Saturday, September 29, 2018

Genesis Post 47 - Family Feuds and Weddings (Chapter 29)

Chapter 29 covers about 20 years and contains a whole lot of action.

It opens up with Jacob departing the place of his dream.  The Hebrew literally says that he lifts his feet, which means that he is quite joyous... he has a spring in his step.  He has just been given the Abrahamic Covenant by the LORD Himself, and now he needs a wife to carry on that covenant.

So what happens next?  Just like his forebears, he comes to a well.  And we have a throwback to a girl showing up at the well, just like Jacob's mother did years before this.

(Side note:  There is a well in modern Nablus - biblical Shechem -  called Jacob's Well.  This is a well that Jacob will give to his son Joseph later on, and not the well where he meets Rachel.  Jacob's Well is not easy to visit today.  It is currently under the control of the Palestinian Authority, and a Greek Orthodox church is built over the well.  I was blessed to visit that well with an Arab pastor and take a drink of water from it.  This particular well shows up later in Scripture when Yeshua meets with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.)

Jacob's well today

Anyway, at the other well there are shepherds and sheep waiting, because the well is covered by a huge stone and it takes a community effort to move it.  Jacob chats with them awhile, learning about his relatives from the shepherds, and suddenly they say, "Look, there is his daughter Rachel!"

Jacob continues chatting with the shepherds, trying to get rid of them in verse 7 so that he could meet this Rachel all by himself. They do not comply.  They know they need to help with that stone.

Cue the romantic music here at verse 9:
Now while he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess.

When Jacob sees Rachel daughter of his uncle Laban, and Laban’s sheep, he thinks to himself, hubba hubba!  He immediately goes over and rolls the stone away from the mouth of the well and waters her sheep.  Somehow, he is able to muster superhuman strength to move that stone after he lays eyes on her.

Is this simply a case of a smitten man?  Or is there something else here?

How about a prophetic picture?  (Have you noticed yet that Genesis is full of them?) There is a big stone over the water, there are thirsty sheep who need the water to live, and there is a supernatural rolling away of a stone.  Hmm.

It is interesting to note here that Jacob only watered Rachel's sheep, not the other sheep that were waiting for water.  But the well was left wide open for those other sheep.

Here we have yet another prophetic picture - the gospel going to the Jew first, and then to the nations.

Listen to Yeshua's words in John 10:4-16:
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

Jacob then does something shocking:  he kisses Rachel and weeps in verse 11.  This is a break from the tradition of women hiding behind their veils, as Rebekah did when she first saw Isaac.

But what a lovely picture:  Our Messiah waters the sheep, kisses His bride, and there are tears of joy.

Rachel runs and tells her father what just happens, and Laban rushes to the scene and plants a kiss on Jacob.  Jacob then goes to the house of Laban.

Interjection:  Laban means white.  The idea of the color white in scripture can mean purity, but it can also mean deception.

(A couple things with the same name come to mind... Lebanon, named for the white peaks of Mount Hermon on its southern border.  And labneh - a yummy Lebanese white strained yogurt.)

Anyway, the Abrahamic Covenant continues to unfold. And what we see next is the deceiver being deceived.

Deception, in order to work, has to look white. It has to look like righteousness. Even the devil, that father of lies, is a deceiving angel of light.

Laban too is a deceiver. Biblically, white and deception occasionally have a connection. The white horse of Revelation 6 goes out to deceive the world. Matthew 24:4-5 warns us regarding the last days, do not be deceived.

In the next chapter, we will see the color white being used in deception once again.

So Jacob goes and lives at the home of Laban for a month.  Laban knows a good thing when he sees it, so he gives him a job and negotiates for the wages.

We are now formally introduced to Laban's daughters.  The older one, Leah (meaning weary), has weak eyes - a Jewish euphemism for being somewhat unattractive.  The younger one, Rachel (meaning ewe, or female lamb) is gorgeous.

Jacob develops a major crush on Rachel, so he offers to work seven years just so he can marry her.

Laban knows a good deal when he hears one, so he seals the deal.

And after seven years, Laban sneaks Leah into the wedding instead of Rachel.

I have questions about this.  Does Laban think that Leah would be spoken for in the meantime?   Does Rachel go along with this wedding?  Why is she silent? Or do they perhaps send her away during the wedding?  Does Jacob really not notice that it was Leah in the dark?  How does Leah feel about all this?  I look forward to asking them all about it someday.

Jacob wakes up, sees Leah, and is spitting mad.

Poor Leah.

This is what he said to Laban in verse 25:
So it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah. And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?”

Jacob uses the word ramah here; another word that means deception or betrayal.  Perhaps he didn't want to use his own name?

Laban plays the it's our custom card.  He then connives to get seven more years of labor out of Jacob by giving him Rachel, but only after he fulfills his wedding week with Leah.

Jacob acquiesces.  Not that he has much choice.

By the way, it remains a Jewish custom today that at every wedding, the groom ceremoniously peeks under the veil before the ceremony begins.

Just checking!

There are two more details that are mentioned here in this section:  Zilpah and Bilhah, two female servants who are Laban's wedding gifts to his daughters.  They are mentioned because as we know, they too have a role to play.

This little section wraps up with verse 30:
Then Jacob also went in to Rachel, and he also loved Rachel more than Leah. And he served with Laban still another seven years.

Poor Leah.  I cannot imagine.  But it sets the stage for what is to follow.

It’s time to build that assembly of people, as prophesied to Jacob by his father in Genesis 28:3.

Children are the building blocks of a nation.  Stick around to watch the family of Jacob unfold!

Click here for the next post.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Genesis Post 46 - A Journey and a Dream (Chapter 28)

The story that began in chapter 27 continues here.

Jacob's life is about to change.  God is going to do an amazing, transformational work in Jacob.  The journey starts here.

So apparently, Rebekah has convinced Isaac that Jacob needs to leave right now and find a wife, because Isaac tells him to go to Padan Aram and find a wife from among their people.  He gives Jacob a beautiful send-off blessing (prophecy) in verse 3:
“May God Almighty bless you,
And make you fruitful and multiply you,
That you may be an assembly of peoples;
And give you the blessing of Abraham,
To you and your descendants with you,
That you may inherit the land
In which you are a stranger,
Which God gave to Abraham.”

The Abrahamic Covenant is clearly prophesied here by Isaac to Jacob.  And it all hinges on the land which Jacob is about to leave behind. It is always linked to the land.  Never forget.

