Category Archives: Devotional

God Remembered Israel (Exodus 1-2)

Scripture reading: Exodus 1-2

Exodus 1 – The Twelve Tribes of Israel in Egypt

A change in leadership can be a perilous time for institutions, corporations, and nations.  Inexperienced leadership, coupled with a lack of appreciation for legacy and history, will invariably lead to decisions and course changes that are detrimental.  Such is the case in the opening verses of Exodus when we read,  Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation…[and] there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph” (1:6, 8).

Joseph had been a gifted administrator, and God blessed his rise to power in Egypt where he had become second only to Pharaoh (Genesis 41:40-43). He was God’s man for the hour, and the tribes of Israel prospered under his care, and long after his death (1:7).

The new Pharaoh did not “know” Joseph, nor was he interested in the policies that had made him and Egypt prosper. He was, however, concerned the population growth “of the children of Israel” posed a threat to the nation (1:9-10). Pharaoh issued a series of commands to limit the population growth of Israel, and tasked the children of Israel with heavy burdens and hardships (1:11-14).  He then ordered the genocide of the sons born of Hebrew women (1:15-21). Finally, he demanded the drowning of every son born of a Hebrew mother (1:22).

Some might ask, “Why would God allow His people, His chosen people, to suffer such calamity?”   My answer: The sufferings and sorrows Israel faced as a people were part of God’s plan to move the Hebrews from the comfort and riches of Egypt to the land He had covenanted to give the descendants of Abraham.

Exodus 2 – Moses, Prince of Egypt

Exodus 2 introduces us to Moses, a man whom I believe was one of the greatest leaders in human history. The prosperity of the tribes of Israel during Joseph’s lifetime, had become only a distant memory when Moses was born. The children of Israel had become slaves in Egypt, and Moses was not only born in a slave’s household, but he was born under the threat of infanticide (1:15-22; 2:1-4).

Moses’ parents were pious believers of the priestly tribe of Levi. His mother, Jochebed, risked her life, and “hid him three months” (2:2) after he was born. She eventually made a small vessel of reeds, and placed him in the basket, then set her son adrift on the Nile River, entrusting his life to God’s providential care (2:3-4).

Reminded that God is sovereign, infant Moses drifted to the place where Pharaoh’s daughter was bathing, and his cry pierced her heart where he found favor and compassion (2:5-6). She realized the baby boy was a Hebrew, and at the suggestion of Moses’ sister, she employed Jochebed, to be his nurse (2:7-10).

Moses spent the first forty years of his life in the palace as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, and therefore an Egyptian prince. He was favored not only with the finest education of his day, but had become a great leader, “mighty in words and in deeds” (2:10; Acts 7:21-22).

In spite of his Egyptian facade, the heart of Moses was knit with the suffering of the Hebrews (2:11-15a; Acts 7:23-29a). There was a day when he became so incensed by the abuse his brethren suffered, that he took the life of an Egyptian (2:11-13). Realizing Pharaoh would soon know his crime (2:14-15), he fled into the wilderness, and there he spent the next forty years of his life (2:16-22; Hebrews 11:24-27).

In the providence of God, Moses, the prince of Egypt, assumed the lowly role of a hireling shepherd, to a Midianite named Reul (also known as Jethro). “Content to dwell with the man” (2:21), Reul gave his daughter Zipporah, to be the wife of Moses, and she gave birth to two sons, Gershom (2:22), and Eliezer (18:4).

In their sorrows, the children of Israel began to cry out to God, and He “heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob” (2:23-24).

God remembered Israel, and He had not forgotten Moses.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“God Meant it Unto Good” (Genesis 50)

Scripture reading – Genesis 50

“[When] Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people” (49:33).

Named Jacob when he was born, he fulfilled the definition of that name in the early years of his life, for he had been a trickster and deceiver. His life, however, was changed at a brook named Peniel (32:27-30), and God changed his name to Israel. Transformed into a man of faith, he became a man upon whom the power of God rested.

He had borne the weight of great sorrows, but he died surrounded by his family, and was comforted in the embrace of his son Joseph, the second ruler of Egypt (50:1). Embalmed in the manner of Egypt, even “the Egyptians mourned for [Jacob] threescore and ten days” (50:3). Joseph requested, and received, Pharaoh’s blessing for his father’s body to be taken up to Canaan and buried in the ancestral tomb of his father Isaac, and his grandfather Abraham (50:4-6).

Imagine the funeral procession that came out of Egypt, and made its way to Jacob’s tomb (50:7-13). His body, borne in an Egyptian coffin, was escorted by “all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, 8And all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father’s house: only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen (50:7-8).

The Canaanite people of the region observed the royal procession of mourners, and named the place Abel-mizraim, meaning a “mourning or meadow of Egypt” (50:11). Arriving at the tomb, the sons of Jacob buried their father (50:12-13), and then returned to Egypt (50:14). Understanding the evil they had committed against Joseph, his brothers feared in their father’s absence, he might exact revenge for their wrongs against him (50:15-17).  Instead of revenge, however, “Joseph wept” (50:17b).

Though abused and rejected in his youth, Joseph had looked past the trials with eyes of faith, and rested in the providence of God. He comforted his brothers, and said, “Fear not: for am I in the place of God? 20But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (50:19-20). He went on to assure them, “fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them” (50:21).

Sold as a slave when he was seventeen, Joseph lived the rest of his life in Egypt. Though a ruler in Egypt, his heart longed for the land God had promised, and in death he assured his brethren: “God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (50:24). Joseph, repeated the promise, and requested, “ye shall carry up my bones from hence” (50:25). “So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt” (50:26).

A Concluding Thought: I close this commentary, thanking you for accompanying me on this journey through the Scriptures.

Beginning with, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), and closing with Joseph’s death and the request that his bones be taken up and buried in Canaan (50:25-26), we have witnessed God’s sovereignty and loving devotion to those who turn from sin to Him. Joseph confessed to his brothers, “ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (50:20).

It was God who worked to save Jacob, his sons, and the Tribes of Israel that He might fulfill His Covenant Promise to Abraham, that “in [him] shall all families of the earth be blessed,” (a promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ who died for the sins of the world, 12:3; John 3:16). It is God who desires all men would be saved, and “is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

God is working, and He invites you to “confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus,” and “believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9).

You are invited to share your decision of faith, or your thoughts with this author by emailing: HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Jacob’s Last Will and Testament (Genesis 48-49)

Scripture reading – Genesis 48-49

His father’s strength had been waning, and when Joseph received news his father was sick, he hastened with his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to Jacob’s bedside (48:1). Learning Joseph was approaching, Jacob (Israel) “strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed” (48:2). Joseph is about 56 years old when he comes with his sons to his father’s bedside.

Raising himself up from his bed, Jacob began to remind Joseph of the covenant promises God had imparted to him in Canaan, and said: “Behold, I [God Almighty] will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession” (48:4). [The third of the covenant promises, that of being a blessing to all people, will be related to Judah of whom Jesus Christ would be born, 49:8-12; 12:3.]

Jacob’s thoughts then turned to pronouncing God’s providential inclusion of Joseph’s sons among his own (48:5-6). Ephraim, the younger, and Manasseh the older, were foretold to be equal to Jacob’s sons, and would therefore inherit a portion of the birthright blessings in the place of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi who forfeited their portion through sinful choices (48:5b; 1 Chronicles 5:1; Numbers 26:28-37; 1 Chronicles 7:14-29; Hebrews 11:21). Reuben had morally sinned against his father (35:22), and Simeon and Levi had brought shame upon the family by their anger and violence (34:25-31). Though these sons were loved by their father, their sins had been so egregious that they were rejected from their full blessing.

Joseph put forward Manasseh, his oldest son; however, Jacob took Ephraim in his right hand, and insisted that the blessing of the firstborn would fall on him (48:8-19). Though he would die in Egypt, Jacob foretold that Joseph and his sons’ inheritance would not be in Egypt, but in Canaan (48:21). Thus, Joseph’s faithfulness to the LORD, and his care of his father and family were rewarded, and he would receive through his sons a double portion of the inheritance (48:22).

 

Genesis 49 – A Parting Blessing

Jacob’s final words to his sons, and his prophetic insight into the future of their lineages, are recorded in Genesis 49. The words of that dying man were both a blessing and sobering (49:3-15).

The Six Sons of Leah (49:3-15)

Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, was a strong leader; however, the shame of his lying with his father’s concubine shadowed his life (49:3-4). Simeon and Levi, the second and third born sons, were reminded of their angry, vindictive spirits, and their lineages would be scattered among the tribes in the Promised Land. The tribe of Levi would be priests to the LORD (49:5-7). Judah, the fourth born son, would become a royal lineage, of whom David and Jesus Christ would be born (49:8-12). Zebulun’s lineage, the tenth born son of Jacob, would settle along the Mediterranean coast (49:13). Issachar, the ninth son, would become an agricultural people (49:14-15).

The Sons of Bilhah (49:16-18; 21)

Bilhah, one of Jacob’s concubines, gave birth to two sons of Jacob. Dan, the fifth born son, his name means “Judge,” and his lineage would be a judge of the tribes (49:16-18). Naphtali, Jacob’s sixth son, would father a lineage said to be like a “hind let loose,” a swift female deer, and gifted in words (49:21).

The Sons of Zilpah (49:19-20)

Gad, son of Bilhah, was Jacob’s seventh son, and his lineage would be known as great warriors (Joshua 22:1-6; 1 Chronicles 12:8). Asher, the eighth born, would become a rich tribe, and supply the other tribes with “bread…[and] royal dainties” (49:20).

