Tag Archives: God is Just

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

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

Getting Back to Bethel, the House of God (Genesis 35-36)

Scripture reading – Genesis 35-36 

The LORD had commanded Jacob to return to Canaan after an absence of 20 years (Genesis 33). Receiving news his twin brother was coming, Esau came to meet him, and instead of exacting revenge, gave Jacob a loving embrace and they wept for joy. Although he had been received in peace, Jacob refused his brother’s invitation to enter the land, and traveled instead to Succoth where he lived among the heathen of the land (33:17); a decision that brought great sorrow upon his household (34:1-2, 13-29).

Genesis 35 – Journey to Bethel

Genesis 35 opened with the LORD commanding Jacob to go up to Bethel (“the house of God”), and fulfill the promise he had made to the LORD two decades prior (28:19-22). Knowing he and his family were returning to the place where the LORD had first appeared to him, Jacob commanded his family to make ready to be in the presence of the LORD.

Genesis 35:2-4 records three preparatory steps Jacob commanded his family to observe before going to Bethel.

The first step, was to “put away the strange gods that are among you” (35:2b).

How did these “strange gods” come to be with Jacob’s family? Remember that Laban, Jacob’s father-in-law, had accused him of stealing away with his gods (31:30, 34). Unbeknownst to Jacob, Rachel had taken her father’s idols. There is also a possibility that the people who had been taken captive after Simeon and Levi killed the men of Shalem, had taken their gods with them (34:28-29).

The second step in preparing to go to Bethel was to “be clean” (35:2c). Jacob commanded his people to put their lives and households in order, and to purify themselves and be holy according as God had said.

Finally, the people were to “change [their] garments” (35:2d). They were to replace the old robes that would have reminded them of their past, and put on new garments. Such is to be true of believers when Paul observed, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Arriving at Bethel, Jacob built an altar, and most assuredly offered sacrifices, and led his family to worship the LORD there (35:6-7).

Jacob’s return to Bethel, however, was not without its sorrows, and was marked by the deaths of three loved ones.  Deborah, the elderly nurse of his mother Rebekah, and who might have assisted with raising Jacob, was the first to die (35:8). Jacob honored his beloved servant by burying her under an oak tree, and calling the name of the place “Allonbachuth,” “oak of weeping” (35:8).

Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel, the mother of Joseph, died giving birth to Benjamin, Jacob’s twelfth son (35:16-18).  Adding to his sorrows was the death of his father Isaac, the longest living patriarch, who died “being old and full of days” when he was 180 years old (35:28-29). Isaac’s death gave occasion for his sons to be reunited, and give him a proper burial (35:29).

Genesis 36 – Esau’s Lineage

Genesis 36 is the record of the births of Esau’s five sons, born of his three wives (36:1-5), and the births of his son’s sons (Esau’s grandsons).

Following their father Isaac’s death (35:29), Esau accepted that the birthright and inheritance of Canaan belonged to Jacob, and soon after moved his family to Mount Seir, in the land of Edom (36:6-8).

Genesis 36 gives no more of Esau’s history; however, the title “Duke,” given his grandsons (36:15-19), indicates they were commanders of men, and soldiers who, as was prophesied of Esau, would live by the sword (27:40).

The Edomites, who were the descendants of Esau, will play a significant role in our future study of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Home, Not So Sweet Home (Genesis 33-34)

Scripture reading – Genesis 33-34

Jacob was glad to be free from servitude to his father-in-law, and after he made his peace with him (31:53-55), he departed from Mount Gilead, and journeyed west to the border of  “Edom,” the land where his brother Esau had made his home (32:3).

Fearing his brother’s approach, Jacob had prepared his family for the confrontation he believed was inevitable. By trickery and deceit, he taken his brother’s birthright, and stolen his father’s blessing. Although twenty years had passed, the memory of his deception was fresh in his heart, as was the memory of his brother’s threat to kill him (27:41).

Jacob and Esau meet Genesis 33:4

The news that Esau was coming with four hundred men had filled Jacob’s heart with dread (32:6-7). Knowing he would face his brother the next day, Jacob had spent the night at Peniel, and there the LORD had met him “face to face” (32:30) and promised to preserve him, and his household.

Genesis 33 – Jacob and Esau’s Reunion

As the sun began to rise the next day, Jacob, bearing a limp he would carry the rest of his days (32:31), “lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men” (33:1a). Jacob divided his family in preparation for the meeting with his brother, not knowing if Esau’s coming was for good or for revenge (33:2). Seven times he bowed himself to Esau, “until he came near to his brother” (33:3).

In an instance, the bitterness and hardness that had separated them for twenty years, was dissolved, and “Esau ran to meet [Jacob], and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept” (33:4). The years, and God’s blessings on the two men, had given neither cause for continuing their hostility (33:10-11).

Esau offered to accompany his brother as he continued his journey; however, Jacob declined, giving the cause was to give his children, flocks, and herds a time of rest from the arduous journey (33:12-14). Bidding his brother go on without him, and promising to join him later, Jacob remained behind, a fateful decision that would cause him and his household much sorrow.

Jacob stopped at Succoth, where he built an house, and sheltered his cattle. He “bought a parcel of a field,” from a man identified as “Hamor, Shechem’s father” (33:17-19). Failing to go on to Bethel, he erected an altar in Shalem (33:18-20).

Genesis 34 – “To See and To Be Seen: A Tragic Story of Love and Murder”

Jacob’s failure to go to Bethel took a tragic turn when his daughter Dinah, born to Leah, “went out to see the daughters of the land” (34:1). Her father had made the decision to settle his family among the heathen, idol worshipers of that day, and his children were not insulated from the fatal attraction of the world. The influence of the “daughters of the land,” inevitably brought Dinah into the company of Shechem, the son of a wealthy, powerful man of Shalem, named Hamor.

When Shechem looked upon Dinah, he seized her forcefully and “took her, and lay with her, and defiled her” (34:2). Though he had raped her violently, Hamor’s “soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved [sexually desired] the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel [speaking to her heart and emotions]” (34:3), and desired to take her as his wife (34:4).

News of Dinah’s rape reached Jacob, but he “held his peace” (34:5) until his sons came home. Hamor, Shechem’s father, came to arrange his son’s marriage to Dinah (34:6); however, her brothers were furious that their sister had been shamed, and mistreated (34:7). Hamor suggested a compromise, but such an agreement would have been a breach of Jacob’s covenant with the LORD, and would have put the promises of God in jeopardy (34:8-10). Shechem pled for forgiveness, and offered to pay whatever dowry was required (34:11-13). Plotting revenge (34:13), Jacob’s sons agreed to accept Shechem as Dinah’s husband, but only if all the men of the city agreed to be circumcised (34:14-24).

Unbeknownst to Jacob, on the third day after the men of the city were circumcised, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, drew their swords and slew all the men of the city (34:25-26). With the men of the city dead, Jacob’s other sons joined Simeon and Levi, raided the livestock, and took their children and wives captive. (34:27-29).

Jacob protested the actions of Simeon and Levi, and expressed his fear that their act of revenge would have dire consequences for his household (34:30). Dinah’s brothers, however, evidenced no remorse, and challenged their father, asking, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?” (34:31)

The heartache, and division that was within Jacob’s household is often mirrored in today’s homes. No home is exempt from the sorrows and violence of yesteryear. Fathers  should be attentive, and ever mindful to look ahead and see the evil., remembering, “that the friendship of the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

When the Chickens Come Home to Roost (Genesis 29)

Scripture reading – Genesis 29

Fleeing from his brother who had vowed revenge (27:41-43), Jacob had arrived at Bethel (28:17-19), where the LORD appeared to him in a vision. Facing an uncertain future, and far from home, the LORD affirmed to Jacob that he was chosen to be heir to the Abrahamic covenant (28:12-15; 12:1-3).

Genesis 29:1-14 – Jacob is United with His Mother’s Family

Jacob continued his journey eastward, and “came into the land of the people of the east” (29:1). Having traveled four to five hundred miles, “he looked, and behold a well in the field, and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks: and a great stone was upon the well’s mouth” (29:2).

Considering the precious nature of water, there was a policy that the stone over the well’s mouth would not be removed until all the shepherds gathered with their flocks (29:3). Far from home, Jacob asked the local shepherds, “Know ye Laban the son of Nahor? And they said, We know him. 6And he said unto them, Is he well? And they said, He is well: and, behold, Rachel his daughter cometh with the sheep” (29:5-6).

Breaking the rule to keep the mouth of the well-sealed until all the flocks were present, Jacob “rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother” (29:10) which was tended by Rachel, the daughter of Laban.

Unable to contain his joy, Jacob “kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept…[and] told [her] that he was her father’s brother [relative], and that he was Rebekah’s son [Rebekah and Laban were siblings]: and she ran and told her father” (29:11-12). When Laban received news that his nephew, the son of his sister Rebekah had come, “he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house” (29:13).

Jacob remained in his uncle’s home for “the space of a month” (29:14), when Laban proposed to his nephew that he should not continue serving him “for nought [and requested] tell me, what shall thy wages be?” (29:15).

The Scriptures reveal a detail that will become the basis of an unfolding drama in the next several chapters: “Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17Leah was tender eyed [weak; unattractive]; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured” (29:16-17). Laban, as we will see, was a sly businessman, and reasoned, “It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man,” Laban agreed that Jacob would labor seven years for the hand of his youngest daughter. (29:19).

Jacob was smitten with Rachel’s beauty, and the seven years he labored for her to be his wife, “seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her” (29:20). When his seven years were ended, Jacob demanded that Laban give him Rachel to be his wife (29:21).

Genesis 29:22-30 – Be sure your sin will find you out!

Jacob, a deceiver and trickster in his own right (having taken his brother’s birthright and his father’s blessing), soon learned he had met his match with Uncle Laban, the master of trickery and chicanery.

Because the bride’s face was veiled in modesty for the wedding feast, Jacob did not discover he had married Leah, Laban’s oldest daughter, (29:23-25) until the morning after the wedding. Jacob confronted Laban the morning after his wedding night; however, his marriage to Leah, though made under fraudulent circumstances, was nevertheless binding (29:25).

Laban excused his deceit, supposedly citing a local tradition that a younger sister was forbidden to marry before the older sister (29:26). Laban slyly suggested an arrangement for Jacob to labor another seven years, and if he agreed, he would give him his beloved Rachel for his second wife (29:27). Jacob agreed, and one week later he took Rachel as his wife.

Herein is a lesson: Consorting with men like Laban, a man void of integrity, is treacherous business!

Laban kept his agreement, but Jacob now found himself the husband of two wives, and committing the sin of bigamy. We read that Jacob “loved also Rachel more than Leah… 31And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated [despised], he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren” (29:30a-31).

One passing phrase in this narrative forewarns us to the troubles that will follow Jacob’s household: Jacob “loved also Rachel more than Leah” (29:30).

There is an old idiom that reads, “Chickens come home to roost!”  In other words, as it is the nature of chickens to come home to their roosting place each night, it is also true that the consequences of sinful choices invariably catch up with us all.

While his journey had taken him hundreds of miles from home, Jacob’s sins against his father and brother had come to be mirrored in the schemes of his father-in-law into which he fell victim.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Not So Happy Family (Genesis 27-28)

Scripture reading – Genesis 27-28

When we concluded our study of Genesis 26, we found Isaac, his wife Rebekah, and his family living in Gerar, a Philistine area of Canaan, that he named Beersheba (26:32-33). Knowing he was 60 years old when Rebekah conceived twin sons, we can assume Isaac was one hundred years old at this time, for his sons were forty years old. Esau the older son, had committed bigamy, by taking two Hittite women to be his wives (26:34). Those heathen wives were from a lineage of idolaters, and “were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah” (26:35).

Genesis 27 – “Esau the Carnal, and Jacob the Conniver”

Time marches on for all, and Genesis 27 opens with a sad statement: Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see” (27:1a). Nearly blind, perhaps due to cataracts from the effect of the desert sun and sand, he had determined it was time to put his household in order, and prepare for his death. Calling for his oldest son, Esau came to his father and said, “Behold, here am I” (27:1b).

Isaac engaged Esau to take his bow, and go out “to the field, and take some venison” (27:3), stating his purpose was to eat, and then bless Esau before he died (27:4). Now, the father’s blessing in ancient times carried a far greater meaning, than it does today. The blessing was essentially a statement of the father’s “Will and Testament,” the passing of the torch of leadership, and the dispensing of his possessions.

Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, had overheard Isaac’s instructions to Esau, and she realized her husband’s plans were contrary to God’s will (25:23). Rather than trust the LORD to providentially work His will according to the divine promise that Jacob, the second born son was his chosen heir (25:23), Rebekah determined to deceive her husband (27:6-10). She readied Jacob to masquerade as his brother Esau (27:11-17), and prepared a meal for him to present to his father. Isaac, although he had his doubts, nevertheless gave his blessing to Jacob, and not his oldest son (27:18-29).

When Esau returned from the hunt, and came before his father (27:30-32), Isaac physically trembled when he realized he had been deceived (27:33). Esau, overcome with grief, bewailed the loss of his father’s blessing (27:34).

The consequences of Jacob’s scheming had infuriated Esau. Jacob had not only taken his birthright (i.e. the spiritual priesthood of the family which Esau had despised and sold for a bowl of soup, 25:33-34), but now his inheritance. Learning of Esau’s threat to kill Jacob (27:41), his mother appealed to Isaac, and requested that Jacob be sent away to her family in Haran, not only for his safety, but also to find a wife among her people (27:42-46).

Genesis 28 – On the Run, and Alone: When God Speaks—Listen!

Knowing the blessing he had bestowed upon Jacob was irrevocable, Isaac confirmed God’s covenant blessing on his youngest son, and commanded him to flee to “Padan-aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother” (28:2).

Jacob’s flight from Beersheba to Bethel, where he stopped for rest, was a distance of some forty miles (28:10). Physically and emotionally exhausted, Jacob went to sleep, and the LORD came to him in a vision of a ladder that reached from heaven to earth, and upon the ladder he beheld “the angels of God ascending and descending on it” (28:11-12).

The LORD confirmed to Jacob that He had been chosen by God, and the promises of the Abrahamic covenant would pass through him to his heirs (28:13-14). With the promise, “I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” (28:15), Jacob awoke, and recognized that as God had been with Abraham, and his father Isaac, he would be with him (28:16).

Fearing God, and revering the place where the LORD had appeared to him, Jacob dedicated the place, calling it Bethel, “the house of God” (28:17-19). Jacob then dedicated himself to the LORD (28:20-21), promising. “I will surely give the tenth unto thee” (the “tenth” being a tithe, 28:22).

The next chapters in our study will follow God’s work of grace as Jacob, the deceiver, is transformed into the man whom God will call Israel, the man who had “power with God.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Where is the Lamb?” (Genesis 22-23)

Scripture reading – Genesis 22-23

We cannot be certain how many years passed between the close of Genesis 21, and the events recorded in Genesis 22. It is not unreasonable to suppose that Isaac was a young man, and perhaps in his early twenties at this point in his life.  One thing is for sure, he was “the apple of his father’s eye,” and the joy of his old age. Abraham’s task was to prepare his son to become not only the master of all that he owned, but also the heir of God’s covenant that promised “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (12:3).

Genesis 22 – Faith Tested: Abraham Commanded to Sacrifice Isaac

Genesis 22 puts Abraham to the test, and God determined to prove his faith by commanding him to take Isaac (22:1-2), “and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (22:2).

With a spirit of submission, Abraham obeyed God, and early the next day set out on the journey with his son, and the wood that would be used for “the burnt offering” (22:3). The trip from Beersheba (21:33), to the place where God had commanded him to sacrifice Isaac, was a three-day journey (22:2). Arriving at Moriah, Abraham instructed his servants to stay while he and Isaac went up the mount to worship, promising they would “come again” (22:5).

Placing the wood on his son, much like Jesus carried the beam of His cross, Abraham “took the fire in his hand, and a knife [symbols of judgment]; and they went both of them together” (22:6). Isaac questioned his father, “Where is the Lamb?” (22:7), and Abraham assured him, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together” (22:8). Two thousand years later, John the Baptist would answer Isaac’s question, pointing to Jesus Christ and saying, “Behold the Lamb” (John 1:29, 36).

We might wonder what emotions stirred in Abraham’s heart as he climbed the Mount, knowing he had been commanded to, “take now thy son…whom thou lovest” (22:2), and sacrifice him (22:8-9). Arriving at “the place which God had told him,” Abraham built the altar, laid the wood in place, and “bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood” (22:9).

Faith, trust, and hope are readily identified in that event on Moriah. Abraham’s faith went beyond himself, focusing on God who would “provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (22:8). Isaac’s trust, went beyond himself and focused on submission to his father’s will who placed him on the altar (22:9). The hope was that God would be faithful to His covenant promises, and Isaac would be Abraham’s heir (Hebrews 11:17-19).

When “Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son…the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. 12And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (22:11-12).

When Abraham looked up, he spied a ram “caught in a thicket by his horns,” and he took it and “offered him up for a burnt offering” in Isaac’s stead (22:13). Abraham “called the name of the place Jehovah-jireh,” meaningthe LORD will provide (22:14).

What spiritual lessons did Abraham and Isaac take from this trial of faith?

Abraham learned how far he was willing to trust God, and walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7), even at the sacrifice of the one he loved. He and Isaac learned, in the moment of trial and testing, God is there, and He will provide.

The LORD renewed His covenant with Abraham, and said, “for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son… I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven…18And in thy seed [Isaac, and his lineage] shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” (22:16-18).

Genesis 23 – The Death of a Mother: “Sarah Died in Kirjatharba” (23:2)

Reminding us that we are all sojourners in this world, we read, “Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2 And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her” (Genesis 23:1-2).

To my knowledge, Sarah is the only woman in the Bible whose age is given at her death. She has served as a model for godly women who aspire to be wives and mothers down through the ages (1 Peter 3:1-6). In a figurative spiritual sense, she is the mother of all believers, and her loving submission to her husband as the head of her household, evidenced her enduring love and commitment not only to her husband, but to her God.

To honor his wife, with a proper burial, Abraham purchased land on which there was a cave (23:3-20).  That cave would serve as a tomb for Sarah, Abraham, Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and Abraham’s grandson Jacob, and his wife Leah.

Hebrews 11:11–1211Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. 12Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The God Who Hears, and Answers Prayer (Genesis 20-21)

Scripture reading – Genesis 20-21

Genesis 20 – Post-Sodom Excursion from the Promised Land

After witnessing the devastating judgment of God upon Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19, Abraham and Sarah made their journey south “and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar” (20:1). We are not told why he departed from the land where he had sojourned; however, I speculate it was to put a distance between himself and the ruins of Sodom and the other cities that had been destroyed in the plains. Whatever his reason, Abraham made a fateful decision to journey from the land God had promised, and traveled to Gerar and the land ruled by the heathen king Abimelech (20:1-2).

Upon arriving in Gerar, Abraham fell back into a faithless pattern he had followed when he went down into Egypt (Genesis 12:11-16), and urged Sarah to tell others that she was his sister, and not his wife (20:2). Although she was 90 years old, God had evidently preserved her beauty, and Abraham was concerned that he might be killed, that she might be taken (20:2). Once again, Abraham’s deceit not only put his wife at risk, but God’s promise that she would bear him a son.

Providentially, God intervened, and warned Abimelech in a dream that he was a dead man should he violate Sarah, for she was Abraham’s wife (20:3-8).  Rising early the next morning, Abimelech wasted no time in putting his household in order, and confronted Abraham who excused his dishonesty by explaining that Sarah was indeed his half-sister (20:9-13).

Abimelech extended kindness, and grace to Abraham and restored Sarah to him, extending an invitation to live where they pleased in the land (20:15), and paying to Abraham the restitution of a “thousand pieces of silver,” assuring that Sarah’s had not been dishonored (20:16).

Abimelech’s kindness was a rebuke to Abraham and Sarah, for he had demonstrated greater integrity than they. In humility, “Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children” (20:17).

Genesis 21 – Promise fulfilled: Isaac is born!

Fulfilling God’s covenant promise, “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee” (Genesis 12:2), we read the news of the miraculous conception and birth of Isaac, the son of Abraham born to Sarah (21:1-3).

Genesis 21:1–31And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken. 2For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, [when she was 90 years old, and he 100 years old] at the set time of which God had spoken to him. 3And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac.

Abraham had waited twenty-five years for God’s promise of a son to be fulfilled (Genesis 12:4). The thought of a 90-year-old woman conceiving a son of the seed of a 100-year-old man seemed impossible; however, nothing is impossible with the LORD and “at the set time of which God had spoken,” Isaac was born (21:5).

The happiness of Isaac’s birth, his circumcision and identity as Abraham’s heir, and the feast that celebrated his being weaned from his mother’s milk turned to sorrow (21:6-9). Ishmael, Abraham’s son born to the Egyptian Hagar, was observed mocking Isaac (21:9), and Sarah demanded, “Cast out this bondwoman [slave] and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac” (21:10).

Abraham, understanding the weight of his transgressions was also borne by his family, yet, comforted when God said unto him, “Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. 13And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed” (21:12-13).

Heartbroken, but trusting God, Abraham arose early the next day and sent Hagar and his son into the wilderness with “bread, and a bottle of water” (21:14), and God’s promise that Ishmael would be the father of a nation. There, in the wilderness when all seemed lost, God heard the cry of Hagar and her son, and “the angel of God” spoke to hear, reminding her of His promise, “I will make him a great nation” (21:18).

I close, being reminded again that, God hears the cries, and the prayers of His people.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith