 Then the water goes even higher. Were the highest mountains at that time as high as today's highest mountains are? Does anyone know how high they were? It is very possible that they weren't nearly as high at that time. The mountains of the present landscape show evidence of massive tectonic upheaval. The question is, when did that upheaval take place?
21 All, every, all.
22 All, all. All died.
23 Some living things? Who is left alive? The repetition in this chapter is not accidental, is not accidental, is not accidental. God knew that people would try to get around this. He makes it very very clear.
24 At the end of the 40 days, did they get out of the ark?
A digression to discuss flood geology:
Since the flood really did happen just as described, and since we know what was observed at Mount St. Helens, (click here and scroll down to #9, Earth Age), we know that such a major catastrophe, with accompanying high winds, tidal waves, earthquakes, etc., would have caused major sedimentary deposits. The strata that scientists say represent millions and billions of years, were actually formed in a relatively short time. The waters didn't recede for about a year, and major weather changes and tectonic activity would be expected to continue for at least a century, say creation scientists. Could Ps. 18:7-15 be describing the flood, and 16-19, Noah's experience? What about Ps. 104:6-9?
The evolution model supposes that not only long ages were needed, but that during those long ages, all geologic features of the earth were formed slowly and gradually by natural processes observable today. This is called uniformitarianism. Uniform processes, uniform rates.
We have no trouble understanding how many thick layers of strata would be deposited by such violent, powerful movements of water, especially in the light of Mt. St. Helens. There is no need to assume millions or billions of years. Therefore, there is no need for such compromises as the gap theory, the day-age theory, or theistic or progressive evolution.
Now, in the light of all this, consider how the evolutionists date the strata. Fossils are dated by the rocks in which they are found, and rocks are dated by the fossils found in them: circular reasoning. And, although almost all fossils are found in sedimentary rock, only volcanic rock can be dated radioactively. The flood model does a much better job of explaining the evidence.
Fossils are the evidence of the massive killing of many animals. The supposed division of types of animals according to their age and development is false, and there are numerous documented examples of fossils found in the wrong strata. Also, transitional forms have never been found. In every strata, each type appears suddenly, fully formed.
Floating dead carcasses would be sorted by size and density as they are carried along in flood waters, and begin to settle with the particles of varying sizes. This would explain the general trends of finding certain types of fossils in certain types of strata. Fossils speak of rapid burial in sediment, not slow gradual covering. Fossil graveyards speak of rapid mass burial, not a scene of mass death.
Rapid mountain building is evidenced by many mountains whose strata are not level, or folded. They obviously uplifted after the strata were deposited, and fairly soon after, while the sediment was not yet hard and brittle. The Grand Canyon was very probably formed by the rapid drainage following the flood, as were many landforms we see all around us. Geologists no longer believe it was cut by the Colorado River, yet this theory is still taught in most textbooks. You can practically see where flood waters eroded lines on mountains and bluffs. What about the dry lake beds of Nevada? Why did this dry desert area once have so many lakes, and evidence of a humid climate in the past? They are post-flood relicts, created by flood drainage. Shallow basins without a water supply, they eventually dried up by evaporation. Saharan, Arabian and other deserts show evidence of fertile pasts. Geologists say valleys were cut by rivers; more likely, they are the result of rapid flood drainage. Now they capture run-off to form the rivers and streams that we see today.
The geological evidence does not prove evolution or long ages. It is data that can be interpreted as evidence of long or short periods of time. The question we need to consider, and the approach that is needed in public schools is, which model makes the most sense? And for the Christian, how credible is the Bible? If parts of it are not true, we are all in big trouble.
Read my online book, Evolution: Fact or Philosophy?
1 Does God "forget"? Strong's: to be mindful of (no hint of the idea of first forgetting). Can God forget, if He knows everything, is eternal and unchanging? In Jer. 23:39, God tells Judah, the southern kingdom of Israel, through Jeremiah the prophet, that He will forget them. Here, "forget" cannot have the meaning of "to lose the remembrance of, be unable to think of or recall." God is saying He will do this purposely. So it must have the meaning of "to disregard intentionally." This is confirmed by related verses, Jer. 23:33, 7:14-15, and numerous other warning passages to Israel. Here is a good example of why looking words up in Strong's Concordance is so useful. Words have been used in different ways over the years; consider when the Bible was translated into English. We do not use all words in exactly the same way they did back then, plus we must remember that a word may have a different flavor in the original language (and culture) than it does when translated into our language (and culture). We assume they mean exactly what they mean in today's world, but it's good to check the meaning of any word that raises a question in your mind.
How long have they been on the ark? What was this wind? It's not likely that this is referring to the average breeze; what did this wind aid in doing? Was this necessarily a supernatural wind, or wouldn't it be the natural result of great temperature differences? Yet the Bible says God caused it. We see here, as in many places in the Bible, that God uses natural means and the free actions of people, yet they are all under His sovereign control, fitting into His plans and accomplishing His sovereign will. Our human minds have trouble understanding a God capable of doing all that, but we are not required to understand, just to believe what He says is true.
"Prior to the Flood, the earth's protective canopy of water vapor had maintained a global climate of essentially uniform temperature. Since temperature differentials are the chief cause of wind movements and storms, we may infer that storms and strong winds, as well as strong rains, were unknown before the Flood. But with the condensation and precipitation of the canopy, the protection was removed. Air masses near the poles began to cool and those near the equator to heat more intensively, and soon a great complex of atmospheric motions began." (p. 267, The Genesis Flood, Whitcomb and Morris, 1961) How would a great wind cause the water to recede? Tidal waves and great currents; at the same time, strong sedimentary action, changes in the earth's crust to equalize pressure where the fountains of the deep had emptied themselves, movements of magma, a period of great volcanic activity, continental uplift, fault slippage. As the oceans deepened, the continents reconfigured and the mountains uplifted, the water was contained. These processes would not have been short-lived, but would have continued for centuries. Rapid sedimentation, strata formation, and fossilization would occur. The lowest strata would show marine organisms because they would quickly be caught in the maelstrom of the emptying of the fountains of the deep. Land animals are found in higher strata, not because they "evolved" later, but because of hydraulic sorting and the fact that land animals could escape the waters longer by fleeing to higher ground. Evolutionists have trouble explaining why so many fossils are found in the "wrong" strata; the flood model has no such problem, since turbulence would cause a certain amount of mixing.
2 What sources of water are again mentioned, and now restrained?
3 Again we are told the water receded over a short period of time. Drastic changes in the earth would be required for this to take place; we have much evidence that such drastic changes happened. Evolutionists look at that evidence and say it had to have happened slowly and gradually over millions and billions of years, by processes still operating today, but that is merely one possible interpretation. The flood model fits the evidence much better.
4 More details. This is not a fanciful story but a historical account. Ararat is in Armenia.
5 How long did the water recede (go down) before mountaintops appeared? Regardless of how high the mountains were at that point, this is further evidence that the flood covered the entire earth, as the Bible says it did.
6-9 After 40 more days, what happened? What happened to the raven? What happened to the dove? Why didn't the raven return? What do ravens eat? Wouldn't there be plenty of this floating around? Why did the dove return? If it had been a "minor" flood, or a "tranquil" flood, quietly rising and emptying like a bathtub, all the trees should be intact, even on the highest mountains.
10-11 What happens seven days later? What does this mean? Did the dove find a tree? Not necessarily, given the nature of the olive, which grows quickly from cuttings. Olives wouldn't grow high on Ararat, nor down in low areas, but would grow on the hillsides.
McGee makes an interesting analogy. The raven and dove represent our two natures. The raven thrives on flesh; the dove is used in the Bible to represent what? Mt. 3:16. The raven goes out into a judged world, finds a feast of flesh. The dove finds no rest, returns to the ark. What might the ark represent, if it was the means of salvation of Noah and his family? Christ.
Do you think it is stretching things to find such analogies in scripture? Actually it is full of them. Compare the story of Gideon's army, Jud. 7:16-20, with Rom. 9:20-21, II Cor. 4:6-7 and Mt. 21:44. What are we likened to? What shined out when the pitchers/vessels/clay pots were broken? So is being "broken" a good thing or a bad thing? I believe God placed these analogies there. The events are historical, but God in His sovereignty made sure that at the same time, they pictured truths. When the symbols used are found and interpreted for us elsewhere in the Bible, we are not going out on a limb but interpreting scripture by scripture. This is one of the wonders of the Bible, and evidence that such a complex book could not be written by mere fallible men.
13-14 What is the difference between the dryness of 13 and that of 14? How much time has passed since the flood began? 7:11, 600th year, 2nd month, 17th day; 601st year, 1st month, 1st day; 2nd month, 27th day. Exact dates must be important for some reason.
15-17 What happens now? Just as God invites us to come into the ark (Christ), He later commands us to what, Mk. 16:15?
18-19 They obey.
20 What is the first thing Noah did? What does this show us about Noah? God had established the requirement of sacrifice back in the Garden of Eden.
21 Was it the smell that actually soothed and satisfied God, or the act and attitude that the smell represented? The Bible tells us that Christ's blood was the propitiation for our sins, Rom. 3:25, I John 2:2. "Propitiate" (Webster): to appease, conciliate, pacify, regain the favor or goodwill of. In Strong's, "propitiation" also has the meaning of "expiate:" to extinguish the guilt incurred (Webster). How does God feel about unrighteousness (sin)? Rom. 1:18. God, holy and sinless, loves us, but as sinners, we are unacceptable to Him, so He had to make a way to satisfy His own anger and His holiness; that way is Christ. Through Christ we are acceptable and can now fellowship with God, and some day be in His presence.
God makes some promises. What does this verse tell us about the condition of every human from birth? We call this the doctrine of original sin, although that phrase is found nowhere in the Bible. This means that because of Adam's sin, all his descendants are born in that same sinful condition (Gen. 5:3, Ps. 51:5). We aren't sinners because at some point we commit a sin; the Bible says we commit sin because we are born as sinners. Many believe man is "good" but the Bible does not teach that. Another similar theological term is the depravity of man, or total depravity (be careful about what Calvinists mean by that). Neither of these terms are found in the Bible either, but they describe what the Bible teaches about the nature of man.
This is interesting because some people don't believe in the concept of the rapture since the word "rapture" isn't found in the Bible. (The Bible uses the Greek word "harpazo" which according to Strong's Concordance, can be translated, caught up, caught away, pluck, pull, take, seize. The first few definitions of "rapture" in Webster's dictionary use similar terms. Today, we generally use "rapture" to mean being carried away emotionally.) Some also say this about God's "ideal will" or His "permissive will," and various other ideas. This argument is not valid. Neither are the above terms found in the Bible, or the term "Trinity." Yet these are core beliefs of the Christian faith. We often find useful non-Bible words to describe concepts found in the Bible.
22 The first mention of cold, heat, summer, and winter. Apparently these were not known before the flood. (Day and night are also mentioned in this list, but we have already seen that they were known before the flood.) The vapor canopy (if there was one) before the flood would have minimized these effects on the earth before. There is abundant evidence of lush tropical plants at both poles and other currently frigid areas. Now a great atmospheric change has taken place. Snow and ice appear. After the flood came the ice age, due to extreme differences in the still-warm oceans and the cold atmosphere--the changing land masses. This would take centuries to stabilize. Secular scientists have no good explanation for the ice age. The book of Job has references to snow and ice; it is thought to be the earliest book, taking place shortly after the flood and ice age. It also mentions dinosaurs.
Apparently now begins the modern hydrologic cycle as we know it: evaporation, condensation, and precipitation.
1 Where else have we read this? Gen. 1:28. This is God's plan for mankind, to spread out on this earth, to fill it. Today some think that man should not be allowed to encroach on the habitat of various animals; according to the Bible, whose is the earth, man's? Or animals'?
2 Has this been the situation before the flood? Apparently not; man's relationship with animals has changed. Fear is now involved. Again God makes clear that man has dominion over the animals.
3 What may man eat now? What can we infer that he ate before, 1:29-30? People may choose to be vegetarians, but God's design for the human body is that we eat plants and animals. We may be vegetarians if we so choose, but the Bible does not require it. Compare Rom. 14:1-4.
4 The importance of blood. What restriction is placed on man? Why does God place so much importance on blood? The shedding of blood was required for forgiveness of sins, for righteousness. The Old Testament clearly teaches this. Gen. 3:21, Lev. 17:11, Heb. 9:22. Christ's sinless life did not save us; His death did. He did not come to show people how to live a good life; He came to die as the sacrifice for our sins. John 1:29. For those who have accepted the gift, God no longer sees our sins when He looks at us; He sees Christ's shed blood. He passes over our sins. What important Old Testament event pictures this truth? Exodus 12:1-28, I Cor. 5:7. The Jews were to re-enact this event every year as a reminder (why?), and still do, but most failed to see Christ's death as the fulfillment of this picture.
5-6 What new requirement does God make? The institution of capital punishment--the beginnings of human government. Laws are necessary, wickedness can't go unpunished. The previous dispensation made that clear. Now God is dealing with man in a somewhat different way, testing him under a different set of circumstances. This new dispensation, government, follows the dispensations of perfection (before the Fall), and conscience (after the Fall and before the flood). God deals with man through different dispensations throughout history, showing him that no matter what circumstances he is tested under, man is sinful and cannot achieve righteousness on his own. Only God can satisfy the requirement of righteousness.
Some believe that capital punishment is immoral and that Christians should not support it. Here we see the Bible teaches it. Does this contradict the 10 Commandments? No; in the original Hebrew, the word "kill" in "thou shalt not kill" is the word for "murder." Not all killing is murder; God often commands Israel to kill the ungodly enemy nations around them. Man is not to take personal vengeance into his own hands, but to use the God-given legal system to see that a criminal pays the penalty for breaking the law. God has instituted government to take care of that need, Rom. 13:1-6. Enforcing laws with capital punishment is not the same as taking vengeance, which the Christian is not to do. The law of Moses specifies numerous capital crimes. Rom. 13:4 tells us that enforcing capital punishment is one of the roles of government. 6, why is the shedding of human blood such a serious crime? Some who oppose the death penalty say we should forgive instead; the Bible says laws are to be obeyed, and forgiveness is based upon the individual's repentance. 5, compare Ex. 21:28.
In what way will God require the life of an animal? The context, 5-6, is about humans being killed. Whether they are killed by another human or by an animal, that human or animal is to be put to death for that act. Today animal rightists would take away our right to kill an animal to defend ourselves or prevent more human death.
7 God repeats His first instructions; this must be very important. We see that God's plan for mankind, and the basis for society, is marriage and family.
It is interesting that today, each of these instructions from God is being disputed.
9-11 What is a covenant? What is the promise that God made?
12-17 What is the sign of the covenant? What is it to remind us of? Did God invent the rainbow supernaturally? Why weren't there rainbows before the flood? What do you think of when you see a rainbow? What should you think of? 11 and 15, what percentage of "flesh" had God destroyed in the flood? God repeats what He wants us to clearly know.
18 The three sons. What group of people would be descended from Ham's son, 10:15-19?
19 Is anyone alive today who is not descended from Noah? Could all the races be descended from one man? Does this mean Noah's three sons were three different colors? What about the wives? Remember that God designed genetic variation into every living thing. It doesn't matter what color Noah was or the members of his family; they had the genetic characteristics for every race. These characteristics would begin to show up as people intermarried within their family groups.
20-21 The Bible does not say that drinking wine is a sin; even Jesus drank wine. But it does say drunkenness is a sin. In Noah's case, we cannot be sure it was sin. The context indicates that Canaan was the sinful party, not Noah. Because this incident happened after the flood, we might wonder if fermentation was something new. Before the flood, the earth was apparently equally temperate; heat and cold were not known yet. There may not have been enough heat to cause fermentation in the past. The concept of heat and cold, summer and winter, is first mentioned in 8:22. Noah may have accidentally stumbled upon a phenomena that he was not familiar with.
22-24 Ham sins. We don't know exactly the implication here, but we know he acted inappropriately under the circumstances. One commentator says that seeing your father naked was a breach of family ethics. We also don't know if Ham stumbled upon this scene by accident or on purpose. But the fact that he told his brothers implies gloating. He made a mockery of his father. In Leviticus, references to uncovering someone's nakedness is referring to engaging in immoral sexual behavior. Here Ham did not uncover his father's nakedness; Noah uncovered himself. Whatever happened was considered quite serious by Noah. Interestingly, the Canaanites were later known for immoral behavior. Ham's baseness continued to manifest itself in his descendants. (Behavior traits often run in families.)
25-27 Noah prophesies what will become of Ham's descendants. Just as he had humiliated his father, Ham's punishment would be the humiliation of seeing the base behavior of his children and grandchildren and knowing they got it or learned it from him. Their own base behavior and low standards would result in their enslavement by others (the descendants of Japheth and Shem). Compare Lev. 18:1-25. 18:3 and 24-25 relate these sins particularly to the Canaanites. This is what they were known for. This is what happens to nations that practice drunkenness and sexual looseness. Noah's prophecy would not cause Ham's descendants to act this way; he was telling ahead of time what God showed him, so Ham would know that the consequences of his baseness would continue for generations. This is what is meant by the biblical phrase, "visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children," Ex. 20:5, Ex. 34:7, Num. 14:18, Deut. 5:9. The Bible clearly teaches that each person is responsible for their own sin, Deut. 24:16, Ez. 18:19-20.
Have you ever wondered why God had the Israelites remove the Canaanites from their own land? They were under a curse from the very beginning. Many people somehow got the idea that the curse on Canaan was black skin. That thinking came from the assumption that blacks are inferior. Whites were not always the dominant race; in Bible days, dark skinned nations were the powerful ones--Eqypt, the middle East. Also, Canaan's descendants appear to be middle eastern people.
Since we read of giants after the flood, we might wonder if such altered genes were carried on the ark (see notes on Gen. 6). Noah was "blameless" so his line was still unaltered, but what about the wives of his sons? If such altered DNA, resulting in demonic mutants, was found in the land of Canaan, this could explain why God often told the Israelites to wipe out entire groups of people, not sparing man, woman or child, so there would be no chance of that line being carried on. Canaan, Noah's grandson, is wicked, base, possibly perverted. So perhaps his mother, Ham's wife, was the one with the altered genetic makeup.
Japheth would "dwell in the tents of Shem." In other words, there would be no enslavement, but they would live on friendly terms. Which of the three sons will the chosen line come through? What will the descendants of Shem be called in the Bible? (Shemites = Semites or Semitic = Jews) These verses set the stage for much of what will take place in the Old Testament. The Canaanites, sons of Canaan, will be displaced from their land, and rightly so, Lev. 18:25; their land will then be given by God to the sons of Israel, who are sons of Shem. Was God wrong to punish them for their ungodly behavior, to take their land from them? Did they have knowledge of God? Should they have, if their father had acted rightly on his own knowledge of God and passed it on to his descendants? What knowledge is available to ALL people, in all times, Rom. 1:20? As the knowledge of the true God was corrupted, false religions and false "gods" became common, often containing bits of the truth, but false nonetheless.
This chapter contains lots of names and genealogical information. It is called The Table of Nations, and lists 70 descendants of Noah, indicating their political and territorial alignment.
Again we see how the Bible presents the chosen line and the rejected lines. The rejected lines are mentioned first and quickly dropped, only mentioned again as they cross paths with the chosen line.
The chapter can be divided easily as following the three lines of Noah's three sons. What is the first division, 2-5? What is the second division, 6-20? What is the third division, 21-31? Which is the chosen line?
2-5 What general geographical area did Japheth and his descendants gravitate toward? The north, and the areas that later become Europe and Russia. Some of these names can be found on Bible maps. Compare these names to Ez. 38:2,6.
5 Could this be referring to the ongoing tectonic processes, splitting up the one original land mass into continents, following the flood? Or the Gentile nations (nations = Gentiles, KJV) into tribal groups as they settled in various geographical areas? (coastlands = isles, KJV; Strongs = dry land, coast, island, habitable spot) It is possible that both meanings are true; Bible statements are sometimes true on more than one level, without contradicting each other. Both of these meanings are biblically possible.
6-9 Whose line is followed next? These people settled in Mesopotamia, Arabia and Egypt. Two descendants of Ham will be considered closely. Who do we meet first, in the line of Ham's son Cush? 8, what phrase takes us back to Gen. 6:4? 9 uses what phrase? This maybe talking about hunting animals, but it seems doubtful that such a fact would bring him this special mention. He was a hunter of men. He was a rebellious, violent, aggressive, evil man, apparently following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. Quite a bit can be read about Nimrod from secular history, how he was a lawless rebel. From the Jerusalem Targum: "…he was a hunter of the sons of men, and he said to them. 'Depart from the judgment of the Lord, and adhere to the judgment of Nimrod!' Therefore is it said: 'As Nimrod the strong one, strong in hunting, and in wickedness before the Lord.'" His name even means "rebel." "Before the Lord" could mean something like "in God's face."
Who was the father of Nimrod? Who was his grandfather? What did we just read about Ham and Canaan at the end of the previous chapter? Of Noah's three sons, Shem was the one whose line would lead to Abraham, the Jews, and eventually to Christ. Ham appeared to be rather immoral and therefore perhaps rather godless. As we see others in his family line, this conclusion is confirmed.
10 What city does he found? This is the second city mentioned in the Bible, but the first one mentioned by name, and therefore of significance. We saw that the first mention of a city was in a negative context (4:16-17). So is this one. We also find the first use of the word "kingdom," first used in a negative context. We will read more details of this wicked city and kingdom in the next chapter. Man's first kingdom is wicked, godless, and in rebellion toward God. This was not God's original plan for man on this earth; the Old Testament makes it clear that when Christ returns to set up the final kingdom on earth, it will be in accordance with God's will. Compare what Christ taught His disciples to pray, Mt. 6:10.
In contrast to man's cities, founded in rebellion to God, is God's city, the final city, Rev. 21-22. The fact that the Bible ends with the description of this city seems to highlight the contrast with man's city in the beginning of the Bible, along with other references throughout the Bible to "the city." When God has judged and destroyed the godless world's commercial system, He will replace it with a different type of city.
In what land is this city/kingdom of Babel/Babylon? Compare Dan. 1:1-2. Shinar is also mentioned in Zech. 5:11, in one of the visions Zechariah receives about the events of the last days, when God will bring judgment on the earth and restore Israel to its rightful place in His plan. In this vision we see a woman and an ephah--a bushel measure, apparently a symbol of commercialism, of greed, and this is identified as wickedness. Interestingly, we see these same things in Revelation. 5:11 has events happening in what place? Compare Rev. 18:1-5. So we see that Nimrod and his city of Babel in the land of Shinar foreshadow man's final godless, rebellious kingdom headed by that final lawless one. As Adam is a type of Christ--the Messiah who is to come--Nimrod is a type of the lawless one, empowered by Satan, that is to come, identified by various names in the Bible--the man of sin, the beast, the Antichrist.
11 What other land does he take? Nineveh is the capital city of Assyria. How do Babylon and Assyria relate to Israel's history? II Kings 17:6-23 and II Chron. 36:15-21.
12-14 What other later enemy of Israel came from Ham's son Cush, 14?
15-20 Here Ham's line through his son Canaan is identified and followed further. Where is the land of Canaan? Look on Bible maps. If you are familiar with the Old Testament, you will recognize many of these Canaanite tribes as enemies of Israel. Israel's enemies are basically descended from the line of Ham, and Israel spends much time attempting to eradicate or subjugate them, in accord with God's commands.
19 The boundaries of the land of Canaan (the land God gives Israel--the promised land).
21-31 Whose line is given now? Why is it significant that Shem's line is given last? The chosen line is given last, then followed through the Bible. Shem's line is given through Eber's two sons, Peleg and Joktan. 25, probably in his day came the division of mankind by the confusing of languages at Babel, Gen. 11. That would be five generations after the flood. It could also refer to the possibility of post-flood tectonic activity such as continental drift. Or both. Perhaps God ensured that man would fill the earth by first scattering them by confusing their language, and then after they had scattered, isolating them geographically. Shem's descendants appear to settle in areas north and east of Babylon as well as in the Arabian peninsula.
5, 20, 31 Family lines turned into nations. These lists do not mention races, but we know, as men stayed within their own family groups, or tribes, for protection, that racial strains would have developed naturally.
32 This is a summary of man's history from the flood through Shem's descendants, Peleg and Joktan. Another important genealogy is found in Mat. 1 (Joseph) and Luke 3 (Mary). Joseph: the legal claim to the throne is through his side, the physical line is through Mary, through two different sons of David.
We just read about how the three sons of Noah multiplied and settled in various parts of the earth. That is the big picture. Just as in Gen. 1-2, the big picture is given, then a detail of that picture is explained. Here we have an incident that took place before the spreading out of those families. In fact, this is what caused them to spread. Nimrod is not mentioned by name in this chapter, but based on 10:8-12, we know that this is the account of his city and the rebellion he leads. As we saw in 10:25, this seems to have been in Peleg's generation, five generations after the flood.
1 Some important information. What was different then?
2 "They" is not defined as any particular tribe, so we assume it is talking about men in general. How have they already disobeyed God's commands to Noah? What land do they settle in?
3 What is their plan? It sounds like they are all in agreement, acting as one people. Nimrod leads man's first attempt at one-world government, which can be accomplished when there is one language and one accepted leader. Today many are again working toward a one-world government. In spite of the world's many languages, there is now one language that unites the world--the language of computers. It is now possible that world-wide commerce and government could be controlled from one central location and authority. This has been the desire of godless men from the beginning, according to the Bible, and the last book of the Bible confirms this, telling how God will finally deal with this rebellion. Anyone who watches the news can easily see how the world has gone in this direction, and how the stage is being set for the events of Revelation. Isn't the Bible an amazing book? God knows the beginning and the end; how does understanding this affect our attitude toward God? Toward prayer? Toward our daily lives?
4 "Let us make us" indicates arrogance, rebellion against God--the godless self-seeking world system that the Bible condemns and warns us not to be part of. God created man for fellowship, to love Him and be loved by Him, to worship Him. Do they appear to want that? They appear to want independence from God. What three things do they want? "A city": for the second time in the Bible, we have a city. This is the same one mentioned in 10:10; now we are given the details about it. Again we see a city in opposition to the Lord's command to fill the earth (Gen. 4:12, 17); they want to bunch up and stay together. Why do people often want to do the opposite of what God says? Compare Gen. 2:16-17 and 3:1-6.
"A tower": have you wondered if it is really possible for a man-made tower to reach to heaven? Were these men characterized as godly? Were they wanting to find a human way to get to heaven to be with God? Is this what God was concerned about? This isn't possible, but something was serious enough that the Lord did something drastic to stop them. If it was meant to be tall enough to actually reach to heaven, wouldn't they have started building on a high mountain instead of a plain? What else could it mean? A "tower whose top will reach into heaven" would be an astronomical observatory. This fits with other information, biblical and secular, about worship of the sun, moon and stars: false religion. They would rather worship the creation than the Creator, as described in Rom. 1:16-32. Babylonian accounts of this city tell that this tower was a ziggurat, which were centers of worship. Human sacrifice was sometimes involved. How does God feel about false worship? Are all religions acceptable in God's eyes? Is God tolerant of all behavior? Are we to be tolerant of all behavior and accepting of the fact that our friends may be happy with their false belief systems?
"A name": lest they what? Their goal is in direct opposition to God's command. We see an attempt at one-world government, in the city of Babel, headed up by a violent, powerful man, Nimrod (10:8-11). Compare the account in Revelation (esp. 17:17-18) and other related passages of God's judgment on man's attempt at one-world government under the final world ruler, either located in the rebuilt city of Babylon, or else something symbolically called Babylon. We see that this incident, early in man's history, and shortly following a worldwide judgment by God, is a "type," and foreshadows another bigger future worldwide judgment by God on man's attempt at one-world government and one-world religion, under the final world ruler who goes by various titles in the Bible: the man of lawlessness (II Thes. 2:3), the little horn (Dan. 7:8), the small horn (Dan. 8:9-12), the insolent king (Dan. 8:23), the prince who is to come (Dan. 9:26), the despicable person (Dan. 11:21), the Antichrist (I John 2:18, 22, II John 7), the beast (Rev. 13:1,18, 19:19-20).
Let's look at the term "the city." Revelation often uses the term "the city." Sometimes it is obviously talking about Jerusalem, or another actual city, but there are a few places where it seems that it could be talking about something other than one physical city. Rev. 18 talks about the city of Babylon, which some think will be an actual rebuilt physical city of Babylon in the same location as the original Babylon, which is located in which modern nation that is constantly in the news today that is threatening world stability? Others think it is the symbolic name given to some other city which will be the key city at that time; many believe it is Rome, because of the seven mountains mentioned in 17:9. And as we have often seen in Bible prophecy, several meanings may be involved, all of which are true, with none contradicting the others. There may be a central city during the tribulation that will control all commerce, which God will judge, and He may also be judging all commerce as typified by ALL cities--"THE city." It is even possible that both Rome and rebuilt Babylon may be involved.
I believe "the city" refers in several places to the world's commercial system in general, such as Rev. 11:8, 16:19, 17:19, 18:10,12,18,19,21. In the modern world, it is hard to imagine that the destruction of one city, no matter how important, could actually take down ALL the commerce in the world, as portrayed in Rev. 18, although surely it is possible. Comparing Rev. 18 and the term "the city" to various Old Testament passages makes it clear that God hates commercialism, also known as greed, materialism, "the world," or the godless world system. What label does the New Testament put on this in Eph. 5:3,5 and Col. 3:5? The Old Testament has much to say about the sin of idolatry, which I believe we are all guilty of, according to these passages. God hates this, and the Bible says He will judge it. So Rev. 18:4 may be talking about believers coming out of a particular city during the tribulation, or it may be telling them to not get caught up in or even perhaps participate in the commercial system of that time. This could even be an admonition for believers not to take the mark of the beast which would allow people to buy and sell at that time, 13:16-18.
Let's compare some other Old Testament references to "the city" which seem to fit this view. In Is. 26:1-6 we see two cities. What is the first one like, 1-3? What happens to the second one, 5-6? The same thing that happens in Rev. 18 to "the city." The context of this chapter is the end times, "in that day," 26:1. In fact, Is. 22-27 all refer to the tribulation and the millenium (notice "in that day") as well as the immediate time frame of that era. 23 speaks against Tyre, the commercial center of that time, a "type" of godless commercialism. Notice the "jubilant city" in 7; when did this "city" originate? Compare this chapter to Rev. 18. Is. 24 describes the judgment of that day. How is "the city" described in 10 and 12? What group of people is being judged, 17 and 21? This is an interesting parallel to the frequent mention in Revelation of "those who dwell upon the earth" (3:10, 6:10, 8:13, 11:10, 13:8,14, 17:8)--as opposed to those whose citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20, Heb. 11:66, 12:22).
Ez. 26:17 also mentions "the city," calling it what? What city is being condemned in Ez. 26-28? The parallels to Rev. 18 are significant. As in Is. 22-27 and Rev. 18, we find that this city is on the sea, and that the coastlands are greatly affected. If you have a Bible map, you can see that Tyre is a seaport town; we also find in the Bible that the sea sometimes represents the Gentiles nations. Likewise, the word for "coastlands" or "isles" is sometimes translated "Gentiles." So even though the city of Tyre is in view, we see possibly another larger meaning. How does God feel about this city, 26:3? Who does this city do business with, 27:3? We find the terms "wealth," "abundance" and "merchandise" used many times in this chapter. Is it truly God's will to "bless" His people with this kind of stuff? Isn't the mind set that craves it actually a curse rather than a blessing? When Christ returns to set up His earthly kingdom, will this system of commerce be in existence, 27:36? We don't know what it will be like then, but it will be different; apparently money and greed will not rule the world as it does now. Isn't this an encouraging thought?
In Ez. 28, God speaks to whom, 1-2? This is addressed to an actual individual at that time, but he is obviously a "type" of someone who will later rule this world system. Revelation tells us that the beast, the Antichrist, will set himself up in the place of God. Beginning in 11, someone else is now addressed, someone higher than the person in 1-2. According to 13, where had this person been at one time? We have the account of Eden in Gen. 1-3, and we know who all was there; who must this be referring to? This is confirmed in 14; who was this chief angel? Obviously not the literal king of the literal city of Tyre. But it appears that the prince or leader of Tyre, 2, is empowered by him. According to the end of 13, is Satan eternally existent, like God? 16 mentions what two interesting words in connection with Satan's fall--by the what of his what? So this commercialism that the Bible condemns is inspired by whom? 17, is Satan an ugly ogre? (That is one of his favorite deceptions.)
Micah 6:9,12 mentions "the city" in a similar negative context. What do the men of this city do? This is in contrast to God's admonition in 8 to live righteously. How does Nahum 3:1 describe "the city"? Here "the city" is personified as a woman; what kind of woman, 4? Compare Rev. 17:3, 18:4. What does a harlot do that could be compared to the wicked greedy commercialism of our world?
Zeph. 2:15 calls it what kind of city? Again, the woman of Rev. 17:3 and 18:4. What name of God does she apply to herself? Compare Ex. 3:13-15. How is "the city" (the woman) described in Zeph. 3:1? Now in 3:6 we find the plural "cities;" compare Rev. 16:19. This is interesting because it implies that "the city" may actually refer to "cities"--perhaps all the earth's centers of commerce? 3:1 confirms the end times application, "in that day." What happens to the wicked (unbelievers) at the end of the tribulation, 11? They are removed from the earth; who will be left, 12? Only believers. At the beginning of Christ's earthly kingdom, only believers will populate the earth. 14-20 go on to describe the situation at that time. 15 gives the two reasons for the seven years of tribulation, for the pouring out of God's wrath: to judge and purify Israel, and to judge the wicked. 16-17, now Christ is physically living among them, reigning as their king in Jerusalem. 20, believing Israel will be regathered in their land and they will now receive the promises and be the primary nation on earth.
5 Is God is concerned about the developments on earth? Is He pleased? Whenever the Lord appears on the earth, it is either as the pre-incarnate Christ, in the Old Testament (often called the angel of the Lord), or as Christ Himself, in the New Testament. (Why does He not appear physically today? He is already present, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, in His body, the church. He does not do both, John 16:7.) Why would God "come down"? Couldn't He see from heaven? Of course He could, so that isn't the reason. "Came down" (Strong's Concordance): to bring down, to take down, to cast down, to subdue. God is getting ready to do something on the earth.
6 Is the Lord saying that He doesn't want man to accomplish great things? Rather, fallen man, if allowed to be one people with one language, is capable of great evil.
7 Who is "Us"? Like in 1:26, we see a reference to the Trinity. We don't find the word "trinity" in the Bible, but we find the concept, and use this word to describe it. God is one, Deut. 6:4, but we find references to the plural form, as well as verses identifying the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all as God.
Evolution has no explain for language, or the development of various languages. Scientists think that all languages originally came from one language. The Bible gives us the origin of languages.
8 Now will they fill the earth, as God commanded? God's desire is that man would obey Him--Plan A, so to speak. But even when man chooses disobedience, God's plan will still be accomplished, but now by Plan B. God "permits" sin. Things always go better when we choose Plan A; the road is a little longer, rockier and more crooked in Plan B. Does God work this way in our individual lives too? Again we see God's "ideal will" and His "permissive will."
9 "Babel" means confusion, like our word "babble." Based on what we have seen about the significance of Babylon as the godless system of this world, what else might "confusion" refer to besides language? This incident is the detailed explanation for how and why the various family lines listed in Gen. 10 spread out to various locations, each staying within their own language group. Nimrod's religion--astrology, worship of the sun, moon, and stars, the worship of the creation rather than the Creator--would also be spread throughout the earth. Wouldn't intermarrying within a small language group bring out certain genetic features? These traits would come to characterize the different races, tribal groups, and nationalities. We know that the rest of the Bible is the story of one of those family lines.
Here in the beginning of the Bible, as in any great book, we have the main characters introduced--man, God, Satan--and numerous minor characters. We have the conflict--Satan's rebellion against God and man's sin, separating him from God. We have plots and sub-plots. These characters and plots will build and interweave throughout the entire book, climaxing and resolving in the final chapters. The Bible is truly an amazing book, full of treasures, with many layers to explore, many truths to discover, many characters to relate to, and so much to apply to our lives. It is a book to read and re-read and continually re-read. God rewards the love of His Word with deeper fellowship with Him. Read Psalm 119, in which every verse says something about God's Word. Interestingly, it is the longest chapter in the Bible; surely this is significant!
10 Which line is picked up again and followed further? Why? Shem's line, the chosen line, is leading to the Promised One, the Messiah. Many readers get discouraged and bored by the genealogies of the Old Testament, but you can see they are very important to the overall plot. We don't need to read and pronounce every name, but understanding why they are there helps to see the flow of the Bible. When you understand the overall plot of this great book, and see how the genealogies fit in, they actually can be seen as exciting details that show in a historical context that these events DID happen to THESE individuals, just like the Bible says, and that God notices and cares about individuals, including us! Don't get hung up on details in the Old Testament; learn to look for the Big Picture. The more you get to looking at the Big Picture, the more those details will fall into place for you, and the more you will understand and love God's Word, and God Himself. This will cause you to grow in your faith and your walk with Him!
10-25 Compare the lifespans to those before the flood. What trend do you notice? Are we told that the sons mentioned are the firstborn sons? They may or may not be. Shem's son appears to be his first-born. If these are firstborn sons, this may be evidence that when people lived longer, they matured later than we do today, not procreating until around their thirties. This could indicate that before the flood, with even longer lifespans, humans could have matured even more slowly, not fathering children until an even older age.
27-28 Who is the next important Bible character that comes in this line? His brother Haran had a son, Lot, Abram's nephew. Lot's father died. Who comes later in Nahor's line, Gen. 24:15? And who else, Gen. 28:5?
29 So is it still genetically safe to marry within the family? This obviously would have to be done after the Tower of Babel incident.
