Category Archives: Genesis 26-50

12/18/2012 Genesis 45-50

(I am away from the group today) the last chapters describesome experiences Abraham’s descendants had while in Egypt. It included the death of Jacob and burial in Canaan. Then it described the death of Joseph and the way tat Judah was designated to be the tribe to carry on the heritage of Abraham. I wonder why it wasn’t Joseph. .

The following commentary was supplied by Al Grundstad:
Lost Boys Mad Dash to the End
Genesis: Chapters 45-50: Tuesday December 18

These are some of the issues the Lost Boys dealt with on our quick march to the book’s end.

Chapter 45:

This chapter tells the story of Joseph and the reconciliation between him and his brothers.  Joseph had been made “a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.”  Joseph says that this is all God’s doing, and that his being sold into slavery to the Egyptian was God’s plan for the salvation of the Nation of Israel.  This allowed Joseph to protect his family during a 7 year famine, and give them the “land o’ Goshen” in which to settle.  He sought to save his family rather than seek revenge.  This chapter was all about the forgiveness and reconciliation that god required of Joseph’s family so it would continue its nation building.

Chapter 46:

This chapter tells of the transfer (somewhat a leap of faith in that day as it would have been very difficult and dangerous) of the entire Nation of Israel to Egypt.  The most notable comment of the story was Bill Nibbelink’s clever dodge of the difficult reading of all the names of the 12 sons of Jacob (frequently called Israel) and the sons of their son’s.  This is the enumeration of the twelve tribes that would become the Nation of Israel.  He reflected that chapters 9-25 contained many names that would be suitable for naming cats.  He then picked up the story at verse 26.
An interesting segment dealt with the livelihoods of the tribes.  They and all who went before them were shepherds and keepers of livestock.  Joseph, knowing full well that Egyptians do not abide Hebrews let alone shepherds, makes sure that, when asked (in chapter 47), the brothers all tell Pharaoh that is what they are.  We speculate that this may have been an ethnic purity tactic, allowing only these tribes to live in Goshen, apart from the Egyptians.

Chapter 47:

What is a blessing?  What does it mean to be blessed?  Who can give a blessing?  There was a bit of blessing going on in this chapter.  We discussed the possibility of a blessing sometimes being a promise, as “I will bless you with a child.”  In a lesser way a blessing can be a wish or projection of some future outcome.  It was discussed that blessings usually came from a high place to a lower place – a king to a subject, a priest to a parishioner, a father to a child, God to his people.  So how does one come to a position where they are able to give blessings, and recipients come to expect the outcome?

Briefly we reflected back on the burials of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac back in Hebron.  The tribes are in their new land, surviving a period of starvation and famine, but when it comes time there is every intent that one will go home.  Jacob insists that he be taken back to Canaan upon his death.  Birthright, family, tribe, nation; Israel was to stay united even after death in the land which God promised them.

Chapter 48:

More blessing.  Jacob is near death.  His favorite wife Rachel has died.  Jacob blesses Joseph and asks to see Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.  Jacob puts his right hand on the head of the younger child (Ephraim) and his left hand on Manasseh – breaking the rules of primogeniture.

Chapter 49:

Blessings to end all blessings.  Jacob blesses his sons, the tribes of the Nation of Israel.  Here a blessing appears as a future projection based on one’s past behaviors and/or basic nature.  Down the line Jacob lays the expectations of each tribe, in front of all the leaders of the tribes.  Some good; some not so good.  Some will be great; others not so much. Jacob also appears to be outright future telling by saying things like “Gad, atroopshallovercomehim: butheshallovercomeatthelast.

After he had blessed all the tribes, Jacob reclined to his bed, drew his feet under himself, and expired.  It would appear at that point Israel had become a nation.

Chapter 50:

Jacob is buried in the manner he wished.  The brothers now are frightened that Joseph will now exact revenge on them for what they did.  Joseph rather decides to leave that judgment to God.  He promises to nourish the tribes and the tribes recognize him as their leader.

 

Joseph lived out the remainder of his 110 years and is buried in Egypt.  We questioned the significance of the decision to bury him there and not in Canaan.  It may be that, as Joseph believed to the end that God had sent him to Egypt as part of a great plan, they felt that God had decided that Egypt, not Canaan, was Joseph’s home.

12-11-2012 Genesis 41-45 (17)

Today, we discussed the story of how Joseph got back together with his brothers and father. It is quite a long convoluted story that led ultimetly to Jacob and his whole clan moving down to Egypt. Mark made a comment about how it was moving down to Egypt saying that it was always Jereusalem was always up from wherever you are at. We have a couple meanings of up, one is to go up to higher ground and the other relates to our maps and we go down or up on the map depending on down being going south on the map and up being going North. We had a conversation about this that Tom pronounced worthless. I noted that when Abraham originally went from Haran (up) to Canaan (down), in chapter 12 it said only that he went to Canaan.

Al raised the point that this is the foretelling of Jesus coming as a savior of the people just like Joseph was a savior of all people. Thus this is a phopecy of Jesus coming. It was noted that Judah became the spokesman for the brothers here and tried to keep from having to bring Benjamin to Joseph. He said it would kill his father if anything were to happen to Benjamin. Judah was the fourth and last of the sons of Leah and interestingly Jesus would come through his lineage, not Joseph. Judah also argued for selling Joseph rather than killing him. Ruben the oldest brother had argued that Joseph should not be killed but just put in a pit, as he planned to come back and get him out later.

It appears that historically, there was a famine in the middle east at about this time, 1700-1600 BCE although there may not be evidence of a Hebrew person controlling the resources of Egypt at that time. It may or may not have happened.

12/04/2012 Genesis 40-41 (22)

This is the story of Joseph’s interpretation of the baker and Butler’s dreams. In one case, Joseph interpreted the dream to mean the butler would return to power and in the other, a loss of the baker’s head, hence his life. These interpretations finally made their way back to Pharaoh and Joseph was called to interpret the dreams about the 7 fat cows followed by the 7 thin cows who ate the seven fat cows, and this was followed by a dream of 7 fat ears followed by 7 thin ears which then consumed the fat ears. Then the butler remember how Joseph had interpreted his dream and the Pharaoh called upon Joseph. Joseph said that Egypt would experience 7 years of plenty followed by 7 lean years. It would behoove Pharaoh to stock up during the good years so that there would be plenty for the bad years.

Secular archaeologists and Egyptologists have found the dating of the Biblical famine difficult. In 1890, Charles Wilbour discovered a stela on the island of Sahal that described a seven-year drought that occurred during the reign of Pharaoh Djoser, said to have reigned during the classical Third Dynasty. However, this stela does not mention a preceding seven years of abundance, or any adviser who ordered that one-fifth of the produce be held in reserve. In fact, it tells a story of anarchy and mutual robbery, hardly in keeping with the Biblical story of how order prevailed in all stages of the crisis, no matter how dire the need became. The stela does mention an increased tribute to be paid to the Egyptian god Khnemu after the famine had ended; that might be more in keeping with the Biblical narrative. It was suggested that this might have occurred around 1716-15 BCE.  http://conservapedia.com/Famine_in_Egypt

There is a very interesting story about what really happened during this time in the link below. It indicates that Joseph saw a way to get all of the animals, property, and money for the Hebrews by working with the Pharaoh who had recently conquered Egypt and was trying to hold the people down. The Egyptians later overthrew this Pharaoh and took everything from the Hebrews and made them slaves. http://conservapedia.com/Famine_in_Egypt

We also discussed the possibility that this occurred around the time of the Santorini volcano which was about the right time.

11/27/12 Genesis 38-39

(I was not able to attend today.) this is the story of Judah and the fact that he became part of the Canaanite culture. He married a Canaanite woman and appeared to be part of her culture. This illustrates the continued disintegration of Jacob’s family. Reuben and Levi avenged Dinah at Shecham. The brothers kidnapped and sold Joseph. Judah even had sex with his daughter-in-because he thought she was a prostitute. I guess that excuses him a little, but really a prostitute! Then she blackmailed him. Good for her, not the deception but it served him right. It is like a Shakespeare play with confusion between twins that he wouldn’t know his daughter-in-law.  Jacob must have been very upset to see his family straying from God in this way.  Jacob must have wondered who would carry on the tradition

On Nov 28, 2012, at 8:51 AM, John Grundstad wrote the following report about our study on Tuesday. Thanks so much to John for his excellent commentary.

Today, on “sexy Tuesday,” we read Genesis Chapters 38 and 39.  Chapter 38 recounts the masturbation of Judah’s son Onan to circumvent his father’s orders to send up seed to Tamar, the wife of his deceased brother Er (who had been killed by God for his wicked ways).  For this detestable act, Onan was then also put to death by God. (Note: the obscure English term “onanism” refers to masturbation).  Chapter 38 also contains the story of how Judah himself, after his wife died, had a sexual encounter with Tamar, who had disguised herself as a harlot.  In fact, he even agrees to pay her for her favors.  Upon being discovered with child, Tamar avoids being burned for harlotry by revealing who the father was. The issue of this unseemly episode were Perez and Zerah, with the former being in the direct line of genealogy of Joseph, husband of Mary. Finally, in chapter 39, we have the story of Joseph in Egypt.  Joseph was much blessed by the Lord, including being very handsome.  So much so, in fact, that Pharaoh’s wife does her best to seduce him, even tearing his garment off in the process.  She explains the left-behind garment with a vindictive canard about a Hebrew servant (presumably identifiable through circumcision) who tried to defile her. Pharoah throws Joseph in prison, but he is protected there by God?

