My daily exploration of the Bible, taking it one chapter at a time. If I do it everyday, it'll take 1189 days.

Friday, December 31, 2004

Genesis 45

Joseph reveals himself

Joseph, overwhelmed, sends his attendants out, and reveals his identity to his brothers. He explains that it was God's plan for him to be sold into slavery, so that he could help his brothers later. Joseph invites his brothers and father to come live in Egypt, where Joseph will provide for them. Pharaoh's cool with this, and sends lotsa stuff to Jacob via his sons. Jacob is stoked with the news, and decides he will go to Egypt with his sons.

Key verse:
5. do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you

My thoughts:
I find Joseph's motive for teasing his brothers for so long even more difficult to understand when I read that Joseph seems to have forgiven his brothers, and becomes emotional in their presence. However, Joseph finally clarifies everything here, and fulfils God's plan to have his family in Egypt.

It is true that God works in mysterious ways, ways we do not always understand. You can imagine Joseph wondering how God is good when he was in prison as a slave. You can imagine Jacob wondering how God is good when he was steadily losing sons and running out of food. However, God's ways are higher than ours, and he is in control. We may not always see it in our situations, but God's good plan is unfolding the way he planned.

My Bit:
This is my last post from England! That's right. In 20 short hours I will be on a plane to NZ! I've been in the UK for 9 months now, and I'm very excited about going home! I need to change my profile...

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Genesis 44

Benjamin is enslaved and Judah pleads

As the brothers leave, Joseph secretly orders that their payment silver be put in their sacks, and that Jospeh's special silver cup be put into Benjamin's sack. Joseph then sent men to catch his brothers, charging them with stealing the silver cup. The brothers deny this, because they didn't know about the cup. However, when they find the cup in Benjamin's sack, they enslave him.

Realising how bad this is, all the other brothers return to Joseph offering themselves in slavery. Joseph does not accept this. Judah explains to Joseph the entire situation from their perspective, and that their father, Jacob, would die if they returned without Benjamin.

Key verse:
22. The boy cannot leave his father; if he leaves him, his father will die.

My thoughts:
It is hard to understand Joseph's motive, as a generally Godly man, to continue punishing his brothers. Ultimately it is the realisation that his father might die which leads him to revealing himself in the next chapter.

It is interesting to compare the pleading, desperate Judah of this chapter with the cruel and cold Judah who sold his brother into slavery. It seems that Judah and his brothers have been humbled by the situation and the famine, whereas Joseph has been glorified. Maybe the pride which has built up in Joseph has made him continue to punish his brothers.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Genesis 43

Joseph's brothers return

Jacob and his sons run out of food again, so Jacob sends his sons back to Egypt to get food. The sons are unwilling to face 'the governor of Egypt' again without Benjamin, but Jacob does not want to let Benjamin go. Eventually Jacob allows Benjamin to go. They take double silver and gifts with them, because they didn't want to get punished for having silver in their grain sacks last time.

When they get to Egypt, Joseph sees Benjamin, and organises a big feast for them all at his house. He makes sure Jacob is well, gets emotional (but hides it), and they have a big feast.

Key verse:
23. Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure

My thoughts:
This chapter is largely similar to the previous chapter, as Joseph continues to toy with his brothers. Joseph's dream of having his eleven brothers bowing to him comes true in this chapter.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Genesis 42

Joseph toys with his brothers


Joseph's family also need food in the famine, so ten of his brothers (not Benjamin) go to Egypt and to Joseph to buy food. They don't recognise Joseph when they get there, but Joseph recognises them. Joseph pretends that he thinks they are spies, and demands that they bring their youngest brother to Egypt as proof. He holds Simeon in prison until their return. The remaining nine sons return to Canaan, and find that that Joseph (though they didn't know it was him) had put their payment money into their sacks with the grain. This frightened them. Jacob is not willing to let Benjamin go, as he feels he has already lost two sons, Joseph and Simeon.

Key verse:
21. Surely we are being punished because of our brother.

My thoughts:
You can imagine Jacob's growing sorrow as he feels that his sons are being taken out one by one, and that he feels he is likely to lose even more. At this stage Jacob could not have imagined that he might get all his twelve sons back.

Joseph is now clearly in control of the situation. It is unclear whether he is trying to punish his brothers for what they did, or if he is so overwhelmed by emotion (v.24), that he doesn't know what to do. In some ways it might be too hard to just bluntly say 'Hi, I'm your long lost dead brother who is now the governor of Egypt'. However, Joseph caused a lot of distress through his toying, and it cannot really be justified.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Genesis 41

Jo rises from prison

The Pharaoh has two dreams. One of seven thin cows eating seven fat cows, one of seven thin grains of wheat eating seven fat grains of wheat. None of his wise men could find out what the dreams meant. Then the cupbearer remembered Joseph, who explained his dream. Joseph was brought before Pharaoh, and Joseph interpreted the Pharaoh's dreams as meaning that there would be 7 years of abundance, and then 7 year of famine. Joseph then suggested that someone be put in charge of making sure food got saved during the first 7 years. Pharaoh liked this idea, and so he looked for someone to have that position, and Joseph was just, well, there, so he got the job.

Joseph was made second-of-command in Egypt. He got a wife, Asenath, and two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. During the years of abundance Joseph stored the food, then the famine came, and everyone came to Joseph in Egypt for food.

Key verse:
16. 'I cannot do it,' Joseph replied to Pharaoh, 'but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.'

My thoughts:
Perhaps the key verse can be better translated as "but God will give Pharaoh an answer, as he desires" to avoid ambiguity, because God is not necessarily giving the Pharaoh the answer he wants.

Joseph now reaches the height God always intended, thanks to his 'dreamer' qualities that his brothers despised him for.

My Bit:
I just moved this blog into NZ time, which took a while. I go back to NZ on Thursday, but I'm doing the ridiculous thing of living in NZ time until then.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Genesis 40

Joseph interpretes some dreams

Two of the Pharoah's officials, the cupbearer and the baker, were put into prison under Joseph. The both had dreams. Joseph interpreted them. The cupbearer's dream meant that he would be restored to his position in three days time. Excited by this, the baker sought and explanation for his dream. However his dream meant that he would be hung by the Pharoah in three days time.

Key verse:
8. Do not interpretations belong to God?

My thoughts:
Joseph had completed faith in God to provide meanings to the dreams the Pharoah's officials. Dreams are one of the ways God can communicate with us, and he chose Joseph to interprete the dreams around him.

Short and sweet today!

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Genesis 39

Joseph's success and framing

Joseph is sold to Potiphar, and he is a such a good slave that he becomes Potiphar's PA. Joseph was so good at sorting out Potiphar's life and household, that Potiphar didn't do anything and trusted everything to him. But, Potiphar must've had problems with the missus, because Potiphar's wife starts demanding that Joseph sleeps with her. Everywhere Joseph goes, she's there saying 'Sleep with me'. Joseph of course denies these propositions. Potiphar's wife gets so angry, and eventually frames Joseph, saying that he tried to rape her. Potiphar sends Joseph to prison, where he is favoured by the warden, and is put in charge of his entire ward to the point that the warden stops checking on him!

Key verse:
23. the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.

My thoughts:
I can sympathise with Joseph having adoring women constantly bugging him. It gets really annoying.

The 'Key verse' for today pretty much summarises what I want to say about this chapter. Despite being a slave, and being framed, and being put into prison, God was with Joseph. Everywhere we went he was put in charge of things and was extremely well trusted. Joseph is a true servant leader who completely trusts God. He never abuses his power, he fights off extreme temptation, he doesn't even appeal when he is unjustly thrown into prison. He uses his misfortune as an opportunity.

My Bit:
I'm up in Sheffield for Christmas, and it snowed today! Totally magical!

You will see that I now have an automatic day counter, so I'll stop writing 'Only X days to go!' at the bottom of each post.

Merry Christmas y'all!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Genesis 38

Naughty Judah

Judah went and lived in Adullam and married a Canaanite. He had three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. Er married a woman called Tamar, but God smote Er, because he was wicked. As the custom of the time, Onan was required then to allow Tamar to have children through him, as a replacement for Er's lack of children. Onan 'pulled out' of this requirement, and God didn't like that so God smote him. So Tamar had to wait as a widow until Shelah grew up.

Later, Judah's wife died. Tamar was not given to Shelah as promised, so Tamar pretended to be a prostitute (wanting to have offspring), and Judah slept with her, not knowing that she was his daughter-in-law. As payment, Judah would give the prostitute a goat, and Judah gave her his seal and staff as a pledge that he would provide the goat.

When Judah tried to give the goat, they couldn't find the prostitute, so they said 'Oh well, we tried'. Then Judah found out that Tamar was pregnant somehow, and was enraged. Tamar said 'Whoever owns this seal and staff is the man who made me pregnant'. Judah was humiliated. Tamar's twin sons by Judah were Perez and Zerah.

Key verse:
26. She is more righteous than I

My thoughts:
This is a side-story in the middle of the narrative on Joseph.

Judah was quite naughty here, firstly by taking a Canaanite wife, also by sleeping with a prostitute, and also by not giving Shelah to Tamar. These sort of sins showed God that the family of Israel could not live in Canaan anymore, or else they would take Canaanite wives, and over time they would become just like any other Canaanites. In Egypt, where they were dispised, they could grow into a national identity, so they were less tempted by outsiders on their return to Canaan.

Tamar's son Perez becomes the ancestor of King David, and ultimately of Jesus.

Only 1152 days to go!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Genesis 37

Joseph sold into slavery

Jacob loved Joseph more than his other sons, and gave him a nice rich robe. His brothers were jealous and hated him. Joseph had two dreams showing that one day his parents and brothers would bow down to him. He shared these dreams, and his brothers hated him even more.

Jacob sent Joseph to go see how his brothers were going tending their sheep. Joseph's brothers saw him coming, and planned to kill him, and pretend an animal killed him. Reuben said to just throw him into a cistern, planning to save him later. However, by the time Reuben had come back to save Joseph, Judah and his brothers had sold him to some Ishmaelites on the way to Egypt. Jacob was gutted, thinking that Joseph had been killed. Joseph was sold to Potiphar, one of the Pharoah's officials

Key verse:
9. I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.

My thoughts:
Though Joseph's dreams were from God, it was not necessarily God's intention for him to share them with his brothers and parents.

