Genesis 1: In the Beginning
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1 begins…at the beginning, with God as the Creator. In six days God creates and shapes out of the void and darkness something beautiful in which He placed various creatures. The apex of His creative work was making mankind, male and female, in His image. From the beginning, then, we see that mankind was made to glorify God. As Creator, He has the inherent right to give us purpose and expect us to honor Him. In this chapter lies the beginning of our understanding about who God is and who we are as His creatures. Our first and most significant function is to live according to His image.
Genesis 2: In the Garden
Adam and Eve are placed in the Garden of Eden, a special place prepared in which God would dwell with them. In His initial creation, God had pronounced everything good. Yet when He came to man (male) being alone, He said that it was not good. He then made, from the man, a woman (Eve) to be a suitable helper and mate to Adam. Marriage is established with God blessing their union and desiring for them to “be fruitful and multiply.” The beginning of Scripture, then, shows us the foundation and beginning of marriage and family. This is always to be honored.
Genesis 3: Knowing Good and Evil
All seemed well for Adam and Eve in the garden. However, another creature called the serpent, who was crafty and undermining, came to tempt them. Eve, in particular, was deceived by the promises of the serpent, who slandered God and told them they would not really die if they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They took the forbidden fruit, and soon came the curses upon the serpent, the woman, and the man. Death would indeed come to them. Yet in these curses was a ray of hope. God promised that there would be a “seed” of the woman who would one day crush the head of the serpent. Thus God initiated a plan to redeem mankind from their lost state. This theme permeates the whole of Scripture. In the meantime, we today need to watch and be wary of the schemes of the devil, who walks about like a roaring lion seeking to devour.
Genesis 4: Sin lies Crouching
The problem of sin escalates quickly. Adam and Eve have been expelled from the garden, but they are having children. Two sons, Cain and Abel, are born to them. In time both Cain and Abel bring an offering to God. Abel’s was accepted; Cain’s was not. While we do not have specific information about what God required from each of them, Scripture informs us that Abel offered his sacrifice by faith. Cain did not do what God asked. Becoming jealous, Cain killed Abel. He had been warned not to let sin take over, but he failed to listen. The lesson is the same for each of us: sin lies crouching at the door, but we must learn to master it.
Genesis 5: And he died
The consequences for sin had been stated by God. Death would occur, and Genesis 5, while giving genealogies, highlights this fact. “And he died” is the repeated phrase throughout, which keeps these consequences front and center in our reading. The text brings us to Noah and his sons, who become a means by which God would bring about renewal. God always provides the hope!
Genesis 6: Noah found Grace
Evil and sin have exponentially grown in the world and God determined that it was time to bring judgment, as is always His right. However, Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, and God told him about his plans and told him to build an ark that would fit his family along with the various kinds of animals. God specified exactly what He wanted from Noah, and Noah “did all that God commanded him.” Noah here is a great example of faith, as Hebrews 11:7 points out. Are we ready to obey God by faith even when we know that difficulties lie ahead?
Genesis 7: The Flood
Noah had finished building the ark, and he was told to go inside with his family. God led the various animals to the ark as well, and then God shut the door. God then sent the rain and the floodwaters began to rise. The text says, “all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.” This continued for forty days (remember that forty becomes an important number in Scripture). The waters prevailed and covered the earth and mountains, destroying all those who had been disobedient and those creatures that were not on the ark. The waters prevailed for 150 days. Here we learn the lesson that God, the Creator, is also the Judge. He has every right to bring judgment down upon sin. Yet God also provided grace for Noah. Noah obeyed God, and this led to his and his family’s salvation. Peter will later use this event to show the antitype of baptism (1 Pet 3:20-21).
