BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 27, Day 5: Genesis 40

Summary of passage:  Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker offended him so he threw them in jail.  Potiphar assigned them to Joseph.  After some time, both men had a dream and Joseph noticed they were downcast about it.  So he asked them why they were gloom and they said because they had a dream they did not understand.  Joseph asked them to tell him his dreams because God can interpret them.

The chief cupbearer dreamed of a vine with three branches.  Grapes bloomed on the branches and the cupbearer squeezed the grapes into Pharaoh’s cup and gave him the cup. Joseph said in three days time the cupbearer will be restored to his position as cupbearer.  He asked him to remember him and mention him to Pharaoh so that Joseph may be released.

The chief baker dreamed of three baskets on his head of which the first baskets contained baked goods for the Pharaoh but birds were eating all the food.  Joseph said in three days Pharaoh will remove his head and hang him on a tree while the birds eat his flesh.

In three days time, it was Pharaoh’s birthday and he gave a feast for all of his officials. Just like Joseph had said, the chief cupbearer was restored and the chief baker was hanged (or impaled).  The chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph.

Questions:

11a)  To remember him and show him kindness and to mention him to Pharaoh to get him out of this prison.

b)  It is not recorded if the cupbearer agreed or didn’t agree to mention Joseph to Pharaoh.  All we know is that the cupbearer did not; he promptly forgot about Joseph.

12)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I think Joseph was discouraged at times and did lose heart.  Those times are just not recorded.  Joseph was human.  What happened to Joseph would make anyone cry.  It was deplorable, unimaginable conditions and Joseph must have lamented his lot.  However, Joseph never forgot he had God.  God was with him. Joseph had outward signs of this due to how others saw God in him and put him in charge of all the prison and all that was done there.

Joseph never let his circumstances dictate his actions.  He probably was bummed for a while but then would pray and be cheered.

I’m sure Joseph was disappointed the cupbearer forgot him for Joseph was pinning his hopes on this for release.  But Joseph knew God was still with him.  And the time was just not right.

13)  Jesus is saying that if a kernel of wheat remains on the stalk, nothing happens.  But when the kernel falls to the ground it “dies” meaning it is no longer a seed but it grows anew, into a plant that is useful and will feed people and eventually produce many more seeds.

Joseph “died” to who he was.  He was given a new name by Pharaoh (Genesis 41:45), Zaphenath-Paneah, married an Egyptian woman, and became Egyptian for all purposes. He dressed like one.  He led an Egyptian life.  But out of this life, he fed people and produced many more seeds (including the seed for Jesus when he saved his family) through the saving of these people as they survived and had children.  But Joseph had to “die” first.

This is the literal meaning.  Spiritually, Jesus had to die in order to give life to many. Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15:36-38; 42-44 that you must die first in order to be raised from the dead and have eternal life.  You plant the seed and God gives it a body, which is perishable, weak, natural, and in dishonor.  But then God raises the body in glory, honor, power, and spiritualness.

Conclusions:  We must remember that the cupbearer and the baker were in prison for the sole reason of meeting Joseph and having their dreams interpreted.  God sent them their dream and gifted Joseph to interpret them all to get the attention of Pharaoh (whom God sent dreams as well).  God is everywhere in our circumstances and the story of Joseph in particular is a great example of God’s hand in every facet of our lives.

Question 13 nailed the lesson on the head:  you must die to who you were in order to become who you were meant to be.  Die to self in order to live forever.

The moment Joseph’s life changed forever and he died to self is recorded powerfully in Scripture–when his brothers sold him to slavery.  He ceased being Joseph and became God’s instead–living, trusting, and doing God’s work.

Great lesson for Easter.  Jesus died so that we may live.  Something we cannot praise God enough for.

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 27, Day 4: Genesis 40

Summary of passage:  Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker offended him so he threw them in jail.  Potiphar assigned them to Joseph.  After some time, both men had a dream and Joseph noticed they were downcast about it.  So he asked them why they were gloom and they said because they had a dream they did not understand.  Joseph asked them to tell him his dreams because God can interpret them.

The chief cupbearer dreamed of a vine with three branches.  Grapes bloomed on the branches and the cupbearer squeezed the grapes into Pharaoh’s cup and gave him the cup. Joseph said in three days time the cupbearer will be restored to his position as cupbearer.  He asked him to remember him and mention him to Pharaoh so that Joseph may be released.

The chief baker dreamed of three baskets on his head of which the first baskets contained baked goods for the Pharaoh but birds were eating all the food. Joseph said in three days Pharaoh will remove his head and hang him on a tree while the birds eat his flesh.

In three days time, it was Pharaoh’s birthday and he gave a feast for all of his officials. Just like Joseph had said, the chief cupbearer was restored and the chief baker was hanged (or impaled).  The chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph.

Questions:

8a)  He asked them why they appeared so gloom.  So he had to have noticed a change in them, meaning he had to have been monitoring their condition.  He offered to help through dream interpretation and give them hope by mentioning God.

b)  Several opportunities.  On a personal level he was able to lift one man’s spirits with good news and warn the other man to cherish his last days before his life was taken.  He had the chance to prove that God was with him and that God was interpreting dreams correctly–so to show God’s powers.  It gave him a chance to tell them about God and perhaps convert them before their death.

And it gave Joseph an opportunity to get out of jail if the cupbearer mentioned him to Pharaoh.  It gave Joseph hope that he may still be free.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Take note of people.  See when they are down.  Ask them about it.  Encourage them with the Word.  Tell them of God and His strength to lift them up.  Pray over them.