There is another word here that flies off the page to me - assembly.  The Hebrew word is kahal, and this is the first place in scripture where it shows up.  In the Septuagint (the Hebrew scriptures translated into Greek by scholarly Jews about 200 years before Yeshua), the word kahal is translated as ekklesia.

The New Covenant translators often render that word ekklesia into church, but a better translation would be congregation or assembly.  The Assembly of God's people begins with Jacob.

Many people think that Pentecost in the book of Acts is the birth of the church.  Not so, according to what we read right here in Genesis.

Take that, Replacement Theologians.

Anyway, it occurred to me:  wasn't Isaac on the verge of death in the previous chapter when he decides to put his affairs in order?  After doing a bunch of biblical gymnastics, I discovered that Isaac lives another 50 years after he blesses his sons.  He will die in a future chapter at the ripe old age of 180.  (See what I did there? Literary foreshadowing...)

The death of Rebekah, on the other hand, is not mentioned. In fact, she is not mentioned again in Genesis until the very end when she is spoken of in the past tense.  It is quite possible that Jacob never saw his mom again on earth.

Anyway, back to this crazy chapter.

First, a mention of Esau.  He has seen how his Canaanite wives have irritated his parents, so he thinks, aha!  I'll marry a cousin!  So he adds Mahalath, a daughter of Ishmael, to his harem, perhaps further underscoring the fact that the Abrahamic Covenant will not proceed through him and his progeny.  I doubt that Isaac and Rebekah were pleased with this addition.

Interesting depiction of Esau and his wives, by Avi Katz

We switch now to Jacob, who is enroute to Haran and the house of Laban.  Partway there, he has his famous dream - Jacob's ladder.

(Jacob's Ladder shows up everywhere in pop culture - as exercise equipment, children's toys and games, book and movie titles, and songs - even a Led Zeppelin song.  It seems that everyone wants to connect heaven and earth.)

The first thing Jacob does is he puts a rock under his head as a pillow.  I have often wondered about that.  Ouch!  Who would use a rock as a pillow, for crying out loud?  However, I believe it had less to do with comfort and much more to do with a prophetic picture.

The word for stone is eben.  In Psalm 118 and Isaiah 28 we read that the eben that the builders rejected has become the rosh pinna -  head cornerstone! This scripture is quoted six times in the New Covenant!

I believe that Jacob was sleeping on the Mount of Olives itself, in the exact spot where the chief cornerstone, Messiah our Rock, would be someday crucified.  The ladder that shows up in Jacob's dream (really a staircase) probably appears over Mount Moriah, the exact place of the future temple.  It is a beautiful picture of heaven coming down to earth, which is of course what happens when Yeshua comes and someday rules from His temple in this very spot.

Yeshua refers to this dream in the gospel of John, clearly linking the vision to Himself.  It happened during the calling of Nathanael - which is an amazing thing in itself - and you can read about here if you need a refresher.  In the last verse of John 1, Yeshua says,
“Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”

In this amazing dream, the LORD reiterates the Abrahamic Covenant in verses 13-15.  The Land, the Seed, the Blessing.  The same promises made to Abraham and Isaac are now repeated to Jacob by the LORD Himself.

Jacob awakes in absolute  awe.  Verses 16-17 say,
Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”

What Jacob does next is this:  He takes his stone pillow, sets it up as a pillar, and pours oil all over it.  This brings to mind the word mashiach, (Messiah), which means anointed.  To be anointed in the Bible means to be chosen and set apart for a specific purpose, and is set in motion through the pouring on of oil.

Many were anointed in the scriptures, but there is only one HaMashiach - The Anointed One.

In verse 19, he calls the name of the place Bethel, which means House of God.  There are numerous Bethels in scripture, but this particular one, we are told, had formerly been called Luz.  Luz means almond tree.  There is great symbolism and significance in the almond tree, and if you want a bunny trail, you can click here.

Suffice it to say that God's patterns are everywhere in scripture.

Jacob wraps up chapter 28 with this declaration:
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”

Interesting.  Basically, Jacob is saying, if YHVH does all this for me, then I will follow Him.  How many of us do that to God?  If You do X, then I will Y.  Bargaining with God.  LOL.

And then Jacob promises to tithe.  This actually makes me giggle.  When my husband and I were buying our first house, we needed to borrow money from his dad for the downpayment.  So to be responsible, we came up with a budget and showed it to him.  Of course it included a tithe for the church, even though neither one of us had ever tithed before, nor were following the Lord yet.  

But we never stopped tithing.  In fact, once we finally did submit our lives to the Lord, tithing became a mere springboard for giving more.  We discovered that you cannot out-give God, no matter how hard you try.

Anyway, in spite of the bargaining that Jacob tries to do with the LORD, the LORD is faithful to the covenant.  But before Jacob has his final reckoning with God, he has a long journey to take.

Click here for the continuing story.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Genesis Post 45 - A Father's Blessing (Chapter 27)

Chapter 27 is another explosive chapter, showing the unfolding plan of God in the midst of human foibles.

The chapter opens up with Isaac fixing to get his affairs in order before he dies.  He is old and blind and wants to settle things with his favorite kid.

He says to Esau, go make me my favorite goat stew, which I love.  And then I'll bless you and then die.

Isaac doesn't know that Rebekah overhears everything.  He is simply doing what people did in the ancient world.  And remember, the LORD had given the prophecy about the twins to Rebekah, and not to Isaac.  It is quite possible that she had never told him that the older would serve the younger.  

(But maybe Isaac did know the prophecy. In that case, was it not Isaac who was trying to be deceptive, to force his own will so that his favorite son would prevail?)

So anyway, Rebekah takes action, probably knowing what she must do.

She approaches Jacob, tells him what to do, and insists that he obey her.  Dress up like your brother, impersonate him, feed your dad, and get that blessing.

Jacob even argues with her a bit, afraid it may end up as a curse for him, but his mom convinces him to do it. She assures him that any curse will be upon her, and not him.  In other words, she is willing to take all the blame.

Man, these matriarchs!  They sure know how to take charge.  Sarah sending Ishmael and Hagar away, and now this.  I just went and looked up the meaning of Rebekah... it means ensnarer.  Hmm.

Jacob runs to the flock, brings his mom an animal, and she gets cooking.  Meanwhile, she dresses Jacob up in Esau's clothes, and then covers him with the skins of the very animal she is cooking up.

I wonder if Jacob feels nervous as he approaches his father.  This blessing from a father is kind of a big deal.  

