Genesis 41 – Joseph Interprets Pharaoh’s Dreams

We come to a lengthy, but crucially important chapter of the Bible – two years after Pharaoh has his chief baker hanged.  Pharaoh has two dreams of his own.  When his wise men were unable to tell him what the dreams mean, his cupbearer (undoubtedly hoping to gain favor) had a sudden improvement in his memory, and told him about Joseph rightly predicting the baker’s fate and his own by interpreting their dreams.  So Joseph is quickly brought out of prison (verse 14), cleaned up, and brought before Pharaoh, who repeats his dreams to him.

Joseph is quick to point out before interpreting (verse 15), that it is God who will give Pharaoh the answers he is looking for, not Joseph himself.  Then throughout the interpretation, he makes it clear that God has shown Pharaoh through these dreams the reality of what He is about to do.  Joseph says that the “doubling” (verse 32) of the dreams (for they both mean the same thing) means that they will be fulfilled soon.  There will be seven years of great abundance, followed by seven years of severe famine.  He tells Pharaoh that he should appoint overseers over the land and take “one-fifth of the produce” from the plentiful years into reserves “so that the land may not perish through the famine” (verse 36).

So begins Joseph’s rise to power, as the Pharaoh decides that he will be that overseer.  He declares that Joseph will be second only to Pharaoh himself in all the land (verse 40).  To complete his acceptance as such in the land, Pharaoh gives him an Egyptian name (Zaphenath-paneah) and the hand of “Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On” in marriage.  It is from this marriage that Joseph’s sons, Manasseh and Ephraim are born.  We will see these two names figure prominently throughout the Old Testament, as their descendants become the famed “half-tribes” destined to go with the descendants of Joseph’s 11 brothers, as the “Twelve Tribes of Israel” are led by Moses, and finally by Joshua to the Promised Land ~400 years later.

For now though, Joseph’s choice of names for the two in verses 51-52 (the name Manasseh ironically relates to “forget” and Ephraim sounds like the Hebrew for “make fruitful”) reflects his acknowledgement throughout the chapter that God is in control, and that by His power Joseph’s life has been blessed.

The boy who was 17 years old (in Gen 37:2) before his brothers threw him away is 30 years old when he begins with Pharaoh (verse 46); and after the famine began 7 years later, “all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth” (verse 57).

Now, thanks to God, the young Hebrew has just become the second most powerful man in the world!

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Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.
/Robert

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Genesis 40 – Joseph Interprets Two Prisoners’ Dreams

Joseph has already been in prison for a long enough time to have earned great confidence from his keeper,  and now he is joined by Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and baker (roles important to any Pharaoh, should he not wish to be poisoned), who are imprisoned for an unnamed “offense against their lord of Egypt.”  These men would be accustomed to a better lifestyle and to having access to the magicians and “wise men” in Pharaoh’s court.  It would seem that the Lord has inspired them to be very curious about the dreams they have had; and the scripture tells us that these dreams did in fact each have its own interpretation (verse 5).

But now they have nobody to turn to in order to try to find out what these dreams mean.  Joseph, seeing their distress, persuades them to tell him about the dreams.  After hearing each one, he says “This is its interpretation” – as someone speaking with authority,  as indeed he was.  In verses 20-22 both prophecies are fulfilled, proving him correct (unfortunate for the baker).

But the cupbearer does not honor Joseph’s request to “remember” him to Pharaoh, and Joseph remains in prison.  But note his confidence that he can interpret those dreams, and the knowledge of where that gift comes from (verse 8).  After all he has endured – and still in prison, he clearly knows that God is helping him.

When circumstances in life are such that our own outlook seems dim, do we tend to wonder why the Lord has turned His back on us?  If we do our very best to serve Him, we can sometimes examine some of those times and see for ourselves how He has enriched us – or someone else through us.

In those situations, I have often found great comfort in the book of James, and am fond of the New American Standard version’s translation of James 1:2-4 ” Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.
/Robert

Genesis 39 – Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife

We move past Genesis 38 and the story of Judah and Tamar, who are related (pun intended) in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, as told in Mt 1:3 – and into chapter 39.  Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and captain of the guard, had bought Joseph from Ishmaelites.  Joseph was successful in this Egyptians master’s home because the Lord was with him; and because of that,  Potiphar enjoyed prosperity (v 5).  Verse 6 says “Joseph was handsome in form and appearance” (exactly as his mother, Rachel was described in Gen 29:17); and Potiphar’s wife would not leave him alone, trying to persuade him to “lie with” her. Unable to slip her grasp, Joseph just leaves her holding the garment and puts some “gone” between him and the master’s wife.

Considering her behavior, it’s not too surprising that she makes up the story that gets Joseph thrown in prison (v 17-18).  She places an interesting play on the term “laugh” in this chapter to drive the stake in deep.  She first uses the contempt that the men of the household would have for Joseph both as a slave, and by not being Egyptian of birth, to make the “attack” on her personal to them (v 14 “See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us”).  Since the “he” in that statement is Potiphar, the whole thing then becomes partly his fault – further pushing any suspicion from herself.  In verse 17, she uses “laugh” in the intimate form as when Abimilech discovered “Isaac laughing with Rebekah his wife” in Gen 26:8,  and knew she was not his sister.

Joseph again goes from a “most favored” status to fellowship with the king’s prisoners. But the Lord showed him steadfast love (v 21) and he succeeded in whatever he did there as he again won favor, this time with the prison keeper.

Two things are remarkable about Joseph in this chapter. The first is obvious – a young man being seduced by a desirable woman, yet he does the right thing.  Contrast his character with his brothers (Reuben with his father’s concubine in ch 35, and Judah with his own daughter-in-law – thinking he was visiting a prostitute as her face was covered in ch 38).  The other notable thing about Joseph is his statement to Potiphar’s wife that he could not do “this great wickedness and sin against God.” It is his recognition of what sin really means that has meaning for us today.  We sometimes hurt ourselves when we sin, and we often hurt other people because of it.  But it always hurts the Lord.

Notice as was the case with Potiphar, Joseph’s success with the Lord’s help was such that the prison keeper did not have to think about any of the things he was in charge of.

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Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.
/Robert

Genesis 37 – Joseph’s Dreams

Moving from Genesis 32 to Genesis 37 – here are some highlights we have skipped over.  Esau and Jacob’s reunion goes much better than he had feared, but they have little to do with each other. Esau and his people move from the land of Canaan, and he is the father of the Edomites (we will hear much about them, particularly after the Babylonian captivity). Dinah, Leah’s daughter is sexually assaulted by Shechem.  Ultimately, Jacob’s sons (led by Simeon and Levi, who slaughter him and all the males of the city) take their revenge.  Jacob seems more worried about himself and his reputation in the land than anything else.  Reuben has laid with his father’s concubine in an apparent effort to assume position in the family, very much a slap in the face of Jacob – for which he will carry a grudge.

Isaac has died, as well as Rachel (after bearing his son Benjamin). And as 35:22-25 state  “…Now the sons of Jacob were twelve. 23 The sons of Leah: Reuben (Jacob’s firstborn), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. 24 The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. 25 The sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s servant: Dan and Naphtali.”  So now we have the basis for the “twelve tribes of Israel.”

Jacob, having already proved he was not the best father, shows favoritism to Joseph and made him a “robe of many colors.” We read about this same Hebrew term (for the robe) again only in 2 Sam. 13:18, with (King) David’s daughter Tamar. So we know it is a very special coat, and simply seeing him wear it must have angered his brothers. Then Joseph has what can only be thought of as the bad judgment to tell them about his dreams that seem to signify his entire family bowing down to him. His angry and jealous brothers conspire to kill him. Reuben talks them into throwing him into a pit, hoping to save him later. But Judah talks the others into selling him to Midianite traders, who in turn sell him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh.  Jacob’s despair, thinking he is dead, is deep after the boys pull off their deception (v 31-35).

Joseph has gone from favored son to prisoner in a far-off land – betrayed by his own family in the worst possible ways. How quickly ones fortune can turn! And soon, God will show that to be very much the case – as He has special plans for Jacobs’s favorite.

