Genesis Week 11 – Death and Blessing

This week we come to the end of Genesis! Next week is an opportunity for you to catch up on anything you missed, or maybe re-watch the Bible Project videos on Genesis now that the content is more familiar. Our next 12 week reading plan is the Gospel of Mark and it starts March 29th.

Readings this week:
Genesis 48 – 50
□ 48:1-9 Joseph’s Sons
□ 48: 10-22 Blessing Joseph’s Sons
□ 49:1-28 Blessing Jacob’s Sons
□ 49:29 – 50:14 Death of Jacob
□ 50:15-26 Death of Joseph

Main Topic – Death and Blessing
The book of Genesis begins with God’s blessing on Adam and the command to “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28). This command and the covenant promise of offspring, land, and being a blessing to the nations (Gen 15, 17) are passed from Abraham, to Isaac and Jacob, and are fulfilled in many ways at the end of Genesis. In this final section, Jacob blesses his children before his death, thus preparing the reader for the story of the growth of the family into the nation of Israel as they sojourn in Egypt.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion
1.    Joseph’s Sons (Gen 48) – How is the blessing of “make you fruitful and multiply you…” passed on from Jacob to Ephraim and Manasseh? How is the blessing of land passed on?

2.    Blessing of Jacob’s Sons (Gen 49) – Jacob gathers his sons and speaks prophetically over them. What consequences do Reuben, Simeon, and Levi bear for their offenses?

3.    Blessing of Judah (Gen 49) – Although Judah was recently shown in an unfavorable light during the episode with Tamar (Gen 38), how has his character and way of life changed? (Gen 43, 46:28) Jacob gives an unexpected blessing to Judah (Gen 49:8-12). What is it? How does this show the grace of God?

4.    Burial of Jacob (Gen 49-50) – Amid the mourning for Jacob, where is the primary focus for his burial? How does this relate back to the promise of the land and the prophecy of Gen 15:12-16? How does it foreshadow what is to come?

5.    Death of Joseph (Gen 50) – How does an understanding of God’s providence help Joseph deal with his brothers? What lessons can we draw from Joseph’s life for dealing with seasons of challenges and blessings?

Genesis Week 10 – Joseph’s Reconciliation

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

Readings this week:
Genesis 42 – 47
□ 42 Joseph’s Brothers Go to Egypt
□ 43 The Second Trip to Egypt
□ 44 The Silver Cup Hidden in a Sack
□ 45-46 Joseph Makes Himself Known
□ 47 Settling in Egypt

Main Topic – Joseph’s Reconciliation
Stories of reconciliation dominate the book of Genesis. We have already seen the story of Jacob’s reconciliation with Esau. In this segment we see Joseph’s reconciliation with his brothers and reunion with his father. The story shows the end result of Joseph’s experience in prison, and the fruit of God’s ongoing grace in Joseph’s life. Overall, the journey to Egypt in this section fulfills God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:12-16 and sets the stage for the exodus.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion
1.    In Egypt (Gen 42-44) – Famine drives the sons of Israel to Egypt again, just as it drove Abraham (Gen 12) and Isaac (Gen 26). Joseph’s dream that his brothers would bow to him is now fulfilled. Read through chapters 42-44 and note how the pain and scars of the past affect the following people: Jacob/Israel, Joseph, Reuben, Judah.

2.    Joseph Makes Himself Known (Gen 45) – This chapter is the climax of the Joseph story. What feelings do you imagine the brothers had as Joseph identified himself? How would you characterize Joseph’s emotions? Read 48:4-8 carefully. How does Joseph interpret his many years of affliction?

3.    Joseph Restored to Jacob (Gen 45-46) – Jacob who once believed his son was dead now receives him back. The narrator begins to call him Israel more consistently from this point forward. How is God’s blessing seen in his life?

4.    Settling in Egypt (Gen 47) – Jacob’s family settles in Goshen as shepherds. At this point in the story, Egypt is a place of blessing. The work of God is not limited by geography or by governments. How are the covenant promises continued in this new land? 