30 Why is this detail mentioned? It will become important to Abram's story.
31 Where did Abram's family live? Chaldea is Babylon. Babylon is where the first and last big rebellions take place. In the Bible, it symbolizes the godless world system. Significantly, Abraham leaves Babylon. Where were they headed? Where did they stop? Locate Ur and Haran on a Bible map. Locate Canaan. They probably followed the Euphrates River. Why wouldn't they go directly west to Canaan? Are there any cities along that route? Why? It is a desert. How is Lot related to Abram? He will become important in Abram's story. Abram's father dies; compare his lifespan to those before the flood. It sounds like they planned to go to Canaan before God spoke to Abram. Or perhaps this is another instance in which the general picture is given at the end of Gen. 11, then details are given in Gen. 12.
This chapter marks a big change in the book of Genesis. The first 11 chapters quickly cover a large period of time, from creation until Abraham. Now the pace slows down. The rest of the book of Genesis covers the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. The Bible refers to them as the patriarchs, or the fathers. These individuals are very important to the Bible. (In Gen. 17:5,15 God changes Abram's name to Abraham, and Sarai's to Sarah; for convenience, we will refer to them all the way through as Abraham and Sarah.)
1-3 What does God command Abraham? In chapter 11, man wanted three things; here, God promises three things to the man HE has chosen. What things does He promise? These three verses are known as the Abrahamic covenant. What is a covenant? A promise. We will see how Abraham responds to this message from God, and what God will do in Abraham's life. This covenant will be repeated and expanded on, to Abraham and to his descendents. Compare 13:14-17; all 15; 17:1-8, 16-21; 22:15-18; 26:1-5, 24; 28:12-15; 35:9-12.
What things are promised in the Abrahamic covenant? The land; which land? Canaan. A nation is to descend from him; which nation will that be? A blessing and a curse; we will see this played out through Israel's relationships with the various nations around them. How is this relevant to U.S. policy toward Israel? In him a blessing for all people on earth; how will that come about? The Messiah coming in his line is implied but not stated here; what family line is Abraham in? What had God promised in 3:15? 22:18 specifies "in your seed." Compare Acts 3:25-26, Gal. 3:8. In Gen. 11:9, God had judged man's disobedience by separating them into separate nations with separate languages; now He tempers that judgment with the offer of blessing. Compare Acts 2:6.
Here God reveals His basic plan. The rest of the Bible has to do with the fulfilling of this promise. Has it been fulfilled yet? Has Israel ever controlled all the land God gave them? God gave them 300,000 square miles, but they have only ever occupied about 30,000. Has a great nation come from Abraham? Has the Messiah come in his line? Has God blessed those nations who blessed them, and cursed nations who cursed them? Read the rest of the Old Testament and study history for the answer to that.
In the Bible, some promises are conditional and some are unconditional. Which is this? Are there any "if you…then I" statements? Why is this important to our basic interpretation of the whole Bible? God will fulfill this promise NO MATTER IF ISRAEL IS OBEDIENT OR DISOBEDIENT. Many Christians take the position that God is no longer bound to His promises to Israel because of their disobedience. The Bible does not teach this. God's promises must be fulfilled or He will be a liar, so they claim that the church is now the recipient of the Old Testament promises, even though the Bible does not say this; they believe that the church is "spiritual Israel." These Christians do not take a literal interpretation of the Bible. They "spiritualize" many literal promises to Israel, because in their interpretation, they CAN'T be literally fulfilled. They think that many passages that say "Israel" mean "the church," but not all. This view is inconsistent because they believe that sometimes "Israel" does mean "Israel." Deciding which is which becomes arbitrary and subjective. And the New Testament clearly teaches that the church is not to expect earthly physical blessings as a reward for obedience, as Israel was promised in the Old Testament dispensation. The church is told to expect tribulations and persecution (John 16:33, Rom. 8:35, II Cor. 1:5, Phil. 1:29, I Thes. 3:3, II Tim. 3:12, I Pet. 4:12, 19), along with spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3). Different interpretations of this issue are a major cause of dispute over how the Bible should be interpreted.
The Mosaic covenant is found in Ex. 19:1-31:18 and Deut. 28:1-68. What words show the Mosaic covenant is conditional, Ex. 19:5-6, 23:20-22, and Deut. 28:2, 15? The Palestinian covenant is found in Deut. 29:1-30:10. What words in the Palestinian covenant show it is conditional, Deut. 30:1, 3, 9, 10? What is the condition, in both these covenants? Obedience. If they disobey, does God take the land away from them, or are they removed from their land? What else happens, Deut. 28:15-68? When they obey, what will happen, Deut. 28:1-14, 30:3-5? Israel has not yet received all the promises of God because of their disobedience. But one day they will recognize their Messiah, repent, believe, receive all the promises and posses all their land. This will happen at the second coming of Christ, following the seven years of the great tribulation, during which they will be refined, purged and made pure. Dan. 11:35, Zech. 12-14, Jer. 31:35-37, 32:36-44, 33:14-22. The promised earthly kingdom will then take place, Rev. 20:1-6, followed by the final judgment, Rev. 20:7-15, and then eternity, Rev. 21-22.
The Davidic covenant is found in II Sam. 7:12-16. Are there any conditions in this covenant? This covenant tells that the Messiah will not only descend from Abraham, but He will also descend from David, and His throne and kingdom will be eternal. Its immediate fulfillment is in Solomon, but Solomon's throne and kingdom are not eternal; only the Messiah can fulfill this promise. As in many Old Testament prophecies, we see two levels of fulfillment; a partial, short-term fulfillment, which fulfills much but not all of the prophecy, and also a greater, complete, future fulfillment. The Messiah did not come in Solomon's line, but through another son of David, Nathan. Luke 3:23-38 gives Mary's bloodline. Mt. 1:1-16 gives the line of Joseph, Jesus's legal father, who gives Jesus the legal right to the throne. But Jesus could not come in Joseph's bloodline, for Jeconiah, Mt. 1:11, was under a curse, Jer. 22:28-30. Because Jesus was virgin-born, not fathered by Joseph, this did not disqualify Him from the throne.
Many Christians think we don't need to read the Old Testament, just the New Testament. But you can't really understand the importance of what is being presented in the New Testament if you don't have a good grasp of the basic events of the Old Testament. Many passages in the Old Testament make it very clear that Israel's disobedience has caused God to punish them, to set them aside temporarily--for the duration of the church age, the dispensation of grace (Rom. 6:14), the times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24), the fullness of the Gentiles (Rom. 11:25). God has promised that eventually He will bring them back into the land to receive in abundance all that He had promised them, as the Messiah rules from Jerusalem over His earthly kingdom. Following the final judgment, this kingdom will go on into eternity.
Is Abraham a Jew? Was Noah a Jew? Another name for the Jews is found in Ex. 1:1 (children or sons). The Jews descend from Abraham. The patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) are not Jews. The three great religions of the world go back to Abraham. What are they?
4 Does Abraham obey? How has he already disobeyed? So did God write him off at that point? Are our attempts to obey God sometimes tinged with disobedience? Does this stop God from working with us?
5 He had accumulated what and what? Put yourself in Abraham's place now. Does it say he went because he was adventurous and loved to travel? Maybe he didn't. What choices did he face in whether or not to obey God? What might he have left behind? What kind of journey did he face? How did they travel then? Is this like the choice we make when we decide to follow God? Did God choose Abraham because he was an exceptionally righteous man? Josh. 24:2 says his father was what? We don't know how much Abraham knew about God before God called him.
6 We see the Canaanites that we have been discussing, the descendants of Canaan, the son of Ham.
7 God confirms that this is the place He had in mind. He expands, fills in another detail of the promise; will Abraham himself be given the land? What does Abraham do in response?
8-9 Does it sound like Abraham worshiped his God privately? Could his ungodly neighbors could see what he was doing? There are many ways we can witness to others, without collaring them and preaching at them. Live your faith openly in front of others. Is this hard? Why? An altar was a place to approach God, who must be approached through a blood sacrifice. Later, God would require that sacrifice could only be offered at the tabernacle and later the temple. Where do we meet God now? Where is His temple? I Cor. 6:19. What is the sacrifice that allows us to meet with Him?
10 God had already told Abraham he was in the right place. Why did he leave? Did God tell him to? More disobedience. Both these instances of disobedience will lead to trouble. Is that true in our lives? Beware!
What is important about where he went? Egypt is a type of what? Rev. 11:8 indicates that it has symbolic meaning; mentioned with Sodom, it implies godlessness. Heb. 3:16-4:11 shows that the Israelites' experience of slavery in Egypt, wandering in the wilderness, and then only some entering God's rest in the promised land, is a picture of the Christian life. I Cor. 10:1-11 tells us that Israel's experiences are a picture, an example, for us, the church. When we read these stories in the books of Exodus through Joshua, we can see how the slavery in Egypt pictures our slavery to sin (Rom. 6), and how God delivered them, and us, from "the world," the godless world system (Gal. 1:4). But going back to the ways of the world is always a temptation for the believer, especially the newer or weaker believer. Don't weak believers often vacillate between the Lord and the world? II Tim. 4:10, James 4:4.
11-20 Does Abraham lie, or just tell a half-truth? Is that really a lie? Was his intent to be honest or deceitful? He is caught in his lie. One sin usually leads to another, doesn't it? What do we see about his personal weakness, besides the fact that he lied? Who was he more concerned about, himself or his wife? He was willing to sacrifice her for his own benefit. He was fearful, selfish, scheming, manipulating, and deceitful. So is Abraham a "spiritual giant" as he is often presented? Or is he weak like us? What did he have that God was looking for? Faith. Was his faith strong or perfect? Does ours have to be? Is anyone totally bad or totally good? Are there really "spiritual giants" in the Bible? We sometimes get the idea that the Bible is about people who were super-spiritual, but when we read their stories carefully, we see that they are all have human weaknesses. Does God use them, and us, even with those weaknesses? Who recognized Abraham's sin first, Abraham (the believer) or Pharaoh (the unbeliever)? This should not be, but it can happen to us too, when we are self-deceived.
We don't find it here, but 16:1 tells us something else happened in Egypt that would become of major importance in Abraham's life, and in world history. This wouldn't have happened if he hadn't disobeyed and gone to Egypt. Are there parallels to our lives? When we are out of God's will, don't we sometimes do things, or things happen to us, with lifelong negative consequences, things we wish we could undo but can't?
This is the first mention of Egypt in the Bible, and interestingly, we find it presented negatively. Abraham goes in disobedience to God. This foreshadows another similar event for Israel. A famine, going to Egypt for help, deception, danger to the males, plagues being the means of getting out, returning to the land of promise. Did God appear to Abraham while he was in Egypt? What parallel can we make to our lives, when we are "in Egypt"?
Here we see a major difference in the way the Old Testament presents truth compared to the New Testament. The New Testament states clear principles. The Old Testament tells stories, usually without editorializing to tell us what we were supposed to notice about it. So we must look carefully at stories. Not everything done in the Old Testament is good, just because it is done by someone who appears to be a godly person. We need to think, observe, compare. What has God said? What did this person do? What were the consequences (short term or long term)? What can we learn from this story? Sometimes people don't enjoy reading the Old Testament because they don't get beyond the stories and learn from them. I Cor. 10:1-6, Rom. 15:4. On the other hand, you can sometimes learn more from the story approach because you see real people struggling with real life situations, just like we do.
So what about Abraham going to Egypt? Even though God hadn't specifically said to go or not to go, wasn't it the logical thing to do under the circumstances? Can we use pleasant or easy circumstances as a measure of whether we are in God's will or not? Doesn't God expect us to use our heads too? What if, when we are obeying God, things don't look good? What about trying to "deliver ourselves?" Is it always God's will to change our unpleasant circumstances, or might it be His will to keep us there so He can show us how He is able to take care of us and work in our lives when things aren't going so smooth? What about the riches he gained in Egypt? Are riches, or any type of good fortune, proof of God's blessing? Not necessarily. We must be careful not to rationalize and deceive ourselves. Are we told that Abraham asked for God's direction concerning the famine? If not for many of these stories in the Bible, we might assume that we should do whatever we think is necessary. But from this story, and many other similar ones, we see that we are to continue trusting and obeying, even when things appear bad.
1-4 Abraham leaves what place, and returns to what place? He's back in God's will. He might have had many possessions before, 12:5, but now, after the gifts of Pharaoh, 12:16, he is definitely rich.
5-7 What was the first range war about? What might the pagans around them conclude about the worshippers of this God? When believers attack each other publicly, unbelievers see, hear, and draw conclusions.
8 They used family terms ("brother") more loosely than we do. We will notice this as we go through the Old Testament. This is something to keep in mind in making genealogies into a strict chronology.
9 Who was given first choice? The custom of the day would have been for Lot to defer to Abraham, the elder. Did Abraham exercise his right to choose? Why not? Perhaps now he is exercising faith; after all, God already promised it to him. Abraham's human agenda and expectations are gradually being replaced by trust in God. This doesn't happen instantly the moment we believe. We see Lot walking by sight, and Abraham walking by faith, trusting God. Do we struggle between these two options in our lives?
10-11 How did Lot choose? What his choice wrong or bad? What can we conclude about Lot? How does this story speak to us? When facing a choice, how can we make the best decision?
12-13 We don't know whether or not Lot knew about this when he chose. Was Lot a believer? II Pet. 2:7-8. What about a lucrative opportunity that would put us in a compromising situation? Could we turn it down, trusting that God will provide for us in the way He knows is best for us? We don't know the future; sometimes what appears to be lucrative may NOT end up like we think. One compromise often leads to another. Lot's life seemed to be characterized by compromise.
14-18 In 12:1, what things had God had told Abraham to separate from? Which had he not obeyed? Is partial obedience a problem for us? Lot caused him some problems, and later, which two nations came from Lot, which were Israel's enemies? Gen. 19:36-38. If Abraham had obeyed in the beginning, these problems could have been avoided. Did Abraham's lack of total obedience keep God from working in his life after that? God's ideal will, "Plan A," was for Abraham to leave his family. God permitted him to choose to disobey--God's permissive will, "Plan B." God's sovereign will, His ultimate plan, will still happen, but in a slightly different way, down a rockier road. Has this ever happened in your life?
Now that he has finally obeyed, God appears to him again. After he willingly lets Lot choose, and sends him on his way, God confirms to Abraham the original promise. 15, how long will they have this land? He specifies what the land is. Those who say the church is spiritual Israel say things like "the land" refers to "mountaintop" experiences in our spiritual lives. The Bible says it is a particular geographical location. Abraham's descendants will be extremely numerous.
1-12 The historical account of this battle will relate to Abraham, 12. Four kings allied themselves and came against five kings in Abraham's area. We see that in those days, kings were over smaller tribal groups, not large nations as kings are today. We see a few names that will become familiar in the Old Testament. Shinar, 1, is in Babylon. The Rephaim,, Zuzim, and Emim, 5, are tribes of giants, compare Deut. 2:10, 11, 20. Asteroth, 5, will become known as the name of an idol, a false god, that Israel later became involved with. Mount Seir, 6, is where Esau and his descendants will settle. The kings of nearby Sodom and Gomorrah and their three allies are defeated and their people are captured and plundered. 12, who is taken that ties Abraham to this incident?
13-14 What more do we learn about Abraham? What is he told? What is he going to do? How many trained men does he have? If there are others, older and younger and women and children, how many might he actually have? An indication of Abraham's wealth. He has allies with him, but can their power be anything close to even one of the five kings who have already been defeated? Here is the first use of "Hebrew" (Strong's: descendant of Eber, compare Gen. 10:21-25, 11:14-17).
15-16 He rescues Lot and the rest. Again, the KJV uses "brother" for Lot; family terms were used more loosely then. His small army was able to overcome the four victorious kings and their armies. What had God promised about those who were against Abraham? Gen. 12:3. Abraham sees this promise in action. Compare Deut. 28:7, when Moses tells the Israelites just how God will bless them if they obey Him.
The Old Testament is full of military battles, actual warfare. What part does warfare play in the New Testament, the church, and in our lives? Is the church commanded to physically attack and gain victory over those who are against God and His ways? Compare Mt. 5:3-12, 38-44. But what do these Old Testament battles picture? II Cor. 10:3-7, Eph. 6:10-20, James 4:7, I Pet. 5:8-9. God gives His people spiritual victory when they are walking in obedience. This is not the same as claiming that faithful believers can expect success in this life, as taught by proponents of the "health/wealth/prosperity gospel." We can learn how to fight our spiritual battles by observing what the Old Testament characters did right and wrong in their battles.
17-20 Following his victory, he meets the king of Sodom and Melchizedek, another king, who is a priest of "God Most High," the true and living God, the God that Abraham worships. Salem means "peace." Melchizedek means "king of right" or righteousness (Strong's). He blesses who and who? What does he tell Abraham about his victory? How does Abraham know about tithing? Either God told him or it was passed down from earlier times. Either way, we see that the Bible account does not tell us everything that God said and did. We see that just because Abraham was called and chosen by God to receive certain promises, he was not the only godly man around.
Where else in the Bible do we read about Melchizedek? In Ps. 110:4, who is being spoken about? Read the whole psalm to find out. Hebrews has much to say about this man. What do Heb. 5:6 (quoting Ps. 110:4) and 5:10 say about Christ? What about Heb. 6:20? Heb. 7 tells us even more. 7:2 tells us his name is significant. 7:3 describes how he appears in the Genesis account; what have we been told in Genesis about every other follower of God that was not told about Melchizedek? Nothing about his beginning or his end. 7:3 tells us that he is a type of who? 7:4,7, who was greater, Abraham or Melchizedek? 7:5-16 explains that the Aaronic priesthood, descended from Abraham through Jacob's son Levi, is a lesser priesthood than the Melchizedek priesthood, since Melchizedek was greater than Abraham. 7:14, was Christ, our high priest, born in the line of Levi? 7:15-16 show that Christ was not in the line of Aaron/Levi (a law of physical requirement) but is like the priesthood of Melchizedek. Just as Melchizedek is presented in Genesis without beginning or end, so Christ, being eternal God in the flesh, has an indestructible life. The rest of the chapter and the next one go on to show that Christ, our high priest, is superior in every way to the priesthood given by the Law. According to 8:5, the things of the Law serve what purpose? They are pictures, types, copies, shadows. They point to Christ, who is the fulfillment of the Law, Mt. 5:17, Gal. 3:24.
21-24 What does the king of Sodom tell Abraham to take? Does he? Why? He has made a vow, a promise, to God. 22, he uses the same terminology for God that Melchizedek used. Abraham wants to be sure that if he gets rich, it is by whose hand? Not by any "finageling" on his part. When we refuse to give in to that temptation, and wait on God, it is usually clear when He acts on our behalf that He did it, not we ourselves. However, back in Gen. 12, he had taken riches from Pharaoh. Maybe he learned an unhappy lesson from that experience, perhaps that Pharaoh then considered him to be obligated in some way. Abraham will not manipulate circumstances to "help" God, at least in this situation--in Gen. 16, he again tries to "help" God. Sometimes when we learn to trust God, we can apply that knowledge successfully to similar temptations, but when a different kind of situation comes along, we fall on our faces again. 24, does Abraham try to force his convictions on others?
1 What do God's first words imply about Abraham's state of mind now? Why does he need a shield? Who might be after him? In the moment of crisis (14:13-16), Abraham did what the situation called for. Now that it is over, he has time to think about what he has done, and the future looks dark. God comes to him at this time with assurance and promises. What has Abraham has just turned down? 14:21-24. Instead, who will reward him?
Here is the first Bible use of the word "word" (even though we already have instances of God speaking). What is biblically significant about the word "word"? John 1:1-3. Whenever God appeared to man, He appeared as the pre-incarnate Christ, not God the Father, John 1:18. In this first use of "word," the context is that of God's word, not man's. What other two words in this verse appear for the first time, identifying God? Ex. 3:13-15.
2-3 What does Abraham really want from God? Why? 12:2. Like with the famine, he assumes he should do something, rather than wait on God.
4 Is God going to use Abraham's plan? We figure out all kinds of things that God could do in our lives; does He usually use our plan? Does He need us to suggest plans to Him? Is it even possible that our plan could be better than what His plan is? What if His plan doesn't look or feel too good at the moment?
5 God confirms the covenant of 12:1-3.
6 What was Abraham's response? Here is the first use in the Bible of the term "believe" and the term "righteousness." Does it say he believed in God, or that he believed God? What is the difference? Do some people believe in God, but not believe God? Who else does besides people, James 2:19? As we have seen so far, the first use of important terms seems to be significant, and we need to look at the context. What made Abraham righteous? We have seen Abraham's weaknesses, and we will see more of them; is he truly righteous, or is he sinful? Does this say Abraham IS righteous? Righteousness is conferred by God; it is not a result of anything we do. It is not gained by good works, but by what? We don't come by righteousness; when we come by faith, we are given righteousness. This is our POSITION in God's eyes, not our actual CONDITION, as we well know. The theological term is "imputed righteousness."
This sets out God's plan for salvation: righteousness equals faith. Where else is this said? Rom. 4 (all), Gal. 3:6-14, James 2:20-26 (speaking of the works that proceed from faith, not works that result in righteousness). Many say that the Bible says God saved people in two different ways; by the Law in the Old Testament, and by faith in the New Testament. This refutes that, and makes it very clear that God only has one way--faith, believing. Compare also Hab. 2:4. Noah was saved by grace, Abraham by faith. This is the means of salvation, Eph. 2:8.
7-21 God confirms the covenant again. In that day, this method made a legal contract, a covenant sealed with blood. The two parties walked together through the two halves. See Jer. 34:18-19.
8 Did Abraham's question demonstrate doubt of God's word, lack of faith?
9-11 Abraham prepares the animals.
12 Why did God put him to sleep? Did Abraham walk between the parts with God to make the contract? What significance does this have for us? He had no part in it; it's not up to him to keep. There are no conditions to keep. God will do it all. This is a picture of our salvation.
13 What is prophesied here? Exodus 1:1-12. In other places it is said to be 430 years, so this must be a rounded approximate figure. Even today, we often round off numbers; this is not a contradiction. God adds something negative to the promise; why? Read 8 again, and compare Luke 1:2-23. Why was Zacharias punished? In 18, he questioned what the angel had just told him in 13-17.
This is different than Mary's question in 1:34; she wondered how such a thing could happen. This is also different than Gideon's question in Jud. 6:17. Gideon lacked confidence, 6:15; he was hiding in a wine press to thresh the wheat so the Midianites wouldn't see him, 6:11. God (the angel of the Lord, 6:12,14) had just told him to do something difficult that required bravery. Angels did not appear with wings; they appeared as men, and Gideon needed to be sure that he was really talking to the Lord. He had honest doubts, as shown by his reaction, 22, when he realizes it is truly the Lord. Zacharius, on the other hand, was skeptical. God deals with our honest doubts. He wants us to believe.
17 Pot/oven, torch/lamp. These could be mentioned as elements of sacrifice, or could refer to the fire of God's judgment and the light of the world. They also remind us of God leading the Israelites in the wilderness by the pillar of fire and of cloud.
18 What land did God give Abraham's descendants? From what to what? The river of Egypt is the Red Sea. Have they ever controlled this area? Do they now? Then this must still be future, or God has lied. Are there any conditions given? This is an unconditional promise. All these people are in that land; Israel will have to deal with them as they take their land.
1-2 Who is trying to help God's plan along? Where did they acquire Hagar? Now we see the consequences of that trip to Egypt, made in disobedience and lack of trust, 12:10. Sometimes the consequences of a sinful act or decision comes years later; the full consequences of this act won't be seen until many years later, after Abraham's death. Monogamy was God's plan, 2:24, but plural marriage and even harems were common in their culture. Some say, "well, God let Abraham do it, Abraham didn't get zapped, so it must be OK." We find so many ways to rationalize our sin. "I asked God to change the situation and He didn't, so it must be OK." Will God stop us from sinning? Should we expect Him to? Does the Bible teach that He will? Having free will means we make our own choices, and that we are responsible for our choices. The Bible records the lives of people without whitewashing them. Just because they are in the Bible doesn't mean everything they do is right. Abraham may have rationalized that God had said the heir would come from his own body, but that He hadn't said anything about Sarah.
3 How long had Abraham been waiting for the promised heir to be born? Compare Heb. 6:11-15; was Abraham always patient, or was this something he learned over time? 6:12, did he have these two things right from the start, just because he was a believer? Do we see him falling on his face as he learns to develop them? Longsuffering, another Bible word for patience, is one of the what, Gal. 5:22? This is an important quality God is building in our lives. Ec. 7:8, Rom. 5:3, 12:12, Col. 1:11, 3:12, II Tim. 3:10, Heb. 10:36, Jam. 5:10-11. Rom. 5:3, patience comes through what? Not through easy times.
Impatience often leads to unbelief, and to sin. "Time is getting short! I'm getting older!" Do we ever think like this? And aren't many of the things we get impatient for, things God has not actually promised us, but things that we think God should do? Do we ever try to take matters into our own hands, or pry open a door that is shut? If we have a feeling in our heart that God is going to do something, or we think He spoke to us, is that a promise? Promises are found only in the Bible. And be careful not to take them out of context; who were they said to, and under what circumstances?
Which is the problem here, the sin of unbelief, or the sin of immorality, or both? Is one worse than the other? In their culture, this was common practice; does that make it OK? We tend to focus on the outward act; which is God more concerned with? One is the cause; one is the symptom.
4-5 What happened when they took matters into their own hands? It sounds like Sarah is blaming Abraham. Is our way ever better than God's? Is. 31:1; again we see Egypt as a picture or type of "the world." Is there anything wrong with the actual country of Egypt, or horses, chariots, or horsemen? Should all Christians sell their horses? What word is used with Egypt that contrasts with the last line of this verse? So what is this verse saying?
6 What does Abraham do? What does Sarah do? What does Hagar do?
7-10 Here is the first mention of "the angel of the Lord." What in 10 and 13 tell us this is the Lord in human form? Does the Holy Spirit ever appear physically? Does God the Father? John 4:24, 6:46. So who must it be? When Christ was born as a man, He was the "incarnation" of God, God in the flesh. When He appears before that time, He is called the "pre-incarnate Christ." When God appears to men, He appears as Christ, not as the Father, John 1:18. Sometimes people think the Bible is contradicting itself when they read John 1:18 and Ex. 33:11, but the second half of John 1:18 is the answer. The Son, the angel of the Lord, is the one who appears to people as God.
10-11 A promise for Hagar's descendants, similar to Abraham's promise.
12 Where will Ishmael and his descendants live? What people group, descended from Ishmael, today still trace their heritage to Abraham through Ishmael? Which son of Abraham did God promise the land to? How does God describe this man?
13 Does Hagar realize that the angel of the Lord is the Lord Himself? So we sometimes feel like God doesn't see or care about what is going on in our situation? Just because we feel that way, does that make it true?
14-16 We are not told the details of the relationships among the three after Hagar returns home. It might have improved, or it might have remained tense and hostile. Does God guarantee that the believer's family life will be smooth sailing? Might family conflicts be part of God's plan for us--one of the chisels He uses to shape us into Christ's image? Rom. 8:28-29, Phil. 3:21, Col. 3:10. How old is Abraham now?
1 How much later is this? How old is Ishmael now? How does God identify Himself to Abraham? What does "walk" mean here? Just to move on two feet? Only Enoch (5:18-24) and Noah (6:8-9) were said to have walked with God. What happened to Enoch? What happened to Noah? What must be the significance of this phrase? What does God command Abraham to be? NASB, blameless. KJV, perfect. Can this mean sinless? So it must mean something else, something that IS possible for Abraham to do. Noah was described this way (6:9), as are some other Old Testament characters. Jesus commanded this in Mt. 5:48, and many New Testament passages echo command for the believer. Strong's: entire, whole, complete, without blemish, full, sincerely/sincerity, sound, without spot, undefiled, upright/uprightly, integrity. This is what God desires from us.
2-3 God reaffirms what? How did Abraham react to God speaking to him? Interestingly, in the Bible, when in the presence of God, people always fell forward, on their faces, never backwards, as many do today when supposedly "slain by the Spirit," a concept not found in the Bible.
4-5 God expands on the covenant; what new element has been specified? Compare 12:1-3, 13:14-17, 15:1,5, 13-21. This follows God's promise to Hagar, 16:11-12. Here Abraham's name is changed; Abram means "exalted father," Abraham means "father of a multitude." I wonder if it was embarrassing when Abraham, father of one son, told his household to start calling him this? Besides the Jewish and Arab nations, to what other nations will he be a father, Rom. 4:11-12, 17-18?
6-8 What word is used in 7 to describe the duration of this covenant? 8, how much of the land of Canaan will they possess? For how long will it be theirs?
Are there any conditions in the covenant? Any "if you…thenI" statements? When Israel disobeys, yes, God says He is done with them, and will cast them off. But in many places it also says not forever, God will bring them back. Compare Jer. 31:36, 33:25.
9-14 Now God commands Abraham and his descendants to do something; so far the only other thing he was told to do was in 12:1. 10-11, what is the sign of the covenant? This becomes a major part of being a Jew, and here is why. Why do we do this today, as non-Jews? For cleanliness. We will also see in the laws God gave Moses that many promote cleanliness and health, so that they did not partake in the diseases prevalent around them. 10-11, but that is not the reason God gave them--it is a sign. 12, why the eighth day? We now know that the greatest amount of blood clotting, of vitamin K, is present on that day. Books by skeptics ask how the early Jews could know that--they didn't. God did.
What does the New Testament say about circumcision? Col. 2:11. What else does the New Testament say about the flesh? According to I Cor. 3:1-3, "fleshly" or "men of flesh" is equated with what, 1? (KJV, carnal) Compare Rom. 8:1-13. Paul is not talking about skin or about bodies. In 4 and 5, he contrasts "according to the flesh" with what? In 5, "the things of the flesh" with what? In 6, he contrasts "the flesh" with what? What is another way Paul speaks of our flesh, Rom. 6:6, Eph 4:22, Col. 3:9? We see that outward physical elements of the Old Testament are pictures for the Christian of inner spiritual truths. Circumcision for the Jews was outward, of the flesh. Rom. 2:28-29, for the New Testament Christian, it is of the what? Circumcision is the cutting off, the rolling back of the flesh.
Some Jewish Christians tried to convince other Christians that they should still practice circumcision, in addition to faith in Christ. This faction was referred to as the Judaizers; they said trust Christ AND keep the Law. (In Gen. 17, the Law is not yet given, but circumcision becomes part of it.) Paul refutes this false teaching in Rom. 3:30-31, 4:9-12, 7:6. We are saved by faith alone, not faith plus anything.
15-17 Sarah's name is changed; Sarah means "princess." What is promised now? 17, is this laugh of joy or skepticism? One might think skepticism except for Rom. 4:17-21. How old was Abraham when he died, 25:7? Did he have other children after Isaac, 25:1-4? How old was Sarah when she died, 23:1? Keep in mind that their life spans were longer than ours at that time, so they were not like today's 90-year-old woman and 100-year-old man.
18-21 Up to this day, Abraham had assumed that Ishmael, his beloved firstborn, was the promised son, the recipient of God's promises. Perhaps he had even told Ishmael that he was. It must have been difficult to accept that this was not to be. 18, Abraham hopes that God has something special for Ishmael also. Who will the covenant be with? The promise has now been narrowed down further. God has made it clear who He is talking about: not Eliezer, not Ishmael, no one but Isaac and his descendants. Neither Abraham nor people today are free to redefine who are the people of the covenant. God makes it very clear that this will never change. God will bless Ishmael, but the promises are not to him.
22-27 They are all circumcised. Surely this new promise would cause problems for Ishmael and his mother, probably heightening the tension between Sarah and Hagar.
1 Who appears to Abraham?
2 Here it says who came? Were they men, or in the form of men? Compare 18:13, 17, 19:1. Only one speaks. In 10 "he," in 13 "the Lord," and through the rest of the chapter. Does Abraham already know who they are? It's possible; it says they just "appeared." Surely visitors approaching on foot would have been visible for a long way off, and someone would have noticed their approach.
3-8 Abraham's version of "fast food." What does Heb. 13:2 say about showing hospitality to strangers?
9 Does God not know where she is? Of course He does.
10 God not only knows where she is, He knows her future. He knows these things about us. The promise made in 17:21 is now repeated in Sarah's hearing. So this must be shortly after God's appearance to Abraham in Gen. 17, within a few months at the most, before Sarah has become pregnant.
11 Sarah was past menopause. This would be a somewhat miraculous birth; again we see Isaac foreshadowing Christ.
12-15 Sarah laughs too--in joy or in unbelief? Apparently she had some doubts, because she felt guilty enough to deny that she laughed. God knows everything we do, say and think; we can't hide from Him. We might as well be honest with Him. That's what "confession" is, agreeing with God about what we are and what we have done. 13, now we know for sure that one of the three is the Lord. How does this verse fit with John 4:24, 6:46? The Bible does not contradict itself, so who must it be? When Christ was born as a man, He was the "incarnation" of God, God in the flesh. When He appears before that time, He is called the "pre-incarnate Christ." When God appears to men, He appears as Christ, not as the Father, John 1:18. The Son, the angel of the Lord, is the one who appears to people as God, as we saw in Gen. 16:7-13. Even though Christ has not yet been born in the flesh of a virgin and conceived by the Father, He is the Son, Ps. 2:7, 12.
16 The men. Angels in the Bible don't appear with wings and halos. They just appear as men, often described as dressed in white. They never appear as women. If you think you have seen an angel and it has wings or is female, you can be sure it is a satanic/demonic deception or a figment of your own imagination.
17-19 The Lord speaks, apparently to the angels. What does God expect Abraham to do? What is the application for us? The Lord is speaking, and He speaks about the Lord. Remember, God is three persons in one. Apparently God, the preincarnate Christ, is speaking about God, the Father. Did God choose Abraham because he was good? Has Abraham done everything right? How does God refer to Abraham's descendants, Is. 41:8-9, 44:1? Many people get confused about the idea of Israel being God's chosen people; it doesn't mean that every one of them is saved, but that God chose to set apart one nation, the descendants of one man, for His own purposes. Deut. 7:6-8, 14:2.
Many American Christians believe that America was or is or can be a Christian nation. The only nation God has ever chosen or referred to as His people is Israel. Many quote Ps. 33:12 and believe that if America chooses God, we will be blessed and He will consider us as His people. However, there is no way any nation other than Israel can choose God as their God; that choice can only be made by individuals, not nations. Israel was to be a theocracy, and God wanted them to accept Him as their God, but they wanted a king, like the other nations, and they often chose to worship idols instead of the true and living God. The Law of Moses was given to the one nation who had that covenant relationship with God, as promised to Abraham, and which was to be ruled by God. No other nation can fit that description. Even if the majority of Americans are born-again Christians, America cannot be God's chosen people in any sense of the word. Ps. 33:12 is saying that Israel is blessed of God, that THEY ARE "the people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance."
20 What have we already read about Sodom and Gomorrah? Who lives there, Gen. 13:8-13? Are we told what their sin is? Only that it is exceedingly grave.
21 Does God really have to go investigate to find out? But for the purposes of His conversation with Abraham, He speaks in human terms. Is God wrong to destroy those people? How are they described in 13:13? So why hadn't God already destroyed them? Why does God withhold judgment? Rom. 2:4, II Pet. 3:9, I Tim. 2:4, Rev. 2:21. The Bible makes it clear that God is not quick to judge but rather is patient, or longsuffering. Ex. 34:6, Num. 14:18, Ps. 86:15, Rom. 9:22-23, I Tim. 1:16, I Pet. 3:18-20, II Pet. 3:14-15. Some people are upset that God would destroy the wicked, when instead we should be amazed and grateful that He doesn't judge more quickly, that He gives many chances before it is too late. We are all sinners; none of us deserves His mercy, but He gives it anyway.
22 Who are the other two men who are with the Lord? Where are they headed? Compare 19:1.
23 Abraham's question will be answered in the next few verses; no, He won't. When God poured out His judgment on the earth in Noah's day, there was an opportunity for the righteous to be spared from the judgment. Likewise, when God pours out His wrath during the great tribulation (Rev. 6:17), the righteous (the church, the bride of Christ, the body of Christ, Eph. 1:22-23, Col. 1:18) will be spared from judgment (I Thes. 5:9). God will not pour out His wrath on the body of Christ; Heb. 9-10 make it clear that Christ suffered once for all on the cross.
23-33 Why is Abraham so bold? He cares for Lot. He asks with great humility.
25 The righteous Judge. This is what the Bible claims about God, Ps. 9:8, 96:10,13, 98:9, Acts 17:31, II Tim. 4:8, Rev. 19:11. This verse explains a lot to us that we cannot understand. Many people think, "if there's really a God, and if He's really so loving and powerful, He wouldn't do this, or allow that." Who are WE to judge God? The problem is with us and our limited understanding. Compare Is. 55:8-9. We really need to get ahold of this truth. How arrogant and audacious of us to think we can criticize God, or complain about His actions! If He is really God, of course we can't understand Him, but that is a great blow to our pride. We think that if we can't understand something, then it can't be true. If we could understand Him, we would be on His level. Compared to God, we have little pea-brains, and our minds have been tainted by the Fall, by original sin. We need to be humble before God.
The righteous and the wicked are NOT treated alike by God. The Bible makes this very clear. Yet many people think that we are all going to the same place in the end, that a loving God would not actually allow anyone to go to a place like hell, that surely hell is just what we make of life on this earth. They think that since everyone is trying to do the best they can, that we will all make it, that good works will get us to heaven, and that our "good list" surely outweighs our "bad list." But there is eternal punishment for the wicked, Mt. 13:37-50, Mt. 25:31-46.
26-32 Does God not know how many righteous and wicked there are in Sodom? Does He really need to investigate this matter? Doesn't God know everything already? And doesn't He already know the outcome, what He is going to do to Sodom? So why is He talking like this? Why did He even bring up this matter to Abraham? It must be for Abraham's benefit. Abraham's heart is revealed in his words, his humility before God, yet his boldness because of his love for Lot. He is interceding for Lot, which is one of the purposes of prayer. And when Sodom is destroyed, Abraham will not be able to doubt or question God's actions, because he will KNOW that there were not 10 righteous in that city.
Abraham is also being shown God's love and patience, that He would be willing to suspend judgment on wicked people who deserve judgment, in order to show mercy to a few righteous people. Sometimes we are upset with God when He allows what we think is unfair pain on someone we don't think deserves it. But sometimes we are upset with Him when He DOESN'T do something about people we think SHOULD be punished. Paul explains this in Rom. 9:22-24. Rom. 2:4, God's patience is giving time for people to repent, even though they may choose not to. If He zapped each of us when we deserved it, none of us might ever have the chance to repent and receive forgiveness and salvation. God always has a good reason for what He does; that doesn't mean that we can see it or understand it. We can accept what the Bible tells us about God by exercising faith.
1 "Sitting in the gate" in that time and that culture is where business was done, where judges made rulings. So had Lot kept himself apart from this sinful city, or was he accepted and involved? We wonder if Lot was a godly example, or if he had become like them. We will soon see. What time of day was it?
2-3 We don't know if Lot knew who his visitors really were. He offers them hospitality. What does he do when they at first refuse?
4-5 Why didn't he want them to spend the night in the square? What happened? How many men were involved? Were just a few of them homosexuals? Was this about one man being attracted to another man, or was this about lustful sex, gang rape, and perversion? Homosexual men, for the most part, seem to prefer many sex partners.
What does the Bible say about homosexual behavior? Lev. 18:22, 20:13, Deut. 23:18, and Rom. 1:24-28 are quite clear and graphic; God condemns this behavior, as He does all sin. Lev. 18:22 groups this sin with incest and bestiality, forbidding all those practices and adding in 24 that those things defile a person and a nation. How did God describe Sodom's sin in 18:20? Since this is the only incident we are shown about Sodom, this must be the behavior that caused God to say that. Does the Bible say that believers are to be tolerant of this behavior, or of any sinful behavior? Is God tolerant of sin?
What does it say about homosexuals, as individuals? John 3:16, Rom. 5:8, I Tim. 1:15. Are those who engage in homosexual behavior any worse than sinners who engage in any other kind of sin? Some think that homosexuality is worse because it is referred to as an abomination; however, a check of Strong's Concordance shows that many sins are referred to as an abomination, even sins that we would not consider repulsive (Lev. 11:23, Deut. 24:3-4, Prov. 11:1, 12:22, 15:8-9). God finds all sin disgusting (even we if don't). Is it wrong if someone has homosexual impulses but controls them? Is that any different than someone with a hot temper that controls his mouth?
The Bible teaches that ANY sex outside of marriage (heterosexual, monogamous, faithful) is wrong.
7 How does Lot address them?
8 What disgusting thing does Lot try to do? What does this say about Lot, and about the values of Sodom? What has happened in his life since moving to Sodom? Has he influenced his neighbors for the Lord? Have they influenced him away from the Lord? How does this apply to us? Is it possible to remain strong for the Lord when fraternizing with unbelievers who freely engage in gross sin? Compare Abraham's reputation in Gen. 23:1-6. If you find yourself surrounded by people who are a bad influence, what can you do to stay strong in your faith and close to the Lord?
9 Has Lot really been accepted by them? When you compromise, you end up not fully accepted or respected by either group. In Rev. 3:16, Jesus said He would rather we were hot or cold, not lukewarm. Why do you suppose He said that?
10-11 What do the angels do? What might this picture, spiritually? Sin that is indulged in and unrepented of brings what?
12 How many does Lot have? Lot's family numbers at least seven (at least two sons and at least two daughters), but might we assume ten, based on Abraham's talk with God, 18:32?
13 Now Lot must understand who his visitors are.
14 What does this tell us about Lot? Because of his compromise and his chosen lifestyle, has he even been able to influence his family for the Lord?
15-16 Why do you suppose Lot hesitated? All of them had to be literally pulled out. What does this tell us about how they felt about the city and their life their? about how much they believed or feared God?
17 What were they specifically told not to do?
18-21 What does "lord" mean? Ruler, master, the one in control; to call them "lord" and to say "no" to them is a contradiction in terms! Do we ever say "no Lord!" Does Lot have faith that God can protect him anywhere and everywhere? Lot contradicts and argues, his wife disobeys. How does this reflect on their relationship to God? Lot has a "better" idea; can our plan ever be better than God's plan? But don't we often ask God to implement our plan? Isn't that extremely audacious? Is this showing faith in God? Sometimes God even gives us our way; is that because He has seen that our way was actually better than what He had planned? Be careful what you demand from God; He just may give it to you.
22 How might this apply to a future aspect of judgment? The great tribulation, the day of God's wrath (Rev. 6:17) won't begin until the righteous (all believers--the church, those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit) are removed, II Thes. 2:1-10. The man of lawlessness will not be revealed until the church is removed. 7-8, the indwelling Holy Spirit, the restrainer, will be taken out of the way, and THEN the lawless one will be revealed. (The Holy Spirit will continue to operate on earth as He did in the Old Testament, but He will no longer indwell believers. Only the church, the bride, the body of Christ, has been given the indwelling Holy Spirit.)
23-25 Fire and brimstone. Geologic evidence rules out the possibility of volcanic activity, but a great earthquake is possible, resulting in an enormous explosion. The area is known for sulpherous gases and asphalt seepage. Lightning could easily have then ignited the entire area. It is not necessary to assume a miraculous, supernatural rain of fire and brimstone, although that is possible. Was God cruel to destroy these cities? Did they have knowledge of God? Compare Gen. 14. Yet compare Mt. 10:15, 11:23-24. Those living in the cities of Israel who rejected Jesus Christ will be judged more harshly than those living in Sodom and Gomorrah; why? 11:23. Light creates responsibility. Those who witnessed the miracles and ministry of Jesus and rejected Him will be held more accountable than those who committed gross sin but had less light, Luke 12:47-48. We think that Hitler and Jeffrey Dahmer will be judged the most harshly, because of the enormity of their crimes, but the Pharisees, the Jewish religious leaders who rejected Jesus, will probably be judged more harshly than them, because God had revealed Himself to them through the Law and the prophets and they rejected Him.
26 Lot's disobedient wife. Had God made His will clear? How did she feel about Sodom? How are we to feel about the world? Are we so caught up with the temporary pleasures of the world that, if Christ were to call His church home, we would look back longingly? One of the reasons God allows hardships and tragedies in our lives is to cause disenchantment with this world, to turn our eyes longingly toward heaven. On the other hand, we might ask ourselves, is our desire to leave this world and go to heaven based mostly on escapism, or a desire to see Jesus and to be with Him forever?
Luke 17:26-33. What time period is this talking about? The return of Christ at the end of the tribulation (which is not the same as the rapture of the church, which has already taken place). What do 26-30 tell us about the people on earth when Christ returns? Is it sinful to eat, drink, marry, buy, sell, plant or build? Is that ALL there is to life? So what attitude did people have in Sodom, and at the time of the flood? What is the application for us? I John 2:15-17.
27-29 Abraham sees the destruction.
30-38 Lot and his daughters.
31-32 31, is this true? Hadn't they just come from Zoar? Didn't they know about their relative Abraham? Why would she say such a thing? Had the angels said anything about God destroying all mankind? Perhaps they hadn't listened, or only heard what they wanted to hear, or twisted what they heard to suit their own purposes. Did any of Lot's family show an interest in listening to and obeying God's words? Did they seem to have any concept of trusting God? We see how Sodom had influenced their thinking and standards. What had they seen, heard or experienced that had dulled their morals so that they could come up with such a plan, and carry it out? Apparently incest was common and accepted in that city. What warning can we take for ourselves? What can happen to our children when we compromise with the world? 32, can we ever justify doing something wrong to accomplish something that we think ought to happen? Is that trusting God?
33-36 What do we see about Lot's character here? Easily persuaded, no problem getting him to drink, no moral strength. Apparently they knew this about him. Where did they get the wine? Now we see what they thought was important to take when they left, or perhaps they picked some up in Zoar.
37-38 What part will these two sons play in Israel's future? Enemies, I Sam. 14:47.
Do you think Lot was a believer? Was he saved, was he righteous? Do we see anything in this story that would make us think so? It would be easy to assume he is not, except for II Pet. 2:6-9. But the fact that he had personal convictions was not as strong an influence on his family as the surrounding culture. Do all believers look and act like believers? Do all have visible "fruit" in their lives? Compare Mt. 13:22. Some Christians believe that at the rapture, only believers who are living for the Lord will be taken, but Lot's story refutes this, as well as I Thes. 5:10. Sometimes the Bible uses "sleep" to mean "dead," such as in 4:13-15, but here the word "asleep" is "at rest" (lethargic) as opposed to those who are "awake" (vigilant).
Some Christians teach a concept called "lordship Christianity," which says that if you trust Christ as your Savior, but He is not your Lord also, you are not truly saved. Lot's story, taken with II Pet. 2:6-9, refutes this teaching. Lot was a believer, but apparently God was not Lord of his life. If lordship is the issue, how much does Christ have to be Lord of your life? Are any of us totally yielded, especially at first, when we have just believed in Christ? Isn't this usually a gradual process of maturation? If I have believed in Christ but He is not yet my Lord, how will I know when I am really saved? I can say one day, "I now make you my Lord," but saying the words doesn't make that happen. It generally takes God's discipline, over time, to bring about the yieldedness that God wants from us. The Bible clearly teaches that we are saved through faith alone, not by works or obedience. John 1:12, 3:16, Eph. 2:8-9.
1 We don't know why Abraham moves at this point; this is immediately following the events of Gen. 19 (before Sarah becomes pregnant, 21:1-2), so we wonder if it has anything to do with the events of 19.
2 What unbelievable thing does Abraham do? Hadn't he done this before, 12:10-15? Hadn't he learned anything from that experience? What does this say to us (or about us)? We not only continually sin, but we often repeat the same sin over and over--a particular weakness. Heb. 12:1. We need to deal with sin in our lives; sin hinders God's working in our lives, our growth, our walk with God. The longer you let it go on, the more of a hold Satan gets, the harder it eventually is to weed it out (like cancer, easier to deal with when small).
Why would Abraham tell this lie? If some king wanted her for his harem and Abraham was her husband, what fate might await him? So to Abraham, what is a more acceptable alternative? We have the idea that Abraham is a "spiritual giant"; is he? Is there really such thing as a "spiritual giant"? Don't all believers, even Bible characters, have weaknesses and inconsistencies? The Bible presents Abraham as a man of faith; does strong faith happen instantly? How do we get from a weak, inconsistent faith to strong faith? Usually through many experiences of falling on our faces, often over and over again, and learning how disgusting and unreliable Self is.
3-7 What do we learn about King Abimelech? He seems to have some sort of moral code; he seems to know or know about God. How? Should we be surprised? The Bible is about God's dealing with man, particularly as He revealed Himself through the Jewish nation, and then as He revealed Himself through His Son Jesus Christ--God in human form. The Bible focuses on two groups, Israel and the church. Did God not deal with other people? The Bible is not the record of everything that God has done, just as it is not the record of everything Jesus said or did, John 20:30-31. The early chapters of Genesis made it clear that all men had access to knowledge of God, through Adam, Noah, and many others as the knowledge was passed on to children and grandchildren and through the early preachers and prophets, such as Abraham (Gen. 20:7), Abel (Luke 11:50-51), Enoch (Jude 14), Noah (II Pet. 2:5). Surely there were others that we are not told of because they don't figure in the purpose of the Bible for us. We have already seen Melchizedek (14:17-24), who not only knew of God, but was a priest.
It is easy to get the impression that God is only dealing with the Jews and the church. Later we will see other Gentile leaderss that God is dealing with: Pharoah (Ex. 1-14), Balak (Num. 22-24), Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 1-4), Belshazzar (Dan. 5), Darius (Dan. 6), Herod (Mt. 2), Pilate (John 18-19), Felix, Festus, Agrippa (Acts 24-25), and others. Why might God be particularly interested in rulers? When we see this pattern in the Bible, and in history, we begin to see that God is interested in ALL people, and is working in the lives of ALL people. With unbelievers, He is wanting them to choose Him, to repent, to believe; with believers, He is wanting them to repent, grow, mature, deal with their sins. Therefore, it follows that He still is dealing with leaders and rulers, because of their power to lead many others in one direction or the other.
3 Why would God confront Abimelech like this if he weren't a believer? Perhaps the main purpose here was to preserve Sarah's sexual purity because of the promise of the son she was to bear to Abraham and had not yet conceived (21:1-2). But even so, Abimelech's response does not seem like the response of a pagan who sees nothing wrong with adultery. How did God speak to Abimelech? We notice that this is one way God spoke to people in those times. So is this a way we should look for God to speak to us today? No; we can know this because there is no mention of this in the epistles--the instructions for the church.
Acts 2:17 refers to a future time (quoting Joel 2:28-32) when God will again speak through dreams and visions. Some think this is a reference to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, but have the events of Acts 2:19 happened yet? So this must be talking about a future time, in connection with "the day of the Lord," a phrase the Bible often uses, which includes both the great tribulation and the millenial kingdom on earth which follows it. Heb. 1:1-2 makes it clear that in our day, Christ is God's Word to us. Some Christians believe God still speaks to us, in various ways, but the Bible does not support this teaching. The Bible is God's complete Word to us. It does not say that God will continue to speak to us through voices, thoughts, feelings, prophecies, dreams, visions, or other subjective signs or events that must be interpreted to figure out what God is telling us. God uses people and circumstances in our lives, but they are not His Word to us. God's Word is clear; we don't have to wonder what He is saying. If God still does speak, in ANY way, those words should be added to the Bible. Not to do so would be to cheapen and make light of God. According to the Bible, God's words are always authoritative; none of His words are ever presented as having less authority than others.
We also see that even though the Law has not yet been given to Moses, adultery is a capital crime, at least according to God's standard. Abimelech seems to know this too. The marriage vow is to be taken seriously, then and now. Yet we see Abraham, the man of God, willing to allow his wife to commit adultery to save his own neck. DOES the end justify the means? Should he have been willing to die, if that was the result of living his convictions before God? Yet we also see Abimelech unconcerned about the concept of a harem, even though he is concerned about adultery. Do you know people, even believers, who also have inconsistencies in their lives? Don't we all? These are things to examine and deal with.
4-5 What similar question had Abraham asked God earlier about Sodom? WILL God destroy the innocent (the righteous) in judgment? No. Three points here: 1) Every "bad" thing that happens is not "judgment." God does not promise to keep the righteous from trials, and trials are not necessarily judgments from God, Luke 13:1-5. The Bible tells believers to expect trials, Rom. 5:3-5, John 16:33, II Cor. 1:3-11, James 1:2-4, I Pet. 1:6-7, 4:12. 2) More evidence for the pre-tribulation rapture. The church will be removed before the day of God's wrath. God will not pour out His wrath on Christ; the church is the body of Christ. 3) Some people have a problem with God commanding Israel to destroy many nations and cities, later in the Old Testament. This is not capricious on God's part. They had access to knowledge of God, but had rejected it. God does not destroy the innocent; however, are any innocent in God's eyes? Compare Rom. 1:19-20, Ps. 19:1-6, Rom. 3:10. God's fingerprints are everywhere; those who do not see them CHOOSE not to see them. We all deserve judgment; it is only by God's grace that any of us are saved.
So is Sarah part of the problem too? Did she have to lie? Didn't we see some real problems in her life in Gen. 16? Is a half-truth the truth or a lie? Does it have to do with the motive with which it is said? Was the purpose here to deceive or be truthful? Isn't it interesting that through every situation, God is working in many people's lives at the same time, to change them and teach them to trust Him?
6 What does this tell us about God, how He looks at our sins, how He works in our lives? God considers our intentions and our circumstances. Will God always keep us from sinning? If that were true, we would never sin! Why did God keep Abimelech from adultery in this situation, but did not keep Abraham or Sarah from lying? Partly because of God's concern for the promised son; if adultery took place, it could not be certain that the promised son was the seed of Sarah and Abraham. But what about the heart condition of each one involved? Which wanted to do right, and which wanted to do wrong? If we want to sin, God will let us. What does this say about intentional sin and unintentional sin? We see that God is very concerned about our motives, our hearts, maybe more so than with our actions. Jesus tells this to the Pharisees continually, as the prophets told Israel. And even though God kept Abimelech from sinning in this situation, this does not teach that God will always do this. If this were true, this teaching would be found clearly in the rest of the Bible, which it is not. God was gracious to Abimelech in this situation.
7 Abraham was a what? What is a prophet? Here is the first Bible use of the word "prophet." Prophesying involves two aspects--speaking the inspired word of God, and foretelling future events. Are we told of anything that he prophesied? Abraham said and did many noteworthy things that are not recorded; we are only told certain things about him that are important to the recorded story of God's dealing with man, and events that lead to the coming of the promised deliverer (Gen. 3:15), the Messiah. Again, adultery was already a capital crime. Many times in the Old Testament God tells His people Israel not to intermarry with other nations. May Christians marry non-Christians? II Cor. 6:14. Why do you think God gave this restriction? To keep us from happiness?
8-9 Again, Abimelech's knowledge of morality, sin. Who is reproving whom? Some think Abimelech was not a believer, just a pagan that God is speaking to. This is a possibility. If so, that would make it even more remarkable that he is reproving Abraham. Do you ever see non-Christians acting in a more "Christian" way than Christians? Unfortunately, this is all too common. While this is true, remember that being a Christian, being accepted by God, is not about doing good things, but about being forgiven through faith in Christ. The Christian's deeds should reflect that.
10-11 "Because I thought…", instead of just obeying and leaving the consequences to God. Have you ever done this? There is a difference between having faith in the will of God, and having faith in what we IMAGINE, or WANT. How can we tell the difference? How can we know God's will? Should we expect Him to tell us what to do in each situation? Some think so, but the Bible does not teach this. Old Testament prophets sometimes told people what to do, but the New Testament does not teach that God gives us specific directions. We are told His general, moral will (for example, Col. 3:1-4:6), but we do not find that He has a will for our daily decisions. James 1:5-8 tells us to ask God for what? Then go ahead and make the best decision we can within the Bible's guidelines, trusting that God HAS given us that wisdom He promised.
12-13 Abraham rationalizes their lies. "Because…besides…" Compare the response of David when he is confronted with his great sin involving Bathsheba and Uriah, II Sam. 12:13, and Ps. 51 which he wrote at that time. Compare the response of Adam and Eve in Gen. 3:8-13. This is why God calls David a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22). Compare I Sam. 16:7, which also happens to be said of David. We all sin, but are we convicted of our sin? How do we respond when we are convicted? Read what David says about his heart, Ps. 27:8, 119:10, 139:23. What does Abraham's idea of "kindness" say about his attitude toward his wife?
14-16 Why does Abraham accept these gifts? Compare 14:22-23. One compromise leads to another.
17-18 God could have just healed them, as He already mentioned this to Abimelech in 20:7. But God often works through people. Why might this be? Perhaps in order to involve more people in what He is doing, that more people might be confronted with God's power and truth, that more people's faith may grow.
1-7 The big event finally happens. Had God delayed, or what? How old are Sarah and Abraham? Do you think God waited TOO long? Why do you suppose God waited so long? Do you ever think God is waiting too long, in your life? Why might He wait to change something or answer a prayer? Might the answer be "wait"? Might it be "no"? There are other answers besides "yes;" just because the answer isn't "yes" doesn't mean God hasn't answered. Maybe it looks like God isn't doing anything, but we just can't see His hand at work, until much later. Can we ever know God's timetable? We all need to continually learn patience and trusting.
Abraham obeys God and Isaac is circumcised. "Isaac" means "laughter." What kind of laughter? Joy, not ridicule. The laughter of unbelief has become the laughter of joy.
8 Weaned (off milk) indicates growing up. In that day, this happened when the child was several years old. The New Testament uses these concepts to talk about the Christian's life. I Pet. 2:2, what are new believers like? What should they long for? This milk causes them to what? What if they don't--is that normal for a baby? Heb.5:12-6:1, why are these believers being scolded for wanting milk? Milk here is likened to what, 12? So what would solid food be? Do some believers stay babies longer than others? Can you be a baby all your life? Is the writer pleased that these believers are still babies? 14, what else besides solid food helps the believer to mature? I Cor. 3:1-3, what the are believers like in the church at Corinth? That's why Paul has to correct them so much in his two letters to them. Some churches just preach the salvation message and never expose believers to the meat of the Word. But many believers just don't want to take the time or bother to read/study/digest/apply the Word. What does Paul say about this in I Cor. 14:20? In Eph. 4:11-16, Paul explains the process growth, and makes it clear that maturity should be our goal. 14, what can happen to immature believers? So how can we keep that from happening to us? Besides the growth of the individual believer, Paul is also talking here about the building up of what, 12? And the growth of what, 16?
9-11 This formal occasion in Isaac's life apparently aggravated the situation for Ishmael. What kind of laughter comes from Hagar and Ishmael? This mocking creates what kind of feeling in Sarah? Does Abraham feel differently about Ishmael than Sarah does? Why? "Her son…my son…his son…" Sarah is reaping what she sowed, Gen. 16:4-6. Reaping what you sow is a biblical principle that we find in both Old and New Testaments and seems to apply to the unbeliever as well as the believer. Prov. 11:24-27, 22:8-9, 26:27, II Cor. 9:6, Gal. 6:7-9. It is a principle that God has built into life.
What if Sarah had acted differently in the past toward Hagar and Ishmael? What if she had chosen not to be bitter and resentful, but to accept humbly what God had allowed in her life? What if she had chosen to love Hagar and Ishmael? Was this a happy household? Does the Bible promise the believer a happy homelife, free of conflict? Imagine living in this household. How could this situation have been avoided in the first place? When we sin or just make a bad decision, there are consequences. Today we often see the consequences of impetuous or unwise marriages in the thorny problems of visiting rights, "my real dad/mom," and resentful hurt children. Marriages can be ended, but these problems are permanent. Several generations later in this family, we will read about Joseph's family problems and how he chose, not bitterness and revenge, but acceptance of what God had allowed to happen in his life, 45:5-8, 50:20. He chose to see God's hand in everything that happens.
Gal. 4:21-31 says this conflict in the lives of these two real, historical figures also contains a what, 24? That does not mean these were not real people; some who do not believe the Bible is literally true think that the Old Testament stories are ONLY allegories and not the account of real historical people and events. But God in His wisdom and sovereignty has also built spiritual allegories and types (KJV, figures) into these events, for our benefit, Rom. 5:14, I Cor. 10:1-11, Heb. 11:19. The allegory is about two what, 24? Paul is comparing the old dispensation, the covenant of law, with the new dispensation, the covenant of grace. What problem in the church was Paul addressing, 21?
The book of Galatians addresses the problem of Christians who continued to try to live under the Law, 2:4. Some today still try to do that, or they add other rules to the Christian life that are not found in the Bible. Legalism is a problem for many Christians. What does Paul say to do, 30-31? The Law brings bondage; Christ brings freedom from bondage, from the Law. We are no longer under the Law. We do not throw out the Law, but what happened to the Law when Christ came, Mt. 5:17? What is our relationship to the Law, Gal. 2:19,21, 3:13? What can't the Law, or rules, do for us, 2:11? What CAN the Law, or trying to live by the Law, do for us, 3:24? How does Paul describe the Law, or rules of outward conduct, in 4:9? In 5:1? Why is the Law like a yoke of slavery, 5:3? Could any of the Jews do that? Can you do that? How can the Christian fulfill the Law, 5:14?
This analogy also applies to the struggle between the believer's two natures, the old nature and the new nature. What must we do to the flesh, the old nature, 4:30? Is that process pleasant and easy, Gen. 21:11? Admitting what Self is like, and trying to deal with it, is a grievous process. In fact, just as grief is involved in any death, it's almost like we grieve as we watch, and help, Self die daily, Luke 9:23. Just as Ishmael had to leave, so the flesh cannot peacefully co-exist with the new nature. Paul talks more about this in 5:16-26. Which son represents each nature? 6:15, in this dispensation, God is no longer dealing with us through the Law (circumcision); now He gives us a new nature, by being what, John 3:3? Those living in the previous dispensation, the age of Law, did not have this.
12-13 So did Sarah send them away, or did God? Or both equally? We see how God works through people's actions. Does that mean Sarah was right to do this? Not necessarily, but God will use her actions anyhow. Can God use our wrong actions, or the wrong actions of other people, and continue to work in that situation to bring about His ultimate will? Is God's plan sometimes painful? Is this because God doesn't care about us? Is God more concerned about the short-term and our immediate feelings, or the long-term and what is needed in our lives? Rom. 8:28. Isn't this the same thing we try to do with our children? God says it's OK to send them away, and reminds him of the promise.
14-19 This must have just torn Abraham apart. Even though Ishmael was not God's choice, he was still Abraham's firstborn son, and he loved him very much. He would never see him again. Watching him leave must have been like watching him die. And how must Ishmael have been feeling? About Abraham? About Sarah and Isaac? About God? How old is Ishmael? At least 16.
Even though Ishmael is not the promised son, and is the product of Abraham's disobedience to God, does God care about him and Hagar? Will God be working in their lives? Either Hagar didn't remember or didn't believe God's earlier promise about Ishmael, 17:20. She thinks he is about to die. Does it say God miraculously made a well? Have you ever had God open your eyes to "see" something you just hadn't seen before? This is one way God works in our lives. It may or may not be a miracle, but sometimes it feels like a miracle!
20-21 God was with him. Where did his wife come from? Perhaps from his mother's relatives. As we saw in Gen. 13, Egypt is a type of what? Rev. 11:8 indicates that it has symbolic meaning; mentioned with Sodom, it implies godlessness. Heb. 3:16-4:11 shows that the Israelites' experience of slavery in Egypt, wandering in the wilderness, and then only some entering God's rest in the promised land, is a picture of the Christian life. I Cor. 10:1-11 tells us that Israel's experiences are a picture, an example, for us, the church. When we read these stories in the books of Exodus through Joshua, we can see how the slavery in Egypt pictures our slavery to sin (Rom. 6), and how God delivered them, and us, from "the world," the godless world system (Gal. 1:4). But going back to the ways of the world is always a temptation for the believer, especially the newer or weaker believer. In this story we see the son of the flesh (Gal 4:29-31) getting his wife from Egypt, the godless world system. What kind of wife or husband should the believer look for, II Cor. 6:14-15?
Now the Bible drops this line, except where it later intersects the line leading to Christ. We will be following Isaac's line. We the see Bible's pattern, to give the rejected line, drop it, then go on with the chosen line. We want to learn to see both the details of the Bible as well as the big picture.
22 Abraham is still living near Abimelech. What is his opinion of Abraham? Abraham and Abimelech make a covenant and take care of a misunderstanding about a well. Then as now, water rights were extremely important to the farmer and rancher, and battles were fought over them. The whole idea of promises and keeping them is strong in this section of Genesis. Abimelech seems concerned that Abraham might deal falsely with him; what reason has Abraham already given him to think that? Abraham has given mixed messages; yes, he is godly, but he is also deceitful. People are full of contradictions, even believers. That doesn't mean they haven't trusted Christ as their Savior, but Christians should be known for keeping their promises and their word.
A number of important concepts come up in this chapter. Four important Bible words are used here for the first time: test/tempt, love, worship, obey. Isaac was a real person, but is also presented in Heb. 11:17-19 as a what? Notice the many parallels.
1 God is going to do what to Abraham? The word "test" is "tempt" in the KJV. Strongs: test, attempt, adventure, assay, prove, tempt, try. Many people wonder if their particular situation is a testing from God or a temptation from Satan; both elements are present. In every situation that tests our faith, Satan is tempting us to fail. Some of our problems are of our own making, but God can even use those as tests, since He is sovereign over everything that happens, and can use anything and everything for His own purposes. The New Testament says to expect testing, James 1:2-4, I Pet. 1:7, 4:12. According to these verses, what is the purpose of testing? "Perfect" means mature, complete, not sinless. Maybe God has given you something you value, or have asked for, or longed for, and now He is asking you to give it up. Or maybe God is asking you to give up a desire that you have been wanting Him to fulfill. Why might God want you to do this? Is there anything in your life you would hold back from God if He asked you to give it up? If so, why would you?
2 Didn't Abraham have another son? In God's eyes, was he a son? Compare the wording of this verse to John 3:16. Might Jesus have used those words especially to remind the Jews of this Old Testament passage, which they knew? Why would God have Abraham travel so far to do this? Why not near home? Mount Moriah is where Christ later was crucified; remember that Isaac is a type of Christ. Does God actually command Abraham to kill his son, which would be wrong? What word does God use instead of "kill"?
Here is the first use of "love" in the Bible; is it in the context of husband and wife? Was this word used when God instituted marriage in Gen. 2? Why would God stress the love of a father for a son? Why does our society stress the romantic aspect of love? Is love in this context a warm fuzzy feeling, something that makes the one who is loved feel wonderful? Christians today like to talk about loving each other and how God loves us, but we need to realize what God means by love.
3 Does Abraham argue? Does he try to get out of it? Does he procrastinate? Of course we have no record of his inner thoughts and feelings, only his actions. Has he made progress in his spiritual life? So should we, but it often takes a long time. Just as it takes years to mature physically, so it takes years to mature spiritually. People speak of "blind faith"; is faith "blind"? Abraham has faith in facts, the facts of God's word. Blind faith (wishful thinking, positive thinking) is foolishness.
4 On what day does this take place? Compare Mt. 16:21.
5 What did Abraham say they were going to do? Who does he say will return? Why would he say this?
Here is the first use of "worship," although we already had "bow" in 18:2, where Abraham bowed to the Lord when He and the two angels appeared to Abraham. Both words are translated from the same Hebrew word and are often used interchangeably, or together, as in Ex. 4:31, 12:27; see your margin notes for alternate translations. Strong's: to prostrate (especially in homage to royalty or God), bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop.
So what is worship, according to this passage and the definition of the Hebrew word? Holding nothing back from God? Complete trust and obedience in our lives? What do people do on Sunday at 11:00 AM that they call worship? Is that really worship, in the biblical sense? People talk about what they get out of a worship service--if it was good or not, if they got anything out of it, if the "worship leader" was any good. Is true worship for us to get something out of, or is it for God?
The church today, unfortunately, has redefined worship to mean something it is not. It focuses on the feelings we get from group singing. True worship--when Self bows to God--is not about warm fuzzy feelings. What feelings do you suppose Abraham has as he is heading toward the place at which he will worship? It is about dying to Self, about giving up, about saying "no" to Self and "yes" to God. It is often hard. Read Dan. 3, the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in which we find the word "worship" used 10 times (in the NASB), and which illustrates what true worship is. Notice that each time the word "worship" appears with another term that helps us understand what worship is--fall down, serve, trust, yield up their bodies.
So instead of teaching this concept of worship, too often Christians, even churches, take the Bible term and use it to mean something nice that is easy and fun to do. In many "worship songs" we sing about what we will do for God, and how we will be His completely. Is that the same as actually doing those things? How many of us are doing, or will do, what we say to God in that song? What about the unbelievers who may be present and singing that song? If we sing those words but are not actually doing them, have we really worshipped? Which would God rather have? Words are easy; actions are much harder. It makes us feel good to sing those words about ourselves, but if they are not really true, we have only deceived ourselves and lied about ourselves to God. It is much better to sing about who God is and what He has done, is doing, and will do, than to sing about "I..I..I"
When we worship, what does God get? Rev. 4:10-11. Can you find any place we are told in the Bible to get together as a body to worship? When and how do we worship? Worship can take place in church, in a group, but only if it already takes place daily in that individual. Ex. 34:8, Dan. 3, Ps. 95:6, Matt. 4:9-10, I Cor. 14:25, Rev 22:8. What ARE we to do as a church? Acts 1:14, 2:1-47, 15:35, 18:11, 20:7, Rom. 12:4-8, I Cor. 16:2, Gal. 6:6, Col. 3:16 (group singing is to be done, but is not presented as worship). In the epistles (the directions to the church), "worship" is never used in connection with a gathering of believers. Notice how angels worship God, Rev. 7:11, 11:16, and the shepherds, Mt. 2:2, 8. Compare what the Bible says about false worship; does it have anything to do with singing to that person/thing or to an uplifting group experience? Ex. 34:14, Deut. 8:16, Is. 2:8, 20, Jer. 44:19, Zeph. 1:4-6, Dan. 3:5-7, Rev. 9:20, 13:4, 8, 12, 15.
One reason people associate worship with church may be the numerous Bible references to coming to the temple to worship. Many people confuse the temple with the church, the Sabbath with Sunday, Israel with the church, and the Old Testament with the New Testament. In the Old Testament, Israel did meet with God at the temple only, Ex. 20:24, 25:21-22, 29:42-43, 30:6, 36, Lev. 1:3. That was the only place that their sacrifices (their required mode of worship) could be offered. For the Jews, the temple and the altar were necessary for worship. In the New Testament (the church age, the age or dispensation of grace), the individual believer comes to God through Christ, and our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. The church is not the temple or even the house of God, it is just the place of gathering of true believers. The Sabbath was not given to Israel as a day of worship but as the day of rest, Ex. 20:8-11; Sunday is not the Sabbath or the day of rest, nor are we commanded to worship on Sunday. It is done to remember the resurrection, which was on the first day of the week. Later the Jews did begin to assemble on the Sabbath at the local synagogues, as well as visiting the temple to bring their sacrifices.
6 Is Isaac a little boy, like the Sunday School pictures show? Why would Abraham make him carry the wood if he was little? "Lad" can be a young man; it is the same word used of the young men who accompanied them (22:3), of Ishmael in the previous chapter when he is at least 16, of the young men in Sodom who wished to have homosexual relations with the angels (19:4), and of Joseph at 17 (37:2). It's possible that Isaac was in his 30's by this time. What picture of Christ do we see with Isaac carrying the wood?
7 What does Isaac wonder? Do you think he knows what's going on? What terms in their conversation remind us of God and Christ?
8 How does Abraham answer? What does this answer reveal about Abraham?
9 Is Isaac big enough to resist? Does he? Why not? Compare Is. 53:7, Mt. 27:12-14. Does he know the promises God made to Abraham?
10 The Black Moment. What did Abraham think, Heb. 11:19? He knew what God had promised. We can conclude that he did plan to kill his son on the altar, believing that God would then raise him from the dead. Even so, it would be so hard to do.
11 Who is the angel of the Lord? 12 makes it clear, "from Me."
12 On what day was the son delivered from death? 22:4. What wording again points us to John 3:16? So did God really want Abraham to kill Isaac? Might God sometimes test us by taking us right to the edge of something fearful, painful, or extremely difficult, and then not really require us to go through it? Isn't dealing with our feelings of anticipation almost just as difficult as experiencing the actual difficulty? God is often dealing with our will, our motives, not merely our actions. Whether we go through it or just think we are about to go through it, it is an opportunity to give your feelings to God, trust Him, and learn more about walking by what rather than by what, II Cor. 5:7.
13 Does God provide a lamb, as Abraham had said? Why not? When does God provide the lamb? John 1:29. This is a prophecy of Christ. Do you see how this whole chapter foreshadows Christ and the cross? This is called a "type" (Heb. 11:17-19) or a "figure" in the KJV. Even when we take the literal interpretation of the Bible, we must recognize that the Bible itself uses symbolic languages and figures of speech, just as any literature does. But we must be careful to let the Bible itself interpret those symbols for us; we must not impose symbols or meanings arbitrarily.
As in Gen. 3., we again find the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. Someone must die, but God provides someone else--a Lamb without blemish (Ex. 12:3-7)--to die in their place, who will provide the blood necessary to remove sin (Lev. 17:11, Heb. 9:22).
When did God provide what was needed? Remember this when your faith is being tested. Have you ever had that happen? Don't panic or give up, even in the bleakest moment. This chapter should be an encouragement when we are at the end of our rope. Why doesn't God provide sooner? And what if God DOES require us to walk down that difficult road?
14 What does Abraham call that place? Does God always provide what we want, in the way we want it, when we want it? What does He provide instead? Phil. 4:19. We must be careful not to think of God like Santa Claus. Does a wise and loving parent give their child what they want, or what they need? Abraham commemorated that event, so in the future he would not forget. When we experience God's provision or answer to prayer, it's not a bad idea to write it down, as a reminder later when our faith lags. Who benefits when we share our concerns and prayer requests with others, and then see how God worked in those situations? Rom. 1:12. We see here that God did not provide until Abraham demonstrated a willingness to obey.
James 2:21-26 points out another truth from this story. What if God asked Abraham if he was willing to offer Isaac, and Abraham said "yes I am willing," but never provided any actions to back up those words? Because of Abraham's actions (works), is God more real to him now? Is his faith stronger than it would have been if he had just mouthed the words? What about Isaac's faith, and the faith of everyone else who knew about this incident? Faith was perfected, or made more complete and mature, 2:22. James is talking about the works that follow a declaration of faith, not works that result in salvation. Can good works provide salvation, Eph. 2:8-9? James reaffirms in 2:23 that Abraham was saved (declared righteous in God's sight) because of his faith. True faith will be lived out in our actions, our works.
15-18 Who speaks to Abraham, 15? And in 16 He is identified as who? Abraham passes the test. God reaffirms how greatly He will bless Abraham because he what, 18? Which comes first, obedience or blessing? Actually, what comes before obedience? Gen. 15:6. Faith, then obedience, then blessing. Does Abraham understand how God will work things out, before he obeys? Because of God's love for His Son and for us, we are to love Him, trust Him and obey Him. That is the message all the way through the Bible. These are the basics. Deut. 6:5, I Sam. 15:22, II Sam. 22:2, Mt. 22:37, John 14:23, Rom. 6:12-18, II Cor. 1:9, Heb. 2:13, most of the Psalms.
In 18 we have the first use of the word "obey" even though the concept of obedience and disobedience has already come up repeatedly. In this context, who is being obeyed? This sets the tone for the rest of the Bible. The first meaning listed in Strongs for "obey" is to hear intelligently, with the implication of attention and obedience. Can we obey if we haven't heard? It's hard to hear God when our attention isn't on Him. Sometimes God first has to do things to get our attention, so we can hear Him, so we can obey Him. Prov. 4:1.
