Outline Of Genesis

I. Creation (1, 2).

II. The Fall of Man (3—5).

III. Noah and the-Flood (6—10),

IV. The Tower of Babel (11).

V. Abraham (12—25),

        A. Call (12:1).

        B. The Covenant (12:2, 3).

        C. To Egypt and back (12:10—13:4),

        D. Experiences with Lot and Abimelech (13:5—14:24;

        E. Ishmael and Isaac (15:1—17:27; 21:1—34).

        F. Offering of Isaac (22).

        G. Purchase of Cave of Machpelah (23).

        H. A bride for Isaac (24).

VI. Isaac (25:19—27:46).

VII. Jacob (28:1—36:43).

        A. Blessed by Isaac (28:1-9).

        B. Sent to Haran—his vision and vow (28:10—22).

        C. The years spent working for Laban, including
        marriage to Leah and Rachel, and birth of the
        twelve sons (29:1—30:43).

        D. Return to Canaan and reconciliation to Esau

        E. Calamities and crises (33:18—36:43).

VIII. Joseph (37:1—50:26).

        A. Rejected by brethren and sold into Egypt (37:1-

        (Parenthetical chapter on Judah’s sin—38.)

        B. Promotion in Egypt and personal integrity (39:1—

        C. Famine brings his brethren to Egypt for food

        D. Joseph’s identity made known to his brethren and
        to his father, Jacob (45:1—47:31).

        E. Joseph’s sons blessed by Jacob (48:1-22).

        F. Jacob’s blessing of his own sons (49:1-33).

        G. Death of Jacob, then later of Joseph (50:1-26).

Chapter 1

“In the beginning God… .” These first four words of the Bible form the foundation for faith. Believe these words, and you can believe all that follows in the Bible. Genesis provides the only authoritative account of creation, meaningful for people of all ages but exhaustible by no one. The divine record assumes the existence of God rather than seeking to prove it. The Bible has a special name for those who choose to deny .the fact of God—see Psalm 14:1 and 53:1.

One of several interpretations of the Genesis account of creation, the creation-reconstruction view says that between verses 1 and 2 a great catastrophe occurred, perhaps the fall of Satan. This caused-God’s original, perfect creation to become waste and empty (tohu wabhohu). Since God didn’t create the earth waste and empty (see Isa. 45:18), only a mighty cataclysm could explain the chaotic condition of verse 2. Proponents of this view point out that the word translated “was” (hayetha) could also be translated “had become.” Thus the earth “had become waste and empty.”

The Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters, preparatory to the great creative and reconstructive acts to follow. The remaining verses describe the six days of creation and reconstruction which prepared the earth for human habitation.

On the first day God commanded light to shine out of darkness and established the day-night cycle. This act is not to be confused with the establishment of the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day. In 2 Corinthians 4:6 the Apostle Paul draws a parallel between the original separation of light from darkness and the conversion of a sinner.

Prior to the second day, it seems that the earth was completely surrounded by a thick layer of water, perhaps in the form of a heavy vapor. On the second day God divided this layer, part covering the earth with water and part forming clouds, with the atmospheric layers (“firmament”) between. God called the firmament “heaven”—that is, the expanse of space immediately above the earth (not the stellar heavens, nor the third heaven, where God dwells). Verse 20 makes it clear that the heaven here is the sphere where the birds fly.

Next the Lord caused the earth mass to appear out of the water that covered the face of the planet. Also on the third day He caused vegetation of all kinds to spring up in the earth.

It was not until the fourth day that the Lord set the sun, moon, and stars in the heavens as lightbearers and as means for establishing a calendar.

The fifth day saw the waters stocked with fish and the earth stocked with bird-life and perhaps insects.

On the sixth day God first created animals and reptiles. The law of reproduction is repeatedly given in the words “after its kind.” There are significant variations within “kinds” of biological life, but there is no passing from one kind to another.

The crown of God’s work was the creation of man in His image and after His likeness. This means that man was placed on earth as God’s representative, and that He resembles God in certain ways. Just as God is a Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), so man is a tripartite being (spirit, soul, and body), like God, man has intellect, a moral nature, the power to communicate with others, and an emotional nature that transcends instinct. There is no thought of physical likeness here. In contrast to animals, man is a worshiper, an articulate communicator, and a creator.

There is an intimation of the Trinity in verse 20: “And God [Elohim, plural] said, “Let us [plural] make [singular] man in our image…”

The Bible describes the origin of the sexes as a creative act of God. Evolution has never been able to explain how the sexes began.

In verse 28, the word “replenish” does not mean to refill, as if there had been a previous race. It means to fill or to stock.

It is clear from verses 29 and 30 that animals were originally herbivorous and that man was vegetarian.

Were the six days of creation literal 24-hour days, or were they geological ages, or were they days of “dramatic vision” during which the creation account was revealed to Moses? No scientific evidence has ever refuted the concept that they were literal solar days. The expression “the evening and the morning” points to 24-hour days. Everywhere else in the Old Testament these words mean normal days. Adam lived through the seventh day and died in his 930th year, so the seventh day could not have been a geological age. Wherever the word “day” is used with a number in the Old Testament (“first day,” etc.) it means a literal day. When God commanded Israel to rest on the Sabbath day, He based the command on the fact that He had rested on the seventh day, after six days of labor (Exod. 20:8-11). Consistent interpretation here requires the same meaning of the word “day.”

A difficulty, however, is that the solar day as we know it may not have begun until the fourth day (vv. 14-19).

As far as the Bible is concerned, the creation of the heavens and the earth is undated. The creation of man is undated also. However, genealogies are given, and, even allowing for possible gaps in the genealogies, man could not have been on the earth for the millions of years demanded by evolutionists.

We learn from John 1:1, 14, Colossians 1:16, and Hebrews 1:2 that the Lord Jesus was the active Agent in creation. For the inexhaustible wonders of His creation, He is worthy of endless worship.

Chapter 2

God rested from His creative activity on the seventh day (vv. 1-3). This is not the rest that follows weari- ness but the rest of satisfaction and completion of a job well done. Although God did not command man to keep the Sabbath at this time. He taught the principle of one clay of rest in seven.

The name LORD GOD (Jehovah Elohim) appears for the first rime in verse 4, but only after the creation of man (1:27). As Elohim, God is the Creator. As Jehovah, He is in covenant relation with man. Failing to see this, some Bible critics have concluded that these different names for God can only be explained by a change in authorship.

“These are the generations” (v. 4) refers to the beginnings described in Chapter 1. The fifth verse should read, as in the NASB (New American Standard Bible), “Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted…” This verse describes conditions on the earth in 1:10, when the dry land appeared but before vegetation appeared. The earth was moistened by a mist rather than by rain.

A fuller account of the creation of man is now given (v. 7). His body was formed from the dust of the ground, but only the impartation of the breath of God made him a living soul. Adam (“red” or “ground”) was named after the red earth from which he was made.

The Garden of Eden (vv. 8-14) was toward the east, i.e., from Palestine, the point of reference for Bible directions. It was located in the region of Mesopotamia, near the Hiddekel (Tigris) and Euphrates Rivers (v. 14). The tree of the knowledge of good and evil provided a test of man’s obedience. The only reason it was wrong to eat of that fruit was because God had said so. In different forms, that fruit is still with us today.

The penalty for violating the commandment was death (v. 17)—instant spiritual death and progressive physical death.

In the process of naming the animals and birds, Adam would have noticed that there were males and females. Each one had a mate that was similar to itself, yet different. This prepared Adam for a partner who would be suitable for himself. His bride was formed from a rib, taken from his side as he slept. So from Christ’s side, His Bride was secured as He shed His life’s blood in untold agony. It has been said that the woman was taken not from Adam’s head to dominate him, nor from his feet to be trodden down, but from under his arm to be protected, and from near his heart to be loved… Read verse 19 as in the New International Version, “Now the Lord God had formed … all the beasts,” i.e., before He made man.

With the words of verse 24 God instituted monogamous marriage. Like all divine institutions, it was established for man’s good and cannot be violated with impunity. The marriage bond illustrates the relationship that exists between Christ and the church (Eph. 5:22-32).

Chapter 3

The serpent that appeared to Eve is later revealed to be none other than Satan himself (see Rev. 12:9). Those who seek to “demythologize” the Bible believe that this account of the fall is allegorical and not literal. They cite the talking serpent as proof. Can the story of the serpent’s deceiving Eve be accepted as factual? The Apostle Paul thought so (2 Cor. 11:3). So did the Apostle John (Rev. 12:9; 20:2). Nor is this the only instance of a talking animal in Scripture. God gave a voice to Balaam’s donkey to restrain the madness of the prophet (Num. 22), and the Apostle Peter accepted this as literal (2 Pet. 2:16). These three apostles were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write as they did. Thus to reject the account of the fall as literal is to reject the inspiration of Holy Scripture. There are allegories in the Bible, but this is not one of them.

Notice the steps that plunged the human race into sin. First Satan insinuated doubt about the Word of God: “Yea, hath God said?” (v. 1). He misrepresented God as forbidding Adam and Eve to eat of any tree (v. 1). Next, Eve said that they were not to eat or touch the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden (v. 3). But God had said nothing about touching the tree. Then Satan flatly contradicted God about the inevitability of judgment on those who disobeyed (v. 4), just as his followers still deny the facts of hell and eternal punishment. Satan misrepresented God as seeking to withhold from Adam and Eve something that would have been beneficial to them (v. 5). Eve yielded to the threefold temptation: the lust of the flesh (“good for food”), the lust of the eyes (“pleasant to the eyes”), and the pride of life (“a tree to be desired to make one wise”) (v. 6). In doing so, she acted independently of Adam, her head. She should have consulted him instead of usurping his authority. In the words “she took of the fruit thereof and did eat” lie the explanation of all the sickness, sorrow, suffering, fear, guilt, and death that have plagued the human race ever since that time. Eve was deceived (I Tim. 2:14), but Adam acted willfully and in deliberate rebellion against God (v. 6).

The first result of sin was a sense of shame and fear (vv. 7-11). The aprons of fig leaves speak of man’s attempt to save himself by a bloodless religion of good works (v. 7). When called to account by God, sinners excuse themselves. Adam said, “The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me …” as if blaming God (see Prov. 19:5). Eve said, “The serpent …” (v. 13),

In love and mercy God searched after His fallen creatures with the question “Where art thou?” “This question proved two things—that man was lost and that God had come to seek. It proved man’s sin and God’s grace.”1 God takes the initiative in salvation, demonstrating the very thing Satan got Eve to doubt—His love.

God cursed the serpent to degradation, disgrace, and defeat (v. 14). The fact that the serpent is cursed more than the cattle or other beasts of the field suggests that reptiles are primarily in view here rather titan Satan. But verse 15 switches to the Devil himself. This verse is known as the protevangelion, meaning the first gospel. It predicts the perpetual hostility between Satan and the woman (representing all mankind), and between Satan’s seed (his agents) and the woman’s seed (the Messiah). The woman’s seed would crush the Devil’s head, a mortal wound spelling utter defeat. This wound was administered at Calvary when the Savior decisively triumphed over the Devil. Satan, in turn, would bruise the Messiah’s heel. The heel wound here speaks of suffering and even of physical death, but not of ultimate defeat. So Christ, suffered on the cross, and even died, but. He arose from the dead, victorious over sin, hell, and Satan. The fact that He is called the woman’s seed may contain a suggestion of His virgin birth. Note the kindness of God in promising the Messiah before pronouncing sentence in the following verses.

Sin has inevitable consequences. The woman was sentenced to suffering in childbirth. And yet she would still be subject to her husband (v. 16 NASB). The man was sentenced to earn his livelihood from ground that was cursed with thorns and thistles. It would mean toil and sweat for him. Then at the end of life, he himself would return to dust (vv. 17-19). It should be noted here that work itself is not a curse; it is more often a blessing. It is the sorrow, toil, frustration, perspiration, and weariness connected with work that are the curse.

Adam displayed faith in calling Eve the mother of all living (v. 20), since no baby had ever been born up to this time. Then coats of skin were provided by God through the death of an animal (v. 21). This pictures the robe of righteousness which is provided for guilty sinners through the shed blood of the Lamb of God, made available to us on the basis of faith.

There was a shade of truth in Satan’s lie that Eve would become like God (v. 5). But she and Adam learned by the hard way of experience to discern between good and evil (v. 22). If they had then eaten of the tree of life, they would have lived forever in bodies subject to sickness, degeneration, and infirmity. Thus it was God’s mercy that prevented them from returning to Eden (vv. 22-24). Cherubim are celestial creatures whose function is to “vindicate the holiness of God against the presumptuous pride of fallen man.”2

Adam and Eve had to decide whether God or Satan was lying. They decided that God was. “Without faith it is tin-possible to please God.” Thus their names are missing from the Honor Roll of Faith in Hebrews 11.

Chapter 4

Adam knew Eve in the sense that he had sexual relations with her (v. 1 NASB). When Cain was born, she acknowledged that this birth was only by the Lord’s enablement. In naming him Cain (“acquisition”), Eve may have thought that she had given birth to the promised seed. The passing of time mentioned in verse 3a allows for a considerable increase in the world’s population.

There must have been a time when Cain and Abel were instructed that sinful man can approach the holy God only on the ground of the blood of a substitutionary sacrifice. Cain rejected this revelation and came with a bloodless offering of fruits and vegetables. Abel believed the divine decree and offered slain animals, thus demonstrating his faith and his justification by God (Heb. 11:4). Abel’s offering points forward to the substitutionary death of the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

Because Cain’s jealous anger was incipient murder, God spoke to him in loving warning. Verse 7 may be understood in several ways;

If you do well [by repenting], you will he able to look up again in freedom from anger and guilt. If you don’t do well [by continuing to hate Abel], sin is crouching at your door, ready to destroy you. His [Abel’s] desire is for you (i.e., he will acknowledge your leadership] and you will rule over him [i.e., if you do well].

