1 Chronicles 20-23: Rise of the Son

The victories of David continue in this prophetic account of the Book of Revelation, where the true David will remain at New Jerusalem (v.1) to orchestrate the judgment on the unbelieving nations.  Joab’s victory over Rabbah is attributed to David’s grand victory over all the cities of the Ammonites (v.3) leading to the meek’s inheritance of the earth (Matthew 5:5) from the first act of David’s taking of the crown from the king’s head.  So also the LORD’s victory over Satan allows us, as His humble servants to achieve countless victories in the true David’s name, redeeming all cities for His glory or otherwise partaking in the judgment against these idolatrous nations.  Ultimately, our home is still found in New Jerusalem – the renewed city of peace (v.3).

And the mark of such miraculous string of victories is hallmarked by our victories over the giants, the descendants of the Nephilim / Rephaim (Genesis 6:4), as consistently recorded through the lives of faithful saints in Christ (Genesis 14:5; Deuteronomy 2:20-21; Joshua 11:21, 13:12, 15:14; 1 Samuel 17:4)?  So also in v.4-8 of chapter 20, we see Sibbecai the Hushathite striking down Sippai; Elhanan son of Jair striking down Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite; and Jonathan the son of Shimea, striking down the giant of Gath (Goliath’s home)?  The key passage is v.8 – “These were descended from the giants in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants“.  Such relieving humbleness is portrayed in its fullness when juxtaposing the looming strength and towering majesty of these pagan giants with the weak-willed Israelites (Numbers 13:33) whose strength comes simply from the victory of Christ over Satan alone.

However, in spite of such intentions, David fell to Satan’s temptations by counting the LORD’s blessing as David’s own.  Such is a sin which Christ took lengths to avoid, by consistently referring to compliance with the Father’s will (c.f. John 5) and not His own.  Yet, David’s act contradicts Christ’s character of perichoretic love within the Trinity.  Instead, David’s decision to heed Satan and number the armies implies that such impressive numbers of men are cause for David’s pride, though such numbers are only made possible in the LORD’s hand. Note Joab’s expression of bewilderment which reveals the true status of these numbers of Israel – they are (v.3) men whom the LORD has added to David’s people.  Why then should David require a census and be a cause of guilt for Israel?  Joab’s abhorrence is but a foreshadow of the LORD’s displeasure (v.7), hence his decision to not count Levi or Benjamin in the census.  Adam Clarke’s commentary sheds light on the exclusion of the two tribes:

The rabbins give the following reason for this: Joab, seeing that this would bring down destruction upon the people, purposed to save two tribes. Should David ask, Why have you not numbered the Levites? Joab purposed to say, Because the Levites are not reckoned among the children of Israel. Should he ask, Why have you not numbered Benjamin? he would answer, Benjamin has been already sufficiently punished, on account of the treatment of the woman at Gibeah: if, therefore, this tribe were to be again punished, who would remain?

Indeed, the exclusion of Levi is recorded in Numbers 1:47-54; and the exclusion of Benjamin in accordance to what happened in Judges 19-20.  The LORD has indeed greatly multiplied the number of Israel from 603,550 warring men to 1,570,000 men who drew the sword in Israel and Judah – over twice the number from the day of entering Canaan to the height of David’s reign.  Gad’s choices to David were essentially decided by the LORD, with David humbling himself (v.13) and placing himself entirely at the LORD’s great mercy, understanding that it is better to be at the mercy of the LORD than that of man.  Adam Clarke continues:

“Thus the Targum: “And the WORD of the LORD sent the angel of death against Jerusalem to destroy it; and he beheld the ashes of the binding of Isaac at the foot of the altar, and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, which he made in the Mount of Worship; and the house of the upper sanctuary, where are the souls of the righteous, and the image of Jacob fixed on the throne of glory; and he turned in his WORD from the evil which he designed to do unto them; and he said to the destroying angel, Cease; take Abishai their chief from among them, and cease from smiting the rest of the people. And the angel which was sent from the presence of the Lord stood at the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”

So we re-tread the events of 2 Samuel 24, with David sacrificing himself as the scapegoat from the people (v.17) for it was his command to number the people, with the Angel of the LORD, the pre-incarnate Jesus, staying His hand upon the Father’s command.  Yet, it is here that we see fuller dialogues between Jesus and Gad, Gad and David, and David and Ornan – all surrounding the altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite (v.18).  The king bought Ornan’s symbolic threshing-floor at a price, as David remarkably noted that “…I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing” – a welcome reminder of Christ’s command to bear our cross in our walk with Him (Luke 14:27).  David’s decision to sacrifice at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, which Adam Clarke remarked as Moriah, the place of Abraham’s potential sacrifice of Isaac and thus the place of Christ’s crucifixion, is a more fitting place of sacrifice in light of David’s decision to stand on behalf of Israel to propitiate the LORD’s wrath (1 Chronicles 22:1; 2 Chronicles 3:1).  David is to either hide under the propitiatory sacrifice at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, or receive the sword of the angel of the LORD (v.30) outside of the future site of the temple (1 Chronicles 22:1) and Christ’s work on the cross.

Chapter 22 describes David’s preparation of the materials for Solomon’s fulfillment of the temple, a shadow of the temple which Christ will build – this is most notably distinguished by the prophecy which David recounted to Solomon (v.8-10) and the prophecy the LORD stated to David through Nathan in 1 Chronicles 17:

“10  from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will subdue all your enemies. Moreover, I declare to you that the LORD will build you a house. 11  When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 12  He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. 13  I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, 14  but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.”

Compared with 1 Chronicles 22:8-10, the word having been given to David directly:

“8  But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have waged great wars. You shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood before me on the earth. 9  Behold, a son shall be born to you who shall be a man of rest. I will give him rest from all his surrounding enemies. For his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. 10  He shall build a house for my name. He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever.”

The distinctions are that (1) Solomon is a man of peace and of rest (v.9) compared to David, who is a man with blood on his hands (v.8); and (2), more importantly, v.10 – that it is the LORD who will be building a house for us, rather us for him.  The throne which Solomon thus sits on is not established by his own hands; rather, this temple is also a shadow, with Solomon being a more appropriate shadow and type of Christ than David, for the day Christ is given the throne is a day of peace (i.e. “Jerusalem”) rather than that of bloodshed and war.  It is on the day the temple is complete that the Levites no longer are required to carry the tabernacle or any of the things for its service (Chapter 13 v.26), a picture of the rest which Abraham looked forward to (Hebrews 11:8-10) when he no longer had to carry his tent when the heavenly city has been designed and built by God.  Thus, the work of the Levites has evolved to that of care taking and worship at the temple, in the days of Solomon’s rest.  Although such days were short, they were indeed the glory and golden days of Israel, modeled closely after the eternal days which we enjoy as co-heirs of Christ in new creation.

 

1 Chronicles 20-23: Rise of the Son

Joshua 21-22: Witness

Joshua 21

Cities and Pasturelands Allotted to Levi

1Then the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites came(AF) to Eleazar the priest and to Joshua the son of Nun and to the heads of the fathers’ houses of the tribes of the people of Israel. 2And they said to them(AG) at Shiloh in the land of Canaan,(AH) “The LORD commanded through Moses that we be given cities to dwell in, along with their pasturelands for our livestock.” 3So by command of the LORD the people of Israel gave to the Levites the following cities and pasturelands out of their inheritance.

Again, Joshua 21 opens with the focus on the decisions being made at Shiloh (v.2) and now focusing on the promises waiting to be fulfilled as mentioned by Moses, with respect to the allotment to the tribe of Levi.  Their allotment is unlike any other, just like the allotment made to Joshua.

Before we continue with looking at these three sub-tribes of the Levites, let us remind ourselves of their roles first mentioned in the book of Numbers (chapter 3):

Levites and Tabernacle

As the image suggests, the Kohathites stood on the south side with Reuben Simeon and Gad; the Gershonites stood on the back (west) side with Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin; the Merarites on the north side with Dan Asher and Naphtali and finally Moses, Aaron and his sons on the east side, towards the sunrise (where the tabernacle entrance also faces) with Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.

However, the groups of Levites are not so aligned in Joshua 21 as they were in Numbers 3.  What is interesting though is that the choices of the tribes are clockwise; so while the allotment is different from what is shown in Numbers 3, the choices are logically clockwise.  Thus, with the Kohathite priests (the sons of Aaron), they choose Judah, Simeon and Benjamin, all on the east, south and west side of the Tabernacle.  Then, with the Kohathites were land from Ephraim, Dan and Manasseh (west and north).  Next is the Gershonites, including Manasseh, Issachar, Asher and Naphtali (west, north, east).  Finally the Merarites, unsurprisingly taking the remaining tribes clockwise on east and south – Reuben, Gad and Zebulun.  It is unexplained by these specific choices were made, but it is in his providence that there is just mathematical logic and order behind the allotment for the Levites in a different way shown for the aforementioned 12 tribes of Israel.

Groups of Levites Verse Specific cities allotted Inheritance (summary)
Kohathite Priests (sons of Aaron) 4 11(AP) They gave them(AQ) Kiriath-arba (Arba being the father of Anak), that is Hebron,(AR) in the hill country of Judah, along with the pasturelands around it. 12But the fields of the city and its villages had been given to Caleb the son of Jephunneh as his possession.  13And to the descendants of Aaron the priest they gave Hebron,(AS) the city of refuge for the manslayer, with its pasturelands,(AT) Libnah with its pasturelands, 14Jattir with its pasturelands, Eshtemoa with its pasturelands, 15Holon with its pasturelands, Debir with its pasturelands, 16Ain with its pasturelands, Juttah with its pasturelands, Beth-shemesh with its pasturelands—nine cities out of these two tribes; 17then out of the tribe of Benjamin,(AU) Gibeon with its pasturelands, Geba with its pasturelands, 18Anathoth with its pasturelands, and Almon with its pasturelands—four cities. 19The cities of the descendants of Aaron, the priests, were in all thirteen cities with their pasturelands. 13 cities out of the tribes of Judah, Simeon (v.8-16) and Benjamin (v.17-19)
Kohathite Levites 5 20(AV) As to the rest of the Kohathites belonging to the Kohathite clans of the Levites, the cities allotted to them were out of the tribe of Ephraim. 21To them were given Shechem,(AW) the city of refuge for the manslayer, with its pasturelands in the hill country of Ephraim, Gezer with its pasturelands, 22Kibzaim with its pasturelands, Beth-horon with its pasturelands—four cities; 23and out of the tribe of Dan, Elteke with its pasturelands, Gibbethon with its pasturelands, 24Aijalon with its pasturelands, Gath-rimmon with its pasturelands—four cities; 25and out of the half-tribe of Manasseh, Taanach with its pasturelands, and Gath-rimmon with its pasturelands—two cities. 26The cities of the clans of the rest of the Kohathites were ten in all with their pasturelands. 10 cities out of the tribes of Ephraim (v.20-22), Dan (v.23-24) and the half-tribe of Manasseh (v.25-27))
Gershonites 6 27(AX) And to the Gershonites, one of the clans of the Levites, were given out of the half-tribe of Manasseh, Golan in Bashan with its pasturelands,(AY) the city of refuge for the manslayer, and Beeshterah with its pasturelands—two cities; 28and out of the tribe of Issachar, Kishion with its pasturelands, Daberath with its pasturelands, 29Jarmuth with its pasturelands, En-gannim with its pasturelands—four cities; 30and out of the tribe of Asher, Mishal with its pasturelands, Abdon with its pasturelands, 31Helkath with its pasturelands, and Rehob with its pasturelands—four cities; 32and out of the tribe of Naphtali, Kedesh in Galilee with its pasturelands,(AZ) the city of refuge for the manslayer, Hammoth-dor with its pasturelands, and Kartan with its pasturelands—three cities. 33The cities of the several clans of the Gershonites were in all thirteen cities with their pasturelands. 13 cities out of the other half tribe of Manasseh (v.25-27), and the tribes of Issachar (v.28-29), Asher (v.30-31) and Naphtali (v.32-33)
Merarites 7 34(BA) And to the rest of the Levites, the Merarite clans, were given out of the tribe of Zebulun, Jokneam with its pasturelands, Kartah with its pasturelands, 35Dimnah with its pasturelands, Nahalal with its pasturelands—four cities; 36and out of the tribe of Reuben,(BB) Bezer with its pasturelands, Jahaz with its pasturelands, 37Kedemoth with its pasturelands, and Mephaath with its pasturelands—four cities; 38and out of the tribe of Gad,(BC) Ramoth in Gilead with its pasturelands, the city of refuge for the manslayer,(BD) Mahanaim with its pasturelands, 39(BE) Heshbon with its pasturelands, Jazer with its pasturelands—four cities in all. 40As for the cities of the several Merarite clans, that is, the remainder of the clans of the Levites, those allotted to them were in all twelve cities. 12 cities out of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Zebulun (v.34-40)
All Levites 41-45 48 cities

43(BG) Thus the LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. 44(BH) And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers.(BI) Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for(BJ) the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. 45(BK) Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.

It should be noted in the final two verses of Joshua 21 that this allotment to the Levites is an exact fulfillment of all of God’s promises (v.8 and 43-35).  It goes without question that the land is equally distributed: 48 cities out of 12 tribes to all the Levites, on average four cities per tribe.   The half-tribes of Manasseh each gave two cities, and every city except for Naphtali (which gave three cities) each gave four cities (Judah and Simeon are excepted because they both give nine cities, meaning one gave five while the other gave four).  The inadequacy of Naphtali was made up by the adequacy of Judah.

Again, the text here seems sparse on the indication why there is an unequal treatment concerning Naphtali and Judah, perhaps indicative of the refuge being found in the south rather than the north; perhaps indicative of the southern kingdom coming through after the Babylonian captivity as redefining Israel through Judah; or whether this is a basic theology of the church, where the church body manifested in the expression of the 12 tribes support and make up one another where one part of the body needs to be supplemented by another part.  The intermingling of the different tribes of the Levites are important, but one must not simply glean them over, for they stick largely to their respective tribes as in Numbers 3.

Ultimately, the macro-message provided here is the fulfillment of the promisese as indicated in v.43-45, especially the true rest which is eschatologically implied in Deuteronomy.  The Levites are the best example of such, alongside Joshua, both understanding deeply that the land itself is but a shadow, and that the refuge cities, the names of the land and even the allocation itself is a revelation of the gospel of Christ and the nature and detail of his first coming – from his birth in Bethlehem, Judah, to his journey throughout the land of the 12 tribes from south to north of Israel, to south again, his important fulfillment of the meaning of the wilderness when he was tempted there for 40 days and 40 nights and his important return to Jerusalem, its ancient name (Salem) bearing truth to Melchizedek who is also a shadow pointing to Who Christ truly is.

Joshua 22

The Eastern Tribes Return Home

1At that time Joshua summoned the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, 2and said to them, “You have kept(BL) all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you(BM) and have obeyed my voice in all that I have commanded you. 3You have not forsaken your brothers these many days, down to this day, but have been careful to keep the charge of the LORD your God. 4(BN) And now the LORD your God has given rest to your brothers, as he promised them. Therefore turn and go to your tents in the land where your possession lies,(BO) which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side of the Jordan. 5(BP) Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you,(BQ) to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” 6So Joshua(BR) blessed them and sent them away, and they went to their tents.

As soon as chapter 21 comes to fruition, chapter 22 immediately opens with v.6 and 8 both focusing on the tents.  V.8 in particular is a recalling of the liquidation of assets in Acts 2:45-47 where Joshua commands that the spoils of Israel’s enemies shall be divided among the brothers – not so different from Acts 2:45’s “distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need“.  This therefore continues in the theme of the parallel between the book of Acts and Joshua, whereupon the first 21 chapters have considered the redemption of land and possessions from non-Christians to the LORD, reflective of the consequences of evangelism in the book of Acts as more are added to the body of Christ and thus their possessions are under their stewardship to be offered to Christ.

It is for this reason that the wealth of the tribes do not detract our attention from their tent-like life; the comparison is made again between Abraham and Lot – the former living in a tent (c.f. Hebrews 11), the latter living in a city; the former preaching the gospel after receiving it, travelling as the LORD commanded and tracing the steps which Israel has been taking since the book of Exodus, and the latter being stuck in one place, not heeding the LORD’s calling and bringing the gospel to no-one, not even to his wife who died as an unbeliever.

7Now to the one half of the tribe of Manasseh Moses had given a possession in Bashan,(BS) but to the other half Joshua had given a possession beside their brothers in the land west of the Jordan. And when Joshua sent them away to their homes and blessed them, 8he said to them, “Go back to your tents with much wealth and with very much livestock, with silver, gold, bronze, and iron, and with much clothing.(BT) Divide the spoil of your enemies with your brothers.” 9So the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh returned home, parting from the people of Israel at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan, to go(BU) to the land of Gilead, their own land of which they had possessed themselves by command of the LORD through Moses.

And so the people of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh returned to their new home parting from the people of Israel at Shiloh in Canaan to the land of Gilead, from Shiloh in Canaan – both names respectively typifying Christ and the low-land (“lowland, or possibly also meaning to be humbled“) – compared with Gilead which is named as the mound of witnesses.  It is thus not coincidental that the narrator decides to use the word “Gilead” just before v.10-12 when the tribes on the east of Jordan allegedly build a pagan altar of witness.

The Eastern Tribes’ Altar of Witness

10And when they came to the region of the Jordan that is in the land of Canaan, the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by the Jordan, an altar of imposing size. 11And the people of Israel(BV) heard it said, “Behold, the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have built the altar at the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region about the Jordan, on the side that belongs to the people of Israel.” 12And when the people of Israel heard of it,(BW) the whole assembly of the people of Israel gathered at Shiloh to make war against them.

To begin with is the language used by the narrator between v.10-12: the “altar of imposing size”, the side that “belongs to the people of Israel” and finally the gathering at Shiloh to “make war against” the tribes on the east of the Jordan which have seemingly defected.

Here is a taste of what some commentators have said concerning the reaction of Israel and the illegality of what the eastern tribes have done:

“We know how strictly the Law prohibited two altars, (Exo_20:24) for the Lord wished to be worshipped in one place only. Therefore, when on the very first blush of the case, all were at once led to think that they were building a second altar, who would not have judged them guilty of sacrilege in framing a ritual of a degenerate description, at variance with the Law of God? Seeing, then, that the work might be deemed vicious, they ought, at least, in so great and so serious a matter, to have made their brethren sharers in their counsel; more especially were they in the wrong in neglecting to consult the high priest, from whose lips the divine will was to be ascertained. They were, therefore, deserving of blame, because, as if they had been alone in the world, they considered not what offence might arise from the novelty of the example. Wherefore, let us learn to attempt nothing rashly, even should it be free from blame, and let us always give due heed to the admonition of St. Paul, (1Co_6:12; 1Co_10:23) that it is necessary to attend not only to what is lawful, but to what is expedient; more especially let us sedulously beware of disturbing pious minds182 by the introduction of any kind of novelty.” (John Calvin)

What Calvin focuses on is absolutely true; there is no legal reason to set up an altar of ‘imposing size’ to seemingly vary from what the LORD had already required through the one High Priest and the one altar in the tabernacle.  However, I believe the focus is more on the seeming failure of Israel in accepting their brethren which seems to be the tone which the narrator is setting.  There is nothing to suggest that the brethren have taken time to send messengers to the eastern tribes; instead, their response is impulsive and reactionary to what they have ‘heard’.  They are not slow to anger and abounding in compassion; they are quick to war and slow to forgive.  Instead of the onus being on the eastern tribes to prove that they have not broken God’s law because of their pure intentions (as we shall later see), instead we have already seen the Israelites on the west side breaking God’s law of being merciful and peaceful (underlined in Deuteronomy 20:10).  This seeming failure to be graceful is included in the tone of v.11 – the altar on the side that “belongs to the people of Israel”, as if indicating that the altar should be on the eastern side even if the altar is legitimated.  Have the Israelites already forgotten the deeper truth of the Levites, that all land is but a shadow?  That even the edge of the land shall not be reaped so that the hungry and the strangers may benefit from God’s grace through the owner of the land (Leviticus 19:9).   However, that is not the case as we shall see from v.13 onwards.

13Then the people of Israel sent to the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh, in the land of Gilead,(BX) Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, 14and with him ten chiefs, one from each of the tribal families of Israel,(BY) every one of them the head of a family among the clans of Israel. 15And they came to the people of Reuben, the people of Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, in the land of Gilead, and they said to them, 16“Thus says the whole congregation of the LORD, ‘What is this breach of faith that you have committed against the God of Israel in turning away this day from following the LORD by building yourselves an altar this day(BZ) in rebellion against the LORD? 17Have we not had enough of(CA) the sin at Peor from which even yet we have not cleansed ourselves, and for which there came a plague upon the congregation of the LORD, 18that you too must turn away this day from following the LORD? And if(CB) you too rebel against the LORD today then tomorrow(CC) he will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel. 19But now, if the land of your possession is unclean, pass over into the LORD’s land(CD) where the LORD’s tabernacle stands, and take for yourselves a possession among us.(CE) Only do not rebel against the LORD or make us as rebels by building for yourselves an altar other than the altar of the LORD our God. 20(CF) Did not Achan the son of Zerah break faith in the matter of the devoted things, and(CG) wrath fell upon all the congregation of Israel? And he did not perish alone for his iniquity.'”

The onslaught of the accusation is theologically precise between v.16-20 – the memory of Achan and the sin at Peor (Numbers 25:3) are still fresh in their minds.  The sin of Achan especially had induced fear into the heart of the Israelites on the west of Jordan: “only do not rebel against the LORD or make us as rebels by building for yourselves an altar other than the altar of the LORD our God“, immediately recognizing that as church of Christ they must rebuke the other parts of the Body lest those parts be thrown into Sheol.  The zest and fervour in keeping the whole congregation in tune with God’s commands is commendable, and as Adam Clarke says, we must not be “unconcerned spectators of [one’s] transgression, [as] we may all be implicated in its criminality”.

It is noticeable that the tone immediately shifts between v.12 and v.13; the opening verses of this chapter indicating that the eastern tribes have definitively sinned, as if no terms of peace or negotiation was necessary; and v.13 immediately recognizing the need for representatives to speak to the eastern tribes.  If one was to look at v.12 alone, Israel has failed; but v.13 has justified their potential act of war as necessitated in Deuteronomy (and as exampled in Peor and Achan), displaying their rigour in wanting to get things right despite their initial over-reaction.  The disciplines of God have not had their mark in the hearts of the Israelites, and for the first time we see that they have begun to grasp truly the likelihood of the sins in their hearts to lead them astray to other gods.  Such is the model for the church, that we understand just how deep our sins are so that in turning to Christ for desperation we are mutually and truly made brothers in Him.  As Glen Scrivener eloquently puts it on “Nice and Christian”:

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  (Col 3:13)”

Natural communities don’t have this.  At the first hint of nastiness, natural community fractures.  But for Christians nastiness is an opportunity.  Here’s where we truly show ourselves to be the people of Jesus.  We forgive.

Many people think nastiness ends Christian community.  The gospel says nastiness is where Christian community begins…

…We must bear with each other.  Forgive.  Show mercy towards opponents.  Die to self.  Crucify our own need to prove ourselves.  Answer harsh words with gentleness (Prov 15:1).  That’s where Christian community begins.”

21Then the people of Reuben, the people of Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh said in answer to the heads of the families of Israel, 22“The Mighty One,(CH) God, the LORD! The Mighty One, God, the LORD!(CI) He knows; and let Israel itself know! If it was in rebellion or in breach of faith against the LORD, do not spare us today 23for building an altar to turn away from following the LORD. Or if we did so to offer burnt offerings or grain offerings or peace offerings on it, may the LORD himself(CJ) take vengeance. 24No, but we did it from fear that(CK) in time to come your children might say to our children, ‘What have you to do with the LORD, the God of Israel? 25For the LORD has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you, you people of Reuben and people of Gad. You have no portion in the LORD.’ So your children might make our children cease to worship the LORD. 26Therefore we said, ‘Let us now build an altar, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice, 27but to be(CL) a witness between us and you, and between our generations after us, that we(CM) do perform the service of the LORD in his presence with our burnt offerings and sacrifices and peace offerings, so your children will not say to our children in time to come, “You have no portion in the LORD.”‘ 28And we thought, If this should be said to us or to our descendants in time to come, we should say, ‘Behold, the copy of the altar of the LORD, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifice, but to be(CN) a witness between us and you.’ 29Far be it from us that we should(CO) rebel against the LORD and turn away this day from following the LORD by building an altar for burnt offering, grain offering, or sacrifice, other than the altar of the LORD our God that stands before his tabernacle!”

