Genesis 36-38: The unidentifiable Mediator

NB:  I may not be posting for this week, because I will be serving at a church mission @ Philippines (pending internet @ the hotel or otherwise).  Please pray for me and the kids who are going, and that people will be saved!

1.  Esau’s descendants (Genesis 36)

2.  The Dream about Christ: Gospel re-enacted (Genesis 37)

3.  The story of Judah and Tamar: Randomly inserted, or God glorifying? (Genesis 38 )

1.  Esau’s descendants (Genesis 36)

Here we have the first really detailed account of a nation that does not involve the Saviour’s line – and there is much about Esau indulging in his adulterous polygamous relationship with Canaanite wives, most definitely a burden to Isaac and Rebekah given their understanding of Christian marriage.  These Canaanites were effectively the forefathers of Edom, the not-so-brotherly nation of Israel (c.f. Obadiah).

Here is a table for easy referencing (table to be uploaded later!).

How sad it is that despite Esau and Jacob’s reunion at the end of chapter 35, Jacob failed to evangelise to Esau and have him serve Jacob, both maintaining their Israelite identity.  Rather, Esau returns to his place in Canaan, merging with the Canaanites, whilst Jacob is still in the Canaanite world but not of it.  The juxtaposition of chapter 36 and the events of chapters 34-35 simply shows the different priorities in the two brothers; however compromised they both are, Jacob at least still looks to the LORD.

2.  The Dream about Christ: Gospel re-enacted (Genesis 37)

Chapter 37 begins with “these are the generations of Jacob” – clearly, we have now moved to a different part of the history of Israel.  In other words, these are the generations of he who cheats – he who struggles.

What is interesting is the dynamic between Joseph and Jacob – perhaps because Joseph is the actual firstborn of Jacob’s first love; but we can only have guesses at this point.  What is interesting is how Joseph brings a bad report of the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah – both the servants of Leah and Rachel.  These were the children who were born illegitimately per se; children born out of competition, rather than heeding God’s will.

If we look at the grander events played out in Genesis 37-40, we can see that more is being spoken of than the relationship of Joseph with his 11 brothers.  Never in Scripture is a man particularly exalted, unless it speaks of the blessed man of Psalm 1 – who, though not exclusively about Jesus Christ, definitely speaks of Christ in the context.  Sure, we have the odd few who are exalted in Jewish and Muslim tradition (Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon) – but even these characters have their serious flaws.  We’ve looked at Jacob, and he is really not very different from us.  Even Joseph understands that he is not the one who interprets dreams, but God alone (Genesis 40:8 ).  If that is the case, what does Joseph’s dream really mean?  Is it only about Joseph and his 11 brothers serving him?  Of course not.

Back to context… here is a summary of the things that happen in this chapter (and a preview of things to come) – thanks to Dev’s post on Genesis 38:

(1)  Israel, the God who fights for us, loved Joseph, his firstborn son more than any of his other sons (v.3).  Joseph owned a robe of many colours, made by his father exclusively for him.

(2)  Joseph brought a bad report of the children born out of competition and not of God’s will; and because of this, as well as his brothers seeing that their father loves Joseph more than the others, they hated him. (v.4)

(3)  Joseph’s dream, which caused his brothers to hate him even more (v. 5) – the dream firstly takes form as such, “Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright.  And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.”  The second dream took form of this: “Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me” (v.9).  The father rebuked him, and his brothers were jealous of him (v.11), but “his father kept the saying in mind“.  Another Selah moment for his father perhaps?  For the first time is a ‘prophecy’ being made not about Christ and his lineage, but about Joseph and exclusively Joseph.  Or is this really the case?  This is probably why Jacob had to have a second look at Joseph’s words.  What is the significance of the two dreams?

(4)  Joseph is sent by his father to Shechem, and further directed to Dothan.  Shechem which we know about in Genesis 34 (the massacre); Dothan which we later will know is the place where Elisha witnessed the vision and chariots of fire (2 Kings 6). (v. 12-17)

(5)  Joseph is then thrown into a waterless pit, and the Midianite traders passed by and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for 20 shekels of silver. (v. 18-28 )  His robe had already been stripped from him (v. 23)

(6) Reuben failed to speak up when he could have – and when he returned to the pit, it was too late (v. 29).  They decided to dip Joseph’s robe in a slaughtered goat’s blood and proclaim that a fierce animal had devoured him (v. 32-33).  Jacob, Joseph’s father, mourned for many days but he refused to be comforted, saying “I shall go down to Sheol to my son” (v.34-36).

In these six short events, without looking at the future yet, is something oddly ‘coincidental’.  Let’s compare the above to what I have to say – the Father loved His only son, and the splendour of that love is portrayed through the colourful robe, as the rainbow of the throne of God and the covenantal rainbow had displayed; it is the Son’s role to bring to the High Judge all those who deserve to be punished, and all those who do not spiritually abide in the Son’s line (displayed by the physical birth through Bilhah and Zilpah).  The dreams were exclusively about Christ, about the bowing of the sun, moon and stars which witness to Christ alone (check my post on Day 1 and 4 of Creation) rather than the actual saints, since any blessing is a result of abiding in Christ.

Christ is then sent by his Father to find his brothers, the shepherds, in Shechem of Canaan and then re-directed to Dothan (I’m positive there is something significant here with the locations… what say you?) only to find the Father’s shepherds rejecting Christ.  And so Christ is rejected by the physical Israel, and thrown into a waterless pit temporarily, to signify the rejection he received from the shepherds who failed to fulfill their role.

Christ is then lifted out of the pit only to be sold in slavery to Egypt for 20 shekels of silver as his royal robe was stripped from him, just as Christ was sold by Judas to Caiaphas and the Pharisees for silver, and his robe stripped from him.  Reuben’s intervention was spoken too late, and his silence cost Joseph his suffering, just as Peter’s silence at the suffering of Christ was unedifying to God.  Christ’s splendour with his Father is unrecognisable, and what we see in the synoptic gospels are but only a faint glimmer of his transfigured self – and Joseph without his colourful robe makes it harder for others to see his glorious relationship with his Father.

The Death of Christ is a painful thing to the God in Heaven – so much that he denies comfort unless Christ returns to the Father, whereupon the Father’s livelihood is restored only upon the resurrection and ascension of his Anointed One (v.34-36). Here are some bullet points from Dev to make it clear:

– We start of with Joseph – the picture or type of Christ – Son of His Father
– His first coat – the coat of many colours – the splendour/glory He had with His Father – even before the world began
– We see him dream of exaltation – the Lamb that would be exalted on high
– Yet his brothers – the first shepherds – would hate him for that dream, he knows they would kill him, and throw him into the pit, they would claim a lion has devoured him – Christ knows that the Lamb has to be slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8 )
– Then so it begins – he is sold into slavery into Egypt – and indeed out of Egypt He would be called

Indeed, so this is a true gospel witness to the Son being slain prior to his incarnate work when he would be called out of Egypt and that he enters the world stripped of all dignity and all of his splendour with his Father, only to have it partially restored when his work on the cross is complete, and come to completion on the day of Ascension.

3.  The story of Judah and Tamar: Randomly inserted, or God glorifying? (Genesis 38 )

Then we come to the chapter 38.  Some may even say Moses messed up the order – surely he could have placed this chapter somewhere before or after the chronology on Joseph?  However, this proves to be quite an important chapter.  For fear of misquoting, here is something which was taken from http://the48files.blogspot.com/2008/04/judah-and-tamar-retold.html:

Gen 38 Ruth
Judah went down from his brothers and turned aside to a certain Adullamite Elimelech moved away from his people to Moab
Judah and his son marry a Canaanite Mahlon and Chilion marry Moabites
Judah’s two sons die Elimelech and his two sons die
Judah and Onan act unfaithfully as kinsman-redeemer Boaz acts faithfully as kinsman-redeemer, the un-named redeemer of Ruth 4 does not act faithfully
Tamar faithfully seeks to continue the line Ruth faithfully seeks to continue the line
Tamar offers herself as a prostitute to Judah Ruth seeks to seduce Boaz in a way which could almost be considered entrapment
Judah dishonourable and seduced by Tamar Boaz is honourable in his conduct to Ruth
Tamar is included in the people of Israel and is an ancestor of Boaz, David and Jesus Ruth is included in the people of Israel and is an ancestor of David and Jesus

The parallel is uncanny – and this is built on the word spoken in the book of Ruth chapter 4:11-12:

11Then all the people who were(J) at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah,(K) who together(L) built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in(M) Ephrathah and(N) be renowned in Bethlehem, 12and may your house be like the house of Perez,(O) whom Tamar bore to Judah, because(P) of the offspring that the LORD will give you by this young woman.”

Surely, the relationship between Judah and Tamar is hardly God-glorifying?  But in actuality, it is the line God has chosen to reveal his Son.  The genealogy is established in Ruth 4:18-22:

18Now these are the generations of Perez:(W) Perez fathered Hezron, 19Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, 20(X) Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, 21Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, 22Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.

Let’s look more closely at Genesis 38 now.  When Judah took a Canaanite wife, his firstborn was wicked because it was an abomination in the eye of God to have a covenant between a Canaanite and an Israel!  How can the light mix with the dark?

But the line spoken of in Ruth 4 truly came around through some odd methods – her father-in-law planted his seed in her – Tamar, who is rejected by all and lived as a widow awaiting something to take her as a wife, and playing the role of a prostitute.  Indeed, what is spoken of here is the Holy Father planting his Seed by the power of the Holy Spirit in the prostitute church of Israel, especially the Virgin Mary (who is by no means sinless) whose conception is by someone greater than Joseph the carpenter, but the Father himself.

Finally, the proof of the birth is in the signet, cord and staff, all of which are sufficient to display the birth of the true Son.  The glory is difficult to identify through the unconventional and seemingly inglorious method of conception, but the three items is what identifies Jesus Christ – the signet which speaks of the Holy Spirit in him; the cord of his relationship with his Father (Psalm 2); and the Shepherd staff by which his power and guidance is further identified (Jeremiah 48:17).  The birth of Perez can only be confirmed by the scarlet thread; just as Rahab wanted proof of her conversion to Christianity by her scarlet cord (Joshua 2) – both speaking of the breach of the walls of Canaan, the dividing wall between the Israelites and the Gentiles.

So why is Chapter 38 weaved in between 37 and 39?  Because the acts of Joseph prophesies the act of Christ before the foundation of the world and when he is the incarnate Messiah – and chapters 37-50 speaks of the gospel of Christ punished, sold in slavery, exalted and placed at the right hand of the Pharoah.  Such is the befitting interlude of Chapter 38 which Christologically explains the prophetic events of the final chapters of Genesis!

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Genesis 36-38: The unidentifiable Mediator

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