“If thou doest well [or, as the Septuagint reads it, ‘If thou offer correctly… .’] shall thou not be accepted?” The well-doing had reference to the offering. Abel did well by hiding himself behind an acceptable sacrifice. Cain did badly by bringing an offering without blood, and all his after-conduct was but the legitimate result of this false worship.3

The RSV (Revised Standard Version) says, “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

F. W. Grant says in his Numerical Bible, “…If you do not well, a sin-offering croucheth or lieth at the door.”4 In other words, provision was made if he wanted it.

Cain’s evil attitude of jealous rage was soon translated into evil action, the murder of his brother (v. 8). Though Abel is dead, he still witnesses lo us that the life of faith is the life that counts {Heb. 11:4). When the Lord’s loving question was met by an unrepentant, insolent reply, He pronounced Cain’s judgment—he would no longer be able lo make a living from the soil, but would wander as a nomad in the desert (vv. 9-12). Cain’s whimpering complaint reveals remorse for the consequences of his sin rather than for its guilt (v. 13). But even then the Lord allayed the fugitive’s fears for his life by putting a protective mark upon him and a curse on any- one who killed him (vv. 14,15). Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, the saddest of all departures (v. 16).

Cain married his sister or other blood relative (v. 17). As mentioned, Genesis 4:3 allows time for a population increase, and Genesis 5:4 specifically states that Adam had sons and daughters. Marriage of close relatives was not forbidden then (nor was it genetically risky).

Verses 17-24 list Cain’s posterity, and a series of firsts: the first city, named Enoch (v. 17); the first case of polygamy (v. 19); the beginning of organized animal husbandry (v. 20); the beginning of the art of music (v. 21) and of metalcrafts (v. 22); the first song concerning violence and bloodshed (vv. 23, 24). In the song (see NASB), Lamech explains to his wives that he slew a young man in self-defense, but that because it wasn’t premeditated, like Cain’s murder of his brother, Lamech would be much more immune from reprisal.

Now in striking relief, the godly line of Seth is introduced (vv. 25, 26). It was through this line that the Messiah would eventually be born. When Enosh (meaning “frail” or “mortal”) was born, men began to use the name Jehovah for God, or perhaps to call on the name of Jehovah in public worship.

Chapter 5

This chapter has been called “The Tolling of the Death Bells” because of the oft-repeated expression “and he died.” It records the bloodline of the Messiah from Adam to Noah’s son, Shem (compare Luke 3:36-38).

Adam was created in the likeness of God (v. 1). Seth was born in the image of Adam (v. 3). In between, the Fall took place and the image of God in man became marred by sin. Verse 5 records the physical fulfillment of what God said would happen in 2:17; the spiritual fulfillment took place the day Adam sinned.

The Enoch and Lamech mentioned in this chapter should not be confused with those in Chapter 4. By faith Enoch walked with God for 300 years and pleased the Lord (Heb. 11:5). It seems that the birth of his son had a sanctifying, ennobling influence on his life (v. 22a). It is good to start well, but it is even better to continue steadfastly to the end. The word walk implies a steady, progressive relationship and not just a casual acquaintance. To walk with God is the busi- ness of a lifetime, and not just the performance of an hour.

Enoch was translated to heaven prior to the flood just as the church will be raptured to heaven before the tribulation begins.

Methuselah lived longer than any other man (969 years). If, as Williams says, the name Methuselah means “it shall be sent,”5 it may be a prophecy, because the flood came in the year of his death. Perhaps Lamech’s prediction when he named Noah looked forward to the comfort that would come-to the world through Noah’s greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 29). Noah’s name means “rest.” As the years passed, man’s life expectancy decreased. Psalm 90:10 speaks of 70 years as normal.

Chapter 6

There are two principal interpretations of verse 2. One is that the sons of God were angels who left their proper sphere (Jude 6) and intermarried with women on earth, a form of sexual disorder that was most hateful to God. Those who hold this view point out that the expression “sons of God” in Job 1:6 and 2:1 means angels who had access to the presence of God. The passage in Jude 6, 7 suggests that the angels who left their first estate were guilty of vile sexual behavior. Notice the words “even as Sodom and Gomorrah …” at the beginning of verse 7, immediately after the description of the fallen angels. To the objection that angels are incapable of sexual relations, based on Matthew 22:30, it is pointed out that Jesus was speaking of angels in heaven when He said they neither marry nor are given in marriage. Angels appeared in human form to Abraham (Gen. 18:1-5), and it seems from the text that the two who went to Sodom had human parts and emotions.

The other view is that the sons of God were the godly descendants of Seth, and the daughters of men were the wicked posterity of Cain. The argument is as follows: The preceding context deals with the descendants of Cain (Ch. 4) and the descendants of Seth (Ch. 5). Genesis 6:1-4 describes the intermarriage of these two lines. Angels are not found in the context. Verses 5 and 6 speak of the wickedness of man. If it was the angels who sinned, why was the race of man to be destroyed? Godly men are called “sons of God,” though not in exactly the same Hebrew wording as in Genesis 6:2 (see Deut. 14:1; Psa. 82:6; Hos. 1:10; Matt. 5:9).

God warned that His Spirit would not always strive with man, but that there would be a delay of 120 years before the judgment of the flood would occur (v. 3). God is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish, but there is a limit.

“The Nephilim are considered by many as giant demigods, the unnatural offspring of ‘the daughters of men’ (mortal women) in cohabitation with ‘the sons of God’ (angels). This utterly unnatural union, violating God’s created orders of being, was such a shocking abnormality as to necessitate the worldwide judgment of the Flood.”6

God’s repentance (v. 6) does not indicate an arbitrary change of mind, though it seems that way to man. Rather, it indicates a different attitude on God’s part in response to some change in man’s behavior. Because He is holy, He must react against sin.

Noah found grace in God’s eyes and was forewarned to build an ark. The measurements are given in cubits (1 cubit = 18 inches). Thus the ark was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. It had three decks. The window in verse 16 was literally “a place of light,” probably an opening for light and air which extended the full length of the ark.

Noah was saved by grace (v. 8), an act of divine sovereignty. His response was to do all that the Lord had commanded (v. 22), an act of human responsibility. Noah built the ark to the saving of his family, but it was God who shut and sealed the door. Divine sovereignty and human responsibility are not mutually exclusive, but are complementary.

Noah (v. 9) and Enoch (5:22) are the only men in Scripture who are said to have walked with God. If Enoch is a symbol of the church raptured to heaven, Noah symbolizes the faithful Jewish remnant preserved through the tribulation to live on the millennial earth.

Verse 18 is the first mention of covenant in the Bible. Scofield lists eight covenants: Edenic (Gen. 2:16); Adamic (Gen. 3:15); Noahic (Gen. 9:16); Abrahamic (Gen. 12:2); Mosaic (Exod. 19:5); Palestinian (Deut. 30:3); Davidic (2 Sam. 7:16); and the New Covenant (Heb. 8:8).

A pair of every living creature was to be brought into the ark as well as food. Critics claim that the ark was not big enough to hold all the species of animals and enough food for one year and 17 days. But it is likely that the ark contained only the basic kinds of animal and bird life, and that many variations have resulted since then. The ark was more than large enough for this.

Chapter 7

The word “come” appears for the first line in verse 1—a gracious gospel invitation.

No reason is given why Noah was commanded to take seven pairs of clean animals into the ark, but only one pair of unclean. Perhaps it was for food and in anticipation of the clean animals being needed for sacrifice (see 8:20). The ark was filled with its inhabitants for seven days before the rain began and the underground reserves of water gushed out. The torrent continued for 40 days and 40 nights; 40 is the number of probation or testing in the Bible.

Was this a local flood, as some allege? Consider the following! “All the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered” (v. 19 NASB). God need not have told Noah to build an ark equivalent to 1 1/2 football fields in length and 800 railroad cars in volume to escape a local flood. He could easily have moved eight people and the animals to a different location. Traditions of a universal flood have come from all parts of the world. The mountains of Ararat range up to 17,000 feet. The flood was 15 cubits higher (vv. 19, 20). By what sort of miracle was this water kept in a localized area? In Genesis 9:15 God promised that the water would never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. There have been many local floods since then, but never a universal flood. If the flood was local, then God’s promise has been broken—an impossible conclusion. Peter uses the destruction of the world by water as a symbol of a still future destruction of the earth by fire (2 Pet. 3:6).

The ark is a picture of Christ. The wafers depict God’s judgment. The Lord Jesus went under the waters of divine wrath at Calvary. Those who ate in Christ are saved. Those who are outside are doomed.

Chapter 8

The chronology of the flood is as follows:

        (a) 7 days—from the time Noah entered the ark until the flood began (7:10)

        (b) 40 days and nights—duration of the rain (7:12).

        (c) 150 days—from the time the rain began until the waters abated (8:3) and the ark rested on Mount Ararat (compare 7:11 and 8:4).

        (d) 224 days—from the beginning of the flood until the mountaintops appeared (compare 7:11 and 8:5).

        (e) 40 days—from the time the mountaintops were seen until Noah sent out the raven (8:6).

        (f) 7 days—from the sending of the raven to the first sending forth of the dove (8:6-10; verse 10 NASB, “yet another seven days”).

        (g) 7 more days—until the dove was sent forth a second time (8:10).

        (h) 7 more days—until the final sending forth of the dove.

        (i) 314 days—from the beginning of the flood until the covering was removed from the ark (compare 7:11 and 8:13).

        (j) 371 days—from the beginning of the flood until the earth was dried (compare 7:11 and 8:14). At this time, Noah was commanded to go forth from the ark (v. 16)

The unclean raven (v. 7) and the clean dove (v. 8) picture the believer’s old and new natures. The old nature loves to feed on garbage and carrion whereas the new nature cannot find satisfaction in a scene of death and judgment. It finds no rest until it sets its feet on resurrection ground.

Noah responded to God’s saving grace by building an altar (v. 20). Those of us who have been saved from the wrath to come should likewise bring to God our heartfelt worship, it is as acceptable and pleasing today as it was in Noah’s day (v. 21). The Lord made a covenant that He would never again curse the ground or destroy every living creature, as He had done; also, He would provide regular seasons as long as the earth endured.

Chapter 9

Verse 3 suggests that men were now permitted to eat meat for the first time. Eating of blood was forbidden, however, because the blood is the life of the flesh, and the life belongs to God. The institution of capital punishment (v. 8) presupposes the establishment of governmental authority. It would be chaos if anyone and everyone avenged a murder. Only duly appointed governments may do so. The New Testament perpetuates capital punishment, when it says concerning the government, “… it does not bear the sword for nothing” (Rom. 13:4 NASB).

The rainbow was given as a pledge that God would never again destroy the earth with a flood (vv. 8-17).

In spite of God’s grace to Noah, he sinned by becoming drunk and then lying nude in his tent. When Ham saw him and reported the matter to his brothers, they hid their father’s shame without looking on his naked body. When he awoke, Noah pronounced a curse on Canaan. The question arises, “Why did the curse fall on Canaan instead of Ham?” One possible explanation is that the evil tendency which was manifested in Ham was even more pronounced in Canaan. The curse was thus a prophecy of his immoral conduct and its fitting punishment. Another explanation is that Canaan himself committed some vulgar act against his grandfather, and that Noah later became aware of it. Noah “knew what his youngest son had done to him” (v. 24 NASB). It may be that verse 24 refers to Canaan as Noah’s youngest grandson, rather than to Ham as his youngest son. In the Bible, son often means grandson or other descendant. In this event, Canaan was not cursed for his father’s sin, but for his own.

Canaan was cursed to serve Shem and Japheth (vv. 26, 27). The Canaanites’ servitude to the Israelites may be seen in Joshua 9:23 and Judges 1:28. This passage has been used to suggest the slavery of the black people, but there is no support for this view. Canaan was the ancestor of the Canaanites, who dwelt in the Holy Land before Israel arrived. There is no evidence that they were black people. Shem and Japheth were blessed with dominion. Verse 27 may suggest Japheth’s sharing in spiritual blessings through Shem’s descendants, the Israelites.

There is a dispute as to whether Shem or Japheth was the eldest son of Noah. Chapter 10:21 may read “Shem … the brother of Japheth the elder” (KJV) or “Shem … the older brother of Japheth” (NASB). The latter is the preferred reading. Shem appears first in the genealogies of Genesis 5:32 and 1 Chronicles 1:4.

Chapter 10

Shem, Ham, and Japheth became the fathers of the nations.

        Shem: The Semitic peoples—Jews, Arabs, Babylonians, Assyrians, Arameans, Phoenicians.

        Ham: The Hamitic peoples—Ethiopians, Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, possibly the African and Oriental peoples.

        Japheth: The Japhetic peoples—the Medes, Greeks, Cypriots, etc. Probably the Caucasian people of Europe and of northern Asia.

The order in this chapter is Japheth (vv. 2-5), Ham (vv. 6-20), and Shem (vv. 21-31). The Spirit of God is going to center on Sheol and his descendants during the rest of the Old Testament. The different tongues of verse 5 probably look forward to the time after the tower of Babel (11:1-9).

Notice three references in this chapter to the division of the people. Verse 5 describes the division of the Japhetic tribes into their different areas. Verse 25 tells us that the division of the earth (at Babel) took place in the days of Peleg. Verse 12 serves as an introduction to the Tower of Babel in chapter 11, when the families of the sons of Noah were divided into different nations with different languages.

Nimrod (vv. 8-10) means “rebel.” He appears as the first of the “mighty ones in the earth” after the flood (v. 8) and as the first to establish a kingdom (v. 10). He built Babel (Babylon) in rebellion against God, and also Nineveh in Assyria (see v. 11 NASB), another inveterate enemy of God’s people.

As already mentioned, verse 21 lists Shem as the older brother of Japheth (see NASB).

It is impossible to identify with certainty the places where the various people settled, but the following will prove helpful in later studies.