Genesis Week 9 – Joseph’s Slavery, God’s Promises

We are nearing the end! Thank you for reading Genesis with us! Here are the readings from last week (late post!):

Genesis 36 – 41
□ 36-37 Joseph’s Dreams and Slavery
□ 38 Judah and Tamar
□ 39 Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife
□ 40 Joseph in Prison
□ 41 Joseph Interprets Pharoah’s Dreams

Main Topic – Joseph’s Slavery, God’s Promises
While the story of Jacob introduced us to the twelve tribes of Israel, the story of Joseph shows how God preserved Israel outside of the promised land. The story of Joseph is the longest individual person’s story in the Old Testament and serves as a bridge from the patriarchs in early Genesis to the nation of Israel and the events in the book of Exodus. In this section the dreamer Joseph is sold into slavery and forgotten in prison, but God providentially preserves him and his family.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

1.    The Generations of Esau (Gen 36) – While we usually think of our lives in terms of our own accomplishments, stories in Genesis are primarily told in the lives of one’s children. What implications might this have for the orientation of our lives?

2.    Joseph’s Dream (Gen 37) – Joseph’s dreams turn out to be prophetic and accurate. What do we learn of Joseph here, early on? Does he display relational wisdom?

3.    Joseph Sold into Slavery (Gen 37) – This chapter is marked by unexpected suffering. How does suffering strike Jacob/Israel? Joseph? Reuben? How do you see the hand of God providing and preserving?

4.    Judah and Tamar (Gen 38) – This challenging story is full of cultural details that may seem strange (you might need to do some extra research!) How many ways does Judah fail? Who is declared righteous and why? How is Judah’s line preserved?

5.    Joseph in Prison (Gen 39-41) – How does Joseph stand strong in the face of temptation? Describe the journey Joseph endures – What emotions might he have faced? What marks of Joseph’s integrity and ongoing trust in God are evident? How is Joseph’s character developed in this time? How does God show favor to Joseph?

Genesis Week 8 – From Jacob to Israel

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

Genesis 32 – 35
□ 32:1-21 – Jacob prepares to meet Esau
□ 32:22-32 – Jacob wrestles with God
□ 33 – Jacob meets Esau
□ 34 – The tragedy of Dinah
□ 35 – Jacob returns to Bethel

Main Topic – From Jacob to Israel
In the previous section of Genesis we saw that Jacob went into exile in the land of Laban and experienced the pain and drama of being deceived. During these twenty years of exile, God has been working in Jacob’s heart. In this section of Genesis, Jacob faces his greatest fears in reconciling with his brother Esau. Jacob wrestles with God, is given a new name, and finds a remarkable picture of the grace and forgiveness of God in his reconciliation with Esau.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion
1. Jacob prepares to meet Esau (Gen 32) – Jacob is obedient to God’s call to return home (Gen 31:3) but he is gripped with fear. He brings this fear before God in prayer. What characteristics and promises of God strengthen Jacob and enable him to cast his fear upon God?

2. Presents for Esau (Gen 32) – Jacob sends a lavish present to Esau. What is it? Why does he send it? The language of “appease him with a present so he will accept me” is often used of sacrifices made before God. How do these gifts reflect the reality of repentance in Jacob’s life?

3. Wrestling with God (Gen 32) – We see a dramatic event in Jacob’s life here. Arguably the turning point for Jacob is the confession of his weakness, his acknowledgement that he is a cheater. Why is this significant? What new name is he given? What message for Jacob is there in this new name?

4. Jacob meets Esau (Gen 33) – Though Esau had been deeply wronged and formerly wanted to kill Jacob, we see a remarkable change in him. How does Esau react to Jacob? How is this story similar to the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15)? Why is this story of grace and reconciliation so important for Jacob, and for us?

5. The tragedy of Dinah (Gen 34) – Nothing good happens in this terrible story from Shechem. Jacob is failing as a father. Consider his response to the events in 34:5-7, 30-31. How would you describe his response and parenting? Where is his focus? Consider 34:13, 25-30. What do the sons of Jacob do? What are the consequences of this, especially as seen in Gen 49:5-7?

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: