Jacob Goes to Egypt
The history of Jacob now centers for a time about Joseph, chapters 37-41 Genesis 37: The lone warrior. Genesis 49:23
1. Joseph is bitterly hated by his brothers. Various reasons are given.
a. Joseph brought the evil report of his brothers to his father. Was he with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, because already the sons of Leah were opposed to him? We can only guess. Was it proper for him to “tell tales”? But, on the other hand, was it proper to share in their sins by keeping them hidden?
b. Jacob loved Joseph more than the other children. The reason given is that “he was a son of his old age.” But there was actually not much difference in the ages of the sons. Benjamin was still younger. Did Jacob have in mind to give Joseph the birthright blessing, so that he would be the head (king) of the family after Jacob died? From all that follows this seems to be the case.
c. Jacob seems to have freed Joseph from further manual labor. Even gave him a long tunic, as symbol of authority. Not just one, but caused him to wear a special garb always. Was Jacob showing his intention of giving Joseph the entire birthright blessing?
d. But the main reason for their hatred was the dreams that God gave to Joseph. These dreams spoke of some future event. See Gen. 42:6. Yet Jacob interprets them as if they will give Joseph a position of authority in the family. The second dream confuses him, since it can never mean that Joseph will have the birthright blessing. Jacob seems to question whether this dream was from the Lord. The brothers ascribe both dreams to a proud imagination.
2. Their hatred surges into boiling rage and jealousy.
a. The brothers feel slighted. Their mother’s honor and name is at stake. Why is Joseph better then they, or his mother than theirs?
b. Even though this is justified, their carnal reaction was very wrong. They do not leave the outcome to God, Who has the future well planned. Instead of trusting, they take matters in their own hands, so that Joseph must suffer for righteousness’ sake.
c. Joseph is sold into Egypt. 12-36.
1. We are given a detailed account of the chain of events that lead to this sinful act.
a. His father sends him to visit his brothers in Shechem, which is about fifty miles north of where Jacob is sojourning. Shechem was Jacob’s former possession. See Gen 33:15, John 4:5.
b. His brothers recognize him by his walk and especially by his cloak. They refer to him as master of dreams. Was Simeon probably the ringleader? See Gen 42:24.
c. The brothers want to kill him, but Reuben feels a half-hearted responsibility toward him as eldest son. Are his mixed feelings justified? What should he have done?
d. In the meantime, Judah suggests that they sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites. Was he repentant later? Is this probably why he takes the lead in pleading to return to Egypt? Chapter 43:3, 8: 44:14, 18.
e. Joseph is sold to descendants of their father Abraham for the price of a boy-slave. Lev. 27:5, Ex 21:32. He passes near his home on the way to Egypt.
2. The brothers add to their sin by deceiving their father. What hypocrisy in trying to comfort Jacob when they knew the facts!
a. The covenant family had sunk into a state of deep spiritual depravity. The brothers nurse a guilty conscience.
b. And Joseph is sold into Egypt as a slave, but has the assurance of a good conscience before God.
Questions: How does Joseph later explain these happenings? Gen 50:20
How does this harmonize with Lord’s Day 10?
C. Jacob’s covenant with Laban—verses 45-55.
1. What is the meaning of Jegarsahadutha (Chaldean) and Galeed (Hebrew)? Both mean the same.
2. What is the meaning of Mizpah? Why this name?
3. What kind of covenant did they make? –see verses 49-50, also read verse 52.
4. Notice what we read in verse 53.
a. It appears that Laban distinguishes between the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor. To him they may be different gods, in harmony with his polytheism.
b. Jacob speaks of the fear of his father Isaac. We must capitalize “fear.” The Fear of Isaac is the God Who was worshipped in holy awe by Isaac.
5. Hereupon the covenant is concluded, and Laban departs in the morning. Was his departure a relief for Jacob? In this covenant they gave each other nothing; they only declared not to interfere with one another. Is this not all that God’s people ask in the midst of the world? They seek to live their own life. Persecution against the Church is not caused by the Church but by the world.
Genesis 38. This chapter serves as an interlude in the history of Joseph.
1. It points out how deeply Judah had fallen into spiritual lethargy.
a. The events of this chapter take place twenty years after Joseph was sold into Egypt.
1. At the age of twenty, and evidently without consulting Jacob, Judah married a Canaanite. He seems to have broken from his family completely, and lives alone in the southern part of Canaan.
2. He has three sons, Er, Onan, and Shelah. He chooses a wife for Er while this son is still only about seventeen years of age. But God killed Er because of his wickedness. The second son refuses to produce children for his elder brother. See Deut. 25:5ff., Matthew 22:24. Selfishness, hatred, greed for his father’s possessions—all or any one of these might have been the reason. His wicked corruption of the holy marriage state becomes the reason that God kills him also. His sin of self-pollution still carries his name.
3. Therefore Judah, probably to protect his third son from a similar death, delays in giving this son to Tamar.
b. All this is especially significant because Judah was the one chosen of God to receive the part of the birthright blessing that would make him head of the family. Out of Judah Christ was to be born.
1. What would have happened to the covenant line if it depended upon Judah?
2. What is God showing us in this unfaithfulness of Judah?
2. Tamar takes advantage of Judah’s sinful practices to produce a covenant seed. Even though she is a Canaanite she seems to understand the promise to Abraham. Or else her motive was entirely selfish. But see verse 26.
a. Her action nevertheless is very wicked, since the end never justifies the means. She was not a prostitute by common practice. She wants a son by Judah, no matter how. And she wants his seal and staff for future evidence.
b. And yet Judah is reminded of his sin in not giving his third son to Tamar, and thus neglecting to raise children in the covenant family.
c. In condemning Tamar he finds that he has condemned himself even more. But henceforth, because of her action she is unfit to be his wife or the wife of his son. Both actually deserve to die under God’s righteous judgment.