9a)  Omnipotent, omniscient, control the future, blesses those who belong to Him and believe in Him.  God is good, faithful, and just.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Acknowledgment from others.  That the cupbearer forgot him.  That he may languish in prison for the rest of his life.  I don’t think he ever doubted God.  But we all get depressed and down by our circumstances.  And I’m sure Joseph did as well.  He was probably disappointed he had to wait another two years in prison.  But he trusted.  And that made all the difference.

10)  Leadership, trustworthiness, caring, empathy, dream interpretation, desire to help others, patience, kindness, trusting in God, honesty

Conclusions:  I liked how Joseph approached the cupbearer and baker.  That they did not come to him.  That Joseph took the initiative and noticed they were down.  If Joseph hadn’t of said anything, Pharaoh would have never of known of his abilities.  Joseph took concrete action about his circumstances.  He still had a heart when many would have lost it long ago.

Note Joseph never abused his power.  “He attended them” (Genesis 40:4).  He served. He cared about others.  Just like Jesus.

God notes our good deeds even when others do not.  God remembers us even when others do not.  God rewards us even when others do not.  God promotes us and demotes us–all according to His will–not our own.

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 27, Day 3: Genesis 39

Summary of passage:  Joseph was taken to Egypt and purchased by Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard.  Because the Lord was with Joseph, he became Potiphar’s attendant and then put in charge of his household and everything in it.  Because of Joseph’s presence, the Lord blessed Potiphar and everything in his house and in his fields.

Potiphar’s wife tried to get Joseph to sleep with her but Joseph refused, saying he is to care for everything that is his master’s and he cannot sin against God committing adultery.  She tried daily and he avoided her.

One day Joseph was alone with Potiphar’s wife and she grabbed him by his cloak.  He slipped out of his cloak and ran outside.  She told her servants that he had come to her to try to sleep with her and had left his cloak behind.  She told Potiphar who put Joseph in prison.

Still, the Lord was with Joseph so Joseph was put in charge of all the prisoners and all the happenings there and had success in whatever he did.

Questions:

6a)  He refused, telling her it would be a sin against God and a wicked thing to betray his master’s trust. He avoided her the best he could.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Same.  Try to avoid whatever is causing the sin.  Pray to God for strength to overcome.

7a)  He gained experience running a household that I imagined was quite large.  He had to delegate tasks.  He had to learn about both the farming and the domestic aspects.  He then ran a prison, which probably entailed much of the same tasks but some new ones.  All throughout God was building Joseph’s trust in Him, which is the most important skill Joseph would need to lead others.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I don’t know.  Honestly.  Not sure where I’m supposed to be.

Conclusions:  Yesterday I was mixed.  Today I’m just disappointed.  There was a lot of history in this chapter that was just glossed over.  I would have liked to have seen more emphasis on how these events could only have happened because of God.  A Hebrew (foreign) slave running a household?  Never.  Running a prison?  Doubtful.

BSF usually sends us to other places in the Bible when we discuss a topic such as temptation.  This lesson they did not.  I would have liked to have read more on that.

Not all of us are called to be leaders.  We just can’t be.  Then we’d all be butting heads for decision making.  I’m just not for sure I’m being trained for leadership for God and how (or if) my present circumstances are contributing to that.

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 27, Day 2: Genesis 39

Summary of passage:  Joseph was taken to Egypt and purchased by Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard.  Because the Lord was with Joseph, he became Potiphar’s attendant and then put in charge of his household and everything in it.  Because of Joseph’s presence, the Lord blessed Potiphar and everything in his house and in his fields.

Potiphar’s wife tried to get Joseph to sleep with her but Joseph refused, saying he is to care for everything that is his master’s and he cannot sin against God committing adultery.  She tried daily and he avoided her.

One day Joseph was alone with Potiphar’s wife and she grabbed him by his cloak.  He slipped out of his cloak and ran outside.  She told her servants that he had come to her to try to sleep with her and had left his cloak behind.  She told Potiphar who put Joseph in prison.

Still, the Lord was with Joseph so Joseph was put in charge of all the prisoners and all the happenings there and had success in whatever he did.

Questions:

3a)  Genesis 39:3, 23:  When God is with you, you have success in whatever you do.

Genesis 39:21:  When God is with you, God shows you kindness and others see you favorably.

Joshua 1:7-9:  Follow and obey the law and meditate on it day and night and you will be successful and prosperous wherever  you go.

b)  Joshua 1:  God promises to never leave us or forsake us.  No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life.  Be strong and courageous.  Follow and obey the law and meditate on it day and night and you will be successful and prosperous wherever you go.  God will be with us wherever we go.

Psalm 1:  Blessed is he who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it day and night.  Whatever he does prospers.  The Lord watches over the righteous.

4)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Potiphar probably witnessed the abundance Joseph brought in whatever tasks he was doing before he was promoted.  Joseph was honest (as shown by not sleeping with his wife), which was hard to find in slaves back then.  I would imagine Joseph was one of those people whom you just know God is with him.  He probably had an aura about him that just attracted others to him.

5a)  Personal Question.  My answer:  He trusted in God and God’s plans.  He was also young.  He hadn’t experienced yet how hard the world could be until this moment so he probably took a positive attitude and made the best of every situation.

b)  By prospering those around Joseph.  It was like Midas and the Golden Touch.  Everywhere it seemed Joseph made everything turn to gold so to speak and everyone knew it.  Even in prison God blessed him and made that life tolerable.  God allowed others to see how Joseph was the reason for all the good in their lives; hence, they showed him favor.

Conclusions:  Mixed on this lesson.  The theme was if you obey and trust in God you will prosper no matter your circumstances, which is a good lesson.  God blesses. However, something was missing–depth perhaps?

Prisons of ancient times were NOTHING like prisons of today.  No regular meals.  No sanitary conditions.  No toilets.  No showers.  And definitely no human rights.  Prisoners were tortured, beaten, and starved to death.  No one cared if you lived or died back then and if you were thrown in prison for a crime (like Joseph was), odds are you’d never get out and you would die there.  You’d literally be left to rot, especially if you had no money in which to buy your freedom.

A prisoner being put in charge of prisoners was rare.  Yet God had to intervene here or Joseph would die.

Fun Fact:  The name Potiphar means “devoted to the sun”.  In Ancient Egypt, the Sun God, Ra, was considered the King of the gods and was worshipped by some as the creator god.  Pharaoh was seen as the son of Ra.  He was said to command the chariot that rode across the sky and brought day to the world.  He was universally worshipped throughout the entire Ancient Egyptian reign (3000 years).

Hence, Potiphar’s name means devoted to this god as well as to Pharaoh since Pharaoh is the son of Ra and considered his embodiment on earth.

Potiphar’s job was personal security to Pharaoh.  He wasn’t in charge of the army. Hence, he was very important in Egypt.

Joseph was in Potiphar’s house for 11 years.  We are not told how long it took him to work his way up but we can assume it took a bit of time.  We must remember Joseph is a foreigner.  He didn’t know the language, the culture, the customs, the religion, etc.  There had to have been a learning time and an adjustment period.

Interesting Fact:  Joseph is one of only 3 men called handsome in the Bible.  The other two are David (1 Samuel 16:12) and Absalom (2 Samuel 14:25).  Hence, I think it is safe to say he would have been voted Time’s Sexiest Man Alive!

Why is Potiphar’s wife coming on to Joseph?  Besides the fact Joseph is handsome, there is debate amongst scholars on whether or not Potiphar was a eunuch.  The Hebrew word for “official” in verse 1 may be translated as eunuch and it was common for high officials serving the Pharaoh to be castrated in order to ensure complete loyalty.  This may be another reason his wife was seeking attention elsewhere.

Plus, Joseph, a mere slave, said no to a woman of noble status–very rare in ancient times. I’m sure she felt the need for retribution (and indeed she had her revenge).  When she tired of the challenge, she had Joseph thrown in jail.  End of story.

Egyptian religion was lax when it came to marriage rites and being unfaithful was not uncommon.

The temptation Joseph endured could have gone on for years.  We are not told–only that it happened “day after day”.  This was definitely a test of strength for Joseph–one in which we are to gain strength from.

Joseph did everything right:  he avoided temptation, never being alone with her; he knew it was a sin; he said no; and then he ran when she trapped him.  Yet he still paid a price for following God.  As we all do.

Joseph could have been killed but instead was put in prison.  This hints that Potiphar probably suspected his wife’s lies (what husband doesn’t know his wife is flirting in his own household?).  Also, this shows how God saves.

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 26, Day 5: Genesis 38

Summary of passage:  After Joseph was sold to the Midianites, Judah left his family and went to Adullam.  He married a Canaanite woman names Shua and had 3 sons with her–the last of which was born in Kezib.  When Judah’s first-born son grew up (Er), he married a woman named Tamar.  But Er was so wicked that the Lord put him to death.

Onan, the second-born of Judah, now was ordered to sleep with Tamar since it was law back then to produce heirs for the line.  Onan refused and the Lord killed him too.

Tamar went to live in her father’s house until the third son, Shelah, was grown.  However, Tamar was not given to Shelah when he had come of age so Tamar dresses up as a prostitute in order to trick Judah into sleeping with her.  He does indeed sleep with her and she conceives twin boys.  She keeps his seal, cord, and staff in order to prove he is the father to avoid being accused of prostitution and put to death.  Judah admits he was wrong in not giving her Shelah so spares her life.

Their names are Perez and Zerah.

Questions:

12)  We see in Genesis 34:1 that Dinah apparently was a girl of the town who “visited the women of the land” frequently.  We see the horrendous retribution by Simeon and Levi wiping the town of Shechem from the map.  Joseph was sold to slavery by all the brothers in Genesis 37.  And now Judah marries a Canaanite.

13)  The whole family might have become pagans once again and the line to Jesus would have been tainted forever.  Belief in the One, True God could have vanished all together and God would have had to start all over again.  Remember, those who believed in God at this time were all from Abraham’s family.  And not that many generations have passed since then.  Perhaps hundreds?  Maybe a thousand people believed in God.

It’s not hard to imagine how these people could be swallowed up by the corruption and unbelief around them.

14)  No.  Judah.  Judah shouldn’t have married a Canaanite.  Period.  When God kills two of your three sons that should have been a hint that you made a mistake.  However, like Rachel, Tamar resorted to trickery to get what should have been rightfully hers.  This is not good in God’s eyes.  But I can’t help but wonder in ancient times how women had little other means to do anything.  Not that their behavior is justified.  But it is understandable considering women were mere property back then.

Furthermore, Judah wasn’t following the law either by refusing to give Tamar to Shelah. Judah held all the power in his hands to do what was right and he refused.

15a)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Perhaps she came to believe in the Lord and back then there wasn’t a lot of believers in the One, True God to choose from as husbands.

However, this question may be misguided and makes a lot of assumptions.  How do we know she had her own friends and opportunities for marriage?  Tamar was now a widow and she had no land or anything to go with that status.  She had also married outside of her culture.  Normally, this causes a rift between her and her “friends” and family so she may have been labeled as an outcast.

Furthermore, as a widow, it was Judah, NOT her father, who now decided whom she should marry.  Only he could give her in marriage and provide a dowery.  And from what Tamar was seeing, it appeared Judah’s intentions were to leave her with her father for the rest of her life.

Well, an unmarried woman and childless in that culture was an outcast period.  She’d have no son to provide for her and would have no purpose outside of the marriage realm. She was facing a bleak future and hence took matters into her own hands.  Can anyone blame her?

In conclusion, I don’t think she had any other opportunities to marry.  I think this question is wrong in asserting that.  I think she had no friends either.  Her former friends were probably all married now with a family of their own.  And as a mother we all know once you have kids it is difficult to maintain friendships with your single friends who have no kids simply because you have nothing in common any more with them.  I think this is more likely the case.

Like I said, there weren’t a lot of other believers out there to marry at this time.  I believe she was stuck between a rock and a hard place and didn’t like either one.

It was obvious the Lord was with her.  If she was a believer, she could have been praying for a solution to her problem.  She probably acted before He answered.  But He never abandoned her and He blessed her in a way only we know (by being in Christ’s line). Amazing!

b)  Ruth, who was a Gentile as well, accepted the Lord as her God after her marriage to Ruth’s son. She would not turn back to her people who were unbelievers and who worshipped other gods.  Rahab has heard of God’s power and abilities and although it doesn’t say if she was a believer when at this time when she protected the two spies, she reveres God enough to get on his side and not the side of her people.

Tamar seems to be the same way.  She probably was converted when she was married to Er and would not turn her back on God no matter what happened to her.

16)  Judah sent Tamar back to her father to live because he thought “he may die too like his brothers” (verse 11) and then refused to give her Shelah, probably out of fear he would be stricken by the Lord as well (verse 14).    Verse 26 is where Judah mentions she is more righteous than him for her actions.

17)  Personal Question.  My answer:  First because her story takes up a whole chapter in Genesis.  And her actions were righteous and because of them we have Jesus.  Her story is an example of following the law.  If it hadn’t of been for Tamar’s actions, there would have been no Jesus.  She was responsible for conceiving, not Judah.  Hence, I believe she is mentioned in recognition of that fact.

Conclusions:  We look at some powerful women in this lesson that clung to God despite all the hardships involved.  For supposedly a “weak” lot, women play a powerful role in God’s world even when in man’s she is nothing.

Onan was more than happy to have sex with Tamar but didn’t want her to have a child that would not be considered his.  He was shirking the law and for that he is judged.

We must remember God caused Tamar to conceive.  It was His will that she carry the line even if she used deception.  Just like Rebekah and Jacob.  God is in control despite all man’s doings.

Both Tamar and Judah are shining examples of God’s grace.  Neither was worthy to be the heir of Jesus but they were both chosen by God to be so.  Despite our sins, God loves us anyways and uses us in powerful ways.

End Note:  I had never drawn the conclusion that Jacob and his family were meant to get out of Canaan for a bit in order to escape the pagans around them.  I had always assumed that they only went to Egypt for food.  Now I see God’s wisdom and purposes in a new light.

It is just absolutely amazing how God has everything planned and how we may only see one purpose (like the need for food); whereas, God has infinitely more (like getting them out of Canaan to protect them).  Good to remember in my life as well.

Map of Timnah, Bethel, and Adullum:  http://bibleatlas.org/full/timnah.htm

Adullum is beneath Timnah to the right a bit.  Bethel is in the upper-right hand corner in the brown.  So Judah left Bethel where his family had been staying, went to Adullum and got married, then went up to Timnah to shear his sheep.  The place where Tamar waited for Judah, Enaim, is right outside of Timnah on maps I found.

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 26, Day 4: Skimming Joseph’s Story in Genesis 39-41

Summary of passage:  Genesis 39 tells how Potiphar’s Wife wanted to sleep with Joseph but he refused so she told her husband he tried to take her and he ended up in prison. Genesis 40 tells that while Joseph was in prison he began interpreting others’ dreams. Genesis 41 tells how Joseph languored in prison for 2 years until he was called upon to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams.  Joseph credits God and seeing that God is with him Pharaoh puts Joseph in charge of all of Egypt–second in command beneath him.

Questions:

9a)  Jacob refused to be comforted and was disconsolate when his favorite son, his whole world, died.  He refused to rejoice that Joseph was in heaven, in a better place.  Instead, he only wanted to die.  This was from his emphasis on Joseph as his favorite son.  When Joseph died, so did Jacob.

b)  Throughout all the circumstances that happened to Joseph, he rose to become the number two guy of the most powerful nation on earth.  He not only saved God’s chosen people but he also saved Egypt and all the peoples around.  God used Joseph to ensure all prospered.  Joseph’s family was reconciled.

Just like Romans 8:28 says “In all things God works for the good of those who love him”. All things work together for my good.  Even the bad works for good.  We just have to remember to trust God and what He is doing for He has a purpose that we cannot see nor understand.  God is in control and no matter what happens to us or around us we must not worry.  For His plan will prevail.