The story of Joseph is a story of opportunities where they are not expected. Had Joseph not been sold into slavery, he would not have ended up in Egypt, which would have made the next turn of events impossible (I won't give away the ending!). In his brother's attempts to get rid of him, they actually furthered God's plan to fulfil the dreams; the dreams which made his brothers so jealous. Ultimately you can't mess with God's plan!

Joseph's story from beginning to end is an amazing self supporting story of success in the midst of seemingly huge misfortune.

Only 1153 days to go!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Genesis 36

Geneology of Esau and Seir

Esau had a few wives (mostly Canaanites) and sons, and they lived in Seir away from Jacob. Two of his sons were Eliphaz and Reuel, and one of his wives was Oholibamah. The sons of Eliphaz, Reuel, and Oholibamah became the chiefs of Edom (Esau).
Seir, a Horite, also lived in Edom/Seir. His sons Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, Dishon, Ezer, and Dishan, were the Horite chiefs. One of Zibeon's sons, Anah, found some hot springs in the desert.
The Edomite kings before the Israelite kings were in order: Bela, Jobab, Husham, Hadad, Samlah, Shaul, Baal-Hanan, and Hadad II.

Key verse:
7. Their possessions were too great for them to remain together

My thoughts:
This geneology is a branch away from Israel, and the Edomites later become Israel's enemies.

God has promised to Jacob that he would be the father of a nation, and that they would live in Canaan. At this point of time, this would've seemed unlikely. This chapter describes Jacob's brother Esau being the father of a nation in Canaan long before Jacob was. Edom had many kings before the Israelites even turned up. To believe that he was to be a father of a nation, Jacob had to trust God, rather than what he saw at the present. Ultimately, God did fulfil his promise, and now, thousands of years later, Israel is still a nation, whereas Edom is forgotten.

Verse 31 mentions future Israelite kings, and cannot be written by Moses, because Moses died hundreds of years before Israel had kings. Traditionally Moses is thought to have written Genesis, however he can't have written at least this verse, and it might be a later editorial update.

Only 1154 days to go!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Genesis 35

Jacob's travels

God tells Jacob to go back to Bethel, where God appeared to him, and to build an altar there. Jacob got his family to give him all their idols, and he buried them, and they headed off to Bethel, where Jacob builds an altar. Jacob then returned to Paddan Aram, where God confirmed his new name, Israel, and blessed him with the promises he first gave to Abraham. Jacob made a pillar there, and made some offerings there.

Rachel then dies giving birth to Benjamin, Israel's final son. Israel's 12 sons are: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin. Jacob returns to his father, Isaac at Hebron (aka Kiriath Arba). Isaac dies at 180, and is buried at Machpelah, where Abraham was buried.

Key verse:
3. I will build an altar to God ... who has been with me wherever I have gone.

My thoughts:
This narrative is comparatively compressed compared with the previous chapters following Jacob, and it wraps up the the Jacob-focussed section of the Genesis story, as we move onto Jacob's son Joseph.

I feel that Jacob's relationship with God is largely based on a few major events, as there are specific times where he has major experiences with God, and each time he makes a awe-filled comment on being close to God. Abraham and Isaac also had specific major experiences with God, however they seem to be less significant in the context of their entire lives, and they seem less surprised by the experience. Perhaps this is because Abraham and Isaac had more of a day-to-day relationship with God, rather than Jacob's event-based relationship.

The common message throughout the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, is that they will become a great nation and will inherit the land of Canaan, where they live.

Only 1155 days to go!

Monday, December 20, 2004

Genesis 34

First chopped, then sworded

Jacob's daughter Dinah gets raped by Shechem, son of Hamor, a Hivite. Shechem wants to marry Dinah, and Hamor proposes that the families of Israel and Hamor intermarry. Jacob's sons, angry that Dinah was raped, say that they have to be circumcised first. So the men of Hamor's city all got the chop, and three days later, when they were all still in pain, Levi and Simeon (two of Jacob's sons) go and kill them all and take their stuff. Nice. Jacob isn't pleased with this, but Levi and Simeon are still pretty annoyed that their sister got raped.

Key verse:
30. You have brought trouble on me

My thoughts:
Though Dinah should never have been raped, Jacob's son's revenge cannot be justified. They lied and deceived and murdered.
Israel was never to intermarry with the neighbouring nations, so that Israel may remain pure to God. Sometimes people could join the Hebrew nation if they conformed to the entire law, including circumcision. Here Levi and Simeon pretend that the Hivites can intermarry with the Hebrews as a trick to kill them.
The chapter ultimately does not actually give a clear moral judgement on whether the actions of Levi and Simeon were justified. It simply narrates the story, and we can decide whether it's right or wrong from God's character revealed in other passages.

My Bit:
Ok, I've cleaned up last weeks blogs, and I've slightly updated the Genesis 32 blog, so I'm now all up-to-date!

Only 1156 days to go!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Genesis 33

Jacob meets Esau

Esau's 400 men come and meet Jacob, who is making himself very humbled. Esau's all like "Why'd ya send all the gifts?". Jacob says he sent them to get Esau's favour, but Esau says he didn't need to do that, and that Jacob already had his favour. After persistence by Jacob, Esau takes the gifts. Esau head off back to Seir, but Jacob goes it slower, so his animals don't die, and tents in Succoth. He ends up living just out of the city of Shechem in Canaan, where he builds an altar.

Key verse:
10. to see your face is like seeing the face of God

My thoughts:
Despite his wealth and status, Jacob considers himself lower than Esau, his brother who he tricked twice. Jacob humbles himself greatly, probably because his brother has attained even more wealth and power than himself. Here Esau seems a bit embarrassed by his brother's humility, and tries to reject his gifts. Luke 14:7-11 shows how if you are humbled, then you will be lifted up, but if you are proud you will be brought low, and Jacob shows this aswell by being humble.

Jacob describes seeing Esau's face as like "seeing the face of God". Jacob would know (See Genesis 32).

Only 1157 days to go!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Genesis 32

Jacob prepares to meet Esau and wrestles with God


Jacob heads towards Canaan, and sends forward a message to his brother, Esau. Jacob hears that Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men, and Jacob freaks out, and splits his group into two, in the hope that one might be able to survive. He sends a caravan of gifts to Esau with the hope of making him pacified.

That night Jacob finds himself alone, and wrestling with a man. The wrestle all night, and eventually at daybreak the man touches Jacob's hip, and it gets disjointed. Jacob demands a blessing from the man, and gets it, and is renamed Israel. The man was God.

Key verse:
30. I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared

My thoughts:
All of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have a tendancy to freak out that people want to kill them for no reason, and they are usually shamed because of this. Though sometimes their faith shines through, other times there is a definite lack of faith that God will provide.

Here Jacob the deceiver becomes Israel the father of a nation, the struggler with God. This is a significant turning point in Jacobs life, where he really grows into the call God has for him. This mysterious wrestle is one of God's ways in truly making Jacob/Israel into the servant God wants him to be.

Jacob refuses to let God go until he gives him a blessing. Sometimes this persistent begging, or praying, to God is effective, as mentioned in the parable of the persistent woman. Sometimes we have to not move until God gives us something.

This chapter is a reoccurance of the Godman-like character of Genesis, or the angel of the Lord.

My Bit:
Well, I'm back from Europe now, so in the next couple of days I'll clean up my last week's work! I might update today's post aswell, because it's a big chapter, and I don't think I've really done it justice today, but right now I really need some sleep after Europe!

Only 1158 days to go!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Genesis 31

Jacob runs off


Jacob notices that Laban and his sons don't like him anymore, and so after receiving word from God and discussing with his wives, Jacob takes all his stuff and flees Laban to the hill country of Gilead. Rachel takes her father's idols with her.

Laban finds out and chases Jacob. He catches up with him at the hill country of Gilead. God warns him to be careful what he says to Jacob. Laban says to Jacob 'Why'd you leave all secret-like, and steal my idols?'. Jacob denies stealing anything, so Laban searches all Jacob's stuff, but Rachel is sitting on the idols. Jacob has a rant at Laban, then they decide to make a good-will pact with each other. Laban goes home.

Key verse:
50. even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me.

My thoughts:
Rachel is not yet completely removed from her pagan past, as she sees value in her father's gods, when she steals them in Jacob's ignorance. Women are not portrayed as innocents in Genesis with both Rebekah and Rachel being deceptive.

Jacob has now spent twenty years with Laban, and has not been with his father, Isaac. Paddan Aram was never the destiny of Jacob, and here God feels it is time to return to the land God promised, Canaan.

Only 1159 days to go!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Genesis 30

Jacob gets sons and sheep


Rachel, jealous of Leah's childbearing ability, gives her maidservant, Bilhah, to Jacob. Bilhah has two sons. In response to this Leah gives Jacob her maidservant, Zilpah, who has two sons. Leah gets to sleep with Jacob in return for her son's mandrakes, and has two more sons. Then Rachel finally has a son, Joseph.
Jacob asks to leave Laban, but Laban is less than keen, so Jacob just gets all the speckled sheep of Laban's flock. However, through clever breeding, Jacob ends up getting the best sheep and becomes very prosperous.

Key verse:
43. the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and maidservants, and menservants, and camels and donkeys.

My thoughts:
Jacob's sons become the tribes of Israel.
Again Jacob's cleverness comes into play here, however here he uses it in response to Laban's own deception. Just as Jacob cheated Esau (name means red) with red stew, so does Jacob cheat Laban (name means white) with white strips of bark.
Sometimes the Bible is ridiculed because of this chapter, because it seems to say that sheep mating in front of certain bark will have offspring with a diffrent genetic make-up, a concept which is ridiculous in modern science. However, I do not believe that this chapter is making a scientific statement on the mechanics of genetics. I believe that God wanted to make Jacob prosperous, and that God did this realising that Jacob would not have a complete understanding of genetics. Jacob attributes the changes in the sheep to God in the next chapter (verse 9).

Only 1160 days to go

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Genesis 29

Jacob gets a couple of wives


Jacob comes to Paddan Aram, and finds a well there, and talks to some men, and then Rachel, daughter of Laban turned up, and Jacob fell in love with her. Jacob stayed in Laban’s house for a while and then started working for him. His payment for his work would be that he would marry Rachel after seven years of work. But after seven years, Laban gives him Leah, the ugly older sister, so Jacob has to work another seven years to get Rachel. Jacob loved Rachel more.

Leah had four sons, but Rachel was barren. Leah hoped that having four sons would make Jacob love her more.

Key verses:
30. And he worked for Laban another seven years.
31. When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb

My thoughts:
In modern western society we expect to get everything now. This also happens with relationships. We freak out if we don’t get a boyfriend or girlfriend quickly, and think we’ll never get married. Compare this with Jacob. Jacob had to wait seven years to get his wife, and even after that he got the wrong wife and had to wait another seven years. I think that sometimes we expect too much too soon, and we always need to accept God’s timing.

God saw that Leah wasn’t loved, and had compassion for her. That is why he let Leah have children, and made Rachel barren – to create justice.

Only 1161 days to go!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Genesis 28

Jacob heads off for Paddan Aram


Isaac tells Jacob to get a wife from Rebekah's family in Paddan Aram, not from the Canaanites. Esau realises that Isaac is displeased with his Cannanite wife, and marries a descendant of Ishmael.

On the way to Paddan Aram, Jacob has a dream of a stairway to heaven with angels descending and ascending. Above it stood God who reconfirmed the covenant promises to Jacob. Jacob awoke, and declared the place the house of God, set up a pillar, and decided to give God a tenth of what he got.

Key verses:
17. How awesome is this place! This is no other than the house of God.
22. all that you give me I will give you a tenth.

My thoughts:
Ultimately Esau could not received the promises of the covenant because he took a Canaanite wife, which stopped him and his descendants being set apart for God. From God's perspective I believe that this is why Jacob becomes the heir of the promises, rather than because of his deception.

Like Abraham and Isaac before him, Jacob here has an intimate experience with God in which God restates his covenant with the line of Abraham. Here Jacob truly becomes the heir of God's people. Jacob becomes the last patriarch. From him comes a nation, rather than an heir.

Here Jacob sets up the idea of giving a tithe, or a tenth, to God. Interestingly he says "All that you give me", understanding that everyting is God's gift anyway, and that no possession is to be taken for granted or truly 'owned'.

Only 1162 days to go!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Genesis 27

Jacob steals Esau's blessing


Isaac, who is now old and blind, tells his firstborn, Esau, to go get some food for him so he can give Esau his blessing. But Rebekah, Isaac's wife, who favoured Jacob, overheard this conversation and told Jacob to pretend to be Esau to get the blessing. Jacob manages to fool Isaac, and Jacob receives the blessing planned for Esau by deception. When Esau returns, he is upset that he lost the blessing and can only get a minor blessing.

Angry, Esau desires to kill Jacob, so Rebekah tells Jacob to flee to Laban until he calms down.

Key verse:
29. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.

My thoughts:
Now Jacob has received both the birthright of the firstborn, and the chief blessing, both times through deception. Jacob definitely falls into the 'God using imperfect people' catergory. The prophesy of Genesis 25:23 is fulfilled in Isaac's blessing to Jacob.

This is the beginning of a continued narrative on Jacob, which is much more extensive than the narrative on Isaac.

My Bit:
I'm writing this from some seedy internet cafe in Hamburg, and I'm really short of time, so sorry about any mistakes! I'll try to do a clean up tomorrow at my friend's place!

Only 1163 days to go!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Genesis 26

Isaac follows his father's call


In a time of famine, Isaac went to Abimelech (probably a descendant of the Abimelech Abraham dealt with). God tells Isaac that he will continue his father's call to become a nation, and not to go to Egypt. So Isaac stayed in Gerar.

Isaac says his wife is his sister, causing problems for Abimelech, but Isaac is eventually found out, and Abimelech's like "Why'd you do that?".

Isaac becomes very rich and the Philistines get jealous and cover all of Abraham's wells and tell him to head off. So Isaac went to the Valley of Gerar and re-dug up some of Abraham's wells, and his herdsmen quarrelled with the locals. Isaac goes up to live at Beersheba, and God restates his promise again. Isaac builds an altar.

Abimelech comes crawling back, and makes a treaty with Isaac. Esau, Isaac's son, gets a Hittite wife, which Isaac is less than pleased about.

Key verse:
24. Do not be afraid for I am with you

My thoughts:
This is a comparatively compacted narrative about the life of Isaac throughout the majority of his adult life.

I find it bizarre how similar Isaac's life reads to Abraham's life. Here are some similarities, they both:
went through famine
had God reiterate at various times his promises to make them a great nation
deceived by saying their wives were their sisters,
drawing the same response to kings called Abimelech
dug the same wells
built altars
made treaties with Abimelech king of the Philistines at Beersheba

I dunno if there's any significance there, but I thought there were some uncanny similarities. Isaac's life is summarised much faster than Abraham's, however Isaac's death is not narrated for another nine chapters.

Interestingly, it is always seen as good to fear God, but God (and his angels) are always quick to say 'Do not fear'. By fearing God, we can cast all our other fears away.

My Bit:
This is written from an internet cafe in Denmark, so the editing might be strange for a while.

Only 1164 days to go!

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Genesis 25

The next generation


Abraham dies, not before having another wife Keturah, and a bunch of other sons. Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac, and was buried by his sons, Isaac and Ishmael, in the cave at Memre with his wife Sarah. Ishmael had a bunch of sons.

Isaac's wife, Rebekah, was barren, but God opened her, and she had twins, which God said would become two nations. The twins were Jacob and Esau, and they fought a lot. Esau (firstborn) was Dad's boy, and became a hunter; Jacob was a mummy's boy, and was quiet and hung around the tents. One day Esau (also known as Edom) got really really hungry, and asked Jacob for some of his stew, but Jacob said "Only if you give me your birthright", so Esau gave Jacob his birthright.

Key verse:
23. Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.

My thoughts:
This is the middle of Genesis, and marks a significant change of focus from Abraham (the originator of God's promise) to his sons.

Neither Isaac nor Jacob were the firstborn, but God blessing still was on them. Abraham himself may not have been the firstborn either.

Esau did not place much value on his birthright, ultimately handing it over for a bowl of soup. Jacob was a cunning deceiver and most of the narrative of Jacob's early years are about his winning of the birthright through deception.

My Bit:
This is written from a internet cafe in Denmark, so for a while it'll be edited strangely.

Only 1165 days to go!

Friday, December 10, 2004

Genesis 24

Isaac gets a wife

Abraham is getting old, and asks his chief servant to go all the way back to Abraham's homeland and find a wife for Isaac there, rather than Isaac finding a Canaanite wife. When the chief servant gets to Abraham's homeland, he decides that the woman who is willing to give him water, and who offers to water his camels would be a suitable wife for Isaac. Rebekah does this. The chief servant stays at Rebekah's house for a night, then takes Rebekah back to Isaac and they fall in love and get married pretty instantly.

Key verse:
27. Praise be to the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master

My thoughts:
Abraham's decision not to allow Isaac to marry a Canaanite is a foreshadow of God's later command not to intermarry with the people of the land. This command is set because Israel was intended to be a set apart community for God, not something to blur with all peoples around it. Under Jesus there is not such physical distinction between 'set apart' people or people who aren't 'set apart'

My Bit:
Sorry if they're a bit short at the moment. I'm travelling around Europe for the next week, so I'm really fitting it into whenever I can find a computer!

Only 1166 days to go!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Genesis 23

Abraham buys a field to bury his wife

Sarah dies, and the Hittites let Abraham bury her. Ephron the Hittite sells him a field with a cave at Machpelah near Hebron to bury his wife. Ephron doesn't want Abraham to pay, but he does anyway.

Key verse:
20. So the field and the cave in it were deeded to Abraham.

My thoughts:
Abraham wanted true ownership of this land, so he insisted on paying. This seemingly insignificant piece of land becomes very important, as it is the only piece of the promised land which the Hebrews owned until they returned from Egypt hundreds of years later. This is even more significant when we realise that one of God's promises to Abraham would be to give his descendants land in Canaan.

Only 1167 days to go!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Genesis 22

God tests Abraham

God tells Abraham to go up a hill and sacrifice his son, Isaac. Abraham sets off to do this, but when he is about to kill his son, God commands Abraham to stop. God provides a ram for Abraham to sacrifice instead of Isaac. God is pleased with Abraham because he was willing even to kill his son for the sake of God. God restates his promises to Abraham. Abraham goes back to live in Beersheba. Abraham finds out that his brother Nahor has a bunch of kids through his wife, and his concubine.

Key verse:
8. God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering
12. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son.

My thoughts:
Only once in the Bible is human sacrifice supported by God, and that is the sacrifice of his own son, Jesus. There are many things that can be seen in this chapter when it is viewed with the knowledge that Jesus died and rose again. Firstly we may find it bizarre and cruel that God expects Abraham to allow his own son to die, the same son who God promised to make a great nation out of. However once we realise that God himself had to go through the same thing without anyone saying stop can we see that God understands what Abraham would've gone through. Also, when Abraham says that 'God himself will provide the lamb', this can be paralleled with God providing Jesus, the Lamb of God, as a sacrifice for us. When the ram is killed instead of Isaac, we can again see parallels of Jesus dying instead of us. Mount Moriah, where Abraham intends to sacrifice Isaac is actually identified as Jerusalem's temple mount in 2 Chronicles 3:1, so we also have similarities of both Abraham's party and Jesus riding a donkey towards Jerusalem - their place of sacrifice. The difference is, where a sheep was killed in Isaac's place, Jesus had no such luck. He is the lamb who dies in our place.

I like it how God says "I swear by myself". I mean, there's not actually a lot else God can swear by...

Only 1168 days to go!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Genesis 21

Isaac's birth and Abraham's treaty

Isaac is born and circumcised when Abraham is 100, and Sarah is filled with laughter. Sarah makes Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael away. Abraham doesn't want to, but God says it's ok. God looks after Hagar and Ishmael in the desert, and Ishmael becomes an archer. Abraham makes a good-conduct treaty with Abimelech at Beersheba. Abraham plants a tree.

Key verses:
7. Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.
17. Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying and he lies there.

My thoughts:
God is faithful in his promise to Abraham, and Sarah give birth to Isaac.

This is the second time God specifically comforts Hagar. Last time she was kicked out because Sarah was jealous, and God encouraged her to return. This time she was kicked out because Sarah was jealous, but God let her leave and allowed them to live in the desert. Despite simply being a maidservant, God cared immensely for Hagar, and her son, Ishmael.

Only 1169 days to go!

Monday, December 06, 2004

Genesis 20

Abraham deceives again

Abraham moves around, and ends up living in the kingdom of Abimelech, Gerar. Fearing the people will kill him for his wife, Abraham agains says his wife is his sister (which is technically true, still deceptive). Abimelech takes Sarah for himself, and God comes and warns Abimelech that he's taken a married woman. Abimelech gives Sarah back to Abraham, annoyed that Abraham didn't say she was his wife. Abimelech gives Abraham and Sarah some stuff. Abraham prays for Abimelech, and his family are healed from the curse on them whilst Abimelech held Sarah.

Key verse:
7. Now return the man's wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live.

My thoughts:
Abraham goes through a mix of extreme faith, and of lack of faith. Here he does not trust God to protect him, and feels that deception will help keep him safe. This was not the case, and his deception only caused problems for all.

Abraham is here referred to as a prophet, and he is the first person in the Bible to be referred to as such.

1170 days to go!

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Genesis 19

Sodom and Gomorrah burninated

The two angels from the previous chapter turn up in Sodom, and Lot practically forces them to stay with him. All the men of Sodom demand to WOOHOO with the angels, but Lot says "No! Take my daughters instead!" (Thanks Dad!). But the men aren't happy with this, and keep trying, but the angels make them blind to stop them. Then the angels, less than impressed with their first visit of Sodom, arrange for it's destruction (along with Gomorrah). They tell Lot and his family to run away straight away, but they hestitate, so the angels have to take them by hand outside of Sodom to make them leave. Sodom and Gomorrah get burninated. As they ran Lot's wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt. Abraham saw the smoke rising.

A while later Lot and his daughters are living in the mountains, and Lot's daughters decide to sleep with their dad to keep the family line going. They get Lot very drunk to do this. Lot's sons through his daughters are Moab (father of the Moabites), and Ben-Ammi (father of the Ammonites)

Key verse:
17. Don't look back
24. the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah

My thoughts:
This chapter is the first mention of homosexuality in the Bible, when the men of Sodom want to sleep with the angels. In fact, the word 'sodomy' still in use today comes from Sodom. Homosexuality is obviously a huge issue in the church today, and I believe that the Bible is unanimous in it's condemnation of homosexuality, but I will address this issue in more detail in Leviticus 18. For now I just wish to point out that this chapter cannot be used against homosexuality. What the men of Sodom wished to do was mass gang rape, which is wrong whether it is homosexual or heterosexual. It is not specified whether the homosexual nature of the Sodomites was also seen as sin.

When Lot fled Sodom he was told not to look back. His wife did, and was turned into (or struck by) a pillar of salt. I think so often when God calls us to somewhere else, a new life, we spend to much time looking back at the life God has called us out of. Often I have seen new Christians who look backwards so much in their faith, that it doesn't take them long to return to the life God released them from. We become nostalgic of our sinful lives, which hinders us from moving forward to what God is doing now, not what he did in the past. Christ calls us to be born again, to die to our former lives, and to strive towards the life God has for us, and not to look back. When God is taking us somewhere, like he always is, he doesn't want us to be looking back. He wants us to trust in him because he is taking us somewhere better, even if we don't see it. Don't look back!

Obviously it was sinful for Lot's daughters to sleep with him, because the Bible clearly condemns incest in Leviticus 18. It is not surprising that the Jewish account of the beginnings of two of their most despised neighbours shows them beginning out of sin. Compare this to Isaac, who is born as a miracle from God. I do, however, believe these accounts to be accurate.

My bit:
This is the second time I wrote this, because the computer decided to delete my first one (again), and I actually finished it (the second time) at about 2 minutes past midnight, officially making it my first 'late' blog, but I'm going to make it appear as if it was finished on the 5th for continuity.

1171 days to go!

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Genesis 18

Three guys on the way to Sodom

Three guys on the way to Sodom turn up at Abraham's place. Two of them are just angels, one is the Lord (in some sort of human form). Abraham makes them feel welcome, and God says that Sarah will have a kid in the next year. Sarah laughs at this, and God's like "Why'd ya laugh?". God tells Abraham that he's on his way to Sodom to see if they're all sinners as he'd heard they were, planning on destroying Sodom. Abraham convinces God not to destroy Sodom if he finds only ten righteous people there.

Key verses:
14. Is anything too hard for the Lord?
32. For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it [Sodom]

My thoughts:
Despite God always being right, and us being prone to bad judgement, for some reason God lets us influence him, as he did here with Abraham. I think this is part of God's plan because he wants us to be involved in him and his plans, even though we lack judgement sometimes. God allows us to plead for grace and is willing to change his actions because of our pleading.

God planned to destroy Sodom for it's communal sin, however through Abraham's pleading, God also concerned himself with the individually righteous people. God is concerned with both communal righteousness and individual righteousness. Often in modern protestant churches we only focus on individual righteousness.

1172 days to go!

Friday, December 03, 2004

Genesis 17

Abraham gets cut

Abram's now 99, and God turns up again, and God says Abram will be a father of nations, and that his descendants will live in Canaan (God's story hasn't exactly changed!). God renames Abram Abraham, and tells him to get his household, foreigners living with them and his descendants circumcised as their side of the covenant. Sarai is renamed Sarah, and God says he'll make Sarah's descendants the most blessed. Abraham laughs at this cos she's barren and 90 years old anyway, and wants Ishmael to get the blessing. Then God's all like "Chill out! Ishmael'll get his fair share of blessing, but your ninety year old wife's kid, Isaac(not yet born), will get more!". So Abraham went and gave his household the chop.

Key verse:
1. I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.
11. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between you and me

My thoughts:
When Abram falls facedown in verse 3, this is the fullest physical gesture of submission which is used many times in the Bible in worship of God. Facedown worship of God is humbling, which is appropriate when dealing with God.

Circumcision is like Jewish baptism. It's an outward sign of an inward decision to follow God. It's not there for any particularly practical reasons, but simply as a sign of the promise. It becomes so key to the Jewish faith that when in the New Testament, with the new covenant, circumcision is not needed, many Jews don't accept this and try to force people to get circumcised anyway. Circumcision is the sign of the old covenant of the law, and anyone who feels that have to get circumcised to follow God should also feel obliged to follow the entire Jewish law. The new covenant brought in by Jesus is a covenant of grace and faith, and physical circumcision is irrelevant. Even in the Old Testament, circumcision of the heart is seen as more important than any physical ritual.

Though God's covenant was to the Hebrews from Abraham, he allowed any foreigner to become part of that covenant if they were fully willing to submit to 'Jewish' life, including circumcision. God always had a heart of all people of all nations. This happened with the foreigners living with Abraham, they essential became Jewish, by faith, not by ethnicity.

That's enough for now.

1172 days to go!

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Genesis 16

Sarai's maidservant has Abram's kid

Sarai, who can't have kids, tells Abram to have a kid through her maidservant, Hagar, in the hope she can build a family through her. Abram gets Hagar pregnant, but then Hagar and Sarai have a little hissy fit, and Hagar runs off to get away from Sarai. God's angel meets Hagar at a spring, encourages her to go back to Sarai, and says that she'll have lots of descendants through her kid, and that she should call the kid Ishmael. Hagar names the spring. Hagar gives birth to Ishmael. Abram is 86 at the time.

Key verse:
13. "You are the God who sees me,"

My thoughts:
This passage has the first mention of "the angel of the Lord". There is a lot of discussion about what or who the angel of the Lord actually is. Sometimes it seems to be God himself, maybe even walking around in a human form, which some would see as a pre-incarnate Jesus. Other times the angel of the Lord seems to simply be an angel who is God's specific messenger.
Often in Genesis, when the Lord speaks with people, he is written as a real physical person who doesn't look significantly different from anyone else. This can be seen in Genesis 18, or in Genesis 32.
It is hard to know what exactly the people in Genesis saw, whether it was simply an angel, or if it was actually some human form of God himself. Whatever the answer is, I believe that God was revealing himself to people, who had few assumptions as to how God should relate to them, in a way that was effective and clear to them.

Though polygamy was never God's intention, most of the significant Old Testament men have multiple wives from now on. Here Abram takes a second wife in Hagar, and God tolerates this despite his monogamous intentions for us. It is seen as comparatively irrelevant and Abram and his descendants are not trying to be disobedient, they are simply doing what was normal for men of high status at the time.

Even though she is simply a maidservant, God cares deeply for Hagar. God does not show favouritism because of anything, including status.

1173 days to go!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Genesis 15

Abram and God's private chat

God speaks to Abram in a vision, and Abram's like "What the? How can I be a great nation - I have no kids!". Then God's all like "Trust me!". So Abram trusted him. They then do this weird ceremony thing with animals cut exactly in half, through which God confirms the covenant. God tells Abram about the 400 years in Egypt his descendants will experience and then tells Abram what land his offspring will inherit.

Key verses:
1."Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward."
5. "Look up at the heavens and count the stars-if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be."
6. Abram believed the Lord , and he credited it to him as righteousness.

My thoughts:
This is an amazing chapter, which shows God's intimacy with Abram. This whole chapter is Abram-God time where God encourages Abram. Abram is confused as to how he is supposed to father a nation when he has no sons, and he is worried that his estate will simply go to Eliezer of Damascus, the heir. But eventually Abram simply trusts God, and his faith is credited to him as righteousness. Paul refers to this in Romans 4:3 as an example of salvation by faith rather than by works. Even before Jesus, God was willing to turn faith into quasi-righteousness.

If you read this passage you might be wondering why the heck did God want Abram to cut some animals in half and lay the pieces opposite each other, and then make a smoking firepot pass between them. I am told that this was a ceremony from the time normally done between a powerful king and a weaker king, and it is the ceremony for the establishment of a deal between them. Basically, the powerful king would give protection, and the weak king would give money. God was making a deal with Abram. God would look after Abram and his following nation, if they followed and put their trust in God. This was God's proof to Abram that he would provide.

God put Abram into a deep darkness to symbolise the darkness his offspring will experience in Egypt.

1174 days to go!