So is God saying here that the Abrahamic covenant hinges on Abraham's obedience? No, we have already seen that God made promises to him because of what, 15:6? 15:7-21 then went on to show that the covenant was unconditional, not having anything to do with what Abraham did, because only God passed through the pieces, 17, without Abraham, who had been put into a deep sleep. Here God is commending Abraham for his obedience in the test of sacrificing Isaac, which he did because of his great faith. True faith shows itself in obedience; obedience (good works) apart from true faith is outward works with no value in God's eyes. We will see later in the Old Testament that God often scolded Israel for their outward works that did NOT come from a heart of faith, and did not please God. Hos. 6:6, Mal. 1.
The promise in 18 is interpreted for us in Acts 3:25 and Gal. 3:16. Is Abraham's seed the Jewish nation, according to these verses? And how will the nations (the Gentiles) be blessed, Gal. 3:8? The gospel (the good news) of Jesus Christ and forgiveness of sins is available to all men of all nationalities. Later we see the Jews thinking that righteousness was only for them. Jesus Christ will come in the line of Abraham and be the fulfillment of Gen. 3:15. So although this chapter is about Isaac, it is about Jesus Christ, a prophecy in type. As we go through the Old Testament, we will see God continue to narrow down and specify the line through which He will come. This is one reason for the many genealogies, which we find so boring; they are an important part of the factual record, and testify to the fulfillment of prophecy.
20-24 Abraham's nephews, Uz and Buz and the rest. We also get a preview of events to come, in the mention of Rebekah (his brother's granddaughter).
In this chapter we basically see Abraham burying Sarah, and how the business was transacted.
1 How old was Sarah when she died? How old was she when Isaac was born? The Bible does not say how long Sarah's death was after the events of Gen. 22. But this is the next event in Abraham's life that is significant to what God wants us to know.
2 Is weeping and mourning a necessary part of coming to accept the death of a loved one, even one who we know is saved? Why? Even though we know a saved loved one is with the Lord, we mourn for our own loss and the emptiness that leaves in our life.
4 How does Abraham describe himself? Strongs: stranger = foreigner, alien; sojourner = not a native citizen, a temporary inmate, lodger, resident alien. Had God given the land of Canaan to Abraham? He had promised it to his descendants. He did not own any land there, but was looking to the future to what was promised. What does this picture in the Christian life? Do we feel that way about our time here on earth? How did Lot's wife feel about the things of this world, when God called her to leave them? I Pet. 1:17 applies this to the Christian (NASB "stay," KJV "sojourning"). I Pet. 2:11 refers to us as "aliens and strangers" (KJV, "strangers and pilgrims"). Heb. 11:13 refers to "strangers and exiles on the earth" (KJV uses "pilgrims" for "exiles"). What are we called in II Cor. 5:20? What does such a person do? Is he a citizen of the country where he lives? Is he there permanently or temporarily? Who appointed him? A well-known chorus echoes this idea: "This world is not my home, I'm just a-passing through. If heaven's not my home, oh Lord what will I do? The angels beckon me from heaven's open door, and I can't feel at home in this world anymore!"
5-20 We see the way such business was transacted in the oriental culture of that time. It appears that they say to him that they won't charge him or take any money, but then they do. People in other times and places have different ways of speaking and different idioms, and we need to keep this in mind when we don't understand the literal meaning of some things people say in the Bible. The accurate translation of Bible words doesn't always clarify idiomatic speech, so we need to leave room for this possibility in passages that are unclear to us.
It specifically states several times that Abraham paid for this land, that it was deeded over to him. This reminds us that although Abraham was living in the land God led him to and promised his descendants, he has not taken possession of the land. At this point, the land of Canaan still belongs to the Canaanites.
First let's look at some issues this chapter brings up--marriage and finding the will of God--so we don't draw unbiblical conclusions while reading this story.
Abraham arranges for a wife for Isaac; in that culture, marriages were arranged. Are arranged marriages good or bad, biblical or unbiblical? What about our kind of marriage? Which kind of marriage has a better chance of being successful, or of being God's will for those involved? Is God's ability to work in a marriage limited by either of these choices? Does the Bible say or imply anything about being "in love"? Is being "in love" the same or different than loving your spouse as commanded in Eph. 5:25, Col. 3:19, and Tit. 2:4? Amazingly, these are the only New Testament passages that refer to love in marriage. (Can feelings be commanded? Could the Bible mean something other than feelings by the term "love"? Are we ever commanded to like anyone?) Do you think it is possible that our culture values feelings too much? Can a marriage be successful if it lacks romantic love but has devotion, fidelity, friendship, kindness, self-sacrifice, etc.? So who are we to love? Mt. 5:44, Mk. 12:30-31, John 13:34, 14:15, I Thes. 4:9, I John 4:11.
This story is often used to teach that God has one particular person for you to marry. It is also used to teach that we can expect God to lead us in every detail of life, and that along with Gideon's story, using "fleeces" is a biblical way to get guidance. Is this God's plan for choosing a spouse, or is it God's plan for choosing Isaac's spouse? Would you follow this method? How much should we generalize from this story? Is Isaac himself using this method to find a spouse? If it was God's general plan, it would be found elsewhere in the Bible also, especially the New Testament. To use this method, one must also agree to an arranged marriage. We need to be careful that our Bible interpretation is consistent.
Back to "how to find God's will." Does the Bible teach that God has a detailed blueprint for our lives and will reveal the right choice in each decision we face? Where does the New Testament teach this? Or does it teach that God has revealed His will to be that which is right and wrong for believers in general, and within that will, we are free to make choices, depending on Him for wisdom? James 1:5, Prov. 3:5-6.
If He has a blueprint, then we must find it to know for certain: where to live, which city, which house, which school to attend, what classes to take, what to major in, whether or not to marry, who to marry, etc. We are to find that one person, and not marry any other, and expect God to lead us to that person. Does the Bible say that this is God's will? Can this story be generalized to teach that? Why or why not? Is it possible that you could meet more than one person who you could be successfully married to, and that either choice could be right? What if you must decide between two jobs or two colleges, both of which appear to be good choices and would not involve sin or compromise on your part? Looking for a non-existent blueprint can lead to much anxiety and guilt, always wondering if you made THE right choice, and what if you didn't? If you miss that one possible right choice (and the Bible has not given us clear directions on how to identify that one choice), then it follows that you are now out of God's will; how do you get back, or can you? Is it possible that our wrong decisions can keep God's sovereign will and purposes from taking place? Our free will can never change or diminish God's sovereignty, even though we can't understand how that can be.
If God will indeed guide us in all those choices, we must assume that He will also guide us in the smaller choices that inevitably affect everything that happens to us: What time should I leave the house? Which route should I take? Who should I sit by? What, if anything, should I say to this person? And logic says, we also must ask God: What should I wear? What time should I get up? Most Christians recognize the futility of seeking God in those "small" decisions, so they just use common sense. Unfortunately, there is no clear guide on which decisions must be prayed over and agonized over, and which may be decided with common sense. Many books and sermons teach that there are ways to find the right choice, by counsel of others, interpreting circumstances, and inner feelings of peace. Not only are these methods subjective and far from foolproof, but also we must recognize that the Bible does not teach this method.
Instead, we need to recognize that biblical examples of God providing individual guidance always have to do with ministry or service to God, or how He worked out His sovereign plan through those individuals whose lives are recorded because they were key players in key events. We never see God leading in mundane day-to-day decisions, nor are we told in the New Testament to ask for guidance in mundane decisions.
Principles: 1) If God's revealed will (His known moral law) has not been violated, it isn't sin. We have the freedom to CHOOSE, Rom.4:15. There are many New Testament examples of mundane decisions being made by apostles, without mention of asking God for leading. 2) When Paul explained what to do about eating meat offered to an idol at someone's house, he didn't say, ask God to lead you in this sticky situation. He said, if you wish to go, eat anything that is set before you; YOU CHOOSE. He also said that different believers will make different choices, and that is OK. 3) Do you ask God how much money He would have you give? No, Paul says each is to do as he has purposed in his heart; YOU CHOOSE, II Cor. 9:7. 4) Choose with WISDOM. Many verses speak of using wisdom (but not the world's wisdom). Much of Proverbs, I Cor. 1:30, 2:6-8, James 3:13. Col. 1:9 says we may have the knowledge of His will, and then goes on to tell in the next few verses what that means. James 1:5-8 says ask for wisdom, exercise wisdom, and after you have made the decision, don't start second-guessing it; have faith that God guided you in wisdom as He promised. And wisdom is not a feeling. Don't say, "I don't FEEL that God has showed me the answer," or "I don't FEEL that I know which decision is the wisest." 5) Human wisdom without submission to God is not God's way; James 4:13-16.
Open doors: Are open doors mean a decision is God's will? In each instance the Bible mentions an open door, it refers to an opportunity for the gospel, not daily decisions. I Cor. 16:8-9, II Cor. 2:12-13, Col.4:3. Is an open door a command to go that way? In fact, it may be a temptation we should avoid. And if we are following God's revealed will and come up against a closed door, that should not stop us.
Fleeces: Is "putting out a fleece," as Gideon did, the way to find God's answer? Read the story in context, Jud. 6:11-24. Gideon was face to face with God (the angel of the Lord), and he had already been told God's will. His fleece was not about daily decisions, and it was based on a lack of faith. Nowhere does the Bible hold this up as an example for us to follow. Rather, we see that in spite of Gideon's lack of faith, God graciously worked with him.
Isaac as a type of Christ: In Gen. 22, we saw how Isaac was a type of Christ. Now that figure will be taken even further. According to Eph. 5, what does marriage picture? Who is the bride? Who is the father? Who is the son? Who is working in the world, choosing a bride for the son? John 6:63, Rom. 8, Eph. 1:13. Is the servant named? Is attention to be drawn to the Holy Spirit? John 14:26, 15:27, 16:13-15. (Beware those who draw attention to the Holy Spirit. He is NOT to be the focus of our faith, but the means of our relationship with Christ.) Notice that after Isaac was sacrificed, he is not mentioned again until he is united with his Gentile bride at the end of this chapter. In this chapter we will notice what goes on between the servant and the bride during the time the son is away.
Now on to the story:
1-4 Apparently this was how they took an oath in those days. Why was Abraham so concerned about where the girl came from? What application is there for us in marriage? The Old Testament stresses that Israelites were not to marry foreigners, to keep the Jewish bloodline as pure as possible, but it also pictures the idea of believers not marrying unbelievers, I Cor. 7:39, II Cor. 6:14. So the father sends forth the servant to take a Gentile bride for the son.
5-6 Why was he so concerned about Isaac going back there?
7 How did Abraham say that the servant would know? Who was this promise made to? Is this a promise to us? Be careful not to take things out of context.
8 Is the servant to take a chosen woman without her consent? So does the believer have free will to choose Christ or reject Him? Or, as Calvinists believe, do we see that she MUST go with him because she is chosen, whether or not she has any say? No one becomes part of the bride of Christ (becomes a Christian) without exercising their own choice, their own free will.
10 He takes gifts from his master's wealth--a dowry. I Cor. 1:22 says we are given what as a down payment? Remember, we are still the bride, not yet the wife; we are still betrothed until the marriage, Rev. 19:7.
11 He knew where to go to look for women; he uses common sense.
12-14 He asks for a specific sign. Is this a biblical way for us to pray for guidance? Nowhere is the New Testament believer told to ask for signs.
15 What is especially neat about this verse? Is. 65:24 speaks of this. Have you ever had this happen?
16 Why was it important that Rebekah was a virgin?
17-21 Can you imagine his thoughts and feelings at this point?
22-25 God really did direct him!
26 What did he do? Did he go to the temple and have an inspiring "worship experience"? How was this worship? What other word tells us what is involved in true worship? He recognized God's hand in his life and he yielded to it. Do you have times when you see God's hand in your life? How often do those times happen? Do they not happen all the time, or is it happening all the time but we only see it now and then? First we have to get in the frame of mind to be looking. We look, then we see, then we recognize.
27 The Lord guided him "in the way." It's hard to be led in a specific situation when you are not already following God's revealed will. We need to first be "in the way" before we ask for FURTHER light.
28-29 We meet Laban. Mostly we think of him in connection with Jacob, Isaac and Rebekah's son. But here we get a preliminary view.
30 What interested him?
31-49 The servant tells his story, of the son and of the father's house. What is the father like, 35? What about the son, 36? In 40-44, we see God's choice at work--election.
50-53 Did they recognize God's hand at work? This is like election--God's choice. They agree to the marriage. For the third time, it is stated that the servant worshipped--apparently we are not to miss this. What triggers worship in this man, and in us? Seeing God for who He is, sovereign, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, active in our lives. Bowing is not part of our culture, but in other cultures, it signified that you recognized you were lower than that person, that you yielded to them, you were their servant, you honored them.
53 Gifts follow the betrothal, II Cor. 1:22.
54-58 A decision is required on her part. Must we make a decision, even though our calling has already been arranged by the Father? John 1:12, 6:37. Even though it seems contradictory to our feeble human minds, tainted with sin by the Fall, the Bible teaches that God's sovereignty and our free will are both active at the same time. We don't have to understand it to believe it, just as we don't need to understand how God could create the universe out of nothing, yet we believe it because God is God and we cannot limit Him because of our feeble minds.
59-60 Rebekah's family accept by faith the promises made to Abraham.
61 What does the bride do? Follows the leading of whom? What do you suppose the servant talked about between the time he took her and time she is united with the son? He leads her on a long journey, teaching her of the son and the father, until she is united with her bridegroom. How do you think she felt about Isaac? The bride is in the care of the nameless servant until she is given to the son, again an interesting picture of the church, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and Christ.
62-65 The meeting of Isaac and Rebekah. Now the son appears for the first time since his being sacrificed and, so to speak, was "brought back from the dead." Where has Christ been since His crucifixion and resurrection? When He next appears, He is united with whom? When and how will this happen? I Thes. 4:14-18.
66-67 How do you think Isaac felt when he heard the story? Here is the Bible's second use of the word "love." The first was in 22:2, speaking of who being loved by whom? The father loving the son. Now we have the son loving the bride. Isaac is an amazing picture of Christ. It is true that the church (all true believers following the resurrection, having the indwelling Holy Spirit) is not mentioned in the Old Testament, but we do see the church foreshadowed. This would not be apparent to Old Testament believers as they studied scripture, but from our point of view, later in time, we can recognize the references.
1-4 Abraham remarries after Sarah's death, and has more sons.
5 But who is the son who would receive all the promises of God?
6 He also had concubines. Some say this proves that polygamy is taught in the Bible; if Abraham did it, it must be OK in God's eyes. But has the Bible painted Abraham as perfect in all his ways? Did God call him righteous because of his actions, Gen. 15:6? Likewise, are we saved because of what we DO, or what we believe about God? John 1:12. We see that Bible characters are not spiritual giants to be put on pedestals, but regular people like us--sinners. We can study their lives and learn from both their strengths and their weaknesses. We must compare their actions to what they know about God. The Old Testament tells stories without editorial comments. We must read, observe, compare and draw conclusions. We must compare his actions with Gen. 2:18, 24 ("a" helper, "one" flesh). Here we find that Abraham allowed "cultural norms" to influence his walk with God, and he compromised. This teaches us that we also face this danger, even if we are committed Christians. Yet Abraham did not lose his salvation because of things he did. Eph. 2:8-9. We are not told if he recognized this as sin, or if he did, whether or not he dealt with this sin in his life.
He sends the other sons away from Isaac. Between Isaac, Ishmael, and these other sons, Abraham did indeed become the father of many nations, as God promised.
7-8 He dies at the age of 175. So we see that fathering a child at the age of 100 was not comparable to today's 100-year-old man fathering a child. Lifespans at that time were still longer than ours, and Abraham was able to father other children. Likewise, Sarah's pregnancy at age 90 is not comparable to today's 90-year-old woman being pregnant, which would indeed be miraculous. She had passed the time of childbearing, which would be menopause, but lived to be 127. God removed her barrenness when her time had already passed, but Abraham becoming a father at that age is not as miraculous as some commentators make it out to be.
Abraham is one of the key individuals in the Bible. We are shown more of his life than of many other individuals, as well as the next three generations of his family. So we see how God works in families, that some sins have far-reaching consequences, and that a legacy of faith has far-reaching consequences. He is referred to frequently in both the Old and New Testaments as the father of the Jews; was he a Jew? Were Isaac or Jacob? Only the 12 sons of Jacob and their descendants--Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were called the what? patriarchs. He is also frequently referred to in connection with the promises, or the covenant, God made to him and his descendants. Jesus compared Himself with Abraham to try to help the Jews understand who He was, John 8:52-58. The epistles hold up Abraham to the church as the prime example of salvation by what? faith alone, Rom. 4. Paul makes it clear that the believing physical descendants of Abraham will in the future, when the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, be grafted back into God's plan and receive the promises He made to Abraham, Rom. 11, Heb. 6:13-20. Gal. 3 teaches that believers in Christ are the spiritual descendants of Abraham. Heb. 11:8-10 makes it clear that Abraham walked by faith not by sight, living as an alien in a foreign land, Heb. 11:13-16, looking to the future, just as believers today are to do, II Cor. 5:7. Heb. 11:17-19 tell us that Abraham and Isaac were a picture of the Father raising the Son from the dead.
9-10 Who comes into the story again briefly?
11 But God's blessing is on whom?
12-18 The line of Ishmael is briefly mentioned again. 18, how does he fulfill the prophecy of Gen. 16:12?
19-20 The rejected line is now dropped, and the Bible follows the line leading to the Messiah. This is a major theme of the Old Testament.
21 What test of faith did Isaac and Rebekah have that was similar to Abraham and Sarah? Yet they were well aware of the promises of God, and that a child was necessary. How long did this testing go on? Compare 25:20 to 25:26. We are given no details of this 20-year period of their marriage; what do you think it was like? Do you think they both had perfect faith and patience? Even though they knew the story of Abraham and Sarah, do you think they ever doubted God? Do you think there may have been some finger-pointing and blaming each other? Why do you think God engineered this test in the lives of both these couples? Can you relate this test to anything in your own life? Why do you think God may have allowed such a test in your life? Is it because He doesn't care about how you feel? Or does it have to do with choosing faith and patience rather than allowing feelings to control you?
22-23 A difficult pregnancy. Wouldn't you think that it was enough for God to test them for 20 years? Didn't they deserve for this pregnancy to be smooth and pleasant? Don't we sometimes think that we deserve certain things from God? Do we actually deserve ANYTHING? Our culture says yes, the Bible says no. Compare Luke 17:7-10, Is. 64:6.
We have seen God speaking to people, but now we have an instance of someone inquiring of God. Rebekah took her question to the Lord, and He answered her, very specifically. Is this what we should expect when we pray? Understanding what the Bible teaches about prayer, or about any subject, requires that we study all passages on the subject before drawing conclusions. It also helps to have a basic grasp of principles of Bible interpretation. Many people mistakenly assume that God works the same way in the church as He did in Israel. But we have already seen that God places man in different situations to test man in different ways. These different situations are called dispensations. Israel was under the dispensation of Law; the church is under the dispensation of grace. In every dispensation, salvation has always been by faith alone, but God deals with people in different ways. For example, Israel did not have the indwelling Holy Spirit as the church does; that only happened after Christ's death, resurrection, and return to heaven, John 14:17, 16:7. And the church is not under the Law, as Israel was, Mt. 5:17, Gal. 3:24-25. So we need to examine the New Testament, especially the epistles (God's directions to the church), to see if God speaks to the church as He did to Rebekah.
In the Old Testament, we find that God spoke to people in a number of ways: dreams, visions, through prophets, and in the person of the Angel of the Lord (the preincarnate Christ). What about in the present dispensation--the age of grace, the church age? Paul spoke of having revelations; Peter, Paul, Cornelius, and Ananias had visions. These visions and revelations were not everyday occurrences, nor were they the norm for believers in general. They were God's way of establishing the church through the apostles, along with what Christ had already taught them, John 16:13-15. No dreams are recorded. According to Heb. 1:1-2, how did God speak in the past? How has He spoken to us in the present age ("these last days")? Is Christ continuing to speak messages today, besides the written Word? Heb. 1:2 says God "has spoken" through Christ--past tense. It does not say He "is speaking" through Him.
This is a major issue in the church today. Many believe that God is continuing to speak to us, particularly through those who consider themselves prophets, or through someone who claims to have a "prophetic word" or a "word of prophecy." Many Christians believe that prophecy and other spiritual gifts are still at work in the church today; others do not. Spiritual gifts are a big topic of interest to many Christians; many classes, sermons and books are devoted to explaining them and helping Christians to determine their gift. However, nowhere in the New Testament are believers told to try to determine their gift; this makes me think that it must have been known to each person at that time. Surveys and questionnaires designed to help you find your gift are not biblical. Because this topic is so controversial and the source of much division over charismatic vs. non-charismatic, let us take a side trip to look at what the Bible says about spiritual gifts.
Rom. 1:11. Gifts were for the purpose of the church at Rome being "established." (Strong's: to make stable, place firmly, set fast, fix, to strengthen, make firm, to render constant, confirm one's mind.) The church in that day was something new, and the church was not yet firmly established. Spiritual gifts were to help bring this about.
I Cor. 14. Spiritual gifts were not an end unto themselves, but were for what purpose? What important word is found in each of these verses? 14:3, 4, 5, 12, 17, 26. According to these passages, who is to be edified (built up) by these gifts, the individual using the gift, or the church?
Eph. 2:20. Those who had the gift of being apostles or prophets provided what for the church? The church was something new, a new dispensation, a mystery that had not been revealed to God's people before and was shown to be of God by the miraculous sign gifts. But once the foundation of the church had been laid, they were no longer necessary. We do not read about them in the later epistles.
Eph. 4:12-13. These gifts were for the equipping of believers and for the building up of the church, "until" what? Until they had unity, knowledge, maturity, things that accompany the fullness of Christ. What did the early church lack? Mature believers, mature leadership, the complete written Word of God. The early church was not like our churches today. Can you imagine a church of several thousand brand new Christians, without the New Testament available to the leaders, much less to everyone else? In those first years, when the epistles were written, not enough time had passed for there to be mature Christians, able to accurately teach, lead and evangelize. 4:14, apparently, because of this problem, the believers were like children, easily swayed by wrong doctrine.
Heb. 2:3-4. The purpose of signs and wonders and miracles was to "bear witness," (Strongs's: to attest together with, to join in bearing witness, to unite in adding testimony), to confirm (Strong's: to make firm, establish, confirm, make sure) God's message of salvation. Keep in mind that at that time, this message was new; Jewish believers were struggling to reconcile these new teachings with the Law they had grown up with. Also II Cor. 12:12.
I Cor. 13:8-13. The gift of prophecy will be done away, tongues will cease, knowledge (the gift of the word of knowledge) will be done away. (This cannot be referring to knowledge of God in general; the entire Bible stresses the importance of the knowledge of God, of Christ, of God's Word.) 9, these things are partial. 10, when the perfect (Strong's: brought to its end, finished, wanting nothing necessary to completeness) comes, the partial (spiritual gifts) will be done away. 11, like comparing a child to a man; once maturity is available to the believer, once the complete written Word of God is available to the church, those other things will no longer be necessary. In fact, they will seem childish in comparison. It would be strange if grown men continued to hang on to childish things they used to do. 13, "now abide," apparently the other things he mentioned don't abide, don't continue on.
Let's look at several of the gifts. Apostles had to be eyewitnesses of the risen Lord, Acts 1:21-26, I Cor. 15:5-9. Today there are no eyewitnesses. The gift of healing is not apparent throughout the epistles. Paul had a thorn in the flesh that he did not heal or try to have healed, II Cor. 12:7-10. Instead, he tells that God may inflict physical problems upon us for our good, and we should be content with that knowledge. Epaphroditus was sick and almost died, but Paul mentions nothing about healing as an option, Phil. 2:25-27. Paul gave Timothy advice about his ailments without suggesting he get healed, I Tim. 5:23. Apparently this sign gift had already passed away.
What about prophecy? Prophets in the Old Testament spoke God's Word to the people, Deut. 18:18-19. Those messages were carefully recorded and became the written Word of God. The Bible speaks much of false prophets; how could the people know if a prophet was true or false? God gave them a litmus test, Deut. 18:20-22. A prophet was to foretell an event in the immediate future; if it happened as he said, he was from God. If it didn't, he was a false prophet, and they were to kill him. How many leaders in the church today have made predictions that have not come true, proving that they are NOT prophets (so they either lied about being a prophet or were self-deceived), yet continue to teach, preach, write popular books, and are followed by many Christians?
The gift of prophecy in the New Testament, in the early church, was for the purpose of imparting God's truth because they did not yet have the complete written word of God; when it mentions "scriptures," it is referring to the Old Testament, which is all they had at that time. Eph. 3:4-5, for understanding about Christ; I Cor. 14:24,26,31, for conviction, teaching, edification, learning, exhortation; I Cor. 13:2, for the purpose of knowledge. Paul visited and taught at various cities, and letters were passed around. But once the teacher or the letter was gone, they had to rely on their faulty human memories. God supernaturally met their need by speaking through individuals, apparently the same things that they had already been taught; because those individuals were subject to error, the others were to listen critically. Before they accepted his words as from God, they were to compare his words to what they had been taught from the apostles or their letters, I Cor. 14:29. Some say the gift of prophesy is what a preacher has today, but that can't be true because Eph. 4:11 lists the gifts of pastor and teacher as separate from that of prophet.
Earlier it was stated that Paul had revelations; I Cor. 14:26 speaks of individuals in the church having revelations, but obviously this would not be the impartation of doctrine contrary to what had already been taught. And it sounds like Paul is actually chastising them for the fact that when they assemble, each one is trying to do these things; the context, 23-34, is teaching that only a few are to exercise spiritual gifts in an assembly, and one at a time, not all at once. This would create confusion, 33, and cause visitors to think they were out of their minds, 11, 23. The church was NOT being edified when each vied for attention with some gift, real or conjured up. It sounds like these carnal Corinthians were being ruled by selfish motives rather than the motive of edifying the church. Many charismatic churches fall into the same error the Corinthians were guilty of. In the context of 14:26-33, it appears that "revelation" is used synonymously with "prophesy." (Sometimes we say we had a revelation or that God revealed something to us, meaning that the "lightbulb" came on, that we just had an "aha!" moment.) Women were not to exercise tongues or prophecy in the general church assembly because these were teaching gifts, and what does I Tim. 2:12 say about women teaching men? Why does the Bible teach this? Because the original sin was that of a woman disobeying the man's God-given authority, Gen. 2:16-17, 3:6, I Tim. 2:13-14; her punishment would be that she would forever desire to usurp that authority but would not be allowed to, Gen. 3:16. Hence the warnings of Eph. 5:22 and I Tim. 2:12.
So is God still revealing truth today? Or is the Bible complete? Today when someone claims to speak a prophetic word, are they writing down their messages from God and compiling a new revised version of the Bible that is more complete than what we already have? If not, why not? Deut. 4:2 and Rev. 22:18-19 are sober warnings to these people. Those today who claim to prophesy must believe that the written Word of God is not complete, but that God has more to say. They believe in continuing revelation, but they don't value God's Word enough to put it on the same level as the Bible. If their messages are merely repeating what is already in the Bible, then there is no need for such messages. Heb. 1:1-2 makes it clear that in the past God spoke through His prophets, but that in these last days, He has spoken through His Son. He is not continuing to speak through prophets. I Cor. 13:8-13 makes it clear that the gift of prophecy would pass away when the perfect/complete comes--the completed Word of God.
Interestingly, the only passage dealing with the use of gifts, and that speaks of revelations and prophecy, is to Corinth, a church with many problems and full of immature Christians (I Cor. 3:1-4). Paul spends much time correcting the misuse of gifts, as well as correcting their many other problems. Epistles to the other churches do not give any instructions for using spiritual gifts.
What about speaking in tongues? Without going into a detailed study, think about why God might have given people in the early church the ability to speak in languages they did not know. Look at the first instance, in Acts 2:5-11. In that region, at that time, there were many language groups. God wanted everyone to hear the gospel; He made a way for others to not only hear and understand, but to see that this miraculous phenomenon was indeed from the true and living God. As the church became established and spread into many regions where people could be taught in their own language, this would not be necessary. In fact, any teaching about speaking in tongues is only mentioned in the epistle to the Corinthians. If it was important and was to continue as a part of the church, why didn't Paul teach about it in every epistle? Today, is this phenomenon necessary to reach those in our churches? Of course not. Is it necessary to validate the truth of the scriptures? Not any longer. If it was for today, missionaries would not have to go to language school; they would just go to a foreign country and rely on the gift of tongues. But everyone knows this is not the case. When tongues are practiced today, does anyone know what the message is, or if it's even really from God? Paul had this gift, I Cor. 14:18. 14:6-28 discusses the true gift of tongues and its purpose; 28, without an interpreter, the individual is to remain silent. This is not what usually happens. Tongues without interpretation is unbiblical. Anyone can let something that sounds like tongues come out of his mouth; that does not mean it is the true gift of tongues, or that it is from God. Pagan religions also speak in "tongues." True tongues were actual known languages; they are not repeated nonsense syllables. We are to have discernment; we are not to be deceived.
Since it appears that biblically speaking, at least some of the gifts are not for today, then one wonders if others have ceased too. The early church was made up of young or baby Christians; there were no mature believers to teach and lead. They did not have the complete written Word, only the Old Testament scriptures. Today the church is equipped with believers of all levels of maturity, and we have the complete Word of God. I think it is very possible that spiritual gifts are not in operation today, that they were given to the early church to fulfill a temporary need that no longer exists in the church.
Look again at Rom. 12:6-8. Today, should we really think that we need a supernatural "gift" to serve, teach, exhort, give, lead, or show mercy? Aren't these abilities that arise naturally out of a maturing walk with the Lord? If these required supernatural gifts, then many in the church could claim they can't or don't need to do these things because that is not their gift. But in the early church, filled with baby Christians with a minimal amount of knowledge, special abilities from God helped the church to function. The faith, hope, and love mentioned in I Cor. 13 and 14:1 are not spiritual gifts; they are being contrasted with spiritual gifts. Everyone is to exercise faith, hope, and love.
What about those today who seem to display these gifts, or what appears to be these gifts? When you take the approach of looking and listening for messages from God, trying to interpret feelings and circumstances, you become open to subjective influences, whether from Self or from Satanic counterfeits and deception. Some believe this is the way to hear from God rather than reading in His Word what He has revealed to us. These messages may be lies, may be your own (innocent) inspiration, or may be from Satan. Even a passing familiarity with psychology makes it clear that auto-suggestion is a very powerful force. Anyone can let something that sounds like a message from God come out of his mouth; that does not mean it is from God, even if the person says it is. The biblical gift of tongues was the ability to speak a REAL language, I Cor. 14:10-11, for the purpose of ministering to those in the congregation who spoke a different language; Paul had this gift, 14:18. True tongues were only to be spoken when someone could translate that message for that individual. Babbling repeated nonsense syllables is not biblical tongues. We are to have discernment, and are not to be deceived. Mt. 7:22, Jer. 23:25, 26, 32, 27:10, 14-16, 29:9, Ez. 13:2.
In churches which stress the gifts, there is often pressure (spoken or unspoken) to display a gift, to prove you are baptized in the Spirit or are Spirit-filled. It isn't hard to let babbling sounds come out of your mouth, especially if you REALLY want them to, but how can you know if that is actually from God? Wise counsel or biblical messages may come from your lips, and you may claim they are a message from God, but are they really supernaturally from God? How can others know for sure? Even someone who claims to interpret tongues may be giving a subjective message, not truly from God. Many who speak in tongues repeat a couple of sounds over and over; is this truly another language? Language specialists have taped people speaking in tongues and tried to analyze the sounds to see if they actually resemble the syntax of a language; they do not. These things may be real, but we must be careful we are not deceiving ourselves. Some churches stress gifts and signs more than they stress knowing God, the study and application of God's Word, or the importance of spiritual growth and yielding to God in all aspects of our lives.
It is possible that in some circumstances God still uses these gifts, particularly as reported by missionaries in foreign countries. I do believe God heals and does miracles today, but I'm not sure that He gives individuals the gift to do so. If so, all they tried to heal, not just some, would be healed, instantly and obviously, as when Jesus and the apostles healed. When people aren't healed today, they are sometimes told that they are, and now it is their responsibility to "claim" their healing so it will manifest itself; if they entertain doubts or negative thoughts, it won't happen. This is NOT biblical. We need to be sure that our theology is based on the Bible, not on experiences, appearances, or feelings.
To sum up this digression, when we pray today, we should not be listening for a voice from God. He has spoken in His written Word; and reading, studying, and meditating on it will bring His answer as the Holy Spirit applies it to our hearts and minds, John 14:26, 16:13, Gal. 5:18. Everything we need to hear from God is contained in the Bible. We do not find the church being told how to interpret feelings or circumstances to get answers for daily decisions; the church IS told to obey what God has already told us, and to ask for wisdom, which God will give if we ask in faith, James 1:5-8.
God tells Rebekah that there are two babies, not just one, and that two nations will come from the two sons. What does God promise that goes against human expectations? Likewise, Seth, Isaac, Judah, and David were chosen over the firstborn. God's ways are not our ways, and we need to be careful not to try to put Him in a box. What qualities does God value rather than birth order? Later we will see Jacob's attempts to establish himself over Esau. Was that all really necessary, since it was promised?
We will also see that the two sons had very different natures, one desiring spiritual things, one despising spiritual things and desiring fleshly things. Comparing Rom. 7:14-25, Eph. 4:22-24, Col. 3:9-10, what similar struggle inside the believer can we see pictured in this story?
24-26 Several interesting things. Esau is red and hairy; the name means "red, earthy." Jacob is holding his heel. Jacob's name in Hebrew is a play on words. It means "may He protect" but the Hebrew word sounds almost like the word for heel, and also like a word meaning "to watch from behind." So his name came to mean "one who grabs the heel" or trips up: supplanter, deceiver, trickster. Holding onto Esau's heel may have indicated coming up from behind, or perhaps trying to pull him back.
27 Many interpret this verse as Esau being a man's man and Jacob being a wimp, a mama's boy (see next verse). "Peaceful" is translated "plain" in the KJV. Other renderings in Strongs shed light on this term: complete, pious, perfect, undefiled, upright. Interestingly, only one other person in the Bible is described as a hunter, Gen. 10:8-9, and it is in a negative context. How is Esau described in Heb. 12:16? So which son was interested in spiritual things? Which did Isaac favor? This might indicate that Isaac himself wasn't that spiritually disposed; other than his obedience in the matter of Abraham taking him to the mountain, we never read anything about him that leads us to think he is deeply spiritual or a man of great faith.
28 What family problem will cause trouble later? The Bible records the faults of even godly people, so we can learn from their failures and see how God deals with people. The story of Abraham and his family over many years and several generations, which is what most of Genesis is about, is fascinating because we see how people reap what they sow and how God works over long periods of time and through even the sinful actions of people, even of believers. We see that change is usually not instantaneous, and that spiritual growth is not always steadily upward, but that God relentlessly pursues those who are His and is always working in their lives, whether they know it or not. We see Rom. 8:28-29 illustrated in human lives.
29-34 What other name is used for Esau? The Edomites, not surprisingly, will be the arch-rivals of Israel. They are descended from brothers, but God has said which He has chosen. Jacob's first recorded trickery is not quite deception, but shows his cunning nature. He knew how to trap Esau. What does Esau value? The birthright is the special right and inheritance of the oldest--in this family, the promise of the Messiah to come through his line. Ironically, God has already said that in this case, the younger son is the one who will be blessed. We don't know if Rebekah told her sons what God had told her.
Which is more important to us--the present, this earthly life, physical things? Or the spiritual? Do we desire God's working in our lives, His values? Do we look for, and see, God's hand in our lives, in EVERYTHING? This applies to EVERY area of life--eating, financial and business decisions, desires that we spend our time thinking about, choices in how we discipline and teach our children, how much we desire to spend time with God in His word and in prayer or seeking His will, etc. Without realizing it, we can be very much like Esau--living for the physical, willing to sacrifice spiritual values for immediate consideration, for the demands of daily life, for the "world."
Jacob knows what is important, and perhaps he was even concerned about the possibility of God's promises being given to such a person as his brother (Heb. 12:16), but he is going about things the wrong way. Like Abraham, he is going to help God get things done. Do we ever do this? It didn't work out good for Abraham, it won't work out good for Jacob, and it doesn't work out good for us either. Perhaps he thinks he is helping bring about the prophecy made at his birth, if he is aware of it. But Jacob is teachable. God can and will work in his life.
Did Jacob do anything wrong in this incident? Was he deceptive? Some Bibles insert headings (not inspired by God!) which imply Jacob was guilty of deception, treachery or trickery, but the passage does not support those ideas. In fact, nowhere in the Bible is Jacob cast in a bad light for this incident. The only passage implying God's displeasure with Jacob is Hos. 12:2-4. Of course, many passages speak of "Jacob" negatively, where "Jacob" is a reference to Israel. But in Hosea, the reference is clearly to Jacob as an individual.
Esau/Edom represents the flesh; note how Esau is held up in a negative light, Rom. 9:10-13. These verses confuse many people; what does they mean? Is God petty? Does He like some people and dislike others? These possibilities are not supported by scripture; God loves everyone, John 3:16. How does Luke 14:22 use "hate"? Are we really to hate them, or is it speaking by comparison? Perhaps this applies here also.
What does God hate? Ps. 5:5, 45:7, Amos 5:15. Rom. 9:13 is an Old Testament quote; read Mal. 1:1-5. In Malachi, God uses "Jacob" to refer to whom? He uses "Esau" to refer to whom? He is speaking of their descendants, two nations. Which nation does He accept? Which does He reject? Who is Edom, Gen. 25:30? Read the one-chapter book of Obadiah to see more of what God thinks about Edom, and why. Which of these two brothers was interested in spiritual things? Which was interested only in things of the flesh? Gen. 25:27-34. We saw back in Rom. 5:14 that there are "types" in the Bible; besides their ordinary meaning and identity, some people, objects, and events are also types. (Compare Heb. 9:9, 9:24, 11:19, I Cor. 10:6,11, Gal. 4:24.) Read Gal. 4:22-29; note especially the end of 29. This is the big clue. Don't we see Esau and Jacob also fitting into this verse, as Gen. 25 paints Esau as fleshly and Jacob as spiritual? Is 4:29 speaking of continual trouble even today between the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael, or is it speaking of the conflict between our two natures, the fleshly and the spiritual, as Paul described in Rom. 7:14-23? Or both? What does Gal. 5:17 say about this conflict? What about Rom. 3:20 and 8:8? Which nature does God "love" or accept? Which does He "hate" or reject? Isn't it amazing to see how God has designed the Bible to teach the same truths from Old Testament to New Testament, without contradiction, although written by about 40 human authors over a period of about 1500 years?
Some may wonder if those who take the "literal" interpretation rather than the "allegorical" interpretation are being inconsistent by recognizing types, symbols and allegories. This is a good question. The literal interpretation is one that takes the Bible at face value; it means what it says without us looking for other meanings that are not told to us. Here we see that the Bible itself tells us that some things, besides their ordinary meaning in the text, ALSO have a symbolic meaning. When the Bible tells us that something is being used symbolically or allegorically, we accept that. (Trees are used symbolically in Jud. 9:8-15, as well as other places.) We also find that the Bible uses idioms and figures of speech, as are found in any language and literature. However, when we find allegories where the Bible does not support allegories, we stray from the literal method into the allegorical.
God made the covenant with Abraham and his family line. Even though these other individuals are not like him, lack his faith, and some are not too interesting, we will be seeing from here throughout the rest of the Old Testament how God is working out that covenant. It is important to get the Big Picture of the Old Testament; it helps each individual incident to fall into place. Similarly, it helps to develop the Big Picture of how God is working in the world, not just our life, and what His goals are, and what His timetable is.
1 What circumstance brings a crisis in Isaac's life? Where does Isaac go? This is in southern Canaan, about 90 years after Abraham's visit. It might not be the same Abimilech; it could be a title, or another king by the same name.
2-5 What happens now? What does God say to do and not to do? Where did we first read the promises of 3-4? Gen. 12:1-3. So God reaffirms the covenant with Abraham's son. This is not a promise to the church, or any nations or individuals today. It is about a specific land and a specific people. Does God say that these promises will only be his if he obeys? Why will they be his, 5? Does that mean God doesn't care if Isaac obeys Him? 5 mentions commandments, statutes, and laws which we don't read of; not everything that God has said to every person, not everything that has happened, is recorded. But God has made sure that everything we need to know is in the Bible, II Tim. 3:16-17.
6-11 Where do you suppose Isaac got the idea for this lie? Gen. 20. Do children tend to fall into the same faults as their parents? Why? Abraham told a half lie, but Isaac tells a whole lie. Do Isaac's actions show that he really believed what God had just told him? Is he concerned about causing his wife to sin, or causing an innocent person to sin with her? How would this affect Rebekah's feelings toward her husband? If he doesn't repent of this, might this cause a permanent sore spot in her feelings toward him, or cause her to desire to get even with him some day?
Do we believe Is. 26:4 and Rom. 8:28? Do our actions show it? God gave us brains and common sense to do what we can in a given situation; would it ever be God's will for us to lie or sin in any way to "help" God work things out? Again, we see that Abimelech and his people have knowledge of God, of right and wrong. We can only speculate how they got that knowledge.
12-14 Isaac was already rich, having inherited everything from Abraham. God blesses him even more. In the Old Testament dispensations, physical blessings were the mark of God's approval. In the New Testament, we do not find this principle repeated. Were Jesus, Paul, Peter or the other apostles wealthy? Do the epistles to the churches promise wealth in exchange for obedience? Instead, what is promised to the church? John 16:33, Acts 14:22, Rom. 8:35, II Cor. 1:5, Phil. 1:29-30, I Thes. 3:3, II Tim. 3:12, I Pet. 4:12-19.
15-25 Mostly we see Isaac digging wells and solving disputes over them. Just as today, water rights are crucial to the rancher. How do we see Isaac handling these serious disputes? How should believers handle disputes? How we deal with other people is something others notice about us, whether we like it or not. Our actions speak louder than our words; be careful they do not contradict each other. Isaac does not fight or connive to keep what is rightly his. Apparently he learned a lesson about trusting God from the incident with Rebekah and Abimelech.
Perhaps we can see some symbolism here. What does water often picture in the Bible? Mt. 5:6, John 4:13-14, 7:38, I Cor. 12:13, Eph. 5:25-26, Rev. 21:6, 22:1, 17. Spiritual life? Righteousness? God's Word? Jesus Christ? Compare I Cor. 10:1-4 with Ex. 17:5-6. Do we desire this water, continually make an effort to get it? Even when the devil discourages us from that, which he surely will, do we continue to hunger after and thirst after God's Word, like David, Ps. 42:1-2, 63:1? And when you do, doesn't God make it worth your while? What are some of Satan's strategies to keep us from reading God's Word? (I don't have time; I can't understand it; I've already read it; it doesn't help; on Sunday I'll hear it read; it's not relevant to my life; etc.)
22 When things finally went smoothly, did Isaac and his men attribute it to their own ability? Even though they had been doing everything humanly possible in their struggle, they recognized that it was really God that had worked the situation out.
23 What is significant about Beersheba? Gen. 21:22-34, 22:19.
24 Why was Isaac blessed? Because of his own obedience or righteousness? Gen. 15:6. Likewise, we as Christians are not blessed or accepted because of our own obedience or righteousness, but only because of Christ's. Just as God will keep His unconditional covenant with Abraham, regardless of the obedience of Israel, so He will keep His promise of eternal life to those who believe on Christ, regardless of our obedience. Gen. 15:6, Eph. 2:8-9.
26-31 Abimilech makes a non-aggression treaty with Isaac, says it is obvious he is blessed by the Lord.
34-35 Isaac's son Esau marries into an ungodly tribe, apparently to ungodly women. We later find that the Hittites are one of Israel's enemies. Isaac and Rebekah only have these two sons; their family seems to be characterized by conflict. Many families experience this problem, but God can use these conflicts as His hammer, chisel and sandpaper to do what in our lives, Rom. 8:29? When everything goes smoothly in life, we have no motivation to change and become more conformed to Christ's image; we are often satisfied with the way we are, but God is not. His will for us is not an easy stress-free life, but to grow and mature as believers. Conflicts and difficult people can actually be God's gift to us--in disguise!
Archaeological note: For years, secular historians scoffed at the Bible's many references to the Hittites since there was no knowledge of such a people. Then, archaeological discoveries in the late 1800s and early 1900s verified their existence and their importance. No archeological find has ever disproved anything in the Bible! This is a good point to make to those who have doubts about believing in the Bible.
Does Isaac strike you as the man of faith that his father was? Doesn't this often seem to happen? This is a subject that concerns all Christian parents and grandparents. What are some reasons that children of godly or believing parents sometimes are more lukewarm to God than their parents are, or even turn away from spiritual things?
Now we are told the next important event in Isaac's life that impacts the Bible's account of the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. Of course many things have happened that are not recorded. God is always at work in people's lives, but we are not told everything about the lives of these four people.
1-4 Isaac tells Esau what he is about to do. Isaac may have seemed to be near death, but when did he die, Gen. 35:29? The father's deathbed blessing in that day was like a will. Esau agrees to break what oath, 25:31-34? Do you think Isaac knew what God told Rebekah about the two sons, 25:23? Do Isaac or Esau believe that things will turn out the way God has said? Do they even want them to? Do they believe that they can circumvent God's plan? Do you think their problem was doubtful unbelief or arrogant unbelief? Is there is a difference? Have you struggled with either, or both?
5-10 How does Rebekah know Isaac's plan? Did he say this in front of her, or was she listening secretively? It seems unlikely that he would say this in front of her, in light of the prophecy God gave her. Also, later we see how she apparently uses the servants to spy, so it seems that she was spying here. 5, "Rebekah was listening." 6, "Rebekah said." 8, "my son, listen to me as I command you." 9, "Go now," "bring me," "that I may prepare them." 10, "Then you shall." So who are the deceptive ones here? Who else in this family was deceptive, 20:1-2, 11, 26:7, trying to manipulate or help God, 16:1-2? Who else in this family will exhibit deceptiveness, 29:23-25, 31:7? Jacob not only inherits this family tendency--his mother trains him how to use it.
11-12 How does Jacob feel about this plan? What is he concerned about being, or looking like? What end result is he looking toward? So is Jacob the deceptive culprit, or is his entire family deceptive? Did he initiate this plan? Did he go along with it? Could he have said "no"? What might have happened differently if he had? Will God's sovereign will be done, regardless of what we do? Does that justify our sinful actions? Rom. 6:1-2, 12-23. God's sovereignly-planned end result WILL happen; if we obey Him, it will go better than if we do things our own way, which will take us on a bumpy, round-about, more painful route.
We can only speculate on everyone's motives; we don't know if Rebekah was motivated by her favoritism for Jacob, or by her concern for God's promises. Could it have been both? Do we sometimes operate from mixed motives, human and spiritual, often not making an effort to even discern the difference? Is God concerned about our motives, or only our outward actions? Do we sometimes try to do the right thing but do it in a wrong way?
13 Who is running things? "But his mother said to him." "Only obey my voice." "Go, get them for me." What is Rebekah's rationale? If Jacob had received a curse instead of a blessing, would her words even have the power to remove it from Jacob and place it on her? At any rate, she was willing to take responsibility for the outcome. I wonder if she ever had regrets later after seeing how it took Jacob permanently out of her life; she never saw him again after he fled from his angry brother.
14-17 She does it all. Why is this story always presented as Jacob deceiving his father? This chapter seems to be about Rebekah. 14, "his mother made." 15, "Then Rebekah took," "and put them on Jacob." 16, "And she." 17, "She also," "she had made." She appears to be a controlling wife and mother, one who doesn't care what it takes to get her way. For her, the end justifies the means. Apparently Isaac has allowed this type of relationship to exist, so as the husband who is to be responsible before God for his family, he must take responsibility and bear some of the blame for Rebekah's controlling behavior. He could have chosen to stand up to her, but instead he apparently chose to let her take the lead in the family. What did Gen. 3:16 say would be part of the woman's punishment for the original sin in the Garden of Eden? What does Eph. 5:22 say about how a Christian wife is to deal with this tendency? What does I Tim. 2:12 say about how woman's tendency to desire authority over man/men should be controlled in the church setting?
18-20 HAD God helped Jacob? This is a very spiritual-sounding lie. Christians sometimes play spiritual games to deceive others or themselves. Self is easy to deceive, because Self (the old nature) WANTS to be deceived. God wants us to deal with Self, Luke 9:23. He has given us the power to choose the new nature, but we must choose, Rom. 6:11-13, 8:5, Eph. 4:22-24. Spiritual maturity doesn't just happen as we do nothing. What must we eat, drink and digest in order to grow? Just as in gaining human maturity, effort is required: thinking, choosing, self-discipline, saying no to Self and yes to God.
What is Jacob's relationship with God at this point? We don't really know, but what does Jacob call God in 20? Perhaps Jacob doesn't yet think of God as his God. Many people or movements that are not of God invoke God's name, even though He is not really THEIR God. Beware. Beware of those who do wrong, claiming that God led them to do this. God will never contradict Himself. He doesn't make exceptions.
21-26 Why is Isaac deceived? He seems to have no spiritual discernment. We see the danger of relying on human senses/ability/efforts in spiritual matters. So is it possible for a believer to be deceived? Mt. 4:4,5,24, Luke 21:8, Rom. 7:11, I Cor. 6:9, 15:33, Gal. 6:7. We can only be deceived temporarily if we are truly seeking truth; believers have the indwelling Holy Spirit, called what in John 14:17, 15:26, 16:13? What happens with truth conflicts with what Self wants? We can choose to ignore Him, but if we pray that God will lead us and protect us from deception, He will surely answer that prayer because we know it is His will.
27-29 We see what Isaac wants for his oldest, his favorite. He specifically contradicts the prophecy, 27, wanting who to serve whom? If he knows the prophecy, he is purposefully trying to thwart it. If his wife did not tell him of the prophecy, then we truly see the sovereignty of God at work. God's purposes cannot be thwarted, even by the sins or mistakes of either believers or unbelievers. Do you agree or disagree with that statement? Support your answer scripturally if you can.
30-34 The deception is revealed. Judging by their reactions, how important was this matter to both Isaac and Esau? Was Isaac's violent trembling due to great rage at his plans being thwarted, or due to great fear as he recognized that he had been rebelling against God and God won? Or both? Have you ever been angry at God? When we are angry at life, and how things turn out, isn't that the same as being angry at God, since as Christians we know that God has all things under His control? When we are angry at God, or at how He has allowed things to happen, aren't we saying that we didn't DESERVE that? Is this really true? Doesn't the Bible make it clear that God will bring trials into our lives to change us, to make us more Christ-like, to mature us? So should we be angry when those things happen?
35-36 Isaac blames Jacob for deceitfully taking the blessing from Esau, but in reality, who has been deceitful toward God? When we are willing to be deceived, we can't even recognize the same sin in ourselves that we hate in others.
Isaac does not recognize the true source of the deception. Surely Rebekah has acted this way before in their marriage. Yet he blames Jacob and appears not to suspect her. Or perhaps he does suspect her, but prefers to blame Jacob. Don't people often refuse to see or admit things about their own family or friends? Or perhaps he knows full well about Rebekah and blames her, but has learned from experience that it is best not to take her on. Over the years, she has apparently learned to control him and he has allowed it. If that is the case, we see him reaping the bitter consequences of what he should have dealt with years before. We see again that the Bible doesn't whitewash anyone, but paints them as fully human with common weaknesses.
37-40 The blessing left for Esau is nothing like the one given to Jacob. Interestingly, the New Testament speaks of this incident of the blessings as related to Isaac's faith, Heb. 11:20. We have not seen Isaac exhibit much faith, so what does that verse mean? Heb. 11 is about faith, and lists many Old Testament characters and their deeds, and says these things were "by faith." Most of these deeds are obviously done by faith, but a few are not as obvious. When Isaac blessed his sons, 11:20, he was trying to thwart God's choice of Jacob and instead channel it to his oldest son. When Joseph spoke of the exodus, 11:22, he expressed confidence that God would take his family back to their homeland, but had no idea it would be hundreds of years later, with his family now a nation. Samson, 11:32, does not come across as a man of faith, but God used him as one of the judges who delivered Israel from its oppressors. So in what way were these things "by faith"? A clue is in 11:2 and 11:39. Because these individuals had faith in the true and living God, He directed their lives, in ways beyond their control or even their understanding. God is sovereign in the lives of believers, even when we don't realize what the significance of we are doing, even when we are not obedient.
Why did Esau weep? Was he convicted about his wrong thoughts, motives, and actions? Did he feel bad that he had been caught in his scheming? Was he upset that he didn't get the material blessings that had been given to his brother? Or did his tears show repentance? Is it possible to feel bad after doing something wrong, yet not be repentant? Heb. 12:15-17 tells us that he did not repent. He felt very bad, but did not have a change of heart. Esau did not want God, or godliness; he only wanted what God could give him. 12:17 is not saying that you can sincerely seek repentance yet God will not grant you forgiveness. That is not consistent with scripture. It is saying that sorrow and tears are not the same as true repentance. If Esau had truly been repentant, he would not have decided to kill Jacob. This shows us the state of his heart. Would killing Jacob make Jacob's blessing revert to Esau? But it would give him the satisfaction of knowing that Jacob did not receive that blessing.
41 Esau's response to this turn of events. Apparently Isaac did appear to be near death, but God chose to keep him around for quite a while longer, perhaps for the express purpose of causing Esau to put off his murderous plans, or at least for Jacob's protection. Perhaps during those years God was dealing with Esau; we see that when the brothers finally meet again, Esau no longer plans to kill Jacob. There is often bitterness and resentment in families, but here we see how far Esau is willing to go. No one in this family seems to have much concern for obeying God, yet ironically, they all think God should bless them. God wants us to seek Him, to know Him, not just to try to use Him. We should seek His face, not just His hand. Ps. 27:8, 105:4, 119:2, Jer. 24:7, Phil. 3:10. Many people treat God like Santa Claus; they don't love or serve Him, they only think of Him when they want something. They give Him their list and expect Him to give them everything they want. He knows if they have been naughty or nice, so they hope they have been nice enough to impress Him. They go to church, give money, read the Bible and pray for the purpose of gaining "points," not from a worshipful heart. A good test of our hearts is: would we do anything for God if there was absolutely nothing in it for us except knowing it was the right thing to do and He deserved it?
42-45 Apparently Rebekah has spies among the servants. She is just as controlling of the servants as she is of her family members. What are some ways that such people use to control others? Who initiates this next big strategy? Everything seems to center around her wishes. She runs the family and the entire household. 42, "she sent and called." 43, "my son, obey my voice," "arise," "flee." 4, "stay." 45, "then I will send and get you" (not "your father" or "we"). How long did the "few days" end up being? How do you think Jacob felt about his mother at this point? We don't know if he is gleeful about the stolen blessing, or furious at her for what she has caused. "Bereaved of you both;" apparently she feels she has now lost Esau as a son; if he kills Jacob, she will have lost them both. Or perhaps she is referring to the fact that he must die if he kills Jacob, Gen. 9:5-6. Be careful about interfering in the lives of others. Be careful about trying to play God. Rebekah thinks she knows what is best, or perhaps she just knows what she personally wants; she controls other people but is not able to control the outcome. Can we really know what is best for other people, or even for ourselves? Can we know the outcome of any course of action?
46 This verse really fits with the next chapter. Rebekah uses this pretext, more deceit, to get Jacob out of there; she doesn't want him to marry the local pagan women like Esau did. She hasn't learned anything through this experience; she is still playing God. Mother must have her own way. True, Jacob ought not to marry a pagan wife, but again we see the use of a spiritual-sounding excuse to justify what Self has done. This is so common among Christians, in their personal lives, in their churches. She over-dramatizes the problem to get her way, and to justify her thinking and actions in her own mind. She probably always has.
"Tired of living," "what good will my life be to me," are ways of saying, "I might as well die." Many Christians have probably had this thought, but what does this attitude say about faith, trust, obedience, humility, perseverance, seeking and accepting God's will for our lives? What about Rom. 5:3-5, 8:28, II Cor. 1:3-6, 4:7-10, 12:9-10, Phil. 3:8, 4:13, 19, Col. 1:11-12, I Pet. 1:6-7? Are the actions of others really the thing that should determine our attitude toward life? Or should it be our walk with God and what the Bible says? We all feel sorry for ourselves from time to time, but is our problem really so much worse than someone else's, say, someone who has lost a child, or is disabled, or caring for someone who is disabled, or who lives in a country where believers are persecuted? We need to get a perspective on our problems.
Is there any concern about God's plan for this family to remain in the land He has given them? In their pursuit of Self, they have all lost sight of God's commandments and promises. It doesn't seem that anyone in this family, just the NEXT generation after Abraham, really believes God. But even though this is obviously out of God's will for Jacob, we will see how He will use this to discipline Jacob, mature him, and bring him back. Again, this is encouraging to us, when we mess up, or see others around us messing up.
We learn much about Rebekah in this story. She was beautiful, she was of Abraham's family, she was chosen by God to be Isaac's wife, and they got off to a romantic start, but she was not the ideal godly wife, nor was Isaac the ideal godly husband, and they did not have the ideal marriage or family.
Was it a happy home after Jacob left? Does getting rid of a "problem person" really fix the situation? Or is it just a way to avoid dealing with the real problem--Self? Is the problem really other people? We see a bunch of people who have not yielded themselves to the Lord, who need to say "not my will but Thine be done." Manipulating other people is not God's way, and the results make that clear, Gal. 6:7. Rebekeh will never see Jacob again, Esau probably hates her, she doesn't seem to have much use or respect for Esau or Isaac, Isaac is beside himself about this and thinks he will die soon (but he doesn't), Esau has these wives that his mother can't stand...
Should we feel discouraged when we think of our own families, how our children seem to be falling into the same problems the parents have, or don't seem to be following God the way we'd like them to? No. The Bible warns us of pitfalls to avoid, but it also shows us how God is sovereign, how He is working in each person's life in spite of themselves, how often these things take years to work out, but that God's purposes will prevail. Especially if your child or grandchild is a believer, you can hang onto Rom. 8:28. Not everything looks or feels good at the time, but God IS working out what is good in HIS eyes, in each believer's life. We can pray that that person will learn to recognize God's hand in his life, will learn to seek God's face, will develop a hunger for God's word. Eph. 1:15-19, 3:14-19, Phil. 1:9-10, Col. 1:9-11. These are prayers that we know are in God's will, and that He will grant, because we can pray them in Jesus's name (what Jesus would ask for). There are many applications for today's Christian in this story. Some look at the Old Testament and say, "I can't relate to that. That was a couple thousand years ago. People are different today." Is that true? Has human nature changed?
1 Isaac sends Jacob for a wife, but who is really calling the shots here? Compare 27:43-46. The decision has already been made by Rebekah; Jacob has already been told what to do. Again we see who is running this household, and how "spinning" the facts (isn't that just a nice way of saying "lying"?) is one of her methods. It appears that Isaac does what she wants because he has learned to do so over the years. Like his father, Isaac is concerned about not taking a Canaanite wife; the godly are not to marry the ungodly. In those days people often married within their "tribe." BUT…
2 Pushed by Rebekah, Isaac is willing to overlook that Jacob will be doing what? What was so important to Abraham when finding a wife for Isaac? 24:5-8. Isaac doesn't seem concerned. Again we see a lack of concern for the things of God. Will God's sovereign plan take place anyway? Jacob will return to the land, after much unhappiness and frustration in his life outside the land. Does God force us to do His will? He often makes it very uncomfortable for us to be elsewhere, to encourage us to choose His way.
4-5 Isaac does mention now that Jacob should inherit the land. Jacob leaves with his father's blessing.
6-9 More jealousy on Esau's part. Esau--not the chosen line--has already chosen wives from the ungodly Canaanites, and now tries to make amends by choosing another wife from Ishmael's family--also the rejected line. Do we see any spiritual discernment, any godly values, in Esau's life? Referring back to the notes on Gen. 29:29-34 and the comments on Rom. 9:10-13, we see what kind of a man Esau is, and what he represents. He acts in keeping with his basic nature.
We have also seen that Jacob is a man concerned about receiving God's promises, even though he goes about it in wrong ways. People say, "I can see why God hated Esau, but I can't see why He loved Jacob!" Does God love Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or any of us because of what we do? Why does He love us? I John 4:8, 16. We are commanded to love others; are we to love them because they are lovable? Why are we to love others? I John 4:11, 19. Does the Bible say we are to like everyone? What is the difference between "like" and the biblical use of "love"? How did God love us, I John 4:10. So is God's kind of love about feelings or about actions? Does God like us or love us? "Like" has to do with the other person being likable; "love" has to do with choices and actions by the person who loves, regardless of what the other person is like. How does Jesus define love in Luke 10:27-37? Is this kind of love about feelings or actions? Can we show actions of love even when we do not have feelings of love (or like)? We are not required to like everyone; are we allowed to hate those whom we especially do not like? I John 2:9, 11, 4:20. What is our relationship to be with others, Eph. 4:1-3, 32, Col. 3:12-14, Heb. 12:14? What are we to avoid in our relationships, Eph. 4:31, Heb. 12:15?
10 According to Bible maps, Jacob must have covered about 40 miles the first day. Why might he do that? On the way, Jacob has a dream. Now God appears to Jacob.
If your kids or grandkids mess up and take off, does God say, "oh well…"? We might not see how He is working, but He is. If they're on a rocky road, does that mean God is not working in their lives? Sometimes it's not until our kids leave home that they, like Jacob, finally experience God in a truly personal way. If that kid is having tough going, it is probably God disciplining him. Heb. 12:5-8 says if God is NOT disciplining us, it is a sign that we are not what? So thank God for those troubles you see happening in their lives. It looks bad, but it is a good sign. Remember the prodigal son, Luke 15:11-32. Can a believer really run away from God? We seldom learn hard lessons except through hard experiences. Is there any experience too painful, if it is the means of bringing that person to the Lord, or into a closer walk with the Lord? Can you say, "Lord, if THAT is what it takes to bring them to You, then I'd rather You not do THAT, and that they not come to You"? If you had to choose, would you rather see your child/spouse/self whole and healthy and far from God, or in a wheelchair and walking with God, full of peace and joy?
11-14 Has God spoken to Jacob before, that we know of? Why do you suppose He did at this point? Perhaps because Jacob is now away from the influence of his family and is his own man. He has no one to depend on except God. God reiterates the promise, the Abrahamic covenant. What are the three promises? What might be the significance of Jacob's dream about the ladder? Compare John 1:51. So what was the ladder? How is the gap bridged between earth and heaven?
15 Will Jacob return to this land? Will God keep His promises? Will He keep His promises to us? What has He promised us? John 1:12, 3:16, 5:24, 6:35, 40, 47, 8:12, 10:10, 28, 11:25, 14:3, 16:13.
16-17 Jacob's reaction. Is Jacob finally getting a picture of who God is? Is he showing signs of budding humility? Or does his theory about a sacred place show that he still hasn't a clue about God, thinking He can be found in certain places?
18-19 This pillar is a monument, not an altar; standing stones were common among earlier peoples.
20-21 Does Jacob believe God? "If…then…" Jacob's faith appears conditional at this point. Can we cut deals with God, on our terms? But don't we often try? God already said He would do those things. Don't we often pray for things we have already been given? For example, one of the most common prayers is asking God to be with us or with someone else. Doesn't it make more sense to thank God that He IS with us, or with that person? Shouldn't Jacob have just thanked God for what He had just promised? Prayer should be more about recognizing and thanking, and less about asking, telling or begging. At this point in his life, does Jacob have the faith that Abraham had?
22 A tithe is a way of acknowledging that everything you have is really God's. How will he give this tithe? Will he take it to church, or to the tabernacle or temple? Apparently he will offer sacrifices of his tithe. Does God need our tithes and offerings? Why does He want us to give a portion back to Him?
There are things that can be criticized about Jacob's response to God. Yet we must also realize that immature believers often respond in ways that could be criticized by others, by more mature believers. BUT, they ARE responding. In God's eyes, that is the important thing. He will teach them more as they go along. You can't steer the car until the wheels are moving. I'm sure we can all look back and shake our heads at some of our earlier ideas about the Christian life, about God, and about our early responses to Him. What fascinates me about the on-going story of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his sons are the real-life examples of how people change and grow as God deals with them, often over long periods of time. All of them had flaws, none had ideal family situations, but this is why we can relate to them, learn from them, and be encouraged by their stories.
Studying the Old Testament:
We all have a certain amount of knowledge about God and about the Bible, each to different degrees. Most Christians struggle with the problem of how to translate that knowledge into everyday life--getting it from the "back of our minds" into the "front," from head knowledge to practical application.
As we're looking at the Old Testament, we're seeing that the method God is using to speak to us is stories about people's lives, as opposed to the more succinct teachings of the New Testament, where Jesus or Paul just TELL us how we are to live. The Old Testament stories don't come with commentaries; we have to analyze them ourselves and try to draw conclusions that are consistent with what God has revealed about Himself.
As we are striving for growth in our own lives, could we use this same technique? What if we wrote out the story of our lives--what we thought were the key events--and analyzed it, like we do in Bible study? Would that help us to see what God is doing in our lives?
We probably don't want to write that down, but we can do the same thing by spending time thinking about our lives--not just what is going on right now, but looking back and trying to see what God has been doing, how He has been leading, what He has been trying to teach us, what He is wanting to teach us. Do you ever do that? Some of us are more introspective than others, but this is an exercise that all can do. Ask God to show you these things as you think about the events of your life. Ask Him to open your eyes, to give you insight. He will. Try to find a verse, or verses, that summarize your insight so you can be sure that your conclusions are based on solid Bible truths.
There are three levels of knowledge we can have about the Old Testament. 1. We can just become familiar with the story. 2. Then, we can learn to see what God was doing in these people's lives. 3. Then, we can look at the story, in the light of what we see God doing in that person's life or that event, and say, how does this apply to me? How does this help me to understand better what the Bible is about, who God is, what He is like, what He is doing in the world? How does this help me to understand myself better? Am I like this? What does this show me about what God might be wanting to do in my life, or what is this warning me to be careful of? In what way might I need to change? Ask God to show you these things, and He will.
When you begin doing this, this is when the Old Testament starts to get really exciting!
1-3 Jacob arrives at his destination. Did he have exact directions to this place, or did he "happen" upon this place, by God's divine intervention? Did he just "happen" to arrive at the time Rachel was about to show up? Did Rachel just "happen" to show up then, or had God been leading and working in her day's activities to cause that to happen? When God is leading us, do we always know it or feel it? Or do we usually only recognize afterwards that God indeed had been leading, while all along we felt we were just doing what we thought up to do, or were caught in certain circumstances? Is God always leading and working in our lives? Or only when we specifically ask Him to, or feel like He is? The Bible teaches that God is sovereign over everything in His creation, over everything that happens. He is in control, His purposes are being worked out, yet at the same time, He has given us free will. We are not programmed robots, but make choices that He holds us responsible for. That is the mystery of sovereignty and free will.
4-5 If you've read ahead and know what Laban is like, you might wonder in what tone of voice they answer him?
6 Rachel is coming. What relation is she to Jacob? At this time, it is still OK to marry relatives. This is not a sin until after the Law has been given. Earlier in man's history, mutations had not yet built up dangerously in the gene pool. But as time passes this will become more of a problem. Remember, according to Genesis, man's history is NOT millions and billions of years, only a few thousand.
7-8 How does Jacob come across to these fellows? Rather pushy--he's already telling them what to do.
9-12 Is Jacob just happy to find his relative, or is he immediately smitten with Rachel? Kissing relatives in greeting was the custom (also 29:13).
12 KJV, her father's brother. We would not use that terminology, but it is important to notice that the Bible uses terminology that was common in that culture. This was mentioned before when talking about genealogies. They used family terms more broadly and loosely than we do. This is something to keep in mind when comparing genealogies to date the flood, or creation, etc.
13 We meet Uncle Laban.
How is Jacob probably feeling right now? Yet we know the rest of the story. Sometimes when you think you finally have the thing you really wanted, or managed to do what you thought you just had to do, it doesn't turn out like you thought. It may even backfire. It might be just the thing that God is going to use in your life to discipline you. Ask the Lord: "Is this what you want me to do/have? Is this the best way to handle this? If not, please make it clear to me."
Jacob is not the only believer to be given an "Uncle Laban." This is a common method God uses, especially in families. I read a book that talks about having an "irregular person" in your life. If you do, it's not the end of the world, even though it sometimes feels like it. God is using that person as chisel and sandpaper in your life. It's uncomfortable, and sometimes just plain hurts, but that chisel and sandpaper are for what purpose, Rom. 8:29? You might be resentful of that person, and think, why isn't God dealing with HIM/HER? Maybe He is, and you can't see it, or maybe it will come later, after He has used that person to deal with you! God even uses unbelievers in this role. The Old Testament has many examples of unbelieving nations that God brings against Israel to chasten them; then He turns around and chastens that nation for their wicked ways.
Was Jacob's only option this trip to Uncle Laban, like he thought? What other option was there? To stay home, humble himself and apologize, try to right the wrongs he had done. What do we do, or want to do, when we get in a pressure situation, maybe one brought on by our own foolishness? Do we justify ourselves? "Well, I had no choice! I had to act like that, under the circumstances!" Even if we made a bad decision at the time, we can still learn from it if we are willing to look back on our lives, as mentioned earlier, and say, now I can see that what I did back there wasn't right. And even if I can't change it, I can learn from it now, watch out for that snare in the future, and make sure I never act that way again, even when presented with that type of situation.
14-15 Perhaps Jacob hadn't been helping out, and this was Laban's way of saying he'd better get to work if he was going to hang around any longer. Perhaps Jacob had already been working, for nothing. Given the later account of how Jacob works diligently for Laban, this seems more likely.
16-20 How did Jacob feel about Rachel? I wonder if Jacob knew the custom about marrying the oldest first; one would think so. Or did Laban make up this "custom" at the last minute? If it was the custom, why didn't he mention it as soon as Jacob asked to marry Rachel? If it was the custom and Laban agreed to give Rachel to Jacob, why wasn't he busy arranging a suitable marriage for Leah first during those seven years?
21-24 The wedding. Has Laban been planning all along to deceive him, or did he come up with this at the last minute? Is God tapping Jacob rather hard on the shoulder, pointing to someone else who deceived, lying about the younger and the older? Was Leah being used here? We see that Laban did to her just what Rebekeh did to Jacob. Should we say "poor Leah"? Or is it possible that Leah was in on this? Perhaps she was in love with Jacob, and she and Laban concocted this scheme? Or perhaps she was desperate for a husband since one seemed interested in her, and she was willing to settle for a shared husband who didn't love her rather than never marry? We don't know the actual situation.
25 What situation might Jacob now be reminded of? Laban and Leah have done to Jacob what Rebekeh and Jacob did to Isaac and Esau. What conflicting thoughts and emotions do you suppose he had in the morning? Perhaps indignation, fury, hurt, desire for revenge, mixed with conviction, sorrow, humility, possibly even confession of unconfessed sin? What scriptural principle do we see at work here? Gal. 6:7. Does this apply to only believers? What about the wording of the verse makes us think not? When Paul is talking to the church, to fellow believers, he often uses "you" or "us." Here he says "a man." Both the Old and New Testaments indicate that God has built this consequence into all of life.
Back to the idea of analyzing our own lives--why are these stories about this ongoing deception here in the Old Testament? I Cor. 10:11. So that means we need to look at ourselves and ask if we have this tendency, or if we have been doing this? If the answer is yes, then the next step is, what to do about it? It's not enough to say, "Yep, we're like that! Boy, are we ever like that!" Often I've heard pastors or teachers say that. We should go on to say, OK, but I don't have to be like that. God doesn't want me to be like that. He has given me a new nature, the indwelling Holy Spirit, the power to make right choices. Confess, tell Him you want to change, and ask Him to help you.
Then what? This is the tricky part. We'd like to think that's all that's necessary, that the change happened magically in some inner place in our heart, and we will no longer have that problem. Wrong! What generally happens is, God sends a trial to see if you will go on the same old way, or if you will trust Him and obey Him and do things differently. Because we've done it the wrong way before, the temptation is very strong to react in the same old way, but what does I Cor. 10:13 say? That is not just talking about drinking or sex. It means every temptation. Overeating, worrying, being mouthy, telling white lies, talking about other people. These are our real problems, not just alcohol and sex. Why? Because these are the "socially acceptable" sins that are all too often overlooked within the church. But these are the things that really eat away at us and keep us from experiencing joy and victory in our Christian lives.
26 Laban justifies his deception. He does not apologize or even admit that maybe what he did wasn't the best way to solve the problem. Do we ever do this? Instead of admit, or even consider (which is the first step) that we MAY have been wrong, it is easier to justify our actions so that we don't lose face. Because that's the really important thing, isn't it? Not to lose face? It's hard to come right out and say, OK, you're right and I was wrong. But if you make a tiny step in that direction, and say, well, MAYBE I didn't exactly go about that in the best or nicest way I could, or, MAYBE I could have said it a little more nicely… If you did that, how does that make the other person feel? Immediately, they're not quite so hostile. Then the way is open for discussion instead of arguing or the silent treatment.
Are you like Laban? Do you manipulate people, even mislead people, to get your own way? Do you control people? If so, why do you feel the need to do this? Is this pleasing to God? Do you believe that the end justifies the means? Have you convinced yourself that a little lying or cheating is justified in certain circumstances? Do you trust God enough to be willing to let things happen the way they are going to happen, and accept whatever develops as from God's hand? Do you try to control or manipulate God by making deals with Him, by trying to find a way to make Him give you what you want? Do you really know what ought to happen in each situation you try to control, with each person you try to control? Are you self-deceived? Jer. 17:9, Rom. 7:11, 12:3. Are you humble enough to admit that you don't know? Are you dealing with your pride and arrogance?
There is not much need for a Christian to go to a psychologist. If we would start by getting into the Word, and applying it, we'd see that God knows all about psychology. All the principles for human behavior are found here. Mostly we don't want to see it, or we're too lazy to look, or too lazy to apply it. Because it is work--the dreaded "W" word. II Tim. 2:15.
27-30 What is going to cause Jacob big trouble in the future? Did he choose this situation himself? In what way did he indirectly bring it on? We don't know whether or not he has dealt with his own sin. If he has, God has forgiven that sin, but the Bible teaches that we reap what we sow. So God has brought this unhappy situation into his life--for what purpose? To punish him? To teach him? To change him? Can we look at Jacob and say that God condones plural marriage? Just because something is recorded in the Bible does not mean God condoned it; the Bible records the sinful actions of sinful men. Because God permits us to sin, does that mean He condones that sin? We know this type of marriage is not God's will because He has already said "a man…his wife…one flesh," Gen. 2:24, and we will see all of the negative consequences. Can we say that God will work in this situation, in spite of the fact that we know this is not in His ideal will? Through these two wives and their two maids which will also come into the picture soon, God brings the 12 sons, the fulfillment of the promise of a great nation descended from Abraham.
So can we say, if we sin or make a choice that is definitely out of God's will, oh well, I know God will bring good out of it, so I'm not going to get on a big guilt trip? How does God want us to react when we finally recognize that what we have done is wrong? Job 42:6, Ps. 32:5, Is. 57:15, I John 1:9. Yes, God will use that in our life somehow for good, but you will also reap the consequences of your wrong choice, Gal. 6:7. It's a bitter-sweet situation, as we will see in Jacob's life. It's also an encouragement to us, because we all do wrong things and make wrong decisions, and afterward we worry about the consequences. But the Bible teaches that God is just as interested, or possibly even more interested, in the attitude and motive of our hearts that the actual things we do. Gen. 20:6, Jer. 6:19-20.