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Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.
/Robert

Genesis 32 – Jacob Wrestles with God

Jacob Fears Esau

Genesis 32 is a key turning point for Jacob.  He is finally headed home after 20 years of being away – and he had left out of fear that his brother Esau was going to take his life!  Now, he’s coming back to the very same place, and he is not at all confident that his brother won’t do just that (much less be happy to see him).  But the Lord has told him to return, and that is what he intends to do.  And when his messengers return to tell him that Esau is coming to meet him with four hundred men, it must have been a bit frightening.  But when he left, he had only his staff (as he says in his remarkable prayer to God in verses 9-12). But now, the wealth he has accumulated makes it possible to split his livestock and people into “two camps.”  He does this after the “angels of God” have met him along the way (in v 1).  He named the place where that happened “Mahanaim” which means “two camps,” and that theme is repeated in the chapter.

Jacob decides to try to appease his brother by sending his servants ahead of him, along with large amounts of livestock as presents for Esau from “your servant Jacob.”  A bit ironic, since the Lord had said in Gen 25:23 that “the older shall serve the younger.”  So for safety, Jacob splits the caravan into droves, and his camp into two camps, so one could get away if necessary.

Jacob Wrestles with God

The unexpected wrestling event of verses 22 and following are a source of much confusion to readers.  Jacob realizes quickly that he is actually wrestling with God, but we know that scripture says no one looks on God in His true form and lives, so how do we explain this – or Moses and his later encounters?  God’s word has several examples of God appearing to His people in biblical times in human form for His own reasons.  Remember Abraham’s encounter in Genesis 18 before the Lord destroyed Sodom?  Also, Jesus was fully God, and took human form.  There is much that we do not know, but the important thing is the change that is to come over Jacob, along with the change of his name from Jacob (which means “trickster”) to his new name “Israel,” (which means “God fights”).

The other important thing to take away from this chapter is the above-mentioned prayer in v 9-12.  Read it again, and notice the reverence, the humbleness, and the thanksgiving that accompanies his petition to God.  Only Jesus gives us a better example for prayer.

(Side note: Here is an interesting article about the possible site of Mahanaim)

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Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.  Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.   For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.
/Robert

Genesis 31 – Jacob Flees from Laban

In Genesis 31, Jacob provides Leah and Rachel an explanation of where they are going and that the Lord has instructed him to go back to his father’s land.  Twice, the scripture tells us that Laban has cheated Jacob out of his wages 10 times; and verses 7-12 show that Laban had indeed tried – even beyond what we were told about in chapter 30, but the Lord had looked after Jacob so that he prospered greatly anyway.

But Laban’s sons were jealous and they stirred him up to pursue Jacob after they left.  But God put Laban on notice in verse 24 before he confronted him.  Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen her father’s “gods,” and she hides them cleverly in verses 34-35, so that his search for them is fruitless.  It is then, that Jacob tells him exactly what he thinks of the way he has treated him.

The two of them make a covenant that basically is the same as drawing a line in the sand that says – let God judge you if you cross it to come after me or mine.  Laban goes away empty-handed after kissing his daughters and grandchildren.

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Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.  Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.
/Robert

Genesis 30 – Jacob’s Children

Genesis 30 continues what some call the “great baby race” that started in chapter 29 between Jacob’s wives, Leah and Rachel. So the first thing that sticks out like a sore thumb in this chapter is that Jacob not only has two wives, but he also has two other women (the two sister’s servants) bearing his children.  But God’s plan is for one man to be married to one woman (Gen 2:24 and Mt 19:3-9 are just two of the passages we can look to for this).  So how do we reconcile that with this and other Old Testament passages?  Jacob is intimate with four women here, two of whom are not even his wives. Abraham is intimate with Hagar while he is married to Sarah.  Later, even David has multiple wives and concubines.

Customs and traditions were indeed different in Old Testament times, and there are things that God’s word does not tell us. But as Paul tells us in Romans 15:4, “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction.” What is best for us, and what pleases and displeases the Lord has never changed.  That fact is clear in this chapter, and in each other case.  Having relations, and even other children, with more than one woman brought unhappiness to  Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar.  And it brings unhappiness here to Jacob, Leah, and Rachel.