Genesis 8: Coming out of the Ark
The waters of the flood finally subsided and the ark came to rest on Mt. Ararat. After forty days Noah opened the window and sent out a raven, then a dove. The dove returned with a freshly plucked olive leaf. Then after seven days the dove was sent out again and it did not return. The ground was drying up, and God finally told Noah to come out of the ark. Noah then built an altar to the Lord and offered a burnt offering of the clean animals. The Lord made a promise that He would never again destroy the earth by a flood. “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” Because Noah listened to the Lord, he and his family were blessed. We, too, can come through judgment if we will hear the Lord and obey.
Genesis 9: Be Fruitful
Noah and his family were told, ““Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” This is a renewal of creation and another beginning for mankind. They were then told that they could eat meat, though they were not to eat blood, for life is in the blood. God again established His covenant, promising not to destroy the earth by flood, and giving the sign of the rainbow. Sadly, this chapter ends with Noah committing the sin of drunkenness, and then Ham committing sin as well. This led to additional curses for Ham and his descendants (Canaan) who would end up serving others. Shem and Japheth received blessings. The lesson? Sin never aids in being blessed. Stay true to the Lord and what is right.
Genesis 10: Table of Nations
Genesis 10 is often referred to as the “Table of Nations.” These are the basic genealogies of nations that ended up dispersing after the events at the tower of Babel. Think of Genesis 10-11 as first a broad overview (ch 10), then narrowing down into the events that caused the divisions. This also shows, after the flood, how the people were multiplying and growing into separate peoples. The significance of this becomes clearer as God calls out a special nation through which He would ultimately unite the nations through Jesus Christ.
Genesis 11: Babel
The incident known as the Tower of Babel is part of what’s happening in Genesis 10. The nations are divided and become their own peoples. Babel (or Babylon) is about confusion. The people are essentially wanting to unite under the notion of making a name for themselves and being able to do whatever they want. Nothing could stop them if they put their mind to it. The “tower” is most likely what we know as a ziggurat, a structure that stepped or sloped upward toward the heavens. Perhaps they thought, by this, that they could have special access to God or the gods and thereby manipulate God to do what they wanted. God has never bowed to such ideas. Instead, God “came down” and confused their languages, forcing them to separate. Only in Christ would the divisions of languages be able to come back and reunite (as in Acts 2).
Genesis 12: Abram and Promise
The Lord called Abram to leave his home in Ur and travel ultimately to the land of Canaan, the land that would one day belong to his descendants. God promises that Abram’s descendants would become a great and that his name would be great. His offspring would inherit the land, and “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” This promise was fulfilled in Jesus Christ (see Acts 3:24-26). Abram went as the Lord told him to. He also went into Egypt because of a famine and trouble arose (there appears to be no order for him to have done that). Pharaoh tried to take Sarai as his wife after Abram just called her his sister, and was a problem. It was resolved, however, and Abram returned to the land. The chapter is a turning point for seeing how God would answer the problem of sin, and even now those who follow God can become one of the promised offspring who would be blessed through forgiveness.
Genesis 13: Thanks a Lot
Lot, Abram’s nephew, had come with Abram to the land. To avoid strife between their herdsmen, Abram gave Lot the choice of where to go. Lot chose a beautiful, well-watered area, a place that would create many problems for Lot and his family (Sodom). God then reaffirmed His promise to Abram that the land would belong to his offspring and they would be a great nation. Abram worshipped the Lord. While he was generous in his offer to Lot, one lesson to learn is that choices affect many people and God’s people need to be careful about their surroundings.
Genesis 14: Melchizedek
Several kings from the north gathered their armies and attacked areas of the south. This included where Lot and his family lived. They were taken by these enemies as captives. When Abram found out he gathered his own army of 318 men and pursued the enemies to the north. Abram defeated the enemies and brought back the possession along with Lot and his family. As he returned, he came through Salem (later, Jerusalem) and was met by a man named Melchizedek, a king and priest. He blessed Abram, who gave him a tenth of everything. Little is known about Melchizedek, but he is later used as a type for Jesus Christ, our Priest and King (Hebrews 5-7). Jesus was a Priest “after the order of Melchizedek,” an order prior to the levitical priesthood in the Law. Our great High Priest and King blesses us through the sacrifice of Himself, and through His living to make intercession for us.
Genesis 15: How Shall I know?
God appeared to Abram and reiterated His promise about the offspring. Because of his age, Abram was uncertain about how that would happen, but God assured him that it would be his own son. Abram asked how he would know, and God told him to bring particular animals to be cut in half. As Abram slept, God reaffirmed the promises, then “a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces” of the animals. This signified God passing between, a sign of how serious the covenant was that God was making with Abram (as was a custom of the day). When God makes a promise, it is as good as done (see Hebrews 6:13-20).
Genesis 16: God Hears
Because Sarai, Abram’s wife, had no children, she suggested to Abram that he take Hagar, an Egyptian servant, to be a wife and have children. Abram did, and Hagar conceived a son. Sadly, this made Sarai angry and she dealt harshly with Hagar, who then fled to the wilderness. The angel of the Lord came to Hagar, told her to return, then reassured her that her offspring would be multiplied. The Lord had listened to her affliction and would bless her. The son’s name was Ishmael, which means, “God hears.” However, Ishmael was not to be the son of the promise. Another fourteen years would pass before that son would be born. As time passes, the descendants of Ishmael would become a problem for the promised son, Isaac. How easy it is to act too quickly and presume upon God’s intentions! In this case, it created multiple problems for Abram, Sarai, and their offspring.
Genesis 17: Father of a Multitude
Abram was now 99 years old, and God came to him again to reaffirm the promise. God would make him the father of many nations, and consequently he renamed Abram (“exalted father”) to Abraham (“father of a multitude”). God told Abraham to keep the covenant, and as a sign of this Abraham was told to be circumcised along with all the males of his household. God then promised that he would indeed have a son. Sarai’s name (“princess”) was changed to Sarah (“noblewoman”). God reassured Abraham that it would be Sarah who would have this child of promise. This was a time for Abraham to demonstrate great faith in what God was promising. He did, and that faith is a grand example of to all believers since.
Genesis 18: Judge of All
The Lord appeared to Abraham via “three men” who reaffirmed the promise that Abraham would have a son through Sarah (though Sarah had a difficult time believing it, apparently). Then the Lord revealed to Abraham the coming judgment on Sodom, where Lot lived. Abraham then pleaded with the Lord about this, asking finally whether the Lord would spare Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of ten righteous people. God said He would, but they just weren’t there. The sin was too great and it was time for judgment. Abraham’s question is an important one: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” We know God will always do what is just, even if we do not fully understand. Faith requires our trust that He always knows the right time for judgment.
Genesis 19: Get Out!
The two men, revealed to be angels (one appears to have stayed behind), came to Sodom in order to warn Lot and his family of the impending judgment. Lot showed them hospitality, but before long the men of the city, vile and wicked, tried to take advantage of them. The tenseness of the situation was diminished when the angels struck the men with blindness. Yet this was a clear demonstration of how evil the people had become. The family was warned, and the next morning were told to get out of town. They escaped as “Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire…” Yet the situation for Lot was still dim. Because his wife looked back when told not to do so, she became a pillar of salt. Then Lot became drunk (like Noah) and his daughters committed sin with him, resulting in what would later become enemies of Israel: Moab and Ammon. The consequences of sin are far-reaching and more destructive than we often imagine.
Genesis 20: Come on, Abraham!
Abraham travelled south a bit into the Negev, to a place called Gerar. The king of Gerar sent to take Sarah, for, again, Abraham called her his sister instead of his wife. However, God quickly put a stop to the situation, warning the king about it. Abimelech (perhaps a king’s title) rebuked Abraham for allowing this to go so far and not telling the truth about Sarah. Sacrifices were made, and the situation was resolved. Yet the chapter stands as a testimony to what can happen when partial truth is told.
