Old Testament Reading Guide – March 12-18, 2012

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Genesis 44:18-34        Judah’s Plan to Rescue Benjamin

When last we left our hapless Hebrew travelers, Joseph (Zaphenath-Paneah) had decided to release all of the brothers (including Simeon) and only keep Benjamin with him.  This stirred in Judah a desire to do whatever it took to get Benjamin released; he offered himself as a substitute for his younger brother.  There are any number of reasons for Judah to do this.  Chief among them is a deep concern for Israel’s well-being.  Judah knows that if Benjamin does not return to his father that it likely would kill Jacob.  Let’s allow that that is the principal reason motivating Judah.  Consider also that it would be Judah who would have to report to Israel all that had transpired and that he (Judah) was personally responsible for Benjamin’s welfare.  There is yet another aspect to consider here: Judah wants to take Benjamin’s place, who by all appearances was actually guilty of the charge of stealing, while he, Judah, was not.  What must this remind us of?
[This reminds us of the trade that Jesus makes for all who believe in him.  He was actually innocent of any sin and yet he takes our sin so that he can atone for it in our place.]

Hear Judah’s remarks at the close of Chapter 44.  “Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers.  How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me?  No!  Do not let me see the misery that would come upon my father.” (Genesis 44:33-34 NIV)

Genesis 45:1-15         Joseph Reveals Himself to His Brothers (A Resurrection of Sorts)

Zaphenath-Paneah dismisses all of his servants and attendants and is left alone with his brothers.  The moment has finally arrived: Joseph reveals himself to his brothers amid great weeping and wailing – so much so that the attendants in an outer room could hear.  His brothers’ jaws must have dropped.  It must have been quite an emotional scene; of course it is likely that Judah and the others did not believe this Egyptian at first.  Why do you think Joseph picked this pivotal moment to reveal himself?  Whom does Joseph first inquire about?  
[“Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph!  Is my father still living?’” (Genesis 45:3 NIV)]

Of course their reaction to this news was stunned silence.  How does Joseph comfort his brothers?
[“Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come close to me.’  When they had done so, he said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt!  And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.’” (Genesis 45:4-5 NIV)]

Joseph goes on to tell his brothers of the prophecy concerning the current famine and that it will last yet another five years.  What commission does Joseph give his brothers?
[“Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your sons Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt.  Come down to me; don’t delay.  You shall live in the land of Goshen…’” (Genesis 45:9-10 NIV)]

To say the least, it took some time for Judah and his brothers to absorb all of this miraculous information.  How they must have pondered how they would be able to convey this turn of events.  Suddenly Joseph is alive and thriving in Egypt – prime minister, as it were.  Then they shared a “group hug”: “Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping.  And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them.” (Genesis 45:15 NIV)

Genesis 45:16-28            Pharaoh Welcomes the Hebrews

How does Pharaoh express his support to Joseph regarding his father Jacob?
[“You are also directed to tell them, ‘Do this: Take some carts from Egypt for your children and your wives, and get your father and come.  Never mind about your belongings, because the best of all Egypt will be yours.’” (Genesis 45:19-20 NIV)]

Joseph again shows partiality toward Benjamin.  How?
[Joseph gave Benjamin about 300 shekels of silver (about 7 ½ lbs.) and five sets of clothes.  His brothers got no silver and but one set of clothes.  Not that it matters and that it is completely beside the point, but Benjamin was never complicit in Joseph’s being sold into slavery in the first place.]

What is Joseph’s parting advice to his brothers?
[“Then he sent his brothers away, and as they were leaving he said to them, ‘Don’t quarrel on the way!’” (Genesis 45:24 NIV)]

Once Israel’s boys return to him and tell him, “Joseph is still alive!  In fact he is ruler of all Egypt.”, what is his reaction?  
[Naturally Jacob is reluctant, he was, in fact, stunned, to believe that Joseph could be alive after all this time (about twelve years).]

How is Jacob convinced of the truth of the news he has just received?
[Israel sees all the carts that were sent along with his sons to convey Jacob and his family to Egypt.  This persuades him that he will see Joseph before he dies.]

Genesis 46:1-7, 28-34          Jacob Pulls Up Stakes and Goes to Egypt

In Chapter 37 we learn that Jacob is residing in Hebron and now sets out for Egypt.  Once they get to Beersheba (which is quite far south in Canaan) Israel offered sacrifices to the Lord.  How does the LORD allay Jacob’s fears?
[“And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, ‘Jacob!  Jacob!’
‘Here I am,’ he replied.
‘I am God, the God of your father,’ he said.  ‘Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there.  I will go down to Egypt with you…’” (Genesis 46:2-4a NIV)]

Judah was sent ahead to get directions to Goshen and to prepare for Israel’s arrival.  Joseph rides out to meet his father.  How did that reunion go?
[This was a very emotional meeting between Jacob and Joseph.  “As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time.” (Genesis 46:28 NIV)]

Jacob begins his reunion with Joseph with a cheery thought: “Israel said to Joseph, ‘Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive.’” (Genesis 46:30 NIV)  What does Joseph caution his brothers against saying?
[Joseph urged his brothers to refer to their livelihood as tending livestock but not shepherds because shepherding was “detestable” to the Egyptians.  The Notes in the NIV Study Bible indicates that the Egyptians’ distaste for shepherds may be cultural.  Who knows?]

Genesis 47:1-26            Israel Meets Pharaoh

Joseph chooses five of his brothers to present to Pharaoh.  Of course, when they are asked about their occupation, they unhesitatingly tell him that they are shepherds.  Apparently Pharaoh (as the chief priest among the Egyptians) is unfazed by this revelation.  Pharaoh next meets the patriarch Jacob.  What is his first question?
[“After Jacob blessed Pharaoh, Pharaoh asked him, ‘How old are you?’” (Genesis 47:7b-8 NIV)]

So how old is Israel?
[Jacob, at this time, is 130 years of age.]

Joseph, at Pharaoh’s insistence, gave the choicest land to his father and brothers.  It was called the “district of Rameses” or Goshen.  Rameses (II) was Pharaoh many years later and this area was named for him.  This was edited (perhaps by Moses) perhaps to clarify exactly where the Hebrews resided.

The famine continued (only two years of five had elapsed) and was to continue for another five years.  Pharaoh had instructed his people to go to Zaphenath-Paneah (Joseph) for relief.  What did Joseph decide regarding payment for the food?
[All the people (including the Hebrews) had to buy (pay with silver) their food and once the money was gone they then had to sell their livestock.)]

What was the last resort of the people to buy grain once the money and livestock were gone?
[The “last resort” was that the people had to “sell themselves” into slavery to the Pharaoh for grain.]

Who were the only ones exempt from all this distress?
[The priests were exempt – perhaps because Pharaoh was regarded as the chief priest.]

Going forward, what was to be the policy of the land as dictated by Joseph?
[Joseph would provide seed for planting (once the famine was past) and the people were to return one-fifth of the harvest as payment to Pharaoh.)]

What was the people’s attitude toward Joseph during this time?
[“‘You have saved our lives,’ they said.  ‘May we find favor in the eyes of our lord; we will be in bondage to Pharaoh.’”  (Genesis 47:25 NIV)]

Genesis 47:27-48:7         Israel Wants to Return to Canaan When He Dies

How old is Jacob when he dies?
[Israel is 147 years old when he dies.]

What odd demonstration of an oath does Jacob require of Joseph?  Where have we seen this before?
[Israel tells Joseph to place his hand under his thigh and to promise that Jacob would be buried in the land of Canaan.  We saw Abraham do the same thing in Genesis 24:2.]

In verse five Israel says “Ephraim (the younger) and Manasseh (the firstborn) will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine.”  Why is this so significant?
[This is going to be fun.  Many years before Jacob displayed his favoritism on Joseph.  He was the firstborn of Rachel whom Jacob loved.  Reuben added to his own misfortune (he was the firstborn of Leah) by “going into” his father’s concubine (Bilhah – Rachel’s handmaid) thus making a public declaration of his contempt for his father.  He is no longer going to be treated as the firstborn – more on that in Chapter 49.  {Simeon may have lost favor because of his actions done to the sons of Hamor the Hivite in the matter of the rape of Dinah (Chapter 34) – j.t.}  Also, you may remember how Jacob tricked Isaac into believing he (Jacob) was actually his older brother Esau when it came time for the blessing of the firstborn.  Jacob does it again (foreshadowing actually) in addressing Ephraim (the younger) before the older Manasseh.  So history will repeat itself.  Joseph will receive the double portion of the firstborn when Jacob dies.]

Genesis 48:8-22           Israel’s Blessings for Ephraim and Manasseh

As Jacob is about to die, Joseph brings his two sons to Jacob for him to bless them.  What does Joseph do to make things easier for Jacob?  What unusual action does Jacob take?
[Joseph approaches Jacob with Ephraim on his (Joseph’s) right and Manasseh on his left.  Ephraim would then be on Jacob’s left and Manasseh was on the right.  Jacob then, as he blesses Joseph’s two sons, crosses his hands over the children so that the right hand lands on Ephraim and his left hand on Manasseh.  So Ephraim is treated as the firstborn.  Jacob had appropriated Joseph’s sons as his own (above).]

How did Joseph feel about that?
[Joseph probably thought that Jacob just made a mistake: “Joseph said to him, ‘No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.’” (Genesis 48:18 NIV)]

Jacob makes it clear that he made no mistake: “‘I know, my son, I know.  He too will become great.  Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.’  He blessed them that day and said, ‘In your name will Israel pronounce this blessing: “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.”’”  (Genesis 48:20 NIV)

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Old Testament Reading Guide -March 5-11, 2012

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Genesis 41:46-57        Joseph and His Service for Pharaoh

When last we saw Joseph Pharaoh had just endowed him with a new name: Zaphenath-Paneah {which, according to the Old Scofield Study Bible page 1407, means “prince of the life of the age”.}  The Pharaoh, also in his generosity, gave Zaphenath-Paneah {Joseph} a wife from among the daughters of one of his priests Potiphera by name {which means “belonging to the sun” Scofield p. 1400}: Asenath {meaning “she who is of Neith”, an Egyptian goddess}.  I mention this only to draw attention to the fact that, unlike today, names had great significance to the ancients.  A curious coincidence is that Joseph’s father-in-law had the same name as his master in Chapter 39.

Here we learn that Joseph was thirty years old when he undertook to prepare Egypt for the years of plenty and the years of want.  How much grain was Joseph able to store up?
[“Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.” (Genesis 41:49 NIV)  This is the kind of abundance that the LORD likes to shower on his faithful servants.  Jesus said “Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38 NIV)]

How many sons were born to Joseph before the years of famine came?
[Joseph had two sons born to him: Manasseh and Ephraim.]

Focus on the importance of names.  What does Manasseh mean and why did Joseph choose that name?
[Manasseh means “forget” “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” (Genesis 41:51 NIV)]

What does the name Ephraim mean?
[Ephraim may mean “twice fruitful” (NIV footnote}.  “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” (Genesis 41:52 NIV)]

Just as Joseph had prophesied, the seven (!) years of abundance were hard followed by seven (!) years of famine.  When the people begin to feel want, what is Pharaoh’s advice to them?
[Pharaoh tells the people to go to Joseph for relief. (v. 41:55)]

What does Joseph do?  How far-reaching was the famine?
[Joseph sells the grain to the people.  “And all the countries came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the world.” (Genesis 41:57 NIV)]

Genesis 42:1-17           One of Joseph’s Dreams Begins to Materialize

Jacob had learned that there was abundance in Egypt so then commissioned ten of his sons to travel from Canaan to Egypt to buy grain.  (Benjamin, because he was too young, remained with his father.)  What was Israel’s concern for Benjamin?
[“But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him.” (Genesis 42:4 NIV)]

When Joseph’s brothers arrive in Egypt and are brought before him, what do they do?
[“So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground.” (Genesis 42:6 NIV)]

How is this connected to one of the dreams of Joseph?
[If you remember the trouble-making dreams of Joseph, this scene is remarkably accurate.  “He (Joseph) said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.” (Genesis 42:6-7 NIV)  The “grain” in the dream is significant because that is exactly what Joseph’s brothers were seeking.]

How does Joseph have the “upper hand” in this situation?
[“Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him.” (Genesis 42:8 NIV)]

Of what does Joseph accuse these foreigners?
[Joseph accuses his brothers of spying. (Genesis 42:9)]

What arrangement does Zaphenath-Paneah (Joseph) make with the sons of Israel?
[“Joseph said to them, ‘it is just as I told you: You are spies!  And this is how you will be tested: As surely as Pharaoh lives, you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here.  Send one of your number to get your brother; the rest of you will be kept in prison, so that your words may be tested to see if you are telling the truth.  If you are not, then as surely as Pharaoh lives, you are spies!’” (Genesis 42:14-16 NIV)]

Genesis 42:18-28    The Case of the Re-appearing Silver

What bargain do Zaphenath-Paneah and the strangers settle on?
[“Let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households.  But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” (Genesis 42:19-20 NIV)]

What further advantage does Joseph have over his brothers?
[Joseph used an interpreter to talk to his brothers so that they would think that he could not understand them.]

What does Joseph learn from his brothers unbeknownst to them?
[“They (the brothers) said to one another, ‘Surely we are being punished because of our brother.  We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come upon us.’” (Genesis 42:21 NIV)]

What can we glean from what Reuben says “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy?  But you wouldn’t listen!  Now we must give an accounting for his blood.”?  (Genesis 42:22 NIV)
[I think that Reuben still does not know that Joseph was sold and believes rather that he is actually dead.]

Which brother is settled upon to remain in Egypt while the others return to Israel?
[Simeon is left behind.]

What bit of trickery does Zaphenath-Paneah play on these seekers of grain?
[All the money paid to Joseph was returned and hidden in the sacks of grains of his brothers.  Of course they did not know it.]

What is the reaction of the brothers once they make this discovery?
[I think it was one of panic.  The bible says: “Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, ‘What is this that God has done to us?’”  (Genesis 42:28 NIV)]

Genesis 942:2-38     The Return to Canaan

Jacob’s sons report to their father all that had happened in Egypt.  The news is grim but it gets worse.  The brothers discover that all of their silver was returned in the sacks.  This prompts Jacob to do what?
[Since Joseph and now Simeon are lost, Israel is determined that Benjamin will remain with him; he cannot risk losing him too.]

What offer does Reuben make to his father?
[“Then Reuben said to his father, ‘You may put both of my sons to death if I do not bring him (meaning Benjamin) back.’” (Genesis 42:37 NIV)]

Why, do you suppose, Reuben makes this particular offer to his father?
[I think that Reuben still feels very guilty over the “death” of Joseph, which he had hoped to prevent so many years before.]

Genesis 43:1-14       The Second Journey to Egypt

As happens with food, it comes and it goes.  Hunger will compel us to make interesting decisions.  In this case, the need for food compelled Jacob to send his sons back to Egypt.  What does Judah remind Israel of?
[“But Judah said to him (Israel), ‘The man warned us solemnly, “You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.”’” (Genesis 43:3 NIV)]

Jacob seeks to place responsibility for his setbacks with his sons: “Why did you bring this trouble on me by telling the man you had another brother?” (Genesis 43:6 NIV)  Is this fair of Israel?
[I don’t think so.  What we have here is an opportunity to trust in the Lord.  What we don’t see here is a turning to God to ask him for help at this time.  Jacob was blessed with great wealth and yet he is hungry.  He had twelve sons and now he thinks that he has lost two of them (Joseph, his favorite and Simeon, who was left behind as a hostage).  No one here knows that Joseph is very much alive, less still that he is the second most important man in Egypt.  Joseph has used deception against his brothers, and by extension, his father as well.  Deception is a hallmark of this family.  No one can be trusted.]

Judah spends some time explaining to his father how it happened that Benjamin would be required to go to Egypt.  How does Judah plan to assuage Jacob’s fears regarding Benjamin?
[“Then Judah said to Israel, his father, ‘Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die.  I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him.  If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life.’” (Genesis 43:8-9 NIV)]

What does Jacob tell his sons?
[Jacob wants to ease his way back into some kind of favor with the Egyptian and so has his sons bring an offering to the man.  Also he wants his sons to take back double the amount of money so that he will not be indebted to the man.  He wants to return what was “erroneously” given to his sons the last time they were there.]

How hopeful is Israel?
[Not very.  “As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.” (Genesis 43:14 NIV)  He seems to be resigned to things.]

Genesis 43:15-34          Joseph Reveals Himself to his Brothers

What does Joseph do when he sees Benjamin with his brothers?  Does this remind you of one of Jesus’ parables?
[“When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, ‘Take these men to my house, slaughter an animal and prepare dinner; they are to eat with me at noon.” (Genesis 43:16 NIV)  This reminds me of the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke Chapter 15.)]

Joseph’s brothers are ignorant of what is going on in the background and there they are waiting for this powerful man to speak to them.  They are told by the steward of Zaphenath-Paneah (Joseph) to accompany him to his master’s house.  This strikes dread into Judah and his brothers.  What do they think?
[“Now the men were frightened when they were taken to his house.  They thought, ‘We were brought here because of the silver that was put back into our sacks the first time.  He wants to attack us and overpower us and seize us as slaves and take our donkeys’”  (Genesis 43:18 NIV)]

Do you see any prophecy or foreshadowing in their thoughts?
[Slavery will become the lot of the sons of Israel in time to come.]

What changes once the brothers explain to the steward the mix-up concerning the silver from their first visit?
[The steward’s attitude and, I suspect, voice softens, “‘It’s all right,’ he said.  ‘Don’t be afraid.  Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; I received your silver.’  Then he brought Simeon out to them.” (Genesis 43:23 NIV)]

Again one of Joseph’s dreams enters the mix.  How?
[“When Joseph came home, they presented him the gifts they had brought into the house, and they bowed down before him to the ground.”  (Genesis 43:26 NIV) See Genesis 37:7]

It is important to remember that all this time Joseph is speaking through an interpreter because he does not yet want his brothers to realize it is he.  Joseph is overcome with emotion.  Why?
[“He looked about and saw his brother Benjamin, his own mother’s son. … Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep.” (Genesis 43:29, 30 NIV)]

What is “foreign” to us about how Joseph, his brothers, and Joseph’s household staff ate?
[Joseph was served by himself, the brothers were served separately, and the household staff could not eat with non-Egyptians for that was an abomination to them.]

How are the brothers arranged at table?
[The brothers are seated from the oldest to the youngest.  That may have been common among them as birth order seemed rather important to them.]

The portions of the food for the brothers were taken from Joseph’s table.  How did Joseph demonstrate his partiality toward Benjamin?
[Joseph gave Benjamin five times more than the rest of his brothers (verse 34).  Verse 33 says “The men had been seated before him in the order of their ages, from the firstborn to the youngest; and they looked at each other in astonishment.”  I think the astonishment is as a result of the bounty shown to Benjamin.]

Genesis 44:1-17        The Silver Cup

So Joseph “sells” all the grain these Hebrews can carry and then sends them on their way.  The very interesting thing here is that the boys go on their way fat dumb and happy.  For some reason, it does not occur to them that Zaphenath-Paneah may pull the same stunt again – which he does.  What is different this time?
[Joseph, again, puts the silver back into the grain sacks of his brothers, but this time he also put a silver cup (from his own table) into Benjamin’s sack.  It looks like these guys are not quick studies; they don’t seem to learn from their experiences.]

Joseph’s steward catches up with the Hebrews and accuses them of theft.  It is clear that Jacob’s sons did not check their sacks and, without looking into them, made a rash vow.  What was it?
[“But they said to him, ‘Why does my lord say such things?  Far be it from your servants to do anything like that!  We even brought back to you from the land of Canaan the silver we found inside the mouths of our sacks.  So why would we steal silver or gold from your master’s house?  If any of your servants is found to have it, he will die; and the rest of us will become my lord’s slaves.’” (Genesis 44:7-9 NIV)]

Now Joseph’s steward examined all the sacks of Judah and his brothers and lo and behold, they find the missing cup in Benjamin’s sack.  It now appears that Benjamin is under a death’s sentence.  These guys have got to be saying to themselves: “How are we ever going to explain this to dad?  This is his greatest fear and disappointment.  Remember how he said: ‘As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.’?”  Then they all return to Egypt, to Zaphenath-Paneah to face the music.  What hint does Joseph give his brothers as to his identity?
[“Joseph was still in the house when Judah and his brothers came in, and they threw themselves to the ground before him.  Joseph said to them, ‘What is this you have done?  Don’t you know that a man like me can find things out by divination?’  (Genesis 44:14-15 NIV)]

Joseph decides not to imprison nor enslave these men of Canaan.  Instead, he decides to keep Benjamin with him and to release the others.  Is this not a sentence worse than death?

