Genesis 48-50: The spiritual Israel

We have reached the final three chapters of Genesis.

Outline of Genesis

Let’s go through a brief outline.  In the early chapters, we have heard much of Eden, the paradise on the holy mountain of God.  On this hill God and the Son had fellowship with the man made outside of the garden in the wilderness who was placed there.  Yet, man turned away from God, but God had provisions for that.  Sin had to be dealt with, and only through the blood of the eternal Lamb could the sin be washed away.  So Adam and Eve left Eden, to struggle in the wilderness.

The nature of sin and its qualities are further magnified in following generations, from the split of Adam’s family into two factions – that of Cain and that of Abel/Seth.  The elect line followed after Seth, to Noah, to Abraham.  Throughout these chapters, there are continual references to circumcision, to covenant faithfulness, to baptism, to Jesus’ work on the cross and his death, resurrection and ascension (symbolically shown by the seven days of creation).

Not only that, but we have at least had a dozen if not more Christophanies from the first few chapters to the last chapters of Genesis.  Christ has continually been interceding, appearing before many saints to give them hope.  His persistent appearances show a God who is directly involved, who reveals Himself to us and who communicates through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Moreso, the fact is that we look forward to communion with God because He reached out to us first.

Finally we see the covenant promises come to further fruition, based on the power of the cross and Jesus’ work which is consistently portrayed throughout the different dispensations and fruitions, from Adam, to Noah, to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob as well as his 12 sons, especially through Joseph.  We now come to finish looking at the dispensation of Jacob and Joseph, to be followed up by Moses in the next book.  Meanwhile, chapters 48-50!

1.  Israel and the Angel; Ephraim and Manasseh  (Genesis 48 )

2.  The 12 Tribes of Israel  (Genesis 49)

3.  Death  (Genesis 50)

1.  Israel and the Angel; Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48 )

The first thing which Israel mentions to Joseph is the appearances of Christ in his life as the Angel.  v.3-4 – “God Almighty (El Shaddai) appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, 4 and said to me, “Behold I will make you fruitful and multiply you and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession”.

What is most interesting is how straight after he mentions Christ’s blessing on himself, he immediately turns to Ephraim and Manasseh, the interracial mix of Israelite-Egyptian.  And what does Israel say to this interracial mix?  v.5 – “And now your two sons… are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh are mine, as Reuben and Simeon are.”  This is an amazing prophecy of the inclusion of the Gentiles and not a religious adherence to the physical Israel.  Then Israel mentions something a bit random – he speaks of Rachel’s death, and how she was buried on the way to Ephrath in Bethlehem. I will come back to this in such a moment.

Then Israel places his dominant right hand on Ephraim, the younger; and his left hand on Manasseh, the physical firstborn.  Why this?  Israel had crossed his hands whilst blessing Joseph and asked Christ to bless the boys to let them “be like fish for multitude” in the midst of the earth (v. 16 – ESV footnote for the alternate translation).  This is what Calvin has to say concerning the Angel:

He so joins the Angel to God as to make him his equal. Truly he offers him divine worship, and asks the same things from him as from God. If this be understood indifferently of any angel what ever, the sentence is absurd. Nay, rather, as Jacob himself sustains the name and character of God, in blessing his son, 1 he is superior, in this respect, to the angels. Wherefore it is necessary that Christ should be here meant, who does not bear in vain the title of Angel, because he had become the perpetual Mediator. And Paul testifies that he was the Leader and Guide of the journey of his ancient people. (1 Corinthians 10:4.) He had not yet indeed been sent by the Father, to approach more nearly to us by taking our flesh, but because he was always the bond of connection between God and man, and because God formally manifested himself in no other way than through him, he is properly called the Angel. To which may be added, that the faith of the fathers was always fixed on his future mission. He was therefore the Angel, because even then he poured forth his rays, that the saints might approach God, through him, as Mediator. For there was always so wide a distance between God and men, that, without a mediator; there could be no communication. Nevertheless though Christ appeared in the form of an angel, we must remember what the Apostle says to the Hebrews, (Hebrews 2:16,) that “he took not on him the nature of angels,” so as to become one of them, in the manner in which he truly became man; for even when angels put on human bodies, they did not, on that account, become men. Now since we are taught, in these words, that the peculiar office of Christ is to defend us and to deliver us from all evil, let us take heed not to bury this grace in impious oblivion: yea, seeing that now it is more clearly exhibited to us, than formerly to the saints under the law, since Christ openly declares that the faithful are committed to his care, that not one of them might perish, (John 17:12,) so much the more ought it to flourish in our hearts, both that it may be highly celebrated by us with suitable praise, and that it may stir us up to seek this guardianship of our best Protector. And this is exceedingly necessary for us; for if we reflect how many dangers surround us, that we scarcely pass a day without being delivered from a thousand deaths; whence does this arise, except from that care which is taken of us, by the Son of God, who has received us under his protection, from the hand of his Father.