31-35 What about Leah? Is she caught in a messy situation which is not of her doing? Or was she? After all, she is a member of this family that majors in deception; she may have cooked this up, or she and Laban together. She may have been quite pleased as to how it worked out. Not all the messes we get into are of our own doing. How can we keep from getting caught up in bitterness, toward others, toward life, toward the Lord?
What about all the factors in this situation that we know nothing about? Were Leah and Rachel good friends or not before the wedding? What was their relationship after the wedding? Now they're stuck with each other for life, to say nothing of the jealousy problems regarding their shared husband. In many families, friction can be lessened by moving away from each other or having less interaction with each other. But some families run a business together; on many ranches and farms, married brothers and sisters must live and work with each other as well as with parents and grandparents. God can work in any situation.
God comforts Leah with four sons, while Rachel bears no children. Is He concerned about her hurts, the lack of love from her husband? Does God care about your family hurts and misunderstandings? If you're locked into a less-than-perfect situation, does it mean God can't do anything to help you? He might not change the situation, but He does change people. And it seems like the thing we struggle with is, why do I have to be the one to change? It's that OTHER person that's in the wrong! Why aren't you changing him/her, God? However, you're not responsible for that other person's behavior. You are responsible to God for your attitudes and behavior. All you can do is try to respond to what God is saying to you, and leave the other person in God's hands. Pray for that person.
Does Leah seem to have a sensitivity to the Lord? What can we learn from the naming of her four sons? Do we see possible evidence of change in her attitude? It appears that she starts out with the "poor me" attitude. But after several years have passed, she chooses to praise the Lord. What might have caused her to think differently? Has her focus changed? Why did it take several years? Has she begun to understand that God, not a husband, is the only one who can satisfy her deepest needs? Many women try to make their husband or their children fulfill their needs, when God is waiting to fill that place. When that doesn't happen, He will allow frustration and pain to drive them to a point where they will finally see Him as the one who must be first in their lives. We see that in their home, they did know about the Lord. But apparently not to the extent that Abraham learned to know Him and trust Him. God had Abraham leave this home; then He dealt with him further and brought Abraham into a deeper relationship with Himself.
Jacob loves Rachel, not Leah, but God's plan for the future nation of Israel includes Leah and her sons in a very important way. Two of her sons will play the biggest role in God's plan for Israel. Levi will be the tribe of priests, and Judah is the son through whose line the Messiah will eventually come. Once again we see that God does not choose the oldest son, as human custom would dictate.
1-21 A bunch of game-playing between jealous wives, a regular soap opera. In the competition to bear sons, they give Jacob their maids. They make deals for sexual privileges. All this time Rachel can't get pregnant.
1 How does Rachel strike you? Does she seem like a godly wife? Does she show any of the spiritual sensitivity that Leah did? She's jealous and demanding. Does she seem to be trusting God in this matter? Who does she hold responsible for her problem? Is God truly in control of all that happens, as the Bible teaches? Even unpleasant or painful things? Ps. 119:67, 71, John 9:3. What purpose might God have in bringing afflictions/unhappiness/disappointment into our lives? According to II Cor. 1:9, what is one reason? If your spouse or (fill in the blank) is not giving you what you expect of that person, is it possible that God is using that person to focus your eyes more on God and less on people? If people fulfilled all our needs and expectations, would we have as much need for God? Since all people are weak, fallible and sinful, is it really wise to place expectations on them, and then be angry when they don't meet those expectations? Is the problem really with that other person, or with ourselves, and our faulty ideas about expectations? According to Ps. 66:10-12 and 119:75 and Deut. 32:39, does God just allow unpleasant things to happen to us, or does He actually engineer them, for our good, as Rom. 8:28 says? Is "for our good" the same as "what feels good"? Does a wise loving parent make everything in life feel good for his child, or does he allow or plan things that feel uncomfortable to his child, for the child's good? How might this change our thinking toward those people that our hurting us or not meeting what we think are our needs? Will Rachel really die if she doesn't have children? Why does she feel like this? Are our feelings the same as facts? Don't we often act like they are? Can we choose to disregard our feelings and focus on facts instead? Do we really know what we need? Does God? What do most people think they need in life? Does it have to do with minimizing stress and pain? What does God think is most important for every person? Might that have to do with bringing stress and pain? Why? So we see that God's agenda is different than our agenda. Understanding this should help us to accept difficult things in our lives.
2 Rachel, whom Jacob has loved so passionately, is now the object of his what? Does Jacob seem to have any spiritual insight? To whom is Rachel looking to fulfill what she thinks are her needs? How have her expectations made Jacob feel? Have you ever made someone feel that way because of your unrealistic expectations?
3 Where have we seen this type of thinking before? Gen. 16:2. Perhaps this was an accepted practice in that day and culture. Compare Abraham's thinking, Gen. 15:2-3.
4-6 Children were looked at as God's blessing and a mark of His favor. Childlessness was shameful to a woman, even thought of as a curse. Now Rachel could hold up her head, so to speak. Rachel names the sons, so apparently they are actually considered her own.
7-8 What do we learn about Rachel? What can we assume about the relationship between the sisters? Why does she really want to have a child? Rachel comes across as petulant and childish. As we see more of her personality, and remember how Jacob was smitten with her, we wonder if he was only looking at her beauty, rather than her inner qualities, which seem lacking. Is this one reason for the many divorces today? What are qualities that should be looked for by a young man, or developed by a young woman? Ruth 3:11, Prov. 31:10-31, I Tim. 2:9-10, I Pet. 3:3-4.
9-13 Leah is still ahead on the score; she has four, while Rachel's maid has only given her two. But is she satisfied? Her fourth son's name seemed to indicate some spiritual growth on her part, but that was before Rachel turned up the heat on the pregnancy game. What does the naming of her next two sons tell us about her inner thoughts and desires? Is she really happy? Or is she reaching for a happiness she hasn't really found? Is she looking for it in the right places? Isn't this is a pretty common problem, even among Christians? Ps. 16:1-2, 119:92, 165.
14-16 It is not known for sure what type of plant these mandrakes were. They were possibly thought to be an aphrodisiac. How have their relationships with their husband deteriorated?
17-21 Did God allow Leah to manipulate Him? Was she successful in forcing God to give her what she wanted? Can God be manipulated? Do we try to manipulate Him? Do we look for the secret of getting our prayer answered? Are we ever more concerned about getting our wish than we are about finding and accepting God's will? Do we really believe that He knows best, that He is all-loving, all-powerful? Do we really believe that His plan will be best, whatever He allows? Do we believe Rom. 8:28? Do Leah's sons' names imply that she feels she deserves something from God? Do we ever feel that way? Do we deserve happiness, or for things to be fair, or anything at all from God? What do we deserve? Ez. 18:4. So why did God allow Leah to conceive? Because of His mercy and grace, because it was in His plan. But might she still think that she had brought it about by her own doings? We need to be careful in drawing conclusions about God; our conclusions should be based on scripture, not by interpreting appearances or our own experiences.
22-24 Finally God gave Rachel a son, Joseph. So did the mandrakes do the trick? Can you manipulate God or speed up His timetable? (Abraham and Sarah tried it too.)
Of the 12 sons and their tribes, which two tribes does the Bible seem to place the most importance on? Gen. 49:10, Num. 3:6-13. Are they the sons of the beloved wife, or the rejected wife? Jacob chose Rachel, and Joseph, but God chose Leah and two of her sons.
25 Now the plot thickens more. In the next chapter, we find it has been 20 years. The 14 years are up, but several more years pass as the events of the rest of this chapter take place.
27 Why would the Lord have blessed Laban on Jacob's account? Gen. 12:3.
28-31 What do we learn about Laban's ranching operation? Wha do we learn about Jacob? Jacob can name his wages; he chooses a method of payment that takes things out of Laban's hands. He already knows how Laban operates.
32-43 The rest of this chapter is difficult to understand. Either something was going on here that we don't quite understand; or perhaps Jacob was relying on some sort of superstition in these rods. Perhaps Jacob had this idea, maybe folk wisdom of that time, attempting to bring about God's blessing through man's methods, and the Lord chose to use Jacob's actions in spite of his lack of faith. Although God has given us brains and common sense and expects us to use them wisely, we must be careful not to rely on man's ways rather than exercise faith in God. What does Prov. 3:5 say about our own human level of understanding? Are we not to use it? According to Mt. 25:14-23, what are we to do with the abilities and opportunities God gives us? What key word is repeated in both 21 and 23? What is the key to having our needs supplied by God, according to Mt. 6:33?
Laban was dishonest and kept changing Jacob's wages. Perhaps Jacob was devising a foolproof plan so Laban could not cheat him. The solid colors would be Laban's and the rest would be Jacob's. It would be cut and dried. The dominant color of sheep would be white, and of goats, solid rather than speckled, yet because of God's blessing, the recessive colors increased instead.
Note: This could be related to the fact that Laban's name is almost exactly like the Hebrew word for "white:" "laben," with one mark under one letter being different. He peeled back the bark and exposed the white. As one commentator says, "He played the 'laban' game and won." Laban might have been lighter-complected than others.
Regardless of how and why it happened, God blessed Jacob's flock and not Laban's. Laban took the spotted and speckled goats and the black sheep and gave them into his own sons' care so Jacob was at a disadvantage to begin with. Still God blessed Jacob by causing the herds to reproduce large numbers of the recessive colors.
1-2 What has happened to Jacob and his flocks? What has happened to Laban's flocks? What has happened between Jacob and Laban and his sons? Is what Laban's sons are saying the truth? Has Jacob taken away all that was their father's? Compare 31:9 and 31:19. Who took from their father? Do they have any flocks left? Have Jacob's flocks greatly increased, 31:8? What is their attitude? What sin in Gal. 5:26 are they guilty of? Are they saying this to Jacob's face, or behind his back?
3 What unusual thing happens to Jacob that hasn't happened since his original journey? What two things does God tell him? Christians today wonder how to know God's will. Many teach that God will direct us specifically in our daily decisions, or at least our big ones (if there IS such a distinction in God's eyes). How can we know these things? Or can we? Does the Bible teach that God will let us know these kinds of things? Does the Bible teach that God speaks to people today--Christians, the church--in the same way He did Jacob and others in Old Testament times?
Some people believe that God operates the same way in the New Testament era as He did in the Old Testament era. But we know this is not true because the New Testament makes it clear we are now under what, Rom. 3:24, 5:1-2, 21, 6:14, 11:6? And we are no longer under what, Gal. 3:10-14, 23-25? Some people use the term "dispensations" to distinguish between these different eras, in which God deals with men in different ways. The way of salvation never changes, but in different dispensations, God tests man in different ways. In Jacob's time, man was under the Law, did not have the complete written Word but had the word of prophets, and did not have the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was active on the earth but came and went; He came on people temporarily to empower them to do a particular job, Ex. 31:3, Num. 24:2, Judg. 3:10, 11:29, 14:6.
David's prayer in Ps. 51:11 no longer applies to us, even though this verse is frequently sung in today's churches, because in this dispensation, the Holy Spirit permanently indwells each believer, Rom. 8:11, I Cor. 3:16. The fruit of the Spirit was never spoken of in relation to Old Testament believers; the Old Testament never speaks of believers being baptized in the Spirit, I Cor. 12:13, or sealed with the Spirit, II Cor. 1:22, as are New Testament believers. In this dispensation, the conditions of our testing include having the indwelling Holy Spirit and the complete written Word of God. We are not under the Law but grace, meaning we have a great deal of freedom to make individual choices, Rom. 14, rather than having our lives dictated by detailed laws, for example Lev. 11-27.
So it is important to read the whole Bible and compare passages before assuming from Gen. 31:3 that God will speak to us and direct us today just as He did Jacob. We must look in the epistles--the directions to the church--to see if God speaks to the church in the same way He spoke to men of old. We do find that God spoke to the apostles, II Cor. 12:9, Gal. 1:12, 2:2. But we do not find God speaking directly to believers, or believers being directed to listen for God's voice. Rather, we are directed to hear His voice in the Scriptures, Heb. 1:1-2, II Pet. 3:15-16. Note that when we are told to hear Him, we are directed to a Scripture quotation or the teaching of the apostles (written down, which became the New Testament): I Thes. 2:4, 13, 4:2, 8, 15, I Tim. 4:1, Heb. 3:7, 15, 4:3, 4, 7, 8:5, 8, 10:5, James 4:6.
Another indication that God will no longer be speaking to men is the fact that the Scriptures are complete; nothing is to be added to them, Rev. 22:18. Yet if God spoke today, those words should be recorded as part of Scripture, just as they were in the Old Testament. To not add them would be to devalue God's spoken word.
So does God direct us today in our daily decisions? If we are not to expect a voice, what about interpreting circumstances? What about going by a feeling of peace in your heart? What about going by the counsel of trusted Christian friends? These are all methods proposed by those who believe we can know God's will in daily decisions. However, there are two problems with this approach. First, does the Bible tell us anywhere that this is the way to know God's will? And second, are these foolproof, or are they subjective and fallible? If God wanted us to know this type of information, surely He would have made it clear in the Bible as to how we find it. Rather, passages that refer to God's will have to do with knowing and doing God's moral will, Rom. 12:1-2, Eph. 1:9-12, Eph. 6:6, Col. 1:9-12, 4:12, I Thes. 4:3, 5:16-18, Heb. 10:35-38, 13:20-21, I Pet. 2:15, 4:1-2, I John 2:17. The Bible makes it clear what God approves of and disapproves of.
So how are we to make our decisions? What does James 1:5 tell us to do? Does it say we will "feel" wise enough to make the right decision? James 1:6-8 explains that once we have asked, we are to go ahead in faith and act on that faith. Faith is not feelings. For more on how to get wisdom, read Prov. 1-4, 6:20-23, 7:1-4, 8-9, and many others. Wisdom comes from the knowledge of God, which is found where?
4 Why does Jacob call his wives out to the field? Probably the servants are spies for Laban.
5-7 What does "God of my father" signify? That He is still not Jacob's God? Or to distinguish Him from false gods, from idols? How has Laban treated Jacob? Even within believing families, this type of sinful behavior can go on: lying, cheating, breaking business contracts. Christians struggle with the flesh, Rom. 7, and many have not learned to yield to the Holy Spirit in every part of their lives. This does not mean they are not Christians, although it is also possible that if no fruit of the Spirit is present in someone's life, perhaps they are not truly believers. Perhaps they are trusting in outward religion, or have fooled themselves into thinking they are saved. Self is quite clever at deception, and Satan is the great deceiver. The Bible warns us not to be deceived, II Cor. 13:5. And those who are hurt by such people need to be careful not to give in to bitterness or getting even. Jacob chooses to finally remove himself from the situation, even though this will also cause some difficulties.
8-12 It's not clear why Jacob used the rods at the water troughs. But whether he did it out of superstition, folk lore, or whatever, we see that God was working to direct the mating of the flocks and the resulting colors, and now Jacob knows this for sure. What important thing does Jacob recognize? God is in control of all things; Jacob sees His protection and leading, His omniscience, His omnipotence. Can you recognize this in your own life, even in the difficult circumstances? Recognizing these truths will bring greater peace in your heart, even when life is not peaceful.
What in particular does God tell Jacob He has been aware of? For how long has He allowed this situation, 31:38? Has Jacob taken matters into his own hands, or has he tried to do his best and submitted to the situation God has brought him into? When difficult situations go on and on, don't we sometimes think God either doesn't see, doesn't care, doesn't really love us, or just can't do anything about it? Why does God allow difficult people and difficult circumstances in our lives? Is His goal to spare us from uncomfortable circumstances, from stress or pain, to make things feel better? What is His goal for us? Rom. 8:29. Does that tend to happen when everything is going smooth, or through crises?
13 Compare Gen. 28:13-22. What does God command Jacob? Is Jacob prepared to obey? Many years have passed; does Jacob appear to be trusting God more than he had before? Does spiritual growth happen quickly or slowly? We may experience a growth spurt now and then (perhaps an emotional experience), but just as with physical growth, the process is slow, often imperceptible.
14-16 Do the wives argue or complain about this plan? Do they dispute what Jacob has said about their father? Who is their loyalty to at this point? Are they willing to submit to God's leading? Maybe they have grown spiritually too. 16, they recognize that this is not Jacob's doing but whose?
They don't seem to think Laban has done right by them. Are Christians' financial dealings with one another, even family, always what they should be? Shouldn't we bend over backward to make sure things are right, and are perceived as right by the other person, so as not to give others occasion to accuse us? Many have been disillusioned by famous TV preachers. Unbelievers remember crooked things done to them by certain Christians, so that they now have no use for any Christians. When Christians act this way, they drag God's name through the mud. People can often see what things we spend our money on. And what about when we are stewards of other people's money, whether in government, in our jobs, or in church business? What about cutting a sharp deal? What about saying, "oh well…"? Is being a Christian just about Sunday morning, or is it about what you do the rest of the week?
17-18 Is Jacob's departure reminiscent of an earlier departure? What is different this time?
19-21 What do we see in this household that appears to believe in the true and living God? Now we wonder if Laban and his family were actually unbelievers, or if they believed but also worshipped idols? This type of compromise will characterize the descendants of Jacob throughout the history of Israel. So what two things do we see in 19 and 20 that still show the lack of faith of Jacob and his two wives? The household idols were not only for worship, but also the sign of family leadership, implying that Jacob would inherit Laban's estate.
They are still helping God. What might have happened if neither Jacob or Rachel had done these things? When it looks like we "must" help God or something very bad will happen, it is scary to, instead, NOT do whatever, and just trust--to tell that fear to be quiet. Have you ever done this, and found that God indeed took care of things, and your worst fear did not materialize? What does that do for your faith, and for future scary moments? But Satan would like us to be bound by fears; he knows how to pull our strings, to lay snares for us. I Tim. 3:7, II Tim. 2:26. Animals step into snares when they are not looking carefully around. A snare may not be deadly, but it may be quite painful to get yourself out of.
22-24 Laban takes up pursuit. What do you think his intentions were? How does God intervene? Because God found it necessary to intervene, we can assume that Laban was probably intending to harm Jacob.
25-26 What does Laban accuse Jacob of? Do you suppose at this point that Jacob was reflecting on how he had to flee from his other home because he had deceived his father? Sometimes we learn from our failures; other times, we merely repeat them, because they are what we know how to do. Until we let God change us, we tend to repeat our sins.
27-28 Would he really have done this? Or is he still being deceptive? "Sons and daughters" refer to his grandchildren; again, we see looser usage of family terms in this culture.
29 Do you think Laban knows God, or just knows about Him? Does he respect Him, obey Him? Reading between the lines, I think he is saying he had planned to hurt Jacob. Again, "the God of your father."
30-32 Is Jacob deceitful at this point, or honest? Does he make up a nice excuse, or does he confront Laban with his true thoughts about him? What about the gods? Does Jacob believe Laban about the stolen gods? Does Laban believe Jacob? Now who has tricked whom? How certain is Jacob that Laban is lying? How much power can belong to a god that can be stolen? If a god had real power, couldn't it prevent itself from being stolen? Compare the response of Gideon's father, when the idolatrous Israelites confronted him about Gideon removing their idols, Judges 6:28-32. If Laban had any spiritual discernment, he might have wondered about this.
What does Jacob admit in 31 that gives us a big clue about Jacob's life? According to 31:41, how long has this intolerable situation been going on? Jacob has a problem with what? Is this why Jacob has not confronted Laban sooner? Is this why Jacob obeyed his mother in Gen. 27? Is this why Jacob was worried about his role in his mother's plot, 27:12? Is this why Jacob fled, 27:41-43? For his whole life, Jacob has struggled with fear of others, and has been a doormat for others to manipulate. Finally he confronts someone he fears. And who must he confront when he returns home as God has commanded him? Why does this kind of change take so long in our lives? When the pressure finally becomes unbearable, we become desperate enough to change, which is what God is after. He doesn't force us, or change us without the cooperation of our own wills. He sets up situations and waits for us to find what He has in mind for us. When we do, it appears to be our own idea, but He has made His idea, our idea.
Did Jacob really need to slip away from Laban deceitfully? Compare 28:13-15 and 31:13. Was he in danger? So what do we see lacking in Jacob's life? Do we ever need to fear when we are obeying God? Even if circumstances look fearful? Jacob was letting his feelings control him, rather than faith. Feelings are not facts; feelings lie. We need to be wary of our feelings.
33-35 Does the order of the search indicate the level of Laban's suspicions? Who is searched last? Perhaps she has always been Daddy's favorite; surely, he thinks, it wouldn't be HER! Lev. 19:32, why would she be expected to rise before him? Is Rachel a convincing liar? Who did she learn that from? Apparently they all are in this family. According to Ex. 20:5, a parent's sins influence the behavior of the children and even the grandchildren. By reaping what he sows in this way, a father's punishment might include seeing the negative effects of his own sins in the lives of his family.
36-42 Finally Jacob gets mad enough to overcome his fear of Laban. Is he in the right? Do you think he handled the situation right? Was he right to tell Laban what he thinks of him? Should he have maybe had this talk with Laban years ago? How long had this been going on? If he had, how might things have turned out instead? If someone has wronged you and you believe you are not at fault, is it wrong to defend yourself? Does turning the other cheek mean to be a doormat? If you allow someone to continually treat you wrong, aren't you then partly responsible for the situation, because you have allowed it go on? Can holding your tongue and being tolerant be a spiritual excuse for fear, for lacking the courage to stand up for what is right? What specifically is right or wrong about what Jacob says? Does he exaggerate, lie, call names, or hit below the belt? Is there a right way and wrong way to stand up to someone? Some people find it hard to confront others, because it is uncomfortable or even painful, but isn't it just as uncomfortable to allow the ugly situation to go on for years? Refusing to confront someone who acts ugly can be just as wrong as being too confrontational.
The Bible tells us to rebuke others when necessary, Luke 17:3-4; to fail to do so is just as much sin as what that other person is doing. In Rev. 2:20-22, who should have rebuked but didn't? What did they do instead? Was God pleased with that? In I Cor. 5:1-2, who should have rebuked but didn't? How did they respond instead? Now let's look at some Bible examples of people who did rebuke when needed. Gal. 2:11-14, who rebuked? In II Cor. 2:3-9, who rebuked? In II Sam. 12:7, 13, who rebuked? Looking up the definition of the word "rebuke" may clear up some problems. In Webster, it means "to sharply criticize," but in Strongs, alternate meanings are "admonish, convict, convince, reprove." Perhaps we read into the Bible a flavor that is not there; this is why it is important to look up words in Strongs, to make sure we are understanding what the Bible is saying. Other passages on rebuking: Prov. 9:8 (why is this?), 13:1, 27:5-6, Eccl. 7:5, II Tim. 4:2 (how?), Heb. 12:5 (how does He?), Rev. 3:19.
37-39 Jacob has his faults; is stealing one of them?
42 How does Jacob refer to God? How did he back in 27:20? Is this just a way of referring to God, or does it indicate there is some distance in Jacob's relationship with God? Comparing Jacob's last words as an old man, Gen. 48 and 49, he never uses this terminology, so apparently it does have significance. In 49:25, speaking to his sons, how does he refer to God?
43 So what is Laban actually claiming about everything Jacob has? Is this true? In a sense they are Laban's, but primarily they are Jacob's. Should Jacob have been sensitive to what "rights" Laban had? What about in our family squabbles--ARE things really as cut and dried as we make them out to be? Have we tried to see it from the other person's perspective?
44-55 What are the covenant and pillar for? Each wants to make sure that the other can't steal from him, hurt him, or seek revenge. Since Laban believes Jacob has stolen his gods, and thus will inherit his estate, Laban must resort to another method to protect his possessions. 54, the sacrifice and the meal are part of sealing the contract. 53, who is Nahor? Gen. 11:26-32. God was known in their family, not just to Abraham. Is knowing about God the same as knowing God? What is the difference? We know that Abraham knew God; we don't really know about Nahor, about their father, or about Laban. We don't if he was an idolater that gave lip-service to God, or if he was a believer who had compromised with the world. This is something to keep in mind when we are tempted to look critically at those around us who claim to be Christians.
God's will for Jacob and his descendants was that they leave the land of Laban and live in the land of Canaan, the promised land. The wrong acts of Jacob, Rachel and Laban at their parting ensure their permanent separation. Their actions were motivated by the concerns of Self, not of faith. Yet God used their ungodly actions and decisions to bring about His own will. God never approves of wrong actions or motives, but neither is God's sovereignty limited by our sinfulness.
These next two chapters cover a two-day period in Jacob's life. After these two days, the Bible turns from following Jacob to following his sons, mostly. We will see a few more things about Jacob, but it is not really his life story.
1-2 What happens when he leaves? Angels appear. He is obeying God, and this is confirmation. When else had he seen angels?
Today angels are common in pop art. What do most people think angels look like? Babies? Women? Men? With wings? With halos? In the Bible angels always appear as men, generally dressed in white garments, and are referred to as "he." Angels in the Bible don't appear with wings and halos. The only angels with wings are cherabim and seraphim. If you think you have seen an angel and it has wings or is female, you can be sure it is a satanic/demonic deception or a figment of your own imagination. Angels may disguise their identity and appear as merely humans, Heb. 13:2.
3-5 What is the situation behind Jacob? What is the situation before him? If God has something for us to learn, can we escape it? If your spouse is the uncomfortable sandpaper and chisel God is using in your life, can you escape by getting a divorce? What probably lies ahead for you? Someone or something else to complete the job. The longer you avoid it, the longer it will take. A Christian cannot find peace by avoiding God.
6 If he was worried before, what about this news?
7-8 What is his reaction? Can you relate to his fear? Again we see that fear of others is something Jacob struggles with.
9-12 Does Jacob think he deserves God's favor, 10? Do we deserve anything from God? What do all deserve, Rom. 5:18? What is Jacob's response to fear? What things does he know about God? When you are afraid, do you react the way he does here? Isn't this why God puts us in those situations? So we will have to come to Him. Does he make deals with God like he did back in 28:20-22? He remembers God's words--he can quote them. Is this to remind God in case He's forgotten what He said? Can reminding ourselves what God has said help us when we are afraid or weak in faith? Sometimes Christians try to exercise faith that God will give them a certain house or job, etc. What is the problem with that type of faith? Is there a verse that promises this to them? Make sure you do not take verses out of context! People rely on subjective feelings that God has told them something, not something from the Bible but something they think God "told" them. However, Self is very clever and can put thoughts in our minds and tell us they are from God, and we believe this because we WANT to believe it. Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44), also fills our minds with lies. Exercise faith in God's Word, not in feelings or experiences.
Jacob is trying not to let his feelings get the better of him; instead, he exercises what? Heb. 11:1,2,6. If he had exercised more of it, wouldn't he believe that God would do what He had said, and that there was no need for fear or for the extreme precautions he takes in 13-23?
What does Jacob fear, 11? Did this happen? Was his fear based on facts or on his feelings or imagination? We must distinguish rational fear from irrational fear. Many of the things we fear don't happen, and don't even start to happen. We just think they MIGHT happen. We may even feel we KNOW that they will happen. But when time after time, the thing we feared does not materialize, we need to start considering the idea that our feelings are not facts. Feelings can even lie. Why do we believe them? Because we are easily deceived; often we even WANT to be deceived. How do we habitually deal with our fear? God wants show us another way, the way of faith. How can we increase our faith? By trying? By positive thinking? By self-effort? Rom. 10:17.
Which is more effective to bring us to God, crises or blessing? Can God use both? (But both can be ignored…)
13-20 Would God have delivered and protected him without these gifts? Is this using common sense, or evidence of lack of faith? Besides exercising faith, should he also do what he can?
Should Christians not buy any insurance, because they are trying to rely totally on God? Should Christians not have smoke alarms, because they are trying to rely totally on God? I used to be afraid of fire in the night, almost to the point of paranoia. I tried to trust God but couldn't overcome this fear. Here's how I finally dealt with my fear, which I knew was not pleasing to God. I realized that all I could do was use safety--make sure things were turned off, clean and replace furnace filter regularly, put up a couple smoke alarms and check the batteries; then, having done what I could, I must pray and trust. If I continued to lay awake at night in fear, that would not be trusting God. It's silly to say you're trusting God to keep you safe in the night when you don't even buy a $10 smoke alarm. Is that lack of faith? Should I have also had fire drills with the kids every night before bedtime, or set my alarm to wake every hour in the night to check the house? That might be paranoid. How much you do will obviously vary with each individual. God is interested in your heart and motives. Pray, trust, do what you are convinced God would have you do. Do what you can, then leave your fear with God.
22-25 God now deals with Jacob very personally. What is meant by wrestling? Was Jacob resisting, or hanging on? Maybe the "man" wouldn't back off, forcing Jacob to fight, not to back down from confrontation; maybe it was to teach Jacob to learn to yield, to show him that he can't win, can't have his own way.
24 Sometimes we avoid being alone with God; often we prefer to experience God through some human--a pastor, Christian counselor, friend. If you wanted to have close fellowship with someone, would you prefer that a third party was always present? Do you think God desires that type of fellowship with us? When you have a problem, do you need to see a face, hear a voice, feel arms or a hand? Or can you pray directly to God, and listen to what He has to say to you in His Word? If you can't get alone with God, He may have to engineer a situation where you are. In my case, every time I developed a close Christian friendship, one of us moved. I began to see a pattern, and that God was weaning me from my dependence on friends so I would learn to depend only on Him. After I learned that, He later allowed me to again have those kinds of friends.
Why would God afflict Jacob physically? Many believe the Bible teaches that it is always God's will for physical healing, or for success in life. To get us where He can deal with us personally, might He need to cripple us like He did Jacob? Might He need to starve us--to allow our resources to dry up--so we look solely to Him for our needs? I Kings 17:1-7, 19:1-6, II Cor. 12:7-10. What was the purpose of these trials in the lives of these people? Does God actually plan and BRING affliction into our lives (for our good), or does He merely ALLOW it (implying He does not have control of that situation but merely is reacting to what happens in our lives)? Ps. 66:10-12, 119:75.
26 What do you think of Jacob's request? Is he being audacious, demanding? Or is he expressing his complete faith in God? Is he persevering in faith?
27-28 Forcing Jacob to say his name, because of its meaning (one who takes by the heel, supplanter), perhaps made him admit what kind of person he was. He must confess his sinful nature. Jacob becomes Israel ("God fights"--for Jacob, for Israel). Prevail: Strongs--be able, attain, endure, might, could/can, overcome, have power. Webster--triumph, gain victory, become effective, be successful.
29 Why does Jacob ask this? Is he not absolutely sure who it was? Why doesn't the man give his name? In the New Testament, we see Jesus often using this method of getting people to think--not answering their question directly, but with another question designed to cause them to discover truth for themselves. Jacob must think for himself, draw conclusions.
30 So who is the man? The pre-incarnate Christ, the Angel of the Lord. How can we know? Compare 32:28, Hos. 12:3-4. Whenever God appeared to people, He appeared as the Angel of the Lord; God the Father is spirit. John 1:18.
Is this event positive or negative? I'm not sure. Hos. 12:1-5 sounds like it is negative, as one of the deeds God will punish/repay him for. Perhaps it's just a reflection of what Jacob was like. Jacob was aggressive, pushy, demanding, used to using trickery to get his way. Perhaps God had to deal with him in a way he could understand.
God is working on changing Jacob, just as He is changing each of us, Rom. 8:29, 12:1-2. We tend to think OUR personality type is the right type. We shouldn't have to change; rather, others should be more like US! Pushy people may look down on nonconfrontational types, thinking "Quiet people should stand up for what they want, LIKE I DO! I have no patience with such wimps!" Nonconfrontational people may look down on aggressive people, thinking "They're violent, hostile, rude; they should learn to be sensitive, laid back, LIKE ME!" We all think God should change other people. What He wants to do is change each of us.
Can some personality types be used by God more than others? Which types did He use in the Bible? All types! And He still uses all types. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses. We could all list the faults of pastors we have known, or missionaries, or fellow church members, or family members. But God is planning to use those people, and at the same time He's working on them, and us.
31-32 Apparently Jacob will now suffer a limp. Why would God do that to him? Jacob had encountered Someone he could not defeat; God had the advantage, and made that very clear. His human weapons were disabled; he was shown that he could not win in his own strength. Here is an early indication that for Israel, human effort would not bring victory, but trust and obedience.
Do you see any change in him yet? How much change? Is he walking fully with the Lord, or would you describe him as still an immature believer, who has just had an important experience with the Lord? What is a carnal Christian? I Cor. 3:1-3. Can you tell if someone is a carnal Christian, or an unbeliever? Be careful about judging; also, don't lose hope because of outward appearances.
Are Jacob and the other Old Testament believers "Christians"? Technically not, since they were not followers of Christ. Christians are "the church"--referring to all who have believed in Christ following His resurrection. Other terms for Christians, or the church, are the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, those who have the indwelling Holy Spirit. These terms are never used of Old Testament believers. They are believers, or saints, as the Bible uses the term for believers. Saints: holy ones, ones who are called out or set apart for God's purposes. The Bible also calls believers the "righteous," since in God's eyes, they are. Likewise, unbelievers are often called the "wicked," which they are in God's eyes, even though some of them are pretty "nice," humanly speaking. In God's eyes, there are only two categories--the righteous and the wicked, the saved and the unsaved. We may prefer to think there is a big category in the middle, between righteous and wicked, that are neutral, or in a gray area. The Bible does not support this idea.
This terminology becomes important in interpreting the book of Revelation. Those who believe the church will be removed (snatched up, raptured) before the tribulation point to the fact that after Rev. 3, the terms "church," "Christians," "body of Christ," "bride of Christ," "indwelling Holy Spirit," are not mentioned again until the physical return of Christ in Rev. 19, where we find the bride of Christ in 19:7. During the tribulation, Rev. refers to "those who had been slain because of the word of God," 6:9; their "fellow servants" and their "brethren," 6:11; the "bond-servants of our God," 7:3; "those who were sealed," 7:4; "the ones who come out of the great tribulation," who have "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb," 7:14; "the saints," 8:3; "the saints and those who fear Your name," 11:18; "our brethren," 12:10; those "who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus," 12:17; "the saints," 13:7; those who "do not worship the image of the beast," 13:15; "the saints," 15:6; "the saints," "the witnesses of Jesus," 17:6; "the called and chosen and faithful," 17:14; "my people," 18:4; "saints," 18:24; and "His bond-servants," 19:2,5.
Those who do believe the church will be on the earth during the tribulation point to the fact that there are believers mentioned all through Revelation, therefore the church must be there. Those who believe the church will be raptured believe that many will believe during the tribulation, but that they are not part of "the church". Like the Old Testament saints, they do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit; in that period, He came on people or filled people temporarily to enable them to fulfill a job. During the tribulation, the Holy Spirit will continue to be active on the earth as He was before the church, and He will be at work drawing men to faith in Christ, but His role of indwelling believers ceases at the removal of the church, II Thes. 2:7. His indwelling of believers is currently acting as a restraint of evil, but when the church is removed and His restraining of evil ceases, literally all hell will break loose as the antichrist, the "lawless one," is revealed, II Thes. 2:8-10.
How old is Jacob now? Probably at least 40. Hmm... This kind of change doesn't come overnight. It didn't for Jacob. Will it for us?
1-14 Jacob And Esau are reunited peacefully. Did Jacob's worst fears come to pass? So should he have bothered to go to such lengths to prepare himself for the worst? Might God have been working in Esau's life? A short while ago, it looked bad for Jacob, behind and before. But the Laban and Esau problems have both been dealt with; did Jacob solve his own problems? God has arranged it all. Have you ever seen this sort of thing in your life, and recognized God's hand? Do you remember to thank Him?
Is that one of the reasons God allows the possibility of fearful things in our lives? Is it "faith" to say, oh well, it probably won't happen, so I'm just not going to think about it? Or, is this an opportunity to examine ourselves and see if we are truly yielded to God, willing to accept from His hand WHATEVER He should bring into our lives? Yes, it COULD happen...
He uses these situations to humble us, to bring us closer to Him, to see if we want what HE wants more than we insist on having OUR WAY, to see if we are willing to trust Him even if the worst comes to pass.
In Daniel 3:16-18, how do Daniel's three friends answer King Nebuchadnezzar? Are they doing the "positive confession" or positive thinking thing? Have they "claimed" their deliverance? Have they told God what they want or expect Him to do for them? Do they say God "will" deliver them, or that He "is able to" deliver them"? 18, do they understand that He may choose not to? Read the entire chapter and notice how many times the words "worship" or "fall down and worship" are used; this is the subject of this chapter. It tells us what true worship is. Notice the other synonyms for worship that are used in 12, 14, 17, 18, and 28.
In C. S. Lewis's Narnia books, which are full of biblical symbolism, the children often take this same approach to obeying Aslan, the lion. "Let us accept the adventure that Aslan has for us!" They hope he will come and help them, but they realize that if he chooses not to, they may die in his service, but that is OK.
Will we kick and scream, beg and plead, "No Lord! Anything but THAT!" Often He just wants us to deal with our heart, but doesn't really bring the thing to pass. Sometimes we think God is asking us to give up our heart's desire, but then when we finally and sincerely say OK, He doesn't actually do it. Read Gen. 22. Have you seen God do this in your life?
Prayer is more about yielding ourselves to God than it is about getting God to do what we want. Compare the Lord's prayer, Mt. 6:10. Whose will is to be done? Ours? What is the only thing it tells us to ask for, 6:11? Needs or wants? In the Sermon on the Mount, what does Mt. 7:7 tell us to do? The question is, ask and seek for what kinds of things? Note the context, 7:8-11. Needs or wants? 7:11, what does He mean by "what is good"? What WE think is good? What does Luke 11:13 say that this good thing is? As Jesus prays in Gethsemane, whose will does He pray will be done? What did Joab say before battle in II Sam. 10:12? Did he ask God to let him win?
14 Esau lives at the southern end of Canaan, just south and east of the Dead Sea. Where does Jacob say he is headed? That is about 80 miles south of where they are.