Here is the dialogue between them, recorded in scripture for all the world to see:

So he went to his father and said, “My father.”
And he said, “Here I am. Who are you, my son?”
Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn; I have done just as you told me; please arise, sit and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me.”
But Isaac said to his son, 

“How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?”
And he said, “Because the LORD your God brought it to me.”

(Ooooh, Jacob plays the God card here)

Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not.”  So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, and he felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.”  And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him.
Then he said, “Are you really my son Esau?”
He said, “I am.”
(Jacob the Liar)

Isaac is convinced, and gives Jacob a lovely blessing that he intends for his firstborn beloved son.   

The blessing, which is really a prophecy, wraps up with a reference to the Abrahamic Covenant:
Let peoples serve you,
And nations bow down to you.
Be master over your brethren,
And let your mother’s sons bow down to you.
Cursed be everyone who curses you,
And blessed be those who bless you!”

With that, Jacob departs from the presence of his father, and in comes Esau.

Isaac realizes then what just went down.  In verse 33 he says,
Then Isaac trembled exceedingly, and said, “Who? Where is the one who hunted game and brought it to me? I ate all of it before you came, and I have blessed him—and indeed he shall be blessed.”

Isaac trembles greatly because he now knows this was the will of the LORD.  He says that it cannot be changed.

What does Esau do?  He tells a couple lies of his own. Jacob? That deceiver of apt name?  He has now deceived me two times, taking away my birthright and my blessing!

Esau is annoyed
Number one:  Jacob did not deceive Esau out of his birthright.  Esau cared little about it, willingly giving it up because of his greedy stomach.

Number two:  Jacob deceived Isaac regarding the blessing, not Esau.

(The blessing also differs from the birthright in that the blessing establishes the double portion of the father's inheritance, usually reserved for the oldest.  As we will soon see, one of Jacob's children will receive the blessing, and another the birthright, and in neither case is it the oldest son.  God's sovereignty is what matters - what He says, goes.).

Esau whines and begs for a blessing of his own. Isaac can only bless Esau with prophetic words given to him from the LORD:
“Behold, your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth,
And of the dew of heaven from above.
By your sword you shall live,
And you shall serve your brother;
And it shall come to pass, when you become restless,
That you shall break his yoke from your neck.”

Esau is NOT HAPPY with his blessing, to put it mildly.  We are told that Esau now hates his brother and that he plans to kill him as soon as his father dies.  

Rebekah finds out Esau's plan.  She tells Jacob to flee in order to save his life.  But this is not what she says to Isaac.  No, instead she brings up Esau's annoying wives, saying that she does not want Jacob to end up with one like that.  I wonder why she didn't tell Isaac the truth?  Perhaps she knew that Isaac would just shrug it off as a sibling quarrel.  However, she is a woman of action.

Thus ends chapter 27, filled with drama and deception.  How does God allow His covenant to continue amidst it of this craziness?

Because He has grace.  He continues to love us and use us in His kingdom in spite of our mess-ups and hang-ups.  None of this came to Him as a surprise, and He allowed it to pan out the way it did.  His plan continues not because we are righteous, but because He is righteous.  

For the next post, click here.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Genesis Post 44 - Well, Well, Well (Chapter 26)

Just like history has a way of repeating itself, we now see a similar story taking place once again in the Bible.

Genesis chapter 26 opens with another famine.  Isaac heads to Gerar (Gaza) to hang out with his dad's old friend, King Abimelech.  The LORD tells Isaac not to go to Egypt, but to stay in the land.  (Side note:  Isaac is the only patriarch who never left the land).

In verses 3-5, we see it in writing: in the midst of this famine, the LORD specifically passes the Abrahamic covenant on to Isaac:
Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father.  And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed;  because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.”

The Land, the Seed, and the Blessing. 

Israel, Messiah, Salvation.  God's plan continues to unfold.  

In the meantime, however, look how history repeats itself.  Isaac is afraid of the king, so he claims that Rebekah is his sister.  Only this time it wasn't even a half-truth, as it was in the case of Abraham.  (Technically, they were first cousins once removed).  Well, apparently nobody came after this sister, because after they had lived in the area for a long time, Abimelech looked out his window and catches Isaac and Rebekah making out.

He is irritated with Isaac, but he'd been down this road before with Isaac's father.  But he makes sure that all his people know that Rebekah is Isaac's wife.

Isaac continues dwelling in the land of Gerar, and he prospers.  So much so that the Philistines become jealous of him.   Abimelech tells Isaac, go away.

Isaac leaves Gerar proper and heads out to a valley of Gerar.  And what ensues is another big fat battle over water.  First, Isaac digs up all the wells that his father Abraham had dug.  The Philistines had stopped up all of Abraham's wells after his death.  This seems stupid to me... why did they not use them?

But there is a modern-day tale that matches this nonsense.  In 2005, Israel caved to international pressure and uprooted 17 Jewish communities in Gaza that were known as Gush Katif.  They vacated many functional greenhouses.  Did the Arabs living in the area take them over and produce food with them?  No.  They destroyed them, along with every home and every synagogue.  SMH.  Such hatred.  (And Israel's disengagement from Gaza did not bring peace.  No, quite the opposite... thousands of rockets fired into Israel, terror tunnels, and two major wars.)

So anyway, Isaac's guys dig another well in the valley and find water, but Abimelech's guys argue with Isaac's guys, saying the water is theirs.  This repeats.

Finally, Isaac moves again, and digs a non-contested well and names it Rehoboth, which means wide places, saying, hey, there is room for all of us.  Then Isaac goes to Beersheva, where Abraham had dug a very special well.

In Beersheva. the LORD appears to Isaac again and reiterates the Abrahamic covenant to him in verse 24.  So Isaac builds an altar there and re-digs the well that Abraham dug.  

From afar, King Abimelech has been watching Isaac being blessed by YHVH, so he shows up in Beersheva with a couple of his friends and gives Isaac a blessing of his own, and makes peace with him.  They party together for the evening, and then Isaac sends him and his men away in the morning.  Isaac calls the place Sheva just like his father had done, and Beersheva, meaning well of the oath or well of the seven, continues to be a thriving city in Israel today.

Modern-day Beersheva at night

Chapter 26 ends with an abrupt change of subject:
When Esau was forty years old, he took as wives Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite. And they were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah.

Basically, Esau chooses for himself a couple of pagan wives, which cause Isaac and Rebekah much grief.  The  Hebrew word translated grief is morah, which actually means bitterness.  It is the same root word that Naomi uses in the book of Ruth to rename herself Mara, because of the terrible things that had befallen her.

Depiction of Esau's alien wives and the despair of his parents
by artist Avi Katz

It is hard for me to relate to Isaac and Rebekah's bitterness, because the Lord has blessed our family with a wonderful son-in-law and a wonderful daughter-in-law, both of whom love and serve Him.

This blurb about Esau's wives leads up to an excuse that Rebekah will soon use.  But much has to happen in the meantime, so stay tuned!

Find the next post here.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Genesis Post 43 - Tales of Jacob and Esau (Chapter 25)

My last post covered the first eighteen verses of chapter 25.  The rest of the chapter gets crazy with the antics of the covenant family.

We just saw the progeny that stemmed from Ishmael's and Keturah's boys.  The story now narrows to the family of the covenant child, Isaac.

We saw back in chapter 24 that his father acquired a bride for him, from his own people.  And we learned that it was a prophetic picture of the Messiah and His bride, brought together with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Isaac is 40 when he marries Rivkah.  We don't know how old she is, but between verse 20 and 21, twenty years go by!  Rivkah is barren, just like her great-aunt Sarah had been.

But then God's hand moves, and in just one verse, she is finally expecting.  And God doesn't just give her one child, He gives her two.  And they are wrestling and fighting, even before they are born.  This causes Rivkah to be greatly perplexed, so she inquires of the LORD.  He immediately gives her a prophecy for her boys:

And the LORD said to her:
“Two nations are in your womb,
Two peoples shall be separated from your body;
One people shall be stronger than the other,
And the older shall serve the younger.”

Nations.  What does that mean?  A nation in the Bible is different than the geo-political borders of today.  The word is goyim, and simply means an ethnic people group.  The Greek equivalent is ethnos.

Rivkah knew from the get-go that God had His hand on the younger child.  She knew he would be the promised covenant-bearer.  She knew because the LORD had spoken it to her, and not to Isaac.  Hopefully this helps make sense of what she later does.

Anyway, we are given very specific details about the birth of these boys, and their names are highly significant.

The first baby came out red and covered with hair, so they named him Esau.  Esau means hairy.  The significance of this hairiness will show up in a couple chapters.

Baby number two showed up next, and he took hold of Esau's heel.   His parents therefore named him Yakov (Jacob), which means heel-grabber, or supplanter.

Lego my heel.

Wait!  Where have we heard that heel word before?

It first shows up in Genesis 3:15 - the very first messianic promise in scripture.  This is extremely significant:

And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”

The LORD is addressing the adversary here.  He is promising that someday, a seed of the woman will crush him.  But in the meantime, before that happens, the enemy will constantly be nipping at the heels of that seed.

We now can understand why the Jews have been a target of the devil ever since they became a nation.  Jacob's name was later changed to Israel.  And Israel remains the greatest target of the adversary.  He has tried (since the days of pharaoh in Egypt) to wipe them out.

Someday soon, the Messiah, seed of the woman, will crush that adversary, and that punk of a devil knows it, too.  His time is short -  see Revelation 12:12.

So the boys grow up.  Esau becomes a hunter (which has never been a good thing in Genesis), and Jacob becomes a mama's boy, dwelling in tents.

Verse 28 is a little bothersome to me... Isaac loved Esau and Rebekah loved Jacob.  Ugh.  Talk about mom always loved you best.  Does this mean that Isaac did not love Jacob, and that Rivkah did not love Esau?  No.  It simply means that each parent had a favorite.

What happens next is mind-boggling.

Jacob is in the kitchen, cooking up some yummy red stew.  Esau comes in from the field, tired and hungry.

Gimme your red stew, says Esau.

Gimme your birthright, says Jacob.

In the spirit of gross exaggeration, Esau says he is starving to death.  (How many of us have said that or have heard our kids say that?)

The chapter ends like this:
And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

Really, dude?

What is a birthright, anyway?  In the ancient world, it was the custom that the oldest son was given the right to be the leader of the family clan.  Even though Isaac had been the second-born son to his father, he had  inherited the Abrahamic covenant through God's providence.  What Esau is really doing here is despising God's covenant.  That word translated despised means to regard with contempt, to be vile, worthless.  He was essentially spitting in God's eye.  

It is interesting that this is where Esau picks up his prophetic nickname - Edom. Verse 30 says this:
And Esau said to Jacob, “Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.” Therefore his name was called Edom.

The word means red, but the word for blood - dam - is the root word.  And the people descended from Edom become people of great bloodshed, and an enemy to the people of Israel.

To keep reading, click here.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Genesis Post 42 - Arab Genealogy (Chapter 25)

Chapter 25 opens with a history lesson on Abraham's other descendants.

Abraham gets married again, and fathers six more boys!  Remember, Sarah died at age 127, which means that Abraham remarried after age 137.

The names of the six boys are mentioned here, and just for fun I thought I'd look at all the meanings:
  • Zimran - musician
  • Yokshan - snarer, enticer
  • Medan - contention
  • Midian - strife (nearly the same word as Medan)
  • Ishback - He releases, or leaving behind
  • Shuah - wealth
For the most part, this chapter is the last recording of the genealogies of Abraham's other sons.  Several of their descendants show up again later in scripture.  For instance, the father-in-law of Moses was a priest of Midian who later claims allegiance to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Yokshan's son Sheba eventually begot a queen who visited Solomon, and tradition says, bore him a son.  Sheba's brother Dedan shows up numerous times in biblical prophecy.

Abraham's interesting family tree

All these other descendants of Abraham, including the 12 tribes that came from Ishmael, will make up the Arab people.  The word Arab actually means mixed.  Their tribes settled all over Egypt and the Arabian peninsula.  

Abraham, knowing that Isaac was the covenant child, still provided for his progeny (before he sent them away) in verses 5-6:

And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac.  But Abraham gave gifts to the sons of the concubines which Abraham had; and while he was still living he sent them eastward, away from Isaac his son, to the country of the east.

I have written many times about the significance of eastward and westward directions. Westward prophetically indicates toward God, or blessing, and eastward indicates away from God, or cursing.

In verse 8, our beloved Father Abraham dies.  And in verse 9, his first two sons bury him at the cave he had purchased in Hebron, Machpelah, where he remains buried today.  The scripture tells us, he died at a good old age, 175 years old.  He was buried by his sons, Isaac and Ishmael.  I wonder if that was a tense time?  Remember, Ishmael and his mom had been sent away over 70 years earlier.  I am guessing that the tension of that burial was palpable, as it still is today between the descendants of these two men.

It will not always be this way
Right after the funeral narrative, we are told that God blessed Isaac.  The scriptures then record the sons of Ishmael.  According to Islamic tradition, their prophet Mohammad was descended from Adnan, a northern Arabian peninsula dude who was  himself descended from Ishmael's son Kedar, Ishmael's second-born son.  Kedar means dark, or dark-skinned.

For more fun, let's look at the meanings of Ishmael's sons' names:
  • Nebajoth - Heights (Ancestor of the Nabateans)
  • Kedar - Dark, or dark-skinned
  • Adbeel - Chastened of God
  • Mibsam - Fragrant
  • Mishma - What is heard, a hearing
  • Dumah - Silence
  • Massa - Burden
  • Hadar - Honor
  • Tema - Desert 
  • Yetur - Enclosed, encircled
  • Naphish - Refreshment
  • Kedemah - Original
Quite a mixed bag of meanings here!  Perhaps it is fitting that the word Arab means mixed.

The Ishmael account wraps up with his death at age 137, and we are told that he was surrounded by all his countrymen, and there must have been many by that point.  Thus Ishmael lived another 51 years after Abraham died.

The direction then shifts to the geneaology of Isaac. In fact, the remainder of Genesis will now be narrowed down to Isaac and his progeny.  This chapter includes many details on Isaac's family, so my next post will cover the rest of chapter 25.

Click here to read it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Genesis Post 41 - A Bride For Isaac (Chapter 24)

Chapter 24 opens thusly:

Now Abraham was old, well advanced in age; and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things. So Abraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had, “Please, put your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell; but you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac.”

Remember, Isaac had "disappeared" after the near-sacrifice account in chapter 22.  He now shows up on the scene again, as his father prepares to acquire for him a bride.

This oath was a serious oath.  The hand under the thigh, or loin, was actually a reference to the covenant of circumcision.

In verse 2, we are told of Abraham's chief servant, who was previously named Eliezer in an earlier chapter, but remains mysteriously nameless here.  Eliezer means my God is help.  He would have been Abraham's heir if not for Isaac.  But here in the text, he remains nameless.

The covenant child needs a wife for the promise to continue.  God's plan cannot unfold without more generations showing up.

Isaac's mom has just died, and he is about 40 years old.  He misses his mom.

The helper questions Abraham... What if she doesn't want to come with me?  Should I bring your son with me?  The script continues:

But Abraham said to him, “Beware that you do not take my son back there.  The LORD God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my family, and who spoke to me and swore to me, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land,’ He will send His angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there.

Isaac was the only patriarch who never left the land.  See how the land was and is part of the plan as the covenant continues to unfold to the next generation? The land was promised to His chosen people.  Today the world wants to take away that land.

Anyway, Abraham sends his unnamed helper to his people back in the mother country.  Remember, the geneology was set up for us back in chapter 22.  Why not any wife?  Why not a Canaanite bride?

He needs a wife from his called out people.  We have a similar warning in the new covenant:  don't be unequally yoked.

The miracles continue as the story unfolds.

The unnamed servant then takes a bunch of camels and heads to the city of Nahor in Mesopotamia.  He makes a specific request of the LORD:

Then he said, “O LORD God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham. Behold, here I stand by the well of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water.  Now let it be that the young woman to whom I say, ‘Please let down your pitcher that I may drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink’—let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac. And by this I will know that You have shown kindness to my master.”

Look at verse 15:  before the servant finishes speaking, the LORD was already answering his prayer, exactly as the servant was asking.

It is a good reminder to be specific when you pray, so that you can see God's specific answers.

I am reminded of a time when I had a flat tire on my rental car in Jaffa.  After attempting to change it (unsuccessfully) ourselves amid rising panic, we started praying.  The jogger who stopped to help us came over before our prayer was even finished1

This gal at the well is very beautiful, we are told in verse 16.  And why wouldn't she be?  She was related to another great beauty, Sarah (who was her great-aunt). 

By the way, have you ever watered one camel, let alone 10?  Camels hold a lot of water.  They can actually drink 53 gallons of water in three minutes.  There is a reason they are called the ships of the desert.

So let's just say that Rivkah (Rebekah) was a hard-working young lady.  She was also hospitable, gracious, and kind to a stranger, just like Abraham was.  In other words, wife material.

Rivkah waters the camels

Verse 24 tells us that she is the one spoken of in Genesis 22:23.

The unnamed servant then pleads his cause before Rebekah's family.  He explains his prayer and how it was precisely answered.

Their response?

Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, “The thing comes from the LORD; we cannot speak to you either bad or good. Here is Rebekah before you; take her and go, and let her be your master’s son’s wife, as the LORD has spoken.”

We see another example of instant obedience.  But first, they ask the bride herself.  Verse 57-58 show us this:

Then they said, “Let’s call the young woman and ask her about it.” So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?”

“I will go,” she said.

More instant obedience.  She had never seen or spoken to her future bridegroom, but she listened to the story told by the unnamed servant, saw the faithfulness of God, and acted upon it.  We also are given a choice regarding our Bridegroom before we see Him face to face.

This unnamed servant is a prophetic picture of the Holy Spirit.  In Yeshua's absence from us at this time in history, the Holy Spirit is Yeshua revealed.  The One that speaks to our hearts, teaches us, comforts us, points us to the Bridegroom and testifies of Him.  The Helper.  (Remember the meaning of Eliezer?).

Based on the testimony of the unnamed servant, Rebekah takes her handmaidens and leaves her family, even though she has not yet laid eyes on her bridegroom.

Perhaps this is why our testimony of Yeshua is so important.

What a sweet meeting they have in the field as Rivkah approaches Isaac.  Their eyes meet.  She puts on her veil in reverence.

Isaac marries Rivkah and he loves her.  This is the second appearance of the word ahava (love) in the scriptures.  The first is at the sacrifice, the second is at the wedding.  And between the two events, the unnamed servant is at work, joining the two together.

This is a beautiful picture of how Yeshua's sacrifice for His future bride is completely immersed in love.  And how the Holy Spirit of God is at work, joining Yeshua and His bride together.  Have you said yes to your Bridegroom yet?

To keep going in Genesis, click here.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Genesis Post 40 - The Deed is Done (Chapter 23)

Chapter 23 starts out on a sad note.

Sarah lived 127 years, and then she dies in Kiriyat Arba, that is, Hebron.

Sarah is the only female whose age is recorded at the time of her death.  She was 90 when Isaac was born, so she got to enjoy raising her son and seeing him live to the age of 37.  She does not get to see him married; however.  That is still to come.

