1 Samuel 30: The rejected Redeemer

Once again, the redemption of those who were taken from Ziklag happened on the third day (v.1), where David by the indication of the priest Abiathar and ephod (v.7) received command from the LORD to pursue the Amalekite band.  David in his distress, in his weeping, is immediately seen as the weak and humble king-to-be – in contrast to Saul who has not wept nor has he truly inquired of the LORD except through a false mediator who attempted to raise Samuel from the dead.  This is the Saul who has caused his men hunger.  The Saul who has led people to war without inquiry from Samuel.  The Saul whose kingdom was torn from him as the Father elects Christ to be the only true anointed One, He who weeps for His people (Isaiah 63:10) and would not move until the Father commands Him to move.  So here, David equally is not first and foremost portrayed as a man of valour; and time and time again, he is portrayed as a man of vulnerability, a man who is not immediately chosen by Israel to be the redeemer between the nation and Goliath – a mere shepherd boy and the youngest of his family without the same weight or stature as Saul.  And even in the midst of worthless men speaking of stoning him, David’s faith was continually strengthened in the LORD his God.  Is this not like us?  No – I’m not speaking as if we are like David.  Rather, David’s worthless men are like us.

Are we not the missionaries who, upon disaster, weep and are greatly distressed only to turn on Christ and abuse Him for leading us thus far?  Are we not the mobile church who, after deciding to follow Him as our leader, are led into regions of discomfort where we feel that what we endure is too much to manage?  The Spirit at no stage indicates that our lesson is to learn to have the faith of David.  Rather, the Spirit is telling us that David is our Christ, in whom we receive the blessings of resurrection and ascension after our deaths for it is His life of faithfulness which has brought all his brethren into the book of life, not our lives of faithfulness.  If not for David strengthening himself in the LORD His God, the true king would have died by stoning and the captives of Ziklag would have forever remained slaves of the Amalekites.  Yet, our Christ did not give up and once again elected Himself to be the redeemer despite being rejected not only by Israel, not only by the Philistines, but now rejected also by the mobile church of worthless men.  David is truly at the bottom of the social rung, of the pit of life, and yet the glory of Christ did shine at its finest peak when he hung on the cross like a worthless worm (Psalm 22:6).

And in the midst of the pursuit of the persecutors, we meet an Egyptian slave to an Amalekite.  It is here that we see how far Egypt has fallen into other nations’ hands as the nation has not been mentioned since Exodus (at least referred to over one hundred times as a proverb of a nation fallen by the hand of God since the book of Exodus) – and here, for the first time since the travels in the wilderness and Israel’s arrival at Canaan do we meet an Egyptian man.  Yet, he is not a prince, nor a master; he is a slave to one of Israel’s enemies.  Here, David treats the man hospitably (Deuteronomy 23:7) before asking him about his allegiance (v.12) as it appears that the Egyptian had been wandering in the open country, abandoned and without food for three days and three nights.  Is this not what our LORD does for us as he revives us on the third day with true spiritual bread and the waters of the Holy Spirit?  Us, who were God’s enemies?  Us, who appeared to be the kings of our own world?  Us, who in actuality was nothing but slaves and thrown to rot in the wilderness by the allegiances which we make outside of Christ?  Yet, David’s love for the man is God’s love for us, His enemies, so that we may no longer betray our true Saviour just as David is this Egyptian’s saviour in the wilderness.  For our sickness can only be healed by the true Physician (Luke 5:31), yet our false gods quickly abandon us as they have no true power of healing.  Though this man may still call the Amalekite his master (v.15), it is clear that the Egyptian is very much willing to side with David and above all a God-fearing man.

Here, from v.16 onwards, we see another prophetic glimpse of Christ’s victory over Satan through the body of the church.  Though two hundred stayed at the brook Besor (v.10), four hundred went on to defeat the Amalekites and reclaim all that was lost.  This is but a shadow of the judgment day as some Amalekites have fled, just as some of the Nephilim remained even after the flood (Numbers 13:33, as Anakim), but the important message of chapter 30 is the reclamation of what was lost, and even more (as the Amalekites did not only pilfer and burn down Ziklag, but also the great spoil from the land of the Philistines (v.16)).  It is under the headship of David that “nothing was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that had been taken.  David brought back” (v.19).  How this would make the greatest sense in the context of our LORD Jesus Christ who was crucified by worthless men, revived the Gentiles on the third day by feeding us with spiritual bread and water and go on to defeat the enemies of God leading us once again to victory though we are the same people whom he should destroy as well.  Indeed, these possessions are all given to us his mobile church, yet it is the flock and herds and livestock which are David’s spoil (v.20), for we the flock are His spoil and not anything which us worthless men can own.

In spite of David’s victory, much of the men who went out to fight against the Amalekites were still labeled as “wicked and worthless fellows” (v.22) – and though we, the still-wicked and still-worthless fellows worshipping under the banner of Christ are judgmental of those who had not gone out to reclaim the spoil which the church rightly owns, David speaks the truth behind one of the parables used in the gospels (Matthew 20).  The spoils are not determined by the exact nature of our works – for it is God’s economy that he who fights and he who stays by the baggage are equally blessed: the economy of God’s mercy.  Just as the small Israelite church had been preserved in the Old Testament (Romans 11), and just as the work of the cross had been prophesied and not yet fulfilled in the time before the incarnation, are these people who stood by the brook Besor denied the blessings of the cross because they have yet to progress into global missions as a theocratic nation?  Furthermore, this abundant overflow of blessing is given not only to the fighting men and the tired men but also to the elders of Judah as a gift although David has long been an outcast of Israel – once again displaying David’s love for his enemies as a sign of David’s near-future enthronement as the king of Judah.  Though David and his men had not been accepted in both lands claimed by Israel and the surrounding nations, His love for us is to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4) as he inevitably ascends to become a shadow of the Lion of Judah (Hosea 5:14).

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1 Samuel 30: The rejected Redeemer

Joshua 11-12: Firstfruits

Joshua 11

2. Conquests in Northern Canaan

1When Jabin, king of Hazor, heard of this, he(A) sent to Jobab king of Madon, and to the king of Shimron, and to the king of Achshaph, 2and to the kings who were in the northern hill country, and in the(B) Arabah south of(C) Chinneroth, and in the lowland, and(D) in Naphoth-dor on the(E) west, 3to the Canaanites in the east and the west, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, and the(F) Jebusites in the hill country, and the(G) Hivites under(H) Hermon in the land of(I) Mizpah. 4And they came out with all their troops, a great horde, in number(J) like the sand that is on the seashore, with very many horses and chariots. 5And all these kings joined their forces and came and encamped together at the waters of Merom to fight against Israel.

6And the LORD said to Joshua,(K) “Do not be afraid of them, for tomorrow at this time I will give over all of them, slain, to Israel. You shall(L) hamstring their horses and burn their(M) chariots with fire.” 7So Joshua and all his warriors came(N) suddenly against them by the waters of Merom and fell upon them. 8And the LORD gave them into the hand of Israel, who struck them and chased them as far as(O) Great Sidon and(P) Misrephoth-maim, and eastward as far as the Valley of(Q) Mizpeh. And they struck them until he left none remaining. 9And Joshua did to them(R) just as the LORD said to him: he hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots with fire.

The string of victories which the previous chapter listed is already enough a firstfruit which Israel has tasted. The names of these kings are ironic – Jabin who is intelligent, one whom God observes; king of Hazor, a city called a ‘castle’ – a fortress against all opposition. The king of Shimron, a city of high heights, of ‘guardianship’; the king of Achshaph, a city of ‘fascination’; Naphoth-dor on the west, “uplifting of the dwelling” – these are but a few of the names which these kings are named; which these cities are known as. Yet this is all empty, pure arrogance. Like the wailing of Isaiah 16:7, these wonderful nations shall wail and mourn for themselves as their human richness is utterly destroyed and revealed for what they really are, compared to the true richness stemming from the Trinity through Israel. These empty names are like the tragedy of the Tower of Babylon in Genesis 11 as those nations sought a ‘name’ for themselves, when they could have called upon the name of the LORD.

V.4 in particular describes in detail how they were a great horde like the sand on the seashore, with very many horses and chariots, joining forces at waters of Merom, a high place, to fight. Eve here the narrator’s irony does not cease – because throughout Scripture, if there is any ‘council’ worth mentioning, it would be the council of saints and sons of God (Job 15:8; Psalm 82:1; 89:7; Jer 23:18; 23:22; 52:25; Ezekiel 13:9; all the angels surrounding Elijah – 2 Kings 6:17). Although Israel is one nation, unlike the ‘great horde like the sand on the seashore’, there is no doubt that the invisible council of the LORD is far greater than even the uncountable sand. Our reliance is not on physical might, but the headship of God. Glen Scrivener comments on this particular aspect of headship in relation to Israel within the relationship between man and wife:

“OT headship has deep military significance.  e.g. “The LORD thunders at the head of His army.” (Joel 2:11)  Our battles are with spiritual powers through prayer.  (Eph 6:10-20).  Therefore headship is being prayer warrior for your wife.  To see a ‘head’ at their most manly is to see him on his knees.”

When we saw Christ crucified, he was the man on his knees; when we saw Christ in the garden of Gethsemane, we saw the man on his knees – and this is a huge contrast to Adam in the garden of Eden, who rose up valiantly against God through taking the fruit from the tree of good and evil, standing tall and was ‘like God’ able to judge good and evil. The symbol of Christian strength therefore is not countable by worldly powers, but is other-worldly where He is made strong when we are made weak and meek. The LORD is the only shepherd of the Israelites (Psalm 23:1).

That is why in v.6 we see the promise which He makes – “You shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire”, a phraseology not unlike the commandments in Exodus which all begin with “you shall”. As eschatological as these commandments are, in indicating what we shall be doing in New Creation, it is an indication that the LORD is paving the path for the Israelites so that to hamstring the enemies’ horses and burn their chariots with fire is not a possibility, but almost a triumphant inevitability. The Hebrew word for ‘hamstring’ (עקר akar) can also mean to pluck up or to root up; and this is very important given the context of v.6 talks about the enemy given to Israel as already slain. Therefore, this verse in entirety is displaying the enemies being rendered as utterly useless, to the point where neither horse nor chariot should be of any use to Israel. This in itself is also a duty of humility which the Israelites need to practice (Deuteronomy 17:16), to not own or displace everything which the enemies had possessed – especially these horses which have been used purely for war and are unclean like David’s hands which are unsuitable for the creation of His temple; ironically also unlike the great Solomon who had horded up plenty of horses against His will.

Then in v.7 we see Joshua come against them by the waters of the same high place Merom and fell upon them. LORD gave them into the hand of Israel, who struck them and chased them as far as Great Sidon (“fishering/hunting”) and Misrephoth-maim (“burnings of water”); eastward as far as the Valley of Mizpeh (“watchtower”), the name of each location complementing context of the situation of Joshua hunting the enemies of Israel by the waters where only two verses ago they had encamped to fight Israel. In this situation where the tables have fully reversed on these Canaanites, we see Joshua fulfilling exactly what the LORD had promised (between v.7-9). It is in this joint act of Joshua’s obedience and the LORD’s promise that we see His glory displayed fully; yet even Joshua could have chosen not to hamstring the horses and burn the chariots, such simple commands which the Israelites tend more than often to compromise. Why oh why will Israel die (Ezekiel 18:31) by succumbing themselves to these worldly pleasures more often than Yeshua’s obedience which typifies that of Christ?

10And Joshua turned back at that time and captured(S) Hazor and struck its king with the sword, for Hazor formerly was the head of all those kingdoms. 11And they struck with the sword all who were in it, devoting them to destruction;[a](T) there was none left that breathed. And he burned Hazor with fire. 12And all the cities of those kings, and all their kings, Joshua captured, and struck them with the edge of the sword, devoting them to destruction,(U) just as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded. 13But none of the cities that stood on mounds did Israel burn, except Hazor alone; that Joshua burned. 14And all the spoil of these cities and the livestock, the people of Israel took for their plunder. But every man they struck with the edge of the sword until they had destroyed them, and they did not leave any who breathed. 15(V) Just as the LORD had commanded Moses his servant,(W) so Moses commanded Joshua,(X) and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the LORD had commanded Moses.

We then move on to v.10 where Jabin, the king of intelligence who was looked on by God, the king of Hazor, who was the head of all those kingdoms is finally slain by Joshua. Nothing stopped Israel. Their debacle at Ai (Joshua 7) was thankfully early on; by His providence, they experienced such discipline prior to the important battle against Jabin. Thus, only Hazor is burned, to symbolically show that if the head of all these kingdoms has lost and his proud nation burned, then all other enemies will fall. To see Satan fall like lightning (Luke 10:18) is but a foretaste of the fall of all enemies especially on the Day of Resurrection. Unlike the horses and the chariots, the spoil of these cities and the livestock are lifeless and untainted by the blood of war (v.12, 14, 15) and thus Israel, like in every other victory so far, could take their plunder while Yeshua took the breath away from Israel’s enemies. This duty resembling Christ who shall take the Spirit away from all men (not the indwelling Spirit, but the Spirit who keeps a man physically ‘alive’ just as everything in the universe is held-together through Christ – c.f. Genesis 6:3; Psalm 3:5; Colossians 1) when only the believers shall be living forever for we are no longer mortal, but the breath of life shall not dwell forever in Israel’s enemies.

Joshua 10:40-42

Joshua 11:16-20

40So Joshua struck the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland(FH) and the slopes, and all their kings. He left none remaining,(FI) but devoted to destruction all that breathed, just as the LORD God of Israel commanded. 41And Joshua struck them from(FJ) Kadesh-barnea as far as Gaza, and all the country of(FK) Goshen, as far as Gibeon. 42And Joshua captured all these kings and their land at one time,(FL) because the LORD God of Israel fought for Israel. 43(FM) Then Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal. (compare this Joshua 10:40-42 with Joshua 11:16-20)

16So Joshua took all that land,(Y) the hill country and all the Negeb and(Z) all the land of Goshen(AA) and the lowland(AB) and the Arabah and the hill country of Israel and its lowland 17(AC) from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, as far as(AD) Baal-gad in the Valley of Lebanon below(AE) Mount Hermon. And he captured(AF) all their kings and struck them and put them to death. 18Joshua made war(AG) a long time with all those kings. 19There was not a city that made peace with the people of Israel except(AH) the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon. They took them all in battle. 20For it was the LORD’s doing(AI) to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed,(AJ) just as the LORD commanded Moses.

There is much similarity between Joshua 10:40-42 and Joshua 11:16-20, save a few more details and inclusions which are bolded in the column for chapter 11. It is in these summary lines which we see even more of God’s involvement in helping Israel gain these lands. Although the narration in itself seems to indicate the lightning-pace at which Israel is the victor, v.18 is very honest in saying that the war was made for a long time; and it is only from this macro-perspective that we see the LORD’s faithfulness. If the book of Joshua, like the books of Kings or the books of Chronicles were to hone in on every single battle, every sweat and every sorrow, then we would lose sight of what is being taught here. The book of Joshua is a book of victories, a book of harvest, chronicling the victories of Israel as long as they continue to stand firm with Christ. It is not a silent history of war; it is a proactive commentary of first-fruit, first indicated when a spy like Caleb reported faithfully; and now partially fulfilled through the reaping of the enemies’ possessions, awaiting the true and complete fulfillment in New Creation as the night shadows of the Old Testament come to dawn on the cross, and to full Day on His return.

This joy is not only shared within the Israelites, but also shared among the Gibeonites as well (v.19) who were spared and brought into battle on Israel’s side as well; just as Ruth was one of the first to welcome God into Canaan, so Gibeon is now fighting to prove her love for Yahweh, and not only feeding or exploiting the bittersweet covenant between the two nations. It is under this context that v.20 is provided – the LORD does not elect people to reprobation against the contemporary adaptation of Calvin’s doctrine of predestination; v.19 already stated that these Gibeonites chose to side with Israel. These Gibeonites are no different from the Canaanites, save that they are elected through Israel, just as the Gentiles are elected through Christ the true Israel. Why then would the LORD harden only the hearts of the other nations, but not Gibeon? This first mentioning of ‘hardening’ occurred back in Exodus when the Pharoah’s heart was hardened, but not until the latter plagues where the Pharoah was given several opportunities to repent. The hardening of their hearts is but a confirmation of the path which these enemies have consistently chosen to walk, whereupon they would be but pigs before the pearls of the gospel, no longer capable of looking on Jesus with opened eyes but condemned to a stone heart and eternal blindness (c.f. Romans 1:18-32 – the LORD giving people over to their sinful passions).

21And Joshua came at that time and cut off(AK) the Anakim from the hill country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the hill country of Judah, and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua devoted them to destruction with their cities. 22There was none of the Anakim left in the land of the people of Israel. Only in Gaza,(AL) in Gath, and in Ashdod did some remain. 23So Joshua took the whole land,(AM) according to all that the LORD had spoken to Moses.(AN) And Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel(AO) according to their tribal allotments. And the land had rest from war.

Who are the Anakim, from the hill country, from Hebron, Debir, Anab, Judah, and Israel? The parallel between Abram and Lot’s story has not ceased even in this chapter; while the Rephaim were also present in Abram’s victorious struggle over the pagan nations, so also the Anakim were scattered everywhere waiting to be conquered by the true giants under Yahweh’s banner. The deliberate mentioning of Anakim at the end is most fitting to this story which can be protracted to an eschatological perspective – as if Jabin was not the real enemy, the greatest antagonist, we have the sons of Anak who had caused Israel to tremble (at Hebron where Abram made an altar to Yahweh – Genesis 13:18; and where the Israelites first met them again in Numbers 13:22). However, Israel is on a victorious streak before the LORD had deemed it so. Matthew Henry puts it in perspective:

The cutting off of the sons of Anak is particularly mentioned because these had been such a terror to the spies forty years before, and their bulk and strength had been thought an insuperable difficulty in the way of the reducing of Canaan, Num_13:28, Num_13:33. Even that opposition which seemed invincible was got over. Never let the sons of Anak be a terror to the Israel of God, for even their day will come to fall. Giants are dwarfs to Omnipotence; yet this struggle with the Anakim was reserved for the latter end of the war, when the Israelites had become more expert in the arts of war, and had had more experience of the power and goodness of God. Note, God sometimes reserves the sharpest trials of his people by affliction and temptation for the latter end of their days. Therefore let not him that girds on the harness boast as he that puts it off. Death, that tremendous son of Anak, is the last enemy that is to be encountered; but it is to be destroyed, 1Co_15:26. Thanks be to God, who will give us the victory. “

Joshua 11

(COURTESY OF ESV STUDY BIBLE)

Finally, the tribal allotments from v.23 onwards (c.f. Deuteronomy 34:1-2 – the prophecy of the fulfillment of these allotments within Moses’ vision prior to his death) is once more an iteration of the golden time to come, that Israel is now the new ruler of their Promised Land. Indeed, the land finally had rest from war!

However, even the language of the sentence seems to purvey a sense of an ‘omen’ – instead of using the Hebrew word for Sabbath, the writer of Joshua uses a different word (שׁקט) which indicates quietness, stillness, idleness. The Sabbath in contrast is a word and a day which means celebration, a time of true rest from labour, a holy day to the LORD. However, the rest of v.23 is not necessarily ‘sanctified to the LORD; it is just an interceding time before more wars, before more trials. Two things can be stated about this:

(1) That Israel has yet to conquer all the lands and enemies until David and Solomon’s time, after which Israel continues to fight and eventually conquered by Assyria and Babylon, which is why there is no true Sabbath rest. Furthermore, the use of שׁקט instead of Sabbath has a subtle implication that the time of the Judges (to come right after Joshua) is not a time of worship, but a time when each shall do as he/she wishes.

(2) The true Sabbath rest does not come until New Creation; our Christian life to this day is a spiritual struggle against the prince of the air, and thus we can only experience temporary stillness, though we are warned against idleness because true Sabbath is not ‘rest’ from godly works (Luke 14:3).

Joshua 12

Joshua 12

(COURTESY OF ESV STUDY BIBLE)

List of Kings Defeated

East Side of the Jordan:

Name of Kings

Location

Allotment (land given to…)

Sihon, king of Amorites/Heshbon (v.2-3)

Heshbon, ruled from Aroer (edge of the Valley of the Arnon), from the middle of the valley as far as river Jabbok (boundary of the Ammonites – half of Gilead) and the Arabah to the Sea of Chinneroth eastward, and in the direction of Beth-jeshimoth, to the Sea of the Arabah (Salt Sea), southward to the foot of the slopes of Pisgah

Reubenites and Gadites and half-tribe of Manasseh

Og, king of Bashan (remnant of the Rephaim) (v.4-6)

Ashtaroth and Edrei, ruled over Mount Hermon and Salecah and all Bashan to the boundary of the Geshurites and the Maacathites, and over half of Gilead to the boundary of Sihon (king of Heshbon).

Reubenites and Gadites and half-tribe of Manasseh

West Side of the Jordan

31 Kings – their locations:

Jericho

Tappuah

Ai

Hepher

Jerusalem

Aphek

Hebron

Lasharon

Jarmuth

Madon

Lachish

Hazor

Eglon

Shimron-meron

Gezer

Achshaph

Debir

Taanach

Geder

Megiddo

Hormah

Kedesh

Arad

Jokneam in Carmel

Libnah

Dor in Naphath-dor

Adullam

Goiim in Galilee

Makkedah

Tirzah

Bethel

The image more or less provides a vaster pictorial presentation of Yeshua’s successful and unstoppable conquest. The boundaries are outlined in Numbers 32, and the displacement of the seven nations (Deuteronomy 7:1) hailing from Canaan the son of Ham in Genesis 10 is recorded explicitly in this chapter (save the Girgashites – mentioned in Joshua 3:10 and Joshua 24:11, it is likely that they were assimilated into the six other nations of Canaan since it is implied that they fought with Israel).

Furthermore, the list of kings (from left column to right column) is in the order in which they were conquered, Jericho first until the final northern alliance from Hazor onward. These 31 kings, predicted by Moses in Deuteronomy 29:23 that they were to reject Christ and His gospel:

This shows what a very fruitful country Canaan then was, which could support so many kingdoms, and in which so many kings chose to throng together rather than disperse themselves into other countries, which we may suppose not yet inhabited, but where, though they might find more room, they could not expect such plenty and pleasure: this was the land God spied out for Israel; and yet at this day it is one of the most barren, despicable, and unprofitable countries in the world: such is the effect of the curse it lies under, since its possessors rejected Christ and his gospel, as was foretold by Moses.” (Matthew Henry)

Not only this, but the land was truly as fruitful (Joshua 12:8) as Caleb had reported; as various and as beautiful a land could be. This is something which the Israelites have never tasted, from being a small family before Joseph’s time to being a wondrous mixed multitude during the Exodus, to possessing the land of thirty-one kings against their one King and LORD Whom they serve. Adam Clarke indicates that these kings possess small land and allotments in their time compared to the nations today, however I think Joshua 12 is focusing not on the size of the land but the very fact of victory over thirty-one arrogant leaders and the very euphoria of Israel’s 40 years of wilderness nearing the end day by day. Not only this, but Canaan is a thoroughly pleasing land the moment the Israelites have conquered it; but in present times, as Matthew Henry noted, it is a land riddled with incessant wars, terrorist activities, tainted by all types of heathens and persecutions against Christians by the minute. It is not the true Promised Land but a mere foretaste as Canaan is overshadowed by New Jerusalem.

Joshua 11-12: Firstfruits

Exodus 22-24: The law and the gospel

1.  Restitution – the Penal Substitution on the cross (Exodus 21:33-Exodus 22:16) – commandments 6 (murder) and 8 (stealing)

2.  Social Justice – God’s responsibility (Exodus 22:16-31) (a mixture of commandments 7 (adultery), commandment 2 (no other god and loving those who love him), commandment 8 (stealing), commandment 1 (I am the God who saved you out of Egypt)…

3.  No False Report (Exodus 23:1-9) – commandment 9 (do not bear false witness)

4.  Eating with God (Exodus 24)

1.  Restitution – the Penal Judgment on the cross (Exodus 21:33-Exodus 22:16) – commandments 6 (murder) and 8 (stealing)

The last bits of Exodus 21:33-36 thus goes on to explain God’s character, and his methods of shattering the idols in our minds by going into the most intricate detail of His law.

This includes the detail of opening a pit (in Hebrew “bowr” which means cistern, but commonly used term for prison/dungeon); there is restitution for that as well.  We understand that God himself had made a dungeon, his own ‘pit’ where he holds the fallen angels.  He himself is responsible for this duty; similarly, if a man opens a pit (v.33) – he needs to be responsible for what goes in or comes out.  God is, on a macro-level, in charge of the eternal pit.

v.35-36 maintains man’s rule over animals – “if it is known that the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past” – and it is of course up to the man to regulate the animal’s character; and as the animal, as the beast’s master, anything done by the beast shall be repaid by the master, not the beast himself.  This is perhaps something quite different from how men restores things for themselves and for their beasts, whereas beasts clearly have no power to repay anything.

Exodus 22 begins on an interesting note: if a man steals an ox/sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox.  Amazing!  He is to give back more.  Just as Jesus taught the disciples to forgive seventy times seven more, so also the man is taught about grace through restitution.  v.3-4 continues this theme of graceful restitution – from selling oneself if the bloodguilt is on the murderer of the thief in broad daylight; to providing double for a stolen possession (v.4); to making restitution from the best in his own field and vineyard (v.5)… full restitution (v.6) if not more is required in many circumstances.

2.  Social Justice – God’s responsibility (Exodus 22:16-31) (a mixture of commandments 7 (adultery), commandment 2 (no other god and loving those who love him), commandment 8 (stealing), commandment 1 (I am the God who saved you out of Egypt)…

Now, the commandments get increasingly mixed up.  v.16 refers to a man seducing a non-betrothed virgin/a girl of marryable age, and that he is to give a bride-price for her; or pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins even if her father refuses to let her marry him.  This is the better way to do it; not through circumcision as was the tragedy of Simeon and Levi in Genesis!  The bride-price is important as it symbolises the man’s responsibility to the woman.  For seducing the virgin, it comes with a cost!  God does not allow pre-marital relations because it shouts out pre-mature intimacy; in the same way that we have the firstfruit of that intimacy with God by the seal of the Spirit (Eph 1), so also there should be a deposit money equal for the bride-price for such unwarranted intimacy with the Church if the man should treat her as if she is his church.

v.18 is strict liability as well – you shall not permit a sorceress to live.  Is this a contradiction to the law against murder (commandment 6)?  It would, if God did not define the confines of murder; but because he did, the 10 commandments are not statements to be loosely interpreted as to allow paradoxes to arise.  This is to directly contrast two points: firstly, that the LORD’s works and miracles are not that of sorcery (let alone of Moses’ sorcery!); and secondly, that the sorcerers and sorceresses of Egypt deserve death for meddling with dark arts which is an outlet for Satan to bewilder people and distract them from the gospel.  God doesn’t want miracles to be adored; he wants miracles to point to Him. Thus, the 10 commandments must be exegetically explained by God himself!  We will come back on this in just a sec.

v.19 – again, this act of ‘adultery’ shows how a man shall not lie with a non-woman; similarly, a woman shall not lie with a non-man.  There is nothing to portray Christ and the Church in either imagery, except to show that Christ is bonding with beast; and Church bonding with beast – this is a clear heresy of subverting the hierarchical chain of God to Man to Beast, to Beast to Man to God.

v.20 -26 – this is sculpted by the 1st commandment, because the people of Israel themselves have been mistreated in Egypt; but this is no excuse for them to exact similar revenge on other people – for [the Israelites] were sojourners themselves (v. 21) in Egypt!  Why should the Israelites then do the same disgusting thing to the sojourners in their land?  God detests such hypocrisy.

v.28 – this is charged with the flair of Romans 15 – respecting authority.

v.29-30 – like Abraham’s tithing of his 10% to Melchizedek, Jesus Christ, so also we are called to sacrifice not the lowest but the best 10%.  What does it mean though “the firstborn of your sons you shall give to me”?  What does it mean “seven days it shall be with its mother; on the eighth day you shall give it to me”?  The meaning is as I’ve mentioned concerning the cross; on the 8th day Christ rose again, after the Sabbath!  Justin Martyr on the eighth day:

The command of circumcision, again, bidding [them] always circumcise the children on the eighth day, was a type of the true circumcision, by which we are circumcised from deceit and iniquity through Him who rose from the dead on the first day after the Sabbath, [namely through] our Lord Jesus Christ. For the first day after the Sabbath, remaining the first of all the days, is called, however, the eighth, according to the number of all the days of the cycle, and [yet] remains the first.

This displays that the giving of the firstborn, as well as the sign of the circumcision, both serve to provide this imagery of God the Father’s firstborn son being cut and raised again on the 8th day, the first day after the Sabbath; and same for oxen and sheep, for they too are saved (Jonah 3 – the beasts repented as well!).  Such is the significance of the 8th day.

3.  No False Report (Exodus 23:1-9) – commandment 9 (do not bear false witness)

v.1-3 is almost a reflection of Psalm 24: “Give me clean hands” when this Christological Psalm speaks of Jesus asking for clean hands from His Father in heaven. v.1-9 in general has a heavier judicial undertone, explaining the absolute solemnity of speaking the truth rather than perverting the judicial system (v.6).  It is quite clear that our God is just, and he is the one who defines this justice.

4.  Sabbath laws and festivals (Exodus 23:10-19)

Again, this is a repeat of what has already been spoken of earlier – the number seven connotes Sabbath, according to the order of the creation of the heavens and the earth (v.10-12).  V.13 re-iterates commandment 2, and then he speaks of three appointed times of the year according to the Jewish ecclesiastical calender:

(i)  Feast of Unleavened Bread: also known as the ‘Passover‘ (Pesach) in the first month (15th to 21st day), the month Nisan/Abib (v.15); the Paschal Lamb killed on the 14th, and the Paschal feast from 15th to 21st

(ii)  Feast of Harvest: 6th day of Siwan/Sivan, the third month of the ecclesiastical calender (this is also known as Shavuot/the Pentecost/Firstfruits of Wheat Harvest)

(iii)  Feast of Ingathering:  known as Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles (firstfruits of wine and oil) occuring from 15th to 21st of the month Tishri, the seventh ecclesiastical month

These are the three memorable days where all the males appear before God.  Unsurprisingly, these three festivals mark important dates in Scripture: the year opens with the reminder of Jesus’ death on the cross; followed by the Pentecost in the middle of the year, reminding us of the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit given to all men (Acts 2) which also occured on the Shavuot.  This being in the sixth month, on the sixth day, is the mark of man equipped and blessed by the Holy Spirit to spread the gospel, and also to be sanctified (as day six represents that of the creation of man and woman, just as the Spirit is given to all men and women.  For six days shall man labour; and so for six days shall we labour with the Holy Spirit for God’s Holy Work of salvation.  This is closely followed by the seventh month, symbolising a time of reaping of rewards, the firstfruits of wine and oil, and unlike the Feast of Weeks, this is similar to the Passover, a seven-day celebration.

Interestingly, following the Feast of Ingathering there is approximately 5 months before the next Passover… and this contributes to the seasonal cycle of Scripture – through death, comes life, and returns to death again, comes life again.  This is no Buddhist samsaric realm (as cherishable as the Buddhist anthropological view is) – rather, this is an observation of our life on earth.  Just as we are made from dust, we are given the firstfruits of new life by the Spirit; then we return to dust.  But we will rise again, breaking away from all seasons in new creation, and will eternally live in the Feast of Tabernacles where there is eternal wine and oil of gladness, where there is the eternal Tabernacling of the Lamb with us in New Jerusalem.

Perhaps there is something more I’d like to note:  Three times the male appears.  Why?

The first festival relates to CHRIST

The second festival relates to the SPIRIT

The third festival… relates to the FATHER – whom we will no longer conceive as invisible, but visible when we are given new bodies.

5.  Conquest of Canaan by the Name in the Angel (Exodus 23:20-Exodus 24)

v.20-21 speaks of the divine archangel which Philo considered to be God the Father’s chief messenger, and no doubt, Jesus is the Father’s chief and foremost messenger.  The Angel of the LORD, who has the name of GOD himself, has the power of pardoning one’s transgressions.  The Father tells Moses to relay to the Israelites that this Angel must not be disobeyed (v.22).

v.23-24 relates to the essence of all theology – v.24: “you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces”.  Indeed, Christ, the angel, is the one who brings the victory – God the Father is the one who blots them out (v.23), but WE are the ones who decide to destroy the idols according to the victory won.  Is faith inactive?  Of course not!  Let’s not rely on inactive faith, but readily active response to the victory won!  Glen has written another great post on faith here.

And that fight of faith, by the victory of the cross and the power of the Spirit has explained by the festivals, shall result in the symbolic treasures of Canaan.  The land will be enlarged, the people will no longer be barren… but v.33 ends on a sombre note: “They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”  So that is the truth – STRAIGHT after Moses speaks to the Father, Israel is already serving their self-made calf.  Will the Israelites ever inherit such blessings?  Surely God knows they won’t if they relied on themselves: look at what happened with the quail and manna and water, and their inability to not whine.  The irony of Exodus 24v.3: “And all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.'”  The immediate hypocrisy.