The reading gave rise to a discussion of sexual mores, past and present.  The actions of Judah in particular are interesting because there seems to be no particular stigma or censure attached to Judah’s use of what he believes to be a prostitute.  If anything, there is embarrassment over the fact that the woman turns out to be his own daughter-in-law. It is also interesting that, if one accepts the genealogy accounts in the Bible, Jesus is descended from a woman who has prostituted herself.  Quite a contrast to his eventual miraculous birth by a woman who was sexually pure.  But then there is the question of whether the genealogy of Jesus is accurate in the first place, and not a contrivance of the biblical authors to document the dominance of the male in Jesus’ lineage. The latter would be consistent with a pervasive theme throughout the OT that women had little worth independent of their husbands.

The Genesis stories can be troubling to the modern reader and give rise to questions about God’s actions in the world, his “will,” his devotion to a morally challenged tribe of people, etc.  But then morality is a matter of time and place and cultural circumstances and perhaps it is inappropriate to judge one era from the perspective of another. The question was raised as to whether morality today is generally in decline, for instance in regard to sex outside of marriage.  There are many examples of the tragedy of wayward sexuality in our lives.  Pastor noted the reality and the challenge of ministering to couples according to the teaching of the church, while recognizing that in most cases they are not celibate when they come to the sacrament. But of over-riding importance is the idea of community in the context of marriage, that marriages are not only blessed by God, but by the community that passes its blessings on to couples along with a pledge to support them in their lives together, in the process maintaining and perpetuating itself.

We touched also on Biblical “law” and whether it should be binding as literally written, or whether it is a moving target and subject to evolution and interpretation.  Again, it is a challenge to apply centuries-old tradition to modern life.

11/20/2012 Genesis 37 (15)

Today was the beginning of the account of Joseph’s dreams. Joseph lorded it over his older brothers because his father favored him because helonged Rachel more than Leah, the older boys’ mother along with a few born to the wives’ maidservants. Jacob had quite a household with his two wives and their maidservants with sons from all of them, as well as a daughter, Dinah, with Leah. Jacob showed favoritism to Joseph probably because he was the first son of his favorite wife Rachel. He showered him with gifts like the multi-colored coat and didn’t make him work on the fields like his other brothers, although he did tend sheep in nearby fields. Joseph also tattled on hus older brothers bad behavior o hi dad as well But the straw that broke the camel’s back was his interpretation of dreams where the sheaves of wheat bowed and the sun, moon and 11 stars bowed down to him. Jacob rebuked his son for interpreting the dreams as he had . The brothers born of the maidservants, Bilhah and Zilpah, were particularly resentful of Joseph. When the brothers were tending sheep and the fields a long way off, Jacob sent Joseph to see how they were doing. When they saw him coming they conspired how to get rid of him. They decided to take his coat, beat him and throw him in a pit to die. Then a group if Ismaelites came by and some of the brothers decided to sell him to them. The two authors talked of different groups, the Yahwist source says Ishmaelites and the source Elohist say Midionites. Reuben, the eldest son of Leah and Jacob, decided it was wrong of the brothers to leave Joseph in the pit, went back and found he was gone. They said they had sold him. They then put blood on his coat tore and told their father he had been killed by a wild animal. They sold him for 20 pieces of silver invoking a comparison with Jesus as savior.

We discussed among other things the two dreams, the two visiting groups and concluded they probably came about because of the two versions of the story, Elohist and Yahwist. We also talked about dreams and people like Freud, Jung and Erik Erikson who interpreted dreams in various ways. What is it about a dream that causes you to remember it when most dreams are lost to us. Possibly it is their incongruity, their inclusion of familiar or highly unusual items.
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11-13-2012 Genesis 35 (19)

Homework for next week – Read Genesis 36 about Esau’s genealogy. We will read Genesis 37 and 38 and discuss them.
Today we discussed Genesis 35, which is the story of the birth of Benjamin and the death of Rachel in childbirth. It is also the death of Isaac who was then buried by his sons Jacob and Esau. Rebekah’s nurse was also buried. So I guess the authors devoted the chapter to the deaths of all these people as a precursor to moving with life in the next phase.where we talk about Joseph’s adventures.

We talked about a number of issues including the importance of Rachel’s death, the conflict seemingly between polygamy then and monogamy now, Reuban’s affair with Billpay, Rachel’s concubine, the role of foreign idols. We also talked about the way that the people at this point were very nomadic and just seemed to take over land from others based on a conversation with God. Was the conversation with God just a justification to do this. Some questions were raised about modern day Israel and how the British created modern Israel although it appears that modern Zionists owned much of the land that became Israel. More about all of these later

11-06-12 Genesis 34 (18)

This is the story of Jacob and Leah’s daughter Dinah and the problems she had with Shechem, the son of Hamar. Various versions of the Bible either say she was raped or or at least forced. Her brothers, particularly Simeon and Levi were very upset that their siste had been defiled. Shechem said he wanted to marry Dinah, and the brothers told him that they could not allow that unless Shechem and Hamar as well as all the other men of their tribe be circumcised. Shechem andHamar said we will be circumcised and then when we marry the daughters of these people, we will surely get all their wealth as well. On the other hand, Simeon and Levi decided that on the third day after all the men had been circumcised they went and killed them all. Then Jacob was upset that others would come after him, so he prepared to escape.

Mark indicated that this was a passage that speaks out against violence against women. The Isrealites appeard to value their women at least against foreigners and didn’t treat their women like livestock as some of the others in the area did. It is interesting that Dinah’s brothers carroed out this operation and did all the negotiations. Jacob did not appear to show indignation and was afraid for his life at the end of the episode. Curt talked about rape and said that it is a matter of control and rage. Chuck suggested that people validate their instincts by attributing it to God. The value system changes as the culture develops.

It is interesting that Hammurabi who was king of Babylon circa 1795-1750 BCE inscribed laws on a black stone monument, eight feet tall, and placed in public view. A lot of it was devoted to civil law and contracts, but there were significant parts of it about how people should treat other people. Note that this was over 1000 years before the time of Moses and the Ten Commandments. This is a link to a summary of the code: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/hamcode.asp Drowning was the punishment for rape of a betrothed maiden or seduction of a daughter-in-law. I guess they were serious about this at that time.

10-30-12 Genesis 32-33 (18)

This was the story of Jacob coming home from the 20 some years he spent with Laban. He was coming back to the area controlled by Esau in Edom. He worried about the homecoming fearing that Esau would still be angry at him. He sent servants ahead with offerings to try to appease him. But Esau was happy to see him and said it wasn’t necessary for Jacob to give him gifts, but he finally agreed to take them. Then Esau invited him to come to his home, but Jacob said that he would come later, but delayed it even more by going a different route. Then Jacob wrestled with someone. It may have been an angel of God, or it might have been God. It isn’t clear which it was. After this, Jacob received a new name, Israel. That seems to be the practice when God makes a covenant with his chosen he changes their name.

Bonhaeffer talks about cheap grace as the kind where you claim the blessing of forgiveness, but then go back and do the same thing again. Was Jacob using cheap grace by his testing of God? Bonhaeffer says that costly grace is the sacrifice made by Jesus on the cross. We don’t always trust God’s grace as we should. We doubt and question God! Mark says we don’t fight hard enough for the principles that God establishes for us. Mark and Tom both talked about difficult situations where they had opportunities to go but ultimately decided that it wasn’t right for them to do so.

The Lutheran Study Bible says that Israel means a prince or God’s fighter, that is, he who wriestles with God and wins. This happens through that faith which holds so firmly to God’s will, until it overcomes God’s wrath and obtains God as the gracious father. Jacob wanted absolute proof of his rival’s identity. Apart from the revealed word, we should not ask for or seek a hidden name of God. He blessed him. He repeated the blessing he gave to Jacob earlier. For through faith, in the struggle of the cross, one learns to recognize and experience God rightly.

10-23-2012 Genesis 31 (16)

Today we read the story of Jacob departing from his Uncle Laban’s household. Jacob had been there 20 years and had purchased his wives Leah and Rachel from Laban by working for him for 7 years each. There are supposedly 2 writers of this story so their writing gets merged and results in the story being told twice. There were a number of issues that were raised by this story. For example, Jacob taking all of his flocks and wives and children, but Laban didn’t realize it for a short while. How could such a large movement be missed? Rachel took her father’s idols and how that relates to the wider issue of the multiplicity of gods worshipped in those days. These household idol was like the blessing given by the father to his eldest son. When Laban caught up with Jacob, God intervened and kept him from killing Jacob or taking all his possessions back. God seemed to protect Jacob and for that matter the descendent line from Abraham. What did God get in return for this? Did Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob fight against the idea of multiple gods and idols that represented them as the Muslims believe based on writings in 400-500 ad? Or was it more being faithful to the principles of God? This is what we seek to discern from the stories that have been passed down to us in Genesis.

We discussed the idols of the time and who were the gods of those days and how the Jewish people came to believe in a one God. That had to be a relatively revolutionary concept. The Greeks and the Romans all believed in multiple gods, as did the American Indians and other primative peoples. So here is this tradition dating back to almost 2000 BCE and yet, the Greeks and the Romans much in 500 BCE to 500 AD still believed in multiple gods. And what role did idols play in the Jewish and then the Christian churches? Do the icons, statues, art work, even music become idols that become worshipped as if they were indeed gods in themselves?

A discussion ensued about how we should view the Bible. What part of it is the history of people seeking a relationship with God and is that what is meant by saying it is the inspired word of God? Is the Bible a guide of how to live within the social context we live in? So when the Bible talks about how to treat slaves, was that because in the social context of that day, people had slaves. What does that mean about the social context of today? How is God being reveled to us today and what does it say about the currrent social context?  What would the writers of the Bible focus on within the social context of today? Would it be issues such as abortion, gay people, pre-marital sex, imprisonment of minorities, etc? Why is one a bigot because he believes in traditional views on issues? What is the greater good, to be tolerant of the actions of others or to believe in the adherence to the law? Can tolerance be taken too far?

An interesting topic would be to look at how the rules of society have been formulated over time. For example how did the Law of Hammarribi compare with the laws imposed on the Jewish people as well as other codes of civil behavior? John suggested an article that he is finding intersting, namely “Is America a Christian Nation” by David Lose. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-lose/is-america-a-christian-nation_b_1646389.html

10-16-12 Genesis 28:10-30 (19 )

Here is a link to the Islamic view of Abraham as reported in Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_views_on_Abraham

This is the story of Jacob leaving Beersheba and having the dream of seeing the ladder to heaven at Bethel. Then he went on to Heran where he went to Laban his uncle. The story continues with Jacob working for Laban and then making a deal to work 7 years to get Rachel as his wife, but then Laban slipping Leah in to be his wife instead. Then he worked for another 7 years to get Rachel. The passage describes the interactions between the married triple, of Jacob along with Leah and Rachel. Leah thought that she could be the favored wife if she bore him children so she had at least 6 and one daughter, but that wasn’t enough so she had Jacob be with her maid Zilpah and she had a child. Rachel couldn’t have children so she had Jacob sleep with Bilhah her servant who had a child between Rachel’s legs so that she could have a child. She later had a child, Joseph and then Benjamin as well with Jacob. It is quite a tail of the issues of a relationship like this. It may be the reason that Mohammad had 4 wives so that he could emulate Jacob, even though Jacob is part of Isaac’s line while Mohammad was in Ishmael’s line of people.

There are several interesting things about Jacob’s dream of a ladder to heaven with Angels Ascending and Descending in that order. That must mean that the angels started out on earth, went to heaven and then came back to earth. Also of interest is the promise that was made that this would be the land of Jacob in the future. For the moment though, Jacob had to continue on his way to Heran to see his Uncle Laban and find a wife to marry since Rebekah his mother didn’t want him to marry a Canaanite woman. I find it interesting that God sets aside property for his people in spite of the fact that there were already people living there. Maybe all the people of that time were nomadic and so there weren’t property rights as we have today, so maybe it wasn’t a big deal to say this would be there land. I think however that it was a big deal. Gene appropriately pointed out an article in last week’s Newsweek that described a minister’s seeing heaven in a near death experience. A very interesting article along side this dream of Jacobs.

Then we go on to see Uncle Laban’s trickery in terms of how Jacob got his wives. It seems that the author was very taken up with the way that the peoples that were the descendants of Abraham came about. It is quite remarkable that this family that started with Abraham went in two different ways, namely with the descendants of Isaac that led to Jesus and then on to the Jews and Christians of today, and the descendants of Ishmael that led to Mohammad and then on to the Arab peoples of today. Many of our family names have disappeared so that it is extraordinary that supposedly these family traditions have continued. This led to a discussion of the role of servant women who had children for their mistresses with Jacob and I suppose other patriarchs over the years in order to continue the family line.

Mark pointed out that the Mormons have a belief in continuing revelation while we are not so big in that direction. Possibly we should be continuing to see this continuing revelation of God’s work in our lives.

Next week we will go to Genesis 31.