It all begins with God
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on the Book of Genesis
Marie Wetherill and Keith Simons
This commentary has been through Advanced Checking.
Words in boxes are from the Bible.
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
We do not know who wrote the Book of Genesis. And we do not know when that person wrote the book. There is an ancient tradition that Moses was the author. Modern Bible students have many other ideas. But we can see that Genesis is a very old book. Even the oldest books in the Bible refer to it (for example, Exodus 3:15; Job 28:25-29).
The author was not merely collecting ancient stories. And he was not merely recording ancient history. In fact, Genesis is a very careful account, which teaches the main principles in the Bible. The author describes the nature of God. The author explains God’s plan for a perfect world. The author describes *sin and *sacrifice. He speaks about God’s promise to forgive. And, he speaks about God’s promise to send Jesus. The Bible teaches that the author was not merely setting out his own ideas. Instead, the author wrote by the Holy Spirit of God.
Chapter 1 describes how God created a perfect world. Everything that God made was perfect. God examined his own work. And he saw that it was good.
God made things that are both beautiful and complex. The body of an animal or man has a very complex structure. Even today, people cannot make machines that are so complex as an animal’s body.
But God did not merely make these things from nothing. He caused them to live. This is very wonderful.
God did not work by accident or chance. He had complete control over everything. We can see this because of his control over time. God created the sun so that it would appear at the right time each day. He created the seasons of the year. He arranged the movements of the moon and stars in the sky at night. These things do not happen by chance. They all happen at the right time because this is God’s plan.
God still has a perfect time for things to happen. Jesus was born at the right time (Matthew 1:17; Galatians 4:4). And Jesus will return at the right time (Matthew 24:36). God, our Father, has decided these things. And he still has a perfect plan (Ephesians 1:9-12).
God is perfect. God did not create the world so that there would be wars, cruelty or evil behaviour. He wanted men and women to be his friends. So, he gave them a perfect world. And he provided plants as their food. God was generous and kind. And God’s attitudes have never changed (Hebrews 13:8). But, as we shall see in chapter 3, men and women were not loyal to God. This is the reason for the troubles in this world. God never wanted people to suffer.
Verse 1 ‘In the beginning’. The *Hebrew word for ‘beginning’ here is also the *Hebrew title of this book. The usual English title, Genesis, is from a Greek word for ‘beginning’. (Greek is the language that the people in Greece speak. And the New Testament writers wrote in Greek.)
‘God’. God has always existed. And he will exist always. There has never been a time before God. And there will never be a time after God. The *Hebrew word here for God is ‘Elohim’, which is plural. But the *Hebrew word for ‘created’ means that only one person did it. This is because there is one God. The Bible says that he is God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. So Christians sometimes call him ‘the Trinity’ – in other words, ‘three in one’. God plans things and he speaks. But he is not an ordinary person like us. He is the only real God. This entire book called Genesis is about God. (Look at John 1:1-10.)
God ‘created’. The *Hebrew word here for ‘create’ means to make something from nothing. Only God makes something from nothing. The writer uses that word in verse 1, and he uses it in verses 21 and 27 also.
‘The skies and the earth’. That means everything. The writer reminds us about it in Genesis 2:1, 4.
Verse 2 The earth had ‘no shape’ and it was ‘empty’. Until God works, there is only confusion. There is no plan and so there is no system.
‘Everything was dark’. This is like a description or picture for us. It shows what it is like to live without God.
God’s Spirit ‘moved gently’ over the waters. Some birds can hover. It means that they are staying in the same place in the air. But still they are moving their wings. God’s Spirit also did this, like a bird that is looking after its young birds. That was because God cares about his *creation. And so he wants to protect it.
‘The waters’. We are not sure what that means. It might also mean dark gases. It might mean a ‘cloud that consists of darkness’. Or it might mean darkness and waters. The older English texts say ‘the face of the deep’, which means the surface of the sea.
Verse 3 ‘God said’. The words that God speaks are powerful. So when God ordered something to happen, that thing happened immediately.
Let there be ‘light’. We need light in order to live. And when we have light, we can see. We can see what God creates. Light is also like a description or picture for us. It shows what real life with God is like. And it shows what God’s *blessing is like. Also, what it is like when someone is good and holy. God made the light in order to show us his character. Darkness is also like a description or picture. It shows what *sin and death are like.
Verse 4 ‘Good’. Everything that God does is good. That includes every part of his work. It does not only mean the complete work.
Verse 5 ‘The first day’. We do not know how long a day was. The *Jews’ day started at sunset. And the first day consisted of evening and morning. So probably it was like our day. But in the Bible, the word ‘day’ can also mean something special that happens. It means that in the phrase: ‘the day of the *Lord’. It also means that in the phrase: ‘the day of judgement’. (Judgement means when God will punish people for their *sin.)
He ‘named’ the light. When a person gave a name to something, that action often had this special meaning. It meant that the person ruled over that thing.
Verse 8 ‘Sky’. Many Bibles say ‘*heaven’ here. But it does not mean the place where God and the *angels are.
Verse 11 ‘Plants’. These are the first things in *creation that are alive. They are the first things that grow.
Verse 14 ‘Lights’. God was forming the calendar. It included night and day. It included the moon’s movements. (That is, where it was at different times.) And it included the seasons in the year. In the *Old Testament, *religious festivals had to be at the right time each year. (Festivals are happy events that people organise because of some special reason.) Those special times in the year included the time when people harvested their crops.
The sun and moon are just parts of God’s *creation. They are not gods. The one real God rules over them. But some people used the names ‘sun’ and ‘moon’ as the names of false gods. So the writer does not use those names here, otherwise people might have been confused. People might have thought that he meant those false gods.
‘Special meetings’. The *Jews watched the sun’s and moon’s movements. From those, the *Jews worked out each year’s calendar. And from the calendar, they could see when special *religious meetings would be.
Verse 20 Very many ‘*creatures’. When God gives something, he often gives plenty of it. He is generous.
Verse 21 God ‘created’. This was a special phase in *creation. So here the writer uses the special word for ‘created’, as he did in verse 1.
Verse 22 ‘Have big families and grow in number.’ In many English Bibles, this is ‘be *fruitful and multiply’. God gives that command many times to people. It means much more than ‘have large families’. It also means ‘live at peace’. So then the families do not kill each other. They are able to farm and they can produce good harvests. It also means ‘live in a way that pleases God’. We read about that in the *New Testament too. In Galatians 5:22, the writer describes it as the ‘fruit that the Spirit produces’. That ‘fruit’ means good things that please God in our lives. God wanted his people to obey him. He promised that they would be peaceful then. They would not be ill, and they would get rich. That was very important when God’s people were very few. Today, God does not always make his people rich. When they can serve him, that is a reward in itself. And they will have a reward in *heaven too. Look at verse 28 below.
Verse 24 ‘*Creatures that crawl’. Some *creatures live both on land and in the sea. The writer may include those here. He may include insects too. And he may also include reptiles. (A reptile is an animal with hard skin and cold blood. One example is a snake.)
Verse 26 God created people to live in nature. Also, he created them to rule over nature. People are like animals in many ways. However, people are also different from animals. God made them special. God created people to be like himself. God said, ‘Let every kind of animal grow on the earth.’ But he specially ‘created’ people. People can love and they can think. They can know whether their behaviour is right or wrong. People wanted to know God and they wanted to obey him. God made people rulers over everything else that God had made. God said, ‘Let us make people’ because God consists of three persons. Those are the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is three persons in one God.
People as a ‘true image like ourselves’. People (the man and the woman) were the only parts of God’s *creation that were like God himself. God did not create anything else that was like himself.
Let people ‘rule’. God gave work to man. Also, God gave responsibility to him.
Verse 27 God ‘created’ people. Here the writer uses that special word again. God was kind to people. People are special to God.
Verse 29 In the beginning, it seems that people and animals did not eat meat. But later Abel (Adam’s son) looked after animals (Genesis 4:2). God did not tell people to kill animals for food until Genesis 9:2-3.
God gave the command that people should have families. He made plants and trees that have seeds. That was so that more plants and trees would grow for food. They would produce food for people and animals.
Verse 31 It was really ‘very good’. God is perfect. And everything that God made was perfect. It was exactly as he had planned.
Everything that God created was perfect. And everything was wonderful. But men and women had a special place in God’s plan. Firstly, God created a perfect world for the first man to live in. Then God prepared a special home for the man. This home was in a beautiful garden (or farm) that God had planted. God made the man (called Adam) from dust that was on the earth. Then God breathed his Spirit into the man, so that the man was alive (verse 7). Afterwards, God provided a wife (called Eve) for the man.
Verse 1 God completed his *creation. However, he is still working. He has not stopped. But it is different work. He now looks after all that he created.
Verse 2 God repeated that he finished his work. This means the work that he did in *creation. It must be very important for us to know this.
Verse 3 God made the seventh (7th) day special. God made us like himself. After we work for six (6) days, we need one different day. *Jews keep Saturday (the seventh day in the week) special, because of this verse. And it is also because of God’s command in Exodus 20:10. Christians keep Sunday (the first day in the week) special, because Jesus rose from death on the first day. It does not matter whether our special day is the first or seventh day in our week. It is important that we keep one day in a week different. We *worship God together on that day, if we can. We need to have a rest for one day each week to keep our bodies healthy. When we have God’s *blessings, we have duties as well. He has provided a day when we should rest. But we must make it special for God. This is like a description or picture for us. It shows to us something about Jesus. He was dying for us on the cross. That was his work. Then he said, ‘It is finished.’ He had finished that work. But now he lives in heaven to pray for us. God has promised a ‘rest’ for Christians in heaven. That rest will last always. But it does not mean that we shall do nothing there. We shall praise God and we shall serve him.
Verse 4 This story seems similar to the one in chapter 1. This story in chapter 2, however, is the story about man. It is about how God made everything ready for man. The *Hebrew word for ‘true story’ means family or children. It refers back to the many *creatures in verse 1. It can mean past history. Or it can mean future history. Writers use that same word in other places in the Bible. And in those places it means future history.
Verse 7 God made the first man from dust. But God made him special. God breathed into him. God’s breath made the man alive. The same *Hebrew word for ‘breath’ means ‘spirit’ also. So God gave his Spirit to the man, so that his Spirit would live in the man. God also made the man able to breathe air. That was so that the man could live on the earth. Man’s spirit lives as well as his body. But that is not true for animals. God did not breathe his Spirit into animals. The writer says that God formed man. So, God made man as a potter forms a pot. (A potter makes pots skilfully from *clay.) That shows to us how clever God is. It shows to us that we must serve him. And we must obey him as our master. We must obey him because he created us.
Verse 8 Eden seems to be the name of a region.
Verse 12 Bdellium may be a particular kind of tree. The tree produces a sticky stuff (also called bdellium). People use that sticky stuff to make perfume. (Perfume is a liquid that smells nice.) Or the word might mean pearls. (Pearls are shiny white little balls of hard material. They are valuable. People use them to make things beautiful.) Onyx is a kind of valuable stone. We are not certain exactly what these two things are.
Verses 11-14. We do not know the Pishon River today. Nor do we know the Gihon River. However, it is important to know this. Eden was an actual place. This is all true. The rivers flowed out of the garden. They came to places outside it. And so they helped things to live there too. Water is very important in a hot area. Look at Ezekiel chapter 47.
Verse 15 God took care of Adam. And God took Adam to the garden that God had prepared for him. God gave work for Adam to do. Adam’s work was to look after the garden. A better word than ‘garden’ here might be ‘farm’ (like an African farm called a ‘shamba’). The garden was not just a pretty place with flowers and trees. But it was important for food also.
Verse 17 God gave Adam an important command. So Adam was responsible to God. As we shall see in chapter 3, Adam did not obey God’s command. In the garden, Adam had the freedom to be a friend of God. But Adam did not want this freedom. Instead, he wanted the freedom to do whatever things he wanted to do. He wanted to live his own life, without God’s friendship. So Adam chose to do evil things, although God had warned him about the results of such a decision.
‘You will die.’ Death was not part of God’s original plan for men and women. God wanted them to live always and to be his friends. But when men and women began to do evil things, the result was death. Their bodies did not die immediately. But their spirits were dead, because they were not still friends of God. And so they could not go to be with God in heaven when their bodies died.
Adam’s decision to do evil things causes death for everyone. But Christ brings life to everyone who trusts him (1 Corinthians 15:21). Our spirits become alive immediately when we trust Christ. We must confess our *sins to God and we must invite him into our lives. Then we become friends of God. And we shall have a place in heaven. Christ has defeated death, but our bodies still die (1 Corinthians 15:26). But when Christ returns, God will change us (1 Corinthians 15:51). Then Christians who have died will become alive again. And we shall always live with God.
Verse 20 God gave Adam control over everything in the garden. So, Adam chose the name for each animal and bird that was there.
God was very careful that Adam should have a good partner to be his wife.
Verse 21 God made Adam from the dust. But God made Eve from Adam’s own body. This is also like a description or picture of Christ and the church (all the real Christians everywhere). See Ephesians 5:31-32. The Bible also describes the church as ‘the bride of Christ’ and ‘the body of Christ’ (Ephesians 5:23-27). So the church is united with Christ. And the church serves Christ. But the church is also separate from Christ. Christ does not control Christians. Christians have the freedom to make their own decisions.
Verse 23 Adam was very pleased with the woman that God gave him.
Verse 24 Marriage is God’s plan for a man and a woman. Marriage should last for life. A man and his wife become a new family. They live together and they work together, under God’s rules.
This chapter is a very important chapter because it helps us to understand the Bible’s message. Before the events in this chapter, the world was perfect. People had not *sinned. They obeyed God. And they were friends of God. Everything changed after the events in this chapter.
Satan (the devil) used a snake to test the first people (called Adam and Eve). Satan told them that they should not trust God’s words. And Satan encouraged them not to obey God.
The results of their action were terrible. They were afraid and they tried to hide from God. They could not continue their friendship with God.
But, even afterwards, God was kind to them. He killed an animal so that they could cover their bodies. And he made a promise to Eve that seems to refer to Jesus. *Sin has been a real problem for every person who has ever lived. Because of *sin, our world is not perfect. Because of *sin, we have many troubles. But Jesus came to free us from our *sins. When he died, he suffered the punishment for our *sins. We need to confess our *sins to God. And we need to invite God into our lives. Then we shall be friends of God.
Verse 1 God had made the snake. But *Satan was using it to do something against God’s command. The snake was able to talk to the woman. That shows that it was not an ordinary snake. There was only one tree whose fruit God had forbidden the woman to eat. But the snake made her want that fruit. The snake made her think that God was not speaking the truth. It made her think that God did not care about her and Adam.
Verse 3 The woman spoke as if God had given a very strict command. She said that God had ordered her and Adam, ‘Do not even touch it (the fruit).’ But God had not said that.
Verse 4 The snake then denied what God had said. The snake said, ‘You will not die.’
Verse 5 ‘Your eyes will open’. Writers in the Bible often say that. It does not mean that we cannot see things round us now. It means that we do not understand about God. The woman was greedy. She wanted the fruit and she wanted to be like God. However, God had made the woman like himself already. God had given power to her and her husband, so that they had power over everything else. The woman could have sent the snake away.
Verse 7 ‘Their eyes opened’. *Sin affects all parts of us. Adam and Eve were not actually blind before. But now they saw that they had done something wrong. In other words, they understood it with their mind. They ate the fruit with their bodies, because they were not obeying God with their mind. Then they felt ashamed because they were naked.
Verse 8 The writer described the garden very well. Before Adam and Eve ate that fruit, they had liked to meet God. But we can imagine how Adam and Eve then hid from God. However, people cannot really hide from God, although they may try!
Verse 12 Adam blamed his wife Eve. And Adam even blamed God, because God had given Eve to him!
Verse 13 Eve blamed the snake. People are afraid to say, ‘I did it. I *sinned.’
Verse 14 God punished the snake first.
Verse 15 Next, God punished *Satan, who had seemed to be like the snake. In the original *Hebrew text, God said that the woman’s ‘seed’ (*descendant) would ‘bruise *Satan’s head’. That means that Jesus would hurt *Satan badly. But *Satan’s ‘seed’ (*descendant) would only ‘hurt Jesus’ *heel’. In other words, he would annoy Jesus. But he would not hurt Jesus seriously. Here, the writer uses a different word. It means only ‘hurt in some way’. It does not have the special meaning ‘bruise’.
Verse 16 Next, God explained to the woman the results of her *sin. She would suffer pain. Even the happy time when she had a baby would cause pain. But a woman would still desire a husband and children. And, of course, in verse 15, God had promised that the woman would receive something good by her *descendant or child. Her *descendant would oppose the devil. Her *descendant would free people from the devil’s power, like someone who uses his foot to break a snake’s head. Jesus was the woman’s *descendant. And he did these things when he died for us (Galatians 4:4-5).
There is a special promise to women in 1 Timothy 2:15. This verse says, ‘God will save women during the birth of a child if they continue to trust him. He will do that if they continue to love him. He will do it if they are holy and modest.’
Verse 17 God explained to Adam the results of his *sin. Adam would have to work hard for his food.
Verse 18 The garden in Eden was a nice one, which God designed for Adam. But Adam would not continue to live in that kind of garden.
Verse 19 Adam would have to prepare his own garden.
Verse 20 Eve means ‘someone that gives life’.
Verse 21 In this verse, we see how God showed Adam to *sacrifice animals because of *sin. That was like a picture (or a special description). It showed what Jesus would suffer. People would kill Jesus too, like the animals. He, too, had to suffer because of people’s *sin.
Skin from an animal would protect people better than leaves protected them. (Look at verse 7.) Also, an animal’s skin was warmer than leaves.
Verse 22 Jesus suffered because of people’s *sin. So he knew what *sin was like. People had started to *sin. And *sin causes people to suffer. *Sin is very bad for people. So God did not want people to eat fruit from the tree that makes people live. That was because they would then always live in that bad state. So they would always continue to suffer terribly.
Verse 23 The *cherubim were God’s special servants that guarded *holy things and *holy places. Later, someone sewed a design onto the curtain that people put in the *Temple. In that design, there were pictures that showed *cherubim. When Jesus died, God tore that curtain into two pieces (Matthew 27:51). That action has a special meaning for us. It means that we can now come to God because of Jesus.
Adam and Eve had two sons, called Cain and Abel. God had promised in Genesis 3:15 that Eve’s *descendant would free people from the power of *sin. So perhaps Eve hoped that these *descendants would achieve this. If so, their lives would disappoint her. Cain, who was the first child ever to be born, became a murderer. And Abel, who tried to serve God, died at a very young age. Their lives show the effects of *sin.
The most important event in Cain’s and Abel’s lives happened when they decided to give a gift to God. After Adam and Eve *sinned, God killed an animal. Then, God used its skin as clothes, in order to cover Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). *Sin required a *sacrifice. Abel seemed to understand this principle. He realised that his own efforts could not please God. Something had to die. That is also why Jesus had to die for our *sins. Jesus is like the perfect *lamb of God (1 Peter 1:18-19). Nobody can please God by his or her own efforts. Instead, we must humbly confess our *sin to God. God forgives us because of Jesus.
But Cain did not realise that he needed to bring a *sacrifice. He chose some fruit as a gift to God. And Cain’s attitude was not humble. When God refused Cain’s gift, Cain was very angry. Cain did not try to find out his error. And he did not offer a *sacrifice. Instead, he felt very jealous. And that is why he killed Abel.
Cain’s *descendants were wicked people. They had many skills, but they refused to serve God. But Eve had another son. And his *descendants began to think about God again.
Verse 1 Adam ‘lay with his wife’. In the *Hebrew, it is ‘Adam knew his wife.’ The *Hebrew name ‘Adam’ is the same as the *Hebrew word for ‘the man’. The *Hebrew name for ‘Eve’ means ‘alive’.
In *Hebrew, people’s names had meanings. So did places’ names. The writers often ‘played’ with words. In the same sentence, they often used two words that sounded nearly the same.
The name ‘Cain’ means ‘produced’.
Verse 2 The name ‘Abel’ means ‘breath’, ‘with a short life’, or ‘without meaning’. Maybe this refers to Abel’s short life.
Verses 3-5 God wanted people to offer to him animals rather than fruit. Later, people *sacrificed animals to God. The animals’ death was like a description or picture for us. It shows us how Jesus would die. In that way, he would suffer the punishment for our *sins. Abel took trouble to give God the best gift that he could give. The first *lambs were usually the healthiest ones and they were usually the fattest ones.
But Cain’s gift was not the *sacrifice of an animal. He brought some fruit that he had produced on his farm. He thought that his own efforts were enough to please God.
God knew what Cain and Abel were thinking. God showed Cain that he did not accept Cain’s *offering. God showed Abel that he accepted Abel’s *lamb. But we do not know how God showed those facts to them.
Verse 7 The writer describes *sin as if it is a wild animal. That ‘animal’ was bending down low on the ground and it was waiting. It was ready to jump suddenly onto Cain. And then it would catch Cain and it would overcome him. In 1 Peter 5:8, Peter writes this: ‘The devil is your enemy. He is like a lion. A lion walks about and he makes a loud noise. He walks about because he is looking for someone to eat.’ God wanted Cain to do the right thing. Cain too could kill an animal as a *sacrifice to God. Then God would be pleased with Cain. But Cain refused to live in the way that God wanted him to live. Cain’s attitudes were still wrong.
Verse 8 An important *Hebrew text does not include the words, ‘Let us go out to the field.’ But many other *Hebrew texts have it. The story about Abel’s death is very brief. We realise how bad it was. Cain killed his own brother, Abel, because Abel was a good man. And, Cain killed him because Cain’s deeds were evil (1 John 3:12).
Verse 9 God had known where Adam and Eve were hiding. But God had asked where they were. Then they would be able to say that they were sorry. They should have been sorry because they had not obeyed God. Similarly, God asked Cain what he (Cain) had done. Then he could say that he was sorry. But Cain was not sorry and he lied. But God knows what we are really like. So we cannot lie to God.
Verses 10-14 God has made people in his image. It is very evil to kill another person. We must allow God to be the judge over people. Later, God told the *Israelites how to punish murderers. He gave exact rules to the *Israelites about that. The word ‘cries’ here is a very strong word in *Hebrew. It is like a man’s cry for food when he is starving. Or it is like a woman’s cry when someone is *raping her. Abel himself could not still cry aloud, because Cain had killed him. But now it was as if Abel’s blood was crying aloud instead of Abel. Blood means murder, which God hates. God hears his people’s desperate cries. Abel’s body had died. So God had not saved Abel from that. But God punished Cain because Cain had killed Abel.
Verses 15-16 ‘More than seven times’. We do not know what ‘seven times’ means here. Perhaps it just means ‘very much’. In the Bible, numbers often have special meanings. The number 7 means that something is complete.
We do not know what Cain’s mark was. The name ‘Cain’ is like the *Hebrew word for ‘shall receive punishment’. All Cain’s life, the mark reminded him about his *sin. And it reminded him also that God was still protecting him. By means of that mark, God warned other people not to hurt Cain.
We do not know how many people there were on earth. The family grew quickly.
‘Nod’ means that someone is ‘wandering’.
Verses 17-19 We do not know who Cain’s wife was. Adam and Eve may have had other children.
It is not clear whether Cain built a city. It is possible that his son Enoch built it. The word for ‘city’ might in fact mean a very small place.
Verses 20-22 Cain’s *descendants had great skills. But they opposed God. And Lamech himself was a very evil man.
Verse 23 Lamech was proud about his *sin. He had killed a young man (perhaps even a boy) because the boy had hurt him! In the *New Testament, Jesus told Peter how many times he (Peter) should forgive people. It was a very large number, ‘70 times 7’. Maybe Jesus was thinking about Lamech then.
Verse 25 ‘Seth’ means that someone had ‘given’ something. God had given Seth to Eve. In other words, Seth was born. God had not forgotten his promise. God had promised that someone from among Adam’s *descendants would save the earth’s people (Genesis 3:15).
Verse 26 People began to ‘call the *Lord’s name’. People began to think about God. That may mean that they prayed to him. It may mean that they talked about him. And they talked also about everything that he did. It may mean that they possibly called themselves ‘the *Lord’s people’.
This chapter is very important. Its writer tells us about people that really lived. That is why it is important. He tells us what some people were like at that time. These events really happened.
This chapter contrasts with Genesis 4:17-24. Chapter 4 contains a list of Cain’s *descendants. Cain’s *descendants had many skills, but they were very wicked. They became a very large family but they all died in the flood.
But Chapter 5 gives us a list of Adam’s *descendants by Seth. Among this large family were several people who really served God.
Especially, Enoch’s life interests us (verses 21-24). Enoch ‘walked with God’. This means that Enoch had a special relationship or friendship with God. In fact, his friendship was so special that God did not allow Enoch to die. Compare Elijah in 2 Kings 2:11-12.
Verse 1 The words in this verse show that it starts a new section in Genesis. (Look at Genesis 2:4; 6:9; 10:1.) It starts the account about Adam’s *descendants that came from his son Seth.
‘This is the account about Adam and his family.’ The *Hebrew text here actually means ‘the book about Adam’s family’.
Verses 3-32 It is possible that there are gaps in this account. A man in the list may have been the next person’s grandfather or *ancestor. He may not have been the actual father. However, it is likely that there are no gaps. That is because the writer gives exact ages. The earth might be a lot older than Genesis seems to show. Many people have that belief. However, scientists are not at all certain how old the earth is. It does not matter if days and years were a different length then. We know that God made the earth. And he made everything in it. If time was different then, it does not make God less wonderful. And it does not make man less wicked. We trust God.
At that time, people lived longer. Life was healthier. There were not so many illnesses.
Enoch (verse 18) and Lamech (verse 25) were also names of Cain’s *descendants.
In verse 22, Enoch ‘walked’ with God. The writer uses the same word here as when God was walking in Eden. You can read more about Enoch in Jude 14-15.
In verse 25, we read about ‘Methuselah’. We do not know what that name meant. Someone has said that it meant this: ‘When he dies, it will happen.’ (‘It’ here means the flood.) If so, Methuselah lived a long time because God gave extra time to wicked men. God gave them extra time so that they could change their behaviour. Also, the name may mean just ‘he dies’. That reminds us that we all die, even if we may live for a very long time.
In verse 29, Noah sounds like ‘rest’ in *Hebrew.
In verse 32, Noah’s sons were in fact born at different times.
God allowed the people who lived before the flood to have long lives. He wanted them to have sufficient time to change their attitudes. He wanted them to pray to him and to trust him again. But most people did not use their long lives to turn to God. And they did not become better people as they became older. In fact, people were becoming even more evil.
So God decided that he would not allow people to live so long. And he decided to punish wicked people wherever they lived. In verse 7, God’s plan was to destroy everything that he had made. But God saw that there were a few good people among the vast numbers of evil people.
Especially, God saw Noah. Noah was unlike other people. Noah ‘walked with God’ (verse 9), like Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and like Adam before he *sinned. So God could not destroy the entire world. He always does the right things (Genesis 18:25). And he will always save the people who trust him (2 Peter 3:11-13).
So God made a plan. He would still punish and kill the wicked people. But he would save the earth and he would allow some animals to live. God would separate the people who obeyed him from evil people. And God would save the people who trusted him. Noah would build a large boat, called the *ark. And Noah would protect his family, and each type of animal, in the boat.
Verse 2 We do not know who the ‘sons of God’ were. Some people think that the ‘sons of God’ were *angels or spirits. But another explanation is that they were *descendants of Seth. If that is the meaning, then the ‘daughters of men’ would be *descendants of Cain.
We do know this. The ‘sons of God’ were choosing wives for the wrong reason. They chose women that were pretty. But they needed to choose women that were good.
God’s people often have to behave in a different way from other people. This is because God’s people belong to God. Seth’s *descendants knew how to please God. They understood *sacrifice. They knew how to be friends of God. So they should not have associated with evil people.
Verse 3 My Spirit shall not ‘struggle with man’. The *Hebrew words here may have two different meanings. They can also mean ‘continue to stay in man’. However, we learn the same thing from both meanings. When God’s Spirit is in us, he struggles with our natural character. Our natural character is *sinful. We have it because we are human. ‘Do not upset God’s Holy Spirit’ (Ephesians 4:30).
‘120 years’. That may mean:
(1) that man would live only about 120 years instead of many hundred years; or
(2) that God would send the flood after 120 years.
But we learn the same thing from it anyway. God’s patience with man will end and God will bring judgement to all people. (‘Judgement’ means that he will bring punishment to those that have done wrong things. But God has provided ways to escape. God provided a way so that those people in the *ark could escape. Later, he gave Jesus to us. Because of Jesus, we can escape from God’s punishment.
Verse 4 ‘Nephilim’. They were giant people, who probably lived in an evil way.
Verse 5 The *Lord saw that there was nothing good in people. Even in their hearts, or minds, he could not find anything good.
Verse 6 God ‘was sorry’. But God did not wish that he had not made the earth. God loves people very much. But he is also *holy and he is completely fair. He was very sad to see how evil people had become. Their behaviour upset him deeply.
Verse 7 *Sin does not hurt only the person who *sins. At that time, it hurt the whole earth.
Verse 8 People were very evil. But Noah pleased God. And so, God made a special plan to save Noah.
Verse 9 Noah was not perfect. He was ‘*righteous’. That means that he really tried to obey God. A *righteous person is someone who loves God. Such a person cares about other people too. A *righteous person lives in this way even if he would suffer as a result. Because of these attitudes, Noah was different from everyone else who lived at that time.
Verse 11 God saw that people had done many wrong things. In that way, they spoilt their own lives. They refused to do the things that please God. And they chose to live wicked lives. So God would kill them.
Verse 14 ‘*Ark’. The *Hebrew word for ‘*ark’ here is the same one that the writer uses for Moses’ basket. (Look at Exodus 2:3, 5.) But that word does not appear anywhere else in the Bible. The *ark’s shape was more like a building than a boat. Noah did not make the *ark to sail regularly on the seas. It had a special purpose, and its shape was ideal for that purpose.
‘Gopher wood’. We are not sure what the word ‘gopher’ means. So we do not know exactly what that wood was.
‘Pitch’ is a sticky black stuff. It would help to protect the wood from water. The *Hebrew words for ‘pitch’ and ‘cover’ are similar to each other. Later, when Jesus died for us, he ‘covered’ our *sins by means of his death.
‘Inside and outside’. That may mean ‘completely’.
Make ‘rooms’ in the *ark. Here, where we have the word ‘rooms’, the original *Hebrew text has ‘nests’. Some people have said that its meaning might be this. There are tall grasses called reeds, which grow in shallow water. Many birds use these to make their nests. So it might mean that also Noah should use these plants, to make the *ark.
Noah lived many miles from the sea. He did not know how to build boats. Nobody had ever built a boat like this. People probably laughed at him. But God told him what to do.
Verse 15 A *cubit is a measurement that people used then. It is equal to 18 inches (about 45 centimetres).
Verse 18 I will make a ‘*covenant’ with you. In *Hebrew, that is the same word as for ‘testament’. (A testament is a text that a person writes. It shows who must receive that person’s property after the person’s death.) *Covenants were serious agreements between two people (or two nations). Each person (or nation) had to promise to do certain things. God promised to save Noah. But God would only do that if Noah went into the *ark.
Verse 22 Noah had to do a lot of difficult things. He did them all because God told him to.
God saved Noah and his family because Noah was *righteous. But the flood killed all the wicked people. This reminds us that God will be the judge of everyone. But God is not like a human judge. We cannot impress God by our efforts. And it does not matter whether we are rich or poor. But he will save us if, like Noah, we please him. We shall please him if we are *righteous. We do not become *righteous by our own efforts. We can only become *righteous because of what Jesus did for us. Jesus died to save us from the punishment for our *sins. So we must confess our *sins to God. And we must invite him into our lives.
God also rescued animals of all types. He arranged that they would come to Noah. The flood did not begin until they were all safely in the *ark.
This chapter does not mention the reaction of the people before they died in the flood. 2 Peter 2:5 shows that Noah warned them. But Jesus said that they were just carrying on their usual behaviour (Matthew 24:37-39). One day, they were eating and drinking. And they were merry. But then the flood came and God punished them. Jesus added that people will act in the same way before his return. They will continue their evil lives. But then Jesus will return. When he returns, he will be their judge. Jesus’ return gives hope to everyone who trusts him. But it will be a terrible event for everyone who opposes him.
Verse 1 The writer often reminds us that God gave commands to Noah. Also, the writer tells us that Noah obeyed God. Noah was good. (In other words, he was *righteous.) That does not mean that he was perfect. It means that he believed God. And it means that Noah obeyed God.
Verse 2 ‘Clean animals’. God gave strict rules about which animals people could *sacrifice. And he was strict about which animals they could eat. Those animals were called ‘clean animals’. But there were other animals that people must not *sacrifice. And they should not eat these animals. These animals were called ‘*unclean animals’.
Verse 4 ‘40 days and 40 nights’. That sometimes means just a long time. Here, however, it may mean the exact time. The writer gives many other exact details.
Verse 9 ‘Male and female’. Noah kept the animals as pairs. Everything was in order.
Verse 11 Water came from both the seas and the sky. In *Hebrew, the writer says that the windows in the sky opened. It was something more than normal rain.
Verse 16 The *Lord shut Noah in. The *Lord sometimes punishes, but he can also save people.
Verse 20 The waters of the flood were so very deep that they covered everything on the earth. Nothing stayed above the water except the *ark. And only those who were inside the *ark stayed alive after the flood.
This is a beautiful chapter. The terrible flood had destroyed the world that Noah knew. And Noah’s *ark (boat) was floating on the water. Noah might have been afraid. But this is not a story of despair. It is a story of hope. God had not forgotten the *ark and its inhabitants. God remembered Noah. And Noah trusted God.
At last, the rain stopped. And slowly, the level of the water went down. First, Noah felt that the *ark’s movement stopped. After some time, Noah could see the tops of the mountains. The mountains seemed bare, without any plants. But then plants started to grow again. It was as if God was creating a new world.
Each week, Noah carefully recorded the progress of the waters. He sent out birds so that he would know the situation. At last, God told Noah to leave the *ark. God would be kind to Noah and his family. And God would be kind to the animals and birds that left the *ark. They were few in number. But their numbers would increase.
Noah was grateful to God. Although there were only a few animals, Noah gave some animals as *sacrifices to God.
Noah wanted to please God, like Abel in Genesis 4:4. And God was pleased with Noah. God knew that people were still *sinful (Genesis 8:21). God’s plan was that Jesus would die in order to forgive their *sins. But God made a promise to Noah. God promised to protect the earth. He will make sure that seasons and days continue. And this promise lasts until the end of the world.
Verse 1 ‘Remembered Noah’ means ‘took care of Noah’. Many things in this story remind us about God’s *creation. Before God created the earth, God’s Spirit moved gently over the water. And here God made a wind blow over the water. In *Hebrew, the same word means both ‘spirit’ and ‘wind’. In *creation, God had gathered waters together above the earth. He had gathered waters together in the seas. And here, after the flood, God collected water together again.
Verse 3 The writer of this story tells us the days when things happened. He tells us how long things took. He often tells us that the water was going down. That reminds us that there was a lot of water. It was a very big flood.
Verse 5 The waters were going down all the time. But at first, Noah could not see this. Noah was only able to see this after several weeks passed. God does things to help us. But he is often doing them for a long time before we know it.
Verse 7 A raven is a fairly large black bird. It can fly for a long time before it gets tired. One raven went out and it did not come back. We believe that the first raven lived outside until its companion came out later.
Ravens eat meat from dead animals. Many animals died in the flood. So, there was plenty of food for the raven.
Verse 8 Noah probably waited seven days before he sent out the *dove. He did wait 7 more days before he sent it out again. The writer says that in verse 10.
Unlike ravens, *doves do not eat meat from dead animals. *Doves need plants. So we can see that the plants had not yet grown.
Verse 9 In the original *Hebrew story, some words sound like the name ‘Noah’. Those are the words for ‘*dove’ and ‘place to rest’. Noah had so many *creatures to look after. But even so, he still cared about the *dove.
Verse 10 Noah may have considered the 7th day in a week as special. There is some evidence for that. He sent the birds out at certain times. The interval between those times was 7 days. An *olive tree has a special meaning. If something is ‘like an *olive tree’, that thing is beautiful and *fruitful. We can read in the Bible that Israel will be ‘like an *olive tree’ (Hosea 14:6).
It seems that this *olive tree did not die during the flood. And now it was growing again.
Verse 14 The earth had to be dry enough for all the *creatures to live there. Noah had to make sure that it was dry enough.
Verse 17 When God created everything, he also gave this command. He said that *creatures should have large families. And they should grow in number. It was very necessary at that time, when only a few *creatures were living on the earth. And when God created people, he said the same thing to them. But today the situation is different. God allows some people to have large families. But this is not God’s plan for everyone. Today, very many people live on the earth.
Verse 20 The writer does not tell us that Noah built *altars before the flood. And he does not tell us that Noah *sacrificed animals then. But Noah had probably done those things already. He did them immediately after he came out from the *ark. He knew which animals he should *sacrifice to please the *Lord. In other religions, too, there are stories about a flood. Some things in those stories are the same as they are in Genesis. But the important things are very different. We can read these things in Genesis only. There is one God, who has power over everything. He is good and he is a fair judge. And he loves people. Noah, the man that stayed alive after the flood, was a good man. He obeyed God. Only the writer of the Book of Genesis tells us about those things.
Verse 21 It seemed like a new world. But people were still evil. Everybody does evil things. Only God can forgive us, because of Jesus. See Romans 3:23-24.
Verse 22 God gave a wonderful promise. Because Noah obeyed God, God changed the world.
God is perfect. But people often do wrong things.
God’s *covenant (agreement) with Noah reminds us about the wrong things that we do. It is not like God’s words to the first people in Genesis 1:28-30. God spoke those words before people *sinned. And he only promised good things then.
But God made the *covenant with Noah after people had *sinned. This *covenant promised many good things to people. But God also warned people in the *covenant. He spoke about murder. He warned people that they would be responsible for their evil behaviour. And he warned them that God would punish them for their evil deeds.
People would be evil. But God is kind. He promised never again to flood the whole world. And he used the rainbow to remind people about this promise.
Noah was a great servant of God. And Noah was a *righteous man. But Noah was not perfect. He did something that was very wrong. He drank too much wine. His son, called Ham, saw him. And Ham gossiped. This was terrible behaviour. He did not respect his father, although his father was a great servant of God. When Noah awoke, he spoke words about the future of his three sons. Noah spoke these words by the Holy Spirit, because Noah was a servant of God. Ham’s family would suffer because of Ham’s *sin. But Noah *blessed his other sons.
Verse 1 ‘Have very many children and *descendants.’ God said that also when he made people in the beginning. And he said the same words in *Hebrew when he made *creatures. Those words mean ‘have large families’. But they also mean ‘be useful’ and ‘be helpful’. They mean, ‘Be other people’s servant. Do not expect other people to serve you.’
Verse 2 Here, God seems to give to people more power over the *creatures. That is, more power than he gave earlier to Adam and Eve.
Verse 3 Here, God permits people to eat meat as well as vegetables and fruit.
Verse 4 God did not allow people to kill other people. If they did kill other people, they would be punished. He did not allow people to eat meat with blood in it. In that way, he reminded them that life is important. Life is ‘*holy’. God has made us like an image of himself. So we must not kill other people.
Verses 5-7 God’s punishment was fair. If there was a murder, people should kill the murderer only. In many places, families might fight each other because somebody had murdered someone from the other family. And they might kill each other because of that. Such a situation might continue for a very long time. But God did not say that that should happen.
Verses 8-11 God had made an agreement (*covenant) with Noah before the flood. He told Noah about it again here, because it was very important. God included all *creatures in the agreement. People must take care of God’s earth and God’s *creatures.
Verses 12-17 This does not mean that there were no rainbows before. But rainbows now have a new meaning. God’s agreement was with all the people and animals in the entire world. And the rainbow was a sign of that agreement.
Verse 20 ‘A man that worked on the land’. Noah was the master of the earth. After the flood, he became a farmer. He grew grapes (small, sweet fruit) that he made into *wine.
Verse 21 The writer does not hide from us the fact that Noah was not perfect. When he was naked like that, he was not giving honour to God. We can read in the Bible that *wine can be pleasant (Psalm 104:15). But we can see here that too much *wine is not good.
Verse 22 People should respect their parents. Ham should have covered his father. Then Ham should have said nothing. But he gossiped to his brothers. It is not certain whether Ham’s son Canaan *sinned too. It was Canaan that suffered as a result. God would later promise to bring his people (Shem’s *descendants) to a new country that was also called Canaan. The *Canaanites, the people that would live there first, would be Canaan’s *descendants. And they would be very wicked. Some people think that Ham did not just look at his father. They think that Ham did something worse than that. Some people think that he had some sort of sex with his father. But it is not necessary to think that. Ham did not respect his father, and in that way Ham *sinned.
Verse 23 Shem and Japheth respected their father. They were careful to look away from him as they covered him. A ‘cloak’ was a large piece of warm cloth. People wore it on top of other clothes during the day. And they used it as a blanket at night.
Verses 24-25 Noah spoke about the future of his sons by the power of the Holy Spirit. So, this was not just Noah’s idea. This was a message from God. We do not know when Ham’s *descendants became his two brothers’ slaves. But we do know that Canaan’s *descendants became very evil. In fact, they were so evil that God gave their land to Abraham’s *descendants. And God helped Abraham’s *descendants to overcome Canaan’s *descendants. (See the Book of Joshua.)
Verse 26 One would expect Noah to say ‘I *bless Shem, the *Lord’s man.’ It is not usual to ‘*bless the *Lord of a person’. But it might mean that Shem was the son that God *blessed in particular. And Noah was *blessing God especially because he (God) was Shem’s God. Shem’s *descendants were the people that God chose specially for himself. Abraham and his *descendants (Israel) were among Shem’s *descendants.
Verse 27 Let God ‘make Japheth increase’. The *Hebrew word for ‘Let him make bigger’ sounds like the name Japheth. It does not mean that Japheth would get fat! It means ‘Let Japheth’s *descendants increase in number and let them be more powerful.’ It is not clear what Noah was praying. Maybe he prayed that God would ‘live in Shem’s tents’. Or maybe he prayed that Japheth would live in them. God did actually ‘live in the tents’ of Shem’s *descendants (Israel). That was because God chose that nation for himself. But this seems to be a peculiar *blessing for Japheth. Probably Noah was saying that Japheth would live in Shem’s tents. But we cannot discover when this happened. Many people have suggested different times. This is one possible meaning. People that were not *Jews would live together with *Jews. That would happen by means of what Jesus did. (See Ephesians 2:11-19.) Noah repeated his words about Canaan again. That showed how important they were.
Verses 28-29 Noah lived a long life. God would not allow people in the future to live such long lives.
A new part of Genesis starts here. People’s life on the earth was starting again after the flood.
The actual names are not very important to us. But they do show that this account is true. These people were real. They actually lived. The account shows how quickly new families were born. And it shows how quickly they grew up. Some names here are probably places’ names rather than people’s names. People did not stay close together. They moved to new places and they became many nations.
In this list here, we read that Japheth had 7 sons and 7 grandsons. Cush’s sons and grandsons together were 7 in total. (That does not include Cush’s other son Nimrod, whom the writer talks about separately.) The writer mentions 70 nations as *descendants of Noah’s sons. People often used the number 70 to mean a large number. And 7 was a ‘special’ number too.
The writer begins with Japheth’s sons and grandsons. Their names show us that their families moved north, towards Europe. And they moved round the sea called the Mediterranean.
Ham’s family moved towards the south and into North Africa. Canaan was the original name of the country that became Israel. So Canaan’s *descendants are important to the history in the Bible. But Ham’s *descendants lived across a much larger area.
Nimrod’s *descendants were especially powerful. Babylon would become the greatest city in the world for a short time. And Nineveh was also a very powerful city.
Verse 12 mentions ‘the great city’. It is not clear whether that means Nineveh or Calah. It seems as if it is Calah. But in the Book of Jonah, Nineveh is called a ‘great city’.
Shem’s family comes last in this chapter, although his name comes first in verse 1. We do not know why that is so. Perhaps it is because the Book of Genesis continues with the story of Shem’s *descendants.
Many of Shem’s *descendants moved east. But this list also contains the names of places that are elsewhere.
All the people spoke the same language because they were all Noah’s *descendants. And they wanted to live together. They were proud. They wanted to be more powerful. So they built a great city.
But God had not told people to live together. He told them to move across the world (Genesis 9:1) so that the whole world would have inhabitants. So the people were not obeying God’s commands. In fact, they were trying to oppose God.
God did not allow them to continue the construction of that city. He confused their languages and he ended their unity. They could not talk with each other. So they had to move to different places.
The chapter continues with the story of Shem’s family. People’s lives began to be shorter now. At last, the writer mentions Abram. Abram was different from other people because Abram believed God. This fact may not seem important when we have discussed the history of the whole world. But, for the writer of the Book of Genesis, this fact was vital. The Book of Genesis always concentrates on the lives of people who please God. Already, we have read about Abel, Enoch and Noah. And Abram would join the list of men who pleased God. Their lives had a vast effect on the relationship between people and God. God said that all the people in the world would receive a *blessing by means of Abram (Genesis 12:3).
Verse 2 People moved ‘to the east’. Or that may mean ‘in the east’. Earlier, the *Lord sent Cain away. And then Cain too went towards the east.
Verse 3 ‘Bitumen’ is a black stuff that people get from the ground. At that time, people started to use it like cement. They stuck bricks together with it. Today, people use it as a surface for roads.
Verse 4 The people did not ask what the *Lord wanted. They wanted to build for themselves. They were not building this city in order to bring honour to God. They wanted to be famous themselves.
Verse 5 The *Lord showed how great he is. People thought that they could reach up to the sky. They thought that God was in the sky. But God came down to the earth to see their *tower. When we compare the *tower with God, it was very small. And it was not very important, because God is so great. It is God who makes people great. We cannot make ourselves great in God’s opinion. People think that they are great and powerful. But God is in control. He confused their language and he scattered them. So, he stopped the people before they could become more evil. He stopped them before they could make more trouble.
The writer has told the story about the *tower in Babel in very easy language. He uses many words that sound like other words. Some parts of God’s reply sound very like the people’s speech. But God’s reply means something very different. After Adam and Eve had *sinned, they could not talk with God as easily as before. Now, people could not talk to each other easily.
Verse 9 ‘Babel’ means ‘confused’.
Verses 10-26 ‘The history of Shem’s family’. People’s exact ages here are not clear, but that is not very important. This history of Shem’s family may not be complete. Some people may be grandsons rather than sons. Again, it is important to see that this is a story about real people. We can compare it with the account about Adam’s family. (Look at Genesis chapter 5.) We can see that the people in Shem’s family were younger when they had children. And they did not live as long. In Genesis 6:3, God said that he would place a limit on the length of people’s lives.
In verse 26, Abram, Nahor and Haran were born at different times.
Here, the story about Abram begins. Abram was the father of the family that God chose specially. Abram’s brother was called Haran. And also the place where Terah stayed to live was called Haran.
Genesis 11:27 to 12:9 These verses are very important. They show how God was making his plan happen for people. He chose Abram’s family as his special family. Then he chose the nation of the *Jews. Then he did something special for all nations. God was a friend to Abram. And God made special promises to Abram and his family. Here we also read about the country that the *Lord promised to Abram.
Verse 27 Haran was probably Terah’s oldest son. It seems that Abram was looking after Lot.
Verse 29 Sarai was Abram’s half-sister (Genesis 20:12). In other words, Sarai and Abram had the same father (Terah), but Sarai’s mother was not Abram’s mother. Later, God forbade men to marry a half-sister. Nahor married his brother’s daughter. God never forbade that.
Verse 30 At that time, if a woman had no children, she was very sad. And sometimes people thought that the woman should be ashamed because of that. God sometimes made women be without children because they had *sinned (Genesis 20:18). However, there are also several women like Sarai, Hannah and Elizabeth in the Bible. They did not have any children for a long time, but God *blessed them.
Verse 32 Abram probably left Haran many years before Terah died. Terah was not a part of God’s plan for Abram and his *descendants. For that reason, the writer tells us that Terah died in Haran.
God had a wonderful plan for Abram and his *descendants. So, God told Abram to leave his home and his father’s family. Abram did not know where he was going. But he trusted God. So, Abram set out on his journey.
God promised that Abram’s *descendants would become a great nation. Abram did not know how this could happen. His wife, Sarai, had no children. But Abram trusted that God could make this happen.
God also promised that Abram, by his *descendant, would *bless everyone in the world. This was a great promise. Again, Abram did not realise how this would happen. But perhaps he knew about God’s promise to Eve in Genesis 3:15. Today, of course, we know about Jesus. He died so that God would forgive our *sin. Because of Jesus, everyone who trusts him becomes a friend of God. But Abram did not know about such things. He just heard God’s promise. He trusted God. So he obeyed God.
But Abram was not a perfect man. He did not always trust God completely. Soon, there would not be enough food. Abram did not stay in the place where God had taken him. Instead, he went elsewhere. And there was trouble for Abram in that other place, because Abram was not completely honest. It seems that he preferred to trust his own clever ideas. Instead, he should have continued to trust God.
Verse 1 The *Hebrew word here for ‘nation’ is the one that the *Jews used for the Gentile nations. (That is, all the nations that were not *Jews.) So, the word meant a large group of people that had a government and a country. It was not just a ‘*tribe’ that spoke the same language.
God chose Abram. And God called Abram to leave his home. Abram did not know where he was going (Hebrews 11:9). But he still trusted God.
Verses 2-3 Only God can make someone’s name great. The men at Babel tried to make themselves great, but they failed. The *Hebrew words here are words that could describe a king. Later, Abram was called a prince. And Sarai was called ‘the mother of kings’. Abram was not really a king or a prince. But he became an important man. And kings would be among his *descendants.
Abram could only give a *blessing to other people if he left Haran. God *blessed him so that he (Abram) could *bless other people.
God’s *blessing is for all. It is not just for the *Israelites. Later, Laban said to Jacob, ‘God has *blessed me because of you’ (Genesis 30:27). God *blessed the *household of Potiphar the *Egyptian because of Joseph (Genesis 39:5). The people in Egypt got food during the *famine because of Joseph. It was not only Jacob and his family that got food.
This promise was not just for Abram. It was also for his *descendants, called the *Israelites. Balaam repeated this promise when he was speaking about the *Israelites in Numbers 24:9. But especially, this promise was about Abram’s greatest *descendant (Galatians 3:16). The Bible has already spoken about this *descendant in Genesis 3:15. This *descendant would destroy the power of *sin and of the devil. This *descendant is Jesus (Matthew 1:1). And, by his death, Jesus frees people so that they become the sons of God (Galatians 4:4-7). And this *blessing, that we receive by means of Jesus, is for people from all nations (Ephesians 2:11-13).
Verses 4-5 Abram left home. God guided him. And Abram arrived at the country called Canaan.
Verse 7 Abram built an *altar for God’s honour. But some *ancestors of Abram had built a city or *tower for their own honour! Abram built the *altar and he prayed to God. His *worship included work as well as words.
Verses 8-9 Abram continued to travel through the land that God was giving to him. And Abram was grateful. He built another *altar.
Verses 10-20 Abram left the country that God had promised to him. Abram went to Egypt because he needed food. God would have taken care of Abram where he was. But Abram could not believe that.
We remember Abram because, especially, he trusted God. But Abram had to learn how to trust God. And Abram made some serious mistakes as he learned.
Verse 10 The country called Canaan did not have regular rain. Often, there was not enough food there. Egypt was flatter and the River Nile provided water.
Later, the *Israelites went to Egypt because there was not enough food in Canaan (Genesis 47:4). So, perhaps people in Canaan often had to go to Egypt in order to buy food.
Verses 11-13 Abram thought that he needed to lie in order to protect himself. We can see that Abram was not trusting God. Abram’s story was partly true. Sarai and Abram had the same father but different mothers. But Abram was pretending that Sarai and Abram were not married. So the story was still a lie.
Verses 14-15 Abram was right. Sarai was attractive. *Pharaoh believed that Sarai was Abram’s sister. So, *Pharaoh took her as a wife (verse 19).
Abram got rich because of this situation, but *Pharaoh suffered from plagues. (Plagues are very bad things that affect very many people. They include diseases and large quantities of insects.) In that way, God showed that he punishes *sinners. They may not know that they are *sinning. But even then, God punishes them. *Pharaoh knew that *adultery was wrong. He saw that God was *blessing Abram.
Abram had travelled with his nephew, called Lot. Like Abram, Lot was a *righteous man (2 Peter 2:7-8). So, Lot wanted to do the right things. But there was a problem with Lot’s character. Wealth tempted Lot. In time, it became too difficult for Abram and Lot to live together. Lot wanted to live in a place where he could become more wealthy. He did not seem to care that he would be living near wicked men. Their deeds would upset Lot greatly. But Lot still chose to live with them.
Lot’s attitudes were like the attitudes of many Christians today. They are glad to be Christians. And the wicked behaviour of other people upsets them. But those Christians allow wealth to tempt them. They may even do things that they should not do, because of money. They themselves are not evil people. But their wrong attitudes cause them many troubles. And they cannot trust God completely because of their wrong ambitions.
Abram was different. He did not care about wealth. He knew that God had led him to Canaan. And he knew that God had given his (Abram’s) wealth to him. So, Abram allowed Lot to choose whatever land he (Lot) wanted. And Abram was confident, because he trusted God. God would give to Abram whatever land Abram needed.
Afterwards, God repeated his promise to Abram. God promised Abram the country in which Abram was now living. Abram was in the right place. This was the country that God had chosen for Abram and his *descendants.
Verse 2 Abram was ‘very’ rich. And the *famine had been ‘very’ bad (Genesis 12:10). In both those cases, the writer uses the same word for ‘very’.
Verse 3 Abram was eager to return to the country that God had promised to him. And he was eager to keep in close friendship with God.
Verse 6 Abram had received more animals from *Pharaoh. All Abram's animals needed grass to eat. So he needed more land for the animals.
Verse 8 Abram said that the men should not quarrel. Close relatives should not quarrel. He said that they should separate. Then they would be friendly again. They must not live near to each other, because that caused them to quarrel.
Verse 9 Abram was generous and he let Lot choose first.
Verse 12 From this verse, we get the idea that Lot was willing to live outside Canaan. Lot was selfish. He chose the place that he liked best. He thought that it was the best place to live. But the reasons for his decision were wrong. People must respect older people and parents. Abram was older than Lot. And Abram cared about Lot. In Sodom, Lot would live near wicked people. But Lot did not worry about that.
Lot put up tents close to Sodom so that his animals could eat grass in that area.
Verse 13 The writer gives us some idea about the trouble that the wicked people in Sodom would cause.
Verses 14-15 God told Abram more about his (God’s) promise. All the land that Abram could see would become his (Abram’s) country. God would give it to Abram himself. God would not give it just to Abram’s *descendants. God said that it would always belong to Abram.
Verses 16-17 Abram’s *descendants would be so many that nobody would be able to count them. God will *bless us when we trust him completely. Abram walked through the country. He was showing that one day he would own the country.
Verse 18 Abram built another *altar for the *Lord’s honour. Abram wanted to thank God for his goodness.
Many *tribes lived in the area. Each *tribe had its own chief man or king. Those kings sometimes came together to help each other. They came together because they wanted to fight against a more powerful *tribe. Or they wanted to defeat a smaller *tribe and then they would have power over that *tribe. Then the smaller *tribe that they had defeated had to pay regular taxes to them. Or that *tribe had to serve them.
At first, Abram did not join in with these battles. But then one side attacked Sodom, where Lot lived. That side overcame the men from Sodom. So, the people from Sodom, including Lot, became prisoners. Lot was Abram’s nephew. So, Abram decided that he would rescue Lot. Abram was not a king and he did not have an army. Abram was a farmer. But he was wealthy. He had many employees and many slaves. These men were strong men and they would fight for Abram. Abram also had three important friends, called Aner, Eshcol and Mamre. They too were willing to fight for Abram.
Abram attacked by night, and he was very successful. He managed to rescue all the people from Sodom, including Lot. And he also took back all their possessions. Abram could have kept these possessions. But he did not want to. These possessions belonged to wicked men. Abram trusted God. So, Abram did not want wicked men to make him rich.
As Abram returned, he met a king called Melchizedek. Like Abram, Melchizedek *worshipped the real God. In fact, Melchizedek was a priest of God. Hebrews chapter 7 explains the importance of this. Jesus was a priest like Melchizedek. Unlike other priests, Melchizedek did not become a priest because of his family. And Hebrews 7:7 even says that Melchizedek was a greater person than Abram. The Bible only mentions Melchizedek briefly. But we can learn many things about Jesus from the story of Melchizedek.
Verses 1-12 The 4 kings (Chedorlaomer and his friends) set out on their journey, with their armies. Along the way, they defeated several *tribes that lived in Canaan.
Then, those 4 kings defeated the 5 kings from the area round the Salt Sea (also called the Dead Sea). These 5 kings were Bera the king of Sodom, with his friends. Each king had brought an army with him.
(In the end, Abram would come and he would defeat Chedorlaomer.)
Verses 3, 8 and 10 The 4 kings fought against the 5 kings in the valley called Siddim. Later, the Salt Sea (Dead Sea) flooded that valley. So, after that, the valley was under water.
Verse 10 ‘Some men fell into the big holes.’ This has two possible meanings. Maybe the king of Sodom and his men hid in the holes. Or maybe some men fell into them and they died. The king of Sodom escaped.
Verses 11-12 We already know that Lot was Abram’s nephew. But the writer tells us that fact again here. Abram rescued Lot because Lot was Abram’s nephew.
Verse 13 In the Bible, this is the only time when Abram was called the ‘*Hebrew’. Usually, people that called *Israelites ‘*Hebrews’ were not *Israelites themselves.
Verses 14-16 Abram defeated Chedorlaomer and Abram rescued the prisoners. Then they all saw that Abram was very powerful.
Verse 15 Abram attacked the kings at night. So he was able to win, although he had fewer men.
Verse 18 The name Melchizedek comes from the *Hebrew words ‘malki’ and ‘tsedeq’. ‘Malki’ means ‘my king’ and ‘tsedeq’ means ‘*righteous’. So Melchizedek means ‘my king is *righteous’ or ‘king of everything *righteous’ (Hebrews 7:2). ‘Salem’ means peace. It is possible that Salem is the same city as Jerusalem. But usually, when people wanted to make a name shorter, they cut off the end of the name. They did not usually cut off its beginning. Melchizedek is the first priest that the writer mentions in Genesis. Melchizedek *worshipped God, as Abram did. The same person was not usually both a king and a priest. But Melchizedek was both.
Verse 19 Melchizedek *blessed Abram. Melchizedek did not merely pray that God would be kind to Abram. Melchizedek spoke these words as a priest. In other words, he was speaking by God’s Holy Spirit. And Melchizedek’s words reminded Abram about the words that God had spoken to him (Genesis 12:2-3; Genesis 13:14-17).
Verse 20 Abram wanted to show honour to Melchizedek. So Abram gave him a special gift.
Verse 21 Abram won the right to take the people and their possessions. The king of Sodom realised this. So he offered the possessions to Abram. The king of Sodom would allow Abram to keep the possessions, if Abram returned the people to Sodom.
Verses 22-24 Abram did not agree to keep the possessions. He remembered that he had a duty to serve God. The possessions from Sodom could make Abram very rich. But now Abram did not want anyone except God to make him (Abram) rich. Abram certainly did not want to accept any gift from the wicked people from Sodom. Later, God could not find any good people in Sodom, except Lot.
However, Abram was fair to the men who fought with him. He allowed them a share of the objects that they had won.
This chapter shows again that God was helping Abram. Abram knew that God made him successful. Abram had only a small group of men. But with them, he was able to defeat large, powerful armies that had defeated many other armies.
Abram trusted God. And this attitude guided the decisions that Abram made.
Abram left his father’s family because Abram trusted God. Abram did not even know where God was sending him. Later, Abram refused any reward from the king of Sodom (Genesis 14:21-24). Abram did not want an evil man to make him rich.
And so, God spoke to Abram again. God himself would be Abram’s reward (verse 1). Or, the same words may mean that God would give a great reward to Abram. And so, Abram prayed for a son. This prayer was not a selfish prayer. God had already promised that Abram’s family would become a great nation (Genesis 12:2). And God would *bless people from all nations by means of Abram’s special *descendant (Genesis 12:3). So, Abram’s prayer in verses 2-3 was that God’s promise would happen. God repeated his promises in verses 4-5. But Abram still had to trust God. Abram was already old, but he had no children yet.
Then God also promised the country called Canaan (later called Israel) to Abram’s *descendants. Abram was already living there. But Abram’s *descendants would not rule the country soon. They would have to wait for 400 years until the time that God had chosen. And those 400 years would end with an awful time. Abram’s *descendants would become slaves. And the inhabitants of Canaan would become very wicked. But God had a plan. And he would do everything that he promised.
Verse 1 ‘After that’ may mean some time later, rather than immediately. Abram had refused a reward from the King of Sodom. God promised Abram a much greater reward.
Verses 2-3 The *Hebrew text here is difficult. A servant could *inherit goods if his owner had no children. That was a custom. Such a servant was usually young. His master would adopt him as a son.
We do not know anything about Eliezer. But perhaps he is the same man as Abram’s chief servant in chapter 24. If so, Eliezer was very loyal to his master.
Verse 4 It was not God’s plan that Eliezer would *inherit. God wanted to *bless people from every nation by means of Abram. God’s plan was that Jesus would be one of Abram’s *descendants.
Verse 5 God promised that Abram would have his own child, grandchildren, many great-grandchildren and so on.
Verse 6 Abram was not perfect, but he believed God. So God *judged him as not *sinful. We should believe that Jesus died for us. Then God will *judge us as not *sinful (Romans chapter 4).
This is a very important verse. We cannot please God because of our own efforts. We can only please God if we trust him. Paul repeats this verse in Galatians 3:6. And Hebrews 11:8-9 explains how Abram trusted God.
Verse 7 This verse is like Genesis 28:13 and Exodus 3:6. God showed Abram who God himself really is. God is always the only real God. There is no other real God. It was the same God who called Abram. It was the same God who guided Abram to the country called Canaan. And it was the same God who was making these promises to Abram. So, Abram could continue to trust God.
Verses 8-11 This was a special ceremony called the *covenant. Enemies used to make a *covenant at the end of a war. Each side made serious promises. They killed animals. But Abram’s *covenant was different. He did not make this *covenant with another man. Abram’s *covenant was with God.
Verse 12 Abram was a friend of God. So, God told Abram about his plans (Genesis 18:17-19). God’s plans for Abram’s family were good, but there would be many terrible troubles. Abram waited for God to speak.
Verses 13-16 God told Abram that his *descendants would be slaves in Egypt for 400 years. The time that the writer meant was ‘about’ 400 years rather than exactly 400 years.
In the Book of Exodus, you can read about the events that God described. All these events actually happened. In the end, God used Moses to free his people. God led them back to the country called Canaan. And God gave them success in war. (See the Book of Joshua.) So God gave the country to Abram’s *descendants. These things happened as God had said.
Verse 17 When two people made a *covenant, they usually cut an animal into two halves. Then they walked between the halves. Here, only the pot and the burning object went between the halves. Abram did not. God alone made the *covenant. The pot and the burning object (with smoke and fire) showed that God was present. God often showed that he was present by means of smoke and fire.
Verses 18-21 This *covenant is different from later *covenants. In the later ones, someone on each side made promises. But in this one, only God made promises. Abram did not make any promises. Abram just had to trust God. God would do everything else.
In Genesis chapters 12 to 15:
· We can call Abram a *prophet because he had messages from God.
· We can call Abram a priest because he built *altars. And he offered *sacrifices on them.
· We can call Abram a king because he went to war like a king.
God had promised a son to Abram. But Sarai, Abram’s wife, thought that she was too old to have a baby. So, she suggested that Abram should have a baby with Hagar. Hagar was a slave who worked as Sarai’s maid.
Sarai’s idea was a natural solution to Abram’s problem. But it was not God’s solution. God wanted Abram to continue to trust him. God’s plan was that Sarai would be the mother of Abram’s son. And God wanted that son to be born as the result of God’s promise (Galatians 4:23).
There was an important reason for God’s plan. God’s promise was not merely to any son of Abram. It was to Abram’s special *descendant, who is Christ (Galatians 3:16). And, by means of Christ, Christians become the sons of God (Galatians 4:6). But nobody can please God by his or her own natural efforts. So, nobody can become a real Christian by natural methods. We have to trust God to become Christians. Then we shall receive the things that God has promised.
Abram too needed to learn to trust God. Abram made many mistakes. But, when Abram trusted God, Abram pleased God. And then God gave to Abram the things that he (God) had promised.
God still cared about Abram’s first son, although that son was born in the natural way. That son was called Ishmael, and his mother was Hagar. God even made promises about Ishmael. And Abram also cared about Ishmael. But Ishmael’s behaviour would cause trouble for Abram (Genesis 21:8-11). Abram had to send Ishmael away in order to protect Abram’s second son, called Isaac. Isaac was the son whom God had promised to Abram (Galatians 4:29-30).
Verse 1 From this verse, we learn what the chapter is about. At that time, Sarai had no children. But God had promised children to her a long time before. Hagar was a slave. *Pharaoh probably gave her to Abram when Abram and Sarai left Egypt.
Verses 2-6 Sarai gave orders to both Abram and Hagar.
Sometimes when people had no children, it would be a punishment from God. But that was not so here.
People considered that it was very important to have children. So, wives without children thought that they had failed. At that time, it was common for a maid to have children for her female boss. Therefore Sarai suggested that Hagar should have Abram’s child. It may seem as if she was right to do that. However, we think that she was wrong. God had promised a son to Abram and Sarai. So they could have trusted God to carry out his promise. He knew the best time for it, and he would do it then.
Verse 2 Abram listened to his wife. So, Sarai took Hagar and she gave Hagar to Abram, Sarai’s husband. At that time, people did not think that a man should have only one wife.
These events happened 10 years after they came to Canaan. So God had shown that he had carried out his promise to give them a country. But still God had not yet carried out his promise to give *descendants. (Look at Genesis 15:2.)
Verse 4 When Hagar got *pregnant, Sarai’s plan seemed successful. But there was trouble. Sarai became jealous of Hagar. Hagar had become *pregnant, but Sarai had not. And Hagar’s attitudes were also wrong. She should have been grateful for the opportunity that Sarai had given her.
Verse 5 Sarai blamed Abram. And she also blamed Hagar because Hagar had become proud. Sarai almost *cursed Abram. The *Hebrew text has ‘Let the *Lord *judge between you and me.’ We would say ‘It is your fault that I am unhappy.’
Verse 6 Abram did not try to make things right. He did not tell Sarai that her attitude was wrong. Instead, he told Sarai to act as she wanted towards Hagar.
But Abram should have protected Hagar because she was like his wife. And she would soon become the mother of his son.
Sarai was cruel to Hagar. So, Hagar ran away.
Hagar ‘ran away’. The writer used the same *Hebrew word when the *Israelites ran away from Egypt.
Verse 7 The writers in the *Old Testament mention ‘the *angel of the *Lord’ 58 times. And they mention the ‘*angel of God’ 11 times. The *angels appear as men, but people know them later as *angels. Some people think that God himself appeared here. Hagar was on her way to Egypt.
Verse 8 The *angel called Hagar by her name and he also called her Sarai’s maid. God knew where Hagar had come from. Similarly in Genesis 3:9, he knew where Adam was. And in Genesis 4:9, he knew what Cain had done to Abel. Hagar was honest. So she said that she had run away.
Verses 9-10 Three times we read that the *angel of the *Lord spoke to Hagar. It shows that God really cared about Hagar. Everything that he said was really important. God was sending her back to Sarai. That would be difficult for Hagar. She needed to receive confidence from God that it was right. God’s promise about many *descendants would encourage her. This was a wonderful promise for a woman who was just a slave.
Verse 11 The *angel promised a son to Hagar. The son would be called Ishmael. That name means ‘God hears’. God had heard Hagar. God did not promise that Hagar would have relief from difficulties. But Hagar knew that God would be with her in the difficulties.
Verse 12 Ishmael would have a tendency to make war. He would not behave in the way that other people expected him to behave. He would be a wanderer. He would do whatever he wanted.
Verse 13 Hagar recognised that it was an *angel. When she realised that, the *angel disappeared. Hagar said, ‘You are God, who sees me.’ She knew that God cared about her.
Verse 14 The well is always there. Whenever people see it, they can remember God’s care. That was also true when people saw Ishmael.
Verse 15 Hagar had a baby called Ishmael for Abram. Abram named him. Maybe Abram was protecting Hagar in that way. The writer does not mention Sarai here, although Sarai intended Ishmael to be her son.
Verse 16 God can take a very long time to carry out his promises. Abram’s age here makes us remember that.
This chapter shows how God cares about those that are suffering. Hagar was just a slave who was suffering. But God listened to her. And he took care of her. Hagar believed God’s message and she obeyed.
This chapter is very important. In it, Abram’s name becomes Abraham. (See 17:4, 5.) God also changes his wife’s name from Sarai to Sarah. (See 17:15.) God told Abraham more about his (God’s) promises. God told Abraham that he (Abraham) would be the father (*ancestor) of many nations. So Abraham would not only be the father of just one nation! Abraham was already living in the country that God promised to him. God added that he had promised ‘the whole country’ to Abraham. God told Abraham that there would be kings in his family. And God told him that Sarah, his old wife, would be the mother of his child. God said that this *covenant will last always.
In two ways, God showed clearly that he had made the *covenant. He gave new names to Abram (Abraham) and Sarai (Sarah). And he ordered the male members of their family to receive *circumcision. That would show that they were joining into the *covenant with God.
Verse 1 Ishmael was already 13 years old. Still Sarah had no child. That emphasises how wonderful Isaac’s birth would be. It could not happen in the usual way. Only God could make it happen.
This *Hebrew for ‘God who can do anything’ is El-Shaddai. It appears several times in Genesis. And it appears twice elsewhere. The writer of Genesis uses it often when God promises *descendants to someone.
God told Abraham to walk with him. This means that Abraham should live in the right way. He should do what God wants. So then God would always be with him and Abraham would know it. (And Abraham would do whatever God wanted.)
Verse 3 Abraham *bowed down with his face close to the ground. In that way, he was *worshipping God.
Verses 4-8 First, God said what he would do in the *covenant. God told Abraham more about his (God’s) promises. Abraham would be the father (*ancestor) of many nations rather than just one. God mentioned the words ‘*descendants’, ‘nations’ and ‘father’ several times here. God’s *covenant will last always. God promised always to be the God of Abraham’s family. Several *Hebrew words here are like the name Abraham, which means ‘father of many people’.
Verse 5 The meaning of names was important to people at that time. God would do as he promised. Abraham’s new name showed this. God would give a son to Abraham and Sarah. And they would have many *descendants from that son. So Abraham would really be the ‘father of many people’.
Verse 6 God promised that some *descendants of Abraham will be kings. This was the first time that God made this special promise.
Verse 7 God would be the God of Abraham’s *descendants. They would be his special people.
Verse 8 God repeated his promise about the country called Canaan. The whole country would belong to Abraham’s *descendants.
Verses 9-13 In Canaan, many *tribes already practised that custom. Many that were near Canaan practised it too. Such people usually *circumcised a boy when he was becoming a man. But God tells Abraham to *circumcise babies too. And Abraham must also *circumcise all the men and boys. The *circumcision shows that they are part of God’s family. *Circumcision is evidence to show the *covenant.
Verse 14 God said that every male *Jew should receive *circumcision. Anyone who refused was not obeying the *covenant with God. So that man was not joining in with the *covenant. And he would not continue to belong to God’s people. That man’s family would send him away.
The *Jews continue to follow the tradition of *circumcision, even today. But they did not always follow it. See Joshua 5:2-5.
The first Christians had to think carefully about this tradition. You can read their decision in Acts chapter 15 and the Book of Galatians. Galatians 5:6 explains the attitude of Christians today.
Verses 15-16 God promised that Sarah would have a son. This could not happen in the natural way. Sarah was too old. But God’s promise was clear. Whole nations would be among her *descendants. Sarai means ‘my princess’. Perhaps it showed what her parents thought about her. But Sarah means ‘Princess’ and it shows God’s plans for her. That gave her greater honour.
Verses 17-21 Abraham was joyful. But he did not know how God would carry out his promise. So, Abraham spoke to God about Ishmael. Abraham wanted a *blessing for Ishmael. God knew Abraham’s thoughts and God made promises for Ishmael. But God also made promises about Isaac, who would be Sarah’s son. Isaac would be the son that God had chosen. God had promised that special son, Isaac, to Abraham and Sarah 25 years before.
Verses 23-27 Abraham obeyed God immediately. Abraham received *circumcision. So did Ishmael, and every male who lived with Abraham. This included Abraham’s male slaves.
This chapter is very important. God would do what he promised. Otherwise, Isaac would not have been born. And there would be no nation called Israel. Abraham showed his family how they should live. He obeyed God immediately. Abraham obeyed God even before God gave Isaac to him. God’s *covenant was still there, even when the people in Israel started to oppose God. It was there even when they *sinned.
1. that he would always be Abraham’s God;
2. that Abraham would have very many *descendants;
3. that Abraham’s family would have their own country.
The *New Testament teaches more about God’s *covenant. Because of Jesus, people who are not *Jews can join in with God’s *covenant. God had promised to *bless his people. And Christ made God’s *blessing complete.
In the *Old Testament, there are several passages where the writer mentions ‘*circumcision of the heart (or mind)’. (Look at Leviticus 26:41; Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4.) *Circumcision was physical evidence that people obeyed God. But ‘*circumcision of the heart’ meant that *Israelites had to obey God in every way. That included what they thought. It included what they said. And it included what they did. In the *New Testament, Paul talks about that. He discusses it in his letter to the Romans (chapters 2-4).
Soon after Abraham received *circumcision, three visitors came to see him. Abraham did not know who the visitors were. But he gave them great honour. By means of the visitors, God gave a message to Abraham. Sarah would have her baby, called Isaac, during the next year. But Sarah did not believe God’s message. She laughed at the idea. She thought that she was much too old to have a baby.
Abraham’s visitors were travelling to the city called Sodom. The people in Sodom were very wicked. God had decided to punish them severely. But God did not want to do anything until he had discussed the matter with Abraham. So, God had a conversation with Abraham about Sodom. We can learn many things about Abraham’s relationship with God from that conversation.
Verses 1-2 Abraham had rested during the hottest part of the day. However, he gave a very friendly welcome to the three visitors. It was the custom to be kind to all visitors.
Abraham did not know that one visitor was the *Lord. And he did not know that the other visitors were special too. He looked up and he saw them near him. They ‘appeared’. That shows that they were special. Abraham thought that he was slow to give them a welcome. So he ran to them and he *bowed down. When someone *bowed low, that action showed great honour. People may also *bow down when they *worship God.
Verse 3 Abraham respected his visitors greatly. He did not know that his visitors were special. But he spoke to them as if they were special.
Verse 4 Abraham offered things that would make travellers feel much better on a hot day. He offered water for them to drink. He offered water for them to wash their feet. And he invited them to rest under a tree that gave shade.
Verse 5 Abraham did not say how big a meal he would prepare. Otherwise, the men might have said ‘no’. Abraham was kind to them. But he said rather that their visit was a *blessing for him. That was true, although Abraham did not understand it yet.
Verses 6-8 Abraham asked Sarah to prepare a very large amount of food. He gave the best food that he had. Later, people would give such food as a *sacrifice to God. But Abraham gave it to three strangers.
Verses 9-15 God again promised a son. This time he said that the son would be born to Sarah. She was not actually with the men then. But she heard it and she laughed. Sarah could not believe that, at last, she would have a son. She did not believe that it could be true.
The visitors asked where Sarah was. However, they knew that she had made loaves for them. They knew her name. That showed that they were not ordinary men. Maybe they were showing to Abraham that they were not ordinary visitors.
The most important visitor promised to ‘come back’. Elsewhere in the *Old Testament, this is what it means. It means that the person would come back to *bless someone. And here it may mean this. The son that God had promised would certainly come. It was as certain as if they already had their son. And the *Lord emphasised that it would happen very soon.
Sarah laughed to herself. Sarah thought that the visitor could not see her. But he knew that she laughed. That showed to Abraham and Sarah that the visitor was special. It showed that they could believe his promise.
The writer says again that Sarah was old. In that way, he emphasises that God was doing a miracle. (A miracle is a great thing that only God can do. People would normally think that it was impossible.) The conversation about Sarah’s laughter contained their son’s name, Isaac. Isaac means ‘he or she laughed’.
The writer has already explained how God destroyed the earth by means of the flood (Genesis chapter 7). This story about how God destroyed the cities called Sodom and Gomorrah is rather similar. In both stories, God saved one family. Before the flood, God had shut the door of the *ark. And here God’s *angel shut the door of Lot’s house. In the flood, God had sent water down from the sky. He had sent rain down onto the earth. And here, he sent fire and *sulphur down onto Sodom. During the flood, God had remembered Noah. And here he remembered Abraham. Afterwards, in both stories, the family’s father became *drunk and his children *sinned against him. The writer wrote this section in a very careful way.
