Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Genesis Post 58 - The LORD is With Him (Chapter 39)

Genesis 39 now picks back up with the story of Joseph.

Chapter 37 ended with the mention of Potiphar, and now chapter 39 mentions him again.  He is quite an Egyptian bigwig, and he acquires Joseph as a slave.

Joseph thrives and prospers in Potiphar's service because the LORD is with him, and he gets noticed.

And promoted.

Joseph is put in charge of the household.  And boy, does the household thrive.  Potiphar trusts him completely.

Potiphar elevates Joseph

Enter Mrs. Potiphar.  She shows up in the story right after we are told that Joseph is very handsome (verse 6).

In chapter 37, we were told that Potiphar is actually a eunuch in the service of Pharaoh.  So it is no wonder that Mrs. Potiphar is bored, wants some manly attention, and casts her sights on attractive Joey.

Lie with me, she says in verse 7.

He resists her, giving her a lengthy rebuttal in verses 8 and 9, telling her that not only would that be a sin against his earthly master, but against his heavenly God as well.

She is relentless.

By verse 13, she is frustrated and angry enough to frame Joseph for his resistance of her.  She makes a vicious and false accusation against him.  Interesting that she uses Joseph's garment as an instrument of identification his demise, just like his brothers did.

Well, who is Potiphar going to believe?  (Personally, I think that deep down Potiphar believes Joseph but since the event was so loud and public, he has to take action).

Joseph is sent off to prison, where we see that the LORD grants him favor with the warden.  And just like in Potiphar's house, we see that Joseph is trusted and elevated to first in command under the prison boss man.

Joseph promoted

I wonder if Potiphar's house ceases thriving at this point.

Thus the chapter ends the same way it begins:  The LORD is with Joseph.  Through all of his trials, Joseph does not resist, protest, or fight back as far as we can see.  He simply walks with God and trusts him.

Here is a Bible truth:  Success does not depend on our circumstances, but on our relationship with the One True God.

Do we have any more parallels between Joseph and the Messiah in this chapter?  Indeed we do:
  • The LORD is with Joseph
  • Everything is put under Joseph's authority
  • Joseph acts with complete integrity
  • Joseph resists temptation
  • Joseph is falsely accused
  • Joseph remains silent in the face of his accusers
  • Joseph is thrown into prison
  • Joseph suffers even though he is innocent
Stay tuned as the story of Joseph continues to unfold!

Click here for the next post.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Genesis Post 57 - Breaking Forth! (Chapter 38)

Just when the Joseph story is getting good, we now get a word from our sponsor, so to speak.

Chapter 38 seems to be a random change of subject.  But of course, nothing is in scripture by random; everything means something.

The story of Joseph is important because of God's bigger picture.  We see the nation of Israel take form and grow while enslaved in Egypt, and we see their ultimate deliverance from Egypt, which is a metaphor from sin.  We need to know how they got there.  So while Joseph's life is in many ways a foreshadow of the Messiah, he is not in the line of the Messiah.

The lineage of the Seed who would deliver Israel (and the world) is a key biblical doctrine; so God inserts this account of the Messianic line right into the middle of the Joseph story.

And oddly enough, there is a bit of a parallel to the Joseph story, in which God took an evil situation and used it for good.

The story of Judah and Tamar is completely countercultural to us.  Some strange stuff is about to go down.

The first thing I want to note is that Tamar is the first of five women listed in the genealogy of Yeshua in Matthew chapter 1.  Each of these five women mentioned there - Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary - have a unique and unusual role to play in the Messiah's lineage.

The Women of Matthew 1

Chapter 38 opens with Judah departing from his brothers.  We read that he goes to hang out with his pagan friend Hirah the Adullamite.  A total pagan.

Judah is probably fleeing from his father's great sorrow over Joseph's disappearance.  Can you say guilty conscience?  His life seems to be taking a downward spiral as he leaves his family behind and takes up residence with the Canaanites.

Hirah the Adullamite isn't a great influence on Judah.  Through that friendship, Judah marries a Canaanite woman, whose name we are not told.  This woman produces three sons for Judah - Er, Onan, and Shelah.

In verse 7, we are told,
But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD killed him.

Dang.  Sobering.

The next couple verses highlight an ancient practice - levirate marriage - that even predates the Sinai covenant, although the practice was later codified under Mosaic Law.

The next born, in this case Onan, is told by Judah to marry the widow and give her a child that would give an heir to Er.  Onan does not want to do produce an heir for his brother that would receive his father's double portion, so he redirects his seed to the ground.

Then this, in verse 10:
And the thing which he did displeased the LORD; therefore He killed him also.

Dang again.

Biblically, one of the worst thing that could happen to you is that your name be blotted out of God's book of life.  The concept is foundational to the way Jewish people celebrate the fall holy days today.  They believe they have ten days to make amends with people, so that their name is written in the Book of Life for another year.

Here are three samples of God's book of life from the Tanach:

Psalm 69:28 says, May they be blotted out of the book of life and may they not be recorded with the righteous.

And in Exodus 32:32-22, after the golden calf episode, we read, But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!” The Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.

And in Daniel 12:  Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.

The term book of life also appears in the New Testament - once in Philippians and seven times in Revelation.

God has placed this desire for eternal things into us, as Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us.  We humans have an innate desire for significance, to be remembered, to make a name for ourselves.  It is why we name hospital wings after donors, and why we build towers to the heavens (Genesis 11:4), and why we cheer for the hometown sports teams.  And I confess:  I made a donation to a certain museum once so that I could have my name written in Jerusalem.

In the Bible, a person's name and lineage is important.  Perhaps Tamar acts as she does because she knows this.  Perhaps Tamar also knows about God's promise of a Redeemer that was to come from the family of Jacob.

Well, Judah's two older boys are dead, and he is probably thinking that Tamar is some kind of black widow spider.  Judah sends Tamar back to her father's house in humiliation, promising his younger son to her when he gets old enough.

But alas, the son gets old enough, Judah's wife dies, and Judah does not make good on his promise to Tamar.

Once again, he teams up with his Adullamite friend and goes off to Timnah to shear sheep.  And Tamar hears about it.  She takes action that to us seems bizarre.

More deception in the family of the deceiver.

Tamar dresses like a temple prostitute and lures Judah into an encounter.  He names a price - a goat - which he doesn't happen to have on him.  Somehow she convinces him to give her some very important items as a deposit - his signet which hung by a cord, and his staff.  The signet is something by which Judah would have left his signature on something.  The staff is a symbol of Judah's authority and would have been carved specifically for him.  It would be the equivalent of giving Tamar his driver's license and social security card.

How strange that Judah is so easily talked out of these important items.

Tamar takes action

They part ways after the encounter.  Tamar goes back to her father's home, dressed once again in her widowhood garments.  Judah goes home to procure the goat and get his belongings back.  But alas, he cannot find her, even after searching and asking around.

Three months later, he hears through the grapevine that his daughter-in-law is pregnant by harlotry.  

Judah is furious and calls for her to be burned.  Of course, she produces Judah's possessions and he is immediately convicted, as we see in verse 26:
So Judah acknowledged them and said, “She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son.” And he never knew her again.

The chapter concludes with an unusual birth:

Now it came to pass, at the time for giving birth, that behold, twins were in her womb. And so it was, when she was giving birth, that the one put out his hand; and the midwife took a scarlet thread and bound it on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.”  Then it happened, as he drew back his hand, that his brother came out unexpectedly; and she said, “How did you break through? This breach be upon you!” Therefore his name was called Perez. Afterward his brother came out who had the scarlet thread on his hand. And his name was called Zerah.

Tamar is a hero here, because not only does she produce twins for Judah to replace the two sons that he lost, but she also rescues Jacob from his downward spiritual spiral amongst the Canaanites.

And of course, one of her babies - Perez - gets to carry on the seed of Messiah.

I love the name Perez (pronounced Peretz).  It means to breach, break forth, or to break out.  

It is a word used in Micah 2:13, in a near/far prophecy that describes the two comings of the Messiah:
The one who breaks open will come up before them;
They will break out,
Pass through the gate,
And go out by it;
Their king will pass before them,
With the LORD at their head.”

Matthew 11:12 is referring to this passage in Micah, describing Messiah's first arrival, although most translations word it poorly:
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.

Sadly, this verse has been misunderstood and has often been used to justify violence throughout church history.  But it means that the kingdom of God is perez-ing!  Breaking out!  John the Baptist is the one that breaks open the gate, and the King the King will pass before them.

Today, we are waiting for the Kingdom to break out in all its fullness when the Messiah returns in glory.

Waiting for Messiah's glorious kingdom!

One more thought...

That scarlet thread.  It shows up here for the first time when it is placed on Zerah's wrist.  It is a theme that runs throughout scripture, and represents redemption through the blood of Messiah.

Click here to continue.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Genesis Post 56 - Joseph Introduced (Chapter 37)

The main thrust of the book of Genesis now switches focus to the story of Joseph, beloved son of Rachel and Jacob.  His story will greatly impact the destiny of the house of Israel.

Why Joseph? Will the covenant go through him? The twelve sons have not yet been shown who will carry on the promised seed. Joseph is being set up here as a type... a picture of the suffering Messiah who is to come. And indeed, he will be the one to physically save the line of Israel in what comes next. Without the story of Joseph, Israel perishes.

At age 17, we see that little Joe is out in the fields with his half brothers, the sons of Zilpah and Bilhah.  It seems that Leah's sons were somewhere else at this point.

So Joseph is hanging out with Gad, Asher, Dan, and Naphtali.  The Hebrew term suggests that Joseph is the senior shepherd.  We don't know exactly what those older brothers were doing, but Joey brings a bad report to his father about them.

I'm sure they did not appreciate the little tattletale.

Not only that, but verse 3 tells us that Israel loves Joseph more than the others because he is the child of his old age.  (Notice that Jacob is called by the covenant name Israel here. And hey!  What about Benjamin?)

Joseph is also given a fancy schmancy tunic by his dad.  This tunic is highly symbolic - it is a sign of a father's great favor.  (The favoritism is getting thick in here!)

In Joseph’s day, everyone had a coat. These coats or cloaks were used to keep warm, carry belongings and even to serve as security for a loan. Most are reported to have been very plain, about knee length, and with shorter sleeves - they were merely functional. In contrast, the coat Jacob gave his son was colorful, ankle length, long-sleeved, and probably more in keeping with what royalty wore - it was beautiful.

By verse 4, we see how much his brothers already despise him.  So you can imagine their reaction to what follows next.

Beginning in verse 5,
Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. So he said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.”

Dang.  Put yourselves in the shoes of those brothers, who already think he is a spoiled brat.  (Is Joseph purposely being a brat here?  Given the integrity of his later life, I think he is just being honest with them).

Interesting that sheaves of wheat are the main feature of his first dream.  It connects Joseph's story to food and famine.

Guys, I just had the weirdest dream!

In verse 8, their hatred grows:
And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

It gets worse, at least from the brothers' perspective:
Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.”

So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?” And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

Whoa.  Now even dad is in the fray, expressing his surprise at Joseph's dream an he rebukes him.  I find it interesting that Jacob mentions Joseph's mother at this point, who has already died.  Clearly Jacob believes in the world to come.

The sun, moon, and stars are mentioned together numerous times in scripture.  In Genesis they show up on day four of creation, and one of their purposes is to signal God's appointed times.

And speaking of the world to come, they also show up in the last book of scripture, when Revelation 12:1 says,
Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.

Something much bigger than spoiled little Joseph is in the works here.  We are talking an entire destiny of a people group; a destiny that ultimately affects the entire world.

The chapter continues in verse 12, when the brothers go up to Shechem to feed their flocks.  Shechem is about 48 miles north of Hebron, where Jacob, Joseph, and probably Benjamin currently are.

And for some reason, Jacob sends his favorite boy on a three-day journey to check on his brothers, to see if they are well.  Joseph responds with hineini- I will go.

So Joseph heads north, and not finding them in Shechem (maybe the Shechemites remember the slaughter?), heads to Dothan based on a tip from a local tour guide.  Note:  Dothan means two wells.  Dothan is about another twelve miles north of Shechem.

As Joseph approaches, the brothers see him coming.  Here comes that master of dreams, they sneer, which indicates their main beef with their brother.  Immediately, they plot to get rid of the little twerp.  Their evil plot includes murder.

However, Reuben the firstborn steps in and saves his life.  In verse 22, he uses the ruse, let's put him in a pit, fully intending to return Joseph to their father.

Bravo, Reuben!  His actions are not enough to earn back his standing as the firstborn, however, especially because his plan is foiled.  For some unbeknownst reason, he departs from the scene of the intended crime.

The actions of the remaining brothers continue, as they strip the hated tunic from Joseph and throw him into an empty cistern - perhaps one of the two wells of Dothan?

Then they sit down to dinner.  Could they hear Joseph's shouts from the well as they calmly eat their meal?

As they eat their meal, they see a caravan of Ishmaelite traders from Midian (Arabia) in the near distance.  One of the little details here is that the Arab traders are carrying spices, balm, and myrrh - products used for embalming.  Death spices.

Judah, not wishing to have his brother's blood on his hands, convinces the brothers to sell him to those traders of death spices.  So they do - for twenty shekels of silver.  According to one online estimate that I found, that is about $400 in today's money.

The sale of Joseph by his brothers
Thirty shekels of silver was the going rate for a slave.  Joseph becomes a slave to Egypt at a reduced price.  How little the brothers valued Joseph's life!

At this point, Reuben returns, and finding Joseph gone, rips his clothing.  This is a traditional action of great mourning, usually done when someone dies.  Jews still do this symbolically today when a loved one dies.  Another symbol of death.

The tunic - that symbol of his father's great favor - is dipped in blood.  The sons of the deceiver set out to deceive Jacob.  When Jacob sees the bloody tunic, he goes into deep, deep mourning.  His beloved son is dead, or so he thinks.

Can you say dysfunctional family?

The story of Joseph is one of the great prophetic pictures of our Messiah.  This chapter just scratches the surface of that picture.  Look at this list so far:
  • Joseph is highly favored of his father
  • Joseph is given a special mantle, or tunic, by his father
  • Joseph is envied and then hated by his brothers
  • The brothers didn't like what Joseph has to say
  • Joseph is sent by his father, for a special purpose, to his brothers
  • Joseph is willing to be his father's servant
  • Joseph traipses all over the country seeking his brothers
  • Joseph is rejected by his brothers
  • The brothers plot to kill him
  • His brothers strip him of his tunic
  • Joseph's brothers argue over what to do with him
  • Joseph is placed into the ground by his brothers
  • Joseph is sold for silver, arranged by Judah (Judas)
  • The brothers turn him over to foreigners
  • Joseph's demise is filled with deception
  • The account is peppered with symbols of death
  • Substitutionary blood is shed
  • Joseph's father mourns in deep agony
  • Joseph is sent to the country of Egypt, a biblical metaphor for sin
  • Joseph goes to Egypt to escape death (Ironically, Yeshua's father brought his family to Egypt because of a dream)
Chapter 37 ends with an introduction to the next part of Joseph's story:
Now the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and captain of the guard.

It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word for officer is actually means eunuch.  It was a great honor to serve the ruler of Egypt, but a person had to be willing to give up a great deal. 

Before the story of Joseph continues, it is first time for a little history lesson in chapter 38. 

Click here to see what I mean.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Genesis Post 55 - A Birth, A Death, and Some Genealogy (Chapters 35 - 36)

Picking up in verse 16 of chapter 35, it is time for the company to head out.  Jacob and his clan head south, toward Ephrath (Efrat).

It isn't a very long trip... only about 10-11 kilometers.  But somewhere en route, Rachel's water breaks.  She goes into labor.  Hard labor, the scripture tells us.

I've heard of children being born in taxi cabs and such in our modern day, but on a dusty camel train?  Ugh.

The caravan probably grinds to a halt.  And we don't know exactly what goes wrong, but Rachel has a very difficult time of it and she dies.  Knowing she is dying, she sorrowfully names her child Ben-Oni, or son of my sorrow. 

But Jacob, although he must be devastated over the loss of his beloved Rachel, overrules the name and calls the boy Benjamin, meaning son of the right hand.

(Small rabbit trail:  there are 700 Benjamites in Joshua 20 who are noted to be left-handed.  Coincidence? I think not.)

Rachel is buried in Bethlehem, and Jacob sets a stone pillar as a memorial on her grave.  Jews continue this tradition of stones on graves to this day.  I love the idea of stones on graves instead of cut flowers.  They are a symbol of eternity.  Maybe this is why I like rocks so much, and often haul them home from travels to various places.

Early photo of Rachel's tomb in Bethlehem.

The company of Jacob then picked up and traveled a little further onward, to Migdal Eder, or the tower of the flock.  The only other place this term is used is in Micah 4, in the midst of a prophecy regarding the coming Messiah in Micah 4 and 5, a Ruler of Israel who would someday be born on this very spot.

Now we come to another verse that seems out of context, and, well, frankly - awkward:
And it happened, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine; and Israel heard about it.

There appears to be no immediate reaction by Jacob, but we will see it mentioned at the end of Genesis when Jacob blesses (prophesies over) his sons.  The event also gets a mention in 1 Chronicles 5. 

Chapter 35 then goes straight into the genealogy of Jacob's sons, Reuben being noted as the firstborn.  I believe that Reuben's treachery was mentioned so that we can understand why it is Judah, the fourth-born, who receives the blessing that should have gone to a firstborn.  We already know why it does not pass to Simeon and Levi because of the bloodshed at Shechem.  Reuben's actions cause him to be passed over as well.

Plus Dinah, daughter of Leah. 
Chapter 35 ends with the reunion of Jacob and Isaac at Hebron.  We don't know how long Jacob dwells with Isaac, but when Isaac is 180 years old, he breathes his last.  Esau shows up from Seir (another reunion) and the brothers bury their father at the same place as Abraham and Sarah - the cave of Machpelah.

Esau probably sticks around with the fam for at least a little while and then he heads home to Seir.  And the next chapter of Genesis is then devoted to him and his progeny.

Why?  Because he is a child of Abraham.  Genesis 25 had given us a brief overview of the sons of Ishmael and the sons of Keturah for the same reason.  Esau's family tree is also given a shout-out in 1 Chronicles chapter 1.  But the biblical narrative switches radically and almost exclusively to the children of Jacob, from whence will come the Seed of the Woman and the Redeemer of the World.

So. just for fun I tried to draw out Esau's lineage based on Genesis 36 and 1 Chronicles 1.

It wasn't easy.  It was so mixed with the sons of Seir.  I think that perhaps that is part of the point of this chapter... contrasting the mixed family of Esau with the set-apart children of Israel.  I finally gave up trying to create an accurate family tree of Esau.  One of the Hebrew word for mixed is Arab.  It is the same word as erev, or sunset, which also carries the meaning of chaos.  Not light and not dark.  Twilight.

Some of these names  of Edom's family show up later in scripture.  For instance, Eliphaz the Temanite shows up in the book of Job.  The Amalekites certainly show up later on when the LORD tells Saul to destroy them all in 1 Samuel 15.  Saul disobeys and spares King Agag.  Eventually the prophet Samuel steps in and hacks Agag to pieces (oh, how colorful is the word of God), but not before Agag somehow has a chance to procreate.  One of Agag's descendants - Haman - shows up in the book of Esther, and we know how that went!

I must pause for a moment, and address my struggle with verse 6.
Then Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters, and all the persons of his household, his cattle and all his animals, and all his goods which he had gained in the land of Canaan, and went to a country away from the presence of his brother Jacob.

Wait!  Jacob flees from his brother right after finagling the blessing of Isaac away from Esau.  And when they are reunited in Genesis 33, Esau is already a bigwig in Seir.  So how does he somehow depart from the presence of Jacob?

I could not reconcile this.  The various commentaries left me more confused.  So I gave up and went to get ready for my day. (I often blog while in pajamas).  As the hot water was pummeling my head, I sent up a prayer for clarity.  And just like the situation in my last post with Deborah the honeybee, insight came in an instant.  

This is what came to me.

When Rebekah sends Jacob away, she anticipates that it will only be for a few days, till Esau's anger has abated.  Jacob probably flees with not much more than the tunic on his back, leaving the bulk of his possessions behind.

Meanwhile, Esau's shepherds and Jacob's shepherds (much like Lot's and Abraham's shepherds back in Genesis 13) are trying to manage their respective flocks in an arid land.  Jacob's flock would be double the size of Esau's due to the double portion allotted to the son with the birthright.  Esau, partly due to his anger at what just happened with Jacob, and also due to being a hunter by nature, decides to head to the wilds of Seir, thinking, to heck with the hometown!  Departing from the presence of Jacob simply means leaving behind all those irritating reminders of his brother.

And Esau's departure is God-ordained, as we see in Deuteronomy 2:5, Joshua 24:4, and other places.  It was God's intent all along to remove Esau from the Promised Land and also to give Seir to Esau.  And Esau becomes a bigwig himself - head honcho of the land of Edom.

Eventually, the Edomites become enemies of Israel, and the entire book of Obadiah is a prophecy against them because of how they treat the children of Israel - both in their trek from Egypt and in their eventual exile.  Rivkah's prophecy of the warring twins in her womb is fulfilled.

The story continues to unfold!  Click here to continue.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Genesis Post 54 - Back to the House of God (Chapter 35)

The last post dealt with the crazy story of Dinah.  Remember how chapter 33 ended with the worship of God?  He remained behind the scenes in chapter 34.  Now, in chapter 35, He is mentioned right off the bat.

The events of Shechem have just happened, and Dinah has been dragged from the house of Shechem by her brothers.  (What does Dinah think of all this?  We are not told. But the whole account is a good reminder to choose your close friends wisely.)

This chapter opens up with directions from the LORD to Jacob - go to Beth El - the house of God.  Jacob is going to head to the place where he first encountered the LORD... back to where it all started in Genesis 28:15 when the LORD said,
Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.”

Jacob acknowledges this promise in verse 3:
Then let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me in the way which I have gone.”

Jacob must have been eager to get away from the slaughter scene wrought by his sons at Shechem.  Embarrassed is probably a gross understatement.

Maybe Jacob should have gone to Beth-El first, and avoided all the trouble in Shechem.

Before heading out, Jacob cleans house.  The message of the last chapter was, don't mix!  No idolatry~  Jacob is making sure any and all mixing is eradicated.  He commands that all the foreign gods among them be put away - probably acquired during the pillaging of Shechem.  They ditch their soiled garments and jewelry, too - probably more of the spoils of Shechem.  The earrings themselves were said to be amulets.

Jacob buries everything under the terebinth tree near Shechem before heading out.  Notice, he does not destroy them.  Perhaps this is a "root" of the problem when idolatry occurs in the future among the children of Israel, particularly in the northern kingdom which eventually splits from the south.

Terebinth tree

In my last post, I noted that Simeon and Levi did not get a rebuke from the LORD regarding their actions in Shechem.  And indeed, in verse 5 we see the LORD actually protecting the whole family!
And they journeyed, and the terror of God was upon the cities that were all around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.

Though the Israelites are small in number at this point, the LORD sees to it that the surrounding people leave them alone.

What comes next almost sounds like a repeat of chapter 28, when Jacob first encountered the LORD at Bethel (House of God).  Remember his somewhat shallow prayer back then?  If you do this for me, God, then I will serve you and even tithe to you.

Well, God has answered Jacob's prayer big time.  Jacob returns to this original spot over 20 years later, having been blessed with many children, much wealth, and a new name given to him from the LORD.

The LORD reminds Jacob of his new covenant name - Israel - and He reaffirms the Abrahamic Covenant to Jacob.  And Jacob repeats an action that he did so many years ago... only this time he has a much greater understanding.  Here is the second encounter at Bethel, starting with verse 10:

Then God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Padan Aram, and blessed him.  And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.” So He called his name Israel.  Also God said to him: “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land.”  Then God went up from him in the place where He talked with him.  So Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He talked with him, a pillar of stone; and he poured a drink offering on it, and he poured oil on it.  And Jacob called the name of the place where God spoke with him, Bethel.

Once again, in the very same place, Jacob sets up a stone pillar and anoints it with oil - a picture of Messiah, our Anointed One who would die in that very spot.  However, this time there is a difference:  Jacob also anoints the stone with a drink offering, which could have been either water or wine.  Yeshua - the one chosen and anointed with oil - becomes our living water through His death and resurrection.  And wine is a symbol of His shed blood.  Both are deeply symbolic.

In chapter 28 I wrote about this of this company of nations that was promised to Jacob.  The word used for company is qahal, the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek word ekklesia.  Today's worldwide body of believers is part of this qahal, or congregation.  Notice how the passage  says, a nation and a company of nations?  

To the Jew first, and then to the rest of the world.  It is God's perfect order of things throughout the scriptures.

(Side note: Beth-El means House of God.  There is also a Bethel in the north of Israel, which became the center of idol worship under Jeroboam in the divided kingdom.  This House of God is the true House of God in Jerusalem - the only geographical place in scripture where God has chosen to put His name.  I believe Jacob was standing on the Mount of Olives overlooking the future city of Jerusalem.)

Now I need to back up to verse 8, which I was tempted to skip since it seemed to be random, out of context, and confusing.
Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried below Bethel under the terebinth tree. So the name of it was called Allon Bachuth (Terebinth of Weeping).  

Looking through commentaries on this verse, I found that the following adjectives were used by the various commentators regarding this verse:
Strange, intrusive, most intrusive, overbearing, perplexing, curious, puzzling, tantalizingly unexplained, troubling, and surprising.

Very few women have their deaths mentioned in the Tanach... not even Rebekah herself.  So why her nurse?  This nurse was unnamed as she departed Haran with her mistress back in chapter 24, and here she is called by her name, Deborah, which means honeybee.

Before moving on and simply skipping over this perplexing verse, I sent up a quick prayer for clarity.  Almost instantly, the LORD put a verse in my head, which explained the whole thing for me.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57 says,
“O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Yeshua Messiah.

Paul was quoting both Hosea and Isaiah when he said those words.  And on the very spot where Yeshua defeated death, Deborah the honeybee prophetically has her "stinger removed" in death, and is buried.  The location of the Honeybee's grave is a prophetic picture of what Yeshua accomplishes and overcomes for us all.

What happens to a honeybee when it stings someone.
Sorry, kind of gross.

Suddenly, verse 8 is beautifully in context.

But most commentators don't think Yeshua was crucified on the Mount of Olives, which explains their perplexity.

I don't know how Rebekah's nurse came to be in the company of Jacob.  Perhaps Isaac sends her to Shechem when he hears that Jacob is back in the land.  But one way or another, God makes sure she gets there - he wants to paint a picture for us!

Click here for part two of this chapter.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Genesis Post 53 - Unmixed (Chapter 34)

We now come to a tough chapter in the history of Israel.

It is interesting to note that chapter 33 ended with God, and chapter 35 will begin with God, but in this chapter, He is not mentioned.

Jacob has just withstood potential physical attacks, from Laban and from Esau.  The enemy of our souls now tries a different tactic with the covenant people:  spiritual attack.  Mixing.  The very definition of holy is to be set apartUnmixed.

Enter the story of Dinah.

The chapter starts out like this in verse 1:
Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land.