Many Jewish (and Arab) burial practices stem from this historical moment, when Abraham says goodbye to his beloved Sarah.

Great care is given to the body of the dead.  It is seen as an offering back to the God who took us from the dust of the earth in the first place.  This great care given to the body is also is anticipating the resurrection.  Cremation and burning to Jewish people is more of a statement that life is all over and done with.  This is one of the reasons that Hitler burned Jewish bodies.  It was one more in-your-face act toward those that he despised.

Remembering is a big Jewish custom.  On the death anniversary of their loved one, they will burn a yarzeit candle, and remember the life of the deceased.  Historically, Jews were not so much into birthdays, but the death day has always been a very important day.  A day of remembrance.  Visiting a grave remains a major Jewish practice today.  Usually a rock, seen as a better symbol of eternity than flowers, is placed on the grave.

One year after death, the Jews would collect the bones from the decomposed body and re-bury them in an ossuary, or bone box.  In the same way, Yosef's bones were brought up from Egypt and buried in Shechem.  I think of the passage in Ezekiel 37 that speaks of dry bones coming to life.

A memorial candle
The cave of Machpelah is a giant memorial to the patriarchs, made of rocks and filled with burning candles.  It is the final resting place of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah.

Anyway, we now have a written account of the deed for the land in Hebron, recorded for all of human history to see.

Abraham negotiates with the sons of Heth (the Hittites) for the cave of Machpelah.  The guy who owns the land, Ephron the Hittite, opens the negotiations by saying he wants to give Abraham the land for free.  (Interestingly, Ephron means dust),

Perhaps Abraham knows the importance of having a recorded deed of sale for this very significant place that would someday be so contested.  He insists on paying for it.

Ephron says, ok fine (his intention all along) and in the typical custom of Middle Eastern negotiations, names a price that is probably much higher than what the land is worth.

In verse 16, Abraham pays Ephron what he asks for the land, without even batting an eye or entering into heated bargaining, because of his great love for Sarah.

The sale of the land is recorded in scripture, complete with witnesses, in verses 17 and 18:

So the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field and the cave which was in it, and all the trees that were in the field, which were within all the surrounding borders, were deeded to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all who went in at the gate of his city.

The Cave of Machpelah was beautified under Herod the Great

Why is it so important to have a recorded deed of this land?

Hebron is the second holiest city to the Jews.  I have been there three times, visiting the tiny Jewish community there, along with the Cave of Machpelah.   It is one of the few places in Israel where you can actually walk the very dirt that was walked almost 4000 years ago by Father Abraham.  It is something else to visit the graves of Ruth the Moabite and of David's father, Yishai.

And oh, is Hebron a contested place!

In 1929, there was a terrible massacre of 67 Jews by Muslims in Hebron, due to high tensions stemming from Jews returning to the Promised Land, accompanied by incitement of the Arab residents by the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al Husseini.

18-month old Shlomo Slonim survived the massacre and lived to age 86

Between 1948 and 1967, Hebron, and all of what the world calls the "West Bank" was off limits to Jews.  This off-limits area included the old city of Jerusalem.  Jerusalem was liberated by the IDF on June 7, 1967; and Hebron was liberated the very next day.  

Its history continues to be very complicated.  As a result of the 1995 Oslo II "Peace" accords, Hebron was carved up in 1997.  Eighty percent of the city was given to the PLO, an area called H1, and 20 percent was placed under Israeli rule, called H2.

The Arab population of H1 is estimated at 120,000.  Jews are not allowed to enter that area.  In the remaining 20 percent called H2, there live about 30,000 Arabs and about 700 Israelis.  In other words, Hebron today is about 99.5% Arab and about a 1/2  of one percent Jewish.  (Kiryat Arba is a modern Jewish town outside of Hebron proper, with a population of 7000-8000 Jews).

The Cave of Machpelah is located on the Jewish side of H1. It features an entrance for Jews, and s separate entrance on the other side for Arabs.  When we looked at chapter 13, we talked about the meaning of the word Hebron, which is conjunction, or joining.  Someday soon, these Jewish and Arab children of Abraham, neither of whom follow the Messiah (for the most part), will be joined together as children of the One True God under Yeshua in the Messianic kingdom.

Click here for the next post.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Genesis Post 39 - Abraham, Isaac, and Our Provider (Chapter 22)

Chapter 22 brings us to another theologically explosive chapter.

It's a tough chapter, one that I have been wrestling with lately.  Here are the first 19 verses:

Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!”

And he said, “Here I am.”

Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.”

So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!”

And he said, “Here I am, my son.”

Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together.

Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!”

So he said, “Here I am.”

And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son,from Me.”

Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.  And Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”

Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.  In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”  So Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.

Right off the bat, we see that God tested Abraham.  The word for tested is nasah.  I really wanted to get a good understanding of this word, so I dug around in the Hebrew for awhile.  It means to test, to prove, to put to the proof.  The word is used later on when the Queen of Sheba wanted to test Solomon with hard questions, to see what he was made of.  

Of course, God already knew what Abraham was made of; He had already established an everlasting covenant with him.  Perhaps the testing is for us; that our faith is made stronger by the tests that God allows in our life.
Sometimes we pass those tests, sometimes we fail.  Sometimes we just don't understand the test. And sometimes, we get an A+, as in extra credit.  After wrestling a long time with this passage, I believe that Abraham didn't fully understand the test, but he was going for extra credit.  Hold that thought. for a bit.. I'll come back to it.

Several words in this passage are first mentions.  Some scholars say that first mentions are important, because they introduce the concept and context for the whole rest of the Bible.  Whether that is true or not, let's look at them.

Nasah - testing.  We have already looked at this word.  It sets the context for the whole scenario.  The word nissi comes from the same root word - banner.  A banner, or standard, is something that you want people to focus on, or to rally around. In warfare, a commander of an army would raise up the troop's banner, so the fighters could clearly rally around it and know where the battle was taking place.

Hineni - here I am. But you’ve got to watch out how you say it, because it is a way of expressing total readiness to give oneself – it’s an offer of total availability.  In other words, I hear your call. I understand what you are asking of me. And I am prepared and ready to do it, because I recognize, although it is hard, it is also important that I act.

In this chapter, Abraham uses hineni three times! This is the word used in Isaiah 6:8, after Isaiah had been cleansed by the coal to his lips.  God was looking for someone to send, and Isaiah responds, Here I am!  Pick me!  At Your service!

Ahava - love.  Take your only son (that remains, the other one had been sent away), whom you love...