Indeed, so this Son of God is our Mediator from Alpha to Omega.  But I don’t want to short-change the significance of blessing Ephraim over Manasseh; nor do I want to short-change the reason why Ephraim and Manasseh are blessed prior to the 12 tribes of Israel in Chapter 49, when both of Joseph’s sons should have also been part of Joseph’s blessing in Genesis 49:22-26.

Let’s look at the sequence.

(a)  Israel had been holding his staff, upon which he bowed his head in faith, looking forward to the promises of the Promised Land represented by his burial in Canaan.  This staff is a prototype of the cross of Christ, the wood and tree on which Jesus was nailed.  (Genesis 47v.31).

(b)  Israel speaks of Christ and his blessing on Israel as the father of a multitude of nations, to which he immediately turns to Joseph’s two inter-racially born sons rather than the immediate 12 sons of Israel.

(c)  Not only that, but he supersedes the ‘first-born’ priority and, in the shape of a cross, places his arms on their heads and pronounces the blessing on the younger one.

It is quite clear that the significance of the mentioning of Christ, twice, in Chapter 48, followed immediately by Israel’s blessing on the two children are very significant; for, these children are children of the Gentile-Jewish mix – their very existence and the priority of blessing them over the 12 tribes immediately displays the priority of the global Gentile-Jewish church to which God promises the multitude of nations (better yet, to be like ‘fish for the multitude’).  Israel, who had looked forward to his burial in Canaan bowing on the piece of wood, now blesses the two Gentile-Jewish children in the shape of a cross (when he could have easily asked each of them to sit in different positions) – again, a prototype of the cross in which the Spirit is then given to both Gentiles and Jews.  Now this is extremely important – why was Ephraim blessed over Manasseh?

There is no short variety of verses referring to Ephraim – Psalm 60:6-8 (“Ephraim is my helmet; Judah is my scepter); Psalm 78:9-16 (“Ephraimites, armed with the bow…they did not keep God’s covenant.  They forgot his works and the wonders that he had shown them”); Psalm 78:67-72 (“He rejected the tent of Joseph; he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim, but he chose the tribe of Judah…”); Psalm 80:1-2 (“O Shepherd of Israel (Jesus)…Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up your might and come to save us!”); Isaiah 9:18-21 (“They slice meat on the right, but are still hungry, and they devour on the left, but are not satisfied; each devours the flesh of his own arm, 21 Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim devours Manasseh”); Jeremiah 31:6-10 (“For there shall be a day when watchmen will call in the hill country of Ephraim: ‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion, to the LORD our God…’O LORD, save your people, the remnant of Israel’…With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I wil make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel and Ephraim is my firstborn”); Jeremiah 31:18-20 (“I have heard Ephraim grieving, ‘You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined, like an untrained calf…Is Ephraim my dear son?  Is he my darling child?  For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still”); Ezekiel 37:15-23 (which deserves a special quotation):

15The word of the LORD came to me: 16(AB) “Son of man,(AC) take a stick[d] and write on it, ‘For(AD) Judah, and(AE) the people of Israel associated with him’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For(AF) Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.’ 17And(AG) join them one to another into one stick, that(AH) they may become(AI) one in your hand. 18And when(AJ) your people say to you,(AK) ‘Will you not tell us what you mean by these?’ 19say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am about to take(AL) the stick of Joseph (that is in the hand of Ephraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with him. And I will join with it the(AM) stick of Judah,[e] and(AN) make them one stick, that they may be one in my hand. 20When the sticks on which you write are in your hand(AO) before their eyes, 21then say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold,(AP) I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. 22And(AQ) I will make them one nation in the land, on(AR) the mountains of Israel. And(AS) one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer(AT) two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms. 23(AU) They shall not(AV) defile themselves anymore(AW) with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. But(AX) I will save them from all the backslidings[f] in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and(AY) they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

Indeed, Ezekiel says it best – Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) will enjoin with Judah, the true Israelite line.  The two sticks with enjoin, and “they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 37:23).  Ephraim is not exactly the most flattering tribe – you can see their warring nature and the number of times in which they forget the LORD, given their intermingling with many nations.  Yet, the LORD remembers Ephraim – and Ephraim is still considered his firstborn son, a la Isaac is Abraham’s firstborn son (when Ishmael is the physical firstborn, like Manasseh).  The significance speaks of the Gentile-Jewish spiritual church, represented by Ephraim, blessed by Christ.

