GENESIS, THE BOOK OF BEGINNINGS

The book of Genesis has its own internal outline that is based upon the repetition of the phrase elleh toledoth ("these are the generations").

"THESE ARE THE GENERATIONS OF..."

Formula

Contents

Location

In the beginning God...

Creation

1:1 - 2:3

This is the account of the heaven and the earth

Creation

2:4 - 4:26

This is the written account of Adam's line

Genealogy: Seth to Noah

5:1 - 6:8

This is the account of Noah

Flood & Covenant

6:9 - 9:29

This is the account of Shem, Ham & Japheth

Table of Nations & Babel

10:1 - 11:9

This is the account of Shem

Genealogy: Shem to Abraham

11:10-26

This is the account of Terah

Story of Abraham

11:27 - 25:11

This is the account of Abraham's son Ishmael

Genealogy of Ishmael

25:12-18

This is the account of Abraham's son Isaac

Transition of blessing from Isaac to Jacob

25:19 - 35:29

This is the account of Esau

Genealogy of Esau

36:1-43

This is the account of Jacob

Joseph & Israel in Egypt

37:1 - 50:26

Notice that there is a symmetrical pattern that finds Abraham at its center.

Adam ļ

Abraham

Ľ Israel in Egypt

Genesis 2:4 - 11:26

Genesis 11:27 - 50:26

5 Toledoth from Adam to Abraham

5 Toledoth from Abraham to Israel

Thus, the person of Abraham stands at the center and as the pivotal point of the book of Genesis.

The first 11 chapters of Genesis form a prologue to the rest of the Pentateuch. This prologue is worded in cosmic terms, taking in all of mankind and all of the world.

GENESIS 1-11

GENESIS 12-50

Events predominant

" Creation

" The Fall into sin

" The Flood

" The Tower of Babel

Persons predominant

" Abraham

" Isaac

" Jacob

" Joseph

The Race as a Whole

The Family of Abraham

Over 2000 years

250 years

The New Testament counterpart to Genesis is the book of Revelation. What is introduced in the book of Genesis finds its conclusion in Revelation.

Genesis

Revelation

Creation of the heavens and earth.

A new heaven and a new earth.

The Tree of Life in the Garden.

The Tree of Life in the New Jerusalem.

A river runs through the Garden.

A river runs through the New Jerusalem.

The first marriage: Adam and Eve.

The last marriage: The last Adam to the church.

The beginning of the career of Satan.

The end of Satanís career: The Lake of Fire.

Death enters.

Death is destroyed.

Man lost privileges because of sin.

Man regains privileges because of Christís payment for sin.

Beginning of sorrow, pain and death.

Christ wipes away all tears.

The first murder.

No more death.

The beginning of Babylon.

Babylon destroyed.

Throughout Genesis we see Godís blessings and provision for man and manís failure to appropriate that grace. Ironically, this is illustrated by comparing the first and last verses of the book.

Genesis begins with God

In the beginning God created...

Genesis ends with a corpse

...in a coffin in Egypt.

But this does not mean that Genesis is a book without hope, for even in recording the death and burial of Joseph in Egypt, there is a continuing promise of a redemption to come.

 

AN OVERVIEW OF THE CREATION ACCOUNT

1. The Similarity to the Babylonian Creation Account.

Scholars have made much of the fact that other creation accounts in other cultures that predate Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness. Of particular interest is one such account known as the Enuma Elish found in Mesopotamia.

It was customary in the very earliest written history to name a book or a scroll after the first word or phrase found in body of the work. The Enuma Elish ("When on high") draws its title from the first sentence of its narrative.

"When on high the heaven had not been named, firm ground below had not been named..."

The text was found written on seven tablets, but this has no bearing on the seven days of the Genesis account. If the tablets had been larger then there would only have been six.

The narrative tells the story of how mankind was created as a chance result of a war between the gods.

This account is only superficially related to the Genesis account. Since the initial discovery of the seven tablets, other copies have been found relating the same story but on ten tablets.

There is a real difference between the Genesis account and the creation accounts of other pagan religions. In other ancient religious systems, the natural world was seen as a manifestation of all of the deities - the sun, moon, stars, oceans, storms. The cosmos always had the status of deity. The Bible is unique in that the cosmos is merely creation. Only God is GOD.

2. The Nature of the Two Creation Accounts.

A reading of Genesis 1-2 will show immediately that we have two separate and distinct accounts of creation that can be compared and contrasted.