Clearly, the only way one can even do any of those things completely is in Jesus Christ alone.  What is the meaning of the law?  It is to explain that Christ alone can do these things.  What is the meaning of the law?  It is to explain God’s character, and the character of the Seed God-man.  What is the meaning of the law?  To display how utterly fallen we are, and our utter incapability of fulfilling it by ourselves, except in Christ alone.  Yet, if we understand the law, and keep the covenant undefiled by the power of the Spirit, then we will truly inherit the spiritual truths behind the blessings of v. 23-32.

Conclusion of the Law and the Gospel (for now)

This is of course a preliminary conclusion, given the next three books of the Bible elaborates on the Mosaic law.  Just a few things to point out:

(a)  The 10 commandments are essentially undergirded by the first two; without the first two, the other 8 do not make much sense

(b)  This is the reason why it is difficult to separate one law from another, to purely classify one as a law concerning ‘adultery’ and another concerning ‘theft’.  The analysis above shows that God intentionally mixes the commandments together to show that they are all undergirded by the first two truths, and cannot be pedantically analysed in themselves.

(c)  The detail given in these few chapters show God’s theological method – he decidedly smashes the pre-Christian thinking in our head, our pre-conceptions of ‘justice’, of ‘honouring one’s parents’, of social justice… and each of them speak the truth about God’s justice over evil by sending Christ to the cross

(d)  Noticeably, this justice system is one of mediation:  Exodus 21:22, and 22:8 are the more obvious examples.  There is no indication that one is to strive for restitution by themselves, and there is in some sense a mediator between two parties.  Restitution is still followed, and the punishment normally matches the crime, but where an intended crime is committed, the punishment is even greater (Exodus 22:1).  God therefore doesn’t look on the physical act, but on the heart of the person.  This system of mediation however teaches us that we do not strive for justice alone; but we need a third person for objectivity: which also means that as Christians, until the Judge comes to provide justice, we fully understand that restitution is owed to Christ when we offend him.  And any non-Christian offending us, who are in Christ, is effectively offending Christ himself.

(e)  Remember, this law so far is related to the land of Canaan.  This is what Dev has to say about the Old Covenant established on Mt. Sinai:

Now in Hebrew a covenant is something that must be sealed in blood, it can only be ‘cut’ or ‘cut-off’. Thus the ‘new’ (or ever-new, renewed) covenant, renewed time and time again with Abraham, Noah, Adam, etc, is always commemorated with a sacrifice, but the sealing blood of that covenant lies in the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world (Luke 22:20, Rev 13:8). The ‘old’ (or passing away) covenant, distinct from the new covenant, is then sealed on top of the Mount Sinai that is in Arabia, in the desert, outside the Promised Land (Deut 33, Gal 4), with the blood of goats and bulls (Ex 24, Heb 10). Deut 5:2-4 “The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3 Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. 4 The LORD spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire”. On top of Mount Sinai, the Jews seal a wedding vow, a covenant with the law – Exodus 24:3 “Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.”

We’ll leave it at that, until we come to the new covenant… which is not mentioned of course only in the New Testament.  The new covenant will come around as soon as Moses shatters the tablets of the law and the commandment, and the new tablets have slight alterations which really aren’t so slight.

4.  Eating with Jesus (Exodus 24)

v.4 – “He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel”

After which he offered burnt offerings/peace offerings – half of the blood in basins, half of blood on the altar – and everyone heard the law and said they will obey (v.7).  The blood in the basin is then thrown onto the people:

“Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Such is the blood of Christ that has been thrown on us to redeem us and to cleanse us of our sins.  The Israelites are not ignorant of this imagery, as already shown by the blood on the lentils and the doorposts in Egypt.

What happens in the next few verses is awesome: v.9 –

9Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and(DF) seventy of the elders of Israel(DG) went up, 10and they(DH) saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of(DI) sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. 11And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and(DJ) ate and drank.

What an amazing and humbling picture this is.  The seventy elders, Nadab, Abihu (the oldest and second oldest son of Aaron), Aaron and Moses went up to the mountain of God and effectively SAW God.  Remember John 1:18 – no one has revealed the Unseen God except for the seen God Christ himself.  They saw the sapphire stone, the throne in heaven!  (Ezekiel 1:26, 10:1).  They ate and drank before JESUS!  This is truly prophetic of what we will be doing with God in New Jerusalem, that we will be eating and drinking with Him at the wedding feast (Matthew 22).  And what a fitting time it is to establish this wedding feast, when the wedding vow was entered between God and the Israelites (when Moses read the Covenant out to the Israelites, whereupon they responded in Exodus 24:3) – and after the wedding vow of course comes the wedding feast on the holy hill.

Finally, the LORD tells Moses to seek him after six days of the cloud covering the mountain (v.15), and going in on the seventh day (v.16); Moses lasted there for forty days and forty nights neither eating bread nor drinking water (Genesis 7:12; Numbers 13:15; Deuteronomy 9:9; Jonah 3:4; Mark 1:13).  This pattern of forty-days and forty-nights is not only seen as a time of testing, but it is seen as also a time of anticipation – and either victory or destruction results from these forty days and forty nights.  Indeed – will Israel be judged for their obedience in Christ?  Or will Israel turn away and worship other gods?  Will Jesus ascend to the higher throne, the holy hill?  Or will he buckle to Satan’s temptation by just the bow of His knee?

Joshua

Perhaps an important though small detail to note.  Moses chose Joshua as his assistant (Exodus 24:13).  Joshua who later conquers Canaan.  Joshua who won against the Amalekites.  Joshua who later meets the Angel of the LORD.  Joshua, whose name was given by Moses (previously it was Hoshea) at the Conquest of Canaan.  Joshua, whose Hebrew name is Yeshua.

Exodus 22-24: The law and the gospel

Genesis 45-47: The remnant and the future of Israel

A word of thanks for the written encouragement and comments on the blog!  I look forward to hearing more from whoever you may be and above all expecting to see some comments relating directly to the posts and whether something is indeed spoken from the Spirit of Christ, or whether what I’ve written is not entirely scriptural.  Thanks for those who prayed for the Philippines trip – please continue to pray for the children every so often, as I feel that many of the kids whom we looked after have yet to really know Christ and bear the cross, whilst some have already begun bearing the fruit of the Spirit.  Meanwhile, let’s finish off Genesis!