15-19 But where does Jacob go instead? Shechem is about 30 miles west, about half way between the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee. Does he just pass through on his way to Seir, 19? Is Jacob a man of his word? Is he scrupulously honest? Is anyone in his family?
20 What does this verse tell us about Jacob? Compared with the previous few verses, do we see a believer who is living consistently, having his act really together now? Is he an exemplary believer from here on? No. Again we see that just because you believe in and worship the true God does not mean you are always living the way you should. What does Rom. 8:29 say that God is doing in the life of each Christian? Does that happen all at once, instantly, the moment you believe? Or does it take a lifetime? Is it something that God does to us supernaturally, or does He work gradually through the painful circumstances of our lives? Again, spiritual growth is slow. Don't we often feel like failures? How SHOULD we feel? Much of the problem is in our FEELINGS! Learn to live more in the will and less in the feelings. Satan uses our feelings to distract and discourage us.
I think one of the big problems in the Christian life is our struggle with feelings, and first, that means learning to recognize that you are having that struggle. The next hard step is recognizing the difference between acting out of feelings or will. The third hard step is actually beginning to put it into practice in real life situations.
Is this chapter about Jacob, or his sons? Both; his sons are a reflection of both their heredity and their upbringing. Jacob has not been their only influence; we know quite a bit about their mothers too. We don't know how much time has passed, but Jacob had worked for Laban 20 years when he left there. The oldest is at least almost 20. 33:19 tells us they bought property there which indicates they lived there for some time.
1-4 What happens? If Shechem had truly loved Dinah, would he have forced her? What do men often mean by "love"? Sexual desire? But when women hear them use the word "love," how do they usually interpret it? Isn't this misunderstanding the source of much conflict, both among married and unmarried couples? Don't both men and women have certain expectations of the opposite sex which may be unrealistic? When we hold others to our own unrealistic expectations, we set ourselves up for disappointment.
5-7 Who all is here? Why is Jacob so passive? Might he have acted differently if this were Rachel's daughter?
8-12 The "rich father" tries to buy off those whom his spoiled, headstrong son has offended. All parents have to make decisions about whether or not they will hold their child accountable for his or her actions, and how to effectively do that. God deals with us to get us to admit what we did (confess), and then change our ways (repent). When we do these things, He forgives us, Mk. 6:12, I John 1:8-10. Does God hold his children accountable for their mistakes/sins? Because we're His children, can we hope God will look the other way when we do wrong? Mt. 18:13-17, Acts 5:1-11, Rom. 16:17, I Cor. 5:11, Gal. 6:7, I Thes. 5:14, II Thes. 3:14-15, I Tim. 5:20, Tit. 3:10.
13 What's the key word here? Was this Jacob's idea, or the sons? Did Jacob take the lead in this situation? In this chapter, neither father holds his sons accountable.
14-17 Did they want them to be circumcised so the people of Shechem could also be followers of the true and living God? That is what circumcision was to show. Did Jacob or his sons talk to these people about God? Again we see the loose use of family terms--"daughter."
18-24 Hamor talks all the men of the city into being circumcised. Since he does not explain that it has anything to do with God, we must assume he knows nothing about that.
25-29 What did they do? How many of Dinah's brothers did this? I wonder why the others didn't also. Where did these boys learn about deceit? Had they grown up with it? Hadn't they just heard their father tell Esau one thing and then do another?
30-31 Jacob's response. What was he concerned about? Their deceit? Or the effect their "indiscretion" will now have on himself--on his neighbors and those he does business with? If Jacob had been a strong father and dealt with the situation, might the sons not have taken matters into their own hands? When wrong is done and is not dealt with by the one(s) who have the power and responsibility to deal with it, then others who have been hurt by that wrong never experience the proper satisfaction that justice has been done. It's hard enough to get over the hurt of a wrong that is done; it's much harder when justice is not done. Different people react in different ways to this unresolved need for justice. Some take matters into their own hands; others harbor bitterness and resentment. Some direct their resentment toward the person who failed to bring justice, or who didn't even care that the wrong was done, or who didn't even see that it was wrong.
In this situation, revenge was not the evil; their deceitfulness was wrong. Had God given them restrictions against revenge, like He has in the New Testament, where we are told to love and forgive our enemies? Revenge was not forbidden in the Old Testament; in fact, God frequently commanded war, bloodshed against Israel's ungodly enemies. In the Psalms, David implores God to take vengeance on the wicked. This was not wrong at that time. This is hard for us to relate to, but try to see it from a different religious perspective, a different dispensation in which God was dealing with men in a different way than He is today in the age of grace. Those who do not believe in dispensations try to explain away David's prayers for vengeance as "un-Christian-like" and as lapses in his faith. God was not yet seen as a God of mercy and grace; He had not revealed much of that part yet. This made Jesus' remarks in Mt. 5:38-47 quite radical to His listeners. Before the cross, He was making sure people knew that evil was punished, and that evil people were punished, often by death. Does God still punish evil? Christians prefer to talk about love rather than wrath.
We are to choose to do right, to do what the Bible says, regardless of how it makes you look or what you think its outcome may be. Many Christians choose their actions based on how they will look to others, or on what they think will be the end result, rather than whether it is right or wrong in God's eyes. We are to do what God has said and leave the results in His hands.
1 What happened at Bethel, Gen. 28:10-19? God tells him to go all the way back there. Does Jacob obey?
2 What seemed to be a problem in Jacob's household? All the way through the Old Testament we find that many worshippers of God also worshipped foreign gods.
Does the Old Testament have any spiritual application for the New Testament believer? I Cor. 10:1-11. Throughout Israel's history, idolatry was one of their main problems. The prophets focused on idolatry as one of the main sins to avoid. What is the spiritual application to us, who live in a society where graven images are not a problem? Might we be idolators? What is an idol? Anything that takes God's place in our hearts. How can we know if something is taking God's place? Does it occupy a great deal of our thinking, our concern, our time, our money, our goals? How is idolatry defined in the New Testament? Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:5; Gal. 5:19-21. All of us are guilty of greed from time to time, but not all PRACTICE it as a way of life. Would you agree that in our society, materialism/greed is a common "idol?" Compromise has always been, and still is, one of the big problems for believers. Materialism seems so innocent, not like a god at all. We need to think about it, and see how big a part it plays in our lives. Can you be materialistic even if you don't have many material things? What about your longings for them? What about your thoughts about others who have more or nicer things than you do? Another kind of idolatry is the acceptance of or even toying with other philosophies and religions, adding them to our worship of God and to our understanding of the Bible like a religious smorgasbord. This is very common in the church today.
3 What insight do we get here into the status of Jacob's faith? He recognizes just how God has been working. He sees God's hand in his life. Do you ever look back over your life and suddenly recognize God's hand where before you only saw an unfortunate circumstance or series of circumstances? When we can begin to see that, how might we look differently on PRESENT unpleasant circumstances?
4 Their rings have some relation to the worship of those gods. Does that mean that today, the wearing of all earrings is evil and ungodly? Some Christians who are extremely legalistic say yes. However, today earrings do not signify idolatry; remember that God is more interested in our hearts and motives than our outer actions.
What about other objects that have certain significance in our culture, such as crystals or rainbows? You may enjoy these decorations, being unaware of their significance to others, but once you become aware of what others associate them with, you must decide if that is the impression you as a Christian are willing to project.
Why do so many in Jacob's household have idols? And why are they willing to give them up when he tells them to? What if he had told them to earlier? Perhaps all that was needed was some godly leadership. We have seen that Jacob has not been the model of godly leadership in his family. Why did he hide them and not destroy them? Did he, or they, believe it would be unwise or even dangerous to destroy gods? Or perhaps they were stone, not wood, and couldn't be destroyed.
5 Why this terror? Perhaps because other cities had heard of what Israel did to Shechem.
6-8 So does Jacob obey God? Is he obedient in everything in his life? Is Jacob consistent in his spiritual life? Are we? Yet we see that God continues to appear to him, and to work in his life. Does God work in our lives, even when we are inconsistent in our faith? Apparently God isn't after perfection, but works with us where we are at in our spiritual journey. What did he probably do at this altar? Why would Rebekah's nurse be with Jacob now? Apparently she had died.
9-15 God appears to Jacob again and reaffirms his new name (32:28). Is Jacob, whose name is now Israel, a Jew? What is another name for the Jews? Ex. 1:1, 7, 9.
What else does He reaffirm? Compare 12:1-3. Remember that the plot line of the Bible is following the line of Christ from the first man and the first prophecy of Christ (Gen. 3:15) through to the fulfillment of those prophecies in Revelation. We are following the line as it has been narrowed to Abraham, then to Isaac, and then to Jacob. This is the last time God reaffirms the Abrahamic covenant. God will speak to Jacob one more time, Gen. 46:2-4. In II Sam. 7:12-16, God will promise David that his descendant will have a kingdom that will be established forever, an eternal kingdom. David was in the line of which of Jacob's 12 sons? I Sam. 17:12, Gen. 49:10. We will be following the children of Israel through many generations.
16-21 Rachel gives birth and dies. She now has two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. Which wife was Jacob's favorite? Her sons will now be his favorites. As we have seen before, favoritism will continue to cause trouble in this family. How many sons does Jacob now have? What is another name for Bethlehem?
22 What do we learn about Jacob here? We don't know who instigated this act, Reuben or Bilhah. Is a concubine the same as a wife? In some ways.
27-29 Jacob returns to Isaac's home, where? Isaac dies. Rebekah is not mentioned, so again we assume she has already died.
1 Remember that the Bible is following the line that will lead to the promised Messiah. We have been seeing that the rejected line is given, then dropped as the chosen line is followed. Whose line do we read about in this chapter? Is he the chosen line or the rejected line? After this chapter, we continue to follow Jacob's line, the line leading to the Messiah.
2-5 Esau's wives and children. Again we see that family terms such as "daughter" are used loosely to include granddaughter (compare 2 and 25). Some of these were known by more than one name, which can be confusing when comparing genealogies, but was a common practice (just as we use Jim/James, John/Jack and Bill/William). Hittites, Hivites and Horites were related and also used interchangeably.
6-8 Why does he move away? Where does he settle? This is south of the land of Canaan, south of the Dead Sea. Hebron, where Isaac had been living (35:27), was just west of the center of the Dead Sea.
9-19 Esau's descendants. 12, "sons" is used loosely to include grandsons. Esau = Edom. He lived at Seir. Note especially his grandson Amalek, 12. When you see any of these four names, equate them with the rejected line, which also in the Bible sometimes represents the fleshly nature. Amalek and the Amalekites will figure later in the Old Testament, and it's interesting to see them characterizing the flesh, as those of the chosen line strive against them. Particularly we will see this in the story of Saul. Interestingly, Amalek's mother is mentioned even though she is only a concubine to Eliphaz, whereas his wife is not mentioned. Her name is probably recorded because of the later prominence of Amalek and the Amalekites.
20-39 The descendants of Seir the Horite, who was the lord of the land when Esau went there. One of Esau's wives was his descendant (2, 20). Esau married into his family and soon became the most powerful figure in the family and the region. We are not given any information on how this took place, but given what we know about Esau and his family, we can speculate. 31, God's plan for Israel (His ideal will) was not for them to have kings but to be over them Himself in a theocracy, I Sam. 8:7. But He allowed them (His permissive will) to rebel against His plan, I Sam. 8:5.
The sons of Esau are all referred to as chiefs. That would make Esau an overlord. The kings in 31-39 are mentioned as being kings over cities, more like tribal kings, or kings of city-states; they apparently are not kings in the sense that we understand the term.
Esau already had several wives before Jacob left home (a reason to assume the brothers were even older than the 20 we speculated on earlier). Esau seems to be very successful. Meanwhile Jacob's sons have not yet become the prophesied nation. One commentator contrasts the two brothers at this point; secular, worldly greatness seems to come earlier and more quickly than spiritual greatness. Waiting while others prosper is a test of one's faithfulness and perseverance. As we have seen in Jacob's life, spiritual growth is a long slow process.
This chapter doesn't seem to have a lot of application for us. When you come to what seems to be a difficult or uninteresting section like this in your devotional reading, ask yourself, what can this passage teach me about God? How does it fit into the big picture of the Bible? Keeping in mind the continuing thread of the promised Messiah gives a focus to the Old Testament. Genealogies are important to this focus, even if we don't find them inspirational to read. Finding names that we know from elsewhere in the Bible help us to connect people and events in a more meaningful way. If God cared enough to record the names of all these unknown people, does He care about you? How do you as a believer fit into God's big picture? Is life really about you, or is it about God?
1-4 What was the cause of this family problem? Wasn't this the problem in Jacob's childhood? Did Jacob gain insight from that earlier situation? Was Joseph guiltless in this family? He appears to have been a tattler, 2. Since this comment is not related to the later episode of checking on all the brothers in Shechem, it appears to be mentioned for the purpose of telling us something about Joseph. What is Joseph given that will become important later? This could have been a mark of Jacob's plan to give him the birthright that should go to the eldest son. Jacob had planned only to marry Rachel; Leah and the two maids were never his idea. Perhaps he sees Joseph as the legitimate firstborn. We see the term "wives" used loosely, as are many family terms, to include the concubines.
5-10 Was it Joseph's fault that he was his father's favorite? He was the first child of Jacob's favorite wife; it would be hard for a father NOT to father this child. Are we guilty of favoritism? Do we play one against the other or a child against the other parent? Some of the things we wrongly do as parents will affect our children negatively the rest of their lives and could be things they must struggle to overcome. Is polygamy God's plan for marriage and the family? Can you see why?
We know from the entire story of Joseph that he was extremely wise, intelligent and mature. From some clues in this chapter, we can assume that as the younger favored son, possibly being groomed to usurp the position of his elders, he had these qualities as a child, and Jacob recognized them. Jacob may even have made a greater attempt to teach Joseph spiritual values after seeing what his sons did at Shechem. Favored also implies spoiled, and we see from Joseph's words and actions that he felt and acted superior to his brothers. Pride and self-righteousness probably also figure into this picture. (He didn't have to tell his dream to the brothers.) When we read about the trials to come in Joseph's life, and how God later used him, we can see that God was working to humble him, to deal with pride, a lesson he apparently needed. Joseph was no perfect child; his own actions contributed to his fate as much as his father's did.
Do you think Joseph shared this information humbly and tactfully, or did he perhaps flaunt his dream of someday ruling over his brothers? Did these dreams fit right in with Joseph's superior attitude? Did the brothers understand the significance of the dream symbols? Were these dreams from God, or products of Joseph's inflated pride? The first dream was fulfilled, so could have been from God. But the second dream was not; his parents never bowed down before him. If the first dream was from God, it may have planted ideas in Joseph's mind that played to his pride and imagination. His thoughts may have dwelt on this dream so much that he was consumed with his own importance, and his own dreams reflected his pride. If you were his parent, how could you have tactfully handled the situation of him flaunting his dream, to defuse conflict?
Have we had conflicts with our siblings as we grew up? Looking back, can we see better ways we could have handled things? Why didn't we? We were immature, we couldn't foresee the future. Sometimes those things go on to plague our adult relationship with our siblings. Can anything be done now? Is it ever too late to go to someone and make amends?
How should we deal with our children's conflicts and help our children deal with their conflicts? Should we allow them to just work out their own problems on their own, should we give advice, should we sometimes lay the law down and say "that is NOT an acceptable way to act/talk"? When we tell them not to act a certain way, are we acting that way ourselves? Should we change our own ways, or tell our kids to do what we say, not what we do? Does God use child-raising as a means of helping us grow up? Do you know some single people and some childless people that seemed to miss out on those lessons? When you don't have children, it's easier to go on being selfish and immature. Having children helps you think about putting others before self.
9-10 Why does Jacob get huffy? Even he is finally annoyed at Joseph's superiority complex. We see "mother" used loosely to indicate someone other than Rachel, who has died; it probably refers to Leah. What do the 12 stars represent? The 12 brothers will become the 12 what? Where else in the Bible do we read of the sun, moon, and 12 stars? Rev. 12:1. Do you see why we interpret those symbols in Revelation as referring to Israel? Do you see how the Bible uses symbols and provides us with the interpretation? Some think that Israel is no longer in the picture or part of God's plan, or that where Israel is mentioned in the New Testament, it really means the church. But if you let the Bible say what it says, it has a great deal to say about Israel and God's future plans for that nation--plans that are different than plans He has for the church.
11 How do the brothers feel about Joseph? Why do you suppose Jacob reacted this way? He knew that sometimes God did speak to people. Perhaps he suspected that this was no ordinary dream but something of spiritual significance. However, we have no record that God had spoken to any of Jacob's sons as He had to Jacob, to Isaac, and to Abraham. We know that these dreams are prophetic of events to come.
12-14 Why were they pasturing at Shechem? Gen. 33:18-19. From Hebron to Shechem is about 50 miles. Jacob considered Joseph at age 17 capable of such a trip.
15-17 Dothan is another 20 miles further.
18-20 The brothers plot to do what? This shows the degree of hatred they had for Joseph. Jacob's self-centered feelings and Joseph's own arrogance have contributed heavily to this situation. Does that make the brothers guiltless? It doesn't matter what someone has done to provoke you; God still holds each of us responsible for our reactions. Is it ever true that you had no choice, that someone or something forced you to act or feel the way you did? Jacob, Joseph, and the brothers are all guilty and have some major problems that need dealt with. The next few chapters will show God dealing with all of them.
21-22 Which brother tries to keep them from killing him? What did he plan to do? We wonder if he was more tender-hearted, or felt a responsibility as the oldest. Perhaps he remembered the fiasco at Shechem; perhaps he felt guilty for not intervening then and exercising his leadership among the brothers.
23-24 What do they do to Joseph?
25-27 Now which brother shows some mercy? The next oldest after Reuben were Simeon and Levi, the two who slaughtered the men of Shechem. Judah was the next after them; apparently they had no qualms about shedding Joseph's blood. But what is Judah able to do?
28 Joseph is sold to who? Where were they headed?
Is it the end of the world for Joseph? Joseph's amazing story teaches what about God's ways? Rom. 8:28. Like Joseph, might any of us be seeing bad stuff going on, that seems out of our control, that seems like the end of the world? What is our human reaction? But as believers, when we stop and think about God's Word and God's ways, what should then be our response? Did this situation get resolved quickly? How long did it go on and even get worse? When things in your life are scary, study this story.
Ishmaelites/Midianites: some have pointed to this as a contradiction. Midianites were also known as Ishmaelites. Ishmael and Midian were both sons of Abraham, which would make these two groups of people closely related. That would be why they were traveling together, probably for protection.
29-30 What did Reuben's concern seem to be for?
31-35 Favoritism, hate among brothers, plotting death, selling Joseph, and now what? Jacob's ways apparently have taken root in his sons' attitudes. Even though Jacob continues to grow spiritually, he still does not have it "together" and he is reaping what he has sown. After our salvation comes the life-long process of spiritual growth, often a rocky road. Being a Christian does not guarantee an easy pleasant life.
Using a goat and its blood to deceive Jacob is a reminder of what? Gen. 27:8-10. 33, technically the brothers did not lie about Joseph's fate; can failing to tell the truth be a lie? Jas. 4:17. Which is more important, words, or intentions and motives? The sons have probably observed Jacob's own deceitful ways enough to be expert at his own game. We wonder if they are happy now, or plagued with guilt. 35, "all his daughters" implies that he had other daughters than just Dinah. We were probably told specifically about her because of the incident that involved. The other daughters are not important to the story of Jacob's life, as far as what God has chosen to reveal and record. Or the term could mean or include daughters-in-law.
36 What has happened to Joseph?
This chapter is a digression in the story of Joseph as we see a sinful incident in the life of which brother? Several interesting things can be noted, but the most interesting is found in 29, the birth of Perez (KJV, Pharez). What is significant about him? Compare Mt. 1:3 and Luke 3:33. Are all in this line pure examples of righteousness? Did Christ come in a line of pure sinless men? Are there any?
1-5 Does this marriage appear to be arranged by either father, as was the custom? Who named the first son? Who appears to have named the second and third sons? What might this indicate about this marriage or this woman?
6-10 Why did Er die? Why did Onan die? 8, this custom, to preserve the name and inheritance of the man, was known as Levirite marriage and would later become part of the Mosaic Law. Were Er and Onan godly, obedient sons? We have just seen in Gen. 37 how Judah was involved in the "Joseph Caper," and now we wonder how godly of a wife he had. Did he teach her about the true God and His ways? Was he an effective father, or was he like his father Jacob?
What do we learn here about God? Jacob and Judah may not be effective fathers, when it comes to sons who act deceitfully, but God is a perfect, righteous Father. Why doesn't God strike everyone dead for their sin? He does sometimes remove His own people. Compare Acts 5:1-11.
11-14 Why might Judah fear for his third son? Was he wicked and disobedient also perhaps? Apparently the third son Shelah wasn't old enough yet to fulfill this duty. 14, what injustice does Judah do to Tamar? After Judah's wife dies, what is Tamar's plan?
15-23 What does Judah think about Tamar? What do his actions tell us about his values? 21, what sort of prostitute did he think she was? This is before the tabernacle or the temple were built according to the Law of Moses; what temple would this be referring to? A pagan temple. Temple prostitutes (male and female) were a common part of pagan cults.
24-30 Why does Judah condemn her but not himself? We are often blind to our own faults and sins, even when we point out those same ones in others. Does Judah learn or grow through this ugly situation, 26? God is working on Judah, the one whose line will lead to the promised Messiah. In a few more chapters, we will see more evidence of growth and change in Judah.
When we fail God, is He through with us? Or does He use our sin and failures to teach us about Self--the need to distrust Self, to die to Self, to trust and obey God? What if we choose not to learn that lesson? Might we find ourselves on a continuing pattern of sin and failure until we learn the lesson? Just like in school, if we don't pass the test, we may have to take it over.
Judah is in the line of Christ, and so is this son. Apparently that's why this story is in the Bible. In the years between the sale of Joseph and his meeting with the brothers, surely many noteworthy events happened in the lives of each of the brothers as well as their father--God is always working in everyone's life. As much as we might like to know how each of them were doing in their own spiritual journey, the purpose of the Bible is not to tell us the life story of each character, but to relate key events that will teach us something about who God is, how He works in the lives of people, and how He is bringing about His sovereign plan.
This story, like the one about Dinah, reveals how the sexual immorality of the Canaanites rubbed off on the sons of Israel. Some commentators conclude that this story shows the necessity of Israel moving to Egypt. If they had stayed in Canaan, we already see how moral corruption was going to end up taking place. In Egypt, they would be kept separate because shepherds were an abomination to the Egyptians, so there would be no possibility of intermarriage. (Marriage within families was still genetically safe at this early stage of the gene pool. Later, as close marriages became unsafe, society placed taboos on such relationships, so that now we are conditioned to find them repugnant.) In Egypt, they would flourish as a people, and when they were numerous and strong, God would bring them back to their land, at which time they could successfully overpower the morally base Canaanites.
The story of Joseph, over the next several chapters, pictures what New Testament truth? In Rom. 8:28 it is stated in one sentence. But here we have that same truth told to us in story form, so that we can actually see a case history of just HOW God can work everything out for our good. Perhaps that is why we are given the detailed story covering many years, because that is the way it happens in life. J. Vernon McGee says there is no one in the Old Testament whose life more clearly shows the providence of God than Joseph. God works out His plan over our whole lifetime. That is hard for us to fathom, so we get easily discouraged.
So which method is clearer to your understanding--which do you like better? The one-sentence truth, or the actual example of someone's life? This is the neat thing about the Old Testament. It's just a different way of learning God's truths. Someone who has studied about Israel and the Jews said that they learn best in story form, which was why Jesus spoke to them in parables. Then I can also see why the Old Testament is told in story form, not in succinct summaries like the New Testament.
God never appeared to Joseph like he did to his forefathers. Yet Joseph knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was in control. So can we. Plus, we have the Bible and the indwelling Holy Spirit to teach us.
1 What is Joseph's situation?
2 Joseph is said to be successful, yet it speaks of his master; he is a slave. Doesn't this seem contradictory? Only to the human way of thinking. What does this reveal to us about God's way of thinking? Even if your circumstances are much less than ideal, the Lord is with you, and you can be "successful" in that situation. Many tend to think that success (as the world defines it) is a mark of God's favor and that negative circumstances are proof of sin in your life. Does the Bible teach this? Israel was indeed promised physical blessing in exchange for obedience, and curses in exchange for disobedience, but the church is promised spiritual blessings, not physical (Eph. 1:3). Jesus and His disciples were poor; Paul spent years in prison. Yet we New Testament believers are subtly influenced by this Old Testament thinking, especially those who don't see a distinction between Israel and the church. Don't we look at our ongoing less-than-ideal circumstances and grumble and doubt that God really loves us? We think that if He loves us, He will make everything "nicey-nicey." When we do thank and praise God, what is it generally for? Is it for when our circumstances FEEL good? Or is it that He is at work in this situation? Are the two synonymous? Our thanking and praising tend to be for selfish priorities, not for God's priorities. We need to start looking at our lives from a different perspective.
3-6 What is going on here that is part of God setting Joseph up for future administrative responsibilities over Egypt? This reminds me of Jesus' parable, about how a servant who has been faithful in something small will be commended and given responsibility over greater things (Mt. 25:14-21).
Do things "just happen" in our lives? What about all the interests and experiences you have had? Is there a reason that your life is made up of those things? Are they just a hodge-podge, or do you ever think that maybe in the future, you will see the purpose for them as God brings opportunities into your life that you will find you have been prepared for? In Joseph's story, we learn that God knows the future, is actively preparing us for it, and some of the ways He does it don't feel too good at the moment. This cannot be stressed too much! When we really start to grab hold of this truth, it will affect our attitude toward all the things in our lives that give us problem attitudes. Note also that Joseph always diligently applied himself and did the very best he could in each circumstance, no matter how discouraging.
7-20 Potiphar's wife. Sometimes trouble comes to us that we did not ask for. Sometimes we can even see it coming and are unable to head it off. But now, having read this story, how might we console ourselves if such a thing happens (or has already happened to us, which we are suffering from)? Was God testing Joseph to see if he was obedient? Joseph chose righteousness. Did it go better for him because of his choice? Was anyone happy about his right choice? Was he rewarded for doing the right thing?
What does this story teach about sexual temptation? Joseph was a young, healthy, single, successful, handsome young man. ARE we at the mercy of our hormones? CAN they be controlled? Today we are told that they can't be and shouldn't be. The Bible says they should and they CAN. Why was Joseph able to be so obedient to the Lord? Was he in the Bible daily, reading his copy of "Our Daily Bread," actively involved in his youth group, able to discuss his problems with his pastor/youth leader/Sunday School teacher/parent? Was there ANY support in his environment for a follower of God? However old he was when he was sold, probably about 17, he had a solid spiritual foundation. In spite of the sometime negative picture we get of Jacob and Rachel, somehow Joseph was taught well and had some spiritual maturity. What does Proverbs 22:6 say about how we raise our kids? It doesn't say they will never waver or temporarily depart. If you put down the solid foundation, God will take it from there.
20 Now what is Joseph's circumstance?
21-23 Again we see what almost sounds contradictory, AND how God is continuing to set him up for what the future will hold. Do we see Joseph discouraged, bitter, complaining? "I obeyed God--now when am I gonna 'get mine'?" He seems to feel, no matter what his circumstance, that he will do his best, be responsible, and try to be pleasing to the Lord. We can do that too, in our circumstances.
Joseph has an advantage over his brothers' upbringing, in that he has been the least exposed to his father's old ways and to Laban and his outfit. Whatever spiritual growth Jacob experienced will be seen most in Joseph's life, since he came along later in Jacob's life.
How does Joseph's story refute the teaching of many Christians who promise all believers God's physical blessings in return for faith? Joseph is one of the most godly people in the Bible. Yet trouble came to him, not of his own doing, and in great measure. And because we see the end result of God's plan, what can we conclude about trouble? IS it ultimately bad, in God's plan? In Joseph's case, later he did receive such blessings, but we see that troubles were also part of God's plan for him.
If Joseph were a member of our church, and we were praying for him in his troubles, would we be praying to have him brought back when he disappeared, or released from jail? We might. And it would not be wrong to do so. But this story demonstrates that what appears to be "bad" in our eyes may be exactly what God sent, for a reason that only He knows. I believe we should always pray for people in their troubles, but not necessarily that God would end their trouble as quickly as possible. I don't believe the Bible teaches that or gives us that example. We can pray that in their troubles, people would get their eyes more on God, draw closer to Him, learn to trust Him more, and grow spiritually.
Was it God's will for Joseph to be in prison? Doesn't the rest of the story show that in God's timing, it is necessary? Even the brothers' anger and evil actions toward Joseph were used of God to bring about His desired end. How encouraging to us, when we think of unhappy relationships we have, or have had in the past. God is able to bring good out of anything and everything. Otherwise, Rom. 8:28 is a LIE.
If Joseph went to a psychologist at this point, what would he probably be told? That he has every right to be angry, at everyone. That he is not dealing with his anger. That he is suppressing his anger, which is not healthy. That he comes from a dysfunctional family, etc. Many people are probably in such situations. But if we learn a different way of looking at life, not the world's way, we don't have to feel angry, helpless, bitter or victimized. We can be comforted and encouraged by knowing that God knows what He is doing, even though we don't.
1-2 These events seem unrelated to Joseph's situation. But they become important in fulfilling God's plan for his life. Doesn't this make you wonder about things happening in your life? Does anything just "happen"? What does Rom. 8:28 say?
3-4 "House" makes me wonder if this was really "jail." Maybe this was for minimum security prisoners. Who is the caption of the bodyguard? (39:1) This would make it easier to understand how one prisoner could be put in charge of the others.
5-8 Each man "had a dream." Everyone dreams every night, so this can't be talking about the normal type of dreams. They each have an unusual dream.
Should we be looking for God to speak to us in dreams today? Is this idea biblical? Yes, God spoke to some Bible people now and then through dreams. Do we find this happening mostly in the Old Testament or New Testament? Who was the only person in the New Testament who heard from God in a dream, Mt. 1:20? So should the church expect to hear God speaking through dreams? Even though he was a New Testament figure, was he part of the church? When does the church come into being? Acts 2.
8 Did Joseph take credit for his ability to interpret dreams? Each of us has abilities in different areas. When we think of using abilities for the Lord, we often think of preaching, teaching, leading, or music. Many feel they have no special abilities. But what are other abilities needed in the church? Organizing meals and events, directing or working in the children's program, keeping the building and grounds clean, office work, sound system, transportation, visiting or calling those who need help or encouragement, etc. When you use those abilities in ways you hope will serve God, be sure to ascribe your ability to God, whether out loud to others who may remark on what you did, or even inwardly to yourself, in your own thinking. Can natural abilities be used to serve God, or are we limited to using the biblical lists of spiritual gifts to serve God? Aren't natural abilities from God, as is everything we have, including life and health? At the time Joseph used his ability, was he rewarded? Was he thinking, "If I do this, God might use it prepare me to rule Egypt someday"? As we try to be faithful to use our abilities for the Lord, we have no idea how our faithful efforts, which at the time may seem unexciting, unrewarding or unnoticed, may be bringing about exactly what the Lord desires in our future.
9-13 The cupbearer's dream. He will be restored to his position in 3 days.
14-15 Joseph is still hopeful that he can get home. What do you think he expected to happen now? Don't you think he was sure at the moment that this was the way God was finally going to deliver him?
16-19 The baker's dream. We can learn something here about Bible interpretation. In his dream, do birds symbolize something good or something evil? In Matthew 13, Jesus gives a series of parables to illustrate what will be happening during the time before He returns (the end of the age, 13:40, 49). In 13:4 and 13:32, we have another instance of birds used symbolically, in parables. Compare Mt. 13:4 with the interpretation Jesus gives in 13:19. Then in 13:31-32, Jesus speaks of a tiny mustard seed that unnaturally grows to be a huge tree, and what nests in it? Many interpret this to mean that the church will grow bigger and bigger here on the earth until Christians have taken over the earth, and birds nesting implies a positive picture. Today many Christian groups engage in political activity for this reason. But if birds represent evil, what might Jesus be really saying? The organizational church will grow unnaturally huge and evil or negative influences will find a home in it. Compare in Mt. 13 the other indications that the age between Christ's first and second comings will be characterized by a blurring of good and evil. Tares resemble wheat; leaven (another symbol of sin or evil, compare Ex. 12:15,19, Mt. 16:6,11, Mark 8:15, I Cor. 5:8) growing and influencing all; seed sown will only result in a small percentage of fruitful believers. This is not to say that every mention of birds is a reference to evil; many times birds are spoken of literally. But in these instances--dreams and parables--birds are obviously spoken of symbolically.
20-22 Are Joseph's interpretations correct? When he saw that he had correctly interpreted, how do you think he felt? Perhaps more confident that God would fulfill his own earlier dream.
23 So was this Joseph's ticket out of jail? How long is he in? (41:1) When God didn't quickly "come through," did he give up on God and become bitter? Apparently not. God had His eye on His "clock," but it just wasn't time yet. Joseph couldn't see God's clock, but he knew God's character, that He is righteous, just, and sovereign over all. When God doesn't fulfill our expectations, is the problem with God or with our expectations? Rather than have expectations, which may or may not be realistic, we need to exercise faith, which will always be rewarded--in God's time.
1-8 What did Pharaoh dream?
9-13 Why did God need Joseph to be in jail at a certain time? And was his time in jail wasted? We see Joseph's bad times coming together for good.
14-15 Pharaoh calls for Joseph. Hebrews wore beards, Egyptians didn't. We'll see that Joseph becomes Egyptian in appearance, which is one reason why the brothers don't recognize him later.
16 What do we see about Joseph here? Does he take credit for his ability? Who does he draw Pharaoh's attention to? Witnessing is as simple as this; if you can see God's hand in everything in life, it is easy to naturally mention Him to others.
17-24 Pharaoh tells Joseph the dream.
25-31 Why would God tell Pharaoh what He was about to do? We've had several examples in this book of God speaking to leaders of nations BESIDES Israel. What other important leaders do we read about God dealing with? Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, Belshazzar, Cyrus, Herod, Felix, Caesar. This makes me wonder: Does God deal with all leaders of nations, coming to them in some way, giving them an opportunity to choose Him, to know Him, to know the truth, because they are in such positions of responsibility and in positions to influence so many people?
32 Here we have stated a biblical principle: When the Bible repeats something, we'd better pay close attention.
33-36 Perhaps Joseph thought this up immediately or perhaps God revealed this to him. He takes the initiative and boldly suggests, without being asked, what Pharaoh should do. Isn't this plan a wise course of action? When God blesses us with plenty, should we just up our standard of living? Or should we plan ahead and be a good steward of what God has trusted us with?
37-39 Doesn't Pharaoh seem to also have some discernment, to see that Joseph's wisdom was from God? Interestingly, he also recognizes that he has no one who could do better. Is he recognizing that the true and living God is the best god? Remember other places in the Old Testament that God gives rulers opportunities to see Him in action and recognize this fact.
40-44 The next step in the fulfillment of God's plan. Do you suppose he immediately realized this was the fulfillment of the long-ago dream? Don't you suppose he had spent hours and hours fantasizing about what it meant and how it might happen? Each time his life seemed to take a downward turn, it's not likely that he thought, "Ah, I can see how this might be fitting into my dream!" God's way up is often down. How can a study of Joseph's life help us to accept what is happened, or what has happened, in our own lives, to not get upset when things don't go as planned?
Why would Pharaoh so easily trust a non-Egyptian in this position? It is thought that the Pharaoh at this time was himself not an Egyptian, but some sort of Arab/Bedouin, a Hyksos king. Later the Hyksos kings were expelled from Egypt, which could figure in later when we find that a new king was not so friendly to Joseph.
45 Joseph is given an Egyptian wife, the daughter of the priest--of what sort of religion? Perhaps Pharaoh felt this was appropriate for a man of divine powers? Daughter of Potiphera; what name is this similar to? Could there be any relationship? Perhaps Potiphar was quite high and powerful in Egypt. After all, the prisoners thrown in with Joseph were also high-ranking, not thieves or murderers, and it almost sounds like the jail was in his house. God is setting Joseph up to be in the right place to meet the right people at the right time.
What might we wonder about Joseph's wife? Did she come to believe in God through Joseph's faith, or did she remain pagan, causing a thorn in Joseph's side for the rest of his life? Her father seems to be a religious higher-up, if not THE MAN. If she were to become a believer, what a difficult decision, with family pressure. Or might it be the means of also bringing her father to faith in the true God? What an interesting situation.
46 How old is Joseph when he begins his work? Many see Joseph as a type of Christ, and here is one similarity. What are others? Sent to his brothers; hated by brothers; sold by brothers; brothers conspired to kill him; unjustly accused; down into pit and then out (the cross, the tomb, the resurrection); obedient to father; tempted and resisted; became the savior of their world; Gentile bride.
47-49 It happens just as Joseph said; he takes care of everything.
50-52 What insight do we gain from the naming of his sons? He gave them Hebrew not Egyptian names. How did Joseph feel about the past years? God was not only grooming him for this moment--He was also dealing with Joseph's pride and self-righteousness. There were things that had to be pruned out of his life. If Joseph already had a high opinion of himself, can you imagine how he would feel if thrust into this powerful position? But God had humbled him--now He could use him. James 4:6,10.
53-57 Was the famine just in Egypt? Guess who's coming soon! It says people of all the earth came to get food in this famine; is this the fulfillment of Gen. 12:3? In a small sense, yes, but it is not THE fulfillment. It is a small, short-term, partial fulfillment. Bible prophecies often have both a near, partial fulfillment and a complete, long range fulfillment. The partial often happens in the lifetime of those to whom it was given, but does not completely and literally fulfill the prophecy, so we can know there is more yet to be fulfilled. Many prophecies which have already been completely fulfilled can be seen to fit this pattern. This is important to know, because we also see partial but not complete and literal fulfillment of other prophecies, and can know that in the future God will fulfill them completely and literally.