We see here that the tribes on the east do not wish to be immediately labeled as heretics, and given the sensitivity of Israel and their immediate procurement of the land of Canaan it is highly understandable.  Their particular proclamation in v.22 arouses great interest – “El Elohim YHVH” – using the three principal names by which the Trinity was known among the Hebrews, El simply meaning God, Elohim used commonly in God’s creative  and triune expressions (c.f. Genesis 1:1) and YHVH, the seemingly mystical name which the Christians have been calling on since before the days of Abraham (c.f. Genesis 4:26).  This proclamation shows their deep respect for God manifested in their immediate need to express everything and anything which defines him – and interestingly, it comes first in the form of proclaiming Him by his Name and character (v.21-22).  Then follows the expression of their understanding of the place of worship (the tabernacle and its mediatorial function) and the theology of offerings in Israel (v.23); then the need to exclaim this truth of God’s triunity and the deep meaning of the sacrificial offerings to the next generation (v.25; c.f. Deuteronomy 6) – and finally a return to the focus on the altar not for sacrifice but merely as a witness, fitting to the land of Gilead the mount of witnesses (v.26-29, a doctrinal repetition of truth laid down in Leviticus 17:8-9; Deuteronomy 12).

What is interesting is that it is, in a certain sense, the most ancient of all systematic theologies laid down – long before Irenaeus’ “Against All Heresies”, even longer because Peter Lombard’s “The Four Books of Sentences”.  Instead, we have here a curt summary of who God is – defined in his name, in his people (the generations to come), and in his sacrifice – and these are the things necessary to define whether the eastern tribes are truly persisting in faith, or have become apostates.

How often in present Christianity that we begin to create our own ‘core truths’ contrary to the short but insightful exclamation of the eastern tribes!  As if ‘faith alone’ is a sufficient doctrinal statement!  As if calling Jesus our “God” is a sufficient description of Who He is!  As if calling him our “sacrifice” is a true understanding of what He has done for us!  Each word is loaded with misconceptions, each capable of being misconstrued, respectively, as cheap faith and cheap grace; the Unitarian God of the Greeks and Arabs; the sacrifice which is neither penal nor substitutionary.  No – the eastern tribes have gotten it right – and they stand humbly before their second altar as witnesses to the truth which lies on the west of the Jordan; the truth and shadow which lies in Canaan; the central focus of the Old Testament which lies in the tabernacle (later to become the temple), and still the central focus of Christians today as we partake in Christ and too, our bodies become a holy temple housing His Holy Spirit.  They dare not take people’s eyes away from God, as if this is an implication of the iconoclastic controversy to come in the early church – because even those things in the proto-Roman Catholic theology are witnesses to the reality of Christ found only in the church, in the Word, leading us back to the Unseen Father.  This statement is good – and so good in their eyes (the refrain in v.30 and v.33) that it is almost a reflection of what God had stated about the six of the seven days of creation (except for day 2).

30When(CP) Phinehas the priest and the chiefs of the congregation, the heads of the families of Israel who were with him, heard the words that the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the people of Manasseh spoke,(CQ) it was good in their eyes. 31And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said to the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the people of Manasseh, “Today we know that(CR) the LORD is in our midst, because you have not committed this breach of faith against the LORD. Now you have delivered the people of Israel from the hand of the LORD.”  32Then Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, and the chiefs, returned from the people of Reuben and the people of Gad(CS) in the land of Gilead to the land of Canaan, to the people of Israel, and brought back word to them. 33And the report(CT) was good in the eyes of the people of Israel. And the people of Israel(CU) blessed God and spoke no more of making war against them to destroy the land where the people of Reuben and the people of Gad were settled. 34The people of Reuben and the people of Gad called the altar Witness, “For,” they said,(CV) “it is a witness between us that the LORD is God.”

In the KJV we find v.34 to be translated “Ed” as investigated by Adam Clarke:

“The word עד  Ed, which signifies witness or testimony, is not found in the common editions of the Hebrew Bible, and is supplied in Italics by our translators, at least in our modern copies; for in the first edition of this translation it stands in the text without any note of this kind; and it is found in several of Kennicott’s and De Rossi’s MSS., and also in the Syriac and Arabic. Several also of the early printed editions of the Hebrew Bible have the word עד, either in the text or in the margin, and it must be allowed to be necessary to complete the sense. It is very probable that an inscription was put on this altar, which pointed out the purposes for which it was erected.”

Despite the importance of this word being omitted from the ESV, the translation maintains the substance of the entire chapter – that the eastern tribes, and the western tribes, are all witnesses to the truth laid down in the one altar.  The one altar is the crux of their theology; the one form of offerings and sacrifices the central aspect moving Israel; the location, though mobile, still focuses on the God-ordained pattern according to heaven – the tabernacle.  However, like the second altar in the east, everything up to the incarnation of Christ is still a huge shadow, a huge Witness.  To this day, we also are witnesses – and the book of Joshua thematically carries with it the eschatological undertone which the book of Acts carries.  Both describe the firstfruits of creation, both describe the witness of redemption, and both describe that there are still greater and better things to come when the Day of Resurrection rises to full noon.

Joshua 21-22: Witness

Genesis 24-26: The virgin bride of Christ

1.  “It is not good for man to be alone”: Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 24)

2.  Abraham, Keturah, Isaac and Ishmael (Genesis 25:1-28 )

3.  Jacob and Esau – birthright = stew? (Genesis 25:19-34)

4.  Isaac and the Philistines (Genesis 26:1-33)

5.  Esau and the Hittites (Genesis 26:34-35)

1.  “It is not good for man to be alone”: Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 24)

v.2 – Abraham’s servant, “the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had” is told to swear by the LORD, God of heaven and earth (note, not only the God of Abraham!), that he is to take a wife from his country and his kindred.  What kindred would that be?  The Hebrews!  And there shall the chief servant take a wife for his son Isaac.

This is an amazing prophecy to the work of the Great Commission.  The gospel is presented in a short few verses (v.2-4).  To make things simpler:

(a)  Abraham = The Father

(b)  Isaac = The Son, the Bridegroom

(c)  Chief Servant = The evangelist, steward of the earth

(d)  Wife = The bride

Let’s work through these representations.  In Genesis 22 we saw Abraham sacrifice Isaac, and that it is a direct parallel to his sacrifice of Christ himself.  Does the typology end there?  Absolutely not.  Here, the chief servant of the Son’s Father asks the chief servant of his house to find Isaac, his only beloved Son, a wife.  And yes – that is much of our mission in life today.  To serve our Master, our Father, by finding more men and women to add to the bride.  And many things are taught in Genesis 24.

Firstly, we swear by the LORD that we will not take a wife from the adulterous Canaanites.  What I mean here is that the Canaanites are not lovers of LORD Jehovah, Yahweh, Adonai, Abba… rather, they are lovers of their own idols of their own makings.  Such is the definition of spiritual adultery – and as represented by the Canaanites.  Thus, it isn’t merely a case of Abraham seeking a physical family – he is seeking a spiritual family to build up God’s kingdom.  So, in everything we do in our evangelism, we are seeking to find a Christian bride, a bride who loves Christ and who will honour Christ.  A spiritual Canaanite simply will not do, but completely contradict the point of evangelism.  Hence the odd statement from the servant: “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follower me to this land.  Must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?” (v.5)

Charles Spurgeon has this to say:

“If she will not come to Isaac, shall Isaac go down to her?  This is the suggestion of the present hour:  if the world will not come to Jesus, shall Jesus tone down his teachings to the world?  In other words, if the world will not rise to the church, shall not the church go down to the world?  Instead of bidding men to be converted, and come out from among sinners, and be separate from them, let us join with the ungodly world, enter into union with it, and so pervade it with our influence by allowing it to influence us.  Let us have a Christian world”.

Thus, though the steward be prudent, there is a sense of fear.  “What if the gospel will fail?”  “What if no one will believe the report?”  “What if the bride is unwilling?”  These are all statements of insecurity – but Abraham’s response is exactly that of the response of the Father when he sends us to find more to add to the Son’s bride; his response is “See to it that you do not take my son back there (v.6)”.  He maintains that his Son stay put.  It is for the wife to come to the Son, because the work is complete.  The promise has already been made.  Although the promise hasn’t been fulfilled, it is de facto completed.  “To your offspring I will give this land’, he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there”.  (v.7)

This isn’t just some hasty statement – Abraham is saying that the promise will be fulfilled – and that Jesus, God’s chief Sent One, will be before the servant, the evangelist.  In the same way should we regard evangelism – it is not ‘ours’ to control, however eloquent we might be.  It is by the power of the Angel, by the power of the Spirit, that anyone can come to join as the bride of Christ.

Here, the chief servant goes to find the wife – not blindly, but with the sense given to him by the instruction of Abraham.  He seeks first the instruction of the LORD as well – “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham”.  He asks for a sign, he asks for confirmation.  “Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink'”.  In the same way should we ask for confirmation and not to rush into the open and preach like a mad-man.  Indeed, Paul confirms that he is sent from the LORD, as do all the evangelists.  The shipwreck is there to stop him, when the LORD wanted him to go elsewhere.

Then, in v. 22-30, the chief servant Eleazar of Damascus prepares the gift of inheritance.  Gold ring and two bracelets for Rebekah’s arms weighing ten gold shekels, after understanding that her heart is open.  How does he know?  Because of the fulfilled promises – that she is from the line of Shem, the line of Nahor, Abraham’s brother.  She gave Eleazar a drink and watered his ten camels.  Now she is given the possession of the inheritance – but that is merely a foretaste, a firstfruit, of the marriage to come.  Like the dove which took an olive leaf (Genesis 8:11), like a king’s signet ring (Esther 8:8), is it a foretaste of the true communion with the High King, the Father.  This ring represents the Holy Spirit, the gift of inheritance; the bracelets are adornments of righteousness which we receive by Christ’s blood (Job 29:14).

Yet, if the woman refuses?  Then the chief servant shall be clear from this his oath: only bring not his son to the woman.  If we therefore faithfully preach the gospel without watering it down, then even though numbers have not been added to the saved, it is fine – we can keep enduring, but we have stood firm.  The blood is not on our hands (Ezekiel 3:20).

And what of the significance of a virgin woman?  For he is to be the bride’s First Love (Revelation 2:4), as the bride is Christ’s first love – and in Him will Rebekah become “thousands of ten thousands, and may [her] offspring possess the gate of those who hate Him” (Genesis 24:60).  This proclamation shows the forward looking nature of the Arameans then – they remembered God’s covenant with Adam (Genesis 3:15), with Seth, with Noah, with Abraham.  She may cover herself with a wedding veil (v.65), whilst still wearing the ring and bracelets of inheritance and righteousness, but that veil will only be temporary, until the day it is torn completely apart on the great Wedding Day between the Son and his Bride.  For now, the veil will last as we are still merely engaged to Christ.

“So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death” (v. 67).  It is not good for man to be alone.  And what an awesome picture of evangelism and marriage to cure Isaac of his loneliness, which is not good.  So, it is also not good for Jesus to be alone – and the Father and the Spirit have been working hard since Day 7 of creation to build up the church and body of Christ.

2.  Abraham, Keturah, Isaac and Ishmael (Genesis 25:1-28 )

Abraham took another wife – and by now, despite being over 100 years old (and that he had previously had serious difficulties bearing children), he is bearing many.  The sons of Midian will later lead to Jethro, the priest whom Moses will meet, and his very father-in-law.  Yet, the sons of his concubines he merely gave gifts, but sent them away from Isaac to the eastward to the east country.  Abraham is working hard to maintain the Israelite line without corruptions, that the sons of concubines may not be related to the Promised Son.

Here is a table which I prepared for easy reference of the genealogy in this chapter, the new sons of Abraham, and the sons of Ishmael.

So, what’s interesting is that Ishmael returns to bury Abraham!  However, we don’t know where he came from and how he heard the knews.  That appears unimportant – what is starking is his uninvolvement besides the burial.  His name is mentioned, and then instantly forgotten – for after the death of Abraham, God blessed Isaac his son (v.11).  Could Moses have added another line…”and Ishmael as well” to v.11?  There is a very good reason he is omitted, because he is not part of the chosen line.  What we finally hear about him is that God has fulfilled his promise to him – that 12 princes have come from his line.  But, like the Kenite genealogy, his people settled from Havilah to Shur, opposite Egypt in the direction of Assyria.  Unlike Abraham, Sarah, and later Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob… Ishmael’s line settled not in Canaan,  he was however gathered to his people eventually in Assyria.  Like Lot, he chose to settle with the world, and not with the LORD, and it is no surprise that we find the Assyrians later becoming enemies of the LORD.

3.  Jacob and Esau – birthright = stew? (Genesis 25:29- Genesis 26:33)

It seems that Jacob and Esau have had their personality predicted from birth.  “Two nations are in your womb and two peoples from within you shall be divided”.  Essentially, speaking of the Israelites (as Jacob shall later be renamed Israel after his struggle with the Angel of the Lord, Jesus) vs. the Edomites as to even reward an entire book speaking of the judgment against Esau’s line:

10(M) Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob,
shame shall cover you,
(N) and you shall be cut off forever.
11(O) On the day that you stood aloof,
(P) on the day that strangers carried off his wealth
and foreigners entered his gates
(Q) and cast lots for Jerusalem,
you were like one of them.
12(R) But do not gloat over the day of your brother
in the day of his misfortune;
(S) do not rejoice over the people of Judah
in the day of their ruin;
(T) do not boast[e]
in the day of distress.
13(U) Do not enter the gate of my people
in the day of their calamity;
(V) do not gloat over his disaster
in the day of his calamity;
do not loot his wealth
in the day of his calamity.
14(W) Do not stand at the crossroads
to cut off his fugitives;
do not hand over his survivors
in the day of distress. (Obadiah 1:10-14)

And here we have two nations – one labelled “red”, the Edomites, because of his desire for red stew.  Another called “Jacob”, meaning “he takes by the heel” or “he cheats”.  What a way to describe two nations!  One that is cheating, full of struggle; another that desires food and short-term fulfillment over the long-term promise!  Esau’s desire for red stew even preceded that of his birthright!  “I am about to die” (v.32) he says!  Like Eve was about to die if she didn’t eat the fruit from the tree of good and evil?  Like Judas was about to die if he didn’t betray Jesus?  Like Balaam was about to die if he didn’t curse Israel?  Such is the mindset of the sinner… “I am about to die”.  It is a statement not of desperation – it is simply whining!  And yet, despite Jacob’s questionable methods, he planned far ahead.  He wanted the birthright.  He didn’t want to die, physically and even in the long-term – spiritually.  Yet, Edom wanted to live now, live fast… and die not only young, but die forever.  A stew for his birthright – quite clearly, “he despised his birthright”.

4.  Isaac and the Philistines (Genesis 26:1-33)

Isaac settled in Gerar, because the LORD told him so.  He didn’t go with his ‘rationale’ – he didn’t go with good foresight in planning (though that may be helpful in certain situations).  But he went there, simply because the LORD said so.  What great reverence!

Unfortunately, he feared the men of the place and lied about his wife being his sister, much like his father.  And to the same people like his father!  What is most interesting however is that this chapter maps out in far more detail about Isaac’s life than Abraham’s time with Abimelech in Genesis 20.  We have the Philistines:

(a) envying him (v.14) – an emotion expressed by filling up Abraham’s servants’ dug-out wells with earth.  Abraham respons by encamping in the Valley of Gerar and digs the wells again, giving them the names his father had given them previously.