GENESIS 1

GENESIS 2

The heavens and the earth are created in six days.

Creation of the man and the woman (no time element mentioned).

Shows man in his cosmic setting.

Shows man as central to God's purpose.

A panoramic view of creation as a whole.

A detailed view of one particular aspect of creation.

Centers on God creating the heavens and the earth.

Centers on man as the crowning of God's creation.

Rather than contradicting, these two accounts are complimentary. Indeed, this method of first giving a panoramic view and then coming back to focus on important details is found all through Genesis.

For example, in the account of Jacob and Esau, Esauís story comes first, but it is Jacobís which is more fully developed and which holds the place of higher importance to the theme of the book.

 

INTERPRETATIONS OF GENESIS 1

1. Supernatural versus Evolutionary.

The Supernaturalist says that creation occurred in a way that in completely foreign to anything that may be observed today. The creation account indicates that God has completed his creative work (Genesis 2:1-3).

On the other hand, there are Christians who believe that God may have acted through evolutionary means to bring about creation. It is true that God often works through what we think of as "natural processes." They are in reality His regular and faithful workings.

2. A superficial appearance of history.

The description that we have of God's creative work seems to imply creation with an appearance of age. This is vividly seen in the creation of man. On the day that Adam was created, how old was he? He was one day old! But the Scriptures seem to describe him as a full-grown man rather than as a baby. The implication is that he was created with an appearance of age.

The same is seen of animals and plant life. We do not read that God created seedlings, but rather that He created trees yielding fruit that had within them seeds for perpetuating further growth (Genesis 1:12).

When we were children, we used to discuss what came first, the chicken or the egg. The Biblical answer is that God created egg-laying chickens who looked and acted every bit like those who had been hatched and had grown to adulthood.

3. The Gap Theory.

This view places a great chronological gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 during which the earth was destroyed and then recreated. According to this theory, millions of years ago God created a perfect heaven and earth. This universe continued in a perfect state until Satan rebelled by desiring to become like God (Isaiah 14:12-17). Because of Satanís fall, sin entered the universe. As a result, the earth became "formless and void" until a global ice age swept over the earth as light and heat were removed. The six days which follow refer to the reconstruction of the earth.

Support for the Theory

Objections to the Theory

The verb hayeta in Genesis 1:2 can be translated "became" so that we could read that "the earth became without form and void."

The normal rendering of hayeta is "was" and indicates a state of being.

The words tohu wabohu ("formless and void") are said to refer to a destruction which took place after Godís original creation. In Jeremiah 4:23 and Isaiah 34:11 these words describe a destruction.

The words tohu wabohu ("formless and void") need not describe destruction. They can just as easily describe an unconstructed state.

Isaiah 45:18 says that God did not create the earth void (tohu) while Genesis 1:2 says that the earth was now void. It is reasoned that the earth must have come to be in this manner after its original creation.

Isaiah 45:18 simply tells us that Godís intention for the earth in its completed form was that it would not be tohu, but rather that it might be inhabited. The prophet is simply stating the purpose of creation.

The darkness that characterized the formless and void condition is indicative of evil.

Darkness does not always indicate evil. Both light and darkness existed upon the finished earth and it was still said to be good.

4. The Day/Age Theory.

This view says that the six days of creation are not to be taken as literal days but rather are symbolic for long periods of time.

Support for the Theory

Objections to the Theory

The word "day" is sometimes used in the Scriptures to describe a period of time longer than a 24 hour period ("the day of the Lord").

The word "day" does not normally refer to an extended period of time when it appears with a modifier (1st day, 2nd day, etc).

2 Peter 3:8 states that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years.

These days are clearly defined in Genesis 1:5 when God calls the light day and the darkness night.

The sun and the moon are not created until the 4th day. This indicates that the previous days are not literal.

The very purpose of the sun was to rule over the day while the moon was to rule over the night.

It should be noted that this view was held by theologians long before the advent of modern evolutionary theory. Origen, Augustine and Aquinas were among some of the early theologians who suggested that the days of Genesis were not necessarily limited to a 24 hour day.

5. The Non-Sequential Theory.

Says that the first two chapters of Genesis are not meant to teach us anything about the chronological order of creation and that we should only learn general lessons from these chapters.

The creation week is seen merely as a literary device, a framework in which a number of very important messages are held (See Ridderbos, "Is there a Conflict between Genesis 1 and Natural Science?"). Thus, the chronological sequence is merely to be regarded as the packaging in which the real message is wrapped.

6. The Literal Interpretation.

If we read the passage naturally, we seem to see a literal six-day period of creation since the entire idea of a "day" and a "night" is defined within the passage where "God called the light DAY..." For this reason, this has been the accepted interpretation from both Jewish and Christian scholars throughout most of history.

Most of the other interpretations of Genesis have as their motivating force the desire to bring the teachings of this chapter into line with popular geological and evolutionary theory. This is not a bad thing if those modern theories can be demonstrated to be correct. We have done similar works of interpretation when we take archaeological discoveries into account and use them to help us to understand and to interpret the Scriptures.

For example, when Isaiah 11:12 speaks of the Lord gathering His people "from the four corners of the earth," we utilize our understanding of geography to interpret this as a figure of speech rather that to insist that planet earth has literal corners.

 

STRUCTURAL PATTERN OF GENESIS 1

The six days of creative work are topical in nature. This does not rule out a literal interpretation, but the topical nature should also be realized.

Unformed

Unfilled

DAY 1: Light.

DAY 4: Light-givers (Sun, moon & stars).

DAY 2: Water & sky divided.

DAY 5: Fish and birds.

DAY 3: Land & Vegetation

DAY 6: Land animals & man.

The outline for this structure can be seen in Genesis 1:2 where the earth was described as being unformed and unfilled. The first three days involve forming the earth while the second three days involve filling the earth.

The Jews delighted in this sort of parallelism - it was akin to poetry. This observation has led some to suggest that we are not meant to take the teachings of this chapter with a rigid literalness but rather as a poetic passage teaching us that God is indeed the creator of all things.

On the other hand, we shall see that the entire book of Genesis is rich in parallelism, even those sections in which all agree are to be taken as historical in nature.

THE CREATION OF MAN

The first chapter of Genesis builds us to a crescendo that culminates in the creation of man.

1. The Divine Plan.

The God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."

And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:26-27).

The creative work of God reaches a crescendo when it reaches the creation of man.

a. The plurality of the Planner.

Notice the use of the plural pronoun ("Let US make man in OUR image"). The Jews held this to be a conversation that the Lord was having with the angels. However, the fulfillment of the plan in verse 27 does NOT say that God created man in the image of God and the angels. Indeed, angels are nowhere mentioned in the first half of the book of Genesis.

This may be a foreshadowing of the doctrine of the Trinity. This is the view suggested by the Epistle of Barnabas. On the other hand, it may also be a literary device known as a "plural of majesty" or a "plural of deliberation." This same sort of plural usage will be seen in Genesis 3:22 and 11:7.

Several other uses of the plural of majesty in the Bible can be suggested:

Ezra 4:18 - Xerxes writes, "The document which you sent to US has been translated and read before me." The context in verses 11-13 shows that the document in question was sent to the king alone.

2 Chronicles 10:9 might be a plural of majesty - "What counsel do you give that WE may answer this people..."

Isaiah 6:8 goes back and forth between the singular and the plural: Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then said I, "Here am I; send me."

It is notable that the New Testament writers never pointed to this usage as evidence for the deity of Jesus. They DID point to Psalm 110 on several occasions.

b. In the image of God.

In what way was man created in the image and likeness of God? Some have suggested that it is in the area of free will. Others have tried to see in this statement a tri-unity within man - that he is body, soul and spirit (as a reflection of the Trinitarian God). Still another view postulates that God has a body.

But NONE of these views is supported by the context of Genesis. The context suggests only one way - the area of rulership. This is seen in the very next verse.

And God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and RULE over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (Genesis 1:28).

As God was sovereign over all that He had created, so now man was placed into a position of relative sovereignty over all that was upon the earth.

c. There Are Two Separate Words for Man.

(a) Adam is the generic word for "man" or "mankind."

(b) Ish indicates man as a male, in contrast to Ishah i ("Woman").

d. The Purpose of the Creation Account.

We must remember that the creation account does not stand alone. It is a part of the larger book of Genesis, which is itself a part of the larger work of the Torah.

Therefore, the purpose of this account must be seen in terms of the covenant people of Israel who had come out of Egypt.

They were to know that their God was no mere tribal god. He was the Creator of all the universe.

2. An Ordinance of Rulership.

God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (Genesis 1:28).

Man is given both the privilege and the responsibility of rulership over all life on planet earth. There is a sense in which he is to be Godís representative on the planet.

    1. This is what it means for man to have been created in the image of God. He is in Godís place, the place of rulership, with respect to the rest of life on this planet. There may indeed be other ways in which man can also be viewed to be in God's image, but this is the one which seems to be in view here in Genesis.
    2. Mankind was given the position of federal headship over the earth. It is because of this that manís fall was able to impact all of the rest of creation. When man fell into sin, the rest of creation followed suit because it was under manís dominion.
    3. If mankind has been given the position of stewardship over the rest of creation, then it stands to reason that the Christian has an obligation toward the faithful stewardship of that with which he has been entrusted. The Christian has a basis for ecology that goes far beyond the pragmatic. He has been entrusted with the care of Godís creation.

 

GENESIS 2 - THE SECOND ACCOUNT OF CREATION

Genesis 1 is given in parallel symmetry with the first three days of creation serving as a parallel to the latter three days. In Genesis 2 we find a different sort of symmetrical arrangement. It is known as a chiasm and the various points of the parallel find their pivot at the center of the passage.

Creation complete: The heavens and earth created; God finished His work (2:1-3)

Man Created: Formed from dust (2:4-9)

Trees in the Garden & Rivers given names (2:9-14)

Man given work of guarding & keeping Garden (2:15)

Forbidden fruit (2:16-17)

Man in need of a helper: Not good to be alone (2:18)

Animals in the Garden & they are given names (2:19-20)

Woman Created: Formed from the rib of man (2:21-24).

Creation Complete: Man & woman naked and unashamed in the presence of God (2:25)

As we approach Genesis 2, it seems at first as though we are dealing with a totally separate account of creation. In an initial reading of this chapter, we note that it contains several references to Godís creation that are already described in chapter 1. Because of this, some have wondered whether the two passages were not written by two different authors.

However closer observation will show that these two chapters form a unit. Neither account is able to stand complete in itself.

The relationship between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 is easily understood when we consider the literary structure of the entire book of Genesis.

For example, in the account of Jacob and Esau, it is Esauís story that comes first. But it is Jacobís story that is more fully developed and which holds the place of higher importance to the overall theme of the book.

The same is true of these first two chapters of Genesis. This will be seen as we take the two chapters and contrast them.

Genesis 1

Genesis 2

Gives a brief outline of Godís creation

Tells us in detail of the creation of man

Sets out the order of creation

Sets out the purpose of creation

Shows man in his cosmic setting

Shows man as the central theme of the book

Gives us a panoramic view of creation as a whole

Gives us a detailed view of one particular aspect of creation

Centers on God creating the heavens and the earth

Centers on man, the crowning of Godís creation

From this we can see that the two chapters are complimentary. Each contains unique material that is necessary in understanding who God is and what He has done for us.

 

THE FALL INTO SIN

The narrative of the temptation and the fall into sin is foundational to the rest of the Bible. If the Bible is a book of Redemption, then the origin of that redemptive message is found in this chapter.

The very last words of Genesis 2 record that the man and woman were naked but were not ashamed. This introduces a motif which follows through chapter 3 and into chapter 4.

Genesis 2

"They were not ashamed"

Genesis 3

"I was ashamed and I hid myself"

Genesis 4

"Adam knew his wife"

Thus, while there is the fall in chapter 3, there is also a promise of future restoration through the "seed of the woman."

The first prophecy of a coming Messiah was not made to either the man or the woman, but to the serpent.

"And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise Him on the heel." (Genesis 3:15).

This verse provides the theme of the rest of Genesis. This will be a book about two seeds. The first will be the seed of the serpent; the second will be the seed of the woman.

We can well understand that the "seed of the serpent" is not speaking of a race of literal snakes. There is a spiritual seed in view. Likewise, the "seed of the woman" has both spiritual as well as physical ramifications.

Even though Cain was descended from Eve, he eventually follows the way of the Serpent in rebellion against God. While he is the physical descendant of Adam and Eve, he is the spiritual descendant of the Serpent. Like the Serpent, he rebels against God by killing the seed of the woman. And like the Serpent, he is cursed for his rebellion. The Lord brings back the seed of the woman in the person of Seth. The story continues as we are given two separate genealogies representing each of these two seeds in Genesis 4 and 5.

Lamech is the culmination of the Seed of the Serpent through Cain. He takes Cainís sin and compounds it, threatening to do seven times the damage that Cain had done. In contrast, Enoch walks with God and Noah obeys the Lord in the building of an ark. But after Noah, there is again a departure of a seed to follow after the Seed of the Serpent.

Ham sins and shows by his sin that he is of the Seed of the Serpent. His son Canaan is cursed and continues to be a curse to the Israelites. This impact of this would not have been missed to those Israelites in the wilderness for whom this book was initially written, for they were soon to face the Canaanites as they entered the promised land.

The Babel Rebellion is an account of men trying to make a SHEM for themselves ("shem" is the Hebrew word for "name"). They are dispersed among the nations.

But one is called out to be a blessing to the nations. His name is Abraham. He has two sons. One is seen to be the seed of the serpent - he is cast out. The other is of the spiritual seed of God. He is Isaac. The pattern continues as Ishmael is cast out while Isaac shows himself to be the son of faith.

Isaac also has two sons. They are twins. But one is of the spiritual seed of the serpent. Esau does not hold the blessings of God in high esteem. Jacob, on the other hand, shows himself to be of the seed of the woman.

Jacob has 12 sons. Only one of them shows from the outset that he is of the seed of the woman. The others are rebellious. Two of them murder the inhabitants of a town. Another is involved in a sexual scandal. They sell their younger brother into slavery. But the Lord uses this to His own ends. And all of the brothers are redeemed in Egypt. They all receive the promises of God.

Moses writes the book of Genesis to the Israelites in the wilderness. It is much more than a mere history book. It is a call to be a seed and a generation and a people.

The question before the Israelites in the wilderness is which seed they will be a part of - the seed of the serpent or the seed of the woman? Genesis will be a book about a line of children. Thus, a key word in Genesis will be "generations."

The Hebrew word for "generations" is ToLDoTH (the "OTH" is the feminine plural and the "T" is a prefix that has the general idea of "relating to" - remember that there are no written vowels in Hebrew).

It is taken from the root word YLD, "to give birth" (The "Y" is not a vowel and is part of the written Hebrew).

It doesnít sound like it from our English rendition, but these two words are related (like "child" is related to "children"). The point is that each new generation will determine which seed it is. Will it continue in the covenant relation to God and show itself to be a part of the promised seed? Or will it turn from God to join and be a part of the seed of the serpent?

Therefore I propose that the "big idea" in Genesis is the idea of the "covenant generation." The word covenant is used throughout this book and it is here that we see the Lord and Abraham enter into a very formal covenant in Genesis 12, 15 and 17.

 

THE PATRIARCHS

There is a certain similarity of style in the lives of the first three Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob).

1. Each is given a series of promises by God which include the following:

(a) A Seed.

(b) A Land.

(c) A Blessing.

(d) Blessing to the Nations.

2. Each live as aliens in the land of Canaan, wandering among the inhabitants of the land.

3. Each had wives who experienced barrenness before giving birth to the promised sons.

(a) Sarah (11:20; 15:2-3; 16:1).

(b) Rebekah (25:21).

(c) Rachel & Leah (29:31; 30:9; 30:17; 30:22).

4. Each had to deal with rivalry among his sons.

 

THE CALL TO ABRAHAM

Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father's house, To the land which I will show you; 2 and I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; 3 and I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." (Genesis 12:1-3).

Throughout the first part of the book of Genesis, there is a pattern seen concerning the Judgments of God. After God pronounces a judgment upon sin, He follows that judgment by offering a way of escape and salvation from that judgment.

JUDGMENT

WAY OF SALVATION

Adam & Eve cast out of Garden of Eden.

Promise of redemption through seed of the Woman.

Cain banished from the presence of God for murdering his brother.

God places a mark on Cain so that no one will take vengeance.

Flood brought upon the earth.

Eight souls saved in Ark.

Confusion of languages and nations dispersed.

Abraham to be a blessing to the nations.

When God cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, He also gave them the first promise of redemption through the Seed of the Woman.

When God banished Cain from His presence after he had murdered Abel, He set a mark upon Cain to protect him from anyone who might be seeking revenge.

When the Lord brought a flood upon the earth to destroy all life, He allowed eight people to be saved within the ark.

When God confused the languages at the Tower of Babel, He doomed the world to an existence of misunderstanding, strife and confusion. We have seen the account of this judgment in chapter 11. Then, at the end of chapter 11, we have the introduction to one particular individual whom God chooses to bless. His name is Abram. It will be through Abram that all of the nations in the world will be blessed, just as they have previously been judged.

We normally think of the first promises of the land being given to Abraham. But the idea of a land that was given is found first here in Genesis 2 where the first man was given the first land. It was a paradise.

This means that the promise of a land that was given to Abraham is a promise of a redeemed land. It is a promise of a return to a new paradise.

 

GENESIS 15 AND THE COVENANT CEREMONY

While each of these chapters contain promises, it is chapter 15 that is the most striking because here they play out the traditional covenant ceremony that was commonly used between two people who were entering into a covenant. When the Israelites in the wilderness read this chapter, they say to themselves, "I get it!" Unless we understand the cultural background of these events, then it usually goes right over our heads - especially the part about the cutting up of the animals and the smoking oven and the burning torch.

The Israelite who was reading this book at the feet of Moses in the wilderness would have considered the first 11 chapters to be merely introductory material that set the stage for the central portion of the book - and in a sense he would have been correct. There are only 11 chapters dealing with such great events as the creation, the fall, the flood and the Tower of Babel. The lionís share of the book deals with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his sons.

Indeed, a good way to read through this book is to ask yourself in each chapter, "What would this have meant to Moses as he wrote it and what would it have meant to the Israelites in the wilderness for whom it was initially written? They had been prisoners in Egypt where false gods were worshiped, so they needed to know that Jehovah was not just another part of the pantheon, but rather that He was the creator of heaven and earth. But this great and majestic God of heaven did not remain only transcendent, He also came near to enter into a covenant with mankind.

 

THE JOSEPH NARRATIVE

Genesis sets forth a contrast between Joseph and Judah, the fourth son of Jacob who eventually received the leadership of the Israelites.

Judah

Joseph

Went to a foreigner of his own will.

Taken to Egypt against his will.

Sexual immorality: went in to his daughter-in-law (38:12-18).

Sexual morality: resisted seduction (39:6-12).

Left his seal & his cord.

Left his garment.

Accuser (38:24).

Falsely accused (39:13-20).

Judgment of God (38:6-10).

Blessing of God (39:20-23).

True accusation of woman (28:25).

False accusation of woman (39:13-20).

Moses is contrasting the moral character of Judah as the head of his tribe with the moral character of Joseph as the head of Ephraim and Manasseh.

Why is this important for the Israelites in the Wilderness to know? Because it explains why Joseph's tribes receive a double portion, both here in the Wilderness and when they enter the promised land.

Jacob demonstrated that Joseph was his favorite son and heir to the double-portion inheritance by awarding him a "coat with sleeves." This was the sign of one who was to be the leader of the clan.

1. Sold into Egypt.

The hatred of the brothers had its climax in a murderous plot which ended only when Joseph had been sold to some passing slavers. Joseph found himself being sold to an official of Egypt.

Meanwhile, the Midianites sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, Pharaoh's officer, the captain of the bodyguard. (Genesis 37:36).

The word translated "officer" is seriys and is usually translated "eunuch." The problem with this is that eunuchs were not married men and Potiphar clearly had a wife.

However seriys seems to be an Akkadian loan-word which went through a change of meaning between the first and second millennia.

2. Egypt in the Days of Joseph.

Joseph entered Egypt in the days of the Middle Kingdom. Egypt during this period was ruled by a strong, centralized government. The pharaohs of this period had their power held somewhat in check by the individual governors.

Mines in the Sinai and in Ethiopia brought precious metals and ivory to the courts of the pharaoh and a line of military fortresses were established around the borders of Egypt to protect from outside invaders. Just prior to Joseph entering Egypt, the capital was moved from Thebes to lth-tawi, near the Delta.

3. Josephís Imprisonment.

For a time, Joseph prospered in the house of Potiphar. This time of prosperity was brought to a close in the attempted seduction by Potiphar's wife. When Joseph rebuffed her, she falsely accused him of attempted rape.

Joseph was taken and thrown into the royal prison where political prisoners were held. It was there that he befriended the pharaoh's butler. This friendship, along with a God-given gift of interpreting dreams, would result in Joseph's promotion to the Court of Pharaoh.