Unlike the Greek language, which has numerous words for love, Hebrew has a single word for love just like we do in English.  It has always seemed weird to say I love God and also I love coffee using that same term, but I guess it is ok because Hebrew does it, too.  Abraham loved his son, Jacob loved Rachel, and Isaac loved goat stew.

Ahava (Love) sculpture

- the mountain in Jersualem where once stood (and will stand again) God's temple.  Today it is the site of a golden idol that I don't think will be around much longer.  Moriah means chosen by YHVH.  Scripture tells us in numerous places that Jerusalem is the only place where God has put His name (see 1 Kings 11:36, 1 Kings 14:21, 2 Kings 21:4 and 7, 2 Kings 23:27, 2 Chronicles 6:6, 2 Chronicles 12:13, 2 Chronicles 33:4, Ezra 6:12, Psalm 102:21, Jeremiah 3:17).

Seh - lamb.  Believe it or not, this chapter is the first place this word shows up.  Other patriarchs made sacrifices before, but a lamb is special and significant.

YHVH Yireh - The LORD will provide (or as the song goes, Jehovah Jireh).  This is the ONLY PLACE it shows up in the entire Bible.  That means, pay attention to what is being provided!

So let's back up.  I need to park on verse 2 for a bit.

I use Blue Letter Bible app, because it lets me look at the original languages.  So I was stumbling through the Hebrew of verse 2 with my limited knowledge thereof, and the first thing that jumped out at me was the presence of the word ET  (Alef Tav).  Three times in one verse!  I won't go into the meaning of that word here, other than long story short it is a covenant word that embodies Yeshua the Messiah.  The word is hidden, not well understood by the Jewish Rabbis, and is never translated into the English.  (If you need a refresher on the word et, you can click here.)

Ok, I was off to a good start.  But my biggest reason for wrestling with this chapter is because the idea that God would tell someone to kill their child does not jive with the character of God.  In fact, someone I know very well cannot get beyond that idea.  It's just wrong, she says.  And I agree.  How do we reconcile this test that the LORD gives to Abraham, without believing that God participates in something that He clearly and frequently calls an abomination, namely child sacrifice?

Recently I was listening to a pastor teaching on this subject, and he pointed out that God never told Abraham to kill his son.

There are two key words to look at:  Ala and Ola.  In the translation to English, they are used like this:  go to the land of Moriah, and ala him there as an ola on one of the mountains I will show you.

Ala is the verb, the root word from which we get the Hebrew word aliyah.  Israelis use that term, to make aliyah, to mean moving to Israel; returning to the land of their forefathers.  Technically, however, it means to go up.  To go up to Jerusalem. To go up to the Temple.  For the smoke of an offering to go up.  To rise up, ascend.  Yes, the word is used frequently in scripture to depict a burnt offering because of the smoke that rises up, but the word encompasses so much more.  It is an act of complete surrender before God.

Ola, on the other hand, is really just the noun form of the same word ala... the object of the offering.  It also can mean the steps that you ascend.

I believe that Abraham's understanding was that he should actually kill his son.  Child sacrifice was well-known in the ancient world, and had not yet been clearly condemned by God in the Mount Sinai covenant.  Even in what I believe to be Abraham's misunderstanding of the command, he didn't argue with God.  He simply obeyed, without question, to the best of his understanding.  He went for extra credit on the test.

There are several Hebrew words that mean to kill, and God did not use any of those words:  Zevach, ratsach, harag.

I now believe that God is asking Abraham to perform a prophetic act, just as He does with many of the other prophets in scripture.  (I think of Ezekiel whose wife died and God commanded him not to mourn, and Hosea whom God commanded to marry a harlot - in order to be an example to the people of Israel.).

God wants Abraham to ascend a particular hill, and offer his son to God, similar to the way we dedicate our children to the LORD.  Isaac is the promised covenant child, and God is asking, Are you all in, Abraham?  This prophetic act of Abraham is to foreshadow the most significant act of God in all of human history.

What hill did they ascend?  The rabbis teach that Abraham offered up his son on Mount Moriah, which is where the Temple eventually stood and where the Dome of the Rock sits today.  But if we read the text carefully, we see that Abraham is go to to the land of Moriah, to a hill that God would show him.  In other words, go to Moriah and then I will point it out to you.

The Mount of Olives is straight across from Mount Moriah.  I believe this was the place where Abraham's act foreshadowed the actual sacrifice that was to follow thousands of years later... in the SAME PLACE!

Aerial photo of the Mount of Olives

Moriah is only mentioned twice in scripture.  Here and in 2 Chronicles 3:1 when Solomon is building the house of the LORD.  These two hills, Moriah and Olives, show the redemption of humanity.

On the third day (sound familiar?), Abraham sees the hill that God is directing him to and tells his servants to wait while he and Isaac go to shachah, or worship.  For those three days, Abraham must have been mourning what he expected to be the death of his son.

Isaac then carries the wood for the sacrifice, walking the very same route that our future Lamb of God would take carrying His own wood.  In the father's hand was the fire and the knife.

Even though Abraham believed he was supposed to kill his son, we can see that he also believed in the future resurrection.  He told his servants, we'll be back.

Isaac doesn't say much; he just questions his father, who explains that God will provide HIMSELF, the lamb.  Isaac isn't recorded as saying anything when his own father places him on the altar.  He is silent as a sheep before the slaughter?  Hmm.

Ahava (love) and shachah (worship) are connected in this passage.

Sacrifice demonstrates/proves love.  Does God have a sense of humor putting people together with completely opposite love languages?  Perhaps it is an opportunity for sacrifice.

As Abraham wields his knife, is all of the heavenly host looking on in horror?  Is there a collective sigh of relief when YHVH steps in to stop Abraham?

We then see that YHVH provides a ram (not a lamb, as Abraham had prophesied), caught in the thorn bushes.  The foretold Lamb shows up thousands of years later,  when YHVH would provide Himself, the lamb.  YHVH yireh - the LORD who Provides... Himself.

Add caption
Right after that, we see the connection of this prophetic picture of Yeshua's sacrifice to the Abrahamic Covenant that was introduced in Genesis 12:3. The land, the seed, and the blessing...  they are inseparable.

Here is something amazing.  This passage of Genesis 22 is part of the liturgy in synagogues around the world on Yom Teruah, the first of the appointed times of the fall.  In that very liturgy, we see the words salvation, forgiveness, and atonement... all gospel words.  We also have the connection to the ram's horn that is caught in the thorn bush.

The Feast of Trumpets is a dress rehearsal for the return of the Messiah and the resurrection, which I believe is coming soon.

Judaism does not teach blood atonement today in its theology, and yet this narrative shows up in the synagogues on the Feast of Trumpets.  (God's timing is such that I am teaching this concept to my Sunday school class on the very eve of Feast of Trumpets.)

The chapter ends with Abraham and company traveling to Beersheva.  Is that where Sarah was?  Had Abraham told Sarah what he planned to do?  Was she freaking out?  We just don't know.

And where in the world is Isaac?  This whole chapter was about him.  Is his absence a prophetic picture of Yeshua returning to heaven for a time after His sacrifice?  In Genesis, Isaac will not appear again in the story until he sees his bride face to face.  Can you say Revelation 19:7? Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.

We are then given a geneology of some of Abraham's relatives, setting up the big event that won't take place for another two chapters.  So stay tuned!

Click here for the next post.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Genesis Post 38 - The Wait is Over! (Chapter 21)

Genesis 21 begins with the LONG AWAITED PROMISE!

And the LORD visited Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had spoken. For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.  And Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him—whom Sarah bore to him—Isaac.  Then Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.  And Sarah said, “God has made me laugh, and all who hear will laugh with me.” She also said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? For I have borne him a son in his old age.”

Yitzach, or Isaac, means laughter.

There was much laughter surrounding his conception and birth. Abraham had laughed in joy, then Sarah had laughed in disbelief, now she laughs again after he is born, this time with profuse joy!

Laughter and joy

It is interesting that Abraham's age is mentioned in this passage, but not Sarah's.  It was more of a miracle that SHE had the baby.   Maybe this is why nobody ever asks women their age. We know from other passages that she is 90 years old when she gives birth to Isaac.

This birth is completely supernatural.  It isn't just that Sarah is old.  She was completely barren during her childbearing years.

The whole manifestation of the Abrahamic Covenant is bathed in the miraculous, and not in the natural. More miraculous births will happen in this line, as we will soon see, and the eventual miraculous birth in the line of the covenant is the birth of the Messiah.

But even today, we have another supernatural birth...  The birth of Israel in 1948 was a miracle, foretold in the scriptures.  Remember what Isaiah 66:8 says?
Who has heard such a thing?
Who has seen such things?
Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day?
Or shall a nation be born at once?
For as soon as Zion was in labor,
She gave birth to her children.

And also you.  You must be born again… our own rebirth is a supernatural event.

And now for a contrast, the text goes right to the account of Ishmael and Hagar in verse eight.

When Isaac was about three, he was weaned.  Abraham throws a giant party to celebrate.  (Or maybe Sarah convinced him to do it?)

Sarah sees the son of the Egyptian woman making fun of the whole thing.  The Hebrew word for mocking or scoffing is tsachach, which ironically comes from the same root word as Yitzak.  It is a mocking laughter.

Ishmael, a teenager, is mocking the supernatural.

Well, you don't mess with moms and their kids.  Even the animal kingdom demonstrates this.  Bears don't bother you unless they have a cub with them.

The root of anti-Semitism had begun when Hagar despised Sarah. And now, her son is mocking Sarah‘s son. It continued generationally, and it continues today, some 4000 years later.

Hagar is called the Egyptian here. This is a contrast to the promised land. We have a picture of the son of the slave woman, and the son of the free woman, the allegory of which comes up in Galatians 4:21-31.  It is a snapshot of how Yeshua freed us from the law of sin and death and allows us to walk in freedom from it.  Look at how this seed, planted in Genesis, plays out:

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar—  for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children—  but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written:
“Rejoice, O barren,
You who do not bear!
Break forth and shout,
You who are not in labor!
For the desolate has many more children
Than she who has a husband.” 
(Isaiah 54:1)

Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise.  But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now.  Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.

Sarah says that the son of the slave woman is not going to share in the inheritance of her son.  Abraham was not happy with the situation, but YHVH tells Abraham to do whatever Sarah says because it is Isaac that the covenant will continue.  And then the LORD reminds Abraham that Ishmael will also become a nation, because he too is Abraham's seed.

The entire scriptures give us a theme about separation between the common and the holy. God is not being mean here, he is giving us a picture of that truth.

We were all born of Egypt until we got born again... the natural, then the spiritual. We were born sons of the slave woman, and we supernaturally became saved, the sons of the free woman.

This also what Jeremiah 31:31 is about, when it foretells a new covenant that is forthcoming.  It is the covenant that fulfills the covenant made with Moses in the wilderness, which was temporary.

Remember however, the Abrahamic Covenant is  NOT temporary, but was given by YHVH as an everlasting covenant.

So anyway, in verse 14, Abraham sends Ishmael and Hagar away.

We see that Hagar and Ishmael are desolate in the wilderness of Beersheva.  Hagar weeps at the hopelessness of her situation.  But then the LORD shows up to her again, as He did so many years earlier when she was expecting Ishmael.  He gently reminds her that Ishmael will become a huge nation, and He graciously provides for them.

Ishmael became an archer (a hunter) and his Egyptian mom found him an Egyptian wife.  (Islam is rooted in Egyptian-ness).

Ishmael was an archer.  Could this be a throwback to Nimrod the mighty hunter?  In an upcoming chapter, we will see Esau as a hunter, too.  There are three hunters in Genesis, and all are negative.  But then there is Abraham, a shepherd.  And Isaac is a mild man, staying near tents.  Then you have Moses the shepherd and David the shepherd, and then we have the Good Shepherd.  There may be a spiritual lesson here on hunters vs shepherds.  All the good guys were shepherds.

Chapter 21 wraps up with a fight over water, and then a treaty between Abraham and Abimelech, the same king we saw in chapter 20.  Abimelech actually sees that God is with Abraham in everything, so he wants to be his BFF.

They figure it out the water issue and make an oath, calling it Beersheva, or well of the oath, or well of the seven.  This covenant of peace between Abraham and Abimelech was kept until the time of Samson.

Beersheva well today

Then Abraham plants a tamarisk tree.  The Hebrew word is eshel, or grove of trees.  It is a symbol of settling down, making roots.

And then Abraham gives YHVH a new title:  YHVH El Olam.  This us usually translated eternal or everlasting God, or YHVH, God of the universe.  It is the only place in the whole bible that this title shows up, but the Jews use it today in all their prayers... melech ha olam, or King of the Universe.  

Chapter 21 ends with Abraham Living in peace with Gentiles, the mocker is gone, and Isaac is growing up.   Everything is perfect in this picture... there are no foreseeable problems, right?  And he stayed there as a sojourner for a long time.

Click here for the next post.