2.  The 12 Tribes of Israel (Genesis 49)

Given Christ’s blessing to the Jewish-Gentile church in chapter 48, the subsequent prophecies on the 12 tribes speaks of the prophetic future of each tribe and the role they play in fulfilling God’s blessing through the Jews and the Gentiles.  Note that there isn’t much in terms of ‘blessing’ on the 12 tribes, save a few (save Joseph, Judah…)!  Thus, the obsession is not in the 12 tribes themselves; neither is it through the natural priority of the firstborn and the last-born; rather, it is in the spiritual church, to be represented by Joseph’s Jewish-Gentile children already mentioned.  Now let’s see what roles the 12 tribes play in fulfilling God’s plan.

Tribes

Meaning of the names

Scripture (Chapter 49)

Prophecy

Reuben

Who sees the son; the vision of the son; behold a son

v.3-4

His sin in Genesis 35:22 is brought to the open, and this tribe amounts to nothing. No one significant will come from this tribe.

Simeon

That hears or obeys; that is heard

v.5-7

Both Simeon and Levi’s violence in chapter 34 is brought to the open as well.

Levi

Associated with him; joined

v.5-7

Levi, however, tames the hot blood and gives themselves to the LORD’s service (Exodus 32:27-29). This shows how the Levites did not become victims of their own character.

Judah

The praise of the LORD; confession

v.8-12

Instead of receiving condemnation for the mess made in Genesis 38, the tribe of Judah will include king David, and the Promised Seed, described as the scepter, the ruler’s staff, the vine, and the blood of the Christ represented by the washing of his garments in wine, the blood of grapes

Zebulun

A habitation

v.13

This tribe would occupy the coast, displaying how Israel saw beyond the initial settlement in the Promised Land as definite of Canaan.

Issachar

Reward; recompense

v.14-15

The quality of Issachar’s land would make up for the tough burden.

Dan

A judge; judgment; he that judges

v.16-18

Justice is provided for Israel through the judges, perhaps symbolized by Samson in Judges 12-16; but Dan is not mentioned again in the book of Revelation, and Jeremiah 8:16-17, as interpreted by some theologians like Irenaeus of Lyons that the Anti-Christ would come from Dan, which explains the absence of Dan from Revelation 7.

Gad

A troop; a band

v. 19

This tribe is good at fighting for Israel (1 Chronicles 12) and the men of Gad make up David’s class of mighty men.

Asher

Happiness; blessed

v.20

The great wealth is noted – Joshua 19 (Asher has some of Israel’s great trading places)

Naphtali

Wrestling; that struggles or fights

v.21

The name means struggle – he is set free from this for peace and friendship, rather than war

Joseph

Increase; addition

v.22-26

This is a focus of the Rock’s sovereignty in Joseph’s life, rather than him engineering his own success – this is the longest blessing and displays the typology of Joseph in Christ. Israel recounts the archers who bitterly attacked him, shot at him and harassed him, to display the utter innocence of Joseph against the guilt of those who attacked this type of Christ. Joseph’s bow remained unmoved and his arms were made agile by divine power – defined further in v. 24 as Christ himself, the Stone of Israel. Indeed, Joseph is blessed increasingly – between v. 25-26 there are already four ‘blessings’ from God – “up to the bounties of the everlasting hills” (“the blessings of the eternal mountains/hills” in the ESV footnote) – these everlasting hills representing Eden, which is the type pointing towards to the Paradise, the holy hill on which only Christ can ascend. This further reinforces Joseph as like Christ, and how chapters 37 to 49 have been working towards an inherently Christological interpretation of Joseph as the incarnate, dead, resurrected and ascended Christ. Thus, as it is through Joseph, it is truly through Christ that the church of Christ will be given increase, Gentile and Jew alike.

Benjamin

Son of the right hand; fortunate

v.27

He is called a ‘ravenous wolf’ although he seems quite peaceful thus far; Judges 20 & 21 reveals the Benjamites’ personality – they go to war against all the rest of Israel. Paul the Apostle was also a Benjamite, which probably explains why he showed wicked violence as Saul.

You should notice that many of the names of the sons concur with what occurs with their future – but, like Levi, we are not victims of our ‘personalities’.

3.  Death (Genesis 50)

So chapter 49, after the sequence of blessings, ends with Israel’s death where he is gathered to the Israelite people in the cave that is in the field of Ephron (meaning like a fawn; dust – as should happen to the flesh of men, the flesh of Israel, until we receive new creation bodies) the Hittite.

One can see the direct contrast between chapter 50 of Genesis and chapter 1 of Exodus – the Pharoah here says “Go up, and bury your father, as he made your swear” (v.6), as opposed to the Pharoah’s outright refusal in Exodus.  Not only that, but there was great mourning for the death of Israel, rather than the death of Joseph whom they were directly involved with and known for many years.  What wonderful brotherly love is displayed here!  If only we can cry for our non-Christian brothers/sisters or even Christian brothers/sisters whom we don’t know – we are so guilty of desensitizing death in this generation.  Yet, what a great influence it has made on neighbouring nations (v.11).

The chapter ends with the brothers fully reconciling with Joseph but through lying to Joseph.  Joseph saw through their guilty consciences (v.16-18 ) – and Joseph straightens them out again.  “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?  20  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good”.  Indeed, Joseph does not stop praising God, and giving thanks to God and his sovereignty – and comforted the brothers despite their sins (Acts 2:23; Romans 8:28 ).

And so we reach the end of the book of Genesis.  The trip has been long, but we have covered almost all the major themes and events of what Scripture testifies to – which is the cross of Christ, his appearances, incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension, shown through the typologies, Christophanies, Christological readings and the gospel preached by the very things within creation.  This picture is indeed sufficient, and I believe you can even preach the gospel solely from the book of Genesis – but God has provided the prototype of the gospel from the Pentateuch, which means that even more riches can be found in the subsequent books.

This is a page-turner to Exodus, which Paul Blackham quotes as the theology book of the OT.  I look forward to turning to Exodus in the next post and give it a Christological reading when many modern commentators sadly are reluctant to do so.  And in the words of Joseph – “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob”.  This refrain isn’t contained specifically concerning the prophecy of the Exodus around 430 years later; but this refrain repeats itself in the Mosaic law in Deuteronomy… indeed, and it refers to us.  We await the day of new creation and new Jerusalem, and God will visit us in our rapture, and bring us out of wherever we live today to the re-created land that he swore to our spiritual forefathers.

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Genesis 48-50: The spiritual Israel

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 1:9-13; 24-31 – Day 3 & 6 – Born Again

And so we reach Day 3 and 6!!!

If you’ve been following the previous entries, the framework is Day 1-3 (formation), Day 4-6 (filling). And of course, the last entry I’ve hinted that Day 1, 2 and 3 have some significance we shouldn’t overlook, and we’ve been dealing with the doctrine of choice. If Day 1= incarnation, Day 2 = death, then surely Day 3 must be of some significance (and that Day 6 will fill in on that significance, notably, the day that man was made, though I will look at the image of God specifically in the next entry).

Genesis 1:9-13 –

“And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth (or Land, ESV footnote), and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants (or small plants, ESV footnote) yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, day three.”

Genesis 1:24-31 –

“And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds – livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let us make man (Adam, the generic term for mankind in Hebrew) in our image; after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on earth.”

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply & fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth. And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to very beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, day six.”

Now, I’ve been hinting on the theology of the separation of waters, the sea, the river of life (Psalm 1), but what of the theology of the land, the plants, the earth? So on the third day we see the waters retreat to a place called the ‘Seas’ (nothing like the ‘seas’ as we see it today), so that it is in no way a threat to the land (Jeremiah 5:22). What is this in preparation of? The grass and herbage, the seed-bearing plants, the fruit & seeded (trees) – and everything according to its kind. Yet, none of these things have sun-light, and only the Light shining which is separated from darkness. How were these grass and herbage, the seed-bearing plants, the fruit & seeded (treets) to give new life?

Let’s look @ John 12:24 and 1 Corinthians 15:35-49 – for we had borne the image of man in dust, and will bear the image of man in glory. Who is this image of man in glory? Who is the glorious righteous man? Who is the blessed one? Christ (Psalm 1). Yet, there were different seeds, trees, herbage, each according to its kind – what fruit are we to bear? What tree are we to be part of? (Genesis 2:16-17; Leviticus 26:4; Deuteronomy 21:22; Judges 9:7-15; Matthew 3/7/12; Romans 11; Galatians 5; 1 Peter 2:24). Palm, broom, green, fig, balsam, cedar, tamarisk, olive, poplar, almond, plane, sycamore, lotus, laurel, fir, apple, fruit, cypress, dry, leafy, myrtle, wild, cultivated…tree of lebanon, tree of good and evil, tree of life. What are these but a display of the variety of which the Trinity accepts, and that all these trees must go through the cycle of death to have life, through the markings of the sun and moon and stars and seasons (Day 4, in cultivation of the seed sown on Day 3). It is a choice which we make, the inevitability of death that comes to every tree… yet which tree do we wish to be grafted into? Rebirth is absolutely necessary, and God laid down that formation, that framework, long before man was made. This is a peeking into the mind of the Trinity before creation, the preparation for a bride for Christ.

Day 6

Now we have (1) livestock (e.g. cattle), (2) creeping things, and (3) beasts of the earth (wild beast). In Jonah, we see that the beasts also repented; in Leviticus 11 we see a differentiation between clean and unclean animals, split hooves (being clean) and what their feet look like and the way they eat. These beasts which touched the earth, was like Christ in Psalm 8, made lower than angels like man. Do what we eat make us unclean? Of course not. Then what theology do we have of the unclean and clean animal? What can the creation on Day 6 witness to the creation on Day 3?

And these beasts were to be (1) fruitful, to (2) multiply, to (3) fill the earth. But man has to subdue them… and all of this is done in preparation of everything for the Lord.

Man

Note: Let “us” make man – this occurs again at the Tower of Babel when the Trinity goes down to confuse man’s understanding of one another. Is this an indication of the one yet many Elohim, the Trinity? Or JW’s explanation that whenever God speaks in plurality, he is referring to himself and angels? It is of course easy for us to explain it with angels… because that so conveniently fits the progressive revelatory view of the Trinity being preached without clarity until the NT saints. Why is it so hard to accept that the Trinity is preached here? As Dev states, why not assume Christ is in everything unless proven otherwise? Why start with extra-biblical non-Christological views as presupposition, rather than Christ our logos as the first assumption?

v. 27 – “he created them” — a contradiction? No… God created ‘them’ was an accurate way of speaking, even before the creation of Eve – for Eve was not made of the dust outside of Eden, but made and cut from her head, Adam, just as Levi had paid his tithes to Melchizedek when he was in Abraham’s loins (Heb 7:9). So Paul exegetically uses the same Christian logic in explanation of Adam’s sin being carried down to his descendants – it is not a question of nature vs. nurture even. That is a secular argument. It’s not that simple. It’s not that we ‘copied’ Adam from a clean slate @ birth, or that we inherit little bits of Adam further down the lineal line — we were actually IN Adam, all of us, and that when he sinned, we also sinned; even before the Mosaic law was given, when all the saints from Adam to Moses were supposedly without the law, they still died (Romans 5). For what other way can we then be grafted into the tree of life; that we are sinners because we were IN Adam, that we are righteous because we are IN Christ.

And what of the first Adam made to rule over earth, but a witness and a prophecy to the second Adam ruling over everything (Psalm 2:7-8)? How can there be two rulers? Of course not… Adam was merely a shadow and type; Christ was the truth and always has been and will be.

Image of God

This topic is not without its variety of interpretations. I will lend my small views – is the image of God a physical trait? Is it a character trait? Adam (man), who were without the Spirit, were then given the ruah of God… is it therefore both physical (dust) and character (Spirit) traits? Is it a matter of transfiguration then? Is it an anthropomorphic fare? WE look like the pre-incarnate God, the image is both male and female. It is not a far stretch to realise how the church, the bride of Christ, is the very image of God; that marriage, is a picture of this image of God. Can angels also be images of God? Unlikely… Christ did not die for angels, the genderless angels who won’t share in the eternal kingdom in the same manner.

Ephesians 5 states that Christ’s love for the church and the church’s submission to Christ is the truth which marriage points to. It is no surprise that man, the image of God, clothes the church, the bride of Christ in her wedding clothes in sanctification and preparation for the great Wedding feast, enveloping the woman to also be in the image of God. Of what surprise to then see that woman is also the image of God, yet also be called into the race of “Adam”? Is woman also in the image of God? Yes… only because she was cut from Adam, and destined to be with Adam. Is “Adam” also in the image of God? Yes… only because they were cut from Christ, and predestined to be with Christ (Ephesians 1). If Adam is to father his son Seth in his own likeness (Genesis 5), so also the Spirit will sanctify us into His (Christ)’s likeness. Will every person in the world ultimately choose Christ? A quote from one of All Souls Clubhouse’s talk (taken from You are the Christ blog):

Very many Christians argue that we should love someone because they are special,
i.e. they are walking image-bearers, thus they deserve respect and honour and love
He then continued to say this is a whole bunch of nonsense,
since at the fall, the image of God was utterly destroyed

The illustration he used was this:
Like an old Victorian house which they’ve kept the front or façade of it
but they have demolished everything within it for renovation,
so once you look past the shell, it is only dust and destruction

That seems to be a good analogy of what remains of the ‘Imago Dei’
All was lost at the fall, with only a shell remaining,
That image, that likeness corrupted, ruined, devastated by sin

Thus only in Christ is that image remade new, rebuilt,
that Victorian house is renovated with a stunning new interior,
and in fact we wait for the exterior to be destroyed and rebuilt as well
An unbeliever is like a thing that does not exist
broken pots waiting to be smashed
A shadow, destroyed by the sun
A nightmare, vanishing with like a dream
Whereas those in Christ are clay jars that hold burning torches within,
also waiting, except we long, groan for the day of revelation

Why then do we love our neighbour?
Not for anything that they are,
but rather for Who Christ is,
and what Christ has done for us on the cross,
We love because God loved us first…
We forgive others because our debts are forgiven
We honour others, because all authority is given to us by Christ
We are patient with others, because of the Father’s patience
We are generous with others, because He will supply all our needs
We are kind with others, because He showed pity on us
We suffer and bear others, because He suffered so that by the grace of God, none of us need taste death.

v. 29-30 – So man’s food is every herbage and every tree with seed – why do we have to eat things with seed in it? Genesis 3:15 – because we ultimately will feed and drink from that Seed and water which will cause us no more thirst or hunger.

Naturally we can see the link between the seed, the fruit, the new life which must come necessarily from death first, that everything which God created was good – but not perfected until the High Priest ascended into the Holy of Holies (Hebrews 9). So also, Adam made his choice which man had to go through – to die first, before gaining new life and getting caught in the rapture of the Day. But it is a choice we make: what kind of tree will we partake in? Will we also be nailed on the tree with Christ and die a physical first death, just to be reborn to be caught up into the Holy of Holies? Will we regain the true image of God, not the image of man in dust, but the image of man in glory of heavenly bodies? For indeed, the world was made good – but yet to be perfected.

John 10:17 – “The reason the Father loves me is that I lay down my life only to take it up again.”

So also, the death of the Seed will be taken up into a tree of life; the death of us will be taken up into a body of Christ; and the death of Christ will be taken up to be at the right hand of the Father where he belonged all along. Did Christ only take his place at the Father’s right hand after his death on the cross followed by his ascension? No – everything was accomplished before creation even began; and Day 3 and 6 were merely shadows and copies of what the Trinity had already established before creation. Creation was merely a theatre of his glory, visible through the death of seeds, trees, men and Christ – and proclaimed and shouted on the cross and on Ascension day. But the Son garnered the Father’s love when he laid down his life and took it up again… an indication that Christ had not only done this once but had done this already in the past, for the Father did not cease loving him pre or post-incarnation as the Messiah.

And we are still left with the doctrine of choice – just as Esau rejected his destiny to stand by Jacob’s side, so the Benjamites reverted their curse to rejoice in theirs by putting their faith in Christ. God did not elect some to be saved and some to be reprobate: he gave all of us a choice, a choice displayed through these days of creation. Will we choose the dry land, the inevitable death of seed and beasts, which will be reborn in a state of glory and not mere goodness but perfection? Or will we choose the seemingly peaceful waters, without foreseeing the heavenly waters crashing down on us ending not only in first but second death in the impending lake of fire? Are we Rahab, or are we the hardened Pharoah?

Nay, we are preaching something very simple. We were made to be in the true image of God – Christ, the Light incarnate of day one, whose death was preached on day two.
But if we reject the doctrine of resurrection preached by Day 3 and Day 6, then we, like all the unsaved men, will be stuck on Day 2 and 5… and will never see the glory of the blessed Day 7, the eternal Sabbath, the glorious unending Jubilee.

Genesis 1:9-13; 24-31 – Day 3 & 6 – Born Again