        Tarshish (v. 4)—Spain

        Canaan (v. 6)—Palestine

        Kittim (v. 4)—Cyprus

        Asshnr (v. 11)—Assyria

        Cush (v. 6)—Ethiopia

        Elam (v. 22)—Persia

        Mizraim (v. 6)—Egypt

        Aram (v. 22)—Syria and Mesopotamia

        Put or Phut (v. 6)—Libya

Chapter 11

Instead of dispersing over the earth, as God intended, men built a city and a tower in Shinar (Babylon). They said, “… let us build us a city, and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (v. 4). So it was a policy of pride (to make a name for themselves) and defiance (to avoid being scattered). To us the tower may also picture fallen man’s ceaseless effort to reach heaven by his own works instead of receiving salvation as a free gift of grace.

God judged the people by confounding their language. This was the beginning of the many different languages which we have in the world today. Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11) was the reverse of Babel in the sense that every man heard the wonderful works of God in his own language.

Verses 10-32 trace the line of Shem to Abram. Thus the historical record narrows from the human race to one branch of that race (the Semites) and then to one man (Abram), who becomes the head of the Hebrew nation. The rest of the Old Testament is largely a history of this nation.

Eber (vv. 16, 17) may be the name from which the word Hebrew comes. Hebrew means “to pass over” and may suggest crossing over the River Euphrates from Mesopotamia to Canaan.

Abram was a mighty man of faith and one of the most important men in history. Three world religions venerate him. He is mentioned in sixteen books of the Old Testament and eleven books of the New Testament. His name means “exalted father” or, as Abraham, “father of a great multitude.”

There is a mathematical problem involving the ages of Terah and Abram, and especially concerning Abram’s age when he left Haran. In verse 26 we read that Terah lived 70 years and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Abram was 75 when he left Haran (12:4). But Acts 7:4 says that Abram left Haran after his father died, and 11:32 says that Terah died when he was 205. So Abram must have been 205 minus 70 or 135 when he left Haran, and not 75 (12:4).

There are several possible answers to the dilemma. First, when we read “Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran,” we do not know which son was born first, or how many years there were between the sons. Abram could have been the youngest, born 60 years after the first (but named first because he was the progenitor of the Messiah). “Another [possible solution] is to follow the Samaritan text, which gives Terah’s age as 145 at death.”7

Ur of the Chaldees (v. 31), in Mesopotamia, was a center of pagan idolatry. Terah and his family traveled northwest to Haran, en route to the land of Canaan.

Chapter 12

The call of God came to Abram when he was still in Ur (compare v. 1 with Acts 7:1, 2). Abram was called to leave his country, his relatives, and his father’s house, and to embark on a life of pilgrimage (Heb. 11:9). God made a marvelous covenant with him which included the following significant promises: a land (v. 1)—that is, the land of Canaan; a great nation (v. 2)—namely, the Jewish people; material and spiritual prosperity for Abram and his seed (v. 2); a great name for Abram and his posterity (v. 2); they would be a channel of blessing to others (v. 2); friends of Israel would be blessed and anti-Semites would be cursed (v. 3); all families of the earth would be blessed in Abram (v. 3), pointing forward to the Lord Jesus Christ, who would be a descendant of Abram. This covenant was renewed and enlarged in 13:14-17; 15:4-6; 17:10-14; and 22:15-18.

After what have been called “the wasted years in Haran,” Abram moved to Canaan with his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, other relatives, and possessions. They came first to Sichem (Shechem), where Abram built an altar to the Lord (vv. 6, 7), The presence of hostile Canaanites (v. 6) was no obstacle to a man who was walking by faith. Abram next relocated between Bethel (“house of God”) and Ai (v. 8), True to form, he erected a tent for himself and an altar for Jehovah. This says a great deal about the priorities of this man of God. Verse 9 finds him moving south to the Negev.

But faith has its lapses. During a lime of serious famine, Abram left the place of God’s choosing and fled to Egypt, a symbol of the world (v. 10). This move bred trouble. Abram became obsessed with the fear that the Pharaoh might kill him in order to seize beautiful Sarai for his harem (vv. 11, 12). So Abram prevailed on Sarai to lie by saying that she was his sister (v. 13). Actually she was his half-sister (20:12), but it was still a lie, with deception as its motive. The ruse worked for Abram (he was rewarded handsomely) but it worked against Sarai (she had to join the Pharaoh’s harem) (vv. 15, 16). And it worked against the Pharaoh (he and his household contacted plagues) (v. 17). The latter acted more

righteously than Abram when he learned of the deception. After rebuking Abram, he sent him back to Canaan (vv. 18-20).

This incident reminds us that we should not wage a spiritual warfare with carnal weapons, that the end does not justify the means, and that we can’t sin and get away with it.

God did not forsake Abram, but He did allow the sin to work itself out. Abram was publicly humbled by the Pharaoh and deported in disgrace.

The word “Pharaoh” was not a proper name but a title, such as king, emperor, president, etc.

Chapter 13

Underlying Abram’s return to Bethel from Egypt (vv. 1-4) was a return to fellowship with God. “Back to Bethel” is the rallying cry for all who have wandered from the Lord.

The herdsmen of Lot and Abram quarreled over pastureland for their flocks. In true courtesy, kindness, and unselfishness, Abram offered Lot, his choice of all the land. Lot chose the lush pastures of the Jordan Valley, adjacent to the sin-cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Though a true believer (2 Pet. 2:7, 8), Lot was a world-borderer. As someone has said, he got grass for his cattle while Abram got grace for his children (vv. 15, 18).

The fact that the men of Sodom “were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly” didn’t restrain Lot in his choice. Notice the steps in his plunge into worldliness: He [his men] strove (v. 7); he beheld (v. 10); he chose (v. 11); he pitched his tent toward (v. 12); he dwelt—away from the place where God’s priest was (14:12); he sat in the gate (19:1). Soon Lot was a local official.

Abram renounced the choicest pastureland, but God gave all the land of Canaan to him and to his seed forever. In addition, the Lord promised him a numberless posterity. After settling in Hebron, Abram built his third altar to the Lord—always an altar for God, but never a house for himself!

Chapter 14

Thirteen years before the main events of this chapter, Chedorlaomer, king of Elam (Persia), had conquered various kings in the plains adjacent to the Dead Sea. In the thirteenth year, the five captive kings rebelled against Chedorlaomer. So he allied himself with three other kings from the region of Babylon, marched south along the eastern side of the Dead Sea, then north on the western side to Sodom, Gomorrah, and the other cities of the plain. The battle took place in the vale of Siddim, which was full of tar pits. The invaders defeated the rebels and marched north with their booty and captives—including Lot, Abram’s backslidden nephew (vv. 1-12).

When Abram received the news, he assembled a fighting force of 318 men and pursued the victors to Dan, in the north. He finally defeated them near Damascus, in Syria, and rescued Lot and all the spoils. Backsliders bring not only misery on themselves but trouble on others. Here Abram delivered Lot by the sword (vv. 14-16). Later he delivers him through intercessory prayer (chs. 18, 19).

As Abram was returning home, the king of Sodom went out to meet him, just as Satan often tempts the believer after a great spiritual victory. But Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God, was on hand with bread and wine to strengthen Abram. We cannot read this first mention of bread and wine without thinking of these symbols of our Savior’s passion. When we consider the price He paid to save us from sin, we are strengthened to resist every sinful temptation.

Names in Scripture have meanings. Melchizedek means “king of righteousness” and Salem (short for Jerusalem) means “peace.” So he was king of righteousness and king of peace. He is a symbol of Christ, true King of righteousness and peace, and our Great High Priest. When it says in Hebrews 7:3 that Melchizedek was without father or mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, this is to be understood only in connection with his priesthood. Most priests inherited their office and served for a limited tenure. But the priesthood of Melchizedek was unique in that, as far as the record is concerned, it wasn’t passed on to him from his parents, and it did not have a beginning or an end. Christ’s priesthood is “after the order of Melchizedek.”

Melchizedek blessed Abram, and Abram in turn paid tithes of all his captured prizes to this priest of God. In Hebrews 7 we learn that there was a deep spiritual significance to these actions. Because Abram was the progenitor of Aaron, he is seen as representing the Aaronic priesthood. The fact that Melchizedek blessed Abram means that Melchizedek’s priesthood is greater than Aaron’s, because the one who blesses is superior to the one who is blessed. The fact that Abram paid tithes to Melchizedek is seen as a picture of the Aaronic priesthood acknowledging in this way the superiority of Melchizedek’s priesthood, because the lesser pays tithes to the greater.

The king of Sodom said, in effect, “Give rue the people; you take the material things.” So Satan still tempts us to be occupied with toys of dust while people around us are perishing, Abram replied that he wouldn’t take a thread or a shoelace.

Chapter 15

The first verse is closely linked with the last three verses of the previous chapter. Because die patriarch refused the rewards of the King of Sodom, Jehovah said, “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward,” thus making Abram fabulously wealthy.

Being childless, Abram and Sarai feared that their servant, Eliezer, would be their heir, since that was the law at that time (vv. 2, 3). But God promised them a son and a posterity as numerous as the stars (vv. 4, 5). Humanly speaking this was impossible, since Sarai had passed the time when she could bear a child. But Abram believed God’s promise, and God declared him to be righteous (v. 6). The truth of justification by faith enunciated here is repeated in Romans 4:3, Galatians 3:8, and James 2:23. In 13:18 God had promised seed as numerous as the dust, and here in 15:5 as numerous as the stars. The dust pictures Abram’s natural posterity—those who are Jews by birth. The stars depict his spiritual seed—those who are justified by faith (see Gal. 3:7).

To confirm the promise of a seed (vv. 1-6) and of a land (vv. 7, 8, 18-21), God acted out a strange and significant symbolism (vv. 9-21). “According to the ancient Eastern manner of making a covenant, both the contracting parties passed through the divided pieces of the slain animals, thus symbolically attesting that they pledged their very lives to the fulfillment of the engagement they made (see Jer. 34:18, 19). Now in Genesis 15, God alone, whose presence was symbolized by the smoking furnace and lamp of fire, passed through the midst of the pieces of the slain animals, while Abram was simply a spectator of this wonderful exhibition of God’s free grace.”8 This signified that it was an unconditional covenant, dependent for fulfillment on God alone.

According to another view of this passage, the sacrificial pieces represent the nation of Israel (vv. 9, 10). The fowls speak of the Gentile nations (v. 11). The land, of course, is Egypt (v. 13). Israel would be delivered front Egyptian bondage and return to Canaan in the fourth generation (v. 16). The smoking furnace and the burning lamp describe the national destiny of Israel—suffering and witness-bearing (v. 17).

Israel’s deliverance would not come until the iniquity of the Amorites was full. These pagan inhabitants of Canaan must eventually be exterminated. But God often allows evil to run its course, sometimes to the seeming detriment of His people, before He judges it. He is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish—even the depraved Amorites (2 Pet. 3:9). He also allows evil to come to fruition so that the awful consequences of wickedness can be manifested to all. Thus His wrath is demonstrated to be completely righteous.

Verses 13 and 14 pose a chronological problem. They predict that Abram’s people would be in harsh servitude in a foreign land for 400 years, and that they would leave at the end of that time, carrying great wealth with them. In Acts 7:6 this figure of 400 years is repeated.

In Exodus 12:40, 41 we read that the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, were sojourners for 430 years, to the very day.

Then in Galatians 3:17 Paul says that the period from the confirming of the Abrahamic Covenant until the giving of the Law was 430 years.

How can these figures be reconciled?

The 400 years mentioned in Genesis 15:13, 14 and in Acts 7:6 refer to the time of Israel’s harsh affliction in Egypt. Jacob and his family were not in bondage when they first came to Egypt. On the contrary, they were treated quite royally.

The 430 years in Exodus 12:40, 41 refer to the total time the people of Israel spent in Egypt—to the very day. This is an exact figure.

The 430 years in Galatians 3:17 cover approximately the same period as Exodus 12:40, 41. They are reckoned from the time that God confirmed the Abrahamic Covenant to Jacob, just as Jacob was preparing to enter Egypt (Gen. 46:1- 4), and they extend to the giving of the Law, about three months after the Exodus.

The four generations of Genesis 15:16 can he seen in Exodus 6:18-20: Levi, Kohath. Amram, Moses.

Israel has not vet occupied the land promised in verses 18-21. Solomon had dominion over it (1 Kgs, 4:21, 24), as over vassal states, but his people did not occupy it. The covenant will be fulfilled when Christ returns to reign. Nothing can stop its fulfillment. What God has promised is as sure as if it had already occurred!

The river of Egypt (v. 18) is generally believed to be a small stream south of Gaza known as Wadi el Arish, and not the Nile.

Chapter 16

The restlessness of the sin nature is seen here. Instead of waiting on God, Sarai persuaded Abram to obtain a child by her maid, Hagar, who was probably acquired during the ill-fated sojourn in Egypt (vv. 1, 2). God is faithful in recording the marital irregularities of His people, even if He never approved them. When Hagar became pregnant, she looked clown in disdain on her mistress (v. 4). Sarai responded by blaming Abram, then driving Hagar out of the house (vv. 5, 6). While some of the behavior in this section may have been culturally acceptable then, it is certainly irregular from a Christian standpoint.

While Hagar was in the desert at Shur, on the way to Egypt, the angel of the Lord came to her (v. 7). This was the Lord Jesus in one of His preincarnate appearances (known as a theophany). He counseled her to return and submit to Sarai, and promised that her son would become head of a great nation. That promise, of course, is fulfilled in the Arab people. The words “return and submit” have marked great turning points in the lives of many who have had dealings with God.

Hagar’s exclamation in verse 13 might be paraphrased, “Thou art a God who may be seen,” for she said, “Have I really looked on God and remained alive after doing so?” She named the well Beer-lahai-roi, which means literally “Well of continuing to live after seeing God.”9

Abram was 86 when Ishmael was born to Hagar (vv. 15, 18), The name “Ishmael” means “God hears.” We should remember throughout this narrative that Hagar represents law whereas Sarai represents grace (see Gal. 4).

