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Passage: Genesis 35-37

On Monday, January 21, 2019, Yujin wrote,

So Jacob told everyone in his household, “Get rid of all your pagan idols, purify yourselves, and put on clean clothing. We are now going to Bethel, where I will build an altar to the God who answered my prayers when I was in distress. He has been with me wherever I have gone" (Genesis 35:2-3).

Remember in Genesis 28, when Jacob was fleeing from his brother Esau, from whom he took both birthright and blessing? On his flight to his uncle Laban, he came to Bethel, where God reaffirmed His covenant to him. At that time Jacob made a vow that the LORD would be his God if He provided Jacob with his subsistence and brought him safely back to his father's household (Genesis 28:20-22).

After 20 years, Jacob had arrived again in Bethel, and he remembered his vow and determined to fulfill it. This is why he tells his household to get rid of all their pagon idols and to purify themselves. While there is no evidence that Jacob was an idolator until this point, it is clear that he took no authoritative measure to keep his household from idolatry during his twenty years in Padan-Aram. Even his wife Rachel was an idolator, for she took her father Laban's household gods with her and then later hid them from him on their return to Beersheba.

I mention these things to you to demonstrate that the patriarchs were not paragons of pure faith. They were not. Their departure from idolatry and their movement to faith in the one true God was gradual and fraught with fits and starts, immorality and dysfunction. 

Rather than discourage us, this should encourage us! To know that our biblical heroes were flawed human beings encourages me immensely because I know that I am a deeply flawed human being, even as a Christian. As they struggled, so I struggle. As their faith was not ideal, neither is mine. Yet, they trusted in the grace and power of God to carry them to the heavenly country in which they hoped (Hebrews 11:13-16). I too am trusting in the grace and power of God to carry me there in due course. 

Passage: Genesis 35-37

On Wednesday, January 21, 2015 (Last Updated on 1/21/2019), Yujin wrote,

So it came about, when Joseph reached his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the varicolored tunic that was on him; and they took him and threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty, without any water in it (Genesis 37:23-24).

Then some Midianite traders passed by, so they pulled him up and lifted Joseph out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. Thus they brought Joseph into Egypt (Genesis 37:28).

Meanwhile, the Midianites sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s officer, the captain of the bodyguard (Genesis 37:36).

Joseph is thrown into an empty cistern by his brothers. Then he is sold to Ishmaelite traders from Midian [Remember, the Ishmaelites and Midianites were related to the Israelites through Abraham, who bore Ishmael with Hagar, Sarah's handmaiden, and bore Midian with Keturah, his wife after Sarah died]. So, in a sense Joseph is sold to his relatives. After this, Joseph is sold again to an Egyptian officer. And this is just the beginning of Joseph's trials. 

Later, we learn that God elevated Joseph to a high position in Egypt, where he would have the power to save Israel from seven years of severe famine, which God would bring upon the world. So Joseph would tell his brothers later, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" (Genesis 50:20).

I wonder if it might have entered Joseph's mind, 'Did God have to do it this way? Couldn't He have saved me from all these years of hardship?' Joseph does not question God's method. He does not blame God for the year's of suffering. He acknowledges the dual agency of his brothers and God in all that he endured, but he credits greater weight to God's sovereign and good purposes, so that he does not seek any retribution against his brothers. 

Friends, perhaps there is a lesson here for us as well? Have we been hurt? Have we suffered because of the evil intentions of others? We have three biblical choices: 

  1. We can overlook the wrong done (cf. Proverbs 12:16; 19:11). We do this often in cases where the offense is minor or ambiguous. 
  2. We can give the ones that have wronged us over to God for His judgment but for our part do only good to them (cf. Romans 12:19-20).
  3. If they are a brother in Christ, we can rebuke them for the wrong, and if they repent, we must forgive them (cf. Luke 17:3). If they do not repent, they must be shunned from fellowship until they do repent (cf. Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5 with 2 Corinthians 2:5-11).

Joseph did not overlook the wrong. In fact, he tried to test his brothers to see if they had the same jealous, selfish, and murderous intentions toward his younger brother Benjamin as they did to him so many years back. Now, when Joseph saw that his brothers had really changed (cf. Genesis 42:21-23; 44:32-34), he revealed himself to them and encouraged them. Later, when their father Jacob dies, the brothers once again try to ensure that Joseph will not harm them by making up some story about Jacob's dying wish that Joseoph forgive them (cf. Genesis 50:17-18). It is a somewhat indirect confession of their sins against him. Jacob answers them,

Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children (Genesis 50:19-21).

Joseph recognizes that it is God's prerogative to judge, not his. It is not clear what Joseph would have done if he saw that his brothers were unrepentant, but seeing that they were, he assures them that he will take care of them and their children. In effect, he forgave them. 

Friends, let us always be ready to forgive, knowing that we ourselves have been forgiven of an immeasurably greater offense against God. Our repentance does not diminish the weight of our offense. Let us never take revenge, for God has commanded us not to respond to evil with evil but to overcome evil by doing good. And toward believers, let us rebuke one another when we do wrong and forgive each other when we repent. Let us always remember that the goal of rebuking fellow believers is not justice but restoration and reconciliation. If believers are stubbornly unrepentant, we are not to forgive them but to judge them by separating ourselves from them until God brings them to repentance. This perspective tries to take into account all the Scriptures on the issue of forgiveness. If you are reading this, I confess that in today's parlance, my view is somewhat a minority perspective. But I believe it is the right one. 

Passage: Genesis 35-37

On Tuesday, January 21, 2014 (Last Updated on 1/21/2015), Yujin wrote,

Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried below Bethel under the oak; it was named Allon-bacuth (Genesis 35:8).

I find it interesting that the burial of Rebekah's nurse is recorded, but there is no record of the burial of Rebekah. We know that she died and was buried alongside Isaac and in the same place that Abraham and Sarah were buried (cf. Genesis 49:31). Jacob and Leah would also be buried here, but not Rachel. 

A proper burial was of utmost importance in the time of the patriarchs. Therefore, we ought not to simply gloss over these omissions or deviations. Could Rebekah's deception of Isaac, even calling any curse upon Jacob to fall upon her, have anything to do with the omission of any mention of her burial? Could Rachel's stealing of her father's household gods, and Jacob's declaration of death to anyone who stole them, have something to do with her exclusion from burial in the tomb of the patriarchs?

These are only speculative cosiderations, but it is hard not to see these kinds of correlations when the Bible is chalk full of such "x happened because of y" scenarios. I am reminded of another such passage in the NT:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers (Galatians 6:7-10).

Friends, we reap what we sow. These words were not written to Old Testament saints under the Law of Moses but to New Testament believers following the Law of Christ. The verse is not saying that we can earn eternal life, for that would be contrary to the entire message of Galatians. It is rather declaring the nature of Spirit-indwelling believers vs. those without the Spirit. Believers, who truly have the Spirit indwelling them, will by that same Spirit bring forth the fruit of good works. Those without the Spirit will naturally seek to please their sinful nature and will be destroyed with the rest of the unbelievers.

Friends, when I awoke this morning, I was reminded by the Lord that I am His child. Let us again affirm our purpose and calling while living in this world. It is to exalt God and to advance the Gospel of Christ. I rejoice this morning that a member of our House Church has trusted in Christ as her Savior. I would like to believe that the Lord used the faithful witness of our members to lead her to this conversion from unfaith to faith. 

Passage: Genesis 35-37

On Monday, January 21, 2013, Yujin wrote,

His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms (Genesis 37:4).

As I read these words, that Jacob loved Joseph more than the others, and the murderous intentions it produced in Joseph's brothers, I recall that this is not an unfamiliar theme in the Book of Genesis.

Recall a similar scenario between Jacob and Esau. Isaac loved Esau more than Jacob while Rebekah loved Jacob more than Esau. Consider the murderous intentions that this spawned.

While not between brothers, consider what a firestorm of jealousy raged between Leah and Rachel because Jacob loved Rachel over Leah.

While the word "love" is not mentioned, one could certainly see a kind of rivalrous hatred that brewed between Sarah and Hagar when Hagar bore Abraham his first son. This enmity carried on through their sons Ishmael and Isaac.

I have spoken to a number of parents with multiple children. They all testify to sibling rivalry. This may at least in part stem from their jealous desire for parental affection.

Moses may have intended Israel to hear these accounts to encourage harmony and unity among the twelve tribes, who were literally twelve brother tribes, as they entered the Promised Land.

This is instructive for us as well. Let us be careful not to show favoritism toward one child over another but do our best to love every child equally, though not necessarily in the same way, as each child is unique. Perhaps this principle can be extended to brothers and sisters and even further to parents and in-laws. I'm not saying that this is easy to do, but consider what a firestorm of destructive harm can arise out of unequal or lopsided love. As we also read in the New Testament,

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism (James 2:1).

Passage: Genesis 35-37

On Friday, January 21, 2011, Unmi wrote,
As I read today's section of Eat the Word, Reuben caught my attention. We see two different sides of Reuban's character...
In Chapter 35, After Rachel's death, Reuben sleeps with Rachel's maidservant, Bilhah and defiles his father bed. It says that Jacob heard about it, but the Scripture doesn't say he did or said anything about it. So I am could Reuban do such a thing, what a treacherous son! But then, in Chapter 37, It is Reuben who tried to save Joseph from the brothers who wanted to kill him. "Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father."  From what is written, it appears he was trying to save Joseph for his father's sake.  Reuben was thinking about his father's well being? What a good son!! Why this turn around? Was Reuben remorseful about what he had done earlier? Perhaps his father's silence regarding the matter may him feel more and more guilty?  In any case, there is no further recordings of any further wrongdoing on Reuben's part for the rest of the book of Genesis. At the end, however, in Chapter 49, no matter how good he tried to be, because of what he did with Bilhah, Reuben does lose the rights of the firstborn when Jacob gives out his blessings to his children.
Like Reuben, none of us have or will live a perfectly righteous life. No matter how "good" we are, there is always at least one thing that separates us from the Holy One...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)  But we have this hope...our final judgement, is NOT based on what we did, but based on the righteousness of Jesus Christ and what HE DID.
Matthew 26:27-28 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Thank you Jesus because you poured out your blood so that I may receive forgiveness for my sins, so that I may be called a child of God and receive the blessing of eternal life. Amen

Passage: Genesis 35-37

On Friday, January 21, 2011, John K wrote,

22 While Israel was living in that region, Reuben went in and slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it.

And then?!? NOTHING.

I think Jacob (Israel) has parenting issue which it caused Joseph's and his brother's friction. When Reuben made his first mistake with Jacob's concubine, Jacob did not communicated with his son Reuben and disciplined Reuben.  Discipline is a part of love and if you don't show your true love and concern for others, he or she will find it from somewhere else. In this case, all other brothers bonded together without Joseph because they did not get the love from their dad.

Passage: Genesis 35-37

On Friday, January 21, 2011, Sherry wrote,
When Joseph tells his brothers about the dreams he had was he bragging? It seems like it to me he was. It just added fuel to the fire when his brothers were already jealous and angry already! This got him sold into slavery by his brothers! This is a good lesson on humility! Since everything we have is because of God we don't need to be bragging!