Genesis 21: Another Great Nation
Finally, the time came and Isaac, the son of the promise, was born. They rejoiced for this, but the birth of Isaac also highlighted the rivalry with Hagar and her son with Abraham, Ishmael. Sarah wanted Hagar and Ishmael to leave, and they did just that. Even so, God still promised descendants through Ishmael because he was Abraham’s son. Hagar left and soon struggled. However, God took care of her and the young boy as they lived in the wilderness. The rest of the chapter shows Abraham making a treaty with Abimelech over a well at a place that came to be called Beersheba (“well of the seven-fold oath”). These chapters well illustrate the nature and importance of promises and covenants.
Genesis 22: God Will Provide!
Abraham had to face a test. He was told to take Isaac, the son of the promise, and sacrifice him. Abraham had the full intention of the obeying the command. Now God did not really want a human sacrifice, but the test was to see whether Abraham would trust God. He did. In fact, Abraham told Isaac, when Isaac asked where the sacrifice was, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” According to the Hebrews writer, Abraham even believed if he did sacrifice Isaac, then God must have in mind raising him from the dead (11:17-19). God stopped Abraham and did provide a ram for a sacrifice. God will take care of those who trust Him. God reassured the promises to Abraham. This event does indeed point us to Jesus, who became God’s ultimate sacrifice to provide forgiveness for those who trust Him.
Genesis 23: The Cave
Sarah had lived a long life. She died at Hebron and Abraham mourned. Abraham then went to some Hittites who owned the land and offered to purchase a part of it for Sarah’s burial place. These Hittites gladly let Abraham bury her, though Abraham insisted that he be able to purchase the property. The deal was finally made and Abraham then owned a part of the land that included the cave of Machpelah just east of Hebron. This purchase was significant, for it would symbolize ownership in the Promised Land among the nations. Through Abraham, God’s people were already beginning to possess the promise.
Genesis 24: Get Thee a Wife!
Abraham was concerned that Isaac marry the right woman. He did not want him to marry a woman from the Canaanites, so a servant was sent back to Abraham’s family to find a wife for Isaac. The servant went with many gifts and eventually stopped at a well outside the city. Here he prayed for God’s help in finding the woman, and even as he prayed the woman, Rebekah, was coming out to the well. She fulfilled the prayer request perfectly, and the man told her and her family the story of what all had happened to bring him to that point. Laban, Rebekah’s brother, agreed that these events were from the Lord. Rebekah agreed to go with him back to Isaac. Isaac and Rebekah were married, and he loved her.
Genesis 25: I’m Hungry, Here’s My Birthright.
After Sarah’s death, Abraham married again and actually had more children. However, the blessing and inheritance belonged to Isaac. Abraham had lived a full life, faithful to the Lord, and he died at a very old age. His body was taken back to the place Abraham had purchased so that he would be buried with Sarah. The story grows at this point as Isaac and Rebekah have twin sons, Jacob and Esau. As they were in Rebekah’s womb, a prophecy was made that they stood for two nations, and that the older would serve the younger. Esau was older. He was skilled at hunting, but his lack of wisdom is quickly seen in the text. Because he was hungry, he was willing to sell his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew. Jacob’s art of manipulation comes into play here as well. These events would take both of them down paths with many consequences.
Genesis 26: Not My Sister?
The promise from God, first given to Abraham, was now reiterated to Isaac. Isaac went further south back to Gerar, and committed the same folly as Abraham in calling his wife his sister. Abimelech found out pretty quickly that Rebekah was Isaac’s wife, and he promptly rebuked Isaac for his attempt to deceive. Isaac, however, stayed in that area for a time and the Lord blessed him well so that he prospered. Abimelech asked him to leave because Isaac was much greater than he was, so Isaac went a little ways out and dug more wells, even though the herdsman were quarreling over them. Abimelech sought to make a covenant with Isaac because he saw how God was with him. The place where this happened was then called Beersheba.