Chapter 17

God’s words to Abram in verse 1 may have been a veiled way of saying that he should stop trying to work things out in his own strength and let God work for him. Immediately afterward God renewed His covenant and changed the patriarch’s name from Abram (“exalted father”) to Abraham (“father of a multitude”) (vv. 2-8). Circumcision was then instituted as a sign of the covenant. This surgical operation, performed on the male child, was a physical mark that the person belonged to God’s chosen earthly people. Although it was already practiced in the Middle East at this time, it took on new meaning for Abraham and his family. Every male in Abraham’s house was circumcised, and thereafter every male baby was to be circumcised when he was eight days old or else be cut off from his people—that is, put away from the congregation of Israel (vv. 9-14). The expression “cut off” sometimes means to put to death, as in Exodus 31:14, 15. In other places, as here, it seems to mean to ban or ostracize. The Apostle Paul is careful to point out that Abraham was justified (15:8) before he was circumcised. His circumcision was “a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had” (Rom. 4:11). Believers today are not sealed with a physical mark; they receive the Holy Spirit as a seal at the time of their conversion (Eph. 4:30).

God changed Sarai’s name to Sarah (“princess”) and promised Abraham that his 90-year-old wife would have a son (vv. 15, 16). The patriarch laughed, but in joyful wonder, not in unbelief (v. 17). His faith did not waver (Rom. 4:18-21).

When Abraham pled that Ishmael might have favor before God, he was told that the covenant would be fulfilled through his son, Isaac. However, Ishmael would be fruitful, would multiply, and would become a great nation (vv. 18-22). Isaac was a symbol of Christ, through whom the covenant receives its ultimate fulfillment.

Notice the promptness of Abraham’s obedience—“In the same day” (v. 26).

Chapter 18

Shortly after the events of the preceding chapter, three men appeared to Abraham. Actually two of them were angels and the other was the Lord Himself. With typical Middle Eastern hospitality, Abraham and Sarah entertained the angels unawares (Heb. 13:2) and One who was greater than angels (vv. 1-8). When Sarah overheard the Lord say that she would have a child within a year, her laugh betrayed her unbelief. She was rebuked with the searching question, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” But the promise was repeated in spite of her doubting (vv. 9-15). Hebrews 11:11 indicates that Sarah was basically a woman of faith in spite of this momentary lapse.

After the Lord revealed to Abraham that He was going to destroy Sodom, and while the two angels were walking toward that city, Abraham’s great intercessory countdown began—50. 45, 40, 30, 20, and finally 10. Even for 10 righteous people the Lord would not destroy Sodom (vv. 16-33)! Abraham’s prayer is a wonderful example of effectual intercession. It was based on the character of God (v. 25) and evidenced that boldness, yet deep humility which only an intimate knowledge of God can give. Only when Abraham stopped pleading did the Lord close the matter and depart (v. 33 NASB). There are many mysteries in life for which the truth of verse 25 is the only satisfying answer.

Chapter 19

The name of Sodom has become synonymous with the sin of homosexuality or sodomy. But sexual perversion was not the only cause of the city’s fall. In Ezekiel 18:49, 50, the Lord describes the sin of Sodom as “arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease” (NASB).

Lot received the two angels and insisted that they spend the night in his home, knowing too well the danger that would face them otherwise. Even then the men of Sodom sought to commit homosexual rape against these heavenly visitors. In a desperate effort to save his guests, Lot shamelessly offered his two daughters. Only a miracle saved the day; the angels smote the Sodomites with a temporary, confusing blindness (vv. 1-11).

The angels insisted that Lot and his family leave the city. But when he tried to persuade his sons-in-law (or perhaps prospective sons-in-law—see RSV), they thought he was mocking. His backslidden life nullified his testimony when the crisis came. In the morning the angels escorted Lot, his wife, and daughters out of Sodom. Even then Lot temporized, preferring to stay in Zoar, one of the satellite sin cities (vv. 12-25). Not even 10 righteous men were found in the city of Sodom, so God destroyed it. But Abraham’s prayer was not unanswered, for “God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow” (v. 29).

Though Lot’s wife left the city, her heart was still in it, and she fell under the judgment of God (v. 26). In the words “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32), Christ held her up as a warning to all who trifle with His offer of salvation.

Leaving Zoar, Lot fled to a mountain cave. There his daughters made him drunk and enticed him to commit incest with them. The older daughter subsequently bore a son named Moab, and the younger a son, Ben-ammi. Thus began the Moabites and Ammonites, who became recurring thorns in Israel’s side.

We know from 2 Peter 2:7, 8 that Lot was a just man, but because of his worldliness he lost his testimony (v. 14), his wife (v. 26), his communion (there was none in Sodom), his property (he went in rich but came out poor), his character (v. 35), and nearly his life (v. 22). The depraved behavior of his daughters shows that they had been influenced by Sodom’s vile standards (vv. 30-38).

Chapter 20

It seems incredible to us that Abraham would again try to pass off Sarah as his sister within 20 years of the same blunder with Pharaoh—incredible, that is, until we remember our own perpetual proneness to sin. The incident with Abimelech in Gerar is almost a replay of Abraham’s duplicity in Egypt (12:10-17). God intervened to work out His purposes in the birth of Isaac, which might otherwise have been frustrated. He is more than just a spectator on the sidelines of history. He can overrule the evil of His people, even through the lives of the unregenerate. The pagan Abimelech acted more righteously in this incident than Abraham, the “friend of God.” (The word “Abimelech” is a title, and not a proper name.) It is shameful when a believer has to be justly rebuked by a man of the world! “When a half-truth is presented as the whole truth, it is an untruth” (v. 12). Abraham even tried to shift some of the blame onto God for making him wander in the first place (v. 13). He would have been wiser to humbly acknowledge his guilt. Nevertheless, he was still God’s man. And so the Lord sent Abimelech to him so that Abraham would pray that his household be healed of its barrenness (vv. 7, 17, 18).

The expression “a covering of the eyes” means a gift given for the purpose of appeasing. Thus verse 16b might read, “It is given to you as a payment in satisfaction as evidence to all that are with you and to all men that the wrong has been righted.”

Chapter 21

When the promised son was born to Abraham and Sarah, the ecstatic parents named him Isaac (“laughter”), as commanded by God (17:19, 21). This expressed their own delight and the delight of all who would hear the news (vv. 1-3). Isaac was probably from 2 to 5 years old when he was weaned. Ishmael would have been between 13 and 17. When Sarah saw Ishmael mocking Isaac at the weaning party, she ordered Abraham to cast out Hagar and her son (vv. 8-10). Paul interprets this action as evidence that law persecutes grace, that law and grace cannot be mixed, and that spiritual blessings cannot be obtained on the legal principle (Gal. 4:29).

Abraham was grieved to lose Hagar and Ishmael, but God consoled him with the promise that Ishmael would become the father of a great nation. And yet the Lord made it clear that Isaac was the promised son through whom the covenant would be carried out (vv. 11, 12). When Hagar and Ishmael almost perished from thirst in the desert south of Canaan, God caused them to find a well, and they were spared (vv. 14-21). Ishmael was in his teens at this time; therefore, verse 15 probably means that Hagar pushed him under a bush in his weakness. Ishmael’s name, “God hears,” is found twice in verse 17—“God heard” and “God hath heard.”

The Abimelech in verse 22 is not necessarily the same one as in chapter 20, This chieftain’s servants had taken a well of water from Abraham’s men. When Abimelech and Abraham made a treaty of friendship, the patriarch told Abimelech about the well that had been seized. The result was a cove- nant granting the well to Abraham. He promptly named it Beersheba (“well of the oath”). The place later became a city, marking the southernmost boundary of the land (vv. 22-32). Abraham planted a tamarisk tree as a memorial (v. 33).

Chapter 22

Perhaps no scene in the Bible except Calvary itself is more poignant than this one, and none gives a clearer foreshadowing of the death of God’s only, well-beloved Son on the Cross. The supreme test of Abraham’s faith came when God ordered him to offer up Isaac as a burnt offering in the land of Moriah (vv. 1, 2). Actually God had no intention of allowing Abraham to go through with it; He has always been opposed to human sacrifice. Moriah is the mountain range where Jerusalem is situated (2 Chron. 3:1) and also where Calvary stood. God’s words, “thy son, thine only son, Isaac, whom thou lovest” (v. 2), must have pierced Abraham’s heart like ever-deepening wounds. Isaac was Abraham’s only son in the sense that he was the only son of promise—the unique son, the son of miraculous birth.

The first occurrence of a word in the Bible often sets the pattern for its usage throughout Scripture. “Love” (v. 2) and “worship” (v. 5) are first found here. Abraham’s love for his son is a faint picture of God’s love for the Lord Jesus. The sacrifice of Isaac was a picture of the greatest act of worship—the Savior’s self-sacrifice to accomplish the will of God.

“Abraham, Abraham” (v. 11) is the first of ten name duplications found in the Bible. Seven are spoken by God to man (Gen. 22:11; 46:2; Exod. 3:4; 1 Sam. 3:10; Luke 10:41; 22:31; Acts 9:4). The other three are Matthew 7:21, 22; 23:37; Mark 15:34. They introduce matters of special importance.

To offer Isaac was surely the supreme test of Abraham’s faith. God had promised to give Abraham a numberless posterity through his son. Isaac could have been as much as 25 at this time, and he was unmarried. If Abraham slew him, how could the promise be fulfilled? According to Hebrews 11:19, Abraham believed that even if he slew his son, God would raise him from the dead. This faith was remarkable because there was no recorded case of resurrection up to this time in the world’s history. Notice his faith also in verse 5 of this chapter: “I and the lad will go yonder and worship and [we will] come again to you.” Abraham was first justified by faith (15:6), then justified (vindicated) by works here (see James 2:21). His faith was the means of his salvation, while his works were the proof of the reality of his faith.

When Isaac asked, “Where is the lamb?” his father replied, “God will provide [for] Himself a lamb,” This promise was not fulfilled by the ram of verse 13 (a ram is not a lamb), but by the Lamb of John 1:29.

There are two outstanding symbols of Christ in this chapter. Isaac is the first: an only son, loved by his father, willing to do his father’s will, received back from the dead in a figure. The ram is the second: an innocent victim died as a substitute for another, its blood was shed, and it was a burnt offering wholly consumed for God. Someone has said that, in providing the ram as a substitute for Isaac. “God spared Abraham’s heart a pang He would not spare His own.” The angel of the Lord in verses 11 and 15, as in all the Old Testament, is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Abraham named the place Jehovah-jireh, which means “the Lord sees.” then resultantly “the Lord will provide” (v. 14). This is one of the seven compound names for God in the Old Testament. The others are:

        Jehovah-Rapha—“The Lord that healeth thee” (Exod. 15:26).

        Jehovah-Nissi—“The Lord our banner” (Exod. 17:8-15).

        Jehovah-Shalom—“The Lord our peace” (Judg. 6:24).

        Jehovah-Ra-ah (Roi)—“The Lord our Shepherd” (Psa. 23:1).

        Jehovah-Tsidkenu—“The Lord our righteousness” (Jer. 23:6).

        Jehovah-Shammah—“The Lord is present” (Ezek. 48:35).

God swore by Himself (v. 18) because He couldn’t swear by anyone greater (Heb. 6:13). God’s promise in verses 16-18, confirmed by His oath, includes the blessing of the Gentile nations through Christ. In verse 17c God adds to the already vast blessing promised: Abraham’s seed would possess the gate of his enemies. This means that his descendants would “occupy the place of authority over those who would oppose them. The capture of the city gate meant the fall of the city itself.”10

Abraham’s brother Nahor had 12 sons (vv. 20-24) whereas Abraham had only two—Ishmael and Isaac. How this must have tested Abraham’s faith concerning God’s promise of seed like the stars of heaven (v. 17)! It may have prompted him to send Eliezer in search of a wife for Isaac (ch. 24). Notice Rebekah’s name in 22:23.

Chapter 23

When Sarah died at 127, Abraham bargained with the Hittite inhabitants of Hebron for the purchase of the Cave of Machpelah as a burying place—his only purchase of real estate during his long life of pilgrimage. The passage gives a priceless description of the bargaining that is so typical in Eastern lands. At first, the Hittites suggested that Abraham choose any one of their sepulchers (v. 6). With overflowing courtesy, Abraham refused and insisted on paying full price for a cave owned by Ephron. At first Ephron offered not just the cave but the entire field as an outright gift (v. 11), but Abraham understood that this was just a polite gesture. The owner really had no intention of giving it away. When Abraham countered by insisting on his desire to purchase it, Ephron suggested a price of 400 shekels of silver, pretending that this was a great bargain. Actually it was an extortionate price, and ordinarily the buyer would have continued to haggle. So it was a surprise to everyone when Abraham agreed to Ephron’s first asking price. Abraham didn’t want to be indebted to an unbeliever, and neither should we.

The Cave of Machpelah later became the burying place of Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah. The traditional location is now the site of a Moslem Mosque.

Chapter 24

Abraham bound his servant by an oath that in seeking a bride for Isaac, he would not allow him to marry a Canaanite or to live in Mesopotamia (vv. 1-0). The ancient form of oath is described in verses 2-4, 9. “According to Bib- lical idiom, children are said to issue from the ‘thigh’ or loins’ of their lather (cf. Gen. 46:26), Placing the hand on the thigh signified that, in the event that an oath were violated, the children who had issued, or might issue from the ‘thigh’ would avenge the act of disloyalty. This has been called a ‘swearing by posterity’ and is particularly applicable here, because the servant’s mission is to insure a posterity for Abraham through Isaac.”11

The servant is a type (symbol) of the Holy Spirit sent by the Father to win a bride for the heavenly Isaac, the Lord Jesus. The narrative carefully records the preparation for the journey, the gifts carried by the servant, and the sign by which he would know the Lord’s chosen woman (vv. 10-14). “It was a sign that was calculated to throw much light on the character and disposition of the girl worthy of his master’s son. He was merely to ask her for ‘a sip’—as the Hebrew word may be rendered—of water for himself: but the one whom God had chosen to be the mother of a great people and a remote ancestress of Jesus Christ would reveal her generous nature and her willingness to serve others by offering him not a mere ‘sip’ of water but an abundant ‘drink.’ To this she was also to add the astonishing offer of drawing water for the camels also. Now when we consider that these ten beasts, after the toil of the long desert, were prepared to empty at least four barrels of water in all the spontaneous willingness of the girl of his prayers to serve man and beast would point to a kindly and unselfish disposition and also to a character of the highest order.”12

It was lovely Rebekah, of course, who fulfilled the conditions and who therefore received the servant’s gifts (vv. 15-22). As she led him to her father’s home, Abraham’s servant knew that his search had ended (vv. 23-27). When Rebekah explained the situation to her brother, Laban, he welcomed the entourage graciously, then heard the servant present his request for Rebekah as a bride for Isaac {vv. 28-49). The marvelous convergence of circumstances in answer to the servant’s prayer convinced Laban and Bethuel, Rebekah’s father, that the Lord had arranged it all (vv. 50, 51).

