The Importance of Genesis- Part Two
Isaac, the child of the promise, lived a fairly uneventful life. His main claim to fame is that he fathered twins, Esau and Jacob. Jacob’s name was later changed to Israel. His twelve sons and their families formed the original Twelve Tribes of Israel. Jacob’s story is another one of the major narratives in Genesis. He is one of the most interesting personalities in all of the Bible. He was known for his manipulative, deceitful nature. He took advantage of his twin brother twice, as well as his elderly, invalid father, Isaac. When Esau threatened to kill him, Jacob fled to his Uncle Laban’s house.
Laban was an older and much more skilled deceiver and manipulator. He took advantage of Jacob, getting fourteen years’ labor out of him for the privilege of marrying Laban’s youngest daughter, Rachel. The original deal was that Jacob would work for Laban for seven years and then be allowed to marry Rachel. Laban, however, changed the arrangements on their wedding day and gave Jacob his oldest daughter, Leah, instead. Because Jacob loved Rachel, he agreed to Laban’s demand that he work for seven more years to get her as a wife. The only consolation was that Laban allowed them to marry almost immediately, even though Jacob would be working that debt off for the next seven years.
The story of Jacob is a story of grace, transformation, and of reaping what you sow. Jacob’s character was changed by an encounter with the God of Abraham and Isaac. YAWEH even changed his name to Israel. This name has various meanings, including “one who has struggled with God and prevailed,” “a prince with God,” and “God contended.”
Jacob’s sons, however, were another story. Because there were four different mothers involved (Rachel, Leah, and their two servant girls), there was conflict between them. The most serious conflict, however, was with one of their younger brothers, Joseph. He was clearly his father’s favorite, and his brothers hated him for that. Their hatred and jealousy eventually came to a head, and they sold Joseph to slave traders heading for Egypt. The brothers took Joseph’s clothes, ripped them and put some blood on them, and then showed them to their father. He assumed that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal.
God was clearly with Joseph, however, and blessed him. He was sold as a slave to Potiphar, one of the pharaoh’s military leaders. Joseph so impressed Potiphar that he gave him charge of his entire household. When Joseph refused his wife’s sexual advances, though, she had him framed and arrested and thrown into prison.
Even in jail, however, YAWEH was still with Joseph. The warden came to trust him completely. While in jail, he met two of pharaoh’s personal servants. They had been jailed because they had displeased the pharaoh. They both had dreams in jail that Joseph was able to interpret for them. One of them was later released from jail. When the Pharaoh had dreams that he could not understand, this servant remembered Joseph and had him brought before the Pharaoh.
After Joseph interpreted the Pharaoh’s dream, he was promoted on the spot from slave to prime minister. Joseph’s wisdom and insight saved Egypt and the surrounding nations during a time of severe famine. When Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy food, Joseph recognized them. He tested them to see if they had changed. Eventually, there was reconciliation between them. The Pharaoh had Joseph invite his father, brothers, and their families to come and live in Egypt.
Genesis ends with the death of Joseph. The stage has been set for the next book in the Bible, Exodus. After Joseph’s family came to Egypt, they would continue to grow and multiply for the next several hundred years. In Exodus, the reader will see these twelve tribes being formed into a nation.
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