The Hebrew word for see, ro'eh, also carries the meaning of choosing.  She is probably a bored, curious teenager at this point, surrounded by brothers, and is looking for some excitement.  She begins hanging out with the young people of the land.  She isn't necessarily looking for trouble, but trouble finds her.

Dinah checks out the local scene

Shechem, the son of Hamor, sees (the same word as earlier, meaning that he also chooses) her and wants her.  Since he is a prince among his people, he simply takes her and defiles her.  We don't know if she resists or not.  My guess is not.

Look at the context of verse 3; it makes him sound like a nice guy:
His soul was strongly attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the young woman and spoke kindly to the young woman.

Shechem then speaks to his father, demanding that he arrange his marriage to Dinah.

Verse 5 tells us that Jacob hears what has happened, but we see no reaction from him.  Curious.  He holds his peace until his sons come in from the fields.

But when his sons hear about it, they flip out.  Their sister has been dishonored.  (Honor has been and remains today a very high value in the Middle East).

Hamor begs the house of Israel for a marriage between Dinah and his son Shechem.  He goes on to suggest that the two cultures merge, intermarry, and dwell together.  He promises the house of Israel anything they want.  (By the way, the name Hamor means ass - as in donkey).

Hmm.  Tempting.  The evil one, working behind the scene, wants them to become a mixed people.  He's trying to mess up the Abrahamic Covenant.

The same evil one is still at work today, tempting us to mix the profane with the holy.  And sadly, we do it without even thinking about it - so much pagan tradition has become so ingrained in our culture and our own traditions.

But Jacob's boys don't fall for it; however, they pretend that they do.  So now the sons of the deceiver create a plan of deception using the very sign of the covenant - circumcision.  The very sign that ironically sets them apart as a people.

They come up with a devious plan that involves all the men of Shechem submitting to circumcision.

Verse 19 actually tell us that young Shechem eagerly goes along with this, so great was his delight in Dinah.  And the verse tells us that he is more honorable than all the household of his father.  Does that sound like an accurate description of a rapist?  Remember the story of David's kids, Tamar and Amnon in 2 Samuel 13?  In that story, Tamar actively resists her half brother.  And after he defiles her, Amnon despises her.  This situation is different.  We see no resistance from Dinah and we see a declaration of love, as self-serving as that love might be on the part of Shechem.

So how in the world is Hamor going to convince a village-full of men to go along with circumcision?

Verse 23 tells us, and also reveals part of their true motive - greed.
Will not their livestock, their property, and every animal of theirs be ours? Only let us consent to them, and they will dwell with us.”

Face it, the Israelites were very wealthy at this point.  Appealing to their greed works, and all the men submit to surgery.

Then this happens in verse 25:
Now it came to pass on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and came boldly upon the city and killed all the males.

The rabbis say that the pain of circumcision is at its worst on day three.  So the actions of Simeon and Levi are quite literally a low blow.

The city is plundered, the wealth, wives, and little ones are taken, and it is a bloodbath.

Jacob is mortified.  And terrified.  He tells his two sons that they have made him obnoxious (literally a bad smell or a stink in the nostrils) among the inhabitants of the land, and that the Canaanites will now rise up and destroy the entire family of Jacob.  

But they just say, “Should he treat our sister like a harlot?”

This whole episode is crazy, so you would think that the Israelites would get a giant rebuke from the LORD.  But they don't.  In fact, in the next chapter, we are going to see how He actually protects the family of Jacob as they depart the area.

What??  Didn't Levi and Simeon grossly overreact?  Where is the outrage?  What about an eye for an eye?

Let's look at a similar story and what the reaction of the LORD is.  In Numbers 25, the Israelites begin to mix with the Moabites, bowing down in worship to their gods in addition to their own.  One Israelite named Zimri (which means to celebrate in song) was joining together sexually with a Moabite woman named Cozbi (which means deception) right in the tent of meeting.  A priest by the name of Phinehas actually runs a sword through them.  Does he get in trouble for this violent act?  

No, thus says the LORD:
Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace; and it shall be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.’ ”

The LORD is zealous for holiness!  He does not condone mixed worship.  I think of the seven biblical feasts that He has given us - His appointed times - and do we do anything with them?  No.  We are much more enthralled with the ones given to us by pagan Rome.

By the way, Dinah means judgment, as in acquitted or vindicated

Click here to continue to the next post.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Genesis Post 52 - Will There Be a War? (Chapter 33)

Chapter 33 opens with Jacob lifting his eyes and seeing his brother.

It is quite possible that Esau really did intend to harm Jacob. After all, Rebekah had said she would send for Jacob when Esau’s anger abated. She never did.

Also, Esau’s return message to Jacob is rather terse. I’m coming, with 400 guys.

If this is the case, then we see that clearly God answers Jacob’s prayer from the previous night and changes the heart of Esau. Had Jacob met Esau the day before, sans the divine wrestling match, the result might have been quite different.

I’m reminded of Queen Esther’s two dinners in a row for Hamam and the king. Something happened between the two dinners to change everything.

But still, Jacob takes no chances. He arranges the moms and kids according to his preference, putting the maids out front and Rachel and Joey in back. Favoritism again.

He then goes out front and bows seven times to his brother. In ancient times, it was a custom to do this before kings. Jacob is greatly humbling himself before his brother. Groveling, even.

(Esau had moved his family to Seir, so it was quite possible that he had become a king of his own domain.  Eventually, there was an entire area known as Edom in what is today the nation of Jordan.  And Edom was Esau's nickname after selling his birthright for the red stew.)

Jacob had just confronted Laban boldly after Laban caught up with him. Why is he so timid now? Probably because he knows he had been in the wrong when he deceived his brother so many years ago, whereas Laban, who had repeatedly deceived Jacob, was the one in the wrong.

And yet Jacob demonstrates boldness be stepping out in front of his entire company of wives and children. That boldness probably came after wrestling with the LORD. His hip infirmity word have prevented him from running away  had Esau attacked.  He was totally vulnerable before his brother.

Jacob had changed but he still struggled with his carnal nature. For the rest of his life, the scriptures refer to him both as Jacob and Israel.

And then a happy sight:  Esau runs to Jacob and throws his arms around him. All animosity from the previous 20 years is gone.

Jacob probably expected to die, but his brother hugs him, and they weep together.

It’s like the happy ending of a chick flick.

Esau has been blessed over the years as well as Jacob, so he doesn't want to accept his gift of livestock. Jacob know how important Esau's acceptance would be, so he convinces him to receive the gift.

Esau's acceptance of the gift was as important to the reconciliation as Jacob’s giving the gifts. When Jacob gives such generous gifts, it is his way of saying to Esau he is sorry and when Esau accepts the gifts, it is his way of accepting Jacob and saying he is forgiven.

In that culture, one never accepted a gift from an enemy, only from a friend. To accept the gift was to accept the friendship.

So in verse 12, Esau invites Jacob to travel along with him as he leads the way.  