The servant then brought out gifts for Rebekah, Laban, and their mother, sealing the engagement (v. 53). In the morning, the family wanted to delay her departure, but Rebekah’s willingness to go settled the matter (vv. 55-59), and she left with their blessing (v. 60).

The first time we see Isaac after his experience on Mount Moriah is when he went forth to meet Rebekah. So the first time we will see the Savior after His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension is when He returns to claim His chosen bride (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Isaac’s meeting with Rebekah is one of tender beauty (vv. 61-67). Without ever having seen her before, he married her and loved her, and, unlike other patriarchs, he had no other wife besides her.

Chapter 25

In 1 Chronicles 1:32 Keturah is called Abraham’s concubine. Verse 8 seems to confirm this. Thus she was a lesser wife, one who did not enjoy the full privileges of a wife in the home. Once again God records marital irregularities that he never approved.

Abraham died at 175 and became the second person to be buried in the cave at Hebron (vv. 7-10). The 12 sons of Ishmael listed in verses 12-18 fulfilled God’s promise to Abraham: “Twelve princes shall he beget” (17:20). With the death of Ishmael (vv. 17, 18), Isaac moves to the center of the stage in the narrative.

For almost 20 years after her marriage, Rebekah was barren. Then, in answer to Isaac’s prayer, she conceived. The struggle of two sons within her perplexed her (v. 22) until she was told that her sons would become the heads of rival nations (Israel and Edom) (v. 23). The firstborn twin was named Esau, meaning “hairy.” The other was named Jacob, meaning “supplanter.” Even at birth, Jacob tried to gain advantage over his brother by holding his heel (v. 26)!

As the firstborn, Esau was entitled to a double portion of his father’s possessions—that is, twice as much as any other son might inherit. He also became the tribal or family head. This was known as the birthright. In Esau’s case, it would also have included being the ancestor of the Messiah. One day, as Esau was returning from a hunting trip, he saw Jacob cooking some red vegetable soup. He asked for some of the red stuff so imploringly that he got the nickname “Red” (Edom), and it stuck to him and to his posterity, the Edomites (vv. 29, 30). When Jacob offered some soup in exchange for Esau’s birthright, Esau foolishly agreed (vv. 31-34). “No food except the forbidden fruit was as dearly bought as this broth.”13 The prophecy of verse 23 is partially fulfilled in verses 29-34. God does not condone Jacob’s wheeling and dealing, but one thing is apparent—Jacob valued the birthright and a place in the godly line, while Esau preferred the gratification of his physical appetite to spiritual blessings. The chapter closes by emphasizing Esau’s treatment of the birthright rather than Jacob’s treatment of his brother. Esau’s descendants were bitter foes of Israel. Their final doom is pronounced in Obadiah.

Chapter 26

Isaac reacted to famine as his father had done (chs. 12 and 20). As he journeyed south, the Lord appeared to him at Gerar and warned him not to go to Egypt (vv. 1, 2). Gerar was sort of a halfway house on the route to Egypt. God told Isaac to stay temporarily in Gerar (v. 3) but instead Isaac “dwelt” there (v. 6). God also reconfirmed to him the unconditional covenant that He had made with Abraham (vv. 3-5).

Isaac reacted to fear as his father had done. He misrepresented his wife as his sister to the men of Gerar (vv. 6, 7). It is the sad story of a father’s weakness being repeated in his son. When the deceit was exposed and rebuked, Isaac confessed (vv. 8-11). Confession leads to blessing. Isaac became wealthy in Gerar—so wealthy that the Abimelech who was then reigning asked him to leave (vv. 12-16). So Isaac moved from Gerar to the Valley of Gerar, not far away (v. 17).

The Philistines (“wanderers”) had filled with debris the wells which Abraham had dug—an unfriendly act signifying that the newcomers were not welcome (v. 15). Isaac cleaned out the wells. Strife ensued with the Philistines at Esek (“contention”) and Sitnah (“enmity”). Finally Isaac moved away from the Philistines. This time there was no strife when he dug a well, so he called it Rehoboth (“broad places” or “room”). From there he went to Beersheba, where the Lord reassured him with the promise of blessing (vv. 23, 24), and where Isaac built an altar, pitched a tent, and dug a well (v. 25).

Concerning verses 26-31, Williams says, “It is when Isaac definitely separates himself from the men of Gerar that they come to him seeking blessing from God… The Christian best helps the world when living in separation from it…”14 Isaac’s servants found water the same day that Isaac made a nonaggression pact with Abimelech. Abraham had previously named the place Beersheba because he made a covenant there with his contemporary, Abimelech (21:31). Now, under similar circumstances, Isaac renames it Beersheba.

Esau’s marriage to two pagan women caused grief to his parents (vv. 34, 35), as have many other unequal yokes since then. It also brought out further his unfitness for the birthright.

Chapter 27

Approximately 37 years have passed since the events of the previous chapter. Isaac is now 137, his sight has failed, and he thinks he is about to die (vv. 1, 2), perhaps because his brother Ishmael had died at that age (Gen. 25:17). But he will live 43 more years, although nothing further is recorded about him in Genesis except his death (35:27-29).

When Isaac craved some venison from Esau, promising a blessing in return, Rebekah plotted to deceive her husband and to get the blessing for Jacob, whom she loved (vv. 1-17). Her trickery was unnecessary because God had already promised the blessing to Jacob (25:23b). She cooked goat’s meat so that it tasted like venison, and put the goat’s skins on Jacob’s arms to impersonate the hairy Esau (vv. 18-29). Isaac made the mistake of trusting his feelings; the hairy arm “felt” like Esau’s. We should not trust our emotional feelings in spiritual matters, for:

Feelings come and feelings go, and feelings are deceiving. Our warrant is the Word of God; naught else is worth believing.15

Although Rebekah planned the deception, Jacob was equally guilty for carrying it out. And he reaped what he sowed. “It has been observed by another that ‘whoever observes Jacob’s life, after he had surreptitiously obtained his father’s blessing, will perceive that he enjoyed very little worldly felicity. His brother sought to murder him, to avoid which he was forced to flee from his father’s house; his uncle Laban deceived him… He was obliged to leave him in a clandestine manner… He experienced the baseness of his son Reuben … the treachery and cruelty of Simeon and Levi towards the Shechemites; then he had to feel the loss of his beloved wife … the supposed untimely end of Joseph; and to complete all, he was forced by famine to go into Egypt, and there died in a strange land…’”16

Isaac blessed Jacob with prosperity, dominion, and protection (vv. 23-29). It is interesting that the blessings spoken by the patriarchs were prophetic; they came to pass literally because, in a real sense, these men spoke by inspiration.

When Esau returned and learned of the deception, he sought the blessing tearfully. But the blessing had been granted to Jacob and it couldn’t be retracted (Heb. 12:16, 17). However, Isaac did have a word for Esau, as follows: “Behold, away from the fatness of the earth shall your dwelling be, and away from the dew of heaven on high. By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you break .loose, you shall break his yoke from your neck” (vv. 39, 40 RSV). This suggests that the Edomites would live in desert places, would be warriors, would be subject to the Israelites, but would one day rebel against this rule. This latter prophecy was fulfilled in the reign of Joram, King of Judah (2 Kgs. 8:20-22).

Esau planned to kill Jacob as soon as his father would die and the period of mourning would end. When Rebekah learned of this, she told Jacob to head for her brother Laban’s home in Haran. She feared not only that Jacob would be killed but that Esau would run away or be killed in a blood feud, and she would lose two sons at once (v. 45). However, to explain Jacob’s departure to Isaac, she said she was afraid Jacob might marry a Hittite, as Esau had done (vv. 41-46). Jacob expected to return soon, but it was not to be for more than 20 years. His father would still be living, but his mother would have passed on.

Chapter 28

Isaac blessed Jacob and sent him to Paddan- Aram, a district of Mesopotamia, so that he would find a wife among his mother’s people rather than among the Canaanites (vv. 1-5). This inspired Esau to try to regain his father’s blessing by marrying a daughter of Ishmael (vv. 8-9). It was a case of doing evil (multiplying wives) that good might come. At Bethel, Jacob had a wonderful dream in which he saw a ladder or staircase extending from earth to heaven. This suggested “the fact of a real, uninterrupted, and close communion between heaven and earth, and in particular between God in His glory and man in his solitude.”17 In His encounter with Nathanael, the Lord Jesus made an apparent reference to this incident and connected it with His second advent and millennial glory (John 1:51). At this time when Jacob’s heart was probably filled with regret for the past, loneliness in the present, and uncertainty about the future, God graciously made a covenant with him as He had with Abraham and Isaac (vv. 13-15). Notice the promise of companionship: “I am with thee”; safety: “I will keep thee all places whither thou goest”; guidance: “I will bring thee again into this land”; and personal guarantee: “I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.” Conscious that he had met God there, Jacob changed the name of the place from Luz (“separation”) to Bethel (“house of God”) (v. 19). “Prior to Bethel, where Jacob was ‘surprised by joy’ and ‘transfixed by awe,’ he had had no personal contact with God. Everything had come to him second-hand.”18

Verses 20-22 seem to present Jacob as one who was bargaining with God. He was actually bargaining for less than God had promised (v. 14). His faith was not strong enough to take God at His word, so he had to make his tithe conditional on God’s performance of His part of the agreement. Another interpretation, however, is that the “if is simply an inherent part of all Hebrew oaths and that Jacob was binding himself to give a tenth unconditionally (see Num. 21:2; Judg. 11:30, 31; 1 Sam. 1:11 for similar Hebrew oaths).

Chapter 29

Jacob was 77 when he left Beersheba for Haran. He would spend 20 years serving his uncle Laban, 33 years back in Canaan, and the last 17 years of his life in Egypt. Arriving in Paddan-Aram, he was guided to the very field where some shepherds from Haran were tending their flocks. So perfect was God’s timing that Rachel was just arriving with her flock when Jacob was talking with the shepherds (vv. 1-6). Being a good shepherd, Jacob wondered why they were all waiting at the well when there were still daylight hours for feeding the sheep. They explained that, they did not remove the cover from the well until all the herds had arrived (vv. 7, 8). It was an emotion-packed moment for Jacob when he met his cousin Rachel (vv. 9-12), and for Laban a short while later when he met his nephew Jacob (vv. 13, 14)

Laban agreed to give Rachel to Jacob in exchange for seven years of service. The years seemed to Jacob but a few days because of the love he had for her (vv. 15-20). Leah was weak-eyed and not attractive. Rachel was beautiful and lovely (v. 17).

According to custom on the wedding night, it was arranged that the bride should go in to the groom, veiled and perhaps when the room was in darkness. You can imagine how irate Jacob was in the morning when he found that his bride was Leah, Laban had tricked him, but excused the trick on the ground that the older daughter should be married first according to the local custom. Then Laban said, “Complete the week of this one” (that is, carry through on the marriage to Leah, observing the usual festive week) “and we will give you the other” (Rachel) “in return for serving me another seven years” (v. 27 RSV). At the end of the weeklong wedding feast, Jacob also married Rachel, then served seven more years for her (vv. 21-30). Jacob had sown deceit, and now he was reaping it!

When the Lord saw that Leah was hated—that is, loved less than Rachel—He compensated for this by giving her children (v. 31). This law of divine compensation still operates; People who lack in one area are given extra in another. Leah acknowledged the Lord when she named her children (vv. 32, 33, 35). From her comes the priesthood (Levi), the royal line (Judah), and ultimately the Christ. In this chapter we have the first four of the sons of Jacob (vv. 32-35). The complete list is as follows;

Sons born to Leah:

        Reuben, meaning “see ye a son” (29:32)
        Simeon, meaning “hearing” (29:33)
        Levi, meaning “joined” (29:34)
        Judah, meaning “praise” (29:35)
        Issachar, meaning “hire” (30:18)
        Zebulun, meaning “dwelling” (30:20)

Sons born to Bilhah, handmaid of Rachel:

        Dan, meaning “judge” (30:6)
        Naphtali, meaning “wrestling” (30:8)

Sons born to Zilpah, handmaid of Leah:

        Gad, meaning “a troop” or “good fortune” (30:11)
        Asher, meaning “happy” (30:13)

Sons born to Rachel:

        Joseph, meaning “adding” (30:24)
        Benjamin, meaning “son of the right hand” (35:18)

Chapter 30

In desperation to have a child playing on her knees, Rachel gave her maid, Bilhah, to Jacob as a wife or concubine. Even though such arrangements were common in those days, they were contrary to God’s will. Bilhah bore two sons, Dan and Naphtali (vv. 1-8). Not to be outdone by Rachel, Leah gave her maid, Zilpah, to Jacob, and two more sons were born, Gad and Asher (vv. 9-13). The mandrakes which Reuben found were a sort of love-apple, believed by the superstitious to impart fertility. Since Rachel was barren, she was anxious to have some of the mandrakes. In exchange for some of them, she agreed to let Leah live as wife with Jacob. (For some unexplained reason, Leah had apparently lost her privileges as wife.) After this, two more sons were born to Leah—Issachar and Zebulun—and also a daughter, Dinah (vv. 14-21). At last Rachel bore her first son and named him Joseph (vv. 22-24), expressing faith that God would give her still another son (v. 24).

When Jacob told Laban that he wanted to return home to Canaan, his uncle urged him to stay. Laban said he had learned by divination that, the Lord had blessed him because of Jacob (vv. 25-28), and he would meet his wage demands if he would stay (vv. 29, 30a). Jacob agreed to continue serving if Laban would give him all the speckled and spotted sheep and goats and all the black lambs. All other animals in the flock would be acknowledged as Laban’s. The latter agreed to the pact, saying, “Good, let it be as you have said” (v. 34 RSV). Laban took most of the animals designated for Jacob and gave them to his sons to shepherd, realizing that they would probably reproduce with markings that identified them as belonging to Jacob. Then he entrusted his own animals to Jacob, separated from his own sons by a three-day journey (vv. 35, 36). This made it impossible for the marked animals in the herds tended, by Laban’s sons to breed with Laban’s unmarked animals that were tended by Jacob.

When breeding Laban’s herd, Jacob put peeled rods in front of them, whether they were of solid color or marked. The lambs or kids were born striped, speckled, and spotted (vv. 37-39). This, of course, meant that, they belonged to Jacob. Did the peeled rods actually determine the markings on the animals? There may or may not have been a scientific basis to the method. (New genetic evidence suggests that there might, have been.) How else might the animals have been born with the markings Jacob desired? First of all, it may have been a miracle (see 31:12). Or it. may have been a clever trick on Jacob’s part. There are indications in the narrative that, he knew the science of selective breeding. By careful breeding, he not only produced animals with the markings he desired, but he was also able to produce stronger animals for himself and weaker ones for Laban (vv. 41, 42). Perhaps the peeled rods were just: a trick to hide his breeding secrets from others. Whatever the explanation, Jacob’s wealth increased during his final six years of serving Laban.

Chapter 31

After Jacob discovered that Laban and his sons were growing jealous and resentful, the Lord told him that the time had come to return to Canaan (vv. 1-3). First he called Rachel and Leah and discussed the matter, rehearsing how Laban had cheated him and changed his wages 10 times, how God had overruled so that the flocks always bred in his favor, how God had reminded him of the vow he had made 20 years earlier (28:20-22), and how the Lord had told him to return to Canaan, His wives agreed that their father had not dealt honestly and that they should leave (vv. 4-16). Griffith Thomas points out several interesting principles for discerning God’s guidance here. First, Jacob had a desire (30:25). Secondly, circumstances necessitated a change of some sort. Thirdly, God’s word came strongly to him. And finally, there was confirming support from his wives, despite their natural ties to Laban.19

Before the secret departure, Rachel stole her father’s household gods and hid them in her camel’s saddle (v. 18b). According to Unger, new evidence shows that possession of these household gods implied leadership of the family, and, in the case of a married daughter, assured her husband the right of the father’s property.20 Since Laban had sons of his own when Jacob fled to Canaan, they alone had the right to their father’s teraphim. Rachel’s theft was therefore a serious matter, aimed at preserving for her husband the chief title to Laban’s estate.

When Laban learned of their departure, he and his men pursued them for a week, but the Lord warned him in a dream not to trouble Jacob and his caravan (vv. 22-24). When he finally overtook them, he only complained that he had been denied the privilege of giving them a royal send-off and that his idols had been stolen (vv. 25-30). To the first complaint Jacob replied that he left secretly for fear that Laban wouldn’t let Rachel and Leah go. To the second complaint, he denied having stolen the gods and rashly decreed death for the culprit (vv. 31, 32). Laban made a thorough search of the caravan, but in vain; Rachel was sitting on them and excused herself for not getting off the camel’s saddle to honor her father because it was her menstrual period (vv. 33-35).

Now it was Jacob’s turn to be angry. He denounced Laban for accusing him of theft and for treating him so unfairly for 20 years, in spite of Jacob’s faithful and generous service (vv. 36-42). This passage reveals that Jacob was a hard worker and that the blessing of the Lord was upon him in ail that he did. Are we faithful to our employers? Does the blessing of God rest upon our work?

Laban avoided the issue by lamely protesting that he would not harm his own daughters, grandchildren, or cattle (v. 43), then suggested that they should make a pact. It was not a gra- cious, friendly covenant, asking the Lord to watch over them while they were separated. Rather, it was a compact between two cheats, asking the Lord to make sure that they did what was right when they were out of sight from one another. It was, in effect, a nonaggression treaty, but it also charged Jacob not to treat Laban’s daughters harshly nor to marry other wives (vv. 44-50). Laban called the pillar of stone marking the pact jegar-sahadutha, an Aramaic word. Jacob called it Galeed, a Hebrew word. Both words mean “the heap of witness.” Neither man was to pass the stone-heap to attack the other (vv. 51, 52). La ban swore by the god of Abraham, the god of Nahor, and the god of their father, Terah (v. 53a). In other words, he swore by the pagan gods which these men had worshipped in Ur. Jacob swore by the fear of his father, Isaac (v. 53b)—that is, the God whom Isaac feared. Isaac had never been an idolater.

Jacob first offered a sacrifice, then made a banquet for all those present and camped that night on the mountain (v. 54). In the morning, Laban said goodbye to his daughters and grandchildren and left for home (v. 55).

Chapter 32

En route to Canaan, Jacob met a host of angels and called the place Mahanaim, meaning two hosts (vv. 1, 2). The two hosts may be God’s army (v. 2) and Jacob’s entourage. Or two hosts may be a figurative expression for a great multitude (v. 10). As Jacob neared the land, he remembered his brother Esau and feared revenge. Would Esau still be angry at the way he had been cheated out of the blessing? First, Jacob sent messengers to Esau with greetings of peace (vv. 3-5). Then when he heard that Esau was coming to meet him with a band of 400 men, he was so terrified that he divided his family into two companies, so that if the first group was destroyed, the second could flee (vv, 6-8). Jacob’s prayer (vv. 9-12) was born out of a desperate sense of need for divine protection. It was based on the ground of covenant relationship which the Lord had established with him and his forefathers (v. 9), and it was prayed in humility of spirit (v. 10). He based his plea on the word of the Lord (v. 12) and claimed the promises of God. Jacob next sent three different droves of animals totaling 580 head as gifts for Esau, hoping to appease him (vv. 13-21). Esau would get the gift in three install- ments. Jacob’s maneuvers manifested his unbelief or at least a mixture of faith and unbelief.

After sending his immediate family across the stream Jabbok (“he will empty”), Jacob spent the night alone at Peniel for what was to be one of the great experiences of his life. A man wrestled with him (v. 24). That man was an angel (Hos. 12:4), the angel of Jehovah, the Lord Himself. The Lord put Jacob’s thigh out of joint, causing him to walk with a limp the rest of his life. Although Jacob lost the encounter physically, he won a great spiritual victory. He learned to triumph through defeat and to be strong through weakness. Emptied of self, he confessed he was “Jacob,” a supplanter. God then changed his name to Israel (“one who strives with God” or “a prince of God”). Jacob called the name of the place Peniel (“the face of God”) because he realized he had seen the Lord (v. 30).

Verse 32 is still true among Jews today. “The sciatic nerve, or thigh vein, must be removed from the slaughtered animal before that portion of the animal may be prepared for consumption by orthodox Jews.”21

Chapter 33

As Esau drew near, Jacob lapsed back into tearfulness and fleshly behavior, arranging his household in such a way as to afford maximum protection for those he loved most (vv. 1, 2). Jacob himself bowed seven times to the ground as he approached his brother (v. 3). Esau, by comparison, was relaxed, warm, and effusive as he met Jacob first, then Jacob’s wives and children (vv. 4-7). He protested mildly against the extravagant gift of livestock but finally consented to accept it (vv. 8-11). Jacob seems to have shown undue servility to his brother, speaking of himself as his servant (v. 5). Some think that he resorted to flattery and exaggeration in telling Esau that seeing his face was like seeing God (v. 10). Others think that the face of God here means a reconciled face.

When Esau suggested that they travel back together, Jacob pretended that this would be impossible because of the slow pace required by the children and young animals (vv. 12-14a). Jacob promised to meet Esau in Seir (Edom) (v. 14b), although he had no intention of doing so. Even when Esau tried to leave behind some of his men to travel with Jacob’s household, the latter refused the offer without revealing the real reasons—fear and suspicion (v. 15). At length Jacob arrived at Shechem and settled there, erecting an altar which he called El-elohe-Israel (“God, the God of Israel”). Twenty years earlier, when God had appeared to him at Bethel, Jacob had vowed that the Lord would be his God, that he would give a tenth of his wealth to the Lord, and that he would establish Bethel as God’s house (28:20-22). Now, instead of returning to Bethel, he settles 30 miles away in the fertile area of Shechem, probably for the sake of his livestock. God does not speak directly to him until several years later, when He calls on Jacob to fulfill his vow (ch. 35). In the meantime, the tragic events of chapter 34 take place.

Chapter 34

The name of God is not mentioned in this chapter. While Jacob and his family were living in Shechem, his daughter Dinah mingled socially with the heathen women, a breach of proper separation from the ungodly (v. 2). On one such occasion, Shechem, the son of Humor, sexually assaulted her, then greatly desired to marry her (vv. 2, 3). Realizing that Jacob and his sons were enraged, Hamor proposed a peaceful solution: intermarriage between the Israelites and Canaanites, and full rights for the Israelites as citizens of the land (vv. 8-10). (Verse 9 can be seen as one of many Satanic attempts to pollute the godly line.) Shechem also offered to pay whatever dowry was requested (vv. 11, 12). The sons of Jacob had no intention of giving Dinah to Shechem, but they lied that they would do so if the men of the city would be circumcised (vv. 13-17). The sacred sign of God’s covenant was to be used wickedly.

In good faith, Hamor, Shechem, and all the men of the city met the condition (vv. 18-21). But while they were recovering from the surgery, Simeon and Levi treacherously murdered them and plundered their wealth (vv. 25-20). When Jacob administered a mild rebuke, Simeon and Levi answered that their sister should not have been treated like a harlot (vv. 30, 31). Actually Jacob seemed to be more concerned about his own welfare than the horrible injustice that had been done to the men of Shechem. Notice his eight uses of the first-person pronoun in verse 30.

Chapter 35

This chapter opens with God’s command to Jacob to fulfill the vow made about 30 years earlier (28:20-22). The Lord used the tragic events of the previous chapter to prepare the patriarch to do it. Notice that the Lord is referred to about 20 times in this chapter, in contrast, to no references in Chapter 34. Before obeying God’s command to return to Bethel, Jacob first ordered his family to put away the foreign household gods and to put on clean clothes (vv. 2-4). As soon as they did this, they became a terror to their heathen neighbors (v. 5). It was appropriate that Jacob should build an altar at Bethel and worship the God who had protected him from his brother, Esau (vv. 6, 7). Once again God stated that Jacob’s name was now Israel (v. 10) and renewed the covenant He had made with Abraham and Isaac (vv. 11-13). The patriarch marked the sacred spot with a pillar and once again named the place Bethel (vv. 14, 15).

As Jacob’s family journeyed south from Bethel, Rachel died in childbirth. She had named the child Benoni (“son of my sorrow”), but Jacob named this twelfth son Benjamin (“son of my right hand”) (vv. 16-18). These two names pre-picture the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. Rachel’s tomb may still be seen on the road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. Why was she not buried with Abraham, Sarah, and Rebekah in the cave of Hebron? Perhaps it was because she had brought idols into the family (31:19).

A brief mention is made of Reuben’s sin with his father’s concubine (v. 22), a sin by which he forfeited the birthright (49:3, 4). The last sentence in verse 22 begins a new paragraph: “Now the sons of Jacob were twelve.” The next two verses list the 12 sons. Though it says in verse 26 that these sons were born to Jacob in Paddan-aram, Benjamin (v. 24) is excepted. He was born in Canaan (vv. 16-19).

Jacob returned to Hebron in time to see his father, Isaac, before he died (vv. 27-29). His mother, Rebekah, had died some years earlier. Three funerals are recorded in this chapter: that of Deborah, the nurse of Rebekah (v. 8); of Rachel (v. 19); and of Isaac (v. 29).

Chapter 36

This chapter is devoted to the descendants of Esau, who dwell in the land of Edom. southeast of the Dead Sea. The genealogy represents the fulfillment of the promise that Esau would be the head of a nation (25:23). Esau had three or possibly four wives, depending on whether some of the women had two names (compare 26:34; 28:9; 36:2, 3). In verse 24 Anah found “hot springs” (NASB) in the wilderness, not “mules” (KJV). Moses, the author of Genesis, knew by divine revelation (see 35:11) that Israel would eventually have kings (v. 31).

As seven generations of the ungodly line of Cain were given in Chapter 4, so seven generations of kings in the ungodly line of Esau are mentioned here in verses 33-39. Seven, the number of completeness, probably indicates the entire line. Not one of Esau’s descendants is mentioned in God’s registry of the faithful; all are lost in the obscurity of those who depart from the living God. They had temporary riches and the passing fame of this world, but nothing for eternity.

Chapter 37

The words “These are the generations of Jacob” (v. 2a) seem abrupt, Jacob’s history (chs. 25—35) is interrupted by the generations of Esau (ch. 36), then continued from chapter 37 to the end of the book, with emphasis on Jacob’s son, Joseph.

Joseph is one of the most beautiful types (symbols) of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, though the Bible never labels Joseph as a type. A. W. Pink lists 101 correspondences between Joseph and Jesus,22 and Ada Habershon lists 121. For example, Joseph was loved by his father (v. 3); he rebuked the sin of his brothers (v. 2); he was hated by his brothers and sold into the hands of enemies (vv. 4,26-28); he was punished unjustly (ch. 39); he was exalted and became the savior of the world, for all the world had to come to him for bread (41:57); he received a Gentile bride during his rejection by his brethren (41:45).

The coat of many colors (or a long robe with sleeves, RSV) was a sign of his father’s special affection, and it stirred up the jealous hatred of his brothers (vv. 3, 4).

In Joseph’s first dream, 11 sheaves of grain bowed down to the twelfth, a prophecy that his brothers would one day bow down to him (vv. 5-8). In the next dream, the sun, moon, and 11 stars bowed down to Joseph. The sun and moon represented Jacob and Leah (Rachel had died), and the 11 stars were Joseph’s brothers (vv. 9-11).

When Joseph was sent on an errand to his brothers, they plotted to kill him, but at Reuben’s suggestion they agreed to east him into a pit near Dothan (vv. 12-24). As they sat down to eat, they saw an Ishmaelite caravan bound for Egypt, and at Judah’s suggestion decided to sell him (vv. 25-27). In this passage, the Ishmaelites are also called Midianites, as in Judges 8:22-24. As the Midianite traders passed by, Joseph’s brothers brought Joseph out of the pit and sold him to the traders (v. 28). Reuben was absent when all this was taking place. When he returned he was terrified, since he would be responsible to explain Joseph’s absence to his father. So the brothers dipped Joseph’s robe in the blood of a goat and then callously returned it to Jacob, who naturally assumed that Joseph had been killed (vv. 29-35). Jacob had once deceived his father with a goat, using the skin to impersonate his brother’s hairy arms (27:16-23). Now he himself was cruelly deceived by the blood of a goat on Joseph’s coat. “The pain of deceit is learned once again.”

The Ishmaelites unwittingly fulfilled God’s purposes by providing free transportation for Joseph to Egypt and selling him to an officer in Pharaoh’s household (v. 36). Thus God makes man’s wrath to praise Him, and what won’t praise Him, He restrains (see Psa. 76:10).

Chapter 38

The sordid story of Judah’s sin with Tamar serves to magnify the grace of God, when we remember that the Lord Jesus was descended from Judah (Luke 3:33). Tamar is one of five women mentioned in the genealogy in Matthew 3; three of them were guilty of immorality—Tamar, Rahab (v. 5), and Bathsheba (v. 6). The others are Ruth (v. 5) and Mary (v. 16).

Genesis 37 closes with an account of Jacob’s sons selling their brother Joseph unto the Midianites, and they in turn selling him into Egypt. This speaks, in type, of Christ being rejected by Israel and delivered unto the Gentiles. From the time that the Jewish leaders delivered their Messiah into the hands of Pilate, they have as a nation had no further dealings with Him; and God, too, has turned from them to the Gentiles. Hence it is that there is an important turn in our type at this stage. Joseph is now seen in the hands of the Gentiles. But before we are told what happened to Joseph in Egypt, the Holy Spirit traces for us in typical outline, the history of the Jews, while the antitypical Joseph is absent from the land.”23 Someone else has said that “it is not by accident that the story of Joseph is interrupted by chapter 38. The disreputable behavior of other members of his family makes Joseph’s conduct, by contrast, shine like a good deed in a naughty world.”

Judah’s first mistake was in marrying a Canaanite woman, the daughter of Shua. She bore him three sons—Er, Onan, and Shelah (vv. 1-5). Er married a Canaanite woman named Tamar, but was slain by the Lord for some unspecified wickedness (vv. 6, 7). It was the custom at that time for a brother or other near relative to marry the widow and raise children for the one who had died (v. 8) Onan refused to do this because the first child born as a result would be the legal heir of Er (v. 9), not his own legal child. His sin was not so much sexual as it was selfish. It was not a single act but, as the Hebrew repeals, a persistent refusal. And the refusal affected the genealogy by which Christ would inherit legal right to the throne of David. It so displeased the Lord that he slew Onan (v. 10). Seeing this, Judah told Tamar to return to her father’s house till his third son, Shelah, was of marriageable age (v. 11) Actually this was just a diversionary tactic. He didn’t want Shelah to marry Tamar at all; he had already lost two sons and considered her an “unlucky woman.”

When Shelah grew up and Judah still did not arrange his marriage to Tamar, she decided to “hook” Judah by laying a trap. She dressed as a harlot and sat by the side of the road to Timnath, where Judah was going to join his sheepshearers. Sure enough, he went in and had illicit relations with her, not knowing it was his own daughter-in-law. The agreed fee was a kid from the flock, but until he could send it to her, the “harlot” demanded Judah’s signet, cord, and staff. His cord may have been the string by which the seal-ring was suspended. When Judah tried to deliver the kid and have the pledges returned he couldn’t find the “harlot” (vv. 12-23).

Three months later, Tamar was accused of being a harlot because she, a widow, was with child. Judah ordered her to be burned—until she returned the pledges with the announcement that their owner was the father of her expected child. They furnished positive proof that Judah had cohabited with her (vv. 24-26).

“The companions of Judah bring him word that his daughter-in-law, Tamar, has played the harlot. His judgment is quick and decisive: let her be burned. There is neither hesitation nor compromise. As he utters this fearful sentence, we cannot detect even a tremor in his voice. The Israelitish society must be preserved from such folly and wickedness. The word goes out; the day is fixed; the preparations go forward; the stake is planted; the pile is arranged; the procession forms; the crowd gathers; the woman walks to her apparent doom. But she bears in her hands the tokens; the pledges are with her; she carries the staff and the ring. And the staff is the staff of Judah, and the ring is his ring! The pledges become the accusation of her judge. What weight will his sentence have now?”24

When Tamar was in labor and a baby’s hand emerged, the midwife tied a scarlet thread on it, thinking that it would be born first. But the hand withdrew and another baby was the first to come forth. She named the firstborn Perez and the other Zerah. Both twins are mentioned in Matthew 1:3, though the Messianic line goes through Perez, Zerah was an ancestor of Achan (Josh. 7:1). “It is simply astonishing that God could take up the threads of this very tangled skein, and weave them into His own pattern.”25

Judah’s marriage to the Canaanite woman (v. 2) was a first step in the intermingling of God’s people with a race that was proverbial for its gross immorality. Israel would become contaminated by the unspeakable enormities of lewd nature worship. God is a God of separation; when we fraternize with the world, we pay an awful price.

Chapter 39

The story now returns to Egypt, where Joseph was appointed overseer in the house of Potiphar, captain of the guard in Pharaoh’s palace (vv. l-6a). Potiphar’s wife tried repeatedly to seduce Joseph, but he steadfastly refused (vv. 6b-10). One day she caught him by his garment. He squirmed out of it and fled, leaving her holding it (vv. 11, 12). He lost his coat but saved his character and eventually gained a crown. She used the coat as “evidence” that Joseph had attempted to rape her (vv. 13-18). Without proper investigation, Potiphar ordered Joseph to prison; but even there Joseph was blessed by the Lord and was given a position of responsibility. The fact that Joseph was not executed may indicate that Potiphar did not entirely believe his wife; he couldn’t help knowing her true character.

The truth of Romans 8:28 is wonderfully displayed in this chapter. God was working behind the scenes for Joseph. The latter resisted temptation and sought to avoid occasions for sin (vv. 8-10). Despite this, his would-be seducer framed him. And so for a second time Joseph found himself in chains (Psa. 105:17-19). Under the circumstances he should have been upset. But he was not “under the circumstances”; he was above them and saw God’s hand in them. His time in prison was “training time for reigning time.” So things that were meant by others for evil turned out to be for good.

Chapter 40

Among Joseph’s fellow-prisoners were the butler (cupbearer) and the baker of the king of Egypt (vv. 1-4). When they both had dreams, Joseph offered to interpret them (vv. 5-8). The butler’s dream of the vine meant that Pharaoh would lift up his head to a position of favor in three days (vv. 9-15). But the baker’s dream of the three cake baskets indicated that in three days Pharaoh would lift up his head—by hanging him (vv. 16-19). When the butler was released, he failed to intercede for Joseph, as he had promised (v. 23). But the Lord did not forget.

“Remember me, when it is well with you” (v. 14 RSV). The Savior spoke similar words on the night of His betrayal, words which we can obey by taking the symbolic bread and wine.

Chapter 41

When none of the magicians of Egypt could interpret Pharaoh’s dreams of the seven fat and seven thin cattle, of the seven full ears and seven withered ears of grain, then the chief butler remembered Joseph and his ability to interpret dreams (vv. 1-13). The two years mentioned in verse 1 may refer either to the time of Joseph’s imprisonment or the time since the chief butler’s release.

Called before Pharaoh, Joseph explained that there would be seven years of plenty in Egypt, followed by seven years of famine which would devastate the land (vv. 14-32). The repetition or duplication of Pharaoh’s dream meant that it was determined by God and that He would quickly bring it to pass. We see this also in Joseph’s two dreams concerning his future (37:6-9) and in the similar visions of Daniel 2 and 7, In the Bible, two is the number of witness. Joseph gave the same reply to Pharaoh in the royal hall as he gave to his servants in the prison house, “it is not in me; God will give … a favorable answer” (v. 16 NASB; cf. 40:8). It is this humility that made it possible for the Lord to entrust Joseph with tremendous responsibility without fear that it would corrupt him.

Joseph counseled the king to set aside reserves of grain during the years of plenty so that there would be sufficient during the famine years (vv. 33-36). His plan was what has since been called “the ever-normal granaries.” Pharaoh was so pleased that he made Joseph second in command, appointed him to administer the program (v. 40), and assured him that without his permission no one would do anything (v. 44). He also gave Asenath, a Gentile, to be Joseph’s wife (v. 45). How could Pharaoh set a Hebrew prisoner over the land of Egypt, on the basis of a dream’s interpretation without waiting to see if it was true? The answer is in Proverbs 21:1: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord.” Cream rises to the surface. Joseph was the first of many godly Jews to rise to prominence in Gentile governments.

The abundance of the first seven years was so great that it was impossible to keep an accurate record (vv. 48-49). It was during those years that two sons were born to Joseph—Manasseh (“making to forget”) and Ephraim (“fruitful”) (vv. 50-52).

When the years of famine came, the starving people of Egypt and of the surrounding nations came to Joseph to buy grain (vv. 53-57). Here Joseph is a type (symbol) of Christ, through whom all the blessings of God are dispensed to the hungering people of this earth.

It was the providence of God that brought Joseph to Egypt to save his people from famine, but it was also to isolate them from the moral pollution of the land of Canaan. Chapter 38 illustrates what was happening to the children of Israel in Canaan. God’s remedy was to remove them to Egypt, where they would lie virtually cut off from the heathen (43:32).

Chapter 42

“The scene switches back to Jacob’s home in Canaan, where the famine was very severe. Hearing that there was plenty of food in Egypt, but knowing nothing of Joseph’s being there, Jacob sent 10 of his sons for supplies. Only Benjamin remained at home. So far as Jacob knew. Benjamin was the only living son of the beloved Rachel (vv. 1-5).

When the brothers appeared before Joseph, he treated them roughly, accusing them of being spies, putting them in prison, then demanding that their youngest brother, Benjamin, be brought to him. At last, Simeon was kept as a hostage in prison while the nine others returned to Canaan for Benjamin, well supplied with grain, with provisions, and with their money refunded secretly in the bags (vv. 6-25). Shitting through the narrative we see Joseph’s underlying line and compassion for his brothers (vv. 21a, 25) and their growing conviction of sin for what they had done to their “missing” brother (v. 21, 22). Joseph, of course, was seeking to get them to confess their guilt. He is a type of Christ dealing with His Jewish brethren during the coming tribulation period. The events leading up to the reconciliation of Joseph’s brothers form one of the most moving portions in the Bible. Almost no other story is as intimate, detailed, or complete a picture of Christ.

On the way home, one of the brothers found his money in the sack. This threw them into panic, fearing they might be accused of theft (vv. 26-28). When they got home and told their story, the rest of them also found their money, and their fears multiplied (vv. 29-35). Jacob was inconsolable. In spite of Reuben’s offering the lives of his two sons as a guarantee, the patriarch feared to allow Benjamin to go to Egypt lest harm befall him.

Chapter 43

Finally Jacob was forced by the severity of the famine to take action. The brothers could not return without Benjamin—that was the condition laid down by the governor (Joseph). So Judah agreed to serve as surety for Benjamin, and Jacob accepted the offer (vv. 1-10). Judah here pictures his descendant, the Lord Jesus, who became our Surety at the Cross of Calvary. Jacob sent a gift to the governor of Egypt, consisting of balm, honey, gum, myrrh, and nuts—items not affected by the famine (v. 11). He also insisted they take double the amount of money in case the refunded money was an oversight (vv. 12-15).

Joseph was deeply moved when he saw his brothers again, but he still did not reveal his identity. He ordered his servants to prepare a banquet. When his brothers were brought to Joseph’s house, they thought they were on the carpet because of the money they found in their sacks. They made a complete explanation to the chief steward, and he in turn assured them there was nothing to worry about. His records showed that they had paid in full. Simeon was released from prison and joined them in preparation for the banquet. They got their father’s gift ready to present to Joseph when he arrived at noon (vv. 16-25).

“If we ask whether the replaced money was in truth discovered on the way back to Canaan (42:27; 43:21) or when they had arrived in the presence of Jacob (42:35), the answer is both. The discovery was in two stages. One brother discovered his plight en route, the others on arriving home. It is understandable that in relating the events to Joseph’s steward (43:21), a compressed account was given.”26

When Joseph arrived, he was overcome with emotion as he asked for the family and met Benjamin (vv. 26-30). At the banquet, he ate by himself; the 11 brothers were served separately; and the Egyptians likewise ate by themselves (v. 32). The astonishment of the brothers (v. 33) was caused by their being seated according to their ages. How could anyone in Egypt know their order of birth? Special favor was shown to Benjamin, Joseph’s own full brother (v. 34).

Chapter 44

When the brothers were leaving to return to Canaan, Joseph ordered his silver cup to be hidden in Benjamin’s sack. It was not only the cup from which he drank, but also the one which he used in divining— probably referring to his interpretation of dreams. Later, when they were accused of stealing it, they protested their innocence, rashly offering the life of anyone who was found with it. Joseph’s steward agreed that the guilty one would be his slave. When the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack, the brothers were crushed and returned to the city (vv. 1-13).

After Joseph had reproached them, Judah suggested that they all become his slaves, but Joseph said that Benjamin would do and the rest could return home (vv. 14-17). His action in hiding the silver cup in Benjamin’s sack and in detaining Benjamin was purposely designed to bring his brothers to acknowledge their blood-guiltiness. “He acted so as to bring their sin to remembrance, to make them confess it with their own lips… His detention of Simeon, and afterwards of Benjamin, was skillfully designed so as to find out if they were still indifferent to the cries of a captive brother and the tears of a bereaved father. His plan succeeded admirably; his sternness and his kindness both conspired to disquiet them; and his goodness helped to lead them to repentance.”27 The whole scene foreshadows that coming day when the remnant of Israel will confess its guilt in connection with the death of the Messiah and will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son (Zech. 12:10).