10)  Thrown down the cistern and sold by his brothers.  Potiphar’s wife lied to have him thrown in prison.  He explained a dream to a cellmate who forgets about him.  There he sat for 2 years until he interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams.

11)  God protects Joseph from the death of his brothers (Genesis 37).  Potiphar’s wife tempts Joseph day after day but he tell her he cannot sin against God (Genesis 39:9). Potiphar puts him in jail when he could easily have killed him and while in jail Joseph is favored by God (Genesis 39:21) and put in charge of the prisoners and God “gave him success in whatever he did” (Genesis 39:23).

While in prison, Joseph meets those who will tell Pharaoh about him, the chief cupbearer.  Joseph credits his interpretations to God (Genesis 40:8; 41:16)

Conclusions:  Honestly, didn’t like this lesson.  Not much point to it.  Why not just be assigned to read the passages and then answer questions?

9b is why the story of Joseph is so powerful and why almost everyone (even non-Christians) know his story. For despite all the terrible things that happen to Joseph, he never once gives up on God and God never forgets Joseph.  I think this story particularly resonates with Americans who hold the American dream:  that no matter where you come from you can rise to succeed.  No matter how many hard knocks you take, you must always get up and keep fighting.

With one caveat:  As long as you give God the credit.

I know, even non-Christians rise and succeed but it is all God’s plan and God’s credit even if they don’t believe nor acknowledge it.

But as Christians we must.  His glory.  Never ours.  As Joseph so wondrously shows us how.

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 26, Day 3: Genesis 37:12-36

Summary of passage:  The brothers (notice Joseph is conspicuously absent) were grazing sheep near Shechem when Jacob/Israel sent Joseph to check up on them and make sure all was well.

When Joseph arrived in Shechem, the brothers had moved on to Dothan.  The brothers saw him coming and plotted to kill him.  The mocked him by calling him dreamer and planned to kill him and throw him in a cistern and tell Jacob that a ferocious animal killed him.

But Reuben tried to rescue Joseph.  He suggested not to shed blood and just to throw him into a cistern and then come back later.  Basically, just to teach Joseph a lesson was his plan.

So the brothers stripped him of his robe and threw him into an empty cistern.  The brothers then sat down to eat their meal when a caravan of Ishmaelites appeared heading to Egypt to sell spices.  Judah (interestingly the fourth born and the one whom Jesus will come from) sees dollar signs so he suggests why don’t they sell their brother to the Ishmaelites?  They will be rid of Joseph AND have money in their pockets.  ALL agreed.

So the brothers pulled Joseph out of the cistern and sold him for 20 shekels of silver (note the obvious reference to Jesus here who was betrayed for 30 pieces of silver) to the Midianites.

Reuben who apparently was not there during all of this but where he went and why is uncertain returns to find Joseph gone.  He tears his clothes (obviously upset) and questions his brothers.

They took Joseph’s coat and spread goat’s blood all over it.  They presented this to Jacob/Israel who concluded a ferocious animal did tear Joseph to pieces.

Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned his son for days.  All tried to comfort him but he refused them.  Jacob wept.

The Midianites sold Jacob in Egypt to Potiphar, the captain of the Pharaoh’s guards.

Questions:

5)  Joseph went to the Valley of Hebron as instructed but not finding his brothers, he inquires of them and is told they went to Dothan.  So Joseph follows them to Dothan.  He is rewarded by being thrown in a cistern and sold as a slave.

6a)  Reuben and Judah

b)  Genesis 42 says that Joseph pleaded for his life.  I imagine he screamed at the top of his lungs.  He probably tried to reason with them, saying he wouldn’t boast any more.  He probably even tried bribes like giving them his precious coat or something.  I’m sure he asked why they were doing this to him.  I’m sure he shed some tears.

c)  This question to me seems to be justifying what happened to Joseph by drawing the parallel.  There is no justification for throwing someone in a pit, plotting their murder, and selling them into slavery.  Joseph did not deserve what happened to him no matter what sins he had committed (which weren’t that bad compared to murder and the like).

Joseph’s crime was boasting.  We suffer the same when pride rules instead of humbleness.  We are often blinded to people and things around us and our lives become self-centered instead of God-centered.

However, I submit that you can’t fault a 17 year-old kid for being prideful and full of hubris.  Especially if you compare to today’s society where 30 somethings never grow up and are the same way.  If anyone is to blame, it’s Jacob and Rachel who spoiled him rotten and created the discord between the brothers.  Joseph did not deserve to suffer.

d)  They were both stripped of their clothing according to the passages and they were watched over and guarded.

7a)  20 sheckels.  30 silver coins.

b)  He had been the favored, the special one, the coddled one, the one chosen to receive the birthright.  And now he’s a slave.  It must have been a huge adjustment.  Imagine your freedom and world gone completely and now you must do hard labor and answer to others.

c)  The same.  When bad things happen, we think God doesn’t care, that He’s turned His back on us and is allowing our suffering.  We often don’t equate it to future good for it is hard in the moment to do so.  We ask “Why is God allowing this to happen in our lives?”  We pray and wait.  That’s all we can do.

8a)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I would say both.  There are other ways God could have chosen for Joseph to rise to be the number two guy in Egypt and save the lives of many people–many ways that did not involve suffering.  But Joseph did have to learn some hard lessons about living for others, being grateful, and turning to God always.

I think of Naomi and Ruth who lost everything but still believed in God.  They both had to do back-breaking labor in order to survive but in the end Ruth married Boaz and he provided for them both.  They had to have God at their center before good things happened.