Jacob loves Rachel, but cannot always be with her.  She is unhappy because he is with Leah.  Leah knows who Jacob really loves (and more to the point, that it isn’t her), but keeps hoping that bearing him more children will bring him to love her (once again, note the meanings of the names).  Jacob is having sexual relations with four women, and cannot make any of them happy!   God has given us ample instruction in the Old Testament and the New Testament that the sexual relationship for us is best between one man and one woman in marriage.  Will we ever learn?

So Jacob has 11 sons now, laying more foundation for God’s plan. Each of those sons will play a part.  Joseph’s part will begin soon, and will be important indeed.  For now, Jacob is making plans to leave, but must deal with more of Laban’s deception (verses 28-36).  But God is taking care of him as he makes preparations.

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Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.  Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.
/Robert

Genesis 29 – Jacob Marries Leah and Rachel

In Genesis 29, Jacob is still traveling; and he meets some shepherds at a well.  When he finds out they are from Haran, he asks whether they know his mother’s brother “Laban the son of Nahor”  You may remember from Genesis 24:47 that Rebekah and Laban were the Bethuel’s children, and that Bethuel was the son of Nahor, actually making them his grand-children.  The Bible often notes people speaking of  a “son” in terms of later generations.  Jesus is often called the “son of David.”

Jacob is taken with Laban’s daughter, Rachel, and works there for him for seven years to pay the bride-price for her.  But the great trickster gets tricked himself, and must marry her sister Leah.  He then has to work another seven years for her (v. 21-27).  Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, so verse 31 tells us that the Lord “opened her womb,” and Leah bears the first four of Jacob’s 12 sons (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah).

Sometimes, unless we are reading a Bible that has easily followed footnotes, some passages can seem “curious” to us.  This is true in verses 32-35, which explain that she chose the name for each one for a certain reason.  It makes more sense when we understand that “Reuben” means “See, a son,” “Simeon” sounds like the Hebrew for “heard,” “Levi” like the Hebrew for “attached,” and “Judah” like the Hebrew for “heard.”

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Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.
/Robert

Genesis 28 – Jacob Sent to Laban

Genesis 28 continues with Isaac sending Jacob to the family of his uncle, Laban (Rebekah’s brother) to choose a wife.  Esau, seeing that his parents were not pleased with his taking Canaanite women as wives, takes another wife from Ishmael’s family – seemingly hoping to please them.  But as verse 9 points out, this was “besides the wives he had.”  So he kept the Canaanite women, and therefore, nothing really changed.  Esau just didn’t “get it.”

Jacob’s Dream

This is the chapter best known for Jacob’s ladder.  The important thing about this dream of Jacob’s is God’s repeat of the promise to Abraham and affirming in it to Jacob that ALL the nations of the earth will be blessed in his offspring (the Messiah to come) in verse 14.  (We “hear” Jesus speaking to Nathanael in John 1:51 of seeing “angels of God ascending and descending.” that reminds us of this dream in verse 12).  And this dream along with the conviction that God was with him increases Jacob’s faith.  After he awakes, he takes the stone he had laid on during that dream and he later called that place Bethel.  Jacob will return there in Genesis 35 at God’s instruction to build an altar.

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Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.
/Robert

Genesis 27 – Isaac Blesses Jacob

In Genesis 27, we find that because Isaac loved Esau most, he thinks his blessing on him will secure his future as Isaac would have it to be.  But God will have it His way.  Jacobs deception of his father is pretty loathsome, though; and so is the fact that his mother not only came up with the idea – but she helped him carry it out (v 6-17)!  Refer back to Gen 25:25, to explain verses 11 and 16.  Such an elaborate plan from her in short order suggests a thing or two about Jacob being such a “trickster.” Parents “teach” their children in all sorts of ways.

Notice  that Jacob has no problem about lying to his father, and even explains “getting back so quickly” by saying that is was “Because the Lord your God granted me success”, referring to the hunt for game (v 20)!  So, clearly Jacob also was not a perfect man.  But our God is forgiving and merciful.

Esau did not try to hide his hatred for Jacob afterward, as his plans for his brother got back to his mother Rebekah (v 42).  So she makes plans for him to go away to her brother, Laban’s people in Haran.  We were told in chapter 26 that Esau’s Canaanite wives made life bitter for them, and Rebekah uses that to influence Isaac to send Jacob away to get a wife (v 46).

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Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.
/Robert