You will have to wait until next week for the exciting conclusion.

Old Testament Reading Guide -February 27-March 4, 2012

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Genesis 37:1-11        Joseph and His Famous Trouble-making Dreams  

We are told that Joseph is seventeen when he comes on the scene.  The last time we saw Joseph he had just been born of Rachel.  We find Joseph with his brothers “the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah.”  To find out who they are we have to look back; but to save the time let me just tell you: the sons of Bilhah are Dan and Naphtali; the sons of Zilpah are Gad and Asher.

What was the special nature of Joseph’s relationship with his father Jacob?
[“Now Israel {Jacob} loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age.” (Gen. 37:3 NIV)]

How did Jacob (Israel) demonstrate his preference for Joseph?
[He had made him “a richly ornamented robe”.  (Gen. 37:3 NIV)]

How did this action enhance Joseph’s standing with his brothers?
[It didn’t.  Joseph’s brothers hated him because Israel had shown favor to him over the others. v. Gen. 37:4)]

Describe Joseph’s first dream and opine (speculate, or form an opinion) why this was not the best public relations maneuver.  
[Since Joseph was already very unpopular among his brothers, Joseph’s dream about how the brothers’ sheaves bow down to his sheaf will not advance his standing among them.]

Did Joseph learn from this experience?
[Unhappily, no.  Joseph had another dream, far more overreaching than the first, which he also shared with his brothers.  In this dream “the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.  When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, ‘What is this dream you had?  Will your mother {who by this time was dead} and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” (Gen. 37:9-10 NIV)]

Genesis 37:12-24             Things Take a Turn for the Worse

Joseph’s ten brothers (Benjamin could not have been among them – he would have been too young) were in Shechem tending the flocks.  Joseph was in the Valley of Hebron which was roughly thirty miles away.  What does Jacob tell Joseph to do?
[Israel tells Joseph to go to his brothers to find out how they were doing and to bring a report back to him.  Joseph goes to Shechem and there he finds out that his brothers are grazing their sheep twelve miles farther north in Dothan (a total of more than forty-two miles from Jacob).]

What dastardly deed did Joseph’s brothers devise?
[They plotted to kill him, dispose of the body, and then tell Jacob that a wild animal had attacked him.]

Reuben figures highly in this episode.  What did he do and why did he do it?
[Reuben advises against killing Joseph but rather to put him in an empty cistern (well or reservoir) so that later he could return him to Israel.]

What do the brothers settle on?
[They strip Joseph of his ornate robe, dipped it in blood, and threw Joseph in an empty cistern.  They needed the many-colored coat as evidence.)]

Genesis 37:25-36    Joseph Finds Himself in Egypt

What brilliant business option does Judah come up with?  “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood?” (Genesis 37:26 NIV)
[Judah’s plan is that they sell Joseph to a band of Ishmaelites (a caravan) which is headed for Egypt.  They get twenty shekels of silver for Joseph.]

For some reason which the bible does not inform us of, Reuben is not among the brothers when this deal is made.  What does he do when he learns what his brothers have done?  Why?
[Reuben tears his robes when he learns that Joseph is missing.  He believes Joseph is dead and his brothers do not disabuse (correct) him of that notion.  Reuben believes the lie which will make it easier to sell to Israel.]

Human nature is rather predictable.  Jacob’s sons present him with the now dipped-in-blood coat.  What is Israel’s reaction?  To what conclusion does Jacob jump?
[Israel sees the blood-stained coat and presumes that Joseph is dead; torn apart by a wild animal.  He dons sackcloth and ashes in mourning for his Joseph.  This is evil because this is exactly what Jacob’s sons hope he concludes saving them from having to lie to him.  This is diabolical because, as in the case of Reuben, they don’t correct the false belief Jacob has embraced.  You can’t accuse them of lying to him, just deceiving him.]

Genesis 39:1-23        Joseph and the Not-so-virtuous Wife of Potiphar

In verse two we see that “the LORD was with Joseph”.  This has to mean something.  According to verses two and three what does this mean?
[Joseph prospered “and that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did.”]

How does Potiphar “tap into” this favor that Joseph enjoyed?
[Potiphar put Joseph in complete charge of his household “and he entrusted to his care everything he owned.  From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph.” (Gen. 39:4b-5 NIV)]

What additional “benefit” does Potiphar experience because he had so favored Joseph?
[Potiphar experienced “peace of mind” (“…he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate. Gen. 39:6); he did not worry about anything Joseph was commissioned to take care of.]

Now things begin to heat up.  What entices Potiphar’s wife to try to seduce Joseph?
[“Now Joseph was well-built and handsome…” (Gen. 39:6 NIV)]

What is Joseph’s response to these attempts?
[“But he refused.  ‘With me in charge’, he told her, ‘my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care.  My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife.  How could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?’ (Gen. 39:8-9 NIV)]

Mrs. Potiphar does not give up.  She continues to taunt Joseph until one day…  Joseph flees from the wife of Potiphar but she snags his cloak.  Bear in mind: “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, not hell a fury like a woman scorned.” (William Congreve 1670-1929)  So Potiphar’s wife uses the evidence “in hand” and, in essence, screams “rape”.  What is Potiphar’s response to these developments?
[Naturally, (and if he knew what was good for him) he believed his wife and sent Joseph directly to jail. “…he burned with anger.” (Gen. 39:19 NIV)]

Virtue has its own rewards but I doubt jail was one of them.  We saw back in verse two that “the LORD was with Joseph”.  How does this help Joseph now, if it does?
[Again Joseph gains favor in the sight of his superiors – in this case the prison warden.  Joseph, in essence, becomes a trustee and is put in charge of the prisoners.  Now it’s the warden’s turn not to worry about anything put in Joseph’s care.]

Genesis 40:1-23         Happy and Unhappy Dreams

Early in this chapter we learn that the Pharaoh’s chief baker and chief cupbearer are tossed in jail.  The chief baker is probably someone whom Pharaoh wanted to honor for some service rendered or some deed for which should be recognized.  Let’s just say the position was an honorary one.  The chief cupbearer – well that is something else altogether.  The chief cupbearer would have been a man in whom Pharaoh had complete trust – he was, in essence, the food taster.  In other places of scripture we can gather how important this court official was.  {Just a note: Nehemiah is the most notable (to us, that is) cupbearer in the Old Testament. – j.t.}

We saw earlier that Joseph was gifted with having dreams, and perhaps, the interpretation of them, though his method of delivery could be improved upon.  Anyway what do the chief cupbearer and chief baker have in common?
[Both the chief cupbearer and the chief baker “had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own.” (Gen. 40:5 NIV)]

Joseph saw that these men were burdened and he asked them, “Why are your faces so sad today?”  (Gen. 40:7b NIV)  He then tries to encourage them by telling them that the interpretation of dreams belongs to God. So they told Joseph their dreams.  What was the cupbearer’s dream?  What was the baker’s dream?
[The cupbearer “said to him, ‘In my dream I saw a vine in front of me and on the vine were three branches.  As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes.  Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup and put the cup in his hand. …
The chief baker “said to Joseph, ‘I too had a dream: On my head were three baskets of bread.  In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.’” (Gen. 40:9-11 and 16-17 NIV)]

This was a case of “I have some good news and some bad news.”   What were the interpretations of the dreams?
[“‘This is what it means,’ Joseph said to him (the chief cupbearer).  ‘The three branches are three days.  Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer.”’  Clearly this is the good news.  Now for the bad news.  “‘This is what it means’ Joseph said (to the chief baker).  ‘The three baskets are three days.  Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and hang you on a tree.  And the birds will eat away your flesh.’”  (Genesis 40:13-14 and 18-19 NIV)]

What is the only thing Joseph asks of the chief cupbearer?
[Joseph only wanted the cupbearer to remember him once he was back in Pharaoh’s service.  It was clear that the chief baker would not be of help to Joseph.]

How accurate was Joseph’s interpretation of the dreams?
[The chief cupbearer was restored after three days; the chief baker was hanged after three days.  “The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” (Genesis 40:23 NIV)]

Do you really think you would like to know the future?  (I would not.)

Genesis 41:1-13        Pharaoh’s Turn

Dreams were of great significance in ancient times; they were the means by which God could communicate with man.  The dreams of the cupbearer and the baker were of great importance to those individuals, but most of the time the dreams mentioned are intended for a wider audience.  We have not yet seen the realization of the dreams Joseph had while still with his brothers – that will come to pass later in Genesis.  The dreams of Pharaoh will have ramifications for Joseph and his family for hundreds of years to come.

What were the two dreams of Pharaoh?
[“When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds.  After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the riverbank.  And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows.  Then Pharaoh woke up.  He fell asleep again and had a second dream: Seven heads of grain, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk.  After them, seven other heads of grain sprouted – thin and scorched by the east wind.  The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven healthy, full heads.”   (Genesis 41:1-7 NIV)]

Pharaoh has a problem: he cannot interpret these dreams.  What is his course of action?
[He sends for all the magicians and wise men of the land to interpret the dreams but they could not.]

Pharaoh still has a problem.  It is here that we begin to see the influence and importance of the cupbearer.  How can the cupbearer help both Pharaoh and Joseph?
[Well, to use the cupbearer’s words: “Today I am reminded of my shortcomings.” (Genesis 41:9 NIV)  Indeed, the only thing Joseph requested of the cupbearer was to be remembered in the court of Pharaoh.  Here it is two years later.  Better late than never!  The chief cupbearer informs Pharaoh that there is a man in the prison who may be able to interpret his dreams.  He then tells Pharaoh about his own experience and the experience of the chief baker while they were both imprisoned and how accurate the interpretation that Joseph rendered turned out to be.]

Genesis 41:14-45                    Joseph Delivers Results

So Joseph is freed and summoned to Pharaoh’s court whereupon Pharaoh recounts both of the dreams which he had.  What is Joseph’s rather succinct assessment?
[“Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, ‘The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same’” (Genesis 41:25)]

But, that is not all.  What is the interpretation of the dreams?
“It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do.  Seven (!) years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, but seven (!) years of famine will follow them.”  (Genesis 41:28-30a NIV)

What is the significance of the dream being in two forms?
[“The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.”  (Genesis 41:32 NIV)]

The next scene is one of shameless self-promotion.  Who else could Pharaoh have chosen to undertake the management of the country’s resources than Joseph?  So Joseph is chosen by the very wise Pharaoh to take care of Egypt’s food supply.  And more than that!

How high does Pharaoh raise Joseph?
[Joseph is named second only to Pharaoh in power and authority.  He becomes, as it were, like a prince among the people.]

Why, do you suppose, Pharaoh changed Joseph’s name?  (The bible is not helpful with this question.)
[We have seen this several times already.  God changed Abram’s name to Abraham; God changed Jacob’s name to Israel; and we have seen that Daniel and his friends names were changed when they were removed to Nebuchadnezzar’s court in Babylon.  Abram’s name was changed to Abraham after “he believed God” about God’s promises that he would become the father of many nations.  Jacob’s name was changed because he wrestled with God and prevailed – which is what Israel means.  Joseph would have been considered very wise and shrewd – especially, as it turns out, he was right – that Pharaoh would have honored him with a new name.

Old Testament Reading Guide -February 20-26, 2012

How do I use this reading guide?

Genesis 30:1-24        Rachel Advises Jacob

At the time of Jacob, there was not much writing going on. History was probably learned by word of mouth from one generation to the next.  As this story unfolds, it becomes clear that if the history was passed from father to son, there were certain unpleasant details left out which may explain why the same mistakes keep occurring.  Fortunately for us, Moses has left us a written record of the events which happened to Abraham and his offspring not leaving out the unfavorable details.  From these we glean that Isaac appears to be the only one who had managed to avoid certain pitfalls (i.e., temptations to “short cuts”).

We have seen that Sarah thought she could “help” the LORD along with his promise to provide an heir and son to Abraham.  She came up with the scathingly brilliant idea of giving Abraham a concubine who might provide him with a son.  That was fine until the child (Ishmael) was born.  As we have seen, things deteriorate quickly thereafter.  The upshot is that the LORD meant what he said when he promised that Abraham’s heir will be born of Sarah.  All this proved to be very funny to both Abraham and Sarah and so they carried the joke further by naming their child “Isaac” meaning “he laughs”.  (Actually it is the LORD who names Abraham’s son in Genesis Chapter 17 verse 19.)

If this oral history was transmitted to Jacob the details surrounding Ishmael and Isaac may have been omitted.  If Jacob knew that the “maidservant” was used to bring about the LORD’s will, then he paid it no heed.

We saw last week that Jacob was cheated (that in itself, is funny) by Laban into working fourteen years in order to win Rachel’s hand.  Leah, Rachel’s older sister, is given to Jacob as wages for seven (!) years of labor.  She proves to be fertile and bears Jacob quickly four sons (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah).  But Rachel is preferred by Jacob to Leah.  Rachel, to this point, is barren.  Naturally, this does not sit well with her.  What is Rachel’s solution to this problem?
[“Here is Bilhah, my maidservant.  Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and that through her I too can build a family.”  (Genesis 30:3 NIV)]

This plan works as well for Rachel as it did for Sarah.  What happened?
[Jacob slept with Bilhah and she became pregnant and she bore him a son.  “Then Rachel said, ‘God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.’  Because of this she named him Dan.” {meaning “he has vindicated”}. (Gen. 30:6 NIV)]

Again, as “luck” would have it, Bilhah conceives and bares another son.  What does Rachel name him and why?
[Rachel names this boy Naphtali which means my struggle, for she said: “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.” (Gen. 30:8 NIV)]

Not to be outdone, and ever unsatisfied with things the way they are, Leah devises a similar scheme using one of her maidservants.  What does she do and why?
[Because Leah appears now to be barren, she sends her servant Zilpah to sleep with Jacob and he, of course, gains a son by her.]

What name is given to this latest member of Jacob’s family?
[He is named “Gad” which can mean “good fortune” or, less romantically, “a troop” – take your pick.]

If Rachel can have two boys by her maidservant, so can Leah.  Thus Zilpah again sleeps with Jacob and bears him yet another son – Asher by name.  What does the bible tell us Asher means?
[“Then Leah said, ‘How happy I am!  The women will call me happy.  So she named him Asher.” (Genesis 30:13 NIV)]

What kind of business deal do Rachel and Leah make that reminds us of a deal between Jacob and Esau?
[Rachel barters for some mandrakes Reuben (Leah’s son) brought home for his mother.  Leah is not favored by Jacob as compared to Rachel.  Rachel agrees to “let” Leah sleep with Jacob if Leah will give the mandrakes to her.  This amounts to prostitution.  A similar business arrangement was made between Jacob and Esau when Esau traded his birthright for a bowl of red stew. (Genesis Chapter 25 verses 29-34)  When Jacob comes in from the fields that night Leah announces to him that she has “hired” him; that he must sleep with her.  The bible does not tell us how Jacob “felt” about being “used” in this fashion.]

What is the end result of this bartering between Leah and Rachel?
[The LORD opens Leah’s womb and she conceives yet another son, this time, Issachar, which means reward. “Then Leah said, ‘God has rewarded me for giving my maidservant to my husband.’ So she named him Issachar.” (Genesis 30:18 NIV)  I don’t know if Leah is correct in her interpretation of the facts.  The LORD likes to work through people not to be manipulated by them. – j.t.]

How does the LORD continue to favor Leah?
[Leah conceives again (!) and bears Jacob a sixth son: Zebulun.  “Then Leah said, ‘God has presented me with a precious gift.  This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.’  So she named him Zebulun.” (Genesis 30:20 NIV)]

Up to this point Jacob has ten sons:
By Leah –
1. Reuben meaning “see, a son” and sounds like (in Hebrew) “he has seen my misery. (v. 29:32)
2. Simeon meaning “one who hears”.  (v. 29:33)
3. Levi meaning “attached”. (v. 29:34)
4. Judah meaning “praised”. (v. 29:35)

By Bilhah (of Rachel) –
5. Dan meaning “he has vindicated”. (v. 30:6)
6. Naphtali meaning “my struggle” (v. 30:7)

By Zilpah (of Leah) –
7. Gad meaning “good fortune” or “a troop” (v. 30:11)
8. Asher meaning “happy” (v. 30:12)

By Leah (again) –
9. Issachar meaning “reward” (v. 30:18)
10.  Zebulun meaning “honor” (v. 30:30)

We are not done yet.  Leah also gave birth to a girl and named her “Dinah” (v. 30:21).  Dinah will play a pivotal role in Chapter 34.  We are not told here what Dinah actually means.  (She was a girl, after all.)

Finally, what happens to Rachel in verse 22?
[“Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and opened her womb.  She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, ‘God has taken away my disgrace.’  She named him Joseph [yes, that one – the dreamer] and said, ‘May the LORD add to me another son.’” (Genesis 30:22-24 NIV)]

Genesis 31:1-24        Jacob Flees From Laban

Laban had acknowledged that because of Jacob he, Laban, had prospered, but now that  Jacob wanted to return to the land of his birth.  Jacob also prospered greatly during that time.  Laban did not want Jacob to leave fearing that his prosperity would then cease.  Laban had tried to cheat (!) Jacob over and over again.  “If he said, ‘The speckled ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young; and if he said, ‘The streaked ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore streaked young.  So God has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me.” (Genesis 31:8-9 NIV)

Jacob had a dream once in mating season, how do you interpret it?
[The dream is telling Jacob that the spotted and speckled sheep and goats were made that way by God because Laban tried to cheat Jacob out of his wages.]

What is Rachel’s and Leah’s response to this development?
[They pretty much agree with Jacob that this is the LORD’s doing.  “Then Rachel and Leah replied, ‘Do we still have any share in the inheritance of our father’s estate?  Does he not regard us as foreigners?  Not only has he sold us, but he has used up what was paid for us.  Surely all the wealth that God took away from our father belongs to us and our children.’”  (Genesis 31:14-16 NIV)]

So Jacob left with his wife and twelve children (eleven sons and one daughter) and returned to go to his father Isaac in the land Canaan.  What tricky thing did Rachel do?  What was Jacob’s last deceit with respect to Laban?
[Rachel steals Laban’s household gods and Jacob deceives Laban by leaving without telling him.]

While it took three days before Laban found out that Jacob had fled with his family and his flocks, he wasted no time in pursuing Jacob.  He caught up with him after seven (!) days.  How then does God intervene in this matter?
[“Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, whether good or bad.”  (Genesis 31:24 NIV)]

Genesis 31:25-50       Laban Catches Up With Jacob

What song and dance does Laban give Jacob for his indignation at Jacob’s departure without notice?
[Laban {I believe} feigns hurt and outrage at Jacob’s departure; that he did not have any opportunity to say good-bye to his daughters and grandchildren, nor did he have the opportunity to celebrate the departure with a party (or feast).

Then Laban drops a bomb!  What was it?
[He accuses Jacob of stealing his household gods and idols.  “Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the gods.” (Genesis 31:32 NIV)

How does Rachel “dance” around this predicament?
[She “claims” to be having her period and is unable to rise.  Actually, she is sitting on the household gods.   (Genesis 31:34-35)  Please note that deception follows  and pervades this family.]

To say the least, Jacob is righteously indignant.  He then launches into a long tirade of how honest he is and, how he suffered loss without whining for over the twenty years he was with Laban.  He was laying it on pretty thick.  “I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times.  If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed.  But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you. {See Gen. 31:24} ” (Genesis 31:41-42 NIV)

How do Laban and Jacob resolve their differences?
[They make a covenant between them.  They pile a bunch of stones in a heap.  “Laban said, ‘This heap is a witness between you and me today. That is why it was called Galeed {means “witness heap”}.  It was also called Mizpah {which means “watchtower”}, because he said, ‘May the LORD keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other.  If you mistreat my daughters or if you take any wives besides my daughters, even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me.’” (Genesis 31:48-52 NIV)]

Genesis 32:3-21      Jacob Extends to Esau the “Olive Branch” (Peace)

As Jacob approaches Seir in the land of Edom, he sends emissaries to his brother in order to establish peace (or reconciliation) between them.  He informs Esau how rich he has become and how much God has blessed him.  “Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes.” (Genesis 32:5)

Of course, Jacob had reason to be fearful of his brother.  When last we saw Esau he was breathing threats against Jacob and just waiting for Isaac to die so that he could carry them out. (Gen. 27:41)  When Jacob’s messengers returned they told him that Esau was coming to meet him with four hundred men.  A show of force?  What is Jacob’s plan?
[Jacob divides his family and his wealth into two parts so that if Esau had plans for evil and not for good that all would not be lost.]

Jacob reminds the “God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac” of what?
[Jacob reminds God that he told Jacob to return to the land of his birth and that he would prosper his family and begs that God would deliver him and his family from the hand of Esau.  “But you have said, ‘I will surely prosper you and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’” (Genesis 32:12 NIV)]

Apparently that was not good enough…

Jacob decides to bribe his brother into peace.  What does he offer?
[“… he selected a gift for his brother Esau: two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys.” (Genesis 32:14-16 NIV)  “For he thought, ‘I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me.” (Genesis 32:20 NIV)]

Genesis 32:22-33:17     Jacob Receives a New Name (Israel)

Jacob has sent everyone else ahead and he is left alone.  What happens that night?
[Jacob wrestles with a man all night long.  Jacob does not over power the man, but the man does not over power Jacob either.]

What does the “man” do to Jacob as they wrestle?
[He touches the socket of Jacob’s hip “so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man”. (Genesis 32:25 NIV)]

What does Jacob require of the “man”?
[Jacob wants him to bless him.]

What does the man do for Jacob?
[The man gives Jacob a new name: Israel which means “he struggles with God”. {NIV footnotes}]

What does Jacob (Israel) name the place of the struggle?
[Jacob calls the place Peniel (which means “face of God”)  It is also called Penuel.]

Why does Jacob name the place Peniel?
[“So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.’” (Genesis 32:30 NIV)]

What physical affliction will Jacob suffer for the rest of his life?
[He will limp because his hip socket is out of place. (Gen. 32:31)]

What was the surprise waiting for Jacob when he meets Esau?
[While Esau had reason enough to kill his brother Jacob, rather he rushes to meet him and kisses him on the neck.  Jesus recounts a similar scene in Luke 15 in the parable of the Prodigal Son.  There are striking similarities as well as contrasts:  in both cases it was the younger son who was the offending party; both went to far countries for a long time; both return home with lowered expectations (Jacob to his brother who probably hates him; the Prodigal to his father who improbably loves him); both are very surprised at the final outcome.  Jacob was prophesied to receive the blessing of Isaac as the firstborn (though he used deception to accomplish it); the prodigal was the second born but only wanted his inheritance; The prodigal wanted his father to treat him as the “hired help” and Jacob only wanted peace with Esau.  Jacob was willing to lavish on Esau all that the father of the Prodigal had heaped on his son.]

How do we know that Jacob was fully reconciled to Esau?
[Jacob insists that the gift he offers to Esau be accepted even though Esau has great wealth of his own.  “But Esau said, ‘I already have plenty, my brother.  Keep what you have for yourself.’  ‘No, please!’ said Jacob.  ‘If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me.  For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably.’”  (Genesis 33:9-10 NIV)]

Jacob declines an offer by Esau to escort him to his destination.  Jacob went to Succoth instead and built shelters for himself and his animals.  In fine Hebrew tradition, Succoth means something too: shelters! (Gen. 33:17)

Genesis 34              The Rape of Dinah

This chapter is not part of our reading as outlined in the “Office” of the Book of Common Prayer.

… So let’s take a peek at Chapter 34…

Dinah, Leah’s daughter, went out to visit with the women of the land.  She was spotted by Shechem the son of Hamor and for him, at least, it was love (lust) at first sight.  Shechem takes her and rapes her.  He is quite remorseful and, along with his father Hamor, go to see Jacob to make an honest woman of Dinah.  Jacob is deeply grieved by this and relates it to his sons.  Dinah’s brothers (only the sons of Leah, I believe) devised an evil plan of revenge.  They tell Shechem that their sister cannot marry an uncircumcised man for that would be an abomination.  They agree that all of Shechem’s men be circumcised.  So all of Shechem’s men were circumcised – that indicates to me there was some honor in Shechem’s attempt.  Anyway, while Shechem and his men were healing two of Dinah’s brothers, Simeon and Levi, take it upon themselves to enter Shechem’s camp and slaughter all of the men.  Apparently they felt that rape was a capital crime.  “Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have brought trouble on me by making me a stench to the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the people living in this land.  We are few in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed.’  But they replied, ‘Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?’” (Genesis 34:30-31 NIV)

Genesis 35:1-20       Jacob Returns to Bethel

Bethel was the first place where Abraham camped after he left Haran.  He set up an altar there.  Also it was here that Jacob had his famous dream of the angels ascending and descending on a stairway from heaven.  Here it was that God renews his promise to Jacob that “… Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth…” (Genesis 28:14).  Let’s just say that Bethel hold some importance in Hebrew history.

What does Jacob tell all of his people to do upon setting out?
[“So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes.’” (Genesis 35:2 NIV)]

What is the first thing Jacob does upon arrival in Bethel?
[The first thing that Jacob does upon arrival in Bethel is to build an altar to the LORD.  “…and he called the place El Bethel, because it was there that God revealed himself to him.”  (Genesis 35:7 NIV)]

What does Jacob remember of his return trip from Paddan Aram?
[“And God said to him, ‘I am God Almighty, be fruitful and increase in number.  A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will come from your body.  The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.’”  (Genesis 35:11-12 NIV)]  This is a fufillment of a promise that Jacob made to God in Genesis 28:20-22.

Tragedy strikes Jacob.  What was it?
[Rachel dies in childbirth.  She gives birth to a son.]

What does Rachel name her son?  What does Jacob name her son?
[Rachel names her son Ben-Oni {meaning “son of my trouble” NIV Footnotes}.  Jacob renames him Benjamin {meaning “son of my right hand”}.]

Where is Rachel buried?
[She is buried in Ephrath (that is Bethlehem).]

What very devastating thing happens next?
[Reuben took it upon himself to sleep with Jacob’s concubine Bilhah (Rachel’s handmaid).  This is similar to a declaration of war between father and son.]  NIV Study Bible Notes p. 61:
“35:22 Reuben’s act was an arrogant and premature claim to the rights of the firstborn (see 2 Sam. 3:7; 12:8; 16:21; 1 Kings 2:22).  For this he would lose his legal status as firstborn (see Gen. 49:3-4; 1 Chron. 5:1).”  [Personally, I think it is much worse than this.  I think it is an act of complete disrespect for his father and, in this case, given that Bilhah was Rachel’s handmaid, I’m sure it pained Jacob all the more. – j.t.]

The next few verses recount the sons (and not the daughter) of Jacob and who their mothers were.  Note that all but one of Jacob’s children (including Dinah) were born in Paddan Aram and only Benjamin was born in the land of Canaan.

This chapter closes with the death of Isaac.  Who was there and how old was Isaac when he died?
[Isaac was 180 years old and both of his sons were with him when he died.]

Proverbs 1:20-33         Warning Against Rejecting Wisdom

How is wisdom characterized in verses 20-21?
[Wisdom is personified.  “She” takes on the characteristics of a person.  “She calls; she raises her voice; and she makes her speech.]

Do you hear the pleading of the writer in these two verses?

To whom does she pose her rhetorical questions?
[She speaks to the “simple ones” the “mockers” and the “fools”.  Wisdom wants to “sell” the benefits of herself over folly.  Wisdom represents life whereas folly always represents death.  Wisdom is not to be confused with knowledge.]

What is the benefit of positively responding to rebuke?
[“I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you.”]

Verses 24 and 25 reiterate the same ideas: reject me; no one gave heed; ignored my advice; not accept my rebuke.  What is the consequence of this?
[“I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you – when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you.” (Proverbs 1:26-27 NIV)]

What are the further consequences of rejecting wisdom (truth)?
[“Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me.”  (Proverbs 1:28 NIV)]

This same theme comes up in Jeremiah in Chapter 29 verses 11-13: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

With what is the hatred of knowledge equated?
[The hatred of knowledge is equal to not choosing “to fear the LORD”.]

What exactly is the “fear of the LORD”?
[That is a good question.  Verse 7 of this chapter tells us “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.”  That doesn’t really help.  I got some help from the ESV Study Bible Notes on page 1134: 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.  This is the core maxim of the book: the quest for wisdom begins with the fear of the LORD (cf. 9:10 and Ps. 111:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom”).  “Knowledge” and “wisdom” are closely tied together in Proverbs: “knowledge” tends to focus on correct understanding of the world and oneself as creatures of the magnificent and loving God, while “wisdom” is the acquired skill of applying that knowledge rightly, or “skill in the art of godly living”.  …  The reason that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of both knowledge and wisdom is that the moral life begins with reverence and humility before the Maker and Redeemer.  The idea of a quest for knowledge sets biblical wisdom in the broad context of the ancient Near Eastern quest for truth, and this verse also validates such a quest as legitimate and good.  Thus it affirms a kind of “creational revelation,” the idea that one can find moral and theological truth through observing the world.  At the same time, it distinguishes the biblical pursuit of knowledge and wisdom from those of the surrounding cultures, for it asserts that submission to the Lord is foundational to the attainment of real understanding. (cf. Pa. 111:10; Prov. 9:10).  By using the covenant name “the LORD” in preference to the more generic “God,” this verse makes the point that truth is found through Israel’s God.  (For fearing the Lord in Proverbs as the right response to his covenant, see 1:29; 2:5; 3:7; 8:13; 10:27; 14:2, 26-27; 15:16, 33; 16:6; 19:23; 22:4; 23:17; 24:21; 31:30.)  In addition, the verse asserts that fools despise wisdom and instruction, thus setting up the alternative between the two ways of wisdom and folly.  This contrast dominates the entire book, as the way of wisdom, righteousness, and the fear of the Lord is set against the way of folly, evil, and scoffing.”

The “fear of the LORD” is also seen as a profound respect for the LORD.  It must also be admitted that this fear has in it a sense of terror.  We saw earlier that Jacob had wrestled with God all night and “I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” (Gen. 32:30 ESV)  So there is a very real sense of terror when encountering God.  That attitude seems, somehow, to be lost on us today.]

What is the fate of those who will not accept “Wisdom’s” advice?
[“…they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.” (Proverbs 1:31 NIV)]

Waywardness and complacency are somewhat equated with what result?
[Waywardness will kill the simple; complacency will destroy fools.]

What are the benefits of listening to “Wisdom”?
[“… but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease without harm.” (Proverbs 1:33 NIV)  This verse might be especially meaningful given the amount of fear and terror we think we live under.  Most of our fears stem directly from a lack of belief in God and what he is able to do for us.]

Old Testament Reading Guide -February 13-19, 2012

How do I use this reading guide?

Genesis 25:19-34            Jacob and Esau

While we won’t be discussing it here, the first part of Chapter 25 of Genesis tells us that Abraham got married again after Sarah died.  His second wife’s name was Keturah and she bore to Abraham six more sons.  When Abraham died (at the age of 175 years) he left all that he had to Isaac.  (Abraham had distributed gifts while he lived to the sons of Keturah.)

So, Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah but, alas, she was found to be “barren”.  What does Isaac do about this?  He had to do something to make sure he had children otherwise what happens to the promise the LORD had made?
[He prays “to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren”. (v. 25:21 NIV)]

What is the difference here between Abraham/Sarah, and Isaac/Rebekah?
[The LORD had promised Abraham that he would have a son by Sarah, but the LORD’s timing is woefully slow for us.  We, like Abraham, want things to happen now; we, like Abraham, cannot wait for the LORD.  So Sarah takes matters into her own hands and tells Abraham to get himself a child from her servant Hagar.  That is Sarah’s solution to the problem.  We saw how that worked out.  Isaac’s solution was a much better one: he prayed to the LORD to provide him with a son.]

What was the result of Isaac’s prayer for a son?
[Rebekah conceived of twins: Esau and Jacob.]

Something troubles Rebekah while she is pregnant.  What is it?
[The twins in her womb begin to fight.  I think Rebekah was afraid she would miscarry of her baby.]

What does Rebekah do and what does she find out?
[Rebekah prays to the LORD and the first thing she finds out is that she is going to have twins – boys.  The next thing is a prophecy: “… the older will serve the younger.” (v. 25:23b NIV)  We have to respect both Isaac and Rebekah because it seems that their first recourse to a problem (certainly at this point) is to go the LORD in prayer.  Unhappily, as we shall see, that tendency does not continue.]

Since, as we have seen, names which are given in the Old Testament are meaningful, what is the significance of the names of Esau and Jacob?
[Esau may mean “hairy”; “… and his whole body was like a hairy garment”. (v. 25:25 NIV)  Esau and his descendents will also become known as Edom (a perennial enemy of the Jews [Israel] which may mean “red”: “The first to come out was red.” (v. 25:25 NIV)  Esau was ruddy and hairy; this will play an important role later in Esau’s life.  “His brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel…” (v. 25:26 NIV)  So Jacob actually means “he grasps the heel” [from the footnotes of the NIV], which, because of what happens later, came to mean “deceiver”.]

We know that Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born to him; how old was Isaac when his sons were born to him?
[Isaac was sixty years old when Esau and Jacob were born.)]

Now the trouble begins.  It will be important to remember the promise that the LORD made to Rebekah regarding her sons: i.e., “… and the older will serve the younger” (v. 25:23b NIV).  Why, do you suppose, Isaac loves Esau over Jacob?
[I believe that Isaac loves Esau as is first-born son.  To him belongs the inheritance (Isaac’s).  The thing is we don’t know if Isaac was ever aware of the prophecy that Rebekah had received from the LORD regarding Jacob – that he would inherit as a first-born son should.  Esau was the outdoorsman and he became an experienced hunter and Isaac “…had a taste for wild game…” (v. 25:28 NIV)]

“… but Rebekah loved Jacob.” (v. 25:28b NIV)  Why would Rebekah prefer Jacob over Esau?
[In truth, the Scripture does not tell us why Rebekah preferred Jacob, but perhaps her maternal instinct to protect the younger and less-favored son kicked in.  Perhaps she remembered the prophecy of the Lord.  Actually, I doubt she remembered the prophecy regarding her younger son given what happens next.]

Phase One

The next scene is phase one of Jacob’s plan to usurp Esau’s favor with Isaac (through deception).  What is significant about the stew?  (This is a minor detail but it proves of some importance in verse 25:30.)  What does Esau say about himself which sounds rather exaggerated?  What is the cost of that exaggeration?
[The significant thing about the stew is that Esau describes it as being “red”.  In verse 25:30 “That is why he [Esau] is also called Edom.”  Esau claims to be famished unto death.  “Look, I am about to die. … What good is the birthright to me?” (v. 25:32 NIV)  So Jacob requires Esau to surrender his birthright (as the first-born) for a bowl of (red) stew.  In the NIV Study Bible notes p. 46: “25:33 Swear to me first.  A verbal oath was all that was required to make the transaction legal and forever binding.”  Times certainly have changed: today such a notion would be laughable.]

Verse 25:34b sums up Esau’s attitude: “So Esau despised his birthright.”

Genesis 26:1-6 and 12-33       Isaac and Abimelech

In the first six verses of Chapter 26 we learn that Isaac went to see Abimelech of Philistia.  Many of the events of Isaac’s encounter with Abimelech are similar to those of his father Abraham’s dealings with another king of the same name (though unlikely the same man).  Verse two tells us that the LORD appeared to Isaac.  While the bible doesn’t tell us how that appearing happened, I think it was by means of a dream (for that was usually how the LORD met with people in those days).  What are the LORD’s instructions to Isaac?
[The LORD tells Isaac to remain in Gerar and not to go to Egypt.  Further, the LORD promises to increase Isaac’s blessings and then re-confirms the covenant or oath the LORD made to Abraham about his many offspring and that he would give them all the land of Canaan.]

While we can see several similarities between Abraham’s journey among the Philistines and Isaac’s, what is a striking difference?
[Abraham created a ruckus when first he entered the land of the Philistines by telling Sarah to admit that she was Abraham’s sister and not his wife.   Abimelech (I) bribed Abraham to leave his land so that the LORD would not destroy his people.  Isaac, on the other hand, was greatly blessed by the Lord and his flocks and herds multiplied thus making him very rich among the Philistines.  While they drove (and bribed) Abraham to leave, this Abimelech (II) commanded Isaac to leave because he was getting too powerful.  Isaac was not bribed.]

Isaac then digs a couple of wells over which the Philistines dispute.  He abandons them and finally digs a well where there is no dispute.  What does he call this well?  What does it mean?
[“He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it.  He named it Rehoboth, saying, ‘Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land.’” (v. 26:22 NIV)  As indicated in the notes in the NIV, Rehoboth means “room”.]

We continue with the parallels in Abraham’s and Isaac’s lives.  Abraham makes a treaty with Abimelech (I) at Beersheba (“can mean ‘well of the oath’ or ‘well of seven’” NIV footnotes).  Isaac makes a treaty with Abimelech (II) also at Beersheba.

Genesis 27:1-29                    Jacob and Esau (Phase Two)

We have already seen that it is God’s plan that Jacob receive Isaac’s inheritance. (Gen. 25:23)  Since it appears that God cannot be trusted to keep his word, what do Jacob and Rebekah plan to secure the blessing to Jacob?
[They devise a scheme to deceive the blind Isaac by substituting Jacob for Esau.  Jacob lies to his father (who is on his deathbed!) telling Isaac that he is actually Esau.  Rebekah is complicit in this deception for she told Jacob exactly what he needed to do to get the blessing.  So Isaac blesses Jacob thinking he is Esau.  Keep in mind that the firstborn received a double potion of the inheritance.]

Did you ever wonder how things might have unfolded had everyone believed that God could be trusted to perform what he promised?

Genesis 27:30-45         Esau’s Portion

Esau had been sent on an errand to kill and prepare wild game for a meal for his father.  While he is gone Jacob pulls off his great caper.  Unawares, Esau returns with a hot meal (wild game) and presents it to Isaac who now is suspicious of having been tricked.  Isaac now knows that he has been deceived but he cannot withdraw his blessing from Jacob so Esau has to settle for second best.  What is Esau’s response to these events?
[“Isn’t he rightly named Jacob (deceiver)?  He has deceived me these two times: He took my birthright (which Esau actually sold), and now he’s taken my blessing!” {v. 27:36 NIV}

What kind of blessing can Isaac give to Esau?
[None, really.  “Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s richness, away from the dew of heaven above.  You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother.  But when you grow restless you will throw his yoke from off your neck.” (v. 27:39-40 NIV)]
What are Esau’s plans for Jacob?
[Very naturally, Esau holds a grudge against Jacob and plans to kill him once their father dies.

What is Rebekah’s advice to Jacob?
[She tells Jacob to go to her brother Laban until Esau’s passion subsides.  Jacob will learn he holds no candle to Laban when it comes to deception.]

Genesis 27:46-28:4                    Rebekah and Isaac’s Marital Plans for Jacob

What is Rebekah’s worry about Jacob’s bride?
[“If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from the Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.” (v. 27:46 NIV)

What is Isaac’s advice?
[“Go at once to Paddan Aram, to the house of your mother’s father Bethuel.  Take a wife for yourself there, from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother.” (v. 28:2 NIV)]

Genesis 29:1-20                        Jacob Meets His Match

Who is one of the first people that Jacob meets in Paddan Aram?  What is the connection?
[Jacob meets Rachel who happens to be his cousin – daughter of his mother’s brother (Laban).  It was love at first sight.]

How was Jacob received by Laban?
[He was embraced with: “You are my own flesh and blood.” (v. 29:14 NIV)]

Now the education begins.  What bargain does Laban make with Jacob for wages?
[Jacob agrees to work for Laban for seven (!) years to win the hand of Rachel.]

Genesis 29:21-35                   Jacob and Leah and Rachel

What goes wrong?
[Laban tricks Jacob.  Jacob had agreed to work for Laban for seven (!) years for the hand of Rachel. Jacob thought he was working for Rachel, but Laban married off his elder daughter Leah to Jacob instead.]

What is the irony of this event?
[Jacob calls Laban a “deceiver”; the very name he was given at birth.  He was tricked by someone who was better at it (deceiving) than he.]

What was Laban’s excuse for the “sleight of hand” played against Jacob?
[“It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one.”  (v. 29:27 NIV)]

What is the next bargain Jacob makes?
[Jacob agrees again to work another seven (!) years, this time for Rachel.]

What is the “bridal week” referred to in verse 27?
[It is a seven year period.]

What happened to Leah as a result of Jacob’s dealings with Laban?
[Jacob preferred Rachel to Leah.  “He loved Rachel more than Leah.” (v. 29:30 NIV)]

How did the LORD come to Leah’s rescue?
[“When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.” (v. 29:31 NIV)]

How many times had Leah given birth during this time?  What were the names of her children?

[Leah gave birth four times: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah.  Reuben is the firstborn who loses his status as firstborn for what amounts to rebellion (or usurpation); Levi will be ancestor of both Moses and Aaron; and Judah is the ancestor of both David and Jesus.]

Old Testament Reading Guide -February 6-12, 2012

How do I use this reading guide?

Genesis 19:1-29            Judgment Comes to Sodom & Gomorrah    

What does Lot do that mimics what Abraham had done when visited by three strangers?
[“… he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground.” (v. 19:1 NIV)   He then urges,  or rather insists, that they spend the night at his house where he can prepare a meal for them and give them refreshment.]

What demand is made of Lot by the men of the city of Sodom?
(v. 19:5)

What bargain does Lot try to make with the men of Sodom in exchange for his visitors?
[Lot offers his two virgin daughters to the depraved men of Sodom only to protect his visitors.  Lot does “a shocking, cowardly, and inexcusable act (even if he intended this only as a bluff, or expected the offer to be rejected).  The reaction of the crowd only confirms the truly evil nature of their intentions.” (From the ESV Study Bible notes p. 83)

What charge do the men of Sodom bring against Lot?
[“This fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge!” (v. 19:9 NIV)

What do Lot’s visitors do to the men of Sodom in retaliation?
[They reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and struck all the men outside with blindness. (v. 19:10)]

What is the mission of Lot’s two visitors?
[“… we are going to destroy this place.  The outcry to the LORD against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.” (v. 19:13 NIV)

What do we learn about Lot’s two virgin daughters in verse 14?
[We find out that they are engaged (betrothed).]

Lot tries urgently to warn his prospective sons-in-law about the destruction about to be visited on Sodom.  What is their reaction to the news?
(v. 19:14)

The visiting angels are fierce in their mission to save Lot and his family.  What do they do to hurry Lot’s departure from Sodom?  Why?
[“When he {Lot} hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them.” (v. 19:16 NIV)]

What is the parting warning given to Lot by the visiting angels?
[“Flee for your lives!  Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain.  Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!” (v. 19:17 NIV)  The command “Don’t look back…” will be crucial in a few verses to follow.]

Verses 19:18-22 speak of a bargain of sorts that Lot makes with the angels.  Lot thinks that he is unable to make it to the mountains before the judgment befalls Sodom, and so suggests that he be allowed to go to “Zoar” (meaning “small”) to wait out the planned calamity.  Here the angels tell him that he must hurry “because I cannot do anything until you reach it.” (v. 19:22 NIV)  That begs the question: why would Lot not have enough time to get to the mountains?  The angel was going to wait anyway…  (I don’t know the answer to that one. j.t.)  So the LORD rains down destruction on both Sodom and Gomorrah and wipes out every form of life there.

What was Mrs. Lot’s fatal mistake?
[“But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” (v. 19:26 NIV)  Jesus refers to Lot’s wife in Luke 17:30-32.]

Abraham sees the destruction from afar and from his perspective it is like dense smoke as from a furnace.  The important phrase in verse 29 is “he [God] remembered Abraham…”

Genesis 21:1-21             The Birth of Isaac (“God has brought me laughter”)

Speaking of “remembering Abraham” it is now about a year later and…  What promise was fulfilled?
[“Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised.  Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.  Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. (v. 21:1-3 NIV)

Keep in mind that names were very significant in biblical times.  What does “Isaac” mean?
[From the footnotes in the NIV we learn that Isaac means “he laughs”.]

What is significant about Isaac’s name?
[Way back in Chapter 17 the LORD announced to Abraham that he would have a son by Sarah.  Abraham prostrated himself in homage to the Lord but while in that position he sniggered thinking, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old?” (v. 17:17 NIV).  Abraham denied laughing but thought the notion of having a baby at age 100 ludicrous.  Interestingly, and unaware of what Abraham had done, once Sarah had heard this good news her reaction was very much the same as her husband’s.]

Sarah and Hagar go head-to-head once again but this time Sarah has a bargaining chip.  What does Sarah demand of Abraham and what promises does the Lord make to him (two promises)?
[Sarah demands that Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael away; the Lord reiterates that “it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned”; and “I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring.” (vv. 21:12-13 NIV) emphasis added]

So, the next morning, Abraham sends Hagar and Ishmael off with some provisions and “a skin of water”.  The two wander in the desert until the water was gone and then they sat down to die.  She saw a “bowshot” away from her son because she could not watch the boy die.  What happens next?  What is the significance of “bowshot”?
[Hagar and Ishmael were not present when the LORD had promised Abraham that he would make of Ishmael a great nation for they were despondent.  An angel of the LORD opened Hagar’s eyes to reveal a well of water.  The LORD, at that time, made to Hagar the same promise regarding Ishmael as he had made to Abraham.  The “bowshot” is significant because in time Ishmael will become an archer. (v. 21:20)]

Genesis 22:1-18              Isaac’s Life on the Line

What great demand does the LORD make of Abraham?  Considering the demand, what must Abraham believe the LORD will do?  What very innocent question does Isaac raise?  What is Abraham’s answer to this?
[The LORD demands (asks) Abraham to take his only son and offer him as a burnt offering.  While the Bible does not tell us this, it is reasonable to assume that Abraham must have believed that the LORD would raise his son from the dead after the sacrifice if the LORD were to be true to his promises.  Isaac: “The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (v. 22:7 NIV)  Abraham: “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.” (v. 22:8)

What is the LORD’s response to Abraham’s obedience? 
[“… the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’  ‘Here I am,’ he replied. ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said.  ‘Do not do anything to him.  Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son. … ‘I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore….’ (vv. 22:11-12; 16-17 NIV)]

Christians can easily see a parallel between this event and the event of Jesus’ death with one major difference.  While God stayed Abraham’s hand as he was about to offer his son on the altar, the LORD did not stay his own hand from offering his son, his only son on Calvary.  Interestingly enough, these two events, though separated by hundreds of years, occur in virtually the same place.  It is believed that the Temple (The Dome of the Rock) was built on the very place where Abraham was to offer up Isaac.

Genesis 23:1-20          The Death and Burial of Sarah

How old was Sarah when she died?  (How old then was Isaac?  How old was Abraham at this time?)
[Sarah was 127 years old when she died.  Isaac then would have to be thirty-seven years old.  Abraham would be been 137 years old.)

Notice the deference that Abraham displays as he buys the property he needs in order to bury Sarah.  How do the Hittites view Abraham?

How much money does Abraham pay for the land?
[Abraham paid four hundred shekels (or about ten pounds) of silver for the land.]

Genesis 24:1-27           Isaac and Rebekah

Isaac was pushing forty and Abraham was “now old and well advanced in years” and he reckoned that it was time to find a bride for Isaac.  One cannot have a great nation if one does not have children.  A wife comes in handy when it comes to child-bearing.  Abraham enlists the aid of his chief servant in this endeavor and makes him take an oath.  What is the unusual nature of this oath (unusual to us, that is)?
[Abraham makes the servant put his hand under Abraham’s thigh to swear.  He promises not to find a wife from among the Canaanites, but to go to Abraham’s ancestral homeland to search.]

Why is Abraham so adamant about Isaac’s not going back to the land of the Chaldeans (Abraham’s ancestral home)?
[“The LORD … will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there.” (v. 24:7)  I think it may have to do with “going backwards”.  Remember Lot’s wife who looked back.  The Lord called Abraham out of Ur (of the Chaldeans) and brought him to Canaan with the promise that one day his posterity will possess that land.  He didn’t want to “go back”. – j.t.]

Once the servant enters the town of Nahor (in the land of Abraham’s birth) what does he pray?
[“Then he prayed, ‘O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham.  See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water.  May it be that when I say to a girl, “Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,” and she says, “Drink, and I’ll water your camels too” – let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac.  By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.’” (v. 24:12-14 NIV)]

As it happens Abraham’s servant stumbles right in the middle of Abraham’s distant family.  Rebekah is the girl who happens to be drawing the water that evening.  She is granddaughter to Nahor (who, if you remember, is Abraham’s brother – still confusing).

What does Abraham’s servant do to Rebekah?
[He gives her a gold nose ring and a couple of bracelets.  This amounted to engagement by proxy.  He was making a pledge for Isaac to Rebekah.  Now all he needed her to do was to accept.]

Genesis 24:28-51            The Engagement is Finalized

Hospitality is shown to Abraham’s servant (quite unlike the kind of hospitality we are accustomed to today).  The servant then replays the events that had just happened outside.  Whom do we meet for the first time?
[We meet Rebekah’s brother Laban.  He will be instrumental in the story of Jacob many years later.]

What is Laban and Bethuel’s response to the servant’s offer of Isaac as husband to Rebekah?
[“Laban and Bethuel answered, ‘This is from the LORD; we can say nothing to you one way or the other.  Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master’s son, as the LORD has directed.’” (v. 24:50-51 NIV)]

Genesis 24:52-67            Rebekah Leaves for Her New Home.

Abraham’s servant then showered Bethuel and Laban with the riches Abraham had sent along.  Kind of like sealing the deal.

The next morning Abraham’s servant was fully prepared to return to Abraham.  What was Bethuel and Laban’s delay?
[Bethuel and Laban wanted Rebekah to remain at home another ten days.]

The servant of Abraham has a sense of urgency in his departure. I think that he may be afraid that Bethuel and Laban may change their minds, or worse, that Abraham may die in the meantime.  The truth is the scripture does not tell us.

Who gets the final decision?
[Rebekah had the final say.  I think that that was unusual.  In a patriarchal society (such as that one) the women very rarely had any say over their futures.]

How does this story culminate?
[There was Isaac meditating in the field and he notices camels afar off approaching.  He then goes out to meet the small caravan.  Rebekah asks Abraham’s servant who is approaching and he tells her that it is Isaac (the son of) his master.  She covers her face with a veil and then goes off with Isaac into Sarah’s tent and Isaac then marries Rebekah.  The bible tells us that Isaac was then comforted after his mother’s death.]

 

Old Testament Reading Guide – January 30-February 5, 2012

How do I use this reading guide?

Genesis 14:8-24               Lot Lost (Kidnapped) and Found (Rescued)

Evidently there is continual unrest in the area of Sodom and Gomorrah.  A bunch of kings decide to do battle against Sodom and Gomorrah.  Who would ever have thought that Sodom and Gomorrah would become objects of pity, but that is what happens here.   The aggressors, (Kedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar –four kings) met for battle against Sodom and Gomorrah and three of their friends in the Valley of Shiddim.  So we have four “bad” kings against five “good” kings meeting toward the southern coast of the Dead Sea.

As the aggressors (the four kings) sweep through the area and put to rout the forces of Sodom and Gomorrah, they carry off anything of value from their enemies which include, in this case, Lot and his family.  Abram is advised of these events from an escapee whereupon he goes into action.  He takes 318 valiant men of war and put Kedorlaomer, Tidal, Amraphel, and Arioch to flight chasing them from well beyond Damascus to the border of Egypt and then back to Mamre (about 20 miles south of Bethlehem).

How did Abram do?
[“He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.” v. 14:16 NIV]

Who is Melchizedek and what did he do?  [see Hebrews 7] What is the significance of this action?
[He is the king of Salem (Peace {Jerusalem}); he brought out bread and wine and blesses Abram.  {Bread and wine become symbols of body and blood as memorialized by Jesus at the Last Supper.}]

What was Abram’s response to what Melchizedek did?
[“Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” v. 14:20b  This is where tithing comes from.]

Abram and the king of Sodom come to an agreement.  What was that agreement?
[The king of Sodom requests only that Abram return the captured people and that he may keep the goods.  Abram only wants “what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me.” v. 14:24a NIV]

Why does Abram limit what he gains from the king of Sodom?
[“I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread of thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’”

Genesis 15:1-11; 17-21                       God’s Covenant with Abram

What is the first thing the LORD says to Abram in this chapter?
[“Do not be afraid, Abram.  I am your shield, your very great reward.” v. 15:1]

What is Abram’s complaint?  On what is this complaint based?  Why is he having a difficult time trusting God?
[“O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus? … You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” vv. 15:2-3 NIV]

To what is Abram referring when he makes this complaint?
[Re-read Chapter 12:2-3]

What is the LORD’s answer to Abram’s question?
[“This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.”  He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars – if indeed you can count them. … So shall your offspring be.” vv. 15:4-5 NIV]

“Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”  Verse 6 is one of the most important verses in all of Scripture with respect of righteousness.  It is so important that Paul quotes this verse in Romans 4:3.

Back in Chapter 12 the Lord said to Abram regarding the land of Canaan: “To your offspring I will give this land.” v. 7  We have just seen that “Abram believed the LORD …” how is this at odds with verses 7 and 8?
[“He also said to him, ‘I am the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.’” vv. 15:7  Here the Lord reiterates the promise made in Chapter 12.  As quickly as Abram believes God, he also has his doubts: “O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” v. 8.

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The LORD then tells Abram to bring to him “a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” v. 15:10 (NIV)  “Abram brought all these to him, but cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however he did not cut in half.” v. 15:11 (NIV)

“When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking fire pot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.  On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates – the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.” vv. 15:17-20.

This ritual requires some explanation.  I cite from The Archaeological Bible p. 1251.  This ritual was practiced throughout the Near East ({today’s geography} i.e., Eastern Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, and Palestine.).

“The Hittite Ritual of Passing between the Pieces of a Sacrifice

Jeremiah 34    Jeremiah 34:18-20 refers to Zedekiah’s covenant with God, in which the people passed between the parts of a calf cut in two.  A similar ceremony is described in Genesis 15.  What was the significance of passing between the pieces of an animal that had been split in half?  Ancient texts supply us with several parallels to the Biblical rite.

§ A Middle Hittite text describes a purification ceremony.  This ceremony required defeated troops to march between the severed halves of a human, a billy goat, a puppy and a piglet, with fires burning on each side.  The troops were first to perform the ritual near a river, where they would sprinkle themselves with water as they marched; then they were to enact it in the plain in like manner.

§  In an eighth-century B.C. Aramaic treaty between Ashurnirari V and his vassal Matilu of Arpad, Matilu and his sons are likened to a spring lamb whose knuckle is placed in the mouth of its severed head, lest he should “sin” against the treaty with his lord.

§   Esharddon (680-669 B.C.) of Assyria declared in a treaty that his vassal and the vassal’s children, if he were to break the Assyrian king’s covenant, were to be treated in the same manner as the animals that lay slaughtered and gutted before them.

  The Hittite ritual is similar to its Biblical counterpart, but the Assyrian texts may help us to understand its true significance.  Essentially, these rites served as self-imprecation oaths, by which people called down curses upon their own heads should they fail to keep their part of the covenant they were solemnly ratifying.  The ritual was a way of saying, “May what happened to these animals happen to us if we break this covenant.”  Zedekiah’s covenant symbolized what would befall covenant-breakers.  In this case Zedekiah and his people did break the covenant, and the death and destruction the ritual enacted were indeed the outcome.”

We understand from this passage that the “fire pot with a blazing torch” which passed between the halves of the cut up animals was the LORD.  He was the party which made this covenant with Abram and thus he was the only one bound by it.  By suggestion, if the LORD were to break this covenant, he would be calling down curses upon himself.   According to the local customs, this was a demonstration as to the seriousness of the covenant.

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Genesis 16:1-14                        Hagar and Ishmael

Please keep in mind that “Abram believed the LORD …”

What appears to be the problem?
[Both Abram and Sarai believe that Sarai was barren and thus unable to provide Abram with a son.]

What is Sarai’s solution to the problem?
[“So she said to Abram, ‘The Lord has kept me from having children.  Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.’” Gen. 16:2 NIV]

In those days, their custom was that if one slept with another that constituted a marriage contract.

Wouldn’t you know what happened next!
[The servant, Hagar, conceived.]
After the great advice Sarai gave to her husband, whom does she blame for her problems now?
[Her husband Abram]

Sarai is envious of Hagar and begins to mistreat her so much so that Hagar then flees from Sarai.

Who finds Hagar and what advice does he give her?
[The “angel of the LORD” found Hagar and told her to submit to Sarai.]

What promise does Hagar receive?
[“The angel added, ‘I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count. … You are now with child and you will have a son.’” Gen. 16:10, 11 NIV]

What name does Hagar give to the LORD who spoke to her?
[“‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’”  We may infer from this that the “angel of the LORD” was a manifestation of God.]

Beer Lahai Roi =  well of the Loving One who sees me.

Genesis 16:15-17:14               The Covenant of Circumcision

What does Abram name his son? and Why?
[Abram names his son by Hagar, Ishmael which means “God hears”.  This was the name the angel of the LORD told Hagar to name her son when she was crying out in the wilderness.

Chapter 17 opens with an oft-repeated promise.  What is it?
[“I will greatly increase your numbers.” v. 17:1 NIV]

How does the Lord expand upon his promise and how does he confirm it?
[“‘This is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.  No longer will you be called Abram {“exalted father”}; your name will be Abraham {“father of many”}, for I have made you a father of many nations.  I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.  I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.’” Gen. 17:4-7 NIV]

How is this covenant described in verses 17:14-15?
[The covenant is one of circumcision.  Every male (born or bought) is to be circumcised on the eighth day of life.  If the boy is not circumcised he is “cut off” from his people.  This covenant is everlasting.]

Genesis 17:15-27          Sarai is Blessed and Gets a New Name

What is Sarai’s new name?  What does it mean?  {It may be indicated in footnotes.}
[Her new name is Sarah meaning princess.]
What does the Lord say here that is so funny (according to Abraham)?
[“I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her.  I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”  Abraham says to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old?  Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”]

*Please keep in mind that “Abram believed the Lord…”

What does Abraham say to the LORD?
[“If only Ishmael might live under your blessing.”  v. 17:18 NIV]

What might one infer from what Abraham says?
[ I have inferred that Abraham thinks that the Lord doesn’t know what he’s doing.  This is a promise that the LORD cannot keep.  Can a man of 100 years have a son?  Abraham wants to “help” God by working around the LORD’s promise by means of Ishmael.]

What name does the Lord tell Abraham to name his son by Sarah?
[Isaac]

What does the name mean?  {See the footnote}
[He laughs]

How does the Lord “read” Abraham’s mind by dispelling all of his questions?
[“Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.  I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. … But my covenant I will establish with Isaac whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.”  vv.  17:19, 21 NIV]

What does Abraham do next?
[He circumcises all the males in his company – those whom he owns and all others.]

How old is Abraham when he does this?  How old is Ishmael?
[Abraham is ninety-nine years old and Isaac is but thirteen.  It may be supposed that the bar-Mitzvah which Jewish boys pass through at age thirteen is taken from this passage.]

Genesis 18:1-16                  Abraham’s Hospitality

The appearance of the three visitors at the opening of this chapter is universally recognized as a manifestation of God.

How does Abraham acknowledge his three visitors?
[He runs toward them (at ninety-nine years of age – this shows that he thought they were very important); he bows to the ground (a not uncommon method of greeting in that part of the world and at that time); and offers them refreshment.  He appears to be greatly honored by these visitors.]

What kind of a feast does Abraham prepare?
[Abraham has Sarah make some bread; he goes to the herd and selects “a choice, tender calf” and has that prepared; he gets curds and milk.  {It must have taken several hours for all this to be done.  I guess his three visitors had no pressing business elsewhere.)

What is their (the three visitors) interest in Sarah?
[“I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” v. 18:10]

What is Sarah doing while this conversation is going on?
[She is eavesdropping… and laughs at the notion that she will have a baby by next year.]

What does Isaac mean again?  Do you begin to “get” the Lord’s sense of humor?

What did the LORD then say?  
[Why did Sarah laugh?  {Why not?  That’s what her husband did when he first heard from the Lord that he was going to father a child at ninety-nine.}]

What did Sarah say in response to this?
[“I did not laugh.”  But he said, “Yes, you did laugh” v. 18:15 NIV]

Where were the visitors headed as they left?
[They were headed for Sodom.]

Genesis 18:17-33         Abraham Haggles with the LORD

What privilege does the LORD extend to Abraham?
[He is about to show Abraham what He is about to do.]

What claims about Abraham (and his descendants) does the LORD make?
[That Abraham will become great; that the LORD has chosen him; that Abraham “will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just so that the LORD will bring about what he has promised him.” vv. 18:18-19 NIV]

What exactly does the LORD share with Abraham about Sodom and Gomorrah?
[The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that the LORD wants to see it for himself.]

Abraham haggles with the Lord for Sodom.  How well does he do?
[He gets the Lord to spare the city of Sodom from destruction if fifty good men (souls) can be found in the city.  He haggles that number from fifty to just ten.]

Notice the increasing deference that Abraham’s shows as he continues to bargain for Sodom.