Genesis 27: A Hairy Deception
As Isaac aged, he lost his eyesight. Isaac decided it was time to present his blessing, so he called on Esau, the hunter, to go hunt and cook some game for him. Rebekah, who favored Jacob, heard this and convinced Jacob to help her deceive Isaac. They cooked some food and Jacob, pretending to be Esau, brought it to his father. Isaac questioned at first, but then was convinced it was Esau. He then bestowed the blessing on Jacob. At about that time Esau came back, and both Isaac and Esau realized what had happened. Esau hated Jacob for this, and Rebekah told Jacob to flee back to her home and find Laban, her brother. Jacob would go into a form of exile, and his life would change.
Genesis 28: The Ladder
Jacob was sent away with instructions from Isaac not to marry a Canaanite wife like Esau did. Isaac blessed him and sent him away to the family of Rebekah while Esau reacted with anger. Jacob left and came to a place where he set up a stone for a pillow and slept. He dreamed of ladder reaching up into heaven with angels ascending and descending upon it. The Lord stood above and then gave Jacob the same promises He gave to Abraham and Isaac. When Jacob awoke, he set up a pillar, poured oil on it, and called the place Bethel (house of God). Jacob made a vow that the Lord would be his God. It would be some time, however, before coming back to this place and remembering what had happened. The story moves forward as the promises of God are, once again, put into the spotlight.
Genesis 29: Behold it Was… Who?
Jacob finally came to the home territory of his mother, to the house of Laban. Here he met Rachel, who told her father Laban about Jacob. Jacob would go to work for Laban, and initially asked that he be able to marry Rachel. He served seven years for her, but when it was time to marry, Laban deceived Jacob and gave him Leah, Rachel’s older sister, instead. To have Rachel, he worked another week, then another seven years. Leah was the first to bear children, as the Lord saw she was not favored. She bore Jacob his first four sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. One of the important elements of these accounts is to notice how often deception plays a role in their lives. Yet even through all the deceit, God was working the situations to bring about His desired goal.
Genesis 30: Envious Much?
Because Rachel had not yet had children, she envied her sister Leah. She had Jacob take her maidservant, Bilhah, as a wife to bear children for her. He did, and Bilhah bore Dan and Naphtali. Leah saw this and she offered her maidservant, Zilpah, for the same purpose, who then bore Asher. Subsequently, Leah bore Issachar, Zebulun, and Dinah. Finally, Rachel bore a son, named Joseph. At that point Jacob wanted to leave Laban. Jacob stayed a bit longer, but was able to work the situation to his advantage, taking all the spotted and speckled sheep for himself. Jacob’s flocks grew, and he became wealthy in his own right. God was looking out for him, and Laban could no longer take advantage of him.
Genesis 31: Where Did You Go?
The situation between Jacob and Laban was getting tense, and God told Jacob to return to the land and that He would be with him. Jacob gathered his family and flocks, recounted his story to them, and indicated it was time to go. Jacob did not tell Laban they were going. Rachel had taken some household idols and hidden them, and when Laban finally figured out what was happening, he went after them and rebuked Jacob for leaving that way. Laban searched for his idols and couldn’t find them, as Rachel even sat on the saddle in which they were hidden. They finally came to terms and set up a pillar as a memorial between them. Jacob was on his way home with his new family. It has been several years now since he had left. Even so, God still had affirmed that He would be with Jacob. Now the question is how will Jacob serve the Lord?
Genesis 32: The Wrestler
God had messengers (angels) accompany Jacob. Jacob’s fear now, as he came near the land again, was how Esau would respond to him. The last he knew, Esau wanted to kill him. The messengers told Jacob that Esau was coming to meet him, and this scared Jacob. He split up his camp, sent people ahead, and prayed to God for help. Jacob sent many gifts ahead to Esau, hoping that would appease him. That night, Jacob was alone, and a One appeared, and they wrestled until daybreak. “The man” touched Jacob’s hip and dislocated it, giving him a permanent limp. At this point, “the man” blessed him and changed His name to Israel. This “man” was a manifestation of God, who allowed Jacob to prevail for a time, but showed Jacob how much He really needed God’s help. This was a life-changing night for Jacob.
Genesis 33: Hey, Brother, Long Time No See
Jacob continued on his way to meet Esau. To his surprise, when they saw each other, Esau ran to greet him. They embraced, wept, and Jacob introduced his family to his brother. After their brief reunion, they went their own ways. Jacob continued to a place that would be called Succoth (booths), where he built a house and made booths for his animals. Later he continued into the land and came to Shechem, right in the heart of Palestine. He was able to purchase some land and erect an altar for the Lord. He was back. Now the question is, how will God continue to fulfill His promises through Jacob and his sons?
Genesis 34: Don’t Mess with Our Sister!
Jacob’s daughter through Leah, Dinah, was taken by Shechem (son of Hamor, a Hivite in the area) and raped her. He then was infatuated with her and desire for her to be his wife. Jacob heard of this, and Shechem’s father came to talk to Jacob about it. Then Jacob’s son, the brothers, heard about it and they were furious. Hamor tried to bargain with Jacob’s family to be able to intermarry and dwell together there. Because Dinah had been defiled, the brothers deceitfully plotted. They said they would allow this if the men of the city associated with Shechem would become circumcised. They agreed, and when the men were recovering, in pain, Simeon and Levi went into the city and killed every male. They took Dinah back and plundered the houses. Jacob told his sons that they brought trouble upon him, but they believed their defense of their sister was justified. Once again, evil, deceit, and revenge play a significant role in the shaping of the overall story, which stresses why people need to listen to God.
Genesis 35: Back to Bethel
Jacob was now told to go back to Bethel (house of God) to build an altar. This was the same location where Abraham had built an altar and where God renewed His covenant. Jacob told his family to make sure they had put away all gods, purified themselves, and changed their clothes. They came to Bethel and built an altar. God blessed Jacob, reiterated the covenant, and officially named him Israel. They left Bethel, and Rachel, who was giving birth to Benjamin, died. Jacob set up a marker for her grave. This chapter also lists the sons of Jacob, then tells of the death of Isaac. Through all the trials and difficulties faced by Jacob, God continued being faithful to the covenant promises.
Genesis 36: Edomites!
Genesis 36 focuses on the family of Esau. While Esau was not the son of the Promise, he was still a son in the family of Abraham and Isaac. Sadly, Esau took a different direction from his fathers and women from among the Canaanites. Like Abraham and Lot, Esau and Jacob had too much together to live in the same area, so Esau left and went to the mountains of Seir. Eventually, Esau’s descendants became known as the Edomites, and they lived, often as enemies of the descendants of Israel, south/southeast of the Dead Sea region. The children of Israel would encounter the Edomites later.
Genesis 37: How Dreamy!
Joseph, the first son of Rachel and Jacob’s most loved, had a couple dreams. Probably not the wisest approach, he told his brothers about them. Both dreams implied that the brothers and family of Joseph would one day bow down to him. Because of this, Jacob’s brothers hated him and were jealous. One day, while the brothers were in the fields, Jacob told Joseph to go check on them. He did, and the brothers plotted to kill him. Reuben, trying to save Joseph, suggested they put him in a pit (intending to rescue him later). They agreed, then stripped his special robe from him. When they saw a group of Ishmaelite traders coming through on their way to Egypt, they decided to sell Joseph into slavery. The brothers decided to take Joseph’s robe, dip it in blood, and give it to their father, who concluded that Joseph was dead. Once again, deceit played a major role in the events. Yet God would use these events to the advantage of His people.
Genesis 38: Who Has the Ring?
By now we can see how the people whom God was using to bring about His purposes were often not what they should have been. Sometimes they were faithless, and often guilty to terrible sin. Yet God was faithful. Genesis 38 tells us about a terrible episode in the life of Judah, who himself would be in the ancestral line of the Messiah. Judah had found a wife for his son, Er. Her name was Tamar. When Er died because he was so evil, Judah had Onan, another son, marry Tamar. He, too, in wickedness, died. Then Judah’s wife died. Tamar, as she was childless from Judah’s sons, decided to act deceitfully, as a prostitute, and approach Judah. He succumbed to the ploy. He also left with Tamar particular evidence (a ring, cord, and staff) that he had been with her. When he tried to get the items back, it turned out to be Tamar who had them, and she was now pregnant with Judah’s sons. They were twins, named Perez and Zerah. Perez would be in the lineage of David, who was in the lineage of Christ.
Genesis 39: Another Garment, Another Lie
Joseph was brought down to Egypt by Ishmaelites and sold to Potiphar, an Egyptian captain of Pharaoh’s armies. The Lord was with Joseph, and Joseph was eventually put in charge of all of Potiphar’s possessions, and Potiphar’s house was blessed because of it. Joseph was handsome, and, sadly, Potiphar’s wife tried to take advantage of Joseph, who refused her advances, recognizing that he ought not to sin against God. It reached the point where he had to flee, and she captured his garment, which she used to charge Joseph with attempting to attack her. Because of her lies, Joseph was put into jail. However, the Lord was still with Joseph, and even in prison Joseph would find success.
Genesis 40: One Restored, One Dead
While Joseph was in prison, two more prisoners were brought: one a cupbearer and the other a baker of the king. Each had a dream, and Joseph was given the ability to interpret these dreams. The cupbearer’s dream indicated that he would be restored to his position, but the baker’s dream indicated he would lose his life. In a matter of days these dreams happened. Joseph had asked the cupbearer to remember him when he was restored to his position. Sadly, at least for a time, he forgot about Joseph.
Genesis 41: Grainy Dreams
Two year passed, and this time Pharaoh had the dreams. No one could interpret them, and finally that cupbearer remembered Joseph. Pharaoh called for Joseph, and then told Joseph the dreams. Joseph said the interpretation would come from God, and the essence of the interpretation was that there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Joseph followed up by advising that Pharaoh appoint someone over the land in order to save up enough food for the years of famine. Pharaoh then set Joseph over the land, second only to him in power. Joseph both stored up grain and bought up land. The text also tells us that before the famine came, Joseph had two sons: Manasseh and Ephraim (important for later development). Events occured as predicted. The seven years of plenty were followed by a great famine. This set up the circumstances by which everyone had to come to Joseph to get grain for food. Joseph had successfully maneuvered the situation, but the text shows God behind it all.
Genesis 42: Famine and Family
The famine affected not only Egypt, but even up into Palestine where Joseph’s father and brothers were living. Jacob instructed ten of his sons (not Benjamin) to go down to Egypt in order to buy grain for food. The brothers came to Joseph and bowed to him, but only Joseph recognized them. At this point, Joseph appears to be giving a series of tests for the brothers. Perhaps he wanted to see how they had changed over the years. In order to get Benjamin to come, Joseph would require that one of them stay behind (Simeon). Joseph filled their sacs with grain and returned the money they paid. In their minds, this made it look like they had stolen it. They feared retribution had come for the way they had acted against Joseph all those years before. They explained what happened to Jacob, and his grief was evident. Jacob was fearing he would lose more sons. The problems that arose through deceptions were still plaguing the family.
Genesis 43: Fear and Food
Judah now steps up and, again, explains the dire situation to Jacob. Judah offered himself as a pledge, a sacrificial life for life, to guarantee the safety of Benjamin. Jacob finally agreed to let Benjamin go. The brothers returned to Egypt with Benjamin and the brothers explained what had happened with the money and sacks. Simeon was brought back out to them, and things appeared to be smoothed over. Joseph came in and inquired about his father. Then he saw Benjamin, and he sought out a place to weep. After collecting himself, he came back and had the brothers sit around the table by order of birth, which amazed them. Benjamin’s portion of food was much greater than the other brother’s portions. The brothers, at this point, would have been quite puzzled by the whole scenario.
