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.