Judah stood before Joseph and gave a detailed review of Benjamin’s involvement—how Joseph had demanded the presence of the youngest son, how their father, still grieving over the loss of one son, had protested against Benjamin’s going to Egypt and how Judah had offered himself as surety for Benjamin’s safety, Judah said that their father would die if the brothers went back without Benjamin, so he offered to stay in Egypt and serve as a slave in the place of Benjamin (vv. 18-34).

What a change had been worked in Judah! In Chapter 37 he ruthlessly sold Joseph for profit, without concern for his father’s heartbreak. In Chapter 38 he was involved in deception and immorality. But God was working in his heart, so that in Chapter 43 he became surety for Benjamin. Now in Chapter 44 he pours out his heart in intercession before Joseph, offering himself as a slave so as not to bring upon his father the crushing sorrow of losing Benjamin. From selling his own brother into slavery to becoming a slave in his brother’s stead; from callousness toward his father to sacrificial concern for his well-being—this is the progress of the grace of God in the life of the patriarch!

Chapter 45

In one of the most moving portions of the Bible, Joseph ordered his staff out of the room while, with an enormous emotional release, he revealed his identity to his brothers (vv. 1-3). He told them not to grieve for the way they had treated him, because God had overruled it for good (vv. 4-8). They were to bring their father, their families, and their possessions to Goshen in Egypt for the remaining five years of famine (vv. 9-11). “Tell my father of all my splendor in Egypt” (v. 13 RSV)—a command we too can obey when we rehearse before God the glories of His beloved Son. The fountains of the great deep were broken up as Joseph embraced Benjamin and then kissed them all (vv. 14, 15). This is a happy preview of the joy that awaits the people of Israel when the Christ of Calvary appears to them and reveals Himself as their Messiah-King.

When Pharaoh heard what was going on, he told Joseph’s brothers to bring their father and families from Canaan, but not to bother bringing their heavy furniture and equipment because he would provide everything they needed (vv. 16-20). So they went back to Canaan with wagons provided by Pharaoh, and with beautiful garments, animals, and provisions from Joseph. Benjamin got a gift of money and a special wardrobe (vv. 21-23). Fearing that his brothers might accuse each other for their guilt, in mistreating him years earlier, Joseph warned them not to quarrel on their homeward journey (v. 24).

On reaching home, they broke the news to Jacob. At first it was too much for him. But when he heard the full story and saw the loaded wagons, he knew it was true—Joseph was alive and they would meet again (vv. 25-28).

Joseph mentions his father five times in this chapter. This reveals his Christ-likeness in addition to the free forgiveness he extended to his brothers. It was our Lord’s love for His Father and His desire to do the Father’s will that brought Him into the world to redeem fallen man. Joseph’s love for Jacob is but a faint shadow of that love.

Chapter 46

On the way to Egypt, Jacob stopped the caravan at historic Beersheba to worship the Lord (v. 1). This was the place where God appeared to Abraham in connection with the offering of Isaac (21:31—22:2). It was also the place where the Lord appeared to Isaac (26:23, 24). Now He appears to Jacob to encourage him (vv. 3, 4). This is the last of the Lord’s seven appearances to him. The second promise of verse 4 seems to indicate that Jacob would return to Canaan. Actually, of course, he died in Egypt. But the promise was fulfilled in two ways. His body was taken back to Canaan for burial, and, in a sense, he also returned when his descendants went back in the days of Joshua. The expression “Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes” (v. 4b RSV) predicted a peaceful death.

And so Jacob reached Egypt with all his family, his livestock, and his personal goods (vv. 5-7).

In verses 8-27 we have the family register of Jacob and his sons. There were 66 family members (v. 2b) who came into Egypt with Jacob. There are admitted difficulties in reconciling this figure with the 70 of verse 27 and of Exodus 1:5 and the 75 of Acts 7:14. The most obvious explanation is that the numbers expand from direct descendants to wider circles of relatives.

The epic meeting between Jacob and Joseph took place in Goshen, the most fertile section of Egypt, near the delta of the Nile. Jacob and his sons preferred to stay there, since it provided the best pasture for their herds. It was agreed that they would tell Pharaoh that they were shepherds. Since shepherds were despised by the Egyptians, Pharaoh would let them live in Goshen, far away from the royal palace (vv. 28-34). There in Goshen they were isolated from social intercourse with the Egyptians, first because of their nationality (43:32) and then because of their occupation (46:34). God left them in this incubator until they were a strong nation, able to possess the land that He promised to their forefathers.

Chapter 47

When five of Joseph’s brothers told Pharaoh that they were shepherds, he responded, as expected, by telling them to settle in the lush pasturelands of Goshen. He also asked Joseph to find some able men from among his relatives to tend the royal herds (vv. 1-6). Joseph arranged for his father, then 130, to be presented to Pharaoh (v. 7). The fact that Jacob blessed Pharaoh (vv. 7-10) means that this aged, obscure Jew was greater than the potentate of Egypt, because the lesser is blessed by the greater (Heb. 7:7). Jacob said that his days had been few and evil (v. 9). Actually he had brought most of the evil upon himself. Joseph settled his family in the best part of Egypt, and provided all they needed (vv. 11, 12). Theirs was truly the more abundant life.

When the people of Egypt and Canaan had spent all their money for food, Joseph accepted their livestock in payment (vv. 13-17). Then later he bought all the land, except that belonging to the Egyptian priests, gave the people seed with which to plant crops, and charged them one-fifth of the crop for land rental (vv. 18-26), a very fair arrangement.

As Jacob neared the end of his life, he made Joseph promise to bury him in Canaan (vv. 29, 30). Then he bowed himself on the head of his bed (or on the top of his staff, as in Hebrews 11:21). And thus the ex-supplanter was to end his life in an act of worship. He is the only hero of faith of Hebrews 11 to be commended as a worshiper. He had come a long way by the grace of God, and would soon go out in a blaze of glory.

Chapter 48

When Joseph heard that his father was ill, he hurried to his bedside with Ephraim and Manasseh. The dying patriarch sat up in bed and adopted his two grandsons as his own (vv. 2-5). By doing this he arranged that the tribe of Joseph would receive a double portion of the land of Canaan when it would be divided among the tribes years later. Joseph thus received the birthright as far as territory was concerned. Any sons born to Joseph in the future would be Joseph’s, not Jacob’s, and would dwell in the territories allotted to Ephraim or Manasseh (v. 6). Verse 7 explains why Jacob wanted to adopt Joseph’s sons as his own. They were his grandsons by his beloved wife, Rachel, who he felt had died so prematurely.

Then Jacob blessed the grandsons, giving the birthright to Ephraim, who was the younger. Joseph tried to correct this in favor of Manasseh, the firstborn, but Jacob said that he had done this intentionally (vv. 8-20). What memories must have gone through his mind as he, by faith, gave the blessing to the younger. Years earlier his own father had unknowingly blessed him, the younger. But now he was blessing the younger, not through ignorance, but because he was in touch with the God who holds the future. Israel had faith that his descendants would one day return to the Promised Land (v. 21). Jacob gave Joseph a mountain slope which he captured from the Amorites (v. 22). Perhaps this refers to the area containing the well that came to be known as “Jacob’s well” (John 4:5).

Chapter 49

Jacob’s last words were both a prophecy (v. 1) and a blessing (v. 28).

REUBEN (vv. 3, 4). As the firstborn son representing the primacy of his father’s manly strength in procreation, Reuben held the place of rank and honor. The birthright, with its double portion, belonged to him. But he forfeited his preeminence because he boiled over with dark passion and sinned with Bilhah, his father’s concubine (35:22).

SIMEON and LEVI (vv. 5-7). Because these brothers cruelly killed the men of Shechem and hamstrung oxen, they would be dispersed in Jacob and scattered in Israel. This was fulfilled when the tribe of Simeon was largely absorbed by Judah (Josh. 19:1-9), and the tribe of Levi was assigned to 48 cities throughout the land. Jacob cursed their cruelty but not the people of these two tribes themselves.

JUDAH (vv. 8-12). Judah (meaning “praise”) would be praised and respected by his brothers because of his victories over his enemies. He is likened to a lion that goes forth to capture prey, then returns to well-deserved rest that no one dares disturb. Just as Joseph inherited the birthright with regard to territory, so Judah inherited it with regard to government. Rulership would continue in this tribe till Shiloh (the Messiah) came, and in Him it would remain forever. His people would give Him willing obedience in the day of His power. Judah would enjoy an abundance of wine and milk (vv. 11, 12). The meaning of the name “Shiloh” is obscure. Some suggested meanings are: Prince of peace, tranquil seed (of Judah), his descendant, whose it is (cf. Ezek, 21:27).

ZEBULUN (v. 13). Zebulun would enjoy prosperity from maritime commerce. Since this tribe’s territory in Old Testament times was landlocked, this prophecy may look forward to the Millennium.

ISSACHAR (vv. 14, 15). This tribe is likened to a strong donkey, so content to rest in pleasant pastoral surroundings that it had no will to fight for independence and so became subject to the enemy’s yoke.

DAN (vv. 16-18). True to its name, this tribe would concern itself with judging the people. Verse 17 is difficult. It may allude to Dan’s introducing the idolatry which caused the nation’s fall (Judg. 18:30, 31). Many think that it is a veiled reference to the Antichrist’s springing from Dan, and that this is why this tribe goes unmentioned in 1 Chronicles 2:3—8:40 and Revelation 7:3-8.

In verse 18, Jacob injects a prayer for the final deliverance of his people from their foes.

GAD (v. 19). Unprotected in its territory east of the Jordan, Gad would be subjected to frequent enemy raids. But the tribe would trample the troops of its foes.

ASHER (v. 20). Happily for Asher (meaning “happy”), this tribe would have fertile agricultural land, producing delicacies fit for a king.

NAPHTALI (v. 21). This tribe is likened to a doe that has been released from confinement. It springs forth with tremendous speed to carry good news.

JOSEPH (vv. 22-26). Compassing the territories of Ephraim and Manasseh, Joseph is a fruitful bough, sending out blessing far beyond his own borders. He was the object: of bitter hostility but he did not yield, because he was strengthened by the Mighty God of Jacob—the One from whom the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel (that is, the Messiah) conies forth. God blesses Joseph with rain in abundance, wells and gushing springs and numerous progeny. Jacob humbly felt that he had been blessed more richly than his ancestors. Now he wishes that like blessings might come to Joseph, the one who was separated from his brothers.

BENJAMIN (v. 27). A tribe of fighters, Benjamin would continually conquer and divide the spoil. Someone has said that Benjamin proved himself the most spirited and warlike of all the tribes.

In closing, Jacob instructed his sons to bury him in the Cave of Machpelah, near his home in Hebron—the burial place of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Leah (vv. 29-32). Then he drew himself back into bed and expired.

Chapter 50

Even the Egyptians mourned for 70 days when Jacob died. His body was embalmed by the palace physicians (vv. 1-5). Then Pharaoh gave Joseph permission to accompany the body back to Canaan, with a great procession of officials, relatives, and servants (vv. 1-10). They stopped east of the Jordan and mourned lot seven days so deeply that the Canaanites called the place Abel-mizraim, the meadow (or mourning) of Egypt. Following the burial in the Cave of Machpelah at Hebron, Joseph and his entourage returned to Egypt (vv. 11-14).

Joseph’s brothers feared that he might seek vengeance on them, now that Jacob was dead. They sent word to him claiming that their father Jacob had left word that Joseph should forgive them (vv. 16, 17). Joseph disclaimed any intent to seek revenge or to judge, since that was God’s prerogative (v. 19). He further relieved their fears with the memorable words, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good …” (vv. 15-21 NASB).

Joseph was apparently the first of the 12 sons of Jacob to die. This was 54 years after his father’s death. His faith that God would take the people of Israel back to Canaan is eulogized in Hebrews 11:22. He gave instructions that his bones be buried in that land.

It has been pointed out that Genesis opens with God’s perfect creation and closes with a coffin in Egypt. It is a book of biographies. Whereas two chapters are devoted to the account of creation, 48 chapters are largely concerned with the lives of men. God is interested primarily in people. What a comfort and challenge to those who know Him!

1 C. H. Mackintosh, Genesis to Deuteronomy, p. 33.

2 Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Bible Dictionary, p. 192.

3 C. H. Mackintosh, op. cit., p. 42.

4 F. W. Grant, The Numerical Bible, The Pentateuch, p. 38.

5 George Williams, The Student’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, p. 12.

6 Merrill F. Unger, op. cit., p. 788.

7 Derek Kidner, Genesis, p. 112.

8 David Baron, further documentation unavailable.

9 F. Davidson, The New Bible Commentary, p. 90.

10 Charles F. Pfeiffer, The Book of Genesis, p. 6.

11 Ibid., p. 62.

12 Murdoch Campbell, The Loveliest Story Ever Told, p. 9.

13 D. L. Moody, Notes From My Bible, p. 23.

14 George Williams, op. cit., p. 31.

15 Martin Luther, further documentation unavailable.

16 C. H. Mackintosh, op. cit., p. 114.

17 H. D. M. Spence and J. S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Genesis, pp. 349-50.

18 Daily Notes of the Scripture Union, further documentation unavailable.

19 W. H. Griffith Thomas, Genesis: A Devotional Commentary, p. 288.

20 Merrill F. Unger, op. cit., p. 550.

21 Charles F. Pfeiffer, op. cit., p. 80.

22 A. W. Pink, Gleanings in Genesis, pp. 343-408.

23 A. W. Pink, ibid., p. 362.

24 Walter C. Wright, Psalms, Vol. II, p. 27.

25 W. H. Griffith Thomas, op. cit., p. 366.

26 Daily Notes of the Scripture Union, further documentation unavailable.

27 George Williams, op. cit., p. 39.