The Sons of Rachel (49:22-27)

Rachel, Jacob’s first love, was the mother of Joseph, the eleventh son (49:22-26), and Benjamin, his twelfth son (49:27).

Jacob described Joseph as an overcomer who, though suffering the arrows of accusations from his brothers, had become a “fruitful bough” (49:22-23).  God had elevated him, and he had become the shepherd of his family, and the “stone (or rock) of Israel” (49:24). Though separated from his father and brothers, Jacob promised God would bless Joseph “with blessings of heaven above” (49:25-26).

Benjamin, Jacob’s twelfth son, was described as ravenous as a wolf (49:27). His tribe would be fearless warriors (Judges 20:15-25), and numbered among his lineage would be Saul, the first king of Israel, and the apostle Paul (Romans 11:1; Philippians 3:5). Benjamin’s tribe, along with the tribe of Judah, would be faithful to the LORD.

Jacob’s Death (49:28-33)

Jacob’s dying breaths repeated his request to be buried in Canaan, and in the ancestral tomb where Isaac and Abraham were entombed. “When Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people” (49:33).

Jacob’s death marked the end of an era, but not the end of our study. He would be given the burial honors of a ruler in death, and Joseph’s brothers feared he would exact revenge for the evils they had committed against him.

Our next devotional will reveal how the drama between Joseph and his brothers will end.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Promises Made; Promises Kept (Genesis 47 – Part 2)

Scripture reading – Genesis 46-47

Genesis 47:1-10 – Pharaoh’s Provision, and His Meeting with Jacob

With his family established in Goshen, a place known for its lush grazing land, Joseph chose five of his brothers, “and presented them unto Pharaoh” (47:2). As he had expected, Pharaoh questioned the men concerning their occupation, and they answered, saying, “Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and also our fathers” (47:3).

Jacob’s sons made it clear that their business in Egypt was temporal, for they were there “to sojourn in the land…for thy servants have no pasture for their flocks; for the famine is sore in the land of Canaan” (47:4a). Showing themselves men of humility, they asked, “let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen” (47:4b).

When his interview with Joseph’s brothers concluded, Pharaoh granted Joseph and his father Jacob a private audience (an indication of Pharaoh’s respect for Joseph). Pharaoh questioned Jacob, and asked, “How old art thou?” (47:8).

Jacob answered the king’s inquiry, giving not only his age, but his testimony: “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage” (47:9).

One hundred thirty years was a long life; however, not nearly as long as his grandfather Abraham, who lived to be one hundred seventy-five, or his father Isaac who lived to one hundred eighty years old (47:9). When his meeting concluded, Jacob parted with a blessing before he “went out from before Pharaoh” (47:10). The form of that blessing is not known; however, I believe it was a verbal one, and perhaps a prayer of praise and thanksgiving for Pharaoh’s kindness.

Genesis 47:11-12 – Joseph’s Loving Care for His Family

Exercising the privilege of his office, Joseph insured his family would enjoy “the best of the land…as Pharaoh had commanded” (47:11). While all Egypt suffered famine, he “nourished his father, and his brethren, and all his father’s household, with bread, according to their families” (47:12).

Genesis 47:13-26 – Famine Enslaved the Egyptians to Pharaoh

The famine continued seven years, and inevitably caused the people to become impoverished. With no crops to harvest, the people spent all their money to purchase grain (47:13-15). When the famine continued, the Egyptians were forced to part with their livestock, and sold their cattle to Pharaoh (47:16-17). When the second year of famine was finished, the people came to Joseph, offered their lands, and finally themselves as Pharaoh’s servants (47:18-20, 23-26b).

There were two exceptions to the ravages of famine. The priests, a politically powerful presence in Egypt, were given grain by Pharaoh, and exempted from selling their lands (47:22, 26b). The second was Joseph’s family, his father, brothers, and their households, “had possessions therein, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly” (47:27).

Genesis 47:28-31 – Israel’s Longing for Home

God blessed Jacob, and he enjoyed the company of his son Joseph another seventeen years after moving to Egypt (47:28). When he was an hundred forty and seven years old, and knowing his death was imminent, Jacob summoned Joseph to his beside. The private conversation that passed between them is recorded. Though he was Joseph’s senior in age, Israel’s (Jacob) manner deferred to his son’s office, and he made his parting request.

Genesis 47:29b–31 – “If now I have found grace in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt:
30But I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their buryingplace. And he [Joseph] said, I will do as thou hast said.
31And he [Jacob] said, Swear unto me. And he [Joseph] sware unto him. And Israel bowed himself upon the bed’s head.

Joseph would honor his father’s request, and vowed he would return Jacob’s body to Canaan where he would be buried with his father Isaac, and his grandfather Abraham. (47:31).