Genesis 44: Judah’s Noble Act
Joseph continued testing his brothers by making it appear that Benjamin stole his cup as the brothers were trying to leave to go back home. Judah and the brothers went back before Joseph and pleaded their case. Judah, in particular, told Joseph about what all had happened with their father and how his life was bound up in Benjamin’s life. Judah now offered himself in the place of Benjamin so that Benjamin could return home to his father. This noble act on Judah’s part points ultimately to what Jesus did for all of us. He gave His life that we might live.
Genesis 45: The Big Reveal
Judah’s offer to give himself for Benjamin was the breaking point for Joseph, who could no longer continue his charade before his brothers. He revealed who he was finally, but this caused the brothers to fear because of what they had done to him all those years before. Joseph assured the brothers that he bore no hard feelings and that God had brought him to Egypt to preserve life. Joseph then told them that they were to bring the entire family with their father to a part of Egypt called Goshen where he would make sure they were provided for. Pharaoh was also happy with this arrangement and the sons of the Israel were able to go back to their father in Palestine and tell him the news about Joseph.
Genesis 46: Down into Egypt … Again
God assured Jacob through visions not to be afraid to go down into Egypt, for God’s plan was to make his descendants into a great nation. Jacob set out from Beersheba with his whole family and their possessions and went to Egypt. Judah led the way into Goshen, and Joseph and Jacob were finally reunited. The family of Jacob was securely in the land, and their task was to be shepherds. The fact that Egyptians did not like shepherds perhaps helped in being able to stay together as a family and grow into a nation of their own.
Genesis 47: Prospering During a Famine
With the blessing of Pharaoh, Joseph’s family, father and all, were able to move into Egypt and settle in Goshen as shepherds. Due to Joseph’s position, he was able to provide food for his family while the famine was still severe. Joseph was shrewd with the resources and, while supplying food for the land, was buying up land and livestock for Pharaoh. Meanwhile, the sons of Israel were prospering in Goshen “and were fruitful and multiplied greatly.” Jacob was very old and he called his sons to himself so that he might bless them. He also charged his sons, “Do not bury me in Egypt, but let me lie with my fathers. Carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burying place” They promised him they would carry out his wishes.
Genesis 48: The Switch
Joseph had two sons, named Manasseh and Ephraim, and Jacob wanted to bless them. While Manasseh was older then Ephraim, Jacob switched hands on their heads, placing his right hand on Ephraim so that Ephraim would receive the greater blessing. “Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh.” This would have important ramifications for Israel in the future, as Ephraim would become the chief tribe of the northern kingdom and the rival of Judah in the south.
Genesis 49: Jacob’s Last Wishes
Israel now wanted to give a blessing to his sons. Perhaps the most significant of these comes in verse 10 to Judah: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet...” This was the promise of kingship being given to Judah’s descendents. The record will later show how David is the one through whom this promise would be fulfilled, and ultimately in Jesus Christ, who also was from the tribe of Judah. After the blessings, Jacob again reiterated where he was to be buried. At that point he passed and was “gathered to his people.”
Genesis 50: Carry My Bones
Joseph commanded that his father be embalmed, and even the Egyptians wept over the death of Israel. With permission from Pharaoh, and after the allotted time for embalming, Joseph, his brothers, and many others traveled back up to Palestine, to “the cave of the field at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite to possess as a burying place.” At this point, Joseph’s brothers again feared that since their father was now dead he might retaliate against them. Joseph reassured them again that God meant these events for good, to save many people. Joseph also lived a long life, and his last order before he died was to have the children of Israel swear that when they left the land they would take Joseph’s bones with them so that he, too, would be buried in the Promised Land.