Genesis Week 7 – Lessons From Deception

Thank you for reading Genesis with us! Here are the readings for this week:

Readings this week:
Genesis 26:34-31:55
□ 26:34-27:40 – Jacob and the blessing
□ 27:41-28:22 – Jacob flees and his dream
□ 29:1-30 – Jacob at Laban’s
□ 29:31-30:43 – Jacob’s household
□ 31 – Jacob leaves Laban

Main Topic – Lessons from Deception
In the previous section of Genesis, we saw God’s promises passed from Abraham to Isaac. Now the story follows Isaac’s son Jacob. Jacob’s name means “the deceiver” and the Bible does not downplay his manipulative, con-man like character. Isaac the elderly father is tricked, and he passes on the covenant blessings to Jacob not Esau. Jacob – willing to lie, cheat, and steal – would flunk anyone’s morality test. Watch in this section as he pays dearly for his trickery and is himself deceived and cheated by his uncle Laban. Jacob will spend 20 years in personal exile – during which time he builds a family and learns many lessons. His character is changed through this hardship and repentance, and he returns from exile ready for a remarkable reconciliation with his brother and God himself.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion
1. The Stolen Blessing (Gen 27) – Consider the story of Jacob and Rebekah’s deception. While the deception is successful, by the end of the chapter it is clear that everybody loses. Note the consequences for each family member: Isaac, Esau, Jacob, and Rebekah.

2. Jacob’s Dream and Vow (Gen 28) – Jacob is exiled as a consequence of his sin. Where does he go? What is his dream about? What does God tell him? How is this a continuation of the covenant promises? What vow does he make?

3. Jacob’s Marriage and Children (Gen 29-30) – In an ironic twist, Jacob is now deceived by Laban and manipulated by his wives. How does the story of his wives unfold? Describe how Jacob is now suffering through the deception and manipulation of others. What might God be teaching Jacob?

4. Jacob’s Flocks (Gen 30) – An odd story about striped and spotted lambs and mating techniques… What do we learn about Jacob in this story? What do we learn about God? How does Jacob experience God’s grace in spite of Laban’s manipulations here?

5. Jacob Flees from Laban (Gen 31) – How are Jacob’s old habits evident as he flees Laban? How do we see Jacob’s growing faith? Does Jacob recognize that God has been blessing him? Note the reconciliation between Jacob and Laban. What broken relationship still needs to be reconciled for Jacob?

Genesis Week 6 – Promises from Abraham to Isaac

Thank you for reading Genesis with us! Here are the readings for this week:

Readings this week:
Genesis 23:1-26:33
□ 23 – Death of Sarah
□ 24 – Isaac and Rebekah
□ 25:1-18 – Death of Abraham
□ 25:19-34 – Jacob and Esau
□ 26:1-33 – Isaac and King Abimelech

Main Topic – Promises from Abraham to Isaac
In this transitional section of Genesis, God’s covenant promises are passed from Abraham to Isaac. Sarah passes away, and Abraham focuses his attention on finding a wife for his son Isaac. The story of Abraham’s family continues in the account of Isaac, and the birth of his sons Esau and Jacob. Isaac not only receives the promises of God given to Abraham, he also inherits some of Abraham’s weaknesses. In this section, we want to focus on how the promises to Abraham are passed on to the next generation.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

1. The Death of Sarah (Gen 23) – Sarah is buried near Hebron/Mamre. What is the significance of this location? Consider Abraham’s history here (Gen 13:18, 18:1). How is Abraham regarded in the community? How is God fulfilling His promises?

2. A Wife for Isaac (Gen 24) – Abraham is very insistent that Isaac not marry a local Canaanite girl. Why is this such a matter of grave concern for him, what is the issue here? (see Ex 34:16, Deut 7:3-4) How do we see faith in the actions of Abraham, his servant, Isaac, and in Rebekah?

3. Conflict in the Household (Gen 25) – Isaac shares in Abraham’s faith and promises, and also his household drama. How many parallels can you identify between the two households? (ie. barren wife, long wait for children, children who fight, division in the household, famine, lying, etc.)

4. God’s Faithfulness Even When… (Gen 26) – What covenant promises are confirmed to Isaac? (26:3-4) Then what does Isaac do? (26:7-11) Nevertheless, God blesses Isaac abundantly! (26:12-16) Why are these two stories set next to each other? What does this suggest about God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises? 

Genesis – Covenants and a Map

Thank you for reading Genesis with us! This week I’m sending an extra email with study resources and a map. Genesis begins in the garden of Eden, takes us to Babel (ie. Babylon), and then with Abram we journey from Haran to Canaan to Egypt and back again. It’s time for a map!

Rassmussen, Carl. Atlas of the Bible. Zondervan, 2010.

We also have recently encountered the Old Testament concept of a “covenant”. God makes a covenant agreement with Noah after the flood (Genesis 9) and then with Abram (Genesis 15). In our modern world we do not use the word covenant the way it was used back then – we generally use it only for home owner’s association documents that specify what you can and cannot do (and then people promptly ignore most of it and continue parking boats or campers in their driveways, etc.)

A covenant in the era of the Bible could be made at an individual, tribal, or national level. The example that is most useful to us is that of an international treaty, an alliance between nations. Every covenant treaty-alliance was structured like a legal document with a title, a historical prologue, the obligations of each party, the list of witnesses, and the curses and blessings that were to fall on each party as they upheld (or broke) their agreement. The whole act of treaty-making was sealed in a ratification ceremony involving the taking of oaths and sacrifices. Keep this in mind as you read Genesis 15 (and 17), and even as you later read Exodus 20-24 and the covenant God made with Moses and the people of Israel when the law was given, and the New Covenant made by the blood of Christ.

For more on covenants, read Sandra Richter’s Epic of Eden, chapter 3 and check out this Bible Project video on covenants:

Genesis Week 5 – Promises Fulfilled

Thank you for reading Genesis with us! Here are the readings for this week:

Genesis 17:1 – 22:24
□ 17 – Covenant and Circumcision
□ 18-19 – Sodom & Gomorrah
□ 20 – Abraham and King Abimelech
□ 21 – Birth of Isaac
□ 22 – Abraham Tested

Main Topic – Promises Fulfilled
This section of Genesis opens with God reaffirming His promises to Abram, changing his name to Abraham, and marking this special covenant with a new sign. God’s intention to bless the nations through Abraham is evident in all the readings this week – as Abraham intercedes for Sodom and Gomorrah and later brings blessings on the Philistine King Abimelech. We see the miraculous birth of Isaac and later Abraham’s offering of Isaac. Throughout, God’s faithfulness is clear, He keeps His promises and hears the prayers of His people.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion
1. The Covenant (Gen. 17) – What are the covenant promises God restates here? How do Abraham and Sarah respond to the promise? God’s promise demands a response from Abraham. What is the requirement? Why do you think this sign is chosen or uniquely appropriate?


2. Abraham Intercedes (Gen 18) – God’s judgement against Sodom and Gomorrah is sure, but Abraham intercedes six times asking the Lord to spare the righteous. What lessons can we learn about the nature of prayer from this?


3. Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed (Gen 19) – Lot has been living in Sodom for more than 20 years (since Gen 13). How has he been influenced? Why might he have stayed? What happens to his wife? Why do you think this story is included in the story of Abraham?


4. Isaac is Born (Gen 21) – After waiting 25 years, Abraham is given a son. With Isaac’s birth comes rejoicing, but also conflict with Hagar’s son Ishmael. What happens to Hagar as she is sent away? What promises does God make regarding Ishmael?


5. Abraham is Tested (Gen 22) – God wants complete faith from His people, regardless of the odds. God tests Abraham again, and this time Abraham is determined to obey. What deliberate steps of obedience does he take here? How does God intervene? What promises are repeated at the end of the chapter?

Genesis week 4 – Abram and the Nations

Thank you for reading Genesis with us! Here are the readings for this week:

Genesis 11:27-16:16
o  11:27-12:20 – Call of Abram
o  13 – Separation from Lot
o  14 – The Rescue of Lot
o  15 – The Covenant
o  16 – Abram and Hagar

Main Topic – Abram and the Nations

If Genesis 1-11 is the cosmic story of God and humankind, then Genesis 12 marks a turning point and the story narrows in focus to the story of God in relationship with one man, Abram. Abram will eventually become a family and then a nation, whose mission it is to be a blessing to all the nations and peoples of the earth. Our story this week opens with God calling Abram, giving him instructions, and making big promises. Sometimes Abram has great faith. Sometimes he struggles and makes poor decisions. As we watch Abram’s life unfold, consider how our personal faith journeys often have similar highs and lows.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

1. Calling and Promises, Time in Egypt (Gen 12) – How does God promise to bless Abram? What does God ask of Abram? How does Abram respond? What challenges, costs, emotions might have been involved for Abram? What decisions does Abram make in Egypt? What does this reveal about his faith? How does God intervene to ensure His promises are fulfilled?

2.    Abram and Lot (Gen 13-14) – What decisions does Abram make regarding Lot? What does this reveal about his faith? How does the Lord affirm Abram’s faith and His promises again?

3.    Abram and Covenant (Gen 15) – How is Abram’s faith as chapter 15 opens? How does the Lord affirm his promises? Consider how Abram’s response of faith in 15:6 is celebrated in Romans 4:1-25 and Galatians 3:1-9. Finally, what do you know about this strange covenant ceremony?

4.    Abram and Hagar (Gen 16) – Abram’s remarkable encounter with God has not cured his faith struggles. What happens with Hagar, and what are the consequences?

5. Personal Reflection – Look back over Genesis 12-16. How does Abram’s unstable faith remind you of your own journey? How do these chapters show God’s commitment to His promises in spite of human failures?

Also, check out The Bible Project video on Genesis 12-50 below.

The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight

This book is required reading for students at Asbury Seminary in a class titled “Biblical Narrative”. It is excellent and challenges the way we approach scripture. After explaining his Bible-as-a-story approach (not a systematic theology prooftext), McKnight applies his approach to issues of slavery, justice, and atonement theory. The latter third of the book is a balanced and thoughtful discussion of the Biblical text regarding women in ministry. Agree or disagree with his conclusions, it is a welcome addition to the discussion on how we determine which parts of scripture apply everywhere and in all times versus those parts that are limited in application to a particular time and place. Very much worth reading. (As is another McKnight book I loved The King Jesus Gospel.)

Genesis Week 3 – The Downward Spiral of Sin

Thanks for reading Genesis with us! Here are the readings for this week:

Genesis 4:1-11:26
o  4 – Cain and Abel
o  5:1-6:7 – Generations
o  6:8-8:19 – Noah
o  8:20-10:32 – Noah and Covenant
o  11:1-26 – Babel

Main Topic – The Downward Spiral of Sin
Sometimes sin has immediate consequences, as we saw in Genesis 3 with Adam and Eve. In the next major section of Genesis, we see the longer-term consequences of sin. The fall of Adam and Eve initiates a downward spiral of sin, beginning with Cain’s murder of Abel, the days of Noah, and finally the Tower of Babel. Genesis chapters 4-11 is an overview of how sin spreads among the peoples of earth. As we look at the stories in this section, our questions focus on how sin spreads, the ensuing punishment, and signs of God’s grace.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

1. Cain and Abel (Gen 4) – How does sin spread? What is God’s punishment for the sin of Cain? How do you see God’s grace in this passage?

2. Noah (Gen 6) – How does sin spread? What is God’s punishment for the sins described? Why is Noah unique? How does he respond to God? How do you see God’s grace in this passage (also chapter 8)?

3. Noah and his sons (Gen 9) – How does sin spread? What is God’s punishment for the sins described? How do you see God’s grace in this passage?

4. The Tower of Babel (Gen 11) – How does sin spread? What is God’s punishment for the sin of building Babel? How do you see God’s grace in this passage?

5. Personal Application – How have you seen the progress of sin in and around your own life? How also have you seen God’s grace at work in your life?