Genesis 48 records Jacob’s parting words, and his caution and counsel to his sons and their families. I am reminded that wise men and women plan for death, and the inevitability of God’s judgment.

James 4:14 14Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

How about you, are you ready? “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Father’s Hope Revived: Joseph is Alive! (Genesis 46 – Part 1)

Scripture reading – Genesis 46-47

Jacob had charted an astonishing journey in life. His spiritual walk had been so transformed that God had changed his name from Jacob (“trickster”), to Israel (“God wrestles,” 32:28), and a man who had power with God.

Though blessed by the LORD, Jacob’s life had not been without disappointments and sorrows that invariably afflict us all. He was in his twilight years, and his life had been shadowed by the deaths of his wives, and the loss of two sons (Joseph whom he believed had been killed by a wild beast, and Simeon who had been left as a prisoner in Egypt). Famine had forced Jacob to send his sons back to Egypt, with the demand that Benjamin, his youngest son must accompany them. Jacob resigned himself to the worst outcome (43:14).

Waiting for word from his sons; hope returned when Jacob caught the first sight of their caravan in the distance. His sons’ greeting, and the news they had brought from Egypt caused his heart to nearly cease: Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt” (45:26-27)!

Though old and frail, the news that Joseph was alive, revived his spirit (45:27). The journey to Egypt would be hard for an old man, but the anticipation of being reunited with Joseph had so stirred him that he looked forward to death with the contentment of a man whose life has been satisfied (45:28).

Genesis 46:1-7 – Journey from Beersheba

Located at the southernmost point of Canaan before crossing into the Arabian Peninsula, Beersheba held a significant place in Jacob’s life. Israel (Jacob) began his journey to Egypt, but not before going to Beersheba, where he “offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac” (46:1; 21:30; 22:19; 26:23, 32-33). There God appeared to Israel (Jacob), and quieted his fears saying, “I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation: 4I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes” (46:3-4). Knowing the LORD’s leading, Jacob, and all his family made their way from Beersheba, and arrived in Egypt (46:5-7).

Genesis 46:8-27 – Jacob’s Family Roster: The Twelve Sons of Jacob

Altogether, sixty-six men were identified among those who traveled to Egypt (46:8-26). Including Jacob, Joseph, and his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, Jacob’s lineage numbered seventy souls (46:27).

Genesis 46:28-34 – Jacob’s Reunion with Joseph

Traveling with a large family, including all their livestock and belongings, had made for a slow, difficult journey. When they arrived in Egypt, Jacob sent Judah, his fourth born son, to Joseph who “made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen, and presented himself unto him; and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while” (46:29).

Imagine the moment Joseph embraced his father, and the tears of joy that coursed down their cheeks as twenty-two years of separation were bridged by a father and son’s love. “Israel said unto Joseph, Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive” (46:30). The son he had believed was dead, was not only alive, he was the second ruler of Egypt!

We learn that Egyptians looked upon shepherds with loathing (46:34), and Joseph wisely prepared his family for their interview with Pharaoh (46:31). Because his brothers had also tended cattle, Joseph counseled them to answer questions concerning their trade: “Thy servants’ trade hath been about cattle from our youth even until now, both we, and also our fathers: that ye may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians” (46:32-34).

Joseph’s love, and care for his father was commendable, and is as it should always be. Though he was a ruler of Egypt, there was no greater privilege than to be the son of Israel, a man who had power with God!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Forsaken by Man, But not By God! (Genesis 45)

Scripture reading – Genesis 45

Joseph, unable to contain his emotions, cried out suddenly, “Cause every man to go out from me” (45:1b). With only his brethren present, he wept so forcefully that his servants, and even those of Pharaoh’s household heard of it (45:2). Speaking for the first time without an interpreter, Joseph cried out in Hebrew, “I am Joseph; doth my father yet live?” (45:3)

Imagine that moment! They had betrayed, sold their brother as a slave, but now he stands before them. He is a powerful ruler in Egypt, and a man to whom they bowed in fear and reverence. With the authority of a sovereign, and the compassion of a brother, Joseph stated in their tongue, “Come near to me, I pray you”(45:4a). With fear, awe, and dread, his brothers drew near, and he confessed, “I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt” (45:4b).

Calming their anxieties, he consoled his brothers, saying, “be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life” (45:5).

Take a moment, and meditate on the last phrase: “God did send me before you to preserve life” (45:5).

Rather than bitterness, and vengeance, Joseph’s words conveyed a reassuring spirit of faith and forgiveness. He had come to see the hand of God’s providences in his life. Confessing his faith, Joseph said, “8So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler [with power and authority] throughout all the land of Egypt” (45:8).

There were yet five years of famine (45:6, 11); therefore, Joseph commanded his brothers, “Go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not” (45:9). He promised his brothers, “thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children’s children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast” (45:10).