(b) contending with him (v.20) – that the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen over the water which Isaac had found.  Yet Isaac is gracious once more; he leaves to another land, digs another well, and named that well Rehoboth (meaning broad place/room) rather than Sitnah (meaning enmity).  We can tell that Isaac is a man very much unlike Jacob and Esau who struggle against one another.  Rather, Isaac is gracious and seems to be looking to the LORD over everything.  Such is the stark contrast between the Philistines who contend with Isaac for something as a personal gain; but Isaac relinquishes it, just to be equally blessed but to give thanks to the LORD exclusively for that blessing.

(c) admiring him (v.28-29) – “We see plainly that the LORD has been with you, that you will do us no harm, just as we have not touched you and have done to you nothing but good and have sent you away in peace.  You are now the blessed of the LORD”.  What sarcasm from the Philistines!  They want to keep face; but they must admit that they admire Isaac, because he is the “blessed of the LORD”.  The problem, however, is that a Christian may misread this history and say that you can only be blessed after such trials.  NO.  read v.3 – “I will be with you and will bless you”, and v. 4 – “…And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed”.  This is more of God’s promises – one-sided promises.  He establishes this covenant which he later fulfills by himself.  Though it is through the word of the Philistines that his ‘blessedness’ is established, Isaac is by no means perfect.  We saw that in his fear of the people of Gerar when he said his wife is merely his sister.  Yet, like Abraham, he has faith in Christ, the truly blessed man – the only one who is blessed and can bless others.  It is important to note that Isaac depended not on himself, for Jesus appeared to him twice in this chapter, firstly before he set off as a wandering pilgrim, inevitably meeting enemies and insecurities (v.2); and secondly in the midst of his difficulties in v.24-25.

The oath between Philistines and Isaac is interesting.  It doesn’t last.  We see that more clearly when Samson fought the Philistines in the book of Judges.  Yet, God’s promises, his oath to us, lasts.  There may be water in the well of oath now, but that water can be easily filled with earth again by the Philistines.  But God’s oaths are never-failing.

5.  Esau and the Hittites (Genesis 26:34-35)

Finally, we end on a solemn note with Esau marrying a Hittite.  Such is the pain and trouble which Isaac’s father had tried to prevent.  And yet, such is the case when a Christian marries a non-Christian.  Contradictions, compromises and troubles are inevitable – not only that, but it is a clear misrepresentation of the gospel.  Can you see Jesus being preached when Christ comes to the world and marries his adulterous church?  Or can you see Jesus being preached when the church, his bride, conforms to him single-heartedly after his initiative work on the cross before the foundations of creation?  (Revelation 13:8 )

Genesis 24-26: The virgin bride of Christ

Genesis 21-23: Isaac and Jesus

1.  Church Discipline:  Wilderness (Genesis 21:1-20)

2.  Abraham’s treaty with Abimelech (Genesis 21:22-34)

3.  Sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19)

4.  Nahor (Genesis 22:20-24)

5.  Sarah’s death and burial (Genesis 23:1-17)

1.  Church Discipline:  Wilderness (Genesis 21:1-20)

So we see the difference between the conception of Ishmael vs. the conception of Isaac.  The former is a representation of human effort; the latter the representation of the grace of God.  This is further substantiated by Ishmael, laughing in mockery (this being in the ESV footnote of v. 9 – the Hebrew word is “tsachaq” which literally means to laugh outright in scorn).

This is no mere mockery.  This is a threat to the very gospel itself.

If Ishmael, the ‘firstborn’ gained by human effort were to supersede Isaac, the true firstborn given as a gift, then we have essentially preached that effort trumps grace.  God expresses these sentiments in v.12 : “…’Be not displeased because of the boy (Ishmael) and because of your slave woman (Hagar).  Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”

So what happens here is a primary example of church ostracism – either you are for the gospel, or against it.  Remember that this incident began because Ishmael laughed with mockery against Isaac.  This is much like the jealousy portrayed by Cain in Genesis 4 against Abel.  What resulted is murder and deceit.  Cain was banished to the east of Eden.  Here, Ishmael and his mother Hagar, are sent away and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.

However, like Cain, Ishmael was not abandoned completely.  When Hagar cried out, God heard the voice of the boy and “the angel of God” (again, one of Christ’s titles) called to Hagar from heaven and said to her that the Father has heard the voice of the boy where he is.  She then saw the ‘living water’, despite being in the wilderness.  Here, we see the work of the Trinity again.  Firstly, someone calls to God (the Father), and the Father sends his presence, his face, the visible of the invisible – his Son, to be the mediator between him and the person who cried to the Father.

There is small hope yet for Ishmael.  God had been with Ishmael in his youth, and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.  Some things to say about Ishmael, his character, and the wilderness of Paran.

(a)  Expert with the bow – perhaps this is prophetic of the warring nature of the Ishmaelites.  If it so be true of the Muslims, then it concords well with the Islamic militaristic and political nature of their evangelism.

(b)  Wilderness of Paran – this is most likely where the Israelites had wandered for 40 years between the Exodus and arrival at Canaan.  And how painful a time that was – a time of thirst.  But when they call on the LORD, they received manna and water from the rock.  It is no different for Ishmael. But it still calls into the question of his character, being a militaristic person who also married an Egyptian woman.

(c)  Wife from the land of Egypt – as already mentioned, if God is with Ishmael, then it is likely that the gospel has gone out to Egypt in some respect. But the problem is, like Lot, he had sojourned and mingled with foreign people.  Like Lot’s daughters who were supposedly engaged to the Sodomites, here we have Ishmael married to an Egyptian.  God may have been with Ishmael, like Cain – but the blessing is merely physical (e.g. like Cain’s descendants), but they may not revere God persistently over the subsequent generations for their physical blessings.

2.  Abraham’s treaty with Abimelech (Genesis 21:22-34)

(a)  Seven ewe lambs – it is interesting that Abraham uses 7 lambs to represent the “witness” of the covenant.  Why seven lambs?  Even Abimelech does not know; but Abraham clearly does.  Job 42:8 and 2 Chronicles 29:21 displays the significance of the number 7.  Why seven?  Because it is the day of the Sabbath, the day of completion. 2 Chronicles 29:20-22:

20Then Hezekiah the king rose early and gathered the officials of the city and went up to the house of the LORD. 21And they brought seven bulls, seven rams, seven lambs, and seven male goats(A) for a sin offering for the kingdom and for the sanctuary and for Judah. And he commanded the priests, the sons of Aaron, to offer them on the altar of the LORD. 22So they slaughtered the bulls, and the priests received the blood(B) and threw it against the altar. And they slaughtered the rams, and their blood was thrown against the altar. And they slaughtered the lambs, and their blood was thrown against the altar.

(b)  Beersheba – this location will pop up again and again throughout Genesis.  Especially Genesis 26, when we see that Isaac and Rebekah commit the same sin as Abraham and Sarah.  It is clear that the sins of the father has passed down to Isaac; but Abimelech remembered the covenant between Abraham and him.  The relationship between the future nation of Israel and the Philistines could have boded well; but we can see that by the time of the Judges, it could not have been worse.

(c)  Tamarisk tree – this type of tree pops up again in 1 Samuel 22:6 and 1 Samuel 31:13.  What is a tamarisk tree?  Here is a bit on the Tamarisk tree:

Tamarix can spread both vegetatively, by adventitious roots or submerged stems, and sexually, by seeds. Each flower can produce thousands of tiny (1 mm diameter) seeds that are contained in a small capsule usually adorned with a tuft of hair that aids in wind dispersal. Seeds can also be dispersed by water. Seedlings require extended periods of soil saturation for establishment. Tamarix species are fire-adapted, and have long tap roots that allow them to intercept deep water tables and exploit natural water resources. They are able to limit competition from other plants by taking up salt from deep ground water, accumulating it in their foliage, and from there depositing it in the surface soil where it builds up concentrations temporarily detrimental to some plants. The salt is washed away during heavy rains.

So what we have is a sturdy tree, built by a well.  The seed can spread over vast areas by wind dispersal, and water, and exploit the natural water resources.  This explains even more about the well.  We should expect that the Tamarisk tree planted there would later grow into more trees.

Any theology behind the seeds?  Surely so – Abraham had presented 7 ewe lambs; a well of water; and a seed-bearing plant.  Living Water, Living Lamb, Living Seed.

(d)  Philistines – coming from Casluhim (Genesis 10:13), a son of Ham.  As we have already established, all the sons of Ham have problems in the future.  But they could have taken part of the gospel truth; here, the Philistines understood the nature of Abraham’s God.  He is mighty, and He is with him.  Abimelech, much like the Pharoah in the time of Joseph, revered the same God.  But their descendants did not – and that is the prophetic curse when Ham had sinned against Noah.  However, this again displays the global nature of God – he is not only the God of Abraham, but this God of Abraham is also merciful towards Lot, Abimelech and Ishmael.

3.  Sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19)

This is truly a striking story not merely of Abraham sacrificing his only son; but of the Father sacrificing his only Son on the cross.  Some things to note:

(a)  Moriah, third day, donkey, wood – Moriah is the region where the temple of Jerusalem would be built 100’s of years later and especially important – where Jesus is to be crucified!  (2 Chronicles 3:1).  Jesus was cruficied on the mount in Jerusalem, the same area of Moriah!

Then, it is on the third day that Isaac was to be sacrificed.

OK let’s recount the synoptic gospel story.  Jesus entered Jerusalem in fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9 on a donkey… this was seven days prior to his crucifixion on the wood in Moriah in Golgotha…

Far fetched?  Probably… not.  But why the differentiation between seven days and three days?  Let’s take a quick look.

Though in the gospel story, like the Passover lamb, Jesus enters Jerusalem 7 days before he is slaughtered, it is on the third day that he is resurrected.  Here, Abraham saw Moriah on the third day.  Day 3 is quite important as I’ve established in my Genesis 1, Day 3 post.  It is a representation of dry land, of hope, of new creation and of course of resurrection itself, after Day 2, with the waters of punishment.  Here, the slaughter of Isaac and his ‘resurrection’ per se happens immediately one after another.  This corresponds very much to Abraham’s quip to his men that he and Isaac would return.  Did he expect his men to wait there for “3 days”, as if Abraham would wait for Isaac to be resurrected on the third day?  No.  It is already the third day, and the resurrection would occur immediately.  Abraham already knew that Isaac, if he is to die that day, would be immediately resurrected.  Even better, Isaac wasn’t even sacrificed – because a ram was taken in his place.

(b)  The offering – one could say that the sacrifices so far in the book of Genesis has pointed towards this sacrifice.  The sacrifice of the only Son.  And so this is also a foundational chapter for all the law about sacrifice for the coming books.  How odd it is that God would test Abraham in such a way; why did he not test the subsequent Israelites similarly?  God is teaching us something about the offering here.  He is essentially saying that the lamb, the ram, the turtledove, the pigeon, the ox, the heifer… all those offerings pale in comparison to the true offering of one’s only Son.  However, it’s not about the ‘degree’ of sacrifice; rather, it’s about the very specific nature of the sacrifice.  It is not a self-sacrifice as God could have simply asked Abraham to sacrifice himself; it is a sacrifice of something EXTERNAL, but extremely dear to him.

So here, we have Jesus.. sorry, Isaac, bound to a piece of wood, undergoing the punishment of fire as symbolised in the burnt offering.  The interesting thing in God’s response is “you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me”.  What about Ishmael – isn’t he Abraham’s son as well?

This, again, is the gospel-driven focus that God views in sonship.  He is not speaking of mere physical heritage; he is speaking of spiritual heritage.  We are all sons of Abraham in a covenant sense.  But Ishmael had been outside of that covenant, because he laughed at Isaac.

(c)  The LORD will provide

Chapter 22v.5 is a big give-away.  “I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”  Worship?!  And both will come again to his young men?  What is Abraham speaking of?  He is going there without the sacrificial animal when God had told him to take his only beloved son Isaac to offer as a burnt offering (Chapter 22v.2), and he describes this event as worshipful and he also expects to return to the men with his son?

This reveals Abraham’s mentality.  He had full assurance that God would either intervene or resurrect his son, having seen the miraculous conception of his son when he was already 100 years old (and Sarah 90 years old).  Then, unsurprisingly, we reach v. 12-13, when God tells Abraham to withhold the knife and God provides a ram.  But that is not the end of the offering.  Abraham knew that the ram merely symbolised the things to come – and this is revealed in the phrase “The LORD will provide” or in the ESV, “The LORD will see”.  The phrase then moves on in v. 14 to “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided” or “he will be seen”.  Abraham was still waiting for the True Lamb who will really take away the people’s sins; not by the testimonial witness of the blood of this ram.

4.  Nahor (Genesis 22:20-24)

Another prophetic fulfillment of God’s provision.  We may have heard a lot about Lot and his disastrous family.  But here, we have Nahor, whose descendant Rebekah will be the future wife of Isaac.  Things are going smoothly in God’s divine plan.

I’ve provided a table which may help you see the extensions of the descendants mentioned thus far from the line of Terah, the descendant of Shem, the son of Noah.

This is quite a family – besides Rebekah, comes Elihu the only person in the book of Job who really understands the truth; then there is Laban who knows of God, despite his household idols (Genesis 31:19).

5.  Sarah’s death and burial (Genesis 23:1-17)

Here we see business practices of the day; but more importantly, we see Abraham buying a cave, a tomb, for Sarah in a small plot of land in Canaan.  He understands the promises made to him earlier on in Genesis 12 and 15; and here again, he looks forward to the day when his descendants will inherit the physical Canaan.  The field of Ephron was in Machpelah, the east of Mamre.  This tomb will not be forgotten – in Genesis 49:29 – Genesis 50:5, we see that Jacob speaks of Abraham and Sarah’s burial place.  They want to be buried in Canaan, not Egypt.  Why?  Because Canaan was the prophesied promised land.  The place where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Leah, Jacob… and future saints of the old were buried.  Did they have confidence in the land itself?  Of course not… the land could not even hold the ‘multitude’ of nations promised to Abraham.  Rather, this land is symbolic, and Abraham knew that the stars in heaven and dust of the earth were the true spiritual numbers of the descendants in Christ.  Now, it is just a bit of property – it is a firstfruit.  It is a temporary inheritance; and much like the Holy Spirit who is in us now as an inheritance (Ephesians 1), and our faith in Christ the firstborn of creation and the firstfruit of those with new creation bodies, we are awaiting the true total inheritance of the new Jerusalem, the complete filling of the Spirit and the new bodies with new names!

Genesis 21-23: Isaac and Jesus

Genesis 18-20: Abraham, Lot, and God’s faithfulness

1.  The LORD who eats with us (Genesis 18:1-21)

2.  Sodom and Gomorrah:  Character study of Lot (Genesis 18:22 – Genesis 19:38 )

3.  Abraham and Abimelech (Genesis 20)

1.  The LORD who eats with us (Genesis 18:1-20)

Jesus appears to Abraham again by the oaks of Mamre.  This place is very symbolic – where Abraham had previously built an altar to the LORD (Genesis 13:18), and where Abraham found Amorite and other brethren against the kings and rulers (Genesis 14:13).  However, this time, it is a bit different.  Not only does Jesus appear to give him promises, but here we have the Anointed One, appearing with two other sent ones, to have a meal with Abraham!

Some find this incredulous, to the point of saying that these three men are either human or just mere angels (thus it isn’t God himself manifestly present in the face of Abraham).  But the reason people find this chapter fantastic, is because of the common misconception that God doesn’t tabernacle, or dwell with us.  Rather, God is a goal we reach, and he is untouchable.  Is that a Scriptural understanding?  Not the kind of God whom I know.  I, like Abraham, look forward to the day when I can also have a meal with the LORD, the same LORD who broke bread and shared wine with 12 apostles; the same LORD who had fish with his disciples after his resurrection; the same wedding feast which the LORD will come down to earth to attend

2And I saw(A) the holy city,(B) new Jerusalem,(C) coming down out of heaven from God,(D) prepared(E) as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold,(F) the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will(G) dwell with them, and they will be his people,[b] and God himself will be with them as their God.[c] 4(H) He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and(I) death shall be no more,(J) neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Then, we have the Angel profess to Sarah that around 1 year later, he would visit Sarah again.  This is interesting – in Chapter 21:1, the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had promised.  Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, even after the “way of the woman” had ceased to be with Sarah.  This is interesting – and it parallels the story of the virgin birth.  Firstly, the re-establishment that one of the sent ones is the LORD himself; secondly, that the LORD is capable of doing the impossible, raising life when there should only have been death.  If the LORD is capable of raising Isaac out of the impossible, then how much more is the LORD capable of raising Isaac if he should ask Abraham to give Isaac as an offering to Him?  Surely this would justify Abraham’s behaviour in Genesis 22 – for Isaac was given completely from God, and to return his only son to God is more than acceptable (Job 1:21 – “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.  The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”)

2.  Sodom and Gomorrah:  Character study of Lot (Genesis 18:21 – Genesis 19:38 )

Then the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is very disturbing.  Abraham firstly intercedes for Sodom – yet he is very aware of the nature of the Sodomites.  Indeed, Abraham is burdened for the souls of the Sodomites – just as we all should be.  His constant plea, from 50, to 45, to 40, 30, 20, 10… and God is patient and loving and keeps to his promise.  How could Abraham be expecting 10-50 people righteous in the country?  Because he is not speaking of literally righteous people who are pleasing to the LORD.  Rather, he is speaking of those who are righteous by their faith in Christ.  It is quite evident why that is, when Lot and his two daughters are the only ones who escaped.  All those who failed to escape, being his sons in laws and his wife who turned into a pillar of salt, were all examples of those who are unrighteous – those who did not look to God, but looked back onto the city which they cherished.

(a)  The city

The city is something which Lot himself also cherished, but he failed to be the gospel witness that he should have been, compared to Abraham’s tent-like lifestyle.  Rather, as we saw in Genesis 13, he settled in the city.  Unlike Abraham, he did not look forward to the eternal kingdom (Hebrews 11) by living in tents, but only looked to his present comfort and lived in the city (Genesis 19:1; Proverbs 31:23).  Listen to him speak in verses Genesis 19:19-20:

“…But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. 20 Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one.  Let me escape there – is it not a little one? – and my life will be saved!”

What strange words to be coming from a man who is about to be saved from God himself.  He actually has PREFERENCES!  Yet, the LORD is patient, and grants him this favour also (Chapter 19:21).

(b)  Lot’s evangelism

There are a lot of problems with Lot’s evangelism.  Firstly, he failed to influence those around him – and he was a mere sojourner, who fully molded himself to the society’s culture.  Even the men wanted to rape the angels (Jude 7 – the men desired “strange” flesh), and Lot dared to even offer his two daughters, as if they are suitable substitutes.  It seems that Lot had completely back-fired from his rather ‘religious’ comment, that raping is ‘wicked’.  In only a matter of a few seconds, or minutes, he offers his own two daughters for rape!  Furthermore, he sounded unconvincing to his two sons-in-law when he sends the message of the imminent destruction of the city, the sons who no-doubt are not Jesus-fearers themselves.  The only people who did leave were Lot, his two daughters and his wife.  Even his wife looked back.  This is a clear example of the physical church – Lot, his two daughers, and his wife.  But only the true spiritual Israelites would pass through the fire; but the physical Israelite as it were, Lot’s wife, would not pass through.  The true church vs. the physical church.

Finally, it is pitiful to see that there weren’t even 10 righteous men.  Who are such ‘righteous’ men?  People who believed in God, for even God called Lot righteous (2 Peter 2:7), despite his compromises, his failure to evangelise and influence his neighbours, his lingering (Genesis 19:16), his offering of his daughers for rape… he is still considered as righteous.  So Abraham interceded for 10 men who had faith in Christ… and in all the time Lot had spent there, he still failed to influence even 10 men for Christ.  This shows that his time at Sodom was not for ministry; his time at Sodom was simply to be part of the family, possibly even marrying Sodomite men to his daughters.

(c)  The angels, and the Angel

Lot however is very aware of the angels – he even baked unleavened bread and made a feast for them which they ate, just as Abraham had done the same.  Both are aware of the angels’ awesomeness, but the latter failed to live up to his actions.  He knew the city centre is dangerous, hence he decides to welcome the angels into his house.  But, like an introvert Christian, he lives in a holy bubble yet slowly molded to the culture’s standards.

I would like to impute some meaning to the unleavened bread here, but the symbolism of the unleavened bread had not taken its effect until the time of Exodus.  Contrarily, look at Abraham’s actions – Genesis 18:8 says his wife had prepared curds, milk, calf… a full course meal, that took time to prepare.  But unleavened bread, which is hardly as tasty as leavened bread, was prepared for the angelic guest.  What kind of ‘feast’ Lot had offered is unknown (Genesis 19:3), but the way it was written displays a sense where Lot’s response to the angels is less convicting than Abraham’s response.  Abraham had displayed thorough family teamwork by asking his helper, his wife, to make the food; whereas Lot worked by himself, whilst his two daughters and his wife were unaware and uninvolved.  Lot not only had evangelistic problems outside his house; he had the same problems inside.

Genesis 19:7 – though the ESV translation says “And as they brought them out, one said”, the better translation is “And as they brought them out, the one (meaning the one standing OUTSIDE of the city) said, ‘Escape for your life… escape to the hills…”.  The reason why I make this distinction is because the same ONE Angel is referred to in v. 21.  “He said to him…” – it would be entirely difficult to know who “He” is, unless in the Hebrew, the Angel of the Lord had already been impliedly distinguished in v. 17.

Now, if you, like Trypho in his dialogue with Justin Martyr, have been assuming that this LORD is the Creator, the father Himself, let’s put the terminology “LORD” into context.  Genesis 19:24, the verse which stumps all non-Trinitarian doctrines in the Old Testament.  “The LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven”.  Which LORD are we speaking of?  Of course, the first LORD is the one who had awaited with Abraham, the LORD who warned Lot himself.  This is Jesus.  And the LORD out of heaven?  The Father himself.

(d)  The father of the Moabites and Ammonites

These are the Moabites and Ammonites that Moses himself knew, as chronicled in Deuteronomy 23:3-6 –

3(B) “No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the LORD forever, 4(C) because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they(D) hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of(E) Mesopotamia, to curse you. 5But the LORD your God would not listen to Balaam; instead the LORD your God turned(F) the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loved you. 6You(G) shall not seek their peace or their prosperity all your days forever.

And yet, we get a little side-story on how they came around – by the illegal and sinful incestuous conception of his two daughters.  Lot, not only did he fail to persuade his daughters NOT to make him drunk, in his drunkenness had sex with his two daughters.  Yet, this is the same righteous Lot Peter spoke about in his second letter.  Have I hammered the point enough that Lot is therefore not righteous by his own standards, but by Christ?

3.  Abraham and Abimelech (Genesis 20)

This is a repeat of Abraham’s sin in Genesis 12:10-20.  Yet, the LORD is continually faithful, despite his rather repetative inability to present his wife as his WIFE.  Here, Abraham feared men more than God – and yet God is still faithful to him.  This just enforces God’s faithfulness to Abraham; Abraham compromises his faith too often to be assured of his own salvation, had he relied on his ‘work’ – that is – faith.

Conclusion

In overview, we get a character study of Lot and the continual faithfulness of Jesus Christ, and his relationship with his Father is further revealed in Genesis 19:24.  So far, we have recorded several instances of the Trinity working; from Genesis 1-3 in creation and in Jesus walking throughout the garden; from the pre-Mosaic law sacrifices made; from the Noahic flood; from the Christophanic appearances to Abraham and Lot; from the Trinity going to confuse the people of their understanding in the making of Babel… these are merely the instances reeled off the top of my head.  If anything, the deity of Christ is far more focused here, in comparison to the New Testament.  This is why Jesus can say that he saw Abraham (John 8:57) – because he really did!  If we are ever going to look for the deity of Christ, why look in the NT when the OT is littered with other names which also described the same Son, when he is called LORD, the Angel of the LORD, the Blessed man, the Anointed One, the righteous One… which point so much more to his character and deity which the incarnate Christ had also embodied?

Genesis 18-20: Abraham, Lot, and God’s faithfulness