Friday, November 30, 2012

Genesis Chapter 47 ~ God's Sovereignty, God's Blessing, & God's Promise

Genesis Chapter 47

Settling in Goshen
Joseph told Pharaoh that his family was coming from Canaan, and that they were in Goshen. He took 5 from among his brothers and presented them to Pharaoh. Pharaoh asked what their occupation was. They responded, "Your servants are shepherds, as our fathers were...We have come to sojourn in the land, for there is no pasture for your servants' flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. And now, please let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen." (vs. 3-4)

Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is before you. Settle your father and your brothers in the best of the land. Let them settle in the land of Goshen, and if you know any able men among them, put them in charge of my livestock." (vs. 5-6)

Jacob Blesses Pharaoh
Joseph brought Jacob in and they stood before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh (vs. 7). Pharaoh asked, "How many are the days of the years of your life?" Jacob responded, "The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning." (vs. 9) And Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from the his presence (vs. 10). Then Joseph settled his family in Egypt, the land of Rameses, and Joseph gave them all provisions and food.

There was no food in the land because of the famine; Egypt and Canaan languished. Joseph gathered all the money in Egypt and Canaan in exchange for grain. When all the money was spent in Egypt and Canaan, all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, "Give us food. Why should we die before your eyes? For our money is gone." (vs. 15) Joseph answered, "Give your livestock, and I will give you food." (vs. 16) So they did, and he did.

After that year they came again and said, "We will not hide from my lord that our money is all spent. The herds of livestock are my lord's. There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our land for food, and we with our land will be servants to Pharaoh. And give us seed that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate." (vs. 18-19) So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, and made servants of the people from one end of Egypt to the other. The only land he didn't buy was the land of the priests, because they had a fixed allowance form Pharaoh.

Joseph said to the people, "Behold, I have this day bought you and your land for Pharaoh. Now here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land. And at the harvests you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and as food for yourselves and your households, and as food for your little ones." (vs. 23-24) They responded, "You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to Pharaoh." (vs. 25) So Joseph made it a statute that Pharaoh would have the fifth of all the land with the exception of the land of the priests.

Israel's Settlement
So Israel settled in Goshen, in Egypt, and they gained possessions and were fruitful and multiplied greatly. Jacob lived in the land 17 years, he lived a total of 147 years. (vs. 28)

Joseph's Vow to Bury Jacob in Canaan
When the time drew near to Israel/Jacob's death, he called Joseph and said, "If now I have found favor in your sight, put your hand under my thigh and promise to deal kindly and truly with me. Do not bury me in Egypt, but let me lie with my fathers. Carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burying place." (vs. 29-30) Joseph answered, "I will do as you have said." (vs. 30) And Jacob said, "Swear to me." Joseph swore to him. Then Israel/Jacob bowed himself upon the head of his bed [or staff]. (vs. 31)

Reflections on Genesis 47
(1) God's Sovereignty
First, God is providing richly for Israel (also Egypt and the entire region) in the face of this famine. Even though Joseph is managing everything with Pharaoh's permission, we can't forget that God revealed what would happen, and established both of them in their positions at this particular time to be able to do what they do here. Further, it is God who makes plants grow - He is the true source of their food and all their provisions. If it weren't for God's creative and continual sustaining sovereign power, all peoples would have no hope of life.

(2) God's Blessing
Second, Jacob blesses Pharaoh from a position of humility. What exactly does this mean? Bless generally means to bestow goodness: emotionally [i.e. happiness], materially, or even spiritually. In verse 7 "bless" can also be translated "greeted" (i.e. Gen. 27:23), and in verse 10 it can be translated "said farewell" (i.e. Gen. 24:60; 28:1). If it is translated as "greeted" and "said farewell" in these verses, it carries the implication of including pronouncements of blessing in both the coming and going. 

So, what exactly is going on here? It's clear that God is showing that even though Jacob is inferior in the world's eyes, he is superior because of God's choice and favor. Hebrews 7:7 says, "It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior." Socioeconomic conditions, and someone's dependence on another, is not an indication that they are inferior to the one who is perceived to have more. All men are in the same condition regardless of their possessions and power, they are in need of God's grace. Jacob is inferior to Pharaoh in many ways, so it's important to recognize that his ability to bless Pharaoh doesn't come from his own power and superiority; rather, God's. Notice how he describes himself, "Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life." (Gen. 37:9) He sounds like a broken and humble old man, dependent on God's grace. God chose Jacob to be His own. God chose to set His love upon Jacob. Now, from this favored relationship with God, by no merit of his own, Jacob is able to "bless" others. This is clearly the beginning of the fulfillment of God's covenantal promises, "and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him." (Gen. 18:18; 22:18; 26:4) Ultimately, we are all dependent on God regardless of our circumstances. God is no respecter of persons. (Acts 10:34, KJV) Even though God's covenant people appear inferior here (and many times throughout history), in Jacob they go before the super-power of the world at the time, and pronounce a blessing. And consider this, through Egypt, God's promise to bless all the nations of the earth through His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be further extended: (1) In Israel's involvement in Egypt, a nation that has influence over much of the world; (2) as the history of how Egypt was sustained, and its role in sustaining others at this time of famine is retold time and time again; (3) and also through the events that will come to pass in the next 400 years. 

I think Victor Hamilton gets close to the point of what's going on here: "Jacob knows what it means to be the object of blessing. . . . Jacob once the recipient of blessing, now becomes the source of blessing." (Hamilton, 611) Replace "source" in Hamilton's quote with "instrument" or "conduit" and I think we're getting even closer to the point. God is blessing Pharaoh. Instead of being the source, Jacob knows what it is to be the object of God's blessing, both directly from the hand of God, but also through instruments in God's hands (even Pharaoh). This is similar to how Christians (people who know what it is to be extended grace through Jesus Christ), of all people, should be instruments of God to be dispensers and conduits of God's grace to all nations. Most of all by sharing the message of gospel of Jesus Christ with all peoples. (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8)

(3) God's Promise
Thirdin this chapter we see that God makes good on His promises to Jacob from chapter 46. He provides richly for Israel as he and his family walk by faith in God's promise to be with them as they go to Egypt. Further, Jacob has Joseph make a vow that will be part of the fulfillment of God's promise that, "I will also bring you up again." (46:4) This is also in fulfillment of what God said to Abraham: "Then the Lord said to Abram, 'Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.'" (Genesis 15:13-14) God established a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and here Jacob is reminding Joseph of this by having him make a vow in a similar mode to how Abraham had his servant make a vow with him. (Gen. 24:2, 9) [1] As we see here, and as we will continue to see, God will keep His promises. You can bank on it.

As Genesis begins to come to a close, we can see that it is connected to the historical events that follow in Exodus. It's the same story. God is sustaining this family through whom He will bring the Promised One from Eve; the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the One who will come to conquer sin, death, and Satan (i.e. Gen. 3:15).
[1] See my earlier post Genesis Chapter 24 ~ Isaac Marries Rebekah. Also, I don't know if there is a connection between the mode of the vow and God's touching Jacob's hip socket as he wrestled with Yahweh. (i.e. Gen. 32:32, see my earlier post Genesis Chapter 32 ~ Jacob Wrestles With Yahweh)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Genesis Chapter 46 ~ Israel Goes to Egypt

Genesis Chapter 46

Jacob's Family from Canaan to Egypt

Jacob/Israel came with everything he had to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of His father Isaac (vs. 1). God spoke to him in visions of the night saying, "Jacob, Jacob." Jacob said, "Here I am." (vs. 2) God said, "I am God, the God of your father, don't be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph's hand shall close your eyes." (vs. 3-4)

His sons carried him, their little ones, and their wives in the wagons Pharaoh sent. They brought livestock and goods from Canaan, and all Jacob/Israel's offspring to Egypt.

Here's the list of Jacob/Israel and his descendants who came to Egypt:


All Jacob's descendants who came into Egypt numbered 66 (vs. 26). Three were already in Egypt: Joseph, Manasseh, and Ephraim. Further, it seems this leaves out Jacob too. So, the total of Jacob's house that came to Egypt (including Joseph, his two sons, and Jacob himself) was 70 (vs. 27; cf. Exod. 1:5; Deut. 10:22). [1] 

Jacob & Joseph Meet
Jacob had sent Judah ahead to Joseph to show the way to Goshen. Joseph prepared his chariot and went to meet Israel in Goshen. He presented himself to him and fell on his neck and wept on his neck a good while (vs. 29). Israel said to Joseph, "Now let me die, since I have seen your face and know that you are still alive." (vs. 31) Joseph told his brothers and Jacob's household, "I will go up and tell Pharaoh and will say to him, 'My brothers and my father's household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me. And the men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock, and they have brought their flocks and their herds and all that they have.' When Pharaoh calls you and says, 'What is your occupation?' you shall say, 'Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,' in order that you may dwell in the land of Goshen, for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians." (vs. 31-34)

Reflections on Genesis 46

(1) Back from the Dead
Do you remember what happened in Genesis 22? That's where God asked Abraham to offer up/kill his son Isaac, the one through whom God promised He would establish His covenant. Here's how Hebrews 11:17-19 described what was going on in Abraham in that event: "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, 'Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.' He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back." 

(2) Response of Worship
Isaac never died. Similarly, here again, we see another picture of a father figuratively receiving his son back from the dead, Jacob and Joseph. And what's Jacob's response to this news of his son being alive? It's similar to Abraham's (Genesis 22:13). He worships by offering sacrifices to Yahweh (vs. 1). Ask yourself this question, when you receive incredible news does it cause you to worship God?

(3) God Speaks
Then God speaks to Jacob, reassuring him that this is part of His plan to fulfill His covenantal promise to make Israel into a great nation. God strengthens Jacob's faith in what He tells him, and Jacob steps out in full assurance and confidence with his 70 descendants from Canaan to Beersheba to Goshen, in Egypt. Nothing happens outside of God's permission. 

This is instructive for us. We must pursue God's Word to evaluate what we should do. This doesn't mean we will hear God's audible voice like Jacob. No, we have His Word in the Bible. We should consult it. When we step out in faith, it's not because we have a dream or have convinced ourselves of a feeling of "inner peace" through our own opinions, but in asking God for wisdom in prayer, in seeking what His Word has to say about our circumstances, and seeking counsel from others who know God's Word about how they think God's Word would address us (even though counsel is sometimes hard to take, and sometimes it's wisely not followed). I'm not saying always "go against your gut", but I would say that just because your "gut" tells you something, it doesn't mean it's in line with God's Word. Friends, test the spirits: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1) Following your conscience is important, and in God's common grace we can still discern what is wise through our "gut", but we should be like Jacob here. Let our decisions be driven by God's Word, the Bible, not necessarily what our hearts and others tell us.

(4) The Land
God is doing something specific in this event in a "salvation-historic" sense. He is setting up a grand scene through which He will display His glory in saving His covenant people from Egypt, and instituting the Mosaic covenant in Exodus. This can be clearly seen in His promise to bring Israel back out of Egypt again (vs. 3-4). Further, God won't abandon His people. God is moving history to the next point in which more shadows and types will be set up to point to Jesus Christ as the Messiah.

This being said, there is a parallel to the Christian life here as Israel goes from a land of famine to the verdant land of Goshen. We can step out in full faith, assurance, and confidence in what God has called us to do, namely, repent and believe in Christ, knowing that His strong arm will bring His covenant people from this broken and fallen world to be in the most lush land imaginable. Through Jesus' perfect life, substutionary death, and powerful resurrection we can have hope that God will bring us to the verdant land that Goshen only foreshadowed, that the Promised Land was only a dim reflection of: Heaven. The "city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God." (Hebrews 11:10) Eternity in the blessed joy and pleasure of God's favor because of Christ forever. With our Savior forever.
[1] NOTE: First, the Bible does not contradict itself in adding up these descendant numbers. However we conclude that Moses came to these numbers it doesn't change the fact that the Scriptures are trustworthy, true, and without error (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21). Second, I believe that Jacob was intended to be included in the count with Leah's children, and in the final count of 70 who went down to Egypt. I believe the following theories of how Moses arrived at the number of 70 descendants are not likely: (1) That Asenath was Dinah's daughter by Shechem, (2) that Moses' mother, Jochebed, was an unborn infant when Jacob's descendants migrated to Egypt, (3) that there was some unborn infant that was counted, (4) that the list included another son of Dan, or lastly, (5) that the Holy One of Israel was included in the number. You can clearly see how I think the numbers add up by the way I counted above. Third, another issue related to this is that Stephen, in Acts 7:14, said Jacob's descendants included 75 people in all. Also, the Septuagint reads 75 descendants at Genesis 46:27 and Exodus 1:5, but keeps Deuteronomy 10:22 at 70 people. Stephen and the Septuagint may have been thinking of Jacob's family at a later date, not necessarily the specific number at the time that they actually moved from Canaan to Egypt. I. Howard Marshall tries to show this specifically (Marshall, 146-7). I'm not fully convinced by his math. These texts do not contradict each other. Both the Septuagint and Stephen are correct on the number; however, the Hebrew text of 70 is the exact number of Jacob's descendants at the time of their migration.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Genesis Chapter 45 ~ Divine Sovereignty, Part 1

Genesis Chapter 45

Before his brothers Joseph couldn't control himself and he cried, "Make everyone go out from me." (vs. 1) No one stayed with him when he made himself known to his brothers, and he wept so loud that the Egyptians and the household of Pharaoh heard it (vs. 2). Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?" (vs. 3) His brothers couldn't answer because they were dismayed at his presence.

Joseph said to his brothers, "Come near to me, please, I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, 'Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry. You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children's children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.' And now your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father of all my honor in Egypt, and of all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here." (vs. 4-13)

After saying all of this Joseph fell upon Benjamin's neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on His neck. And Joseph kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. Then they talked with Joseph.

Pharaoh and his servants were pleased that Joseph's brothers came, and he said to Joseph, "Say to your brothers, 'Do this: load your beasts and go back to the land of Canaan, and take your father and your households, and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat the fat of the land.' And you, Joseph, are commanded to say, 'Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.'" (vs. 17-20)

Israel/Jacob's sons did all of this. Joseph gave them wagons, provisions for the journey, a change of clothes, but to Benjamin he gave 300 shekels of silver and 5 changes of clothes. To his father he sent 10 donkeys loaded with goods, 10 female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and provision for the journey. Then he sent his brothers away, and as they left he said, "Do not quarrel on the way." (vs. 24)

Jacob's brothers went back to Canaan to their father, and they told him, "Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt." The text then describes, "[Israel's] heart became numb, for he did not believe them." (vs. 26) After they told him what Joseph said, and after he saw the wagons, Jacob's spirit revived and he said, "It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die." (vs. 28)

Reflections on Genesis 45 
First, notice the emotion of these men. They aren't mere characters in a story, they are people, with deep seated emotions. Joseph wasn't able to control his emotions, and he wept so loud that the Egyptians and the household of Pharaoh could hear him (vs. 1-2). His brothers were dismayed or alarmed (vs. 3). Joseph told his brothers to not be distressed or angry with themselves for what they did to him (vs. 5). Joseph fell upon Benjamin's neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on Joseph's neck (vs. 14), then he kissed all his brothers and wept on them (vs. 15). When Jacob/Israel heard that Joseph was alive his heart became numb (vs. 26).

There's been a lot of discussion of biblical manhood these days, and it's helpful to point out that in the Bible, manhood is not antithetical to emotion. That being said, it's important to point out that our emotions don't control our actions, rather a deep seated faith in Yahweh does.

Second, what is it that grounds Joseph in the face of the deep emotions connected to his experience? A trust in God's sovereignty. He attributes everything to God:
  • Vs. 5 - "you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life."
  • Vs. 7 - "And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.
  • Vs. 8a - "it was not you who sent me here, but God."
  • Vs. 8b - "He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt."
Do you think that God's sovereign power and control over all things is troubling in the face of all the suffering and trials in this world? Friend, God's meticulous sovereignty over all things should issue to our despair, not because of the trials of this world, but because of the knowledge of His wrath that is coming against us because of our sin. Not only is God sovereign, but man is responsible for sin. Joseph is not absolving his brothers of their sin in verse 5, but explaining that God worked even through their wretchedness. But this knowledge doesn't issue to our despair if we repent and believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus Christ we need not despair. We can find fresh courage and comfort, because of Jesus' substitutionary atonement. If we are counted as justified and as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ, we need not despair. Rather, we find comfort in God's sovereign control. We know that for those in Christ all things work for our good and God's glory. (Rom. 8:28-30) He is working all things according to the counsel of His will. (Eph. 1:11) In Genesis 45 God is working to preserve the family line that He made a covenant to. God will not go back on His promises. You can see that even in His sovereignty here, Yahweh is preserving the family through whom He would bring His Messiah. He's working out His purpose to sustain His covenant. 

The third thing to note here is that Joseph's trials point to a Savior who would be falsely accused, beaten, flogged, spat on, whipped, have thorns pounded into His head, nailed to a cross through His hands and feet, and most of all, He would bear the weight of our sin. Jesus bore the eternal wrath of God for His people on the cross. Hallelujah, what a Savior! Jesus Christ, went to the cross for our sin. He who knew no sin became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21), but it all went down according to God's plan. Yahweh was in control. Listen to how Peter put it on Pentecost:

Acts 2:22-24
22 "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know - 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it."

God was in complete control at the worst trial in history, and again, it was for the purpose of glorifying Himself in keeping His covenant promise to save His people through a Messiah. We should take solace in the sovereignty of God, even as Joseph did, knowing that God is working all these things our for our good and His glory. We'll see more on this theme of God's sovereignty before Genesis is done.