Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Genesis 37:12-22 comments: Reuben wants to deliver Joseph out of his brothers' hands

12 ¶  And his brethren went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem. 13  And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here am I. 14  And he said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again. So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem. 15  And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou? 16  And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks. 17  And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan. 18  And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him. 19  And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh. 20  Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams. 21  And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him. 22  And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again.

Here goes Joseph on another reporting expedition for his father. No wonder his brothers can’t stand him. Are they expecting another evil report?

Introduced into the narrative is someone who enters the picture several times in the Bible. He or she is a seemingly random person who accomplishes something important or is used as an example. His or her existence makes one wonder about the place of so-called “divine appointments” in our everyday lives denying our very concepts of randomness, luck, and chance. I am referring to the references to a certain man or a certain woman who do something noteworthy but whose name isn’t given. As two examples;

Judges 9:53  And a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech’s head, and all to brake his skull.

1Kings 22:34  And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness: wherefore he said unto the driver of his chariot, Turn thine hand, and carry me out of the host; for I am wounded.

A certain man found Joseph wandering, unsure of where to find his brothers. This anonymous individual lets Joseph know where to find them and exits the narrative.

Their hatred of Joseph is so great, their envy is so murderous, that they conspire against him as they see him approaching them. Jesus’ own brethren would not receive Him and conspired against Him.

John 1:11  He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

He spoke against the Jews’ practices of His time and they conspired against Him. But, Joseph will yet save them all as we will see, as Christ came to save His own people.

They cynically and with blood in their hearts want to kill Joseph but Reuben, Jacob and Leah’s firstborn, refuses them their wish to end Joseph’s life and blame it on an animal. Here we see one of the definitions of evil as intending to do violence.

Reuben’s desire is to deliver Joseph, to return him to their father, Jacob. Reuben, who had before this committed the grievous sin of having sex with his father’s concubine, Bilhah, has a heart of mercy toward Joseph. This goes to show just how complex and really normal these patriarchs were in that they were not two dimensional but like us and all men were capable of evil and good. We do err when we paint the Bible’s human characters as having only one side; when we ignore Moses’ temper, Jeremiah’s doubts, or David’s sexual weakness. Only Christ, who is God in the flesh, was without sin, and, pastors, that includes Paul.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Genesis 37:5-11 comments: Joseph's first two prophecies

5 ¶  And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. 6  And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: 7  For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf. 8  And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words. 9  And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. 10  And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? 11  And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.

Joseph’s two dreams indicate that he has been given knowledge that he will have supremacy over his brothers and, indeed, even over his father, in a manner of speaking. This adds fuel to the fire of his brothers’ envy against him. Jacob’s statement about Joseph’s mother, who was Rachel who died giving birth to Benjamin, seems to indicate that these dreams had been something he revealed some time previously that had helped create the resentment that his brothers felt for their father’s favorite. Matthew Henry noted that Joseph is more of a prophet than a politician in that he blurts these things out. He is a very young man, still a child by our standards today, though. But, while Jacob objected he still pondered what the dream that was spoken that seemed to include him meant.

One valuable note here of Bible definitions of words is the context of to reign over and to have dominion over in verse 8. To have dominion means to reign over here as it means to have power over and authority over in other places.

Psalm 8:6  Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:

And did not man have power and authority over life on earth?

Genesis 1:26  And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Joseph’s dreams will yet save a heathen nation from ruin and save his own people from starvation, setting off events that will reverberate through all history.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Chapter 37:1-4 comments: Joseph's conflict with his brothers

1 ¶  And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan. 2  These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report. 3  Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. 4  And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.

Having just given a list of Jacob’s sons, then an interlude where Esau’s brief genealogy is given  the narrative returns to Jacob and focuses on Joseph, who, in many particulars is a type of Christ. Joseph is his father’s favorite. Christ, as the Son of God, is the Father’s beloved, as well. Jacob made Joseph a coat of many colors. Note that this is kind of clothing was considered very valuable. This is reflected in Deborah’s victory song in Judges 5.

Judges 5:28  The mother of Sisera looked out at a window, and cried through the lattice, Why is his chariot so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of his chariots? 29  Her wise ladies answered her, yea, she returned answer to herself, 30  Have they not sped? have they not divided the prey; to every man a damsel or two; to Sisera a prey of divers colours, a prey of divers colours of needlework, of divers colours of needlework on both sides, meet for the necks of them that take the spoil?

It is the type of coat worn by King David’s daughter.

2Samuel 13:18  And she had a garment of divers colours upon her: for with such robes were the king’s daughters that were virgins apparelled. Then his servant brought her out, and bolted the door after her.