When he had finished speaking, Joseph “fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him” (45:14-15). Imagine the conversation that passed between Joseph and his brothers. Through tears, and laughter, Joseph conveyed all that had passed in the twenty-two years he had been apart from them.

The news of Joseph’s reunion with his brothers had reached Pharaoh’s household, and the king of Egypt was pleased (45:17-18). Pharaoh decreed that wagons should be taken to Canaan, and the children, wives, and Joseph’s father be conveyed to Egypt (45:19).  He promised that the “good of all the land of Egypt” would be theirs, and they would have need of nothing (45:21-25).

Stunning News: Joseph is Alive! (45:25-28)

Imagine the spectacle when an Egyptian wagon train came within sight of Jacob’s encampment in Canaan (45:25). When he heard that Joseph was alive, and was “governor over all the land of Egypt, [his] heart fainted, for he believed them not” (45:26). Seeing the wagons, and all the provisions that had been sent to him by his son, Jacob’s spirit was revived (25:27). “Israel (Jacob) said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die” (45:28). He was content. The LORD had preserved his life into his old age, and answered the longing of his heart: He would be reunited with Joseph.

Let us take a moment and reflect on God’s providences in Joseph’s life.

His mother died giving birth to his brother Benjamin. He grew up resented, and hated by brothers who would have killed him had they not elected to sell him as a slave. He was falsely accused by his master’s wife, and was a prisoner, until the LORD directed Pharaoh to promote him to the second most powerful throne in Egypt.

Joseph was rejected, tried, and forsaken by man, but not by God!

Psalm 34:1919Many are the afflictions of the righteous: But the Lord delivereth him out of them all.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Remember: It’s Darkest Before Dawn! (Genesis 43-44)

Scripture reading – Genesis 43-44

The famine had continued in Egypt, and neighboring countries, and Israel (once named Jacob) realized the grain his sons had carried from Egypt would soon be depleted (43:1-2). Telling his sons, “Go again, buy us a little food” (43:2b), Judah, the fourth born son, reminded his father, saying,  “The man [Joseph] did solemnly protest [warned sternly] unto us, saying, Ye shall not see my face, except your [youngest] brother be with you” (43:3).

Judah stated plainly, he would return to Egypt, only if Benjamin traveled there with them (43:4-5). Jacob, frustrated with his sons, impugned them for revealing to the Egyptian ruler (Joseph) that they had a younger brother (43:6). Of course, had they failed to answer Joseph’s questions honestly, the circumstances in Egypt would probably have gone badly for them (43:7). Judah entreated his father for Benjamin, and pledged himself as surety should he fail to return (43:8-9), complaining they should have already departed for Egypt (43:10).

Reluctantly, Israel (Jacob) accepted Judah’s plead, and ordered his sons to bear gifts, and double the money, supposing their money having been returned to them on their first journey was “an oversight” (43:11-12). With Benjamin in their company, Israel (Jacob) blessed them and resigned himself to the LORD, saying, “God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother [Simeon], and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved” (43:14).

Arriving in Egypt, the brothers “stood before Joseph.16And when Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the ruler of his house, Bring these men home, and slay, and make ready; for these men shall dine with me at noon” (43:15b-16).

What thoughts and emotions must have swirled through the brother’s hearts when they were taken from the granaries, where they came to purchase grain, to the ruler’s house? (43:17) The answer is made known to us when we read, “And the men were afraid, because they were brought into Joseph’s house” (43:18).

Knowing the outcome of the story helps us enjoy the humor of the moment when Joseph’s brother approached his steward to plead their case (43:19-23). The steward’s response suggested the influence of Joseph’s testimony in his home, for his servant answered, “Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money” (43:23). The steward’s assurance was immediately followed by a family reunion when “he brought Simeon out unto them” (43:23). How baffling it must have been for Joseph’s brothers when they, and their animals were given the “royal treatment” (43:24)!

Anticipating the arrival of the Egyptian ruler, Joseph’s brothers made ready their presents (43:25), and when he entered the house, “they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed themselves to him to the earth” (43:26). Through an interpreter he asked of his father’s welfare, and they bowed again to Joseph (43:27-28).

The dreams and visions of Joseph’s youth, were being fulfilled as God had promised (37:5-11). When “he lifted up his eyes, and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son” (43:29a), he asked, “Is this your younger brother, of whom ye spake unto me? And he said, God be gracious unto thee, my son” (43:29b).

No longer able to contain his emotions, Joseph rushed from the room, and “entered his chamber, and wept there” (43:30). Remember, Joseph had not yet made himself known to his brothers, and had continued to maintain the conduct and manner of an Egyptian ruler.

Returning to his brothers, he commanded lunch be served, though Joseph was careful to dine at a table separate from his guests: “because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians” (43:32).