1.  The surviving remnant through Jesus Christ alone (Genesis 45)

2.  The reunion of Jacob the doubter and Joseph the Christ – the remnant in a foreign land (Genesis 46)

3.  Goshen (Genesis 46:31-47:11)

4. Israel’s burial (Genesis 47:12-31)

1.  The surviving remnant through Jesus Christ alone (Genesis 45)

Here we begin what is a sequence of responses to Joseph’s apparent ‘resurrection’, his reclaiming the position and glory with his father prior to being sold as a slave. He re-iterates his own identity – “I am Joseph!” (v. 3). This type of proclamation is necessary for the brothers who were unfaithful to him, who hated him, and who had his robe dipped in goat’s blood and effectively killed him. The colourful robe which showed the splendour of his relationship with his father was soiled with the blood of a goat normally used for sacrifice; and in the same way we soil the relationship of splendour between the Father and the Son with our sin which was placed on Christ, and which only His blood can cleanse.

Which is only then unsurprising that “his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence”. Indeed, they are so dismayed because they are convicted with the guilt of a sinner; they are convicted that they were the ones who crucified Joseph. Yet Joseph pre-empts them and rids them of their guilt: “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.” If he stopped there, then he would indeed add weight to their dismay and burden; but he does not, and so he continues (v.5, 7) “…And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life…. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.”

In what way could Joseph preserve the family? Only if he is exalted and placed in a position of responsibility; a position of a ruler of the land – “the lord of all [Pharoah’s] house and ruler over all the land of Egypt”. It is this authority and sovereignty that can preserve the faithful Christian remnant in Canaan. Without which, if Joseph was a mere man who was “brought back to life” and was not exalted nor ascended to a position of glory which reflects that of the colourful robe between him and his father, then there is nothing for Joseph to give. Such is the manner in Jesus’ proclamation to Mary Magdalene – “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father, but go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”” (John 20:17).

And where does Joseph’s authority come from? Where does his sovereign power in the land of Egypt find its source? From the God who sent him. V. 8-9 explains all: “So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharoah, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. 9 Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, “Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry””. Indeed, such is the good news – that even God can work through our sins for His glory. If it was not for the rejection of Israel’s other sons, then Joseph would not have been sent to the Gentile nation – and in the same way, the rejection of Christ by the Jews effectively sent the gospel to the Gentiles, symbolized by the Egyptians here. But has Joseph rejected his Israelite brothers, being an Israelite himself, just as Christ was? Did Christ reject his Jewish brothers, though he preached a message that benefited both Jews and Gentiles alike? As Paul writes in Romans 11 – “By no means!”

v.7 of Romans 11 continues to explain: “What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened” – who is the Elect One except for Christ himself, elected and sent to do the work of the Father? Elected and sent to be risen to glory and to be the captain and King, to bring with him his Jewish and Gentiles brothers to shelter away from the global famine of desperation and death? And it is in the elect that the Israelites did not receive a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see, nor ears that would not hear… though it is unfortunate that many of the other Israelites failed to be in the Elect One. In the same way, God had used Joseph’s brothers stumbling in previous chapters for His glory. Romans 11:11-12 continues – “Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!”.

It is in this way that God glorifies Himself through the trespasses which sold Joseph, the type of Christ, into the world, and that the gospel is given to the Gentile Egyptians first and yet the fullness of the nation Israel is even further magnified! How so? V.7 has already exposed this: “To preserve for (Israel) a remnant on earth, and to keep for your many survivors! The detail as to how many will be revealed in the next few chapters.

And so from v. 16-20 we receive the Pharoah’s positive reaction to Joseph’s brothers entering a Gentile land. His response is not that of division – but he welcomes them. What a far cry from Moses’ temporary father in Egypt! Rather, the Gentiles and Jews had lived side by side, and furthermore had been blessed through the Gentiles. This further enforces the point in Romans 11 – “if their (the Jews’) trespass means riches for the world (Egypt in this context), and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles (food which is stored and sold from Egypt), how much more will their full inclusion mean!”. Yes, and the full inclusion has been typified and has begun in this story of Joseph.

Evangelism

So, v. 21-24 is a picture of the evangelistic commission – “Do not quarrel on the way” (v.24) and “have no concern for your goods, for the best of the land of Egypt is yours” (v. 20). Indeed, as Christians we should not quarrel along the way when we wish to spread the Great Gospel to the ends of the earth, to our own brothers and sisters, to our own mothers and fathers. We should unite and tell of the great news of where the bread is found in a time of famine, but how rare that is! How easy it is for the brothers to stop and think that Joseph is a liar, a lunatic or is indeed who he proclaims to be. How easy it is for them to tarry, to wait around and eventually have Jacob/Israel die on them whilst they take their time and do not take evangelism seriously? Joseph gives the typified mandate – “Do not quarrel on the way”. So we should also learn to not quarrel, but learn to discern and discuss the truth without losing the sense of urgency caused by the power of the famine, yet also the sense of sovereignty and protection from Joseph’s words for the brothers need not find their security in the goods given to them. Rather, these goods are temporary provisions – the real meat, the real deal, the real goal is the land. We should therefore set our sights on the higher throne (Rev 7:9-17), rather than worry about our own possessions in the meanwhile.

When the gospel of Joseph’s effective resurrection was given to Jacob, Jacob’s “heart became numb, for he did not believe them”. Such is the response of many Christians in Jesus’ incarnate days – many did not believe. Many were astounded. As Jesus responded: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken of! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26). Indeed. O foolish Jacob! You who kept your son Joseph’s dream in mind, the prophecy of his leadership over his 11 brothers… was it not necessary that Joseph should suffer these things and enter into his prophesied glory? But this doubting Thomas had his fears and doubts removed when he saw the glory and gifts given to the brothers. His brothers were indeed “witnesses of these things”. Just as Christ said to his disciples: “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:44-49). So Joseph had given them wagons, according to the command of Pharoah, and gave them provisions for the journey – change of clothes, money, donkeys, good things of Egypt, grain, bread, and provision… these are just a few things which God has blessed his brothers with, as a testimony to God’s grace and righteousness. Jacob, the type of the doubter, ceases his doubt when he sees his sons clothed by the gifts of the Pharoah – and it is by these visible outwards signs of the good news of Joseph’s return that he is convinced and that his spirit revived. Jacob is absolutely thrilled – “I will go and see him before I die” (v.28). Though he is old, he is willing. Such is the type of necessity that every aged man and woman should express, if they too are carrying the cross of Christ and looking forward to his great return.

2.  The reunion of Jacob the doubter and Joseph the Christ – the remnant in a foreign land (Genesis 46)

This chapter is actually quite interesting. Unlike the normal genealogy, we have an establishment of the number of people who entered Egypt. 33 + 16 + 14 + 7 = 70 people in total (v. 25), 66 not including Jacob’s sons’ wives. This is definitely very different from the Exodus 12:37 – six hundred thousand people (including, of course, the Egyptians who converted to Christianity) compared to 70 Jews. Within a space of 430 years, and assuming that a new generation is spawned every 30 or 40 years, we are expecting about 10 to 20 generations from Joseph’s death to the great Exodus. This would mean that 30,000 to 60,000 on average were the numbers added to the church of Christ each generation, without taking into account the exceptionally huge numbers of converts probably during the time of the famine and during the time of the plagues in Exodus. This, indeed, is a fulfillment of God’s prophecy – many are indeed added to the house of Israel who will return to Canaan eventually.

I have prepared a lineal table here showing those who entered Egypt in this period (to be uploaded later!).  Note the little detail about Er and Onan in v. 11 – such is indeed odd, given that the type of Scriptural utterances concerning people’s burials in Israel are often those of righteous men and women. Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah are all such examples. But then there are those who were probably buried elsewhere – Lot, and Joseph who were buried outside of Canaan. I think this is the type of detail which displays the symbolic nature of Canaan. Canaan is indeed a place which points towards the true Promised Land, but in itself, it is not the promised land. That is why Er and Onan’s death there makes no difference; their belonging may be found in Canaan, but their hearts are found in Babylon. Contrarily, Lot and Joseph are men in Christ, buried outside of Canaan. Even the focus of Joseph’s marriage to the daughter of Potiphera displays an inclusion of these Jewish-Egyptian children, Manasseh and Ephraim, into the covenant people. Thus, this chapter works to focus on the spiritual covenant people found to be the wanderers of Egypt and Canaan, but it is not their physical heritage (e.g. Er and Onan) which will enable them to receive their promised inheritance.

3.  Goshen (Genesis 46:31-47:11)

“…for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians” (Gen 46:34). Now, why does Joseph want to maintain the shepherd culture of the Jews even in foreign land? This is an interesting portrayal of the light not mixing with the dark. Indeed, we are in the world, but not of it – and here, Joseph wishes to maintain not simply Israel’s cultural, but their very spiritual identity. Would Israel aim to be accepted into Egypt at the cost of losing their identity in the Great Shepherd King? Or would Israel aim to live in Egypt, in the land of Goshen, whilst compromising their Christian values?  Daniel surely did not forsake his ways… and it seems that the Christians entering Egypt are not aiming to do so either.  

Pharoah’s response is likely that of a Christian – “Let them settle in the land of Goshen, and if you know any able men among them, put them in charge of my livestock”. This land will be the same land that the Israelites will be living in – Exodus 8:22 and 9:26 show God’s protection over the land of Goshen from the plagues because that is where the Israelites dwelled.  This is not only some land… but it is the best land. The Egyptians have no excuse by the time of Exodus to enslave the Israelites.  They could have peered into their own historical annals to find out why the Israelites had been part of Egypt, and why they lived in Goshen, the best land even among a Gentile nation.

For it is the very same reason the remnant of Israel receives the same blessings wherever they go – for the church is found not in the location, but in the people.  The church of Christ, the synagogue, the assembly, the congregation is what God is protecting.  Their congregation at Goshen, at Canaan, are examples and foresights of God’s people inheriting the true land to which they look forward to.  The nature of the church in Goshen is very different to the nature of the church in Sodom and Gomorrah.  The former inherits the blessing of the land, because that is where God wants them to go by the command of the Pharoah who is effectively an obedient agent of our LORD in these chapters.  The latter does not inherit the blessing of the land, is hated by both Christians and non-Christians for being lukewarm, failed to evangelise to neighbours and yet mingled and lived with the Sodomites like he was one of them.  Lot may be saved, but he is not a picture of a man walking by the Spirit persistently; Israel and others do not forget the Promised Land which Canaan witnesses to.  People should flock to God, to the Promised land.  People should flock to Canaan.  God’s people may go out to other lands, may be blessed in other lands, but eventually they should go back to Canaan.  Such is the same story for us – we find our solace in flocking to Christ, our Sabbath, in new Jerusalem sitting at the right hand of the Father.  And Christ sent us out to the people, to the lands, to mission fields in law firms, banks, offices, rural areas, paddy fields whatever the location may be… and God blesses us there.  He will give us the best, in spite of difficulties which will face us (Genesis 15:13)… which is why we continually look not on our Goshens in life, we do not look to our possessions for security (Genesis 45:20), because even those things will fail us.  The juxtaposition of the first half of chapter 47, speaking of the glory of Goshen, placed next to the second half of chapter 47 which speaks of how the Israelites were protected in the land of Goshen – that during this period both the priests in Egypt and the Israelites still flourished.  v.27 of chapter 47 reveals that Israel thus settled there, and still gained possessions in it, were fruitful and multiplied.  How can they be fruitful and multiply by the tens of thousands during this period?  This clearly shouts out the hand of God over this faithful but entirely weak nomadic nation.  

4. Israel’s burial (Genesis 47:12-31)

By the end of chapter 47, Joseph had made “servants of them (all the Egyptians) from one end of Egypt to the other.” (v.21)  Only the land of the priests he did not buy, for they had a fixed allowance.  There is interestingly a refrain in the latter part of Genesis 47 – “the land of the priests alone did not become Pharoah’s” (v.22, v.26). Thus, only the priests and Israel found favour during this horrible 7-year period.

But why does Israel maintain his position to leave Egypt and return to Canaan, despite being there for a full 17 years?  Joseph swore to Israel that he would bury him in Canaan, but why?

Hebrews 11:21 sheds some light on the matter: “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshipped as he leaned on the top of his staff”.  Israel’s death is a faithful one where he knows where he goes, to the place where he would be gathered with his people in the true Eden.  He is going to where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah were buried, and he ensures that his descendants will not forget their inheritance by asking to be buried in Canaan, the mock-promised land.  His worries in chapters 42-45 about a lonely death is no longer present; instead, he gets to relay his message to Joseph, and to his 12 sons with their sons and daughters.  What a magnificent turn of events! We’ve already spoken of the significance of the staff in previous entries, paraphrasing Justin Martyr that it is a foretelling of the cross on which Jesus died.  It is a symbol of guidance for lost sheep, yet it can also effectively act as the rod of punishment; or it can be a measuring rod shaped like a staff (Rev 11:1) – and none of this contradicts the power of the cross, which is also a guidance and security for us sheep; a picture of punishment for those who are threatened by its power (e.g. Satan) by nailing sin to the wood of the tree, or a measuring rod outlining the very re-created city in which we live.  This indeed is a very powerful image – and no wonder such a small detail is included in the Spirit-inspired Scriptures.  Who cares if he leans on a staff?  But if this ‘staff’ represents the very power of the cross on which our Christ is crucified, then indeed Jacob leans on the cross of Christ as his security that he is buried in Canaan, and raised up to New Jerusalem along with the other saints of old.

Genesis 45-47: The remnant and the future of Israel

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!

Genesis 36-38: The unidentifiable Mediator

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