So are we to assume that when things are looking bad, success and riches are ahead if we just hang in there and believe? Joseph's story ends that way. Does that make this a promise for the church? For Israel, physical blessings are promised for obedience, Deut. 28, but we don't find this in the New Testament. We are told to be prepared for afflictions because of our faith. John 16:33, Acts 14:22, Rom. 8:35, II Cor. 1:5, Phil. 1:29-30, I Thes. 3:3, II Tim. 3:12, I Pet. 4:12-19. There are no New Testament/church examples of riches/success. Learn to distinguish between Old Testament/Israel, New Testament/church, law/grace (study Galatians). What kind of blessings are the church promised in Eph. 1:3? This distinction plays a major role, maybe THE major role, in your interpretation of the Bible, especially the different interpretations of Revelation and endtimes. This is also where we find that Christians disagree on how big a role works play in our salvation. If you don't distinguish between Israel and the church, you take the things said to Israel (law-keeping, obedience, and works, which was all valid during the age of law) and apply them to New Testament believers in the age of grace.
1-3 I can imagine God rubbing His hands together, smiling and saying, "I just love it when a plan comes together!" How long had the brothers been silently keeping their secret about Joseph? What had they told their father had happened to him? What can happen to you when you engage in deception for so long? Hardness of heart can develop; psychosomatic illness can develop; or conviction of sin can do its work.
Some believe it is always God's will for us to be wealthy and successful. Why did God allow this famine in their lives? Will He use it for their ultimate good? Might He not do that with unpleasant circumstances He allows in our lives too?
4 Jacob has not forgotten his great pain in losing Joseph. Perhaps this is evidence that he doesn't trust his sons. Who knows what they would let happen to Benjamin? Surely with Joseph gone, he as Rachel's only son would now be the favored son also.
5 What term do we see used here for the first time? Later this term will be applied to the Israelites as a nation, but we see its literal origin here.
6 Here we have it! I wonder if Joseph foresaw this possibility ahead of time, or if he thought that all the people of Egypt and elsewhere bowing to him was the symbolic fulfillment of the sun/moon/stars. It has now been 21 years or more.
7-8 The plot thickens more.
9-14 Could Joseph have forgotten about the dream? "Remembered" has the connotation of "being mindful of, think on." It doesn't mean he had forgotten. We find the same terminology used of God; He remembered Noah, Gen. 8:1. He remembered Abraham, Gen. 19:29. He remembered His covenant, Ex. 2:24. Is God forgetful? Is He like us? No, but there are times when the writer points out that at a certain point, God was mindful of something or someone in particular, and explains God's actions at that point.
As with his suggestion to Pharaoh, Joseph seems to think on his feet and quickly come up with plans. Or perhaps he had fantasized about this possibility and had a plan ready.
15-17 Who does he want to see? Have they told him the truth about Benjamin, or have they lied, like they did about him to their father? He gives them a taste of their own medicine. He lets them know he is dead serious and has the power to enforce what he wants.
18-20 Would they have been shocked by his belief? We tend to think the knowledge of God was basically limited to Abraham's family, but perhaps not. Joseph never misses a chance to mention God, to give Him the credit. That's a good way to let people know you are a believer. We see more and more of this in sports on TV. Yet we also think of the parable of the wheat and tares…
Joseph is testing the brothers; have they changed, he wants to know? Would they still be willing to abandon one brother? God has been working in his life, changing him. He wants to know if God has also been working on them and changing them.
Have you ever asked God to change your spouse (or someone else in your life), but nothing changes? Have you had the uncomfortable experience of instead hearing God say, "Quit worrying about that person--it's YOU I want to change. What I do about that person is My business, not yours." Have you thought indignantly, "OK, I'm not perfect, but THEY are the one with the big problem! MY problems are little problems!" But God just keeps saying, "YOU are the one I want to change." You cannot change the other person; all you can change is yourself. There is no problem relationship where only one person needs to change; even if you are not overtly to blame, your way of reacting to that other person probably needs to change. Perhaps you need to stop being controlling, or stop blowing up at them, or mouthing off at them, or driving them to do what they do. Or perhaps you need to stop being a doormat and allowing them to get by with acting that way, allowing them to think their behavior is acceptable. Perhaps you need to stop preaching at them, or ignoring them, or crying all the time, or badmouthing them to other people.
Do you think Joseph had prayed that God would punish his brothers? Do you think he had desired vengeance? If vengeance is necessary, won't God bring this about, in His own way and time? Does He really need us to make suggestions about the best way to do it? God will discipline effectively and with the right motives; our motives are always tainted. But I believe that over the years, Joseph had become convicted of his own sins of pride and self-righteousness. We don't know the process, but we see the outcome of God's patient dealing with him, and now we are seeing the outcome of God's dealing with the brothers. Because God WILL deal with those other people we are concerned about, although not maybe in the way and the time-frame we want, maybe not in a way we can see. But continuing to point at others is merely a way that Self deceives us into thinking it's not us. We have to come to grips with the problem of Self.
21 The brothers' reaction. Have their consciences been dead all these years, or has God been changing them like He has been changing Joseph? Does it seem they are repentant? They instantly recognize the connection between this situation and their sin of long ago. They actually confess, and Joseph hears them. They recognize that they deserve what they are now getting. When things go badly in our lives, do we think, "I don't deserve this!" Or do we realize that as sinners, we don't deserve anything from God; any good that happens to us is by His grace, not because we deserve it.
22 Reuben, the oldest--"I told you so!" He recognizes God's hand of judgment on them now.
23-24 What does he weep for? Is it for learning what Reuben had tried to do for him at the time? And all these years he had not known it? Or is it because he realizes that they are truly repentant, after all these years of wondering? And that he can't say anything yet to make it OK, because first he must keep his leverage to get Benjamin there?
Why keep one brother? Will they be willing to sacrifice another brother--to leave him in bonds in Egypt as they did Joseph? He is testing them. Why might he have chosen Simeon? He just learned that Reuben, the oldest, had not gone along with the rest, and therefore Simeon, being next oldest, would be held responsible. What had Simeon been involved in back in Gen. 34 that gave us some insight into his nature?
25-28 He puts their money in their sacks. If you found your money returned in your shopping bag, wouldn't you see that as a lucky occurrence? A praise-the-Lord? But not now. Joseph purposefully adds to their guilt. Who do they see at work in their situation? What does this tell us about them?
29-38 They return home and tell Jacob; he has a fit. Do we see him as still cocky and manipulative, sure he can get what he wants, no matter what he has to do to get it? Do we see him as a man of faith? Somewhere in between? Compare Jacob's reaction to his trials with Joseph's reaction to his trials. Is this situation, and everything in his life, really against him? Or is Rom. 8:28 true? Just because things feel bad and don't appear to make sense, does that make Rom. 8:28 untrue? We can choose to believe it or not believe it, but God says it is true. What if a believer dies who has had much trouble, and we can't see even at that point how the difficulties in their life worked out for good? Does it say the good is always in this life? It may or may not be. God is preparing us for greater responsibilities in the next life. When Christ rules in His kingdom on this earth, resurrected believers will rule with Him, and we will be given positions of responsibility commensurate with how faithful we were in our earthly responsibilities, Mt. 25:14-23, Luke 19:11-19. There are also rewards--crowns, not for our own glory but so we will have something to give back to Him, Rev. 4:10. God is still working in Jacob's life, teaching him things, just as He is Joseph and the brothers. Jacob and Joseph had been tested by God; now the brothers are also being tested.
1-12 The brothers talk Jacob into letting them return with Benjamin. Judah was the one who came up with the plan to sell Joseph, in 37:26. Has God been working in his life? What special role will Judah play in God's plan for the ages, Gen. 49:10? Who will later come in his line? 6, who is Jacob's first concern for? "Poor me."
13-14 What does this tell us about Jacob? He finally seems able to recognize that if things don't turn out the way he wants, he can't change it or make things happen or manipulate anyone. Is this part of learning to trust God something that we too go through? When we first begin to learn this type of accepting, to finally recognize our total lack of ability, at first it might feel cynical or defeatist. Is that what God wants, for us to give up, to quit? Is that harder for some people to learn than others? It is harder for those who are most determined to do it themselves or have it their way, or are used to having things their way. It's like working with an unbroke or problem horse, and all the things you do to them to get them to give to you, to try to figure out what YOU want from them. This is very similar to the way God works with us to get us to give to HIM, when we are used to putting Self first. The spoiled ones are a lot tougher to reteach than the young unstarted ones.
How do you feel after you finally quit fighting God, and then things happen that weren't what you wanted? You've quit demanding, being angry, telling God what to do, helping God. Then--? Do you experience instant joy and peace? Not necessarily. It might be more like quiet submission. Finally it dawns on you that God will have His way no matter what, and how ridiculous you were to fight it, or to think you could change His mind, or to tell him "that" was NOT the best thing for you! How audacious! Yet it often takes us quite a long time to get to that important place of yielding. It still doesn't mean you like it, but you can accept it. Once you accept it, then it's almost ludicrous to look back and see how you resisted God. You wonder why you didn't see sooner that this is the only way to peace.
15-25 Like Jacob, God also put the brothers in a situation in which things are out of their control. They are helpless; Joseph can do with them as he pleases, and they know it, but they need food, so they must comply. Are they going to feel like bragging that they had dinner with the "vice-president?" The honor is ruined by guilt. When we have guilt in our lives, doesn't it put a damper on joy that we might otherwise have?
26-31 Joseph is reunited with his brothers. He still doesn't reveal himself. How does he react when he sees his younger brother after all these years?
32 The Hebrews were shepherds, an abomination to the Egyptians. Later this would keep intermarriage from being a problem.
33-34 Being seated in the proper order would make them think Joseph had special powers.
This incident pictures a Bible truth about repentance and fellowship (pictured by eating together). The Bible says our sin separates us from God, Is. 59:2; to have fellowship with God, we must first repent, I John 1:5-10. This is mirrored in the New Testament teaching on church discipline that says, if a sinning brother refuses to repent, not to associate with him, not even to eat with him, I Cor. 5:11.
So how would you summarize what has happened in this chapter to Jacob, Judah, Joseph, all the brothers?
In this chapter, we see that Joseph's plan is to further test the brothers. He wants to know how they really feel about their father, what they are willing to do to him. And how they feel about the other favorite son, and what they are willing to do to him.
1-5 A question arises here about divination. Does Joseph really engage in this practice? Or is this what he tells the brothers so they will be worried? Is this evidence of sin in Joseph's life? Was Joseph sinless?
What is divination? The art or practice that seeks to foresee or foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge, often by means of the interpretation of common objects: the flight of birds, the entrails of sacrificed animals, the direction in which a pendulum swings, crystals, lines in the palm, cards, tea leaves, dice, the arrangement of stars and planets, etc.
What does the Bible say about divination? Deut. 18:10-11. Note what all is lumped together here in this category of sins. Does it say that these things are fake? Deut. 18:12, Lev. 19:26,31, 20:27. Is all supernatural power from God? Ex. 7:10-8:7. If it is not from God, who is the only other possible source? Is his power equal to God's? Compare Ex. 7:12, 8:19-20.
Is this something that is still around in our culture? If so, we need to be careful. Aren't people, even Christians, maybe especially kids, curious about these things, and might we think it is all innocent, or even "entertainment," especially if we don't "believe in it"?
Keep in mind that this (Gen. 44) takes place before the Law (Ex. 20), so perhaps he did do these things and it wasn't considered sin because it wasn't yet revealed at that time to be odious to God. Before the Law, there was no written revelation from God.
I believe this is the case with tongues, prophecy, the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, in the early New Testament church. They did not have the written gospels or epistles, or perhaps a copy was passed around. How would they remember everything it said? God could use those supernatural gifts to remind them of His words which they had read in an epistle or heard from the mouth of a traveling apostle. Later generations, having God's complete written word compiled and available, would have no need for those temporary means.
What about water witching? This is probably the most accepted form of divination, even by Christians. Just because something works, is it OK for the Christian? It definitely works, but only for some people. Is a scientific principle at work, or something else? Do the principles of gravity or inertia only work for some people? What does this tell us? One author admitted he didn't understand why it worked, but explained how to do it. He then continued to explain that you didn't even have to walk around the physical location--you could lay out a topographical map on a table and accurately water witch the map. He said you could also do it by holding a pendulum over the map and observe how it began to swing and in which direction. He explained that you could also search for particular minerals by holding the pendulum over the map on the table while holding a sample of the desired mineral in your other hand. It is clear that scientific principles were not at work here but indeed, divination.
Hosea 4:12 refers to the "diviner's wand" in connection with idolatry and spiritual harlotry. Dowsing for water can be done with a rod or stick of some sort, and can also be done with a pendulum. Pendulums are used to "divine" many types of information, not just water--even as to whether an unborn child is male or female. Are these innocent pursuits than a Christian should engage in, or get information from others who use this source of information?
Someone in an organization for the paranormal admits that the force behind dowsing is the same force that is behind ouija boards and table tilting. This is an amazing admission. Christians who engage in dowsing say that it is biblical and that they have prayed about it and look at this ability (which not all have--so how can it be scientific?) as a gift from God. But when the Bible clearly condemns divination, praying about what God has already forbidden puts you in the same position as Balaam, who continued to ask God if he could do what God had already forbidden--after all, there was money at stake. Yes, God allowed him to, and the Bible warns against his sin, II Pet. 2:15, Jude ll. God will not stop us from doing what we want to do, and may even give us what we disobediently desire, but beware, Psalm 106:15. Here is a webpage critiquing dowsing from a Christian perspective: http://iclnet93.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/cri/cri-jrnl/crj0099a.txt
What about if you have engaged in these activities in the past? Many Christians believe that engaging in these activities, whether before or after you were saved, gives Satan a foot in the door and opens you up to demonic oppression. I'm not sure if this is true or biblically supported. (The Bible does not teach that believers can be controlled by a demons or need to have any demons cast out of them.) But if you think this may be a factor in your spiritual life, make sure you have confessed and repented of those activities. Many Christians who have come out of New Age or the occult warn against such seemingly harmless activities as "gateway" experiences that subvert your Christian life or make you more susceptible to deception and open to further, more dangerous experimentation.
Whether Joseph engaged in divination or lied about it to manipulate his brothers, we see that Joseph has his faults. We must even wonder about Joseph's entire strategy of deception (a strong tendency that we have seen in this family line). Of course he used it for good, but then we must ask if the end justifies the means? This is an issue that Christians face all the time. It is so easy to set Bible characters up on a false spiritual pedestal. But they were all regular people, just like us. God uses ordinary people, with flaws; are there any other kind?
6-13 What is the purpose of Joseph's scheme?
14-15 This makes it sound like he may just want to scare them into thinking that he "knows" things about them. Who appears to have assumed family leadership? As we saw in the last chapter, Judah plays a pivotal role in God's plan for the ages, and God has done some major pruning in his life.
16 If so, did it work? Who is the spokesman for the brothers?
17 Will they also let Benjamin go into slavery? This is the question that Joseph is determined to find the answer to. He wants to know what is truly in his brothers' hearts, years after they treated him so wrongly. Have they changed or not? What has been going on all these years in their lives?
18-34 What does Judah's speech reveal about his own heart? (Finally Joseph learns what the brothers told or allowed Jacob to think happened.) Is he angry that he allowed himself to be trapped in this situation by the "doting old man?" Or does he seem sincerely concerned for his father? Judah is willing to take his brother's punishment. Centuries later, a descendant of his will also offer to do that…
We saw that Jacob was learning to trust God more and more. But in this passage, who else does he seem to need as much as God? Don't we sometimes believe that we absolutely need a certain person, whether a spouse, or child, or parent? ("I just couldn't go on without him/her.") Or maybe it's some THING? (I'll never be happy until I have THAT.) Or some PLACE? (I'm staying HERE no matter what; I'll live anywhere but THERE.) Do we really need that? What if God said, "No--I'm afraid not"? Never put yourself in the situation of having to find out. God wants to be first in our lives. If we insist that we really need that thing so much, are we truly trusting God to be everything we need? God may have to come to you and say, "I want to have first place in your heart. I want you to need ME more than you need that. If I ask you to give that up, could you? Could you trust me enough? Do I really more to you than anything or anyone, even THAT person or THAT thing?" Have you ever had Him do that in your life? Is that what Jesus was saying to the rich young ruler, Luke 18:18-23?
1-2 What might Joseph's feelings be? He's seen repentance in several of the oldest brothers, probably in all, although we are not told all their conversations, which he has overheard.
3 What happens? What various and conflicting feelings do they probably have?
4-8 He immediately reassures them, knowing their fear that he will punish them. He clarifies to them what God has been doing through all this trial. Would you feel joyful if you were the brothers? They were torn between joy, relief, guilt, fear and just total shock.
Joseph engineered a prolonged test for the brothers. Does God engineer prolonged testing situations in our lives, sometimes lasting for years, to bring us to the point where He wants us? He wants us to humble ourselves, recognize and admit our sinful nature, admit His ways are best; not only before we become Christians, but also after. Isn't it just as hard after as it was before? Pride--Self--is strong and hard to deal with, no matter how long you've been a believer. Might someone else who had gone through what Joseph did, react differently to his brothers at this point? What might cause the difference in reaction? The ability to recognize God's hand in your life, even in your pain and tragedy.
9-15 Joseph's plan--or is it God's plan? Could Joseph possibly know how his actions are fitting into God's ultimate plan for Israel? Here is another example of how we exercise our own choices and decisions--free will--and yet God in His sovereignty somehow has engineered things so that our free choices work into His overall plan. He isn't wondering what we will do next, so that He must then revise His plan. He knows everything in advance, and His plan uses our every action, even our sinful ones, in His plan.
16-23 Joseph sends for his family.
24 Just because an old wound had been healed, does that guarantee that from now on, everything will be hunky dory for them? Or for us? We still have the old nature, and even after we think we have a problem whipped, Satan will try to get us to fall into it again. We might have to deal with it over and over again. Once he finds a trick that works on us, a weakness, a blind spot, he milks it for all its worth. That's why we are warned so often to beware, be on guard. The Bible tells us Satan sets snares for us. I Tim. 3:7, II Tim. 2:26. Snares only trap the unwary.
26-28 What a shock to poor old Jacob. What do you suppose went through his mind? Did the brothers "fess up?" We are not told, but surely Jacob eventually hears the truth either from the brothers or from Joseph. THEN what goes through his mind? Thoughts about them? Thoughts about himself as a father? Thoughts about himself as a son and brother? Thoughts about reaping what you sow?
God had told Abraham about this in Gen. 15:13.
1-7 Why do you suppose God took special care to make sure Jacob knew it was OK to go to Egypt? 13:15, 17:8, 26:1-4, 28:13-15.
8-27 A listing and numbering of all who went. There are several different ways the descendants can be calculated, considering some who had already died, some who were already in Egypt, and some who may actually have been born in Egypt after the migration.
28-30 Which brother is in the position of family leadership? We have seen this developing. Joseph is finally reunited with Jacob. How might Jacob feel about what has happened to Joseph?
Sometimes in our lives we have an opportunity for a family crisis to be put behind us, perhaps stemming from years of misunderstandings and painful relationships. We have a choice: to hang onto our bitterness and smoldering resentment, or to just accept where things are now and accept the other person. Perhaps something has now happened to bring us to a crisis, or perhaps God has just been speaking to us about our attitude. Which will we choose?
31-34 Since the Egyptians loath those who herd livestock, and if the sons of Israel live separately, they will not be intermarrying or assimilating the idolatrous ways of their neighbors. God's plan will allow them to maintain and strengthen their own national identity. Who will they marry? Remember, marrying close relatives was not yet forbidden by the Law, and apparently was still not yet genetically dangerous or socially unacceptable at this point in man's history. We saw that the children of Adam and Eve would have married one another, and that would not be a problem at that time. In another 400 years, God will give Moses the Law that will regulate those practices so that they will not cause genetic problems, and then it will be considered incest.
It is also interesting that Egypt in the Bible appears to symbolize "the world." Compare Heb. 3:16 with 3:17-4:11, where Israel had enough faith to come out of Egypt (saving faith) but not enough faith (to follow God in daily obedience) to enter the Promised Land (the place of rest and blessing); they wandered in the wilderness (the place of disobedience and hardness of heart) instead. We see in I Cor. 10:1-11 that Israel's history is also a spiritual analogy for the church. How does Jesus identify Himself in John 10:11,14? So we have an interesting picture: the world finds the Shepherd to be abominable.
1-6 Joseph had told them to mention livestock or shepherding. This would make Pharoah inclined to allow them to live off by themselves, as they desire.
7 Pharoah meets Jacob, Jacob blesses him.
8-10 What is Jacob's assessment of his life? Had his life been easy or difficult? Does he think he's hot stuff, that he's got the world by the tail? Does it sound like he is characterized by pride? Does he recognize and admit that for much of his life, he has failed to trust God, to walk by faith? Who does he compare himself to? Favorably or unfavorably? Abraham is a significant Bible figure, but interestingly, there are more chapters in Genesis devoted to Jacob and his family than to Abraham. There is much we can learn from the story of Jacob's life, even though he didn't do everything just right. Did God only choose and use "spiritual giants"? Is there any such thing? Can He use us, even if we often fall on our faces, spiritually-speaking? Does the Bible record everything that happened in Jacob's life? There is obviously much more to his story, but we are only told certain parts. What word does he use to refer to his life? (sojourning, NASB = pilgrimage, KJV) What does that tell us about his view of life? "This world is not my home, I'm just a-passing through…." Lev. 25:23, Heb. 11:13, I Pet. 1:17, 2:11. How should these verses influence our view of life, our priorities?
Jacob has made some bad decisions in his life that have negatively influenced the outcome of his life--haven't we all? But doesn't God use those decisions and those outcomes to accomplish His purposes and to bring out change in our lives? It's easy to look back at some of those things and think that those things "happened" to us, but we need to be honest. Did they really happen to us, or did we do them or bring them on because of choices we made? Did we "do" them, or did they "happen"? We need to take responsibility for our choices. If we don't, then we don't see our wrong choices and actions as things that we need to humbly confess. We can blame them on others. This can be one of the roadblocks to Christian maturity.
Jacob compares the length of his life to that of his forefathers. (Apparently he believes he is about at the end of his life.) Lifespans had originally been in the 900's and have been gradually decreasing. The decrease is seen particularly after Noah and the flood. This is evidence for recent creation and a global flood, as a literal reading of Genesis demands. The entrance of sin and death in Gen. 3 introduces the possibility of sickness and mutations. The flood would bring changes in climate and atmosphere which would further impact lifespans. Adam died at 930, Noah at 950, Shem at 600, Eber at 464, Peleg at 239, Terah at 205, Abraham at 175, Isaac at 180, and Jacob will die at 147. Joseph will die at 110. Lifespans will then be more or less stable until today.
13-26 Famine continues. The Egyptians spend all their money on food. They sell all their livestock for food. They sell their land and themselves as slaves. Joseph resettles them in cities, near the food supply. He gives them seed, but taxes a fifth of the crop.
27 How is Israel faring as a group?
28-31 Jacob lives how long in Egypt? He requests what? Why was it important to be buried in Canaan? This an indication of his belief in God's promises about inheriting the land, and in physical resurrection. He wanted to be resurrected in their land where he would inherit those promises. Compare Dan. 12:13. Israel's promises are about the physical land of Canaan. The church's promises are spiritual, Eph. 1:3--not the same things God promised Israel.
1-4 Jacob reiterates to Joseph only two of the three promises of the Abrahamic covenant. Those two are important to them. He doesn't mention the third promise; this promise will be fulfilled in the future. However, perhaps Jacob thought that it was fulfilled in Joseph being a blessing to all the nations as he provided food throughout this worldwide famine (Gen. 41:56). We often see Bible prophecies being partially fulfilled in the immediate future, in the lifetime of this to whom it was given, yet a complete fulfillment is only found in the future. Watch for this two-level fulfillment as we go through the Bible. Here we even see Joseph as a "type" of Christ: rejected by his brothers (the Jews), sent to Eqypt (which often pictures the world in the Bible--the world system without God), then providing grain (seed, the bread of life, compare Mt. 13:1-23 and John 6:32-51) for all the world, both Jews and Gentiles.
5-7 Why are Ephraim and Manasseh later counted as heads of tribes, instead of the tribe of Joseph? At this point, Jacob adopts them, for purposes of inheritance. The tribe of Levi will not be counted as a tribe for purposes of inheriting a territory; as priests, they will be scattered throughout the other tribes. But Joseph's later sons will be considered as Joseph's sons, not Jacob's.
What is Jacob saying here about Rachel? Jacob probably considered Rachel as his true wife, even though Leah was also his wife. His plan had been to marry Rachel and Rachel only; Leah was Laban's doing, and Bilhah and Zilpah, the two maids, were Rachel's and Leah's doing. If Rachel had been his only wife, who would have been Jacob's firstborn son? This may have something to do with his attitude of favoritism toward Joseph, and why here he gives Joseph a double portion.
8-9 He will bless them.
10-20 What does he do that is reminiscent of his own youth? But this time it is not done by scheming or deception. The right hand gives the greater blessing. We see the continuing pattern of God not necessarily choosing the oldest, that natural birth does not commend us to God. What kind of birth does? John 3:1-6.
15 What do we learn about Jacob here? This is what he can say on his deathbed, with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. Was God his shepherd in his early years, or only later? Is God at work in our lives even when we are not aware of it, even when it doesn't appear that He is? When we get a glimpse of this truth, it helps us to have more faith. When we are tempted to "walk by sight" we can instead remind ourselves that God is at work even though we can't see it or feel it at the moment. This is "walking by faith."
15-16 The parallel construction of the end of 15 and the beginning of 16 points to the fact that this angel is whom? Gen. 22:11. Perhaps we can see a reference here to Jacob's understanding of the Trinity; the three references to God appear to reflect the identity of the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the Son.
19-20 We will see, later in the Old Testament, particularly Hosea, that sometimes Israel is referred to by the name "Ephraim," particularly the northern kingdom, in the days of the divided kingdom.
21 He has faith in what God has promised. Why didn't he just send them back? Maybe he realized that, just as God appeared to him several times and told him to move, He would tell them when it was time to return to Canaan.
In looking back over Jacob's life, and his spiritual journey, we see earlier his old nature was predominent, and in the end, his new nature is. This is one of the big struggles of the Christian life. Dealing with Self, the flesh, the old nature, is what brings Christian maturity. What is Self? According to Luke 9:23, how are we to treat Self? When we think "old nature," don't we tend to think of a nasty, mouthy, temperamental, out-of-control nature? In many, Self lashes out, stepping on others, manipulating others, hurting others. But in many, Self is weak, timid, paralyzing us with fear. Doesn't this person also need to learn to deny Self? Both sets of attitudes show lack of reliance on God. The Bible has much to say about not being fearful, timid, or anxious. Ps. 91:5, Prov. 3:25-26, Mt. 6:25-34, Mt. 8:26, Luke 10:41, John 14:1,27, Rom. 8:15, Phil. 4:6, I Tim. 1:7, Heb. 2:14-15, I John 4:18. According to Eph. 6:10, are we to be weak doormats? Does it say this strength comes from Self? Does it tell us to develop our own strength? Many Psalms speak of not having fear. Like Jacob, we may find that dealing with Self is a lifelong project.
22 "One portion more:" apparently Jacob acquired a piece of land from the Amorites. "Portion" in Hebrew is same word as for Shechem, which is where Joseph is later buried (Josh. 24:32), a way of showing that this piece of land was his own. It is also referred to in John 4:4-5, in the story of the woman at the well.
1-2 Jacob's prophetic deathbed remarks to each son.
3-4 Does Reuben receive the preeminence that the firstborn usually receives? Why not? He forfeited his position. We saw that he was not the leader of the band of brothers. Does God always choose and use the person who appears to be the best bet, humanly speaking? Rather than appearances, or human qualifications, what does God look at?
5-7 Simeon and Levi are the next oldest, but do they receive great honor? What incident is Jacob referring to, 34:25-31? We will see later that God sometimes commands the Israelites to slaughter whole peoples as they struggle to conquer the land God gave them, but here we see that what they did was wrong--vengeance and acting apart from God's revealed will. Jacob did not appear to do or say much about it at the time, but here we see that he was disgusted by it, enough to penalize both sons as to their future roles and inheritance. A principle taught throughout the Bible, for both believers and unbelievers, is that you reap what you sow.
8-9 The fourth brother, Judah, receives the preeminence. Rev. 5:5 refers to Jesus, the Messiah, in what terms?
10 Why is this verse important? Shiloh has been rendered, "peace/rest," also, "whose it is," "to whom it belongs" ("it" being the scepter, the crown). Who alone will bring peace and rest? What do the scepter and crown imply? Who will have the obedience of all the peoples? Phil. 2:10. Ez. 21:27, when the throne was taken from Zedekiah, it was prophesied that there would be no one else in the line of David to sit on the throne until the Messiah comes. As we go through the Old Testament, we will not only be following Israel, but will be watching what happens in this particular line. God promised Adam and Eve a deliverer; He promised Abraham that He would come from his descendants, through the line of Isaac, not Ishmael; through Jacob, not Esau; and now, through Judah's line. We have seen much spiritual growth in Judah, from the days when he participated in the plot to get rid of Joseph, through the loss of two of his sons who were displeasing to the Lord and how that must have affected him, and to the resulting incident with Tamar where his hypocritical heart was revealed to himself and others. We are not given many details, but as we see Judah before Joseph in Egypt, it appears that over the years, he has been dealing with Self, with the old nature, and has developed a real humility and maturity. Isn't this how God works in our lives? Over time, through trials and errors? But don't we struggle with impatience, wanting instant change (which seldom happens) and instant blessing?
11-12 What is the significance of the vine? Compare Hosea 9:10, 10:1--a commonly used Bible symbol for Israel, as is the fig tree, Hosea 9:10. What does the mention of the donkey's colt remind us of, Mt. 21:1-5? Compare the reference to wine and blood to Is. 63:2. Wine and milk speak of abundance--a poetic way of describing the land of Israel, the land of milk and honey. When will the Messiah rule? According to Rev. 20:4,6, the thousand-year reign of God's kingdom on earth will follow Christ's return to earth (Rev. 19:1-16) at the end of the seven years of tribulation (Rev.6-18). The kingdom will be characterized by abundance; it will be the golden age, Jer. 31:10-14.
13-21 Jacob speaks of the other brothers.
22-26 Jacob has the most to say about Joseph, yet he is not the chosen line. Ephraim means "fruitful." What does Jacob mean by archers attacking him? 24, what commonly used Bible symbols are used here? How does Jacob refer to God in 25? Reading between the lines, what can we learn here about Jacob's faith, his life, his present walk with God? Are there things we don't learn about God until after we have walked with Him for many years? If older, more mature believers share those insights with the younger generation, might they learn things about God that they might otherwise only learn the hard way?
27 Jacob addresses Benjamin, the youngest son.
28-32 What does Jacob want? He chooses not to be buried with his favorite wife, for she was not buried in the family burial site. Here we see his priorities. Why would he care where he is buried? Why in Canaan, why with his fathers? What did God promise Abraham in 12:1-3? How long would they have this land, 13:15, 17:8? God said repeatedly that they were to live there, to return there. What will happen in the future, as Daniel is told in Dan. 12:13? Compare Ez. 37, Rom. 11:29.
33 Jacob dies. Jacob had many faults, but he understood and desired God's blessing, passed that legacy on to his sons, and he grew in faith throughout his life. The stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his sons show how God works in the lives of real people--people with plenty of faults and problems--in marriages and families, over several generations as the knowledge of God is passed down--sometimes effectively, sometimes not so effectively. We can see how some faults and strengths are passed down through families, whether by inheritance, teaching, or example. We can learn from them through both positive and negative examples of family dynamics and spiritual journeys. Family relationships can be stressful, but we see that God is always at work, even though His working may not be seen or understood at the time. We are to have faith that He is in control, we are to obey even in difficult circumstances, and we are to conduct ourselves within the family circle in a way that is honoring to God.
1-3 Jacob is embalmed. The Egyptians mourned for Jacob for a period two days short of the mourning period for a Pharoah; they had great respect for Joseph.
4-6 Joseph gets Pharoah's permission to go bury Jacob. Where did Jacob want to be buried? Why? What had God promised about the land and about Abraham's seed? Gen. 12:1-3. Had this promise been fulfilled? Did Jacob believe it would be literally fulfilled? Has it happened yet? Does God always keep His Word? The Abrahamic covenant is the framework for not only Genesis but for the rest of the Bible. It encompasses God's plan for Israel as well as for the church. Jacob did not know the timetable; God reveals quite a bit of that timetable to Daniel. We will learn more details as we study the rest of God's Word.
7-14 A big to-do for the Egyptians as well as the family. This indicates how highly Jacob was thought of in Egypt as well as to the importance of Joseph. Is it wrong for believers to sorrow over the death of a loved one? Not according to the Bible. Even if they are believers and we know we will be reunited one day, we still sorrow over the hole in our hearts that they have left by passing. Yet this sorrow is tempered by the knowledge that a loving God is in control of all things, and we can place our sorrow in His hands, as Job did, Job 1:21. We don't understand His plan, nor do we need to. We are to trust Him and obey Him.
15-18 Is the relationship of the brothers a closed issue? When we repent and confess our sins to God, is there any chance that He will continue to hold that sin against us? But what about people we have sinned against? Empathizing with the brothers, we see how they continue to be aware of their past sinful behavior, and even though they have asked forgiveness, they realize that maybe Joseph only outwardly forgave them for their father's sake, but might continue to harbor thoughts of vengeance, even being willing to wait years for his revenge. So they again make it clear how sorry they are. Empathizing with Joseph, we know that believers struggle with feelings of bitterness and vengeance against those who have wronged us, even though they may have asked our forgiveness. Joseph's story is a valuable lesson--a real-life story of someone who was badly wronged but who allowed God to work in his heart and who chose not to hold onto the feelings that he surely struggled with. Feelings can rule our lives, if we let them, or we can choose not to allow them to rule our lives. Feelings are not facts. God asks us to exercise our wills and choose to obey Him, regardless of our feelings.
19-21 Joseph seems to have a much greater degree of spiritual insight and maturity than the rest of his family. Joseph recognizes and verbalizes an important spiritual principle in 21 that we find illustrated throughout the Bible, particularly in Israel's history. Time and again God tells Israel that He will use other nations--ungodly nations--to carry out His punishment against them. Those other nations are not aware that they are carrying out God's will; they think they are doing what they want, and they are. But because God is sovereign over everything that happens, He uses the actions of even the wicked to bring about His ultimate purpose, in Israel and in each of our lives, even though at the time, because of our pain, it seems like God doesn't love us, isn't present or isn't helping us. We find this same important principle repeated in the New Testament, Rom. 8:28.
22-23 Born on Joseph's knees: placing them on his knees at their birth signified that they belonged to him.
24-26 Apparently Joseph died before at least some of the other brothers, OR, brothers is often used loosely of family connections, so it could mean their children and grandchildren. They were expecting some visitation from God. For now, they stay in Egypt. This was told to Abraham in 15:13. Joseph wants to be buried in the promised land for the same reason his father did.
Were the sons of Israel trusting in God or in Joseph? Joseph wants to make sure that they know it is God, even though up to this point God has been using Joseph as His means of caring for them. Don't we sometimes make this same mistake? We trust in our job and our paycheck, or in some person, to meet our needs. If those disappear, we need to remember who provided those, and that He is the one who was actually meeting our needs through that means. Joseph reminds them of the Abrahamic covenant, which has been the framework that their story is built around, and will continue to be, throughout the Old and the New Testaments.
The Bible is similar to a great novel, with Genesis introducing the main characters (God, Satan, man, a certain line of men, and the promise of one to come), the setting (earth, created in perfection but now under the curse of sin, which will affect everything that happens on it--and a particular spot on earth, the land of Canaan), and the plot (the spiritual warfare between God and Satan, played out on earth in the lives of men, who have fallen into sin but who have been offered the way back to God, through faith and through blood sacrifice of animals which pictures and points them to the future blood sacrifice of God's Son, the promised Messiah). Many times during the story, it appears all is lost. But the final chapter, Revelation, brings together all the conflicts, main characters, and setting, into the satisfying conclusion. It is a story that no man could have thought up or told before it happened.
In reading through the Bible, there are many levels of understanding that we can achieve. We can learn about particular events and particular characters. We can memorize verses that teach important truths. We can ask, what can I learn from this event or this character that applies to me, my situation, my life? We can ask, what does this character/event/chapter/book teach me about God? What is He like? Why did He choose to have these recorded in His Word? How does He act? Why does He act that way? Therefore, how is He likely to act in my life, and why?
One thing we see in this book is that God works through events in people's lives--both supernatural events, and seemingly ordinary events--because He is control of ALL that happens. He doesn't force us to do good, to do evil, to do His will; He has given man free will. We may choose to do right or wrong. We may make foolish decisions. We may be adversely affected by acts and decisions of others who also were given that free will. In seeing how God works in people's lives, we see that He generally works slowly, over time, through a course of various events. These observations may seem rather obvious, but we sometimes have trouble seeing how they apply in our own lives. We ask God "why?" "WHY did You allow this, or that, to happen?"
The answers to many of our questions are found in this book, particularly in the first few chapters. We can see principles illustrated in the lives of the characters in this book. In Psalms, Proverbs, and the New Testament, we find principles stated, such as Rom. 8:28, Gal. 6:7, Phil. 1:6, I Thes. 5:24, I Tim. 6:6, II Tim. 1:9. We sometimes have trouble seeing these truths in the Old Testament because they are not stated in so many words. But if we take the time to meditate on what we have read and ask these kinds of questions, we can greatly improve our understanding of the Old Testament and of the whole Bible.
Can you summarize the book's main characters and main events in order? What are some themes or Bible teachings we see in this book? Think about those universal questions all people ask: why are we here, what is the purpose of life, does it really matter how we live, how can we reach God, why does a good God allow evil, how does God work in our lives? Are these themes only found in this book, or are they expanded on throughout the Bible? Do this after reading each book (assuming you are reading straight through the Bible), summarizing briefly, to get a good grasp of the continuity of the Bible.
Copyright 2003 Jan Young
Return to Jan's Bible Notes