4. Josephís Exaltation.

In a single day, Joseph found himself propelled up to the position of Viceroy over all Egypt, second only to the Pharaoh. Josephís economic plan called for him to store up grain and food supplies for a coming time of famine. When that time came, Joseph was able to heighten the Pharaoh's political hold over the nobility and the landowners of Egypt by allowing the people to sell all of their lands to him in return for food.

So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for every Egyptian sold his field, because the famine was severe upon them. Thus the land became Pharaohís.

And as for the people, he removed them to the cities from one end of Egypt's border to the other.

Only the land of the priests he did not buy, for the priests had an allotment from Pharaoh, and they lived off the allotment which Pharaoh gave them. Therefore, they did not sell their land. (Genesis 47:20-22).

From this time on, Egypt became a virtual feudal state with the Pharaoh owning the land and allowing the people to work it and keep 80% of the profit.

5. Israelís Entrance into Egypt.

After several dramatic encounters with his brothers, Joseph invited the entire clan to move into Egypt.

The immediate reason for Israelís entrance into Egypt was because of the famine; but there were some underlying reasons. Godís plan and purpose for Israel was to maintain a pure people, set apart for the purpose of loving and serving Yahweh as their God, eventually spreading His name throughout all the earth.

When we examine the Patriarchs with this concept in mind, we are able to note a startling contrast among them.

a. Altars & Worship.

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob each would move to a new place within the land and build an altar there, proclaiming the name of the Lord.

b. A Sense of Purpose.

Each of these Patriarchs had a sense of purpose, a sense of destiny because of the promises that God had given. The altars were symbolic of that purpose in the land.

c. Unity.

Because of that distinctive purpose, they also had a sense of unity that there would be no division between the worshipers of Yahweh. Thus, when strife arose between the servants of Abraham and the servants of Lot, a peaceful means was found to co-exist.

d. Racial & Religious Purity.

Their sense of unity led them to a realization of the need for separation from the Canaanites in whose midst they were dwelling.

This unity was a part of the purpose of God that they would be a distinct and separate people from the nations around them.

Thus, when it came time for Isaac to take a wife, Abraham took great pains to make certain that it would not be a Canaanite woman.

And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of the household, who had charge of all that he owned, "Please place your hand under my thigh. 3 And I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that YOU SHALL NOT TAKE A WIFE FOR MY SON FROM THE DAUGHTERS OF THE CANAANITES, among whom I live." (Genesis 24:2-3).

In the same way, Jacob was sent to Haran with the express purpose of finding a wife from his own people.

So Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and charged him, and said to him, "You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. 2 Arise, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother's father; and from there take to yourself a wife from the daughters of Lagan your mother's brother." (Genesis 28:1-2).

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob each followed these principles. However, when you come to the sons of Israel, you find a very big generation gap.

They built no altars and are never said to proclaim the name of Yahweh.

They show no sense of purpose. They seem only interested in filling their own fleshly desires.

They have absolutely no concern for the unity among their family. Quite the contrary, they are motivated by jealousy and strife. This is best demonstrated when they sell their own brother into slavery.

They recognize no need for separation from the Canaanites. Instead, we see them intermarrying with the people of Canaan and going off to live with them. This manifests itself in a number of ways.

(1) Lack of chastity in Dinah.

(2) Simeon & Levi murder the population of an entire city.

(3) Reuben sleeps with his father's concubine.

(4) Judah has a child by his own daughter-in-law.

Only in Joseph do we find anyone within that generation who demonstrates a sense of unity and purpose and faith.

Therefore, God moves in history to bring the Israelites out of Canaan and into Egypt.

Why Egypt? Aside from the obvious fact that Egypt was the breadbasket of the world and could support and feed the growing embryo of the nation that would one day be Israel, there was a very significant reason for Egypt to be the host-mother of Israel.

The Canaanites followed a policy of integration. They were constantly seeking to intermarry and form family alliances with those around them (Genesis 19:14, 26:10; 26:34; 27:46; 34:8-103. This would have resulted in the breakdown and the absorption of the Jewish nation before it had even begun.

The Egyptians, on the other hand, were extremely strict segregationalists (Genesis 43:32; 46:34). They would have made all of the Jews ride in the back of the bus, or Perhaps made them ride in separate buses.

Thus the Israelites in Egypt would have no choice but to remain a pure and undefiled and separated nation as God prepared them in Egypt. Four hundred years later, God would lead them out of Egypt and into the land that He had prepared for them.

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. (Hebrews 11:13).


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