Joshua 13-14: The New Heaven and Earth of all saints

Joshua 13

Land Still to Be Conquered (for the 9 tribes and half the tribe of Manasseh):

ReubenGadManasseh

(COURTESY OF THE ESV STUDY BIBLE)

Joshua 12 was just a taster of these remaining chapters, as Joshua 13 opens with the statement that there remains much land to possess. What is more important is the LORD’s statement that Joshua is old; however, this mentioning of age is not arbitrary, but an indication that Joshua is nearing his time of sleeping. There have been several aged saints, especially the pre-Exodus patriarchs, but the LORD is explicitly saying that Yeshua’s time of human life is coming to an end. It is here that we can briefly reflect on the comparison between Joshua and Acts; that though Christ had gained much land, had provided the firstfruits of New Kingdom victory for the Christians in his years as man on earth, much more work had to be done in the End Times. Although much land has been gained for the Israelites, there are still persistent enemies whom the Israelites will not be totally able to displace (a look at Israel today is evidence enough) until New Creation.

V.1-6 thus outlines the remaining nations which possess these lands:

  • The regions of the Philistines,
  • and all those of the Geshurites (from the Shihor, which is east of Egypt, northward to the boundary of Ekron, it is counted as Canaanite; there are five rulers of the Philistines, those of Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron),
  • the Avvim, in the south, all the land of the Canaanites
  • Mearah that belongs to the Sidonians, to Aphek, to the boundary of the Amorites,
  • land of the Gebalites,
  • all Lebanon, toward the sunrise, from Baal-gad below Mount Hermon to Lebo-hamath,
  • all the inhabitants of the hill country from Lebanon to Misrephoth-maim, even all the Sidonians.

The general outline of the inheritance east of the Jordan for the Gadites, Reubenites, and half-tribe of Manasseh is between v.8-13. However upbeat it may seem that the narrator is outlining land yet to be conquered, it comes with a disclaimer in v.13:

13(CW) Yet the people of Israel did not drive out the Geshurites or the Maacathites, but Geshur and Maacath dwell in the midst of Israel to this day.”

Despite the sweeping victory of Joshua, the infidelity of Israel provides the omen that Israel as a nation cannot be the effective kingdom of priests, for only the true Christ can be the head of the true kingdom of priests, the invisible church which partakes in physical Israel thus far. The failure to root out the enemies politically is repeatedly mentioned in later chapters regarding the allotment to the different tribes as well, intimating an omen of sorts to the rocky relationship between Yahweh and Israel in the coming generations.

The Inheritance of the Levites

It is quite important to notice that despite the focus on Reuben, Gad and Manasseh in Joshua 13, we see a repeat of the inheritance of the Levites, as if indicating that the truth of these geographical allotments find their true meaning in what the Levites represent (Joshua 13:14; 32-33, and Joshua 14:3-4). They represent the spiritual truth, the Day Light of these shadows. God is indeed concerned with the physical abode of these Israelites, but He is not now trying to create the new kingdom on earth, at least not until the resurrection of the earth itself which has been groaning since the fall (Romans 8:22).

The Inheritance East of the Jordan (to the Reubenites, Gadites and Manasseh) as according to Numbers 32 (c.f. map)

Tribe

Land

Reuben

Sharing the kingdom of Sihon with Gad

(v.15-23)

15And Moses gave an inheritance to the tribe of the people of Reuben according to their clans.

16So their territory was from Aroer,(CY) which is on the edge of the Valley of the Arnon, and the city that is in the middle of the valley, and all the tableland by(CZ) Medeba;

17with Heshbon, and all its cities that are in the tableland;(DA)

Dibon, and Bamoth-baal, and Beth-baal-meon, 18(DB) and Jahaz, and Kedemoth, and Mephaath, 19and(DC) Kiriathaim, and Sibmah, and Zereth-shahar on the hill of the valley, 20and(DD) Beth-peor, and(DE) the slopes of Pisgah, and Beth-jeshimoth,

SUMMARY OF THE LAND: 21that is,(DF) all the cities of the tableland, and all the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon,(DG) whom

Moses defeated with(DH) the leaders of Midian, Evi and Rekem and Zur and Hur and Reba, the princes of Sihon, who lived in the land. 22(DI) Balaam also, the son of Beor, the one who practiced divination, was killed with the sword by the people of Israel among the rest of their slain.

Border of Reuben

23And the border of the people of Reuben was the Jordan as a boundary. This was the inheritance of the people of Reuben, according to their clans with their cities and villages.

Gadites

Sharing the rest of the kingdom of Sihon

(v.24-28)

24Moses gave an inheritance also to the tribe of Gad, to the people of Gad, according to their clans.

25(DJ) Their territory was Jazer,

and all the cities of Gilead,

and half the land of the Ammonites, to Aroer, which is east of(DK) Rabbah,

26and from Heshbon to Ramath-mizpeh and Betonim,

and from(DL) Mahanaim to the territory of Debir,[e]

27and in the valley Beth-haram, Beth-nimrah,(DM) Succoth, and Zaphon,

Border of Gad

the rest of the kingdom of Sihon king of Heshbon, having the Jordan as a boundary, to the lower end of the Sea of(DN) Chinnereth, eastward beyond the Jordan. 28This is the inheritance of the people of Gad according to their clans, with their cities and villages.

Half-tribe of Manasseh

29And Moses gave an inheritance to the half-tribe of Manasseh. It was allotted to the half-tribe of the people of Manasseh according to their clans.

30Their region extended from(DO) Mahanaim, through all Bashan, the whole kingdom of Og king of Bashan,

and all(DP) the towns of Jair, which are in Bashan, sixty cities,

31and half Gilead,

and(DQ) Ashtaroth,

and Edrei, the cities of the kingdom of Og in Bashan.

These were allotted to the people of(DR) Machir the son of Manasseh for the half of the people of Machir according to their clans.

It is important to ask why these three particular tribes are the focus of the attention here. There is no coincidence when we realize that Gad, Manasseh and Reuben are all firstborns; Reuben is the first son of Jacob and Leah, Gad the first son of Jacob and Zilpah, and Manasseh the first son of Joseph. However, none of these firstborns are blessed in the same way as Joseph himself was blessed who was not the physical ‘firstborn’. Neither was Ephraim, the blessed of the two sons of Joseph in Genesis 48:17-20, the physical first-born.

The lesson taught, once again, is the physical vs. the invisible church. The physical first-born who does not hold onto Christ may not live the character of the true first-born, the true first-begetting, of the Son of the Father. Adam, the firstborn of creation; Israel, the firstborn of God; Christ, the true firstborn – and Israel is only the firstborn son of God if she takes her head as Christ, rather than Adam. Yet, Gad, Manasseh and Reuben have asked specifically for the land on the east of the Jordan, unlike the other tribes who happily settle with what they are given (especially the Levites who are repeatedly referred to). So while the Kingdom of Sihon and of Og in Bashan are separated amongst these three tribes, the irony is that these blessings are but a pale comparison to what the humble spiritually first-born Israelite is to receive. No ‘superior’ land east of the Jordan, though facing the sun, can defeat the true new heaven and earth lit by a perpetual light. Thus, almost in an entirely short summary (compared to the detail given to these two and a half-tribes) in Joshua 14:1-5 on the inheritance west of the Jordan, the focus is not on the land, but on what the land represents – to even have no land at all, because the Levites are awaiting the true new land where they can have eternal communion with the Trinity eye-to-eye and face-to-face. It is a discipline which they will undergo, preparing the rest of Israel to look at New Creation rather than the temporary Promised Land.

Joshua 14

Caleb’s Request and Inheritance

6Then the people of Judah came to Joshua at Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the(EA) Kenizzite said to him, “You know(EB) what the LORD said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-barnea concerning you and me. 7I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD(EC) sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought him word again as it was in my heart. 8But(ED) my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the LORD my God. 9And Moses swore on that day, saying,(EE) ‘Surely the land(EF) on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because you have wholly followed the LORD my God.’ 10And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive,(EG) just as he said, these(EH) forty-five years since the time that the LORD spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. 11(EI) I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and(EJ) for going and coming. 12So now give me this hill country of which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the(EK) Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the LORD said.”

V.6-11 is an amazing testimony of Caleb; not only does he outline the glory of his dependence on Yahweh, his purpose of taking the land in v.11-12 is combined with such an assurance of Yahweh’s victory over the Anakim. There is no spirit of fear in him, except the spirit of rejoicing and love (2 Timothy 1:7) from the Holy Spirit. V.11 in particular is a display of the LORD’s protection over Caleb – how can an old man like him be still as strong today as in the day that Moses had sent him? To compare an 85 to a 40 year old man? This is all His doing, who has the holy power to prevent the wearing off of creation (Deuteronomy 29:5), keeping things alive; though the entirety of the process of re-creation, or renewal, must go through death first then re-birth in Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

The choice of Hebron is interesting besides the fact of the LORD promising the land to him (v.12), but moreso because it is the land near where the patriarchs were buried. Matthew Henry provides insight on this point:

“Joshua was both a prince and a prophet, and upon both accounts it was proper for him to give Caleb his blessing, for the less is blessed of the better. Hebron was settled on Caleb and his heirs (Jos_14:14), because he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel. And happy are we if we follow him. Note, Singular piety shall be crowned with singular favours. Now, 1. We are here told what Hebron had been, the city of Arba, a great man among the Anakim (Jos_14:15); we find it called Kirjath-arba (Gen_23:2), as the place where Sarah died. Hereabouts Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived most of their time in Canaan, and near to it was the cave of Machpelah, where they were buried, which perhaps had led Caleb hither when he went to spy out the land, and had made him covet this rather than any other part for his inheritance… We are afterwards told what Hebron was… It was one of the cities belonging to priests (Jos_21:13), and a city of refuge, Jos_20:7. When Caleb had it, he contented himself with the country about it, and cheerfully gave the city to the priests, the Lord’s ministers, thinking it could not be better bestowed, no, not upon his own children, nor that it was the less his own for being thus devoted to God… It was a royal city, and, in the beginning of David’s reign, the metropolis of the kingdom of Judah; thither the people resorted to him, and there he reigned seven years.”

These are therefore the spiritual implications behind the choice of Hebron, and an appropriate juxtaposition to chapter 13’s almost self-obsessed focus of Gad, Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh. Although Matthew Henry does not explicitly refer to this episode typologically or eschatologically, he has laid down the appropriate framework and observations. Jesus is the true prince and prophet to give us the land, and here Joshua’s giving of Hebron to Caleb is akin to Christ giving us the true land where we will once again meet the sleeping saints; not only this, but Caleb’s submission of the actual land to the priests displays his conscious knowledge of the importance of the priests, the joint importance of both Yeshua as prophet and prince, and the Levites as priesthood. So Hebron, in Joshua 14, bears such significance in enabling us to understand and sift (though the narrator is quiet on this issue) the importance of the geographical allocation against what land is given, and for what reasons exactly. The submission of Kiriath-arba, the city of Arba (the greatest of the Anakim) only adds on the strength of the imagery; that what had been temporarily held by Satan was in fact always Christ’s. Adam Clarke’s study of the name provides a different but important perspective as well:

“That is, the city of Arba, or rather, the city of the four, for thus קרית ארבע kiryath arba may be literally translated. It is very likely that this city had its name from four Anakim, gigantic or powerful men, probably brothers, who built or conquered it. This conjecture receives considerable strength from Jos_15:14, where it is said that Caleb drove from Hebron the three sons of Anak, Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai: now it is quite possible that Hebron had its former name, Kirjath-arba, the city of the four, from these three sons and their father, who, being men of uncommon stature or abilities, had rendered themselves famous by acts proportioned to their strength and influence in the country. It appears however from Jos_15:13 that Arba was a proper name, as there he is called the father of Anak. The Septuagint call Hebron the metropolis of the Enakim, μητροπολις των Ενακιμ. It was probably the seat of government, being the residence of the above chiefs, from whose conjoint authority and power it might have been called חברון chebron; as the word חבר chabar literally signifies to associate, to join in fellowship, and appears to be used, Job_41:6, for “associated merchants, or merchants’ companions, who traveled in the same caravan.” Both these names are expressive, and serve to confirm the above conjecture. No notice need be taken of the tradition that this city was called the city of the four because it was the burial-place of Adam, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Such traditions confute themselves.”

Clarke’s observations only enhance our understanding of the strength of Caleb’s faith in Yahweh. The LORD had accomplished, through him alone, the victory over these giants. However, on a conjecture, it is interesting to note Clarke’s final observation that Hebron is also the burial-place of Adam, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and perhaps sensus plenior may be applied to the inhabitants of Kiriath-arba for unknowingly naming the city after the patriarchs rather than actual Anakim giants. Unfortunately, the text is sparse on providing whether Kiriath-arba was knowingly named after the four spiritual giants of the Old Testament as well as giving credit to Arba, the strongest of the Anakim. Whatever the case may be, the layered irony gives the reader insight into the importance of Hebron, the four patriarchs definitively more significant than the four pagan giants.

13Then Joshua(EL) blessed him, and he gave(EM) Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance. 14Therefore Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day,(EN) because he wholly followed the LORD, the God of Israel. 15(EO) Now the name of Hebron formerly was Kiriath-arba.[f] (Arba[g] was the greatest man among the Anakim.)(EP) And the land had rest from war.

A brief point of contention lies in the term ‘Kenizzite’ in v.14 – some saying that Caleb reigns from the tribes listed in Genesis 15:19, although the LXX adds a qualifier which says “he who goes against the current” (ό διακεχωιζιδμένος), perhaps focusing not on his foreign nationality, but on his actions as going against the popular rebellion of Israel against Yahweh.

Like Joshua 11, Joshua 14 ends with shaqat rather than Sabbath – indicating temporary stillness, idleness of the land; but by no means a long-lasting Sabbath which has yet to come.

Joshua 13-14: The New Heaven and Earth of all saints

Genesis 42-44: Refiner’s Fire

1.  “That we may live and not die”  (Genesis 42)

2.  Joseph and his brothers, the covenant people (Genesis 42:19- 43:34)

3.  The testing of the eleven (Genesis 44)

The problem with the Joseph story is that too many people read it as many different things; some have read it as prosperity gospel (the blessings given to Christians); some have read it as an elevation of the Christian himself (e.g. Joseph placed in a high position).  Others have read it negatively – that Joseph’s testing is unnecessary, perhaps mean.  Or perhaps Joseph is imperfect, which is why he may be harbouring negative thoughts towards his brothers.  However, these are all very non-Christological interpretations, and they do not serve to edify the body of Christ if we read this story as a swansong of the Old Testament How-To Guide to becoming rich, becoming noticed, or becoming important.  It is, as I have been trying to maintain consistently, about Christ.

1.  “That we may live and not die”  (Genesis 42)

The first thing we have mentioned about Joseph since Chapter 37 is how the dream he prophesies speaks not only of himself temporarily, but eternally of Christ – how all the stars, moon and sun point to Christ.  Joseph is a type of Christ.  Which means that as bread-giver in a time of famine, we have a picture of Christ giving bread in a time when the Word of God has not appeared to the Israelites for 400 years.  It is a time of wilderness, of famine, and a time when people desire, nay, are desperate for the Living Bread.  Jacob wisely tells his 11 sons not to look at one another (v.1) for aid; rather, look to Christ, who dwells in Egypt, a land outside his home.  Look at The Christ, who tabernacled with men temporarily outside of his home-place with his Father and Spirit.  He is the one who will give the Living Bread and Water in this famine.

Benjamin

But not all are sent – only 10 are sent, whilst the last one is kept at home.  The reason why the last son, Benjamin, is kept at home is only partially explained, for Jacob feared that harm may happen to Benjamin.  One may immediately assume it is to do with Benjamin’s youth – but remember that it has been at least 9 years since Joseph has been sold as a slave to Egypt – not only that, but by now Benjamin has already 10 sons (Genesis 46:21).  2 of the 9 years wer spent in prison, 7 spent gathering the food, and then, somewhere during the latter 7 years when the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph then opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians (Genesis 41:56-57).  This wasn’t merely a local famine – this is a global famine, and I would imagine that a famine spreading over all the earth would not be immediate.

If it isn’t because of his youth that he is prevented from visiting Egypt, then what might it be?  It is possible that it has to do with Joseph and Benjamin being his only second-born son after Rachel’s death, the first love of his life.  Look at how Jacob addresses him in v. 38 – “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one leftOnly one?  What about the other 10!?  Again, this is similar to how God spoke to Abraham concerning Isaac, his “only son” despite Ishmael’s earlier birth.  Ishmael, who was born of a servant who belonged to the wilderness was merely given birth by the will of man.  So, it is similar with most of the other brothers; but through Rachel, Jacob’s first love, is Jacob given two sons against the barrenness of Rachel, much like the barrenness of Sarah.  We were given Isaac by such a miraculous birth beyond scientific comprehension; and again, we were given Joseph and Benjamin also against scientific comprehension.    In any case, at this point it is mere extrapolation but keep this mind in point.

Custody for 3 days

Here again, we see a glimpse of the future fulfillment of Scripture: The brothers were kept in custody for 3 days, after which he says “Do this and you will live, for I fear God”.  In the same way, on the 3rd day on Mt. Sinai, the 10 commandments and the Law was given to Moses, after they have already been saved.  What is the meaning of Joseph’s expression – “Do this and you will live, for I fear God”.  Is it conditional?  The phraseology is odd – what does “Doing this” have anything to do with “God”?  It is as if the one who gives the commands right now is a representative of God before them.  This, in fact, is very similar to Christ’s commandments in the New Testament – do this and you will liveLove me with all your heart, your mind, your soul… and you will live.

So also, on the third day, we will rise up.  But will we be struck down in our second death, or will we go on to ascend?  We can only have eternal life in the interim of the End Days if we choose to look on Christ, and let faith be a tool of such an expression.  Look at Hosea 6:

1“Come, let us(A) return to the LORD;
for(B) he has torn us, that he may heal us;
he has struck us down, and(C) he will bind us up.
2After two days(D) he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him.
3(E) Let us know;(F) let us press on to know the LORD;
(G) his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us(H) as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.” (Hosea 6:1-3)

The narrative of these last chapters of Genesis make us assume that Joseph had already decided the fate of these brothers.  He had already decided to obey God and let Him fulfill his dreams.  Look at v.9 – “And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them”.  Indeed, he isn’t going to condemn even the father and Benjamin who weren’t even involved in the treachery of selling him as a slave?  In which case, these 11 men, and their father Israel, already had salvation offered to them – but the question is, will they take it?  Will they show the fruit of their desperation, of their search for the living bread?  Will they be even so much as willing to bring another brother as a witness to their truth?  This is why Joseph says, “do this and you will live”.  Examine the fruit of the Spirit as a mark of your salvation.  Examine the desperation for the living Word in your heart, and you shall live eternally with Jesus in new creation.

2.  Joseph and his brothers, the covenant people (Genesis 42:19- 43:34)

Notice the effect Joseph has on the people.  They are convicted – and they want to live.  v.20-21 of Chapter 42 shows their confession – they have truly repented before the LORD Christ.  “…’bring your youngest brother to me.  So your words will be verified, and you shall not die.’  And they did so.  Then they said to one another, ‘In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen.  That is why this distress has come upon us.’  Reuben is the first one to reveal his heart.  He was the one who had been slow in his obedience… yet he had eventually expressed his anger against their collective sin.  Like Peter, he regretted what he had done; he regretted taking part with the wicked. His regret is fully expressed in Chapter 42v.37, to exchange his sons for Jacob’s two sons from Rachel.

What is interesting is the little detail about Joseph speaking in the Egyptian tongue, whilst the Israelites spoke in their own linguistic dialect.  The parallel I find is the apparent ‘misunderstanding’ between the two parties; we think our Christ does not understand us, because of his supposed elevated position.  But he does, and he understands our dialect, our hearts very well.  And our LORD is not a merciful pushover; he takes what is dear to us to make a point – so much as to take our kin (v.24 chapter 42).

Yet, upon the way, he provides us with the necessary resources to respond to his commands.  He gifts us with the necessary finances to fulfill His commands.  It is all from Him – the manna, the water from the Rock, the Tree of Life, the Bread of Life, even the very gold and silver used to make the Tabernacle.v.28: “At this their hearts failed them, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, ‘What is this that God has done to us?'” Indeed, I find it unclear here whether they are pleasantly surprised or genuinely frustrated.  Either way, Joseph still awaits their obedient response as an expression of their love for their brother Simeon; love for their father Jacob; love for their brother Benjamin – such love which has been seriously lacking from their birth (Simeon and Levi’s sin against Shechem; the brothers collectively hating and scheming against Joseph; Judah’s disobedient attitude in bonding with a prostitute).  Joseph’s actions have put them in their rightful position, and now they remember and realise their sins; indeed, so much as to respond in desperation.

The fact that Joseph is placed in a position to know the family better than the brothers assume creates a very good foretelling of Jesus’ omniscience in partnership with the Father and the Spirit.  From knowing how many husbands an adulterous wife has to knowing the heart of the rich man, Joseph knows and probes the family of Jacob to the point of their conviction and confession.  Such truth and knowledge penetrates, bone, soul and marrow (Hebrews 4:12).

But it seems that they had delayed in going to save their kin.  They actually took their time to eat the grain given by the LORD through Joseph, and still delayed in returning to save Simeon!  Then at this point, Jacob’s name reverts to Israel – and this is a sign of his obeying God again.  He tells him to take the honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds.

A land flowing with milk and honey; pistachio nuts and almonds being the edible type of Seed; but myrrh?  Myrrh, gold and frankincense was given to Christ – two of which are used for anointing, one of those two being an anointing for death (which is myrrh, representing the death of Christ Jesus).  I doubt this is a common gift given to the living LORD of the land. (Chapter 42:30).

Bread, water and the Wedding Feast

What a surprise then for them to see that Joseph, the lord of the land, would give them water and wash their feet a la Christ with his disciples and truly caring for the beast of the last (Genesis 1:28; Chapter 43:24).  There they were, eating the Bread which they desired at noon, at the height of God’s righteousness Psalm 37:5-6:

5(J) Commit your way to the LORD;
(K) trust in him, and he will act.
6(L) He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as(M) the noonday.

So also, our God will eat with us (Matthew 22) at the great wedding feast in the city that has no night and where the true light of noon will be the Lamb Himself.

When Joseph returns to his chambers to weep, his brothers do not see it.  In the same we only have a glimpse of God’s love for us, God’s faithfulness, and God’s tears for us.  We know, in part, through the glory of the Scriptures, of God’s true love.  But will we stand in his chambers, dwell in his tabernacle and Holy of Holies behind the veil to see his face, and bask in his true glory and love?  Not yet.

So the brothers are amazed at each other as they sat before him, firstborn and youngest according to their age (v. 33), but Benjamin’s portion was greater than any of theirs.  There, however, was no jealousy – instead, they drank and were merry with him.  They may sit at different positions around the table, but they are all in communion with the lord of the land.  So also, let us be children in faith, let us be little children in the Spirit (Matthew 11:25, Matthew 19, Luke 22:26), like Benjamin who is the youngest (though by no means physically young) but most prone to be hurt in this world.  This is fulfilled in the spirit of breaking the tradition of the ‘right of the firstborn’ – for Joseph fully understands that the LORD does not differentiate between the physically old and young reprobate, but fully depends upon the old and young in Christ.

3.  The testing of the eleven (Genesis 44)

Now, Joseph tests the eleven brothers, just as the risen Christ tested the eleven apostles.  They had the temptation to place the blame on someone else, but Judah laid his heart before Christ.  He laid honesty before Christ.  And he offered himself self-sacrificially for his brother.  Judah has made a full metanoia from his Chapter 37 phase.  He is now willing to be a SERVANT.  This is a fulfillment of dream of Joseph – and now Judah is prepared to be a servant of Joseph.

Conclusion

These three chapters have been very colourful in painting the picture of the brothers of Joseph, at least some if not all of them having a changed heart through this experience.  The famine has created the conviction of sin; their inability to look to each other for aid; so they look to God for the living Bread; whereupon the cost of taking up the cross of the living Bread is that they lay their life down to take it up again – all of which Reuben and Judah (as we know) have come to experience as true Christians refined by the disciplinary and consuming fire of the LORD.

Genesis 42-44: Refiner’s Fire

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