I have read reports that there have been Egyptian tomb paintings showing traders from the area of Canaan wearing such clothing, probably made more valuable by the costly work of dyeing the fabric.

Because Joseph was his father’s favorite his brothers were envious. The Jewish leadership were envious of Christ, as well, because of His influence on the people.

Matthew 27:17  Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? 18  For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.

Here we see that Joseph’s brothers hated him, which I showed before meant to hold him in contempt, to despise him. They are jealous of Jacob’s love for Joseph.

Joseph gave his father a report of his brother’s bad behavior. As Matthew Henry’s commentary says one of the reasons his brothers hated him was, “Because he informed his father of their wickedness.”

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Chapter 36 comments: Edom

1 ¶  Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom. 2  Esau took his wives of the daughters of Canaan; Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite; 3  And Bashemath Ishmael’s daughter, sister of Nebajoth. 4  And Adah bare to Esau Eliphaz; and Bashemath bare Reuel; 5  And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these are the sons of Esau, which were born unto him in the land of Canaan. 6  And Esau took his wives, and his sons, and his daughters, and all the persons of his house, and his cattle, and all his beasts, and all his substance, which he had got in the land of Canaan; and went into the country from the face of his brother Jacob. 7  For their riches were more than that they might dwell together; and the land wherein they were strangers could not bear them because of their cattle. 8  Thus dwelt Esau in mount Seir: Esau is Edom.

This passage is bracketed by two verses 1 and 8 which identify Esau with the region known as Edom and Mount Seir. The passage also names his children by these specific Canaanite women named. Judith is not mentioned here and may have died in childbirth or in some other circumstance. We can say the same probably about Bashemath, Adah’s sister. The duplication of women’s names should not cause confusion. For instance, Mormon patriarch, Joseph Smith, had multiple wives named Sarah.

34 ¶  And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite: 35  Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.

Esau and Jacob are not able to live in the vicinity of each other with their wealth and possessions any more than Abram and Lot were able to live together with theirs. So, here is confirmation that Esau claimed what because Edom, something we discussed earlier. Isaac’s sons are fabulously wealthy by that culture’s standards, by what they considered as true wealth. Esau will merge his worship with Canaan’s and be marginalized in God’s plan of reconciling mankind to Himself.

    9 ¶  And these are the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in mount Seir: 10  These are the names of Esau’s sons; Eliphaz the son of Adah the wife of Esau, Reuel the son of Bashemath the wife of Esau. 11  And the sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, and Gatam, and Kenaz. 12  And Timna was concubine to Eliphaz Esau’s son; and she bare to Eliphaz Amalek: these were the sons of Adah Esau’s wife. 13  And these are the sons of Reuel; Nahath, and Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah: these were the sons of Bashemath Esau’s wife. 14  And these were the sons of Aholibamah, the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon, Esau’s wife: and she bare to Esau Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah. 15  These were dukes of the sons of Esau: the sons of Eliphaz the firstborn son of Esau; duke Teman, duke Omar, duke Zepho, duke Kenaz, 16  Duke Korah, duke Gatam, and duke Amalek: these are the dukes that came of Eliphaz in the land of Edom; these were the sons of Adah. 17  And these are the sons of Reuel Esau’s son; duke Nahath, duke Zerah, duke Shammah, duke Mizzah: these are the dukes that came of Reuel in the land of Edom; these are the sons of Bashemath Esau’s wife. 18  And these are the sons of Aholibamah Esau’s wife; duke Jeush, duke Jaalam, duke Korah: these were the dukes that came of Aholibamah the daughter of Anah, Esau’s wife. 19  These are the sons of Esau, who is Edom, and these are their dukes.

    20 ¶  These are the sons of Seir the Horite, who inhabited the land; Lotan, and Shobal, and Zibeon, and Anah, 21  And Dishon, and Ezer, and Dishan: these are the dukes of the Horites, the children of Seir in the land of Edom. 22  And the children of Lotan were Hori and Hemam; and Lotan’s sister was Timna. 23  And the children of Shobal were these; Alvan, and Manahath, and Ebal, Shepho, and Onam. 24  And these are the children of Zibeon; both Ajah, and Anah: this was that Anah that found the mules in the wilderness, as he fed the asses of Zibeon his father. 25  And the children of Anah were these; Dishon, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah. 26  And these are the children of Dishon; Hemdan, and Eshban, and Ithran, and Cheran. 27  The children of Ezer are these; Bilhan, and Zaavan, and Akan. 28  The children of Dishan are these; Uz, and Aran. 29  These are the dukes that came of the Horites; duke Lotan, duke Shobal, duke Zibeon, duke Anah, 30  Duke Dishon, duke Ezer, duke Dishan: these are the dukes that came of Hori, among their dukes in the land of Seir.

    31 ¶  And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel. 32  And Bela the son of Beor reigned in Edom: and the name of his city was Dinhabah. 33  And Bela died, and Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah reigned in his stead. 34  And Jobab died, and Husham of the land of Temani reigned in his stead. 35  And Husham died, and Hadad the son of Bedad, who smote Midian in the field of Moab, reigned in his stead: and the name of his city was Avith. 36  And Hadad died, and Samlah of Masrekah reigned in his stead. 37  And Samlah died, and Saul of Rehoboth by the river reigned in his stead. 38  And Saul died, and Baalhanan the son of Achbor reigned in his stead. 39  And Baalhanan the son of Achbor died, and Hadar reigned in his stead: and the name of his city was Pau; and his wife’s name was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred, the daughter of Mezahab. 40  And these are the names of the dukes that came of Esau, according to their families, after their places, by their names; duke Timnah, duke Alvah, duke Jetheth, 41  Duke Aholibamah, duke Elah, duke Pinon, 42  Duke Kenaz, duke Teman, duke Mibzar, 43  Duke Magdiel, duke Iram: these be the dukes of Edom, according to their habitations in the land of their possession: he is Esau the father of the Edomites.

What followed verse 8 was a brief history of the ancient kingdom of Edom, which flowered and decayed before Israel ever had a king, from the Horites who first possessed it through a few generations of Edomites. Edom, named after that red soup, symbolizes Esau’s foolish bargain. We have this memory forever emblazoned in the name of the Red Sea.

1Kings 9:26  And king Solomon made a navy of ships in Eziongeber, which is beside Eloth, on the shore of the Red sea, in the land of Edom.

Add this fact to the list of things that keep us from forgetting what God did in the past. We drive on fossil fuels, the remnant of the fabulous biomass that existed before the great Flood of Noah’s time. We are divided by ethnic, linguistic, and racial groupings that remind us of the dispersion of mankind at the Tower of Babel. We repeat in each generation the wicked sins of the flesh and the mind that prove that we are spiritually bankrupt without Christ and have no hope in ourselves. These things should remind us of what God has done but we choose to be willfully ignorant.

Even judgment against us escapes our feeble thought processes. A hundred years ago the nations of Europe and the United States, who thought they were so righteous and each special vessels of God, bashed themselves upon each other in a terrible bloodbath called The Great War or World War One. God judged the nations and finding them wanting judged them with a war and then a great plague of disease that killed more people than the war itself. They did not see that it was God’s judgment but only chose to blame the loser and punish thereby setting up the next war and, indeed, a century of war and the extinguishing of a hundred million lives and displacement of half that many again as refugees. Yet, mankind is blind to it, a doddering idiot, stumbling about in the dark unwilling to be enlightened.

So it is, when we look at the Bible events we see evidence of them in our landscape, our maps, our economic systems, our politics, and elsewhere. But, alas, the stumbling idiot stumbles from one judgment to the next waving his flags, singing his patriotic songs, worshipping his nation-states, as he proudly steers a course for Armageddon.

This curious verse for which we are given no explanation is worthy of note.

24  And these are the children of Zibeon; both Ajah, and Anah: this was that Anah that found the mules in the wilderness, as he fed the asses of Zibeon his father.

Such a seemingly unimportant detail but important enough to God to be included in the short history of a people who provided little to history but a pathetic example.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Genesis 35:21-29 comments: Isaac gave up the ghost

21 ¶  And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar. 22  And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine: and Israel heard it. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve: 23  The sons of Leah; Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, and Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Zebulun: 24  The sons of Rachel; Joseph, and Benjamin: 25  And the sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaid; Dan, and Naphtali: 26  And the sons of Zilpah, Leah’s handmaid; Gad, and Asher: these are the sons of Jacob, which were born to him in Padanaram. 27  And Jacob came unto Isaac his father unto Mamre, unto the city of Arbah, which is Hebron, where Abraham and Isaac sojourned. 28  And the days of Isaac were an hundred and fourscore years. 29  And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, being old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

Reuben was Leah and Jacob’s firstborn. He had sex with Bilhah, Rachel’s maid, given to Rachel by her father, Laban. Rachel had herself given Bilhah to Jacob to wife (Genesis 30:4) or to bear children on her mistress’s behalf. In this unseemly arrangement Bilhah was not considered a full, legitimate wife but a concubine, an inferior legal status for a woman. Women had little, if any, rights in this culture and a servant concubine would have almost no rights. We have seen Hagar, Sarah’s handmaid, used in such a way, as well, with really only God’s mercy assisting her. As all reality and events and behaviors are either part of God’s direct and perfect will as what He prefers to happen or a part of His permissive will in that He permits it for a reason often unknown to us we can examine this condition in the light of those facts. God does not create culture or civilization but He manipulates and modifies it to achieve His purposes in spite of man’s wicked condition. There is nothing particularly Godly about this setup for God already gave His direct will, what He wants, early on. A single man and a single woman unite as one flesh. There is no allowance for harems, concubines, secondary wives, girlfriends, mistresses, or any of the other sinful things man desires.

Genesis 2:24  Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

However, God will use this condition for His purpose of creating the people of Israel.

Here Reuben is said to have sinned, not against Bilhah, but against Jacob, who possesses her as a secondary wife or concubine. Under the Law given to Moses as the Hebrew’s civil and religious regulations we have the following command.

Leviticus 20:11  And the man that lieth with his father’s wife hath uncovered his father’s nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

While under the spiritual rules given to Christians, which can have no proper civil significance as Christ’s order cannot be enforced by the civil magistrate without violating the principle of a willing heart, the offender is to be banned from the congregation until repentant to keep from polluting the attitudes and behavior of the church.

1Corinthians 5:1  It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. 2  And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. 3  For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, 4  In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5  To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 6  Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?

Here, Jacob’s sons are listed. From these men the children of Israel will issue. It is also mentioned that Esau and Jacob buried their father Isaac. Isaac is said to give up the ghost. This is a reference to his spirit. Here is a reference to Jesus’, who was fully man and fully God, human spirit or ghost, lowercase s and g. Here the human spirit belongs to and ascends to God.

Luke 23:46  And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

Again, not only the soul leaves the flesh at death but here we see the spirit leaves, as well. Notice Solomon’s question in Ecclesiastes that suggests mankind doesn’t know what he thinks he knows.

Ecclesiastes 3:21  Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?

God uses the spirit of man as one means to examine him from the inside-out.

Proverbs 20:27  The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly.

The Godhead consists of a soul (God the Father), the seat of self-identity and will, a Spirit (the Holy Ghost called the Holy Spirit or Spirit of God when referencing acting on physical reality), and a body, a physical presence, (Christ or the Word by which all things were created and are held together) it is important to understand that only God’s three parts can act independently although guided by one will. If either our soul or spirit leave us as humans we physically die. Jesus, being fully man and fully God, was not only the physical image of the invisible God but, as a human, possessed a lowercase spirit or ghost which He surrendered when He gave up his brief temporal existence before rising from the dead.

In these last two passages we’ve studied we have seen that the soul and the spirit or ghost both leave the body at death. Neither is said to be extinguished or ceases to exist. When a person’s body dies what makes them who they are, the soul and the spirit, are not there.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Genesis 35:16-20 comments: her soul was in departing, (for she died)

16 ¶  And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour. 17  And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also. 18  And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin. 19  And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. 20  And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave unto this day.

Jacob and his family now leave Bethel and we have a tragedy of great importance to Jacob. His beloved Rachel dies in hard labor, giving birth to Benjamin. Here we have a statement that is helpful in understanding what happens to the soul at death. It leaves the body. This is not the proverbial ‘rocket science’ although some commentators make it so.

What is the soul? First, it is one of the three parts of which a human being is composed.

1Thessalonians 5:23  And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

From all indications as you read the over four hundred verses in which the word is found it is the seat of our self-identify, our will, and desires. It was created by God.

Isaiah 57:16  For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.

It leaves the body upon death and can be deposited in Hell.

Psalm 86:13  For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.

It is God who decides when the soul and body separate, when death is to be.

Luke 12:20  But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?

One difference between that of the Old Testament and that of the Covenant of Grace after Christ’s resurrection that reveals what we call ‘eternal security’ is that until Christ’s Resurrection the soul is shown to be responsible for the sins of the flesh, the body. Sacrifice, an animal substitute for Christ, is required, the innocent dying for the guilty, in order to cleanse those sins. After the Resurrection, for the Christian, God severs the flesh, the body, from the soul so that it is free from the eternal consequences the sins of the flesh bring about.

Colossians 2:11  In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: 12  Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

You do not become a child of God by your own power.

John 1:12  But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:13  Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Nor, as the verse quoted from Colossians shows, do you keep your salvation by your own strength. Telling people that if they are truly delivered from Hell and eternal suffering by their faith in Christ, which is a gift from God,….

Ephesians 2:8  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9  Not of works, lest any man should boast.

…that they can, by their own will, lose their salvation is a dangerous delusion and a wicked blasphemy that renders God ineffectual in salvation. These same people usually do not believe they have an authoritative Bible because the God who cannot preserve them could not preserve His words. Beware of so-called “free will” churches. They typically are trying to control you in some way and not afraid to deceive you in the process. After all, if I can lose my salvation I would need them to keep me in the fold, right? Keep me on the straight and narrow? If the Holy Spirit is too weak to do that, what’s next, killing someone in God’s name because He is too weak to do it Himself and needs your help?

Nevertheless, Rachel’s soul left her body at the body’s death, as yours will if the Lord tarries. She gave her child a name that reflected her anguish and sorrow but Jacob gave him the name that lasts for us and gives a tribe of Israel its name.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Genesis 35:6-15 comments: the death of Rebekah's nurse

6 ¶  So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan, that is, Bethel, he and all the people that were with him. 7  And he built there an altar, and called the place Elbethel: because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother. 8  But Deborah Rebekah’s nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth. 9  And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him. 10  And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel. 11  And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; 12  And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land. 13  And God went up from him in the place where he talked with him. 14  And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he talked with him, even a pillar of stone: and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon. 15  And Jacob called the name of the place where God spake with him, Bethel.

Luz and Bethel are the same place.

Genesis 28:19  And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.

Jacob builds an altar and calls the place Elbethel. El means God and Bethel means house of God.

Genesis 28:16 ¶  And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not. 17  And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. 18  And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. 19  And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.

Rebekah’s nurse, mentioned when Rebekah left her family to marry Isaac, dies at this point in the narrative. It is likely that Jacob had visited his former home and carried this elderly nurse with him, as his parents were now dead.

Genesis 24:59  And they sent away Rebekah their sister, and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant, and his men.

We are now reminded of God’s appearance to Jacob and his renaming to Israel.

Genesis 32:28  And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

We are now given more detail of the blessing and the promise that God bestowed on Jacob. This is a similar device in the narrative to Paul’s Damascus road conversion where on other occasions in which it is related we get more information. It is important to take both accounts when we try to imagine what went on here.

Another possibility to consider is that in this visit to Bethel these events occur a second time. So, you can view these as a recap or you can see them as a second event of God’s repeating His blessing and His promise. Either way would satisfy the demands of the overall narrative.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Genesis 35:1-5 comments: putting away strange gods

1 ¶  And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother. 2  Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments: 3  And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went. 4  And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem. 5  And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.

Jacob’s tribe consists of not only himself and his wives, one of which had stolen her father’s household idols, but their children, servants, and their Canaanite captives. There would have been quite a mix of idols and gods among them. God calls a halt and intends to shake all these things out. He orders Jacob to build an altar to Him, where Jacob had vowed to serve God in return for His protection in chapter 28.

18  And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. 19  And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first. 20  And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, 21  So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: 22  And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.

God had reminded Jacob of this event when He told Jacob to leave Laban with his family.

Genesis 31:13  I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred.

For not the last time a leader that God has selected will tell his people to put away their foreign (strange) gods. Jacob is sanctifying his people for God, setting them apart for God’s purpose.

Genesis 18:19  For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

Joshua 24:15 ¶  And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

Deuteronomy 7:25  The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein: for it is an abomination to the LORD thy God.

This is a recurrent theme in God’s ministry of reconciling man to Himself. Notice verse 4. Not only the images that Rachel and probably many of the servants had in their possession but also their earrings were given and buried out of their sight. Jewelry played a part in ancient worship. Earrings were not merely ornamentation for both men and women but were, scholars tell us, sometimes amulets and charms to protect the openings of the face and head from entry by evil spirits. They were clearly part of the idol worship of the ancient world, the spiritual system that developed after the Flood.  If you have difficulty seeing that side of facial jewelry just look at the hundreds of occult earrings on a website like Etsy.com. Some verses of note regarding men and women wearing earrings and of a possible link to their occultic practices are;

Exodus 32:1 ¶  And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. 2  And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me. 3  And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. 4  And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

Judges 8:24  And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) 25  And they answered, We will willingly give them. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey.

Here is this passage in chapter 35, though, we have a very clear indication that something linked the earrings to the household gods that must be put away. Oak trees also play a part in ancient worship.

Ezekiel 6:13  Then shall ye know that I am the LORD, when their slain men shall be among their idols round about their altars, upon every high hill, in all the tops of the mountains, and under every green tree, and under every thick oak, the place where they did offer sweet savour to all their idols.

The reference to changing their garments also bears some note. Changing garments signified a change of heart and clearly has a religious significance.

Zechariah 3:4  And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.

Revelation 19:8  And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

And Jacob’s fears did not come to fruition. The towns by which he and his family passed were terrified of them and made no effort to attack them.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Genesis 34:25-31 comments: a massacre

25 ¶  And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males. 26  And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went out. 27  The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister. 28  They took their sheep, and their oxen, and their asses, and that which was in the city, and that which was in the field, 29  And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house. 30  And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house. 31  And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?

Simeon and Levi were the two who did the slaughter. You might assume that they had the help of their many servants, as Abraham did in his rescue of Lot. The third day is a recurrent thread throughout the Bible as a significant time elapsing between two things.

On the third day God created dry land and plant life, food for man and beast, in Genesis 1. Abraham saw where he thought he was supposed to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22. It on that day that Laban realized Jacob had escaped in chapter 31. So, while it is hard to connect these four events as having a relationship with each other we do know that God separated land from ocean in chapter 1, that God separated Abraham for Himself in chapter 22 by his willingness to obey, and Jacob’s separation from Laban, a type of the world and a type of antichrist, was revealed on the third day. Here, in this chapter, there is no going back. Jacob’s sons will not become merged with the Canaanites. This act forever seals their separation and the understanding of them as a dangerous people.

In this regard the third day shows an action which separates one from the other, as Christ rises on the third day forever separating His own people from the fate of unbelieving mankind.

But here we also see that Simeon and Levi steal the wealth and the families of the men they’ve killed as plunder. This has not been commanded by God and is condemned, but not very strongly, by Jacob. Certainly, this city would have been of no more size than a small town by our standards today but, nevertheless, circumstances and the young men’s lust for revenge have placed Jacob’s family in grave peril. Jacob fears a union of Canaanite city-states that could wipe out his family and servants. His sons demanded revenge for a wrong done to them as a proud family.

Please note that these Canaanite children and women are now added to the servants that Jacob and his family have with them.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Genesis 34:18-24 comments: These men are peaceable with us...

18 ¶  And their words pleased Hamor, and Shechem Hamor’s son. 19  And the young man deferred not to do the thing, because he had delight in Jacob’s daughter: and he was more honourable than all the house of his father. 20  And Hamor and Shechem his son came unto the gate of their city, and communed with the men of their city, saying, 21  These men are peaceable with us; therefore let them dwell in the land, and trade therein; for the land, behold, it is large enough for them; let us take their daughters to us for wives, and let us give them our daughters. 22  Only herein will the men consent unto us for to dwell with us, to be one people, if every male among us be circumcised, as they are circumcised. 23  Shall not their cattle and their substance and every beast of theirs be ours? only let us consent unto them, and they will dwell with us. 24  And unto Hamor and unto Shechem his son hearkened all that went out of the gate of his city; and every male was circumcised, all that went out of the gate of his city.

Now, Shechem, the man who assaulted Dinah, is said to be the most honorable man in his father’s family. This shows you how, by Christian standards, depraved the Canaanite culture was. He was very fond of Dinah, though, and wanted to ‘do the right thing’ because of his affection for her and not discard her like garbage as some cultures of men in America so easily do today. We understand and most of us accept today that rape is rape and a woman can say, “no,” at any time and it must be respected or the act is considered a crime. Offering to marry the girl doesn’t change anything.

Father and son encourage the men of their city to make this treaty of peace with Jacob’s sons and what must have been a rather large army of servants to care for their flocks. They would have been a formidable force. Hamor and Shechem, as part of their argument, say that this will signify a union between the family of Israel and themselves making them both one people.

Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) are made one people at the Cross. Pay attention to Paul’s argument again.

Ephesians 2:14 ¶  For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15  Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16  And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17  And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18  For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

There is another hint here at self-interest. Hamor and Shechem want the men of their city to believe that with this union the wealth of Israel and his sons will be their wealth as well.

…all that went out of the gate of his city refers to the residents of the city, in context, the male residents who held political power. These are the men who could also defend the city. In this somewhat bizarre agreement based on questionable thinking on every side all of the men of the city consent to be circumcised.

It does not say that Jacob’s sons and servants did the circumcision but it is certain that Jacob’s sons would have been there to verify that it was done. This would not have been too strange, as we think of it.

Cultural standards were much different in the past than in the last century or two. My point is that people were must less concerned about such things between men in the past. For instance, the Greeks worked out in their gymnasiums naked and their athletic events were conducted in the nude. Presumably Hamor and Shechem did the circumcising as it was the custom for the leaders or priests to perform the act and we know the king of a city was also its high priest from past references. First, with Abraham, father to his children and master to his servants, to Joshua, leader of his people;

Genesis  17:23  And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.

Joshua 5:3  And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins.

The very idea that the authority of governmental or even tribal leaders extends to our reproductive organs is appalling to us today. We cannot even imagine it. Imagine the local mayor or the patriarch of your extended family doing this. Imagine you letting them. We have relegated such things to doctors or, in the case of parts of the Jewish culture, a person called a ‘Mohel’ does this.

If by this point you don’t know what circumcision is you’ll have to look it up. I’m not going into the grisly details here.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Genesis 34:6-17 comments: an attempt to nullify revenge

6 ¶  And Hamor the father of Shechem went out unto Jacob to commune with him. 7  And the sons of Jacob came out of the field when they heard it: and the men were grieved, and they were very wroth, because he had wrought folly in Israel in lying with Jacob’s daughter; which thing ought not to be done. 8  And Hamor communed with them, saying, The soul of my son Shechem longeth for your daughter: I pray you give her him to wife. 9  And make ye marriages with us, and give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you. 10  And ye shall dwell with us: and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade ye therein, and get you possessions therein. 11  And Shechem said unto her father and unto her brethren, Let me find grace in your eyes, and what ye shall say unto me I will give. 12  Ask me never so much dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say unto me: but give me the damsel to wife. 13  And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, and said, because he had defiled Dinah their sister: 14  And they said unto them, We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a reproach unto us: 15  But in this will we consent unto you: If ye will be as we be, that every male of you be circumcised; 16  Then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people. 17  But if ye will not hearken unto us, to be circumcised; then will we take our daughter, and we will be gone.

Shechem’s father, Hamor, meets with Jacob to try to work out a marriage agreement with him. Jacob’s sons, Dinah’s brothers, were filled with wrath at the offense done to the family. Verse 7 is interesting in that the statement is made that what has happened is wrong.

Let’s remember an important point here, that God did not create culture, not yours, not theirs. Culture and civilization’s existence is part of God’s permissive will, not necessarily His direct will. Remember, God does have a will where He wants something to happen, prefers it to happen, indeed even ordains it which the Christian should always be seeking.

Romans 12:1 ¶  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

God, though, often accomplishes His desired ends in a different than a preferred way, by allowing man to have the desires of his heart, even if the consequences are painful to man. This happens in everyday life as well as in the bigger events of history. No one would argue that it would not have been better for mankind if he and she had stayed as husbandmen in God’s garden having eternal fellowship with Him but those who believe and trust Him will eventually have that eternal fellowship, only with a much longer way around to get there.

In God’s will there were previous incidents where He did not permit rape and murder to happen, in the previously mentioned cases involving Abraham and Sarah, and Isaac and Rebekah. But, God did not prevent Shechem from assaulting Dinah. Here, He allows something which reveals character, behavior, and the nature of a people; vengeful, capable of wrath and great violence, as well as duplicitousness. Like we Gentiles the Hebrews, the family of Israel, were not righteous in themselves. They needed God’s hand but, as we do, often went their own way.

Rape, sexual violence, in the degradation of the ancient world, was viewed differently than we do today, at least today in the more sophisticated contemporary countries and cultures. It was less a crime against a woman than it was against her family in a context such as this. In primitive, abased cultures rape is either the woman’s fault or a means by which a more physically or politically powerful man may have his way with a woman who is not protected by the men of her family or husband.

This sin falls under the very same thought processes as many sins of unregenerate man. “I can do it because I want to do it and I can do it because it is within my power to do it.” It is only after the fact that people might have second thoughts. Think of the many couples in today’s world who committed fornication and then, finding that the woman was pregnant, decided to, “do the right thing,” and get married.

This is the same type of thinking, as well, that goes into the Ayn Rand type of, “whatever I want is good,” or, “whatever I perceive to be in my own self-interest is the greatest good.” There is little difference in the sinner’s heart whether he or she commits a violent interpersonal act or simply a non-violent, selfish act. The feeling is the same as in the RocknRoll song, “Kinda I want to.”

Hamor is going further. He is trying to make peace with Jacob’s family by reciprocation, offering his own daughters and women of their tribe to Jacob’s sons. Whether this is an attempt to prevent revenge or, in acknowledging guilt a political ploy to cover over the evil we cannot know. Jacob’s sons, as crafty as old Jacob once was, say that they will only consent to this peace treaty if Hamor’s people accept circumcision, their own sign of unity and obedience to God, and they will become one people. That, of course, is not their intention at all. Revenge is their intention.

This ancient city, as mentioned before, would have had family worship around idols, gods, and city worship as a singular religious entity. There is the danger, of course, at this early time, if Jacob’s sons had truly agreed with Hamor, of the Hebrews as a separate people being a dead issue. The coming act of violence will keep them separate from those around them. The important thing is that God permits it to happen. His chosen people will do it and He will use it for His purposes while revealing their character and true nature. But, we Christians are admonished;

Romans 12:19  Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

I recently read a news article about a man “beating up” a 13 year old boy who offered his 13 year old daughter a key chain for her virginity and going to prison for the beating he administered. Can any father out there honestly blame that father for his rage? Don’t think too harshly of Dinah’s brothers. Examine yourself.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Genesis 34:1-5 comments: the rape of Dinah

1 ¶  And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. 2  And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her. 3  And his soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel. 4  And Shechem spake unto his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel to wife. 5  And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter: now his sons were with his cattle in the field: and Jacob held his peace until they were come.

What happens next is not Dinah’s fault any more than your car being stolen from its parking space because you left it unlocked is your fault. Sin is the fault of the person who commits the sin. The offence has come through the thief. However, living carelessly has its punishments. Here, we learn something about what Paul speaks of in Titus 2:5, a woman being discrete and keeping at home. Dinah was rather unlike her male ancestors who acted quite cautiously and were very worried about even the possible intentions of those around them. She ventured out to see the daughters of the land and was raped by Shechem, the son of that territory’s ruler. Notice the phrasing, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her. There is no hint here of a consensual act.

First, prince means a ruler and a judge. Notice the synonyms joined by and in the following verses.

Exodus 2:14  And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known.

Ac 7:35  This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush.

The words king and prince denote ruler and final authority in judgment over a people, a chieftain by today’s standards in more primitive cultures.

Proverbs 14:28  In the multitude of people is the king’s honour: but in the want of people is the destruction of the prince.

Dinah, apparently being without any strong protection, was obviously raped. Remember that Abraham and Isaac both had fear that the ruler of the land in which they sought a place to live temporarily would kill them so that ruler could easily take their wives. God did not prevent this from happening as he did prevent the women’s defilement in those former cases.

Apparently, the ancient world in this area, was a very dangerous place for women who did not have the men of their family to protect them, as much of it is today, in the Middle East. God will eventually give a law that protects women in these circumstances but in their relation to the group, the Hebrews. But, when we get to the Law given to Moses we must understand that those Laws are the civil and religious ordinances for the Hebrew people separating them from the people around them, and do not go far enough for the Christian as Christ and Paul lay out the spirit of those Laws rather than the carnal letter which dealt with the flesh itself. The Law given to Moses was more about the integrity and character of the group than the character and integrity of the individual as God was separating a people of a particular ethnicity unto Him rather than a person who had no abiding nation on earth necessarily.

Shechem’s heart was smitten by Dinah, though, and he felt tenderness toward her after his violence rather than the contempt, for instance, that Amnon felt for Tamar in 2Samuel 13 after he raped her. He petitioned his father to ask for her in marriage. Jacob knew what had happened but, in his position of being a guest, a stranger in their land, exercised restraint, waiting for his sons to come in from the field. His position was not good. The rape of Dinah will be felt as a wrong committed against the family, the group, more importantly than against Dinah, as an individual. This is clearly a different sort of attitude than the Christian feels, as all sin is against God and against the person, and government is established to punish those who do evil. In fact, if you read Romans 13 it is one of the only justifications for human government.

Dinah may have had the opportunity to visit the daughters of the land. She may have even had the right to do so. But, it was not a very smart thing to do, not thinking through the situation without protection. She is not to blame here for the crime as you own your sin. But she was not wise. Still, God allowed this to happen to set in motion something revealing to us. I remember in college when there was a campus rapist in operation many of the young men trying to convince the young women that although they had the right to go on their own across campus at night to the library it was not smart to do so without an escort. This, of course, offended the modern feminist, whose rights the rapist predator could not have cared about in the least.

It is a callous error, though, of modern fundamentalism to insist that men cannot control themselves and that if a man acts wrongly out of lust it is a woman’s fault. As I said earlier, regardless of how you want to cut it, you own your own sin. Don’t put it off on the employer who leaves money to tempt you, the girl who passes by you wearing too revealing clothing, or the person who runs into a store leaving the keys in his car. Take responsibility. Child molesters will even blame a child for enticing them. This is a wicked thought pattern, of course.

We will learn here another principle of the Bible. One crime does not blot out another. God allowed this to happen to reveal something, to show us the character and nature of the patriarchs of the Hebrew people. In this, they are going to be shown as very much like the people around them, from whom God is drawing them out. Paul writes in Romans 15 that these things were written about for our learning. So, learn.