Jacob immediately comes up with a bunch of excuses in verses 13-14.  Maybe he really is concerned about his kids and his animals going too fast to keep up with Esau or maybe he just really doesn't want to travel with Esau.  Seeing as Jacob then promises to catch up with him (and then never does) tells me that he is still just a little bit afraid of his brother.  And Edom isn't the Promised Land, which is where Jacob is heading, carrying the Abrahamic Covenant upon him.

Esau even wants to give Jacob some servants to help him out in his journey, but Jacob basically says, thanks, but no thanks.

The brothers part in peace, but the prophecy given to Rivka about the two warring nations in her womb is still to come through their descendants. See the book of Obadiah, and Malachi 1:2.

Before crossing the Jordan, we have a pause in the journey in verse 17.
And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, built himself a house, and made booths for his livestock. Therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.

The word sukkot (or succoth) means booths, or tabernacles - temporary shelters.  The seventh Biblical feast given from the LORD to Moses at Sinai is given the same name:  Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot.  I always knew that Sukkot was a memorial of the LORD dwelling with His people in the wilderness after being delivered from Egypt in Exodus, but we can also remember that the LORD was with Jacob/Israel as he was about to return to the Promised Land here in Genesis.  It also has a future application when the Messiah will return to dwell with His bride.

We don't know how long Jacob remained in Succoth, but the chapter wraps up with his re-entrance to the Land.

Jacob then pitches his tent in Shechem, which is modern-day Nablus, right between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerazim.  He then purchases the land upon which he pitches his tent, from a local guy.  The chapter ends with worship, when Jacob builds an altar and called it El Elohe Israel... literally, God, the God of Israel.

Click here to continue.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Genesis Post 51 Jacob's Redemption (Chapter 32)

After his peace meal with Laban, Jacob heads out in the morning and is met by angels of God. These same angels, or malachim, are the ones that appeared to Jacob on his way out of the Promised Land, ascending and descending the stairs.  And they probably remain with him, unseen, the entire time he is gone.

Upon this second encounter with them, Jacob names the place Mahanaim.  What was Jacob seeing that he gave the place that name? Two companies of angels? The name means double camp.  

Jacob's life is about to change.

Jacob sends a message to Esau, telling his messengers exactly what to say to his brother in verses 4 and 5:
Speak thus to my lord Esau, ‘Thus your servant Jacob says: “I have dwelt with Laban and stayed there until now. I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight.” 

Twice in his little speech, Jacob humbly refers to Esau as his lord, which means master.   He is assuring his brother that he has plenty of goods and has no wish to dispossess Esau of anything.

The messengers return with a simple message:

Esau is coming to meet you with 400 men.

Jacob freaks out.

He knows he has the covenant promise to him from God, but he doesn’t have the details.

He must be wondering, is this going to be a big fat war?

Immediately, he divides his camp into two camps.  Remember the prophetic name that Jacob had already given the area upon seeing the angelic messengers?  He formulates a double camp.

He separates the two groups, and puts one toward the front and one toward the back that way at least one of them would survive if Esau attacks.

We then have another biblical first: the first recorded prayer from man to God in verses 9-12.
Then Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you’: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies. Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children. For You said, ‘I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’ ”

Jacob humbly professes his unworthiness, and he respectfully confesses to God his fear of his brother Esau and asks for deliverance from his brother. And twice, he gently reminds the LORD of His covenant promises to him and his offspring.

Don’t be afraid to talk to God about whatever is on your heart. He knows anyway, and yet he wants to hear from us.  I often remind God of His promises when I pray. I have an adult child who is wandering from God, and his name happens to mean the LORD remembers. So you bet I bring his name up to God!

So Jacob then assembles a little present for his brother - over 550 animals - and sends them on ahead in little groups, led by servants, and again tells them exactly what to say to Esau. But Jacob himself remains behind, overnight in the double camp.

Before going to bed, he gathers up his wives and sons and sends them over the ford of Jabbok.  Jabbok means emptying, or pouring forth.

Then what happens? It gets dark.  Verse 24 says,
Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.

In Hebrew we see a word play that is not evident in the English.

Jacob wrestled with God at the Jabbok river, and they are all almost the same word in Hebrew. Jacob, wrestle, and Jabbok.  It almost sounds like Jacob Jacobed at Jacob.

So much is happening in this wrestling match.

First of all, we are told that the Man wrestles with Jacob, not the other way around.

Jacob wrestles all night with the Man, and is doing really well until the very end. At that point, he gets his hip knocked out of joint by his Opponent.  Ding.

And after wrestling, Jacob asks his Opponent for a blessing.  (Imagine you are a prizefighter, and you've just been knocked out by Mike Tyson.  Hey Mike, can I have a blessing from you?)

His Opponent asks him, what's your name?
(He already knows, of course.)

Can you imagine how Jacob feels when he has to answer?
My name is Jacob.  Heel grabber.  Supplanter.  Deceiver.  

Then the blessing follows in verse 28 with another first mention:
And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

His name was changed to Israel, mentioned for the first time here.  It is a name packed with meaning:  means struggles with God, contention, God prevails, and also prince with God.

What a name for Jacob, and for the nation of Israel as well.

Jacob names the place Peniel which means face to face with God.  Jacob is actually wrestling with Yeshua here, in a pre-incarnate appearance.

The Jewish rabbis really struggle with this passage, because if they say that Jacob wrestled with God, then they have to say that God could become a man, and that sounds like the gospel. So they say things like, it was a dream (even though you don’t limp for the rest of your life from just a dream), or that it was Esau‘s guardian angel that Jacob was wrestling with, or it was just an angel that Jacob wrestled with.

The struggling happens at night. It is a dark situation. Jacob wakes up ready to face Esau and his 400 men. Did you ever notice that everything looks better in the daytime?

This account is a picture of our struggles that we have against the flesh, and when we come to the end of ourselves, we surrender. Just a touch from God, and then we are in a position for His blessing!

The wrestler came and blessed Jacob by putting his own name into the new name of Jacob.  In the same way, God in the form of the Holy Spirit, indwells us when we place our trust in Him.

In his life, Jacob contended with a lot of people - with Esau, with Isaac, with Laban, and eventually with his own sons. He usually wins, but this time, he does not come out ahead. Jacob is humbled, brought to the end of himself, and then he is blessed. He is a new creation after the LORD wrestles with him in the dark.

I think of the apostle Paul, and how the LORD wrestled with him on the road to Damascus and changed him. This wrestling and surrendering represents our own born-again experience.

Jacob walked with a limp the rest of his life.  We too walk differently after a touch from the LORD.  We walk for the rest of our life in His strength, not our own.  And yet, until He returns, we still struggle with the flesh.

I've heard people who don't believe in God say that religion is a crutch.  Hmm.  Frankly, they are not far off.  But it isn't religion that is our crutch.  It is the LORD Himself.

One online definition of the word crutch is this: something that a person depends on to help deal with problems.

Yes, He is that.  But He is much, much more than that, too!

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Friday, October 12, 2018

Genesis Post 50 - Jacob Heads Home (Chapter 31)

The last chapter wrapped up with the crazy story of the rods and the livestock.  Through it all, the LORD prospered Jacob.  Exceedingly prosperous, we are told.  The prosperity was not because of the rods, but because it was the LORD's plan.

So now that Jacob is wealthy as heck, the LORD is preparing to return to the Promised Land.

The impetus is the whining of his cousins, the sons of Laban.  They whine to their father that Jacob is basically stealing their inheritance.  (Have you ever noticed that historically speaking, successful Jews have always been hated?)

Alrighty then.  Jacob calls his wives into a meeting and tells them it's time to go.  He explains to them everything that has transpired with Laban and the livestock.  He tells them that the LORD has prospered him in spite of Laban working to the contrary.

Somehow, these ladies still feel like they are getting the short end of the stick in spite of Jacob's wealth in verses 14 and 15:
Then Rachel and Leah answered and said to him, “Is there still any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house?  Are we not considered strangers by him? For he has sold us, and also completely consumed our money.

So while Laban is away shearing his sheep, Jacob prepares to exit the area.  He loads his wives and kids onto camels and sneaks away.

Three days later, Laban hears about it and is less than thrilled.  He chases Jacob for seven days, finally catching up with him at the mountains of Gilead, which is somewhere in modern day Jordan, east of the Jordan River.

Laban is careful though, because the LORD had sent him a dream, telling him not to speak either good or bad to Jacob (verse 24).

He carefully pitches a fit to Jacob, telling him that he would have thrown a party for him at his departure.

Something in me says, yeah, right.

Then he throws in something strange in verse 30:
And now you have surely gone because you greatly long for your father’s house, but why did you steal my gods?”

Here, then, is the evidence that Laban served both the LORD and idols.  Unholy mixing.

Who knew that Rachel had taken them?  Nobody.  Jacob would never have said what he did to Laban...  kill the person with whom you find them.

And why does Rachel take them?  Because she worships them, too?  No, she steals the household gods because she is ticked at her father for blowing her inheritance (even though they were leaving with great wealth).  We know this because she had just been whining about how her inheritance had been stolen.

Rachel Hides Her Father's Household gods,
by Marc Chagall

In that ancient culture, the household gods represented the leadership and the inheritance of the family. Whoever had possession of the idols was the possessor of this leadership and inheritance.  Archaeological evidence actually shows this.

Rachel is really poking her dad in the eye at this point.  She is getting even.

What Rachel does in regard to these idols showed some fast thinking on her part in verses 34 and 35:
Now Rachel had taken the household idols, put them in the camel’s saddle, and sat on them. And Laban searched all about the tent but did not find them. And she said to her father, “Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise before you, for the manner of women is with me.” And he searched but did not find the household idols.

I can imagine Laban's reaction... oh, ew, no thanks!

What a picture we are given regarding the uncleanness of idols.  I am reminded of Isaiah 64:6, which says,
But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away.

The Hebrew expression for filthy rags is a little more colorful... it means menstrual rags.

How ironic it is then, that blood of Yeshua makes us clean.  It is one of the great biblical paradoxes!

So what did Rachel ever do with those filthy idols?  We are not told, but I imagine she got rid of them pretty quickly after hearing Jacob's declaration of a death sentence.  And I doubt we will ever see an Indiana Jones movie in search of them.  But these days, you never know...

Jacob pitches his own fit right back at Laban after the futile idol search beginning in verse 36, reminding Laban of the years of service he had given him, and calling Laban on his deceptive practices during those years.

Laban acquiesces and calls for a covenant with Jacob.  They erect a heap of stones as a witness, and Laban covers his bases in verse 53. swearing by the God of Abraham, the god of Nahor, and the god of their father.  Jacob, however, swears by the Fear of Isaac - the LORD.  (Fear means awe or reverence).  Laban gives the heap an Aramaic name, and Jacob gives the heap a Hebrew name, but it means the same thing:  Heap of Witness.
Random heap of stones.  I love rocks.
Jacob then makes a sacrifice on the mountain, and all share in the fellowship meal together.  They remain on the mountain overnight

The chapter ends when Laban kisses all his relatives in the morning and departs with nothing - the very thing he had hoped to leave Jacob with - nothing.

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Monday, October 8, 2018

Genesis Post 49 - Jacob's Wages (Chapter 30)

About halfway through chapter 30, the childbearing saga takes a pause and we now come to the account of Laban and Jacob. and the flocks, beginning in verse 25.

Jacob puts in a transfer request after Joseph is born.  He wants to go home.  His additional seven years of labor has probably just been completed at this point.

Laban knows what side his bread is buttered on.  He knows that his prosperity is due to Jacob.

So he resorts to begging in verses 27-28:
And Laban said to him, “Please stay, if I have found favor in your eyes, for I have learned by experience that the LORD has blessed me for your sake.” Then he said, “Name me your wages, and I will give it.”

The expression learned by experience is actually the Hebrew word nachash, which means to practice divination, observe the signs or omens, or to hiss.  It is actually the same word used of the serpent in Genesis 3.  

Laban divined through magic that the LORD has blessed him.  Laban is mixing up his idols here and attributing them to God.  Scripture tells us that Laban is also a worshipper of idols.

Anyway, Jacob agrees with Laban that, yes, he is the reason Laban has prospered.  But Jacob wants to provide for his own house like any red-blooded man would.  So they work out a deal that really won't cost Laban anything.

Jacob's deal is this:  that he only receives sheep that are speckled, streaked, spotted, or solid dark brown/black, and only goats that are speckled or spotted.

In fact, Laban must think he is getting a sweet deal, as we can see in verse 34:
And Laban said, “Oh, that it were according to your word!” 

In other words, oh heck, yeah!

Speckled and spotted goats were rather rare in the Middle East, as were the dark lambs which were usually solid white.  

And then in verse 35, Laban walks through the flocks and separates all the speckled and striped animals and the brown lambs.  Sneaky Laban then puts these animals in the care of his own sons!  He is going to make sure that not many little spotty-speckly animals come to be via the genetics of their parents.  What a rip-off artist.  Too bad Laban didn't understand genetics and recessive genes, nor the will of the LORD.

Laban and his sons bolt with those animals that should have been Jacob's, putting three days' journey between themselves and Jacob, and leaving Jacob in charge of Laban's solid-color animals.

Then the story gets weird.

In verse 37, Jacob takes rods of trees:  fresh, new branches from white milky trees and almond trees, and then he peels white strips into the rods.  He then sets these strips before the solid flocks as they come to drink water.

In the Hebrew, we see that word for white again twice - Laban.  The same as Laban's name.  Remember how the word for white can mean both purity and deception?  Good grief - these two guys seem to keep going back and forth with their plans of deception.

Somehow Jacob thinks this will make them conceive and bear the spotty animals that he needs.  Was this another ancient superstitious custom, like the mandrakes?  Frankly, I don't know.

Of course, it is not the white strips that cause the animals to reproduce in a way to benefit Jacob, it is the will of God.

People have tried to scientifically reproduce this whole thing with white strips of bark to bring on spotted animals, and it doesn't work.

The word for speckled can also mean to mark by puncturing.

Do we see a prophetic picture here?

In verse 33, Jacob makes  this statement:
So my righteousness will answer for me in time to come, when the subject of my wages comes before you:

Hints of Yeshua are all over the place. 

Wages.  Righteousness.  Almond rod. Wood.  Marked.  Sheep and goats. White (meaning both pure and deception).

A few verses come to my mind.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Messiah Yeshua, our Lord.

Psalm 51:7b
Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.

Isaiah 53:5-6
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

The LORD provided a way for Jacob's livelihood, just as He provides a way for our eternal livelihood today through Yeshua, the pure, unspotted Lamb who took upon Himself the marks that we deserve.

There is an interesting modern story regarding Jacob's sheep.  The breed disappeared completely from the Holy Land about 2000 years ago, vacating the land at around the same time the Jews were kicked out in 70 AD.  

A Jewish Canadian couple began raising these sheep on a whim in British Colombia (they were not farmers).  Long story short, God put it on their hearts to bring these sheep home to the Holy Land.  

On November 30, 2016, the first 119 of these sheep landed in Israel.  (How would you have liked to be on that flight?  Time for your meal... and out come bales of hay).  On the Hebrew calendar, the date was the 28th of Cheshvan, the day that Noah exited the ark.  Thirty of the ewes were pregnant.

The first offspring of these sheep were born in May of 2017, the first in the land in nearly 2000 years.

They're baaaaaaaack.

Click here for the continuing story.

Genesis Post 48 - Bring on the Babies! (Chapters 29 and 30)

Chapter 29 wraps up with the birth of Jacob's first four sons.

Verse 31 says, When the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren. 

In verse 32, Leah gives birth to Reuben.  His name means behold, a son.  Poor Leah was crying out for her husband to love her and thought that producing Jacob's firstborn would make it happen.  It did not.

One verse later, she has another baby and calls him Shimon (Simeon), which means heard.  Leah admits that the LORD knows she's unloved by her hubby, and therefore He heard her and blessed her with another son with which to console her.

In verse 34, Leah has a third son, and she believes this will cause Jacob to attach to her.  She names the baby Levi, meaning joined to.  Once again, Leah is disappointed.  

In verse 35, she seems to come to terms with the situation and decides to praise the LORD anyway.  Another baby boy.  Welcome, Yehuda (Judah).

Can I just pause here and talk about the name of Yehuda?

There is a very special Hebrew word, which looks like this:

YHVH - Hashem - the name of the LORD

It is called the tetragrammaton, the very name of the LORD Himself.  Nobody knows how to pronounce it, so you will hear Yahweh, Jehovah, Yehovah, and so on.  If you consider the meanings of the Hebrew letters, it carries the meaning of behold the hand, behold the nail.

To form the name Yehuda, all you have to do is add the Hebrew letter dalet, which represents a door.  Chew on that for awhile.  Hint:  John 10:9.


I know I've said poor Leah numerous times.  But the LORD is faithful to her.  From her come the two tribes that are foundational to God's plan.  Judah and Levi - the kingship and the priesthood.

Leah experiences a pause in childbearing after she has Judah. Judah means praise. We see a picture here.  Sometimes we simply need to stop what we are doing and praise the Lord.

Chapter 30 opens with the exact opposite sentiment from Rachel. She is pitching a fit in verse 1:
Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister, and said to Jacob, "Give me children, or else I die!"

Rachel is overcome with envy because her sister has babies and she does not. In her jealousy, she does not stop to consider that she is the wife that is loved and cherished by Jacob and that Leah was unloved.

I get it… Having children in that culture was a high honor indeed, especially among Hebrew women - all of whom hoped to give birth to the Seed that was promised back in Genesis 3:15.

But Rachel acts like a spoiled and jealous child.  She casts the blame solidly on Jacob, basically telling him that unless he gives her children, her life is not worth living.

Even he becomes irritated with his beloved wife. He yells at her, telling her that he is not God.

So she responds by giving her maid to Jacob so she can claim Bilhah’s child as her own. (Uh oh, remember Sarah?)

Poor Bilhah, she appears to have no choice in the matter. Her name means troubled.

She produces a son, and Rachel names him Dan, meaning judge. She claims that God has judged her case. 

Not content with one child from her maid, she goes for two.

Back to Jacob’s bed goes the maid Bilhah, and she conceives again.

This time, the gloves come off and Rachel names the child Naphtali, which means intense struggle. For she is now in a wrestling match with her sister.

Not to be outdone, Leah retaliates and gives her maid Zilpah to Jacob.

Is this a daytime soap opera, or what?

Leah names this child Gad, which means a troop comes. Leah means business with this retaliation.

Zilpah has one more child, and Leah names him Asher. Asher means happy, and Leah has decided to be happy because so many will call her blessed.

What I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall during conversations between Zilpah and Bilhah. What were their thoughts on this whole scenario?

Zilpah and Bilhah - Did they have any choice?

We now come to a weird story about mandrakes.

Reuben find some mandrakes and Rachel asked Leah for them. Mandrakes were considered a fertility herb, And were also known as love apples. In fact the Hebrew word for mandrake is the same is beloved in the song of Solomon: dodi. It’s the same root word as David, which means beloved. 

Mandrake roots basically look like naked people, thus the folklore that surrounded them in ancient times (and actually continues today among modern pagans). Total superstition.

Mandragora (mandrake) roots

Leah gives Rachel a catty reply in verse 15:
But she said to her, "Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son's mandrakes also?" And Rachel said, "Therefore he will lie with you tonight for your son’s mandrakes.”

(Um, first of all, what the heck does Reuben want with them??)

The plan backfires on Rachel. Leah buys Jacob for the night in exchange for the mandrakes, and it’s Leah that gets pregnant.

Superstition doesn’t work.  God makes babies, mandrakes do not.

Leah names him Issachar, which means wages. She reckons that her new baby is her payment for giving Zilpah to Jacob.

Leah isn’t done. She then bears boy number six in verse 19, and thinking this will cause Jacob to dwell with her, gives him a name that means dwelling: Zebulun.

In verse 21, Leah has her seventh and last baby, and it’s a girl! Her name is Dinah, which I just learned is the feminine form of Dan and means judgment.

Seven babies = completeness for Leah.

Finally, God remembers Rachel and listens to her.  She optimistically names him Yosef (Joseph), which means he will add. She fully expects to have another child, and she will.   Ironically, the root word of Yosef carries a double meaning:  he will add, and he will remove.  Through the birth of Yosef, the LORD has taken away Rachel's reproach.

Whew, that was a whirlwind. In just 28 verses, Jacob has twelve children with four different mothers. Busy guy.

Jacob now has many kids, but he does not have the covenant land which was promised. He needs to get back to the land!

But first, God is going to make him rich. Stay tuned for adventures in prosperity.

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