Seating his brothers according to their birth order, they “marveled one at another” (43:33), and Joseph had directed that Benjamin’s meal would be five times as much as the others (43:34).

Genesis 44 – A Crisis, and a Confession

The meal being ended, Joseph commanded his servants to fill his brother’s sacks with grain, and once again putting “every man’s money in his sack’s mouth” (44:1). Joseph made an additional request: that his personal silver cup was to be placed in Benjamin’s sack of grain (44:2).

Setting out on their journey, the brothers were overtaken by Joseph’s steward who accused them saying, “Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good?” (44:4)

The brothers protested their innocence (44:5-8), and vowed, “9With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my lord’s bondmen” (44:9). A search was made, beginning with the eldest, until coming to Benjamin’s sack where the silver cup was found (44:10-12). Overwhelmed by their emotions, the brothers “rent their clothes, and laded every man his ass, and returned to the city” (44:13), and fell on the ground before Joseph (44:14).

Joseph had continued to speak through an interpreter to this point, and he confronted his brothers as such, demanding, “What deed is this that ye have done? wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine?” (44:15)

Remembering how Judah had taken responsibility for his youngest brother’s care, true to his word, he confessed his brother’s sin saying, “God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found” (44:16). Joseph prolonged his brothers’ agony, vowing that Benjamin would be his servant (44:17), and sending them away to their father.

Approaching Joseph humbly, Judah pled for him to consider the grief his father would suffer should Benjamin not return, for he had already lost one son whom he presumed was dead (referring to Joseph, 44:18-28).

In a dramatic moment of contrition, Judah begged to become Joseph’s servant in Benjamin’s stead, desiring to spare his father of the sorrow that might send him to his grave (44:30-34).

To be continued: The same LORD who worked through Joseph’s life, has promised “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Dreams Do Come True” (Genesis 42)

Scripture reading – Genesis 42

Joseph’s dreams were coming to pass (37:5-11), but the path from the favored son of Jacob, to the role of a ruler in Egypt, had been one of disappointments, challenges, and injustices. He was little more than seventeen years old (37:2) when his brothers sold him to Midianite merchantmen, who then sold him as a slave in Egypt (37:27-28, 36).

Wrongfully accused by his master’s wife, Joseph had found himself a prisoner, forgotten by man, but faithful to God. Nevertheless, “the Lord was with [Joseph], and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper” (39:23).

Headline: Thirty-Year-Old Hebrew Becomes Second Ruler of Egypt! (Genesis 41:38-57)

God had providentially worked throughout the highs, and lows of Joseph’s life. For thirteen years, he had suffered the indignity of slavery and imprisonment, but when he was thirty years old, he was dramatically promoted to sovereign of Egypt, second only to Pharoah (41:47).

Entrusted by Pharaoh to oversee the preparations for seven years of famine, “Joseph went out from [his] presence… and went throughout all the land of Egypt” (41:45-46).” For the next seven years, he served as the overseer of all that was harvested, and stored in Egypt’s granaries (41:38-44). Pharaoh also honored Joseph, giving him the name Zaphnath-paaneah (meaning, “a giver of secrets”), and “Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah priest of On” as his wife (41:45).

“Before the years of famine came” (41:50), Asenath conceived, and God blessed Joseph with two sons. The firstborn he named Manasseh, meaning “forgetting,” for he had forgiven the hardships and mistreatments of his past (41:51). The second son he called Ephraim, meaning “fruitful,” for his life had become abundantly blessed (41:52).

As he had foretold, when the seven years of abundant harvests had passed (41:53), the seven years of famine began in Egypt (41:54). When the people cried for food, Pharaoh commanded them to go to Joseph, and he opened the granaries and began selling grain to the people (41:55).

Genesis 42 – Famine in Canaan

As famine spread (41:57), word reached Canaan, “that there was corn [grain] in Egypt, [and] Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another?”(42:1). “Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die” (42:2).

Ten sons of Jacob, less Benjamin, the youngest, made their journey to Egypt (42:3). Perhaps suspecting his sons had a hand in Joseph’s disappearance, Jacob refused to allow Benjamin to accompany his brothers, “for he said, Lest peradventure mischief befall him” (42:4).

A Long-Awaited Family Reunion (Genesis 42:5-38)

Seeking food for their households in Canaan, God had providentially brought Joseph’s brothers to Egypt. I am sure it was incomprehensible that the brother whom they had sold as a slave, would now hold their fate in his hands (42:1-20).

Nine years had passed since he was promoted (seven years of plenty, and two years of famine), and Joseph was thirty-nine years old when he spied his brothers standing in the midst of a crowd that had gathered to purchase grain (42:5-6). Recognizing the dress of Hebrew shepherds, Joseph looked into the faces of the men who stood before him, and “made himself strange unto them [speaking through an interpreter], and spake roughly unto them…Whence come ye? And they said, From the land of Canaan to buy food” (42:7).

Joseph “knew his brethren, but they knew not him” (42:8). Though twenty-two years had passed, the memories of his childhood dreams rushed over him (37:5-11). He “remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them, and said unto them, Ye are spies; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come” (42:9).

The brother’s protested their innocence, but also revealed in their reply that Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, and his father were alive and well in Canaan (42:13). Searching out whether or not his brothers had repented of their sinful ways, he imprisoned them for three days (42:14-17). On the third day, he directed that nine of the brothers would remain in prison, and one would be allowed to return to Canaan. To prove they were not spies, Joseph demanded the youngest brother be brought to Egypt to stand before him (42:18-20).

The brothers were overcome with guilt and grief (42:21), and Reuben, the oldest brother, rebuked them, saying, “Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required” (42:22). The brothers did not know that the ruler who stood before them was Joseph, and that he understood their guilt-charged conversation, and admission of the sin they had committed against him (42:23).

Emotions swept over Joseph, “and he turned himself about from them, and wept; and returned to them again, and communed with them, and took from them Simeon, and bound him before their eyes” (42:24). Commanding that their sacks be filled with grain, and the money they had brought to purchase provisions, Joseph sent the brothers away (42:25-26). Along the journey, one of the brothers opened his sack of grain, and discovered his money had been returned to him (42:27-28). Fate, it seemed, had cast its long shadow over their lives, and they asked one another, “What is this that God hath done unto us?” (42:28)

Arriving in Canaan without Simeon, the brothers shared with their father the rough words of the ruler in Egypt, and his demand that Benjamin must return with them if Simeon was to be freed from prison (42:29-34). As they emptied their sacks of grain, each man discovered his money had been returned (42:35). Fear and grief followed the discovery, but Jacob refused to allow Benjamin to return with his brothers (42:36-37).

We leave Jacob, finding his sorrows seemingly overwhelming his faith (42:38). Famine would continue five more years, and eventually Joseph’s brothers would be forced to return to Egypt. However, they will soon learn, what Jacob knows: God is in control.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Scandalous Grace and Divine Providence (Genesis 38-39)

Scripture reading – Genesis 38-39

Genesis 37 concluded with Joseph’s brothers returning to Canaan with his bloodied tunic. Deceiving their father, and breaking his heart, they led him to believe Joseph was dead (37:29-35). Meanwhile, Joseph had been transported to Egypt, and there he was sold to an Egyptian named “Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard” (37:36).

Genesis 38 – Judah, an Inauspicious Beginning of a Royal Lineage

The study of Joseph’s life was intersected briefly as the focus shifted to Judah (29:35), the fourth born son of Jacob (38:1). Although his lineage will be a royal one of whom King David, and Jesus Christ will be born (Mary and Joseph were both descendants of Judah), our introduction to Judah in Genesis 38 is an ignoble one.

Failing to evidence the character of a righteous man, we find Judah had a close friendship with “a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah” (38:1). Adullam was located in the pastoral lands of southern Judah, and it was probably while shepherding his father’s flocks that he became an acquaintance of Hirah. Judah’s questionable friendship led to an interest in a woman named Shuah, a Canaanite, and not one God or his father would have approved (38:2).

Judah took Shuah as his wife, and she conceived three sons (38:3). The firstborn was named Er (38:3), the second son was Onan, (38:4), and the third born son was Shelah (38:5). Er, Judah’s firstborn, took a wife named Tamar; however, before she conceived, the LORD slew him because he was “wicked in the sight of the LORD” (38:6-7). Following the custom of a man marrying his brother’s widow to perpetuate his lineage, Onan, Judah’s second son, rejected Tamar and the LORD “slew him also” (38:10). Twice a widow, Judah then sent Tamar to her father’s home, vowing she would be given opportunity to marry his youngest son, a promise he had no intent to keep (38:11).

Learning Judah was a widower (38:12), and realizing she had been deceived by him, Tamar set on a course to ensnare her father-in-law. Concealing her identity, and posing as a prostitute (38:14), she tempted Judah. He foolishly turned aside, and negotiated a price for her favors (38:15-17). Tamar, however, was a shrewd woman, and until Judah could fulfill her fee, she demanded a pledge, a deposit, that would serve as her security. Judah then presented her with personal items that would be easily identifiable: a “signet” that would be used to seal documents, his bracelets, and his staff (38:18).

Genesis 38:18-30 – “She conceived by him.” (38:18b)

Although a simple, four-worded phrase, it serves as a reminder that actions have consequences. Three months after she conceived, Judah learned that Tamar was with child, and he was told that “she [was] with child by whoredom” (38:24).

Hypocritically, Judah condemned Tamar to “be burnt” (38:24b); however, she produced the personal items, he had left with her: “the signet, and bracelets, and staff” (38:25). Acknowledging they were his, he confessed, “She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more” (38:26).

Tamar conceived twin sons by Judah, and Pharez, the oldest son, and Zarah, became his heirs. He evidenced sincere repentance when he confessed his sin, which was seen in his withdrawal from her (38:26b).

The story of Judah and Tamar is a testimony of God’s grace and forgiveness, for they and their sons are named in the lineage of kings and Christ (Matthew 1:3). Pharez, the firstborn son is in the direct line of the Messiah.

Genesis 39 – The Providence of God: The LORD is with us!

Following the life of Joseph is akin to a spiritual rollercoaster with wonderful highs, followed by events that would threaten to plunge most men into a slough of despair.

Rather than give in to despondency and bitterness, Joseph’s faith in the LORD remained unshaken, and he rose from slave to steward over Potiphar’s household (37:36). Even when his master’s wife endeavored to entrap him in her lusts (39:7), Joseph refused her advances, and reasoned “how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (39:9)

Though a young man, Joseph did not rationalize sin, but resisted it (39:9-11). When Potiphar’s wife thrust herself upon him, he ran from her embrace, leaving behind the garment she had seized from him (39:12-13). When she falsely accused him of indiscretion, Joseph held his peace, and was sentenced to prison (39:19-23). When he was a prisoner, and wrongfully accused, Joseph prospered, “because the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper” (39:23).

I look forward to sharing the rest of the story, and the testimony of God’s providences in Joseph’s life, and how God made him prosper even in the darkest times!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Beautiful Dreamer (Genesis 37)

Scripture reading – Genesis 37

Our chronological study of Genesis brings us to Genesis 37, and a new crossroads in the Scriptures where the focus begins to shift from Jacob, now known as Israel, to his son Joseph. Joseph stands out as one of the most honorable, and upright men of the Old Testament.

A key detail to understanding the dynamics in this period of Joseph’s life is to remember that his mother had recently died giving birth to his brother Benjamin, Jacob’s twelfth born son (35:16-19). Recalling Rachel was Jacob’s favorite wife, and his first love, helps us to appreciate the tragic events that are recorded in Genesis 37.

Being reminded that Jacob was a shepherd, a sojourner, he was “a stranger, in the land of Canaan” (37:1). The LORD had promised him, his father Isaac, and grandfather Abraham the land of Canaan for an inheritance (Genesis 12:1; 35:12); however, the possession of that land would not come to fruition until Israel returned from four hundred years of slavery in Egypt, and conquered and possessed the land.

Joseph was seventeen years old, and was tending sheep with his half-brothers, the sons of Bilhah, and Zilpah, Jacob’s concubines who had each borne him two sons (37:2). We are not told what prompted Joseph going to his father and delivering an “evil report” concerning his brothers, but I feel there is good reason to believe that jealously might have prompted them to treat him with disdain.

Growing up in a household we would describe in our day as a “blended home,” there was constant strife and contention between Joseph and his brothers. His mother’s recent death had no doubt left him vulnerable, and his father favoring him with a “coat of many colours” (most likely a long sleeve tunic), indicated his favored stature in the home (37:3). “When his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him” (37:4).

In the providence and plan of God, the LORD prophetically revealed to Joseph in two dreams that he would one day have a position of authority in his brother’s lives, and they would bow before him (37:5-11). Unwisely in my opinion, Joseph shared the prophetic nature of his dreams with his brothers, and they “envied him” (37:11).

A fateful day came when Joseph was bid by his father to leave the safety of the home, and go out and inspect the welfare of his brothers and the flocks they were tending (37:12-14). Joseph traveled from his home in Hebron, a distance of 40 miles to Shechem (a place that has already been infamous for it was where Simeon and Levi had slain the men of that city, 34:25-31). Joseph arrived in Shechem, but learned his brothers had moved on to Dothan (37:15-17), a city that was one hundred miles from home, and was on a main trade route to Egypt.

Perhaps recognizing Joseph’s coat from a distance, the brother’s conspired together, at first to kill him (37:18-20). Reuben, the oldest brother, intervened and convinced his brothers to put Joseph in a pit, planning to return later and free him (37:21). Stripping Joseph of his tunic (37:23), the brothers cast him into a pit (37:24). When they spied the approach of Midianite merchantmen traveling to Egypt, Joseph’s brothers, in the absence of Reuben the oldest, sold him as a slave for twenty pieces of silver, and he was taken into Egypt, where he was then sold to “Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, and captain of the guard” (37:25-28, 36).

Joseph’s brothers, determined to deceive their father, and convince him that Joseph had been killed by a wild beast, dipped his coat into the blood of a goat. Seeing the frayed condition of Joseph’s coat covered in blood, Jacob believed he was dead, and “rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days…[and saying], “I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning” (37:34-35).

The stage is set for Joseph to one day deliver his brothers from a famine, and fulfilling his dream, stand in authority as they bowed before him.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith