In the first 11 chapters, we see the downward spiral after the fall of man and the extent of sin's destruction in this Paradise Lost. Chapter 12-50, however, showed us God's faithfulness in keeping His promises through the generations of one man, Abraham. Genesis reminds us that there is a story beyond our short lives here on earth. Our lives are wrapped up in a larger narrative, beyond what we can actually imagine.
What can we learn from the last verses of the last chapter in Genesis?
We're almost at the end of Genesis, and this chapter records for us the death of one of the patriarchs. Nearing the end of his life, we read of 3 blessing sequences in Genesis 47-49. He blesses Pharaoh (Gen 47), Joseph's sons (Gen 48) and his own sons (Gen 49). Before we go on to study today's passage, why is it so important that the book of Genesis ends with the idea of blessing? Following from the idea of the curse in Gen 3, the rest of Genesis proceeds to reverse and undo this curse. Once again, we are reminded that the Bible must be read in context! Like the previous chapters on blessings, therefore, Gen 50 reminds us of the curse of Gen 3, for all man will die now.
In Gen 49, we are at the end of Jacob's life and he issues a call for them to gather themselves together (v.1). Jacob churches them, and in the New Testament, we see this word for gathering being used to describe the church. The Bible's understanding of the church is not an institution, but an assembly of God's people and early on in the Bible even in Genesis, we see glimpses and the beginning of this idea. Notice also how the sons are referred to in verse 28. They have changed from sons to tribes at the end of the blessing. They are no longer individuals within a family, but have taken the identity of heads of households of a nation. Gen 49 not only helps us to see the importance of people in God's eyes, but also that God's people are assembled in some form of organizational structures. These tribes introduced in Gen 49 persist right to the end, to the book of Revelation!
We're almost at the end of Genesis, and nearing the end of Jacob's life. Gen 48 begins with Joseph being told that his father Jacob as ill and dying, and he brings his two sons to meet their grandfather. This might seem like an extended ending to some of us. After all, we wouldn't be surprised if the story ended with Joseph being reunited with his father and brothers. A simple "and they lived happily ever after" would not shock us. Yet, the narrative continues in Gen 48, and it continues to teach us so many things about how we read the Bible! We often come to the Bible with our own preferences and ideas, and this extended ending reminds us to read God's Word because it fundamentally the very words of God.
(A) God’s wonderful plan to provide (v.1-6)
(B) God’s wonderful plan to bless (v.7-12)
(C) God’s wonderful plan for wealth (v. 13-28)
(D) God’s wonderful plan for the future (v.29-31)
Last week, we learnt that through Joseph as a representative of Pharaoh, God saved Jacob's family and brought them out of famine into provision in Goshen. In doing so, God kept his covenant promise to Jacob. In this study, we study this in greater detail, through the genealogy in Genesis 46.
Who are these people corporately? These are the sons of Jacob (also known as Israel when he was renamed in Gen 32).
(A) The God who provides through human means: Pharaoh’s invite, Joseph’s gift (45:15-28)
(B) The God who meets with his people: Jacob’s encounter with God (46:1-7)
(C) The God who keeps promises: Israel’s family entering Egypt (46:8-27)
These chapters should be taken as an entirety, and can be understood in 5 acts. Three (or 2.5) of them happened in Canaan, and the others happened down in Egypt. We pick up from the end of Gen 41, with a great famine that affected all the earth.
Last week's study explains the events of this chapter. In the earlier verses of Genesis 41, Pharaoh recognised that Joseph was a spirit-filled person. Simply, Joseph's life was filled so much with the presence and hand of God that even a nonbeliever like Pharaoh recognised it.
We pick up where we left off from chapter 40, and here we are told that two whole years have passed by. As Gen 40 ended, are told that Joseph was forgotten. Two years in prison. How do you think he spent his days? Joseph probably prayed and waited for God to act, but this did not mean passivity. Joseph also went about his business, finishing up what the work he was entrusted. For two whole years, it is not unlikely that he had to constant fight to recall the covenantal promises given to his fathers. For two years he had to suffer and wait for deliverance. This quick transition from chapter 40 to 41 is also meant for us to see that his faith survived and was still intact. Would your faith survive a similar situation?
We continue to trace the life of Joseph in one of the darkest moments of his life -- stuck in prison. But for us, how should we view these dark moments in our lives, when we wait and pray and God does not seem to act? Gen 40 has a lesson for us all. Clearly for those who are struggling, it is easy to relate to Joseph. But for those that are not at the moment, it serves as good preparation, and better yet, it reminds us to encourage those around us that we know are struggling. There is a lesson in Gen 40 for everyone.
Why do bad things happen to good people? This is a common question, and even Christians sometimes subscribe to this idea that if we do good, bad things won't happen to us. But then we grow up and realise that that is not how the world functions. In fact, the Bible warns us and prepares us for suffering. As Christians, we should not be surprised by suffering! In such times, how are we to carry on? Is God incompetent with handling suffering, or is he unwilling? Through the life of Joseph, we will learn more about God's plan and purposes for difficult times in our lives.
As we read this passage, some of us may be familiar with the narrative after years of hearing it in Sunday School. But, as we go through it again, let us read it in its larger context. Remember that Joseph is part of the chain of the seed of the woman (Gen 3:15).
In between the story of Joseph lies this rather strange account of Judah and Tamar in Gen 38. What do we make of this, frankly, awkward passage? But because we believe in 2 Tim 3:16 -- that this is also breathed out by God -- and Rom 15:4 -- that this is also for our instruction and encouragement -- we humbly approach this difficult text.
(A) Joseph sent by his father
(B) Joseph betrayed and sold by his brothers
After focussing on Esau's line in Gen 36, the narrative returns to Jacob's family, this time, moving on to his son, Joseph. In verse 1, we are told that unlike Esau who settled in Seir, Jacob settled in Canaan, the land of his father's sojournings. Two sons, two places. Gen 37 introduces us to Joseph, the focus of the narrative from this point onwards. What does the text tell us about Joseph?
After the death of Isaac in Gen 35:28, the writer of Genesis inserts a very clear demarcated section break surveying the genealogy of Esau (Gen 36) and Jacob (Gen 37). What is the point? What are we to make of it? Before we begin, we are reminded that we are to read Gen 36 in light of 2 Tim 3:16, fully recognising that it is Scripture breathed out by God, profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness.
These verses relate 2 deaths in the family of Jacob -- Rachel's and Isaac's. What can we learn from here?
Gen 34 was a depressing passage, which recorded for us the rape of Jacob's daughter Dinah and the mass massacre of the peoples of the land by Jacob's sons. The chapter ended with Jacob referring to himself as a "stink to the inhabitants of the land", insecure and clearly outnumbered by those around who could seek revenge anytime. At the end of Gen 34, Jacob was in the wrong place, facing a whole load of problems. Gen 35 begins with this context in mind.