Jacob had to work hard before he was able to return to the Promised Land.  He had to be taught hard lessons the hard way.  Moses killed a man and had to live in Midian for 40 years as a shepherd before God called him.  Job lost everything in a test of faith by God.

The Bible is full of examples where God inflicts us with hardships in order to grow us and our faith–not only for us but for those around us and in Joseph’s case for an entire nation.

b)  Joseph’s dreams were an encouragement for they told Joseph his family and Israel would bow to him.

Conclusions:  What was Reuben doing while the brothers dispatched Joseph?  Most likely he was trying to get them to move on so he could return unknowingly to free Joseph since no one else liked his plan.

Can you imagine the brothers sitting callously by, calmly eating their meal, while Joseph is screaming at the top of his lungs, pleading with them not to harm him and to let him go free?  This just shows the depth of the brothers’ hatred for their little brother, the effect Jacob’s favoritism had on them, and how deep the devil had twisted their hearts.

Also, their is no sign of remorse on the brothers part upon presenting their father with Joseph’s coat.  They are aloof, indifferent, and callous to the core.

How plausible is the excuse to Jacob that wild animals killed him?  What wild animals lived in Canaan during this time that could cause such a bloody death?  Lions, bears, crocodiles, and cheetahs used to roam ancient Israel.  So this is very plausible.

[Side Note:  When we think of lions, we think of the African lions that roar on the plains in Africa.  Few people know that there is actually another lion species, the Asiatic Lion, that used to roam Asia as well.  However, due to the Romans import of wild animals for the Gladiatorial fights, this species was decimated.  Due to man’s penchant for cheap thrills, most of the rest were eradicated with the advent of firearms.  There is now only a tiny population in a pocket in India and some in zoos.  Sad, sad, sad.  Man is capable of such good but he is also capable of such harm.]

[Side Note to the Side Note:  Many people don’t think of gladiatorial fights with wild animals.  But the Romans imported thousands and thousands of wild animals that included lions, elephants, tigers, cheetahs, etc to fight with the gladiators over hundreds of years.  The Romans virtually eliminated some species from the face of the planet. They inflicted so much damage (such as the Asiatic Lion) that these species still have not recovered.  And the people of Rome (not just the leaders) stood by and watched this slaughter week after week and even called for more.  Fascinating study if you ever get the chance.  But incredibly sad at how God commissioned us to care for the animals and instead we kill them off for no other reason than to watch them fall.  Probably some twisted heart within us that says ‘Better them than me.’]

It is tempting to think Jacob kept Joseph back from tending the flock because he wanted to protect him.  But by Jacob sending Joseph out into the desert by himself to check up on his brothers, this idea is proven wrong.  Joseph faced robbers, other men who would do him harm, as well as animals and the elements.  This shows to me that Joseph stayed behind because he wasn’t required to work like his brothers were–another example of favoritism shown.

End Notes:  In Leviticus 27:5, God sets the price of those dedicated to the Lord based on ages and those between the age of 5 and 20 (the age of Joseph) is 20 shekels of silver–the same Joseph is sold for.

Reuben is not the good guy here despite his show of tearing his clothes.  It would only have taken one brother to stand up and say, “This is wrong!” and it wouldn’t have happened.  Reuben complicitly and cowardly agrees in his actions when he left the scene. It usually only takes one person with the courage to stand up for what’s right and man’s inherent morals kick in.  But if no one does, then crowd mentality kicks in and chaos ensues (see this commentary on crowd mentality and Jesus HERE).

God fingerprints are everywhere here.  For example, the cistern was empty.  Normally, it would have been full of water but it wasn’t so Joseph would have been drowned.  That was God.

Hard to believe the Messiah came from Judah when we read Judah’s actions here. However, we are about to see how selling Joseph to the Midianites begins a series of events and circumstances that leads to the most powerful man in the world at that time–the Pharaoh of Egypt.  And only God can weave a web that intricate and create something that impossible.

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 26, Day 2: Genesis 37:1-11

YEAH, JOSEPH!!!!!!!!  MY FAVORITE!!!!!!!!

Summary of passage:  Joseph at age 17 attended the flocks with his brothers and wives. It seemed he tattled on them quite frequently.  Joseph as Rachel’s first-born son was Jacob’s favorite and everyone knew it.  Jacob gave him a richly ornamented robe.  The brothers hated him for his father’s favoritism.

Joseph made the mistake of telling his brothers the dream he had of how they were all sheaves of grain and they bowed down to him (which as we know comes true in Genesis 42:6).  This only enraged his brothers more against him.

Not learning his lesson, Joseph tells his brothers another dream he has where the sun, moon, and 11 stars were bowing down to him (Genesis 40:41, 43).  This is NOT endearing him at all.

Joseph told his father this dream as well and Jacob rebuked the arrogant Joseph out of disbelief but Jacob it seems wondered about it.

Questions:

3a)  As God walked with Abraham and decided to reveal his intentions for Sodom to Abraham (Genesis 18:17-21), we learn  God revealed to him because he was the chosen one.  So too was Joseph.  He was chosen to save his people from a famine and to accomplish this he gave Joseph the gift of dream interpretation for the Pharaoh.  He was preparing Joseph to trust his dreams and to interpret them in order to fulfill God’s purpose on earth and for His people.

A simple answer is because God wanted to.  He chose Joseph and this was the method He would communicate with him.

b)  No.  Very bad idea.  It only incited their hatred against him.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Sometimes it’s best to keep things to yourself.  We must remember though Joseph is only 17 here.  He is spoiled, naive, and probably a bit arrogant (hubris of the youth).  He truly doesn’t know any better.  I think he was just retelling his dream and wondering out loud what it meant.  It was his audience he should have chosen better.

It’s the old adage “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.”  We must be considerate of others’ feelings when speaking due to the power of our tongue.  Here, it’s all about Joseph.

The Matthew verse says to not give what is sacred or valued to those who will just crush it and use it against you.  This is what Joseph did and it was definitely used against him.

4)  For a reason not in Joseph’s control:  They hated him because he was the favorite of their father, Jacob, so he was showered with gifts, treated special, and could do no wrong in Jacob’s eyes.  Jacob was probably lax on the rules with Joseph and probably let Joseph do less work than the others.  Their hatred should have been towards their father (the brothers were wrong to hate at all.  That is the devil at work.  What I’m saying is since they had hatred in their hearts it should have been towards their father, not Joseph.  It wasn’t his fault his mother was Rachel and Jacob treated him as such).

Conclusions:  Another example of how playing favorites in a family can lead to hurt feelings, pent up frustrations, and ultimately to horrible acts against family members.  It seems to be a dysfunctional cycle that is being passed down through the generations in this family.

Interesting to note what an age-old problem this is.  We, as humans, still do this today and often with the same disastrous results.  It is another sin, another human condition, we must consciously fight against in this world.

Joseph’s fabled coat-of-many-colors signifies that he is to receive the birthright.  Can you imagine how Reuben, the firstborn who is supposed to receive the birthright, felt? Ironically, it is Reuben who saves Joseph from death (Genesis 37:21-22).  And God’s plan is now set in motion.

Note the sheaves of wheat in the first dream of Joseph.  His brothers will bow down to him, asking for wheat.  Nothing is insignificant when done by God.

Telling his family his dreams was definitely in a lack of taste and in poor judgement.  I believe these dreams were meant only for Joseph so he would know his fate.  Instead, he blabbed in human pride and arrogance.  But like I said, he is young.  He will learn.

End Notes:  This section of Genesis is not in chronological order.  Notice how Jacob says “your mother and I” in verse 10.  This shows that Rachel was still alive when this happened even though we just read about her death in Genesis 35.

Scholars believe Genesis 37:2 is a breaking point, showing Jacob’s writing or preservations ending and Joseph’s beginning in 37:3.

The sun, the moon, and the 11 stars represents the family of Israel and is also found in Revelation 12:1.  This passage points to Jesus and his lineage from the tribes of Israel.

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 25, Day 5: Genesis 35:5-36:43

Summary of passage:  No one pursued Jacob and his family when they left Shechem for God sent a terror upon them.  Jacob built an altar at Bethel as instructed by God. Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died.  God appeared to Jacob again and re-named him Israel.

God repeats his covenant to Abraham and Isaac to Jacob, saying to be fruitful and multiply for a nation will come from your body and He will give this land to his descendants.  God left and Jacob set up a stone pillar.

Rachel died after they left Bethel giving birth to Benjamin.  She was buried along the route.  Israel moved on and stayed for a bit near Migdal Eder.  Here, Reuben slept with Bilhah.

Jacob’s 12 sons are:  Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher.

Jacob finally arrived home in Hebron to see Isaac who was still alive.  Isaac died at age 180 and was buried by Jacob and Esau.

Esau moved to a land some distance from Jacob because the land could not support both of their livestocks.  Esau settled in Seir.

Questions:

11a)  Psalm 51:7:  “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”  “Creat in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Isaiah 1:16:  “Wash and make yourselves clean.  Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong.”

Hebrews 9:13-14:  The blood of animals offer up spiritual cleanliness.  The blood of Christ cleanses our consciences from acts that lead to death so that we may serve God.

1 John 1:7,9:  You are cleansed from your past sins to have godliness, kindness, and love.

b)  Matthew 3:8:  “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”

Acts 2:38:  Repent, be baptized in the name of Christ for forgiveness of your sins, and receive the Holy Spirit.

James 4:  Come near to God and He will come near to you.  Wash your hands and purify your hearts.  Grieve and humble yourselves and He will lift you up.

c)  1 Corinthians 10:20:  The sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not God.  If you sacrifice to pagans, you cannot partake of the Lord’s table as well (verse 21).

Ephesians 5:5:  Idolaters (immoral, impure, or greedy) do not have an inheritance in the kingdom of God.

1 Thessalonians 1:9:  Turn from idols and serve the Living, True God.

d)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Language, anger

12a)  God sent a terror upon the towns to protect Jacob and his family from retribution after the slaughter of Shechem as they traveled to Bethel.  God re-named Jacob Israel again (Genesis 32).  God bestows the covenant of Abraham and Isaac on Jacob as well, saying to be fruitful and multiply for nations will come from his body and his descendants shall inherit the land.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Not for sure.  I’d like to say I’ve changed but I can’t be for certain.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I’m getting that God spoke to people (and obviously, Jesus) in these verses.  Not sure what I’m supposed to be “blessed” with here.  If you obey, God will love you and come to you and make a home with you as Jesus says in John. God spoke to those who obeyed him.  So, He will speak to us who obey.  He will love us and be with us as in the Holy Spirit.

So obey, listen, and hear.

d)  Esau was blessed with livestock and goods.  He was granted the land of Seir of which he and his descendants ruled.

Conclusions:  You didn’t need the passage to answer Question 11.

God re-naming Jacob Israel again is important despite the fact God had already done so. The first go-around, Jacob had not changed, had not put off his old clothing, and had continued to follow his will instead of God’s.  Here, God reminds Jacob that he must be new and this time Jacob obeys, thus earning the name Israel in God’s eyes.

This is good for us as well.  We need to remember who we are-God’s chosen people-regularly so we don’t slip back into this world.

The same is true for the repetition of the covenant blessing.  God is reminding Jacob who he is and what he has been called to do.  Finally, Jacob listens.  He follows God’s will. And he is blessed for it.

Benjamin means “son of my right hand”.  The right hand or side is highly valued in the Bible.  After all, Jesus sits at the right hand of God.

Poor Rachel.  Both prophecies come true.  Genesis 30:1 “Give me children, or I’ll die!” She dies in childbirth.

Jacob cursed her for the idol debacle in Genesis 31:32.

This passage reveals why Reuben was passed over for the blessing: because of his sin with Bilhah.  So now Reuben, Simeon, and Levi have all committed egregious sins so Judah is next in line for the Messiah.  Interesting as well.

We should not be surprised of this.  This family is the epitome of dysfunctional.  Yet God works through it all.  By His grace alone.

Esau was important enough in God’s eyes to have all of his descendants listed in the Bible.  He was loved despite his sins and blessed beyond what was deserved.  God is faithful even when we aren’t!  Can you imagine the blessings He has in store for those who are faithful?

Interesting facts about Edom:  Edom is mentioned over 130 times in the Bible.

Herod the Great was an Edomite.  He was the one who tried to kill Jesus.

To this day, the land that was Edom remains unoccupied as Obadiah prophesied.

Genesis 36:33 is where some speculate Jobab is the same Job as in the Bible (remember we had a question on this at some point?).  This is speculation.  Among all the list of descendants, most were ungodly.  We must ask ourselves:  would someone as godly as Job come from the line of Esau?

End Note:  One commentary I read suggested comfort as an idol.  That some value living a comfortable life over living a Godly-life.  This was interesting I thought.  For if you think about it, life is never really comfortable.  There are ups and downs, highs and lows, tragedies and triumphs.  And only God can get us through it all.

Map Work:  Good map of Bethel, Bethlehem, and Hebron HERE.

Migdal Eder is just outside of Bethlehem.

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 25, Day 4: Genesis 35:1-5

Summary of passage:  God told Jacob to settle in Bethel and build Him an altar there. So Jacob and his household prepared to move, ridding themselves of their idols, purifying themselves, and changing their clothes.  Jacob buried the foreign gods and their rings under an oak at Shechem.  God protected them as they went so they would not suffer repercussions from the slaughter of Shechem.

Questions:

9a)  Go to Bethel and build Him an altar

b)  Jacob vowed that the Lord would be his God and he would give a tenth if he returned safely to his father’s house.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  To go where God wants me and follow His lead in my life and worship him by following his commands, which include tithing, praying, obeying, reading His word, praying, and much more.

10a)  “To get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes.”

b)  2 Corinthians says to purify yourself from everything that contaminates body and spirit in order to perfect holiness.  Ephesians tells us to put on our new self in the attitude of the mind in order to be righteous and holy.  1 John tells us to confess our sins and walk in the light and the blood of Jesus shall purify us from the unrighteousness. And to keep ourselves from idols.

c)  Acts recounts how people renounced sorcery by burning their scrolls.  An idol is anything we value and/or worship more than God.  This can be our kids, our spouse, any material items such as our house, car, or job.  And an image of an idol like in ancient times such as a Buddha statue or what-have-you.  (Anyone reminded of the study of Isaiah here?)

Conclusions:  Anyone else see a problem with the fact Jacob’s family had idols lurking around and it was only when God told them to leave did they see the need to dispose of them?  I’m sure as soon as they reach Bethel more idols will appear.

The WORST part:  Jacob, as supposedly the head of God’s chosen people, seemingly knew about these idols and condoned them!  It seems he only got rid of them because God spoke to him again.  Maybe he felt guilty.  Or maybe they were too heavy to carry across country!

Jacob is chastizing his family mildly.  It’s almost an after-thought.  “Oh, yeah, by the way, you need to get rid of those idols you’ve had for 10 years now.”  Seriously???

There is definitely some failed leadership going on here.  This explains a lot about today’s society where the man does not take the primary role in the family and our children are failing because of it.

It’s safe to assume Rachel still had her idols here so she is setting the example that it’s okay to possess these idols.  God doesn’t care.  Wrong!

The changing of their clothes was symbolic here.  Just like circumcision was an outward sign of being God’s chosen people the changing of the clothes here in OT times is an outward sign that they are changing their minds, their attitude, their character, and their ways and turning to God.  It’s like the Ephesians passage we read.  They are taking off (literally) their old selves and putting on their new and turning to God for their salvation.

The earrings also must have had some kind of pagan association since they got rid of those as well.  We must also get rid of anything ungodly and separate ourselves from the world like Jacob did when he moved to Bethel away from the corruption of Shechem.

Good opportunity to learn from Jacob’s failing miserably as the head of his household and God’s and re-examine our own lives and see where we are failing in God’s call, where we are worshipping idols, where we are failing to set the example for others around us, how we can place ourselves away from worldly influences as much as possible, and how we can put God and His will back at the center of our lives.  That’s my prayer anyways.

Map of Bethel:  Quick reference point.  Bethel is in red and Shechem is right above it.

http://www.keyway.ca/htm2002/bethel.htm