Verse 16 Abraham went with his visitors to lead them on their journey. They stopped to look at Sodom. And so this story about how God punished Sodom began.
Verses 17-21 This passage shows how important Abraham was in God’s plan. And we also learn what God thought about the wicked inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. God had thought similar things about the earth before the flood (Genesis chapter 6). And Noah, like Abraham, had been very important in God’s plan.
Verse 19 Here, ‘I have chosen him’ means ‘I have known him.’ God knows each person among us. He was helping Abraham to become his (God’s) friend. God gave a short list of Abraham’s duties. He told Abraham to bring up his family in God’s way. That meant that they should obey God. And they should act fairly. God can only carry out his promises to us completely when we continue to obey him.
To act fairly may mean to do the right things to other people.
Verse 20 The *Lord probably spoke in such a way that Abraham could hear.
Verse 21 The *Lord has to be completely sure that somebody really deserves a certain punishment. He does not punish any group of people before he is sure about that. God ‘went down’ to the earth before the flood. And he ‘went down’ to the *tower at Babel too. And here also, he ‘went down’. In each case, God had heard protests that the people were *sinning very much. So he went to make sure that the people really had *sinned as much as that.
In the original *Hebrew text, the writer mentions ‘the protests that have come to me’. That is a closer translation. It may mean the sufferers’ cries. It may mean that God cannot leave *sin without punishment, because he is *holy. In Genesis 4:10, we read this. ‘Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.’ God knows when someone has *sinned. He knows it as certainly as if the sufferer has told him about it. God wants all people to ask him for help. Then he would save them. But if people do not want his help, he has to punish them because of their *sin. He does not want to punish people, but he has to do it.
God thought that Sodom might still have a slight chance to avoid punishment. If they had not *sinned so badly, then he would know it (verse 21).
Abraham understood that. So he asked God to save the city if he (God) could find a few ‘good’ people in it (verses 23-32). Maybe God was testing Abraham. Maybe God wanted to discover whether Abraham would ask that thing. Abraham was not asking just for his own family. He did not mention Lot. Abraham trusted that God would do the right thing.
Verse 22 This verse shows that two visitors were *angels, but one visitor was the *Lord. (The *Lord did not enter Sodom, because it was too wicked. And the *angels did not want to stay there.)
Verses 23-25 This was the first time in the Bible when a person started a conversation with God. God finished the conversation (verse 32).
This conversation was a special type of prayer. Abraham knew that God would use him to *bless all the nations (Genesis 12:3; Genesis 18:18). So, Abraham spoke on behalf of the wicked people in Sodom. He asked God to be kind, even to the wicked inhabitants of Sodom, because good people lived among them.
The Bible says that, in the end, God will destroy the whole earth by fire (2 Peter 3:10). But this event has not yet happened, because God is kind. First, God will separate good people from evil people (Matthew 13:36-43). But, of course, nobody is really good. We can only become friends of God because Jesus died for us. And we must trust God and invite him into our lives. So now, God is waiting for people to do this. He is patient, because he does not want anyone to suffer (2 Peter 3:8-9). But the time that he has chosen will come.
Verse 26 God listened to Abraham. And God agreed to do the thing that Abraham had requested. God would count the good people in Sodom. If there were more than 50, God would save the whole city because of them.
Verses 27-28 Abraham probably realised that there were less than 50 good people in Sodom. The people there were very wicked. So, Abraham asked God to save the city if there were only 45 good people.
Abraham was very bold to continue his prayer. But he had seen how God listened to his (Abraham’s) previous request. Jesus taught that we should always pray. We should not give up (Luke 18:1).
Verses 29-32 Abraham’s prayer continued. In the end, God agreed to save the city if 10 good people lived there. Abraham knew about Lot and his (Lot’s) family. But Abraham did not know whether any other good people lived there. Lot’s two daughters were engaged to men from the city. Perhaps Abraham hoped that Lot had convinced these families to serve God.
Lot was Abraham’s nephew. Lot wanted to live near Sodom because the land there was better for his animals (chapter 13). But in chapter 19, Lot had moved his home into Sodom itself. Lot was a *righteous man, but the inhabitants of Sodom were very wicked. It seems that they made a bad impression on Lot’s family.
God had decided to kill the people in Sodom because of their wicked behaviour. But God does not punish *righteous people. God even promised Abraham that he (God) would first count the *righteous people in Sodom. If there were 10 *righteous people, God would save the whole city because of them. But there were not 10 *righteous people in Sodom. So when the *angels arrived in Sodom, their task was to save Lot and his family.
But even that task was difficult. The men in Sodom were so wicked that they tried to have sex with the *angels. And even Lot’s own family did not want to leave. The men who wanted to marry his daughters refused to leave. Lot’s wife looked behind her as she left. It seems that she still wanted to be in Sodom. So, she died with the people in Sodom.
Lot himself did not want to escape to the mountains. God saved a little town called Zoar so that Lot could go there. And when Lot was safe in Zoar, God destroyed the cities called Sodom and Gomorrah by fire. This event warns us that, in the end, God will punish evil people. God will only save us from this punishment if we trust him. We should confess our evil deeds to God. And we should invite him into our lives.
Verses 1-2 Lot was sitting at the gate of the city. At the gate, elders met together to make judgements. (Elders were important citizens that the people respected.) Maybe the people respected Lot because he was honest. Or maybe he was sitting there to avoid the people in the city. Perhaps he wanted to avoid them because they were so wicked. Perhaps the citizens did not want him to be with them.
Lot gave a big welcome to the visitors and he respected them greatly. Lot knew how wicked the people in Sodom were. And so he did not want the visitors to be in the street at night. We do not know why the visitors did not want to stay with Lot. Maybe the visitors were just testing Lot. Maybe they were testing whether he wanted to do the right thing.
Verse 3 Lot almost pushed the visitors into his house! He fed them well.
Verses 4-5 Lot was kind to his visitors. But the men in Sodom were very cruel. They tried to force Lot’s visitors to have sex with them.
Verses 6-9 Lot went outside (verse 6). That shows how wicked all the people in Sodom were. Lot showed great courage. He was trying to protect his visitors. So, Lot went outside alone and he shut the door behind him. Lot offered to bring out his daughters. Then the men in Sodom could do whatever they wanted to them. That was an awful thing to offer. But Lot was desperate to protect his guests. And God protected Lot. God did not punish good people as well as wicked people.
Verses 10-11 In Hebrews 13:2 we read, ‘Always give a welcome to strangers because in that way some people have given a welcome to *angels. And those people did not know it!’ Here in Genesis chapters 18 and 19, we can see something similar. Lot did not know that the strangers were *angels. But he gave a welcome to them. In the end, Lot’s guests (the *angels) saved him. They shut the door. And they made the men blind.
The crowd still tried to get into Lot’s house, even when they were blind! They were completely evil. The *angels protected the house, so that nobody found the door.
Verses 12-14 Lot listened to the *angels’ message. He had just seen how completely evil his neighbours were. He was not responsible for his daughters’ future husbands. God was giving a last chance for them to escape from the city. Lot was brave enough to go out again. He went out to warn those men. But they laughed at him.
In Genesis 17:19, the name ‘Isaac’ meant ‘he laughed’. The name especially made people think about God’s *blessing. But here, when the husbands laughed at God, that was dangerous.
Verses 15-16 The *angels warned Lot that he should get out of Sodom quickly. Lot and his family needed to go immediately when daylight came. Lot probably had other married daughters in Sodom. Lot did not obey God immediately like Noah and Abraham did. Lot was in great danger. That shows again how evil the people in Sodom were. God showed great *mercy towards Lot. But the people in Sodom were so wicked that God had to punish them. That was because God is holy.
Verses 17-20 Lot appealed to God. He asked God to save Zoar.
Abraham had also appealed to God. He loved the people in Sodom and he cared about them. So he had asked God to save Sodom. Lot, however, was selfish when he asked God to save Zoar. Lot asked it because he needed a place to live. And Zoar was a city. He thought that it would be a better place to live than the mountains. Although the people there were not *righteous, it was only a small city. So maybe God would be willing to save it. But Lot still did not hurry. He still wanted to do things in his own way. He was not willing to trust that God knew best.
Verse 21 God answered Lot’s prayer for Zoar, although it was a selfish prayer. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah very quickly. The valley had been a very good place where food plants grew well. But now nothing would grow there. And one can still smell *sulphur there.
Verse 26 Lot’s wife did not obey the *Lord, and so the *Lord did not save her. She liked to live in Sodom and she did not want to leave. Maybe when she brought up her daughters, she did not teach them to trust God. Maybe she did not teach them to do the right things in their lives.
‘She became a column of salt.’ When we first read that, it may seem very strange! But when God destroyed the cities and the valley, he sent fire and *sulphur. And he used such great force that it pushed many substances from the ground into the air. Many substances mixed together. So, the air became full of some kind of salt. When Lot’s wife turned round, the wind blew the salt into her face. So, suddenly she could not breathe and she died. The salt was so thick that it quickly covered her body. So then, her dead body was just standing there like a column of salt.
Verses 27-29 God thought about Abraham, and God saved Lot because of Abraham’s prayer. God can save other people when we pray.
Verses 30-38 Lot soon left Zoar. God had promised to keep him safe there. But Lot did not trust God. Lot went to live in a cave with his daughters. He had been very rich. And he had lived in an area where crops grew easily. But now he lived in a cave. He owned just a few things and most people in his family were dead.
Like Noah, Lot drank too much. But Noah had first *worshipped God. And he did not get as deeply *drunk as Lot did. Lot’s daughters acted in a worse way towards their father than Noah’s son acted towards his father. Lot’s older daughter made things seem worse for her than they really were. There were young men not far away, whom she could marry. And neither girl suggested that they could go to Abraham for help. Lot got *drunk on the second night too. He did not know what his daughter had done on the first night. Even so, he was foolish. The daughters made their father *drunk. They knew that their actions were wrong. People realised that sex between close members in a family was wrong. However, God did not punish Lot’s *descendants because of that. In fact, the *descendants of both sons became important nations.
We do not know why Abraham went to live somewhere else. Maybe he felt too close to the place where the cities called Sodom and Gomorrah had been. God had destroyed those cities. The ash and other substances that came from there probably affected a large area. Maybe those substances spoilt the land where Abraham’s animals ate grass. He went south to live just outside Canaan.
Abraham was again afraid. So he said that Sarah was his sister. Abraham had done that in Egypt too (Genesis chapter 12). He did not think about the trouble that it might cause to other people. The punishment for *adultery was death. Abimelech did not belong to the nation that God had specially chosen. But God showed his *mercy to Abimelech. God spoke to him in a dream. God warned him in that way. Abimelech did not *sin, because God prevented him. Therefore God did not make him die.
Abimelech acted very well. He said that he was innocent. He said that his people were innocent. He did not get angry and he did not blame Abraham too severely. Abimelech respected Abraham because Abraham was a *prophet.
Verses 1-2 The writer has already told us that Sarah was a very beautiful woman (Genesis 12:14). Although Sarah was now old, she was still beautiful. Abraham was afraid that someone might kill him in order to marry Sarah. So, Abraham and Sarah pretended that they were not married.
Verse 3 For ‘a married woman’, the *Hebrew text could mean ‘a woman that an owner owns’. By means of Adam and Eve, God showed that a wife was her husband’s most precious possession. She was also a close companion, whom he loved very much. And she helped her husband much. Anyone that took a married woman away from her husband was *sinning greatly.
Verse 4 Abimelech did not touch Sarah, because God prevented him. We do not know how God prevented him. Maybe Abimelech was ill. He worried about his people. Abraham had worried similarly about the people in Sodom. Here, Abraham did not seem to be worried about Sarah. Maybe he thought, ‘It is very important that I should stay alive.’ Then he could have a son, as God had promised. So if Abraham stayed alive, he would be ‘helping’ God to carry out that promise. But God is able to carry out his promises. God does not need our help. We just need to trust him. God could take care of Abraham in any circumstance. Abraham should have known that. God considered *adultery as a *sin. But he kept Sarah safe. There was no possibility that Abimelech might be Isaac’s father.
Verse 7 Abimelech did not argue with God. He gave Sarah back to Abraham. God showed that Abraham was ‘special’. God told Abimelech that Abraham was a *prophet. Abraham would pray to God on behalf of Abimelech.
Verse 8-11 Abimelech respected Abraham’s God. Abimelech believed that God knew the truth about the situation. So Abimelech listened to God. Abraham had said that people in Gerar did not respect God. But Abimelech showed that Abraham had been wrong about that.
Abimelech acted better than *Pharaoh had acted earlier, in Egypt. Abimelech gave Abraham the opportunity to explain.
Abraham had acted badly. He had not told all the truth. He had not acted as a guest should act. That was very important. He had really believed that the people in Gerar did not respect God. But Abraham still went to live there.
Verse 12 Sarah was Abraham’s half-sister. That is, they had only one parent in common. Later, God did not allow men to marry their half-sisters. But here God probably did allow Abraham to do that.
Verse 13 Abraham had already prepared for a situation where some other man might want to take Sarah. Abraham had already told her to say everywhere that Abraham was her brother. So they were saying something that was only partly true. And they had even said it before they needed to do so. Abraham was not ready to trust God. Abraham took many years to learn that he should trust God in every situation.
Verses 14-16 Abimelech was very kind to Abraham. He gave Sarah back to Abraham. Abimelech also gave very great wealth to Abraham. He even invited Abraham to live in Gerar. 1000 *shekels was an enormous amount of money. A bridegroom usually gave a gift to his bride’s family so that he could marry the bride. But 50 *shekels was the biggest amount of money that a man would give for that. In Babylonia, an ordinary workman earned half a *shekel a month. Abimelech gave the money in order to settle the matter. He was showing that he was sorry about his actions. He was still sorry, although he had not acted on purpose. He repaid Sarah because she had suffered. Abraham took the money and the animals. He showed that he did not blame Abimelech.
Verse 17-18 It had become clear that the women in Gerar could not have children. So we think that Sarah was in Abimelech’s *household for several weeks or several months.
God sometimes caused women not to have children. And at other times he gave children to women. Both those facts are clear. For a long time, God caused Sarah not to have children. When, at last, a child was born, people would thank God very much for that. Because of that, they would know how very wonderful God is. Similarly in John 9:3, Jesus says this. ‘This man was blind when he was born, for this reason. God wants to show his power to people when I cure the man.’ God called Abraham a *prophet. God answered Abraham’s prayers for Abimelech. God did not expect Abraham to be ‘perfect’ before God answered his prayers.
At last, the son that God had promised was born to Sarah and Abraham. Both parents were very joyful at the birth of their child. Everybody had thought that Sarah was too old to have a baby. So they were especially happy when her son was born. Abraham named his son Isaac. Isaac means ‘laughter’. But Abraham’s other son, Ishmael, was not glad. Until Isaac was born, Ishmael was Abraham’s only son. Ishmael had become a young man. And Ishmael thought that, after Abraham’s death, he (Ishmael) would lead Abraham’s family.
The birth of Isaac changed everything for Ishmael. Ishmael was merely the son of a slave. He knew that he would never be as important as Isaac. So, Ishmael was cruel to Isaac. Abraham had to send Ishmael away. God told Abraham that he (God) would make Ishmael successful. But Abraham must look after Isaac. Isaac was Abraham’s special son. Isaac was the son that God promised to Abraham.
Abraham made another *covenant (agreement) at this time. This was a peace agreement with the leaders of the people called *Philistines. Abraham lived in their country for a long time. He made his home there. And in that place, he prayed to God.
Verses 1-7 At last, when Abraham was very old, his special son was born. Abraham had to wait for a long time until this son was born. But God always does the things that he promises to do. We can always trust God.
Verse 1 Sarah probably did not see God. The writer means that God allowed her to become *pregnant. Isaac’s birth happened when Abraham and Sarah were very old. So it was a very wonderful thing, because it would have been impossible without God’s action. The writer emphasises how wonderful it was. (Look also at verses 2, 5 and 7.)
Verse 2 In Genesis 18:14, God told Abraham when the son would be born. So, Isaac’s birth happened at the time that God promised.
Verse 3 The father usually named a new baby. In that way, he showed that he accepted the baby into his family.
Verses 4-5 Abraham obeyed God’s command in Genesis 17:12.
Verse 6 The name ‘Isaac’ means ‘laughter’.
Verse 8 Isaac may have been nearly three years old at that time.
Verse 9 Ishmael was not still the most important son. He insulted Isaac because he (Ishmael) was jealous of Isaac’s importance in the family.
Verse 10 Sarah did not want trouble between Ishmael and Isaac. She realised that these troubles might become more serious. Isaac would become the head (leader) of the family when Abraham died. Sarah did not want Ishmael to oppose Isaac’s right to lead the family. Paul discusses this situation in Galatians 4:30. He explains that Isaac was born because of God’s promise. So, Isaac was born by the power of the Holy Spirit. But Ishmael was born in the natural way. Christians too should live by the power of the Holy Spirit. But other people live in an ordinary way. So, Christians should not be surprised if other people oppose them. And Christians should not copy the behaviour of people who are not Christians.
Verses 11-13 We can see that Abraham loved Ishmael. Ishmael was a son of Abraham. But Ishmael was not the son that God had chosen. However, God looked after Hagar and Ishmael.
Verse 14 Even when Abraham was sad, he was always willing to obey God immediately. And Abraham was confident about Ishmael because of God’s promise in verse 13.
Abraham tried to provide for Hagar and Ishmael. He gave them food and water. But Abraham was living near Beersheba. And Beersheba is near to the desert. Hagar and Ishmael were not used to life in the desert.
Verses 15-16 The desert is hot, and very dry. Hagar had a similar experience in Genesis 16:6-10. Ishmael had not yet been born then. Ishmael was now a youth. But he still became weak before Hagar did. Hagar was sure that he would die. She thought that the situation was hopeless.
Verses 17-18 Hagar did not need to feel hopeless. God had already made a promise about Ishmael’s future (Genesis 16:10; 17:20 and 21:13). But God heard Ishmael’s cry for help. And the *angel repeated God’s promise to Hagar.
Verse 19 For the second time, God provided water in the desert for Hagar.
Verses 20-21 Ishmael continued to live in the desert. It seems that he learned to live there. Ishmael married and he had 12 sons. Like Ishmael himself, Ishmael’s *descendants also lived in the desert. And they became a great nation, as God had promised (Genesis 25:13-18).
Verses 22-24 People knew very well that God was *blessing Abraham. Abraham had become a very wealthy man. He had many servants, and they looked after many animals. Abimelech and Phicol did not want to fight Abraham and his servants. So they asked for a peace agreement. And Abraham was pleased to agree with them. He also wanted peace.
Verses 25-26 Wells are very important in hot countries, where there is not much rain. Abraham and Abimelech wanted to deal with this matter. They did not want any arguments to damage their agreement.
Verses 27-28 Abraham gave gifts to Abimelech because Abimelech was the king. He was the king of that country where Abraham was living. Abraham could not prove that he dug the well. So he gave Abimelech a special gift for the well. This was a type of legal agreement in ancient times.
Abraham needed to make clear that he owned the well. So then he could get the water that he needed.
Verse 31 In the *Hebrew name ‘Beersheba’, the word ‘sheba’ means both ‘seven’ and ‘*oath’. ‘Beer’ means ‘well’.
Verse 32 This was a *covenant between two people. Usually, when two people made a *covenant, they often used the same words. For example, they promised to be ‘kind and loyal’. (Look at verse 23.)
Verse 33 Abraham planted a tree. He intended to live there. Then he would be able to see the tree and he could look after it. He chose that place as a place for prayer. As he prayed, he trusted God more. In chapter 22 we shall see how much Abraham had learned to trust God.
During his whole life, Abraham was learning to trust God more and more. In this chapter, it is clear that Abraham trusted God completely.
Abraham did not know why God was testing him. But Abraham could recognise God’s voice. Christians too should be able to recognise when God is guiding them to do something (John 10:2-5). But God has also provided other methods to guide Christians today. We can read the Bible. God never wants us to do anything that is against his instructions in the Bible. And God has also provided church leaders to help us. They are not always right. But we should listen carefully to their advice.
We might ask why God wanted Abraham to offer Isaac as a *sacrifice. The Bible clearly teaches that murder is wicked (Deuteronomy 5:17). The answer is that God never wanted Abraham to kill Isaac. God stopped Abraham before Abraham could hurt Isaac. So God had a different plan. God was not really asking Abraham to kill Isaac. In fact, God was asking Abraham to prove that he (Abraham) would always trust God.
Abraham did not know about God’s plan to save Isaac. But Abraham realised that God had such a plan. He told his servants that he would bring Isaac back to them (verse 5). He told Isaac that God would provide the *lamb for the *sacrifice (verse 8). Hebrews 11:17-19 explains what Abraham was thinking. He knew that God could even make dead people live again. And Abraham knew the promises that God made about Isaac. So, Abraham was confident that he could trust God. And Abraham was right. Abraham soon discovered that God’s plan was to save Isaac.
We can only really understand this event if we think about Jesus. If God had not stopped Abraham, Isaac would have died. But God had a plan to save Isaac. God provided that a sheep would die instead of Isaac. In the same way, we all deserve God’s punishment because of our evil deeds (Romans 6:23). But God sent his son, Jesus, to die in our place. And God will forgive us if we trust him. We should confess our evil deeds to God. And we should invite him into our lives.
Verse 1 God does not tempt anyone to do an evil deed (James 1:13). God was testing Abraham. God wanted to see whether Abraham would trust him.
Verse 2 God said ‘your precious child’. The *Hebrew word for ‘precious’ may mean ‘only’. Abraham did have an older son, Ishmael. But Isaac was the only son that Sarah had given birth to. Isaac was the son that God had chosen especially.
The writer wrote this story very simply. Abraham did not argue with God. Abraham obeyed God immediately. God’s command here was very difficult for Abraham to obey. Abraham did not know how God would save Isaac. And God does not want anyone to *sacrifice people. He had promised that Abraham would have many *descendants by means of Isaac. Abraham had already lost Ishmael, whom he loved. (He had to send Ishmael away.) It would be terrible if Abraham lost Isaac too. Isaac could have refused to be a *sacrifice. He was strong enough to refuse. However, Abraham still trusted God. Abraham himself did everything that was necessary.
We do not know why God tested Abraham in that way. In other religions, people did *sacrifice children to their gods. But the Bible clearly teaches that it is wrong to *sacrifice children. Maybe God needed to show that fact to Abraham. Abraham would never forget what happened here. Nor would Isaac forget. Isaac was very special. His birth was a miracle (a very wonderful thing that cannot happen in a natural way). And in this chapter, God would save him from death. This story shows how God would later *sacrifice his own son, Jesus. So then, by means of Jesus, God would *bless all nations. (See Genesis 12:3.)
Verse 4 The journey to Moriah took three days.
Verse 5 We do not really know what Abraham was thinking. Maybe he really believed that he would come back to his servants with Isaac. Abraham did consider that God could bring Isaac back from death. (Look at Hebrews 11:19.)
Verses 6-8 Again, we do not really know what Abraham was thinking. Maybe he thought that God would provide a *lamb. And then Abraham would be able to *sacrifice the *lamb instead of Isaac.
Verse 9 Isaac was willing to obey Abraham. Isaac could have refused to obey.
Verses 10-11 God did not allow Abraham to hurt Isaac.
Verse 12 Abraham was willing to trust God for everything. God mattered more to Abraham than anything else.
Verses 13-14 The sheep died instead of Isaac. This event teaches us about God’s kindness. God does not want us to die because of our evil deeds. God provided Jesus to die as a *sacrifice. And if we invite Jesus into our lives, God will forgive us.
Verses 15-18 God was not making these great promises to Abraham as a prize. He did not make them just because Abraham was good. It was not just because Abraham offered Isaac. God is always good and *merciful to all kinds of people. He owes nothing to anyone. But some people do love God and they obey him. And he is pleased to *bless those people.
In verse 17, God promised Abraham that his (Abraham’s) *descendants would overcome their enemies. The gates of cities were very important places to defend.
Verses 20-24 The writer did not tell about everyone’s families here. He mentioned Nahor’s family because Isaac would marry Rebekah. And Rebekah was Nahor’s granddaughter.
When Sarah died, it was Abraham’s duty to bury her body. It was the custom to bury bodies soon after death. So, these events may have happened on the day when Sarah died, or the day after.
Abraham was living in the country that belonged to the family of Heth. He did not own any land there to use as Sarah’s grave. So he asked to buy some land. He wanted to bury Sarah near Mamre, where Abraham used to live (Genesis 18:1).
The members of Heth’s family respected Abraham and Sarah greatly. They offered to give the land to Abraham. But Abraham insisted that he would buy it. So, for the first time, Abraham bought land in the country called Canaan. Canaan was the country that God had promised to Abraham’s *descendants (Genesis 17:8). Abraham knew that his *descendants would live away from Canaan for 400 years (Genesis 15:13). But Abraham trusted God’s promises. So, Abraham bought the land. He was confident that his *descendants would return there.
Verses 1-2 The writer mentions Sarah’s age when she died. Usually, the writer only mentioned the ages of men when they died. But he wanted to remind us that Sarah was very important.
Verses 3-5 Abraham was very polite to the members of Heth’s family. They said that they would give a grave to him. It was important for Abraham to pay for it. So then it was really his own property. He might have had to serve them in some way if he had not given money. That land was in the country that God had promised to Abraham. It was the first land that Abraham owned in that country. Abraham was showing that his *descendants would belong there.
Verse 6 In *Hebrew, ‘great prince’ might also mean ‘God’s prince’.
Verses 7-9 Abraham chose the land that he wanted to buy. He was happy to pay the proper price for it. He wanted the best grave for Sarah, whom he loved.
Verse 10 At the gate, people decided about important things. The important people met there. Abraham made sure that he did things properly. And the members of Heth’s family realised this.
Verse 11 Ephron’s words may mean that he wanted to give the land to Abraham. But perhaps Ephron was just being polite.
Verses 12-15 Abraham would not accept a gift. He wanted to pay.
Verse 16 It seems that Abraham probably paid a lot of money to Ephron. But we do not know how big the field was. Abraham did not argue about the price. He urgently wanted to have a place where he could bury Sarah.
Verses 17-20 Abraham became the legal owner of the field and the cave. They would always belong to his *descendants.
Abraham was a ‘foreigner’ and he had no rights among those people (verse 4). However, they called him ‘a great prince’ or ‘God’s prince’ (verse 6). We too are strangers on the earth, but God has chosen us.
Abraham believed that he would soon die. So he made sure that there would be a good wife for Isaac. The *Hebrews always told their sons not to marry *Canaanite women. Abraham cared very much about that. But he did not want Isaac to leave the country that God had promised. So, Abraham sent his chief servant to arrange Isaac’s marriage. Abraham wanted Isaac to marry one of Abraham’s own relatives. This was the custom, but Abraham also had a more important reason. He wanted Isaac’s wife to be a woman who would help Isaac to serve God.
The account in this chapter is very long. The writer gives many details in it. We learn a lot about Abraham from it. We learn how Abraham’s servants trusted him and his God. And the servants respected Abraham and his God.
Verse 1 God had *blessed Abraham in every way. But Isaac was still unmarried. Abraham knew that it was important for Isaac to marry. God had promised that Abraham would have many *descendants by Isaac.
Verses 2-4 To put one’s hand under a person’s *thigh meant to make a very serious *oath with that person. But we do not know exactly what it meant. The servant was very loyal to Abraham. The servant was very wise and careful in all his actions. And he was very wise and careful about everything that he said.
Abraham did not want Isaac to marry a woman from Canaan. Many people in Canaan were very wicked. And in Genesis 15:16, God had said that their evil deeds would become even worse in the future. Later, Esau would marry women from Canaan. And these women upset his family greatly (Genesis 26:34-35; 27:46; and 28:8).
Verses 5-9 The servant realised the importance of his task. So, he was careful to check that he understood everything properly.
Especially, the servant needed to know whether he could take Isaac back with him. Abraham was sure that he did not want Isaac to leave Canaan. God himself had led Abraham to Canaan. And God promised to give Canaan to Abraham’s *descendants. Abraham lived in Canaan because he trusted God’s promises. So, Abraham wanted Isaac to trust God’s promises too. This mattered more than even the choice of Isaac’s wife.
But Abraham was confident that the servant would succeed. He told the servant that God would send an *angel ahead of him. So, the servant would be able to bring back a good wife for Isaac.
Verse 10 Maybe the city was called Nahor. Or maybe Nahor lived there. It is not clear which the writer meant.
Verse 11 The servant was sensible. The women usually went to the well in the evening. So the servant went there at that time. He also trusted that God would lead him to the right wife for Isaac.
Verses 12-13 Abraham’s belief in God had impressed the servant greatly. In fact, Abraham’s belief probably affected every decision that he (Abraham) made. So, the servant called God, the ‘God of my master Abraham’.
Verse 14 The servant was very clever to make this test. It would show whether the woman was kind to strangers and animals. And it would show whether she was willing to work. Camels need a lot of water!
Verses 15-20 God answered the servant’s prayer very quickly. The servant was still praying when Rebekah came out. She was a very suitable young woman. She was kind. She was willing to work hard. She belonged to the family of Abraham’s relatives. And she was also very beautiful.
Verse 21 The servant was wondering whether God had made his journey successful. In other words, he was wondering whether God had chosen Rebekah as Isaac’s wife.
Verse 22 This was a very expensive present. It showed clearly to Rebekah that the servant’s intention was to arrange a marriage.
Verses 23-25 The servant asked to stay at Rebekah’s family’s home. In that way, he could discover whether her family were kind to strangers. And he could make sure that they served God. Neither the servant nor Rebekah hesitated.
Verses 26-27 The servant had seen how quickly God answered his prayer. Everything seemed right. So, the servant did not hesitate to thank God. The servant felt sure that God had led him to Rebekah.
Verses 28-30 Rebekah was very excited. She went to tell her family. Laban realised the importance of these events. So, he went out quickly in order to invite Abraham’s servant to their home.
Verse 31 Laban’s words show us that this family also knew about God. And his words show that he, like Abraham, was very kind to strangers. But Laban had a special reason to be kind to the servant. He wanted to find a good husband for Rebekah.
Verse 32 This was a major task. The servant had not travelled alone. He brought 10 camels. So, perhaps there were 9 other servants with him.
Verse 33 The servant refused to eat until he had explained the reason for his visit. He wanted to show that his task was very important to him.
Verses 34-38 Firstly, the servant explained about his master, Abraham. Rebekah’s family needed to know about Isaac’s family.
Verses 39-41 Then, the servant explained why Rebekah would have to leave her family. Abraham left his own family for a very real reason. He wanted to follow God. God was Abraham’s only guide when he (Abraham) went into Canaan. If Rebekah wanted to marry Isaac, she too would have to go to Canaan.
Verse 42-48 The servant carefully explained all the events that happened at the well earlier. He wanted to show that God had answered his prayer. In other words, God led the servant to Rebekah.
Verse 49 The servant told all the facts to Rebekah’s family. But he did not force them to allow the marriage. Here we read, ‘I will continue to search.’ The *Hebrew text means ‘I will know which way to turn.’ In other words, the servant would know then that he had to continue his journey. He would know that he could not go home yet. He would not have found the right woman to become Isaac’s wife.
Verses 50-52 Rebekah’s family realised that God wanted Rebekah to marry Isaac. So, they agreed to the marriage.
Verse 53 There were more presents for Rebekah. And the servant also gave presents to her family. It was the custom for the bridegroom to pay a price for his bride.
Verse 55 We do not know exactly for how long a time they wanted Rebekah to stay.
Verse 56 The servant did not want to stay. God had helped the servant to succeed in his task. So, the servant wanted to return, so that he could introduce Isaac to Rebekah.
Verses 57-58 Nobody forced Rebekah to marry Isaac. Her family asked her whether she wanted to go.
Verse 60 Rebekah’s family would probably never see her again. So, they *blessed her as she left. They hoped that she would have many children and grandchildren. And they hoped that her *descendants would overcome their enemies.
The gates were the important places of a city. Whoever owned the gates, owned the city. The elders discussed all the important things at the gates. (Elders were important citizens that the people respected.)
Verse 62 Isaac may have gone to live in the Negev when his father married Keturah. (See Genesis 25:1.)
Verse 63 We are not sure what Isaac was doing in the field that evening. Perhaps he was thinking about things. Perhaps he was praying.
Verse 64 At last, Rebekah saw Isaac for the first time.
Verse 65 The servant now considered Isaac his master instead of Abraham. He called Isaac ‘my master’.
Rebekah covered her face to show that she was modest. A bride usually covered her face when the bridegroom was present. She would only uncover her face after their first night together.
Verse 66 The servant reported to Isaac everything that had happened. He did not go to tell Abraham.
Verse 67 So, Isaac married Rebekah. Although they had not met before their marriage, they loved each other deeply. It seems that Sarah, Isaac’s mother, had died recently. Rebekah comforted Isaac.
When Abraham was old, he married again. He did not want his new children to oppose Isaac. Abraham provided for them. But he sent them to live far away from Isaac.
Abraham was very old when he died. Isaac and Ishmael met again then. They buried his body together. This action showed that they both loved Abraham.
Ishmael had many *descendants, and they were successful. They lived across a large area. But the writer’s account continues with Isaac’s sons, called Esau and Jacob.
Esau was the oldest son. So, he had the right to benefit from God’s promises to Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3). It seems that Esau did not care about this right. But Jacob recognised the importance of this right. And, even as a youth, Jacob was plotting how he could get this right, instead of Esau.
Verses 1-6 Abraham may have married Keturah before Sarah died. (It seems that the ‘*concubines’ in verse 6 include Keturah.) God was carrying out his promise to Abraham that he (Abraham) would be the father of many nations. God had promised the country called Canaan to Isaac and his *descendants. Abraham wanted to protect Isaac. Abraham realised that Keturah’s sons should not live with Isaac in Canaan. So, Abraham sent all his other sons away.
Verse 8 ‘Abraham went to be with his *ancestors.’ Perhaps the writer used these words to show that people still exist even after death. But these words probably just mean that Abraham died.
Verses 9-10 Again the writer gives the details about Abraham’s and Sarah’s grave. Abraham owned the land where the grave was. And the land was in the country that God had promised to Abraham’s *descendants. That fact was very important and so the writer wanted to remind us about it.
Verses 12-16 Again the writer reminds us that Ishmael was the son of Sarah’s *Egyptian maid. Ishmael was not the son that God had especially chosen. When we read about Ishmael’s *descendants, we can remember God’s promises to Ishmael. God had promised that Ishmael, too, would have many *descendants.
Verse 17 ‘He went to be with his *ancestors’ means that he died.
Verse 18 ‘Ishmael went to live opposite all his brothers.’ Ishmael’s *descendants would have a tendency to make war. Here the writer reminds us about that.
Verses 19-20 God made special promises to Abraham and his *descendant. We have seen in this chapter that Abraham had many sons, in the end. But God’s promises were not for those other sons, although God had also made promises about Ishmael. God’s promises were for Isaac. And this is why the Book of Genesis continues with Isaac’s life.
However, it was clear that God’s promises would not end with Isaac. In the end, these promises were about Jesus, who was Isaac’s *descendant (Galatians 3:16). It seems that people in the Book of Genesis were aware of this fact. In Genesis 3:15, God promised that the woman’s *descendant would defeat the devil.
So, it was important that Isaac should have a son.
Verse 21 Isaac and Rebekah had to wait for 20 years before their sons were born. But God answered Isaac’s prayer in the end.
Verse 22 Rebekah was having *twins (two babies born together). But even before their births, the babies seemed to be fighting inside her.
Verse 23 God knew the character of each son, even before the sons were born. And God knew about the future of their *descendants. Only one son would receive the benefit of God’s promises. And it was as if the babies were struggling for that right.
Usually, people expected the older son to rule the family. But God told Rebekah that the opposite would happen.
After the sons were born, the younger son (called Jacob) would be desperate to benefit from God’s promises. But the older son (called Esau) did not care about God’s promises. However, Jacob would have a struggle to take the right away from Esau.
Verse 25 The name ‘Esau’ is like the *Hebrew word for ‘hairy’.
Verse 26 ‘Jacob’ means ‘he takes hold of the *heel’. People sometimes used these words to mean, ‘he cheats’. Of course, Jacob was not cheating anyone when he was born! But the circumstances of the boys’ births would explain many things about their lives. Esau was the oldest son. But Jacob was desperate to gain the benefit of God’s promises. And this benefit would usually go to the oldest son. Jacob had struggled to be born first, but he failed. However, Jacob would not fail in his desire to gain God’s special *blessing.
Verse 27 Esau and Jacob had very different attitudes.
Verse 28 Isaac liked the food that Esau hunted.
Verse 29 Esau was a skilled hunter, but he was not always successful. Perhaps, he had been away for several days when this event happened. He hoped to bring back a wild animal for food. But, this time, he did not succeed. So, he was very hungry.
Verse 30 ‘Edom’ means ‘red’.
Verse 31 Jacob wanted God’s special *blessing. And so Jacob tried to take it from Esau when Esau was weak.
Verse 32 Esau acted as if God’s special *blessing was not important. Esau preferred the food.
Verse 33 Jacob wanted to be sure that Esau had handed over the *birthright. So, Jacob asked Esau to make a serious promise. Esau made the promise because he wanted the food. But he also made the promise because he did not care about God’s special *blessing.
Verse 34 The *birthright included God’s promises to Abraham for his family. Esau did not care about God’s promises.
Every person needs to invite God into that person’s own life. It is not enough if that person’s parents were Christians. Each person needs his or her own experience of a relationship with God.
It was the same for Isaac. His father, Abraham, was a real friend of God. And Abraham had learnt to trust God completely. So, Isaac had always known about God. But Isaac still needed to know God for himself. And Isaac needed to learn many of the lessons that Abraham learnt.
But it seems that Isaac learned easily. He had a good character. He wanted to serve God. And Isaac tried not to argue with people. God was kind to Isaac.
Verse 1 ‘Abimelech’ may have been a title for the king, like ‘*Pharaoh’. The Abimelech that Abraham knew may have died. The earlier *Philistines may have been a different nation from the *Philistines whom we read about elsewhere in the Bible.
Verse 2 There was a *famine. However, God clearly let Isaac know that he was looking after Isaac. But Isaac needed to obey God.
Verses 3-5 God reminded Isaac about the promises that God gave to Abraham. God was now making these promises to Isaac and his *descendants. Of course, Isaac had already heard about these promises from Abraham. But this experience was very important for Isaac. God was speaking to Isaac. So, Abraham’s God was now Isaac’s God too.
Verse 6 Isaac had heard God’s instructions. So, Isaac obeyed God. Perhaps Isaac was not sure how he could find enough food during the *famine. But he decided to trust God. The same God who created the world would look after Isaac.
Verse 7 People used the word ‘sister’ to mean many different relatives. But we can see that Isaac was lying. He did not want anyone to know that Rebekah was his wife. So, he said something that would confuse other people. Abraham had done the same thing in Genesis 20:2. Both Isaac and Abraham were trying to protect themselves. Isaac had not learned from Abraham’s experience. And Isaac was not yet ready to trust God to protect him.
Verse 8 Isaac did not need to be afraid. God was protecting Isaac. Nobody took Rebekah away from Isaac.
Verses 9-11 Isaac did not actually suffer because of his lies. But Abimelech had to warn Isaac. Perhaps Abimelech realised that Isaac was a holy man. Abimelech was worried that innocent people might suffer because of Isaac’s lie. Perhaps Abimelech remembered the message that God gave him about Abraham (Genesis 20:6-7).
So, Abimelech gave an order to his people. It seems that God was using Abimelech to protect Isaac and Rebekah.
Verses 12-13 We can see that God was *blessing Isaac. Even during the *famine, Isaac’s harvest was very plentiful. In fact, it was even more plentiful than you would expect in a good year.
Verses 14-16 Abimelech had ordered the *Philistines to keep Isaac safe. But they were jealous of his success. They tried to cause problems for him. And they tried to frighten him. Abraham and Abimelech had made an agreement about wells (Genesis 21:25-31). These wells now belonged to Isaac. But the *Philistines spoilt the wells. And Abimelech told Isaac to leave their country.
Abimelech’s men did not carry out the *covenant that people had made with Abraham. The *covenant had showed that the wells belonged to Abraham.
Water was precious and people often quarrelled about it. Lot quarrelled with Abraham and the *Philistines quarrelled with Isaac. Later, Laban quarrelled with Jacob.
Verses 17-18 But Isaac did not argue. He wanted to be at peace with the *Philistines. So, he moved elsewhere.
Verses 19-21 The arguments continued. Everyone wanted a good supply of water. But Isaac just moved to another place. It seems that he was trusting God to provide for him. Isaac had seen how God gave a plentiful harvest in a *famine. So, Isaac was not afraid to move elsewhere.
The name ‘Esek’ means ‘quarrel’. ‘Sitnah’ means ‘enemies’.
Verse 22 ‘Rehoboth’ means ‘space’. Isaac thanked God. Isaac did not need to fight the people who opposed him. God had given Isaac a place to live.
Verses 23-25 God spoke to Isaac again. By his (God’s) words, God gave confidence to Isaac. Isaac did not need to be afraid. God was with Isaac. God would help Isaac. And God would do for Isaac everything that he (God) promised to Abraham.
Like his father Abraham, Isaac stayed in Beersheba. And there, Isaac prayed to God.
Verses 26-29 Abimelech came to see Isaac. Abimelech wanted to make an agreement with Isaac. Isaac had become wealthy and powerful. So perhaps Abimelech was afraid that Isaac’s men might oppose him.
Abimelech’s words in verse 29 were not quite true. Abimelech had told his people to protect Isaac. But then, Abimelech told Isaac to leave the country. Abimelech’s people spoilt Isaac’s wells. And they argued about other wells. But it seems that Isaac did not care about these matters. Isaac wanted peace with Abimelech’s people. So, Isaac made the agreement with them.
Verses 30-31 When people made *covenants, they often had a meal together. They did that to show friendship.
Verses 32-33 Isaac’s servants finished digging another well that day. They were glad. They had left behind many wells. But God had provided another well for them.
Verses 34-35 Esau was Isaac’s first son. But Esau did not behave like Isaac. Isaac waited patiently while his father arranged a wife. But Esau chose his own wives. Isaac’s wife belonged to a family that knew about God. But Esau’s wives came from a country where people were wicked. Isaac hated arguments. But Esau chose wives who caused constant trouble for Isaac and Rebekah.
Isaac became an old man. He thought that he might die soon. (But in fact, he would live for many more years.) Isaac wanted to give a special *blessing to Esau, who was Isaac’s first son. Esau was also Isaac’s favourite son.
The whole family realised that this *blessing was an important matter. Isaac was a holy man. God would be present when Isaac gave his *blessing. And Isaac’s words would not just come from his own imagination. Isaac’s words would be a *prophecy that came from God’s Holy Spirit.
Rebekah wanted Jacob to receive the *blessing instead of Esau. And Jacob himself was desperate for the *blessing. Previously, he bought the *birthright (the rights of the oldest son) from Esau (Genesis 25:33).
Jacob obtained Isaac’s *blessing by methods that were not honest. But the *blessing that Jacob received really came from God. And it seems that Jacob received nothing from Isaac except the *blessing. Esau received great wealth in Canaan (Genesis 36:6). But Jacob left Canaan with very few possessions (Genesis 28:20). Jacob left home quickly, because he had to escape from Esau.
But the *blessing was all that Jacob really needed. And, as Jacob escaped, he received an even better *blessing. God himself spoke to Jacob. The God of Abraham and Isaac became Jacob’s God too (Genesis 28:13-21).
Verses 1-2 Isaac should have called both sons to him. He knew about the *prophecy at his sons’ births (Genesis 25:23). In the *prophecy, Jacob was the son that God had chosen.
It is clear that Isaac spoke to Esau in secret.
Verse 3 Isaac loved food and he wanted Esau to make a special meal for him. Esau was happy to do that, although he had given his *birthright to Jacob. Esau was the oldest son and so normally he would have had the *birthright.
Verse 4 At special times, people often ate special meals. Isaac’s request for a special meal emphasises the importance of his *blessing.
Verse 5 Isaac spoke to Esau in secret, but Rebekah heard Isaac’s words. Isaac and Rebekah may have lived in a tent. Rebekah was perhaps outside, but she heard clearly. She knew that Isaac loved Esau (Genesis 25:28). But God had told her that Jacob would be more important than Esau (Genesis 25:23). So, she made a plan so that Jacob would get Isaac’s *blessing.
Verse 6 Rebekah knew about God’s choice. She should have trusted God better. Then she would have known that God’s plans never fail. Rebekah wanted to get something that was right. However, her actions were not right. She lied and she cheated.
Verses 7-10 Rebekah was careful. She made a plan. She did not tell Jacob everything that he would have to do. He would have to lie. And he would have to cheat. But if he had known how much, he might have been afraid.
Verse 11 The *Hebrew text has ‘I am a smooth man.’ The *Hebrew word for ‘smooth’ can also mean that the person is not sincere.
Verse 12 Jacob realised that Isaac would not just be speaking from his own imagination. Isaac’s words would come from God’s Holy Spirit. So, it mattered whether Jacob received a *blessing or a *curse.
Verse 13 Rebekah was encouraging Jacob. She told him not to worry about a *curse. Of course, she had already heard the *prophecy in Genesis 25:23. So she was confident about Jacob’s future.
Verse 15 Esau was probably married, but his best clothes were still with Rebekah.
Verses 16-17 Rebekah and Jacob prepared everything carefully. They wanted Isaac to think that Jacob was really Esau.
Verses 18-26 Jacob went to see his father, Isaac. But Jacob wanted Isaac to think that Jacob was really Esau. Isaac wanted to give his *blessing to Esau, because Esau was Isaac’s oldest son. But Jacob was desperate to receive Isaac’s *blessing. This was because Jacob wanted God’s *blessing.
But Jacob did not really know God when these events happened. And Jacob did not realise how God wanted him (Jacob) to behave. Jacob imagined that he had to earn the *blessing by his own clever schemes. He had already persuaded Esau to sell the *birthright to him. And here, Jacob received Isaac’s *blessing by another scheme.
Jacob made Isaac give him the *blessing. But we cannot really earn God’s *blessing by our own efforts. God’s *blessing is a free gift because of his kindness. We receive God’s *blessing if we humbly invite him into our lives. In chapter 28, Jacob would himself meet God. Then Jacob would understand these things better.
Verses 27-28 Isaac’s *blessing came from God. God would make Jacob successful. God would do good things in Jacob’s life.
Verse 29 There were probably no other sons. But Isaac said this in case there would be other sons. *Blessings for families probably had the same words in them every time. But Isaac added the special words that God spoke to Abraham in Genesis 12:3. Jacob would receive the benefit of God’s promises to Abraham.
Verse 30 Esau too wanted Isaac’s *blessing. Esau had not cared about the *birthright, but he still wanted the *blessing.
Verse 31 Esau was able to prepare food. Rebekah did not stop him and neither did Jacob.
Verses 32-33 Before, Isaac had thought that he was *blessing Esau. But after that, the real Esau came in. Isaac could not deny that Jacob had received the *blessing.
Verses 34-36 Esau was sorry because he did not receive the *blessing from Isaac. But Esau was not sorry about the wrong things that he did in his life. Esau did not care about God. Esau did not care about what God wanted. Esau wanted to kill his brother (verse 41).
Verses 37-40 Isaac hesitated to give any *blessing to Esau. Isaac realised that God had told him what to say about Jacob. But then God gave Isaac a *prophecy about Esau.
Esau’s *descendants would live in a city that was later called Petra. This city was in the desert. And Esau’s *descendants would oppose Jacob’s *descendants. But Jacob’s *descendants would be more powerful. They would make Esau’s *descendants into slaves. You can read how this happened in 2 Samuel 8:11-14.
Verse 41 Esau was very angry. But he did not want to kill Jacob while Isaac was still alive. So, Esau waited. In fact, Isaac would live for many more years. And when Isaac died, Esau had become friendly with Jacob again.
Verses 42-43 Rebekah knew Esau’s plan. So, she decided to send Jacob away to her relatives in Haran. He would be safe there.
Verse 44 Rebekah said that Jacob would need to be away for only a very short time. But he was actually away for 20 years.
Verse 45 Rebekah said that she did not want to lose both her sons at the same time. It is not clear what she meant by that. Esau was not a ‘good’ son, but he was a son anyway. But Rebekah thought that she would ‘lose’ him too. We can guess how this might happen. Maybe if Esau killed his brother, then God might kill Esau. Or maybe other people would kill Esau for that reason. Or maybe he would have to go away to hide.
Verse 46 Again Rebekah showed how clever she was. She did not tell Isaac the real reason why Jacob should go away. Isaac would be happy if Jacob married a good woman. In this story, everyone in the family did something wrong. However, it does prove these facts to us. God gives his *blessing as he wants. And he gives it by his *mercy. Although we may do ‘good’ things in our life, we cannot earn God’s *blessing in that way. And we certainly cannot earn God’s *blessing by our own clever schemes. Instead, we need to be humble. We should confess our evil deeds to God. We should invite God into our lives. And we should trust him.
Jacob’s actions in this chapter were wrong. He lied and he cheated. But his attitude was right. He wanted to receive God’s *blessing. God gave a *blessing to Jacob by means of Isaac. But Jacob did not receive this *blessing just because he cheated. Isaac did not know whom he was *blessing. But God knew the truth. And God wanted to *bless Jacob. The *prophecy in Genesis 25:23 shows this.
Jacob had to leave home in order to escape from Esau. Isaac *blessed Jacob before Jacob left. This time, Isaac knew whom he was *blessing. He gave a wonderful *blessing to Jacob. Isaac said that Jacob would receive Abraham’s *blessing. And he said that Jacob’s *descendants would receive the country called Canaan.
Jacob really wanted to receive this *blessing. Now he received it. This was wonderful.
Jacob travelled alone on his journey. He had to sleep outside. He took few possessions. He even had to pray for his food and clothes (verse 20). But something very special happened as he travelled. He had a special dream. And in the dream, God spoke to Jacob. God gave to Jacob the same promises that he (God) had given to Abraham and Isaac. And Jacob promised that he, too, would serve God. And so, we call God, ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’ (Exodus 3:6).
Verse 1 Jacob needed to know that he was doing the right thing. So it was important for Isaac to *bless Jacob again. He needed to know that God wanted him to do that. Jacob would have difficult experiences sometimes. And so he needed the *blessing because the *blessing would help him to carry on.
Verse 2 Abraham had sent a servant to choose Isaac’s wife. But Jacob himself went to fetch his own wife. Isaac said that Jacob should marry Jacob’s cousin, someone from among Laban’s daughters. Cousins often married.
Verse 3 Jacob would have 12 sons. And his *descendants would become a great nation. Everything that God promised to Abraham and Isaac would happen to Jacob’s *descendants.
Verse 4 God had already given the country to Jacob and his *descendants, although they did not yet own any part of it.
Verses 6-9 Esau tried to please his parents by means of another marriage. But Esau still had *Canaanite wives, and God had not chosen Ishmael. Esau did not understand God’s plan.
Verses 10-11 Jacob had God’s *blessing. But Jacob had no money and he had no friends. He slept outside. He used a stone as his pillow.
Verse 12 This staircase was between earth and heaven. So it was similar to the *tower in Babel. But there were many differences. Men built the *tower and they tried to reach heaven. They thought that they were clever. And they thought that they could be equal to God. But in Jacob’s dream, God provided the staircase. In John 1:51, Jesus said, ‘Really and truly I say to you that you will see heaven open. And you will see God’s *angels go up and down upon the Son of Man.’ Jesus is the way to heaven. Jacob needed to know that God was near him. God was not far away.
Verse 13 ‘The *Lord stood above it.’ This may be ‘The *Lord stood above Jacob.’ Or ‘The *Lord stood near Jacob.’ The word ‘above’ shows that God was controlling the situation.
Abraham was Jacob’s grandfather. People often used the word ‘father’ to mean ‘*ancestor’. God showed to Jacob that God was really *blessing him. Jacob really wanted God’s *blessing. In fact, Jacob had even used wrong methods to try to get it. But God gives his *blessing where he wants to. We cannot earn it.
Verse 14 God made the same promises to Jacob that he (God) had made to Abraham and Isaac.
Verse 15 Jacob would return to this country that God had given to him. God would protect Jacob as he (Jacob) travelled.
Verse 17 Jacob was not afraid that something evil would happen. That was not what he meant. He knew God’s *almighty power. But in Jacob’s dream, he had seen God and he had heard God. God had promised great things to him. And Jacob realised how weak he was.
Verse 18 Later, God did not allow the *Jews to put up columns. That was because the *Canaanites did that to *worship false gods. But Jacob put up this one here. In that way, he wanted to remind himself and other people how great God was. And Jacob wanted to remember the exact place where he had this experience.
Verse 19 The place was probably not a city until later. It seems that Jacob was alone in the desert. ‘Bethel’ means ‘the house of God’. Jacob gave this name to the place because he met God there.
Verses 20-21 Jacob agreed to serve God if God helped him. Jacob’s words might sound as if he was trying to bargain with God. But we do not think that this was really Jacob’s intention. He knew that God was his God. He knew that God was great. He knew that God had promised to take care of him. And so he would *worship God.
Verse 22 At that time, Jacob had nothing to give! But he believed that God would *bless him. That was why he said this.
It was God’s plan that Jacob would have a large family. God had already promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that they would have many *descendants. But perhaps Jacob did not realise that God wanted him (Jacob) to have many children. It was the custom at that time for an important man to have many wives. But Jacob’s father, Isaac, married only one wife.
Jacob’s intention was to marry Rachel. He loved her as soon as he saw her. And he tried to impress her. He moved a large stone so that he could give water to her sheep. Soon afterwards, Jacob offered to work for 7 years so that he could marry Rachel.
At the end of the 7 years, Laban (Rachel’s father) cheated Jacob. It was the custom that the bride would cover her face at the wedding. The morning afterwards, Jacob discovered that he had married Leah (Rachel’s sister). Jacob never really loved Leah. But he did not refuse to accept her as his wife.
Laban allowed Jacob to marry Rachel too. But Laban insisted that Jacob must work for another 7 years for Rachel.
All this time, Jacob was learning to be humble. At home, Jacob used schemes to get whatever he wanted. But on the journey, Jacob had decided to serve God (Genesis 28:20-21). And now Jacob was learning to accept whatever God wanted to give him. In the end, God would give Jacob 12 sons. And their families would become the great nation that God had promised.
Verses 1-3 Jacob arrived near the home of Nahor’s family, who were Rebekah’s relatives. The *shepherds had brought some sheep near the well. But they were waiting for other *shepherds to arrive. Then they would remove the stone that covered the well.
Verse 4 Like Abraham’s servant (chapter 24), Jacob quickly found the people that he was looking for.
Verse 5 Laban was actually Nahor’s grandson. The *Hebrew word for ‘son’ can also mean ‘*descendant’. This is what it means here.
Verse 6 To look after the sheep seems to have been a woman’s job too. So, Rachel brought Laban’s sheep. Rachel was the first member of Laban’s family that Jacob met. Jacob was very excited to see her. It seems that he loved her at once.
Verses 7-8 Perhaps there were very many sheep that used water from the same well. So it might have been difficult to wait until the cooler evening to give water to them all. The stone that covered the well was very heavy. It was fairly difficult for one man to move it alone. It was easier when more than one man moved it. Also, it was safer to take the cover off the well less often. It was safer because then the well had a cover over it for a longer time.
Verses 9-10 Jacob wanted to impress Rachel. So, he moved the stone himself in order to provide water for her sheep. By this action, Jacob was showing Rachel that he would look after her.
Jacob’s mother, Rebekah, had used a well in that area in chapter 24. She provided water for Abraham’s servant and his camels. Soon afterwards, Rebekah married Isaac. Perhaps Jacob was already hoping that he could marry Rachel.
Verse 11 Jacob and Rachel were relatives. So, perhaps it was the custom to kiss. But we shall soon see how much he really loved her.
Verses 12-13 Laban and Rachel may have thought that Jacob would have valuable presents. Abraham’s servant had brought presents when he was arranging a wife for Isaac. But Jacob had nothing.
Verses 14-17 It was the custom to be friendly to all visitors. And Laban was especially pleased with Jacob, who was a relative. Laban invited Jacob to stay in Laban’s home. Laban was probably hoping that Jacob would marry Leah or Rachel.
Jacob was not lazy. He worked hard while he stayed with Laban.
Verse 18 Jacob had no ‘bride price’ to offer. (In other words, he had no money to ‘pay for’ his bride.) 7 years of work was a lot to give for a bride. But Jacob loved Rachel and he needed a home. Probably Jacob and Rachel were engaged, but they were not living together. That is like Joseph and Mary in the *New Testament.
Verse 20 Jacob really loved Rachel. He was happy as he worked. So he did not feel as if he was waiting for her.
Verse 21 Jacob had to go to Laban to claim his wife. Perhaps Laban did not want Jacob and Rachel to marry at once. Laban could remember how quickly Rebekah left home (Genesis 24:54-56). Both Jacob and Rachel were good workers. Laban did not want them to leave.
Verse 22 Laban arranged the wedding for his daughter and Jacob. But Laban was not an honest man.
It seems that Laban and his family knew about the real God (Genesis 24:31; 24:50). But perhaps they were not still serving God. They had images of false gods in their home (Genesis 31:30-35).
Verse 23 Laban cheated Jacob. Laban gave his older daughter, Leah, to Jacob instead of Rachel. The bride wore a *veil for the wedding, and the place was very dark. Also, Jacob had drunk wine.
Verse 25 In the morning, Jacob discovered that he had married the wrong woman. He complained to Laban. Rachel was the woman whom Jacob loved.
Verse 26 Among Jacob’s relatives the oldest son (the son that was born first in the family) had special rights. (In fact, Jacob bought those rights from Esau.) Here, Laban mentioned the idea that in his country the oldest daughter had special rights. But this excuse was not fair. Jacob believed that he was marrying Rachel. And Laban had not been honest.
Verse 27 When there was a wedding, people organised a *feast for it. The *feast lasted for one week. Jacob could have left afterwards, with his two brides. But Laban trusted that Jacob would stay. Jacob could not trust Laban. But Laban knew that he could trust Jacob.
Later, God’s law did not allow a man to marry two sisters.
Verses 28-30 So, Jacob had two wives. And each wife had a maid.
Verse 31 God was carrying out his promise. God was watching Jacob and his family, so that God could look after them.
Jacob never really loved Leah. But he accepted her as his wife. And God was kind to her. He helped her to have several children.
Rachel was the wife whom Jacob really loved. But, like Sarah and Rebekah, it was difficult for Rachel to have children.
Verse 32 Reuben meant ‘Look, a son!’ God was making Leah into the mother of many *tribes. The *tribes would belong to the nation called Israel. In that way, Leah was a part of God’s plan. But she could not force Jacob to love her.
Verse 33 ‘Simeon’ is like a *Hebrew word. The word means that someone ‘has heard’.
Verse 34 ‘Levi’ is like the word for ‘love’.
Verse 35 ‘Judah’ is like the word for ‘praise’. Leah was grateful to God for her children. Perhaps she was not still trying to persuade Jacob to love her. Perhaps now she was content that God cared about her. So she praised God.
Chapter 30 continues the account of the birth of Jacob’s sons. Jacob’s wives persuaded Jacob to accept their maids as *concubines. So, Jacob had children by 4 different women. Rachel, whom Jacob really loved, was the last of these women have babies.
Afterwards, Jacob wanted to leave Laban. God had promised Jacob that Jacob would return home (Genesis 28:15). Perhaps Jacob wanted to bring up his sons in the country that God had promised to their *descendants. But Laban persuaded Jacob to wait. Laban offered to pay Jacob for his work. They agreed which animals would belong to Jacob in the future. And so, Jacob became wealthy.
Verses 1-2 Jacob’s wives could have shared the joys that their husband and children gave to them. Instead, they were jealous of each other. And as a result, there was trouble among Jacob’s sons later. Rachel became sad when she could not have children. She even blamed Jacob.
Verses 3-5 It was the custom for a man to accept his wife’s maid as a *concubine. Abraham did this in Genesis 16:2-4. We do not know whether Jacob wanted to follow this custom. But Rachel was desperate. She could not have her own children. So, she wanted Bilhah to have children that Rachel could look after, with her.
Verse 6 The name ‘Dan’ means ‘God is my judge’. That is, God has been fair to me.
Verse 8 ‘Naphtali’ probably means a ‘fight’ or a ‘struggle’. It is a rare word. And so we are not sure what it means. Some people think that it means ‘God’s fight’. The ‘fight’ or ‘struggle’ might mean these things:
1) a powerful fight or struggle;
2) a struggle in the place where God had put her; that is, a struggle with her sister as Jacob’s other wife;
3) a struggle with God when she was asking him to give children to her; that is, a struggle in prayer.
Verse 9-10 We do not know whether Jacob wanted another *concubine. Jacob did not really love Leah. Laban forced Jacob to marry her. But Jacob was always fair to Leah. So, he accepted her maid too.
Verse 11 ‘Gad’ means ‘good luck’.
Verse 13 ‘Asher’ means ‘happy’.
Verse 14 *Mandrakes were plants. People thought that those plants could help a person to love his or her partner. They thought that the plants could help *barren women. The plants would help such women to become *pregnant. Rachel had never been *pregnant. And she was desperate to have children. This is why she wanted the *mandrakes.
Verses 15-17 It is clear that Jacob spent very little time with Leah. Leah very much wanted Jacob’s love and Rachel very much wanted children. But it was Leah who had another son after this event.
Verse 18 ‘Issachar’ may mean ‘Let God be *merciful’. Or it may mean a ‘hired man’.
Verse 20 Zebulun probably means ‘honour’.
Verse 21 People did not usually include daughters in lists of people’s children. Later, however, Dinah was an important part of the story about this family. ‘Dinah’ meant ‘judgement’.
Verses 22-23 At last, Rachel had a son. She always wanted children. But she had to wait for a long time.
Verse 24 ‘Joseph’ means ‘Let the *Lord add.’ Rachel was praying for another son. And, in the end, Rachel did have another son. But that was not a happy event (Genesis 35:16-19).
Verses 25-26 Jacob had stayed with Laban for 14 years. During that time, Jacob worked in order to pay for his marriages to Leah and Rachel. The time that he agreed to work had ended. So, Jacob wanted to return home to the country that God promised to him. He probably also wanted to introduce his wives and children to his mother.
Verses 27-28 Laban knew that God had made him (Laban) rich because of Jacob. And so Laban did not want Jacob to go. Laban offered wages in order to keep Jacob there.
Verses 29-34 A *shepherd’s wages were sometimes one from every four animals that were born. Laban thought that the animals with marks would be fewer than that. We do not know how *speckles and spots were different. The sizes of the marks were probably different.
Laban and Jacob agreed which animals would belong to Jacob. The animals with marks would belong to Jacob. The animals without marks would belong to Laban.
Verse 35-36 Laban did not really want Jacob to receive any wages. Laban led away all the animals that had marks. So, Jacob was looking after animals that had no marks. Of course, young animals would be born. Laban thought that the young animals would have no marks. He was trying to cheat Jacob.
Verses 37-40 It seems that Jacob had a dream at this time (Genesis 31:10-12). Jacob’s behaviour may seem strange to us. But perhaps he was acting the events that he saw in this dream. Whatever happened, God made Jacob wealthy. Jacob knew that Laban was trying to cheat. But Jacob was trusting God (Genesis 31:5-7)
Verse 41-42 God even allowed Jacob to own the stronger animals. But Laban’s animals were weaker.
Verse 43 God had promised that he would take care of Abraham and his *descendants. And clearly, God was doing what he had promised.
Jacob had worked very hard for Laban. But Laban and his sons did not respect Jacob. Laban continued to cheat and he did not pay fair wages to Jacob. And Laban’s sons were starting to accuse Jacob. They said that Jacob stole his wealth from Laban. This was not true. In fact, Jacob had become wealthy. But it was God who made Jacob wealthy.
In the end, God told Jacob to leave Laban. Jacob did not delay. He took his family and his animals.
Jacob did not tell anyone else that his family were leaving. They did not even say goodbye to Laban.
After three days, Laban heard that Jacob had left. Laban gathered his relatives to chase Jacob. We do not know what Laban intended to do to Jacob. Probably Laban wanted to take back his daughters and the animals. But, that night, God warned Laban in a dream. So, God was protecting Jacob.
On the next day, Laban and Jacob met. They argued with each other. But Laban was careful about his words, because God had warned him.
Laban and Jacob decided to make a *covenant. But this *covenant was not an agreement of friendship. Instead, they promised to stay apart. Then, their sons would not fight each other.
Verse 1 Laban was getting old. Laban’s sons were now adults. The sons were afraid that they would not receive Laban’s wealth. They were afraid that Jacob might get it. But they were accusing Jacob of something that was not true. Jacob never stole Laban’s wealth. In fact, Laban became wealthy because Jacob was working for Laban (Genesis 30:27). And now God had made Jacob wealthy too.
Verse 2 Everyone knew that Laban did not like Jacob. That was because Jacob had become very rich. And Laban was jealous.
Verse 3 Jacob had a good reason to go away. Also, God had ordered him to go. In the *Hebrew text, the writer says that Laban had ‘turned his face away from Jacob’. It means that Laban did not like Jacob. But God had ‘turned his own face’ towards Jacob. He was looking after Jacob.
Verse 4 Jacob wanted his wives to go with him. He did not want them to stay with Laban. He wanted to be sure about that. Jacob and his wives met together in a field. From that, we learn that they were just part of Laban’s *household. They did not have their own home where they could be alone and safe.
Jacob did not force his wives to leave Laban. Jacob allowed them to choose.
Verses 5-6 Jacob knew that God had helped him. And Jacob was grateful.
Verse 7 ‘10 times’ may be a way to say ‘many times’.
Verse 8 It seems that the story in Genesis 30:25-43 was just an example of Jacob’s problems with Laban. In fact, Laban changed Jacob’s wages many times. Laban was not an honest employer.
Verse 9 In the *Hebrew text, the writer says this: ‘God has rescued your father’s animals.’
Verses 10-12 God was guiding Jacob. An *angel spoke to Jacob during the dream.
Verse 13 At Bethel, Jacob had made a promise to God. Jacob would obey God if God looked after him. Here, God is reminding him about that promise. Jacob should do as he had promised.
Verse 14 Leah and Rachel believed that Laban had cheated them. They were his daughters. But he seemed to act as if they were strangers. A husband usually paid ‘bride money’ to his bride’s father. (It was like a payment to get the bride.) The father usually kept that money. But Jacob had no money. Instead, he worked for the father as a payment. Leah and Rachel thought that they should receive money from their father Laban. They thought that because their husband Jacob had worked for him.
Verse 15 Laban was behaving towards his daughters as if they were the wives of a slave. Daughters did not *inherit from their father. Only sons *inherited. But Laban had not given the right wages to Jacob. In that way, he had cheated Jacob. So he had cheated Jacob’s wives and family also.
Verse 16 Rachel and Leah thought that they could take their father’s wealth. Rachel even stole something (verse 19). But, in fact, God had not given Laban’s wealth to them. Really, God had given to Jacob his own wealth.
Verse 18 Jacob had come to Laban alone. Jacob had come without anything. The story shows how God had *blessed Jacob. God had given a lot of wealth to Jacob. God had promised to do that. He had also done that to Abraham and Isaac.
Verse 19 Laban was probably a fairly long distance away from home. When people cut the wool off sheep, it was a very important occasion. There was often a *feast at that time. The ‘gods’ that Rachel took from the *household were probably small *idols. Families *worshipped them. They thought that the *idols protected them. The *idols might have been images that were like *ancestors. We do not know why Rachel stole them. Perhaps the person that had them had a right to the family’s property. Perhaps she thought that the *idols would protect her during the journey. Perhaps she liked the *idols. Maybe Rachel just wanted to have something from home. Or maybe she wanted to make her father angry!
People in the Bible often had *idols. They did not always realise that *idols are false gods. So they did not always realise that it is wrong to have *idols. But God’s command was that people should not make *idols (Deuteronomy 5:8). We should only serve the real God (Deuteronomy 5:7).
Verses 20-21 Jacob and his family left in secret. Laban did not discover until three days afterwards.
Verses 22-23 Laban and his relatives followed Jacob. But Laban travelled faster than Jacob. Unlike Jacob, Laban did not have children and animals to look after as he travelled. So, Laban soon caught up with Jacob.
Verse 24 God told Laban to agree with Jacob always. In the *Hebrew text, God says this to Laban: ‘Say not a word to Jacob either good or bad.’ In other words, ‘Do not encourage Jacob to return. And do not force him.’
Verse 26 Jacob did not owe anything to Laban. Laban wanted to keep Jacob. That was because Jacob was a good worker. And God was *blessing what Jacob did. Masters did not let slaves take away wives and families. But Jacob had worked hard to get his wives. He was Laban’s nephew. He was not a slave.
Verses 27-28 Laban was unhappy that Jacob had left in secret. But Laban pretended that he was happy for Jacob to leave. This was probably not true.
It seems that Laban did not really care about his daughters. They had complained that he was unfair to them in verses 14-16.
Verses 29-30 Laban knew that the real God had spoken to him. But Laban still wanted Jacob to return Laban’s *idols (false gods). Perhaps the *idols were gold. So, they were valuable. Jacob did not know who stole them.
Verse 32 The writer writes in a very clever way here. We know that Rachel stole the gods from the *household at the beginning. And the writer makes us wonder whether Laban will find the *idols. We wonder what will happen. But we have to wait for a while before we can know that.
Verses 33-34 Laban looked for his *idols. Nobody expected that Rachel would steal anything. So Laban looked in the other tents first.
Verse 35 Rachel was not very gentle with the *idols here. She was sitting on them.
Verses 38-40 Jacob’s and Laban’s argument sounds like the discussions in a court. Laban accused Jacob. But Laban could not prove anything. Now Jacob accused Laban. Of course, there was no human judge. God was their only judge.
Verse 41 ‘Ten times’ may not mean the exact number ten. It may mean ‘many times’.
Verse 42 In the *Hebrew text, Jacob calls God ‘the fear of Isaac’. It can mean the God whom Isaac respected very greatly. And he was the God whom Isaac obeyed. It can also mean the God who makes people afraid. Jacob spoke to Laban very clearly. Jacob said that God was *blessing him (Jacob). He said that God was watching him so that he (God) could protect him. And Jacob said that God had already acted as their judge. God had already spoken to Laban. And God had told Laban what to do.
Verse 43 Laban was not willing to give in to Jacob. But Laban knew that he (Laban) could not win against God.
Verses 45-46 When people made *covenants, they sometimes built a heap of stones. So, when people saw the stones, they would remember about the *covenant.
Verses 47-49 The name that Laban called the stones was in his language. And the name that Jacob called them was in Jacob’s language. Both names mean ‘heap of witness’. The heap was like a witness. A witness gives evidence. And the heap was evidence that those men had made the *covenant. Mizpah means ‘watch-post’ (a place where a guard is watching).
Verse 50 Jacob had to promise not to marry any more wives.
Verses 51-52 The purpose of the heap of stones was to separate Jacob’s *descendants from Laban’s *descendants. Then, they would not fight.
Verse 53 Laban talked about ‘Abraham’s God’. Laban also talked about ‘Nahor’s God’ and ‘their father’s God’. Maybe Laban meant that all those men had the same God. Or he might have meant that Nahor and the father did not have the same God as Abraham did. (Look at Joshua 24:2, 14, 15.) Abraham *worshipped the one real God. And Jacob called only the one real God, the God of his father Isaac, as his witness.
Verse 54 The writer does not tell us whether Laban was also offering the *sacrifice together with Jacob.
Verse 55 When Laban first met Jacob, Laban was very friendly to him. But when Laban said goodbye to Jacob, Laban was less friendly to him.
When Jacob left Canaan, Esau was plotting to kill him. Now Jacob was returning to Canaan. And Jacob realised that he would have to meet Esau.
Jacob was afraid. He thought that Esau might still be very angry. And he heard that Esau had 400 men with him. Jacob knew that his family and servants could not defeat Esau’s men.
Jacob made plans in case Esau’s men attacked. Jacob separated his family into groups. He hoped that some would escape. And he sent his servants with gifts for Esau. Jacob hoped that the gifts would please Esau. And Jacob wanted to show that he respected Esau as his older brother.
Jacob had to depend on God. If Esau was angry, only God could save Jacob. Jacob prayed for help. Jacob had a special experience in prayer. He seemed to be fighting a man. That man was probably an *angel. The man was stronger than Jacob. But the man could not overcome Jacob. So, Jacob struggled with God in prayer. And Jacob continued until God *blessed him. Now, Jacob was trusting God.
Verse 1 Jacob met God’s *angels. They showed that God was with him.
Verse 2 ‘Mahanaim’ means ‘two camps’. Maybe there were two armies of *angels. (But we do not know why there would be two armies.) Or maybe ‘two camps’ meant Jacob’s camp and the *angels’ camp. Afterwards, Jacob separated his own camp into two camps (verse 7).
Verse 3 The region was called Seir. ‘Seir’ is like the *Hebrew word for ‘hairy’. The country was called Edom. ‘Edom’ is like the *Hebrew word for ‘red’. And Esau had red skin, because he was outdoors so much. Esau was a good hunter and he liked to be outdoors (Genesis 25:27). So, because of the name ‘Edom’, people could easily remember who Esau was.
Verses 4-5 Jacob was trying to make sure that Esau was not angry. So several times Jacob called Esau ‘my *lord’ and Jacob called himself ‘your servant’. This was the usual way for a younger brother to speak to his older brother. Jacob used these words to show that he respected Esau.
Verse 6 The writer shows to us that Jacob was afraid. Esau had brought 400 men, without *cattle and children. That was an army that Jacob might easily be afraid of! Jacob had servants and some of his sons were young men. But Jacob’s group were much too small and too weak to fight Esau’s men.
Verses 7-8 Jacob separated his family, servants and animals into two groups. If Esau attacked one group, the other group would run away.
Verse 9 Jacob prayed and he prepared. God expects us to do both. God has done good things in the past for us. It is good to say such things when we pray. It helps us to remember what God has done. And it shows to God that we are grateful. We are grateful for what he has done for us.
Verse 10 When Jacob left home, he had only his stick. But when he came back, he had a family. He had many servants and animals also.
Verses 11-12 Jacob said the right things in his prayer. But he was not yet ready to trust God. Jacob was still trying to use clever schemes to protect himself. He knew that God had promised to look after him. But Jacob thought that he would have to save himself by his own schemes.
Verse 13 Jacob made ready a very large present for Esau.
Verses 14-21 Jacob’s scheme was to send several separate gifts to Esau. Jacob thought that Esau would perhaps still be angry after the first gift. But Esau would be less angry after the second gift. In the end, Esau would receive many such gifts, even before he met Jacob.
Verses 22-24 The writer does not tell us why Jacob stayed behind alone. Perhaps Jacob realised that he needed to pray more. Jacob did not want anyone to disturb him as he prayed. He needed to spend time alone with God.
We do not know why God’s man fought with Jacob. (The man was probably an *angel.) But we do know why Jacob continued to struggle with the man. Jacob wanted to receive God’s *blessing (verse 26). It would have been difficult to fight in the dark.
Verse 25 The man was much stronger than Jacob was. The man hurt Jacob badly when he merely touched Jacob. Afterwards, Jacob could not walk well (verse 31).
Verse 26 Jacob did not want to fight for nothing. He wanted God’s *blessing. Jacob always believed that God’s *blessing was very important. Jacob would do anything to get God’s *blessing.
Verse 27 Israel means ‘God struggles’. Or it means ‘he who struggles with God’. Jacob had to struggle that night as he prayed. But Jacob overcame.
So, Jacob’s name changed to Israel, although we still call him Jacob. And Jacob’s character also changed. Jacob did not continue to use schemes. Instead, he learnt to trust God more.
Verse 30 Peniel means ‘God’s face’. In verse 31, the *Hebrew text has ‘Penuel’. It is another way to say the same name.
God is very holy. At that time, if people saw God, they did not usually stay alive. The verse might also mean this: Jacob knew that God was keeping him alive. That was because God had *blessed him.
Verse 31 God sometimes makes us weak in some way. That makes us trust him for his strength. (In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul wrote, ‘The *Lord said to me, “My grace (kindness) is enough for you. When you are weak, then my power becomes perfect in you.” So I am very happy to talk proudly about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can live in me.’ Look also at the verse after that, 2 Corinthians 12:10.)
At last, it was time to meet Esau. Jacob had been very afraid about this meeting. Jacob’s body was weaker because of his experience when he struggled with the *angel. But Jacob probably felt stronger, because he now had God’s *blessing. Jacob led his family as they approached Esau.
But Esau was not angry. In fact, he was kind to Jacob. Esau did not even want to accept Jacob’s gifts. But Jacob insisted that Esau should accept them.
Jacob stayed in Canaan. He bought some land near a city called Shechem. He prayed there. And nobody opposed him. But there would soon be more troubles.
Verse 1 Jacob had a lot of time to wait for Esau. Jacob had time to arrange his people and animals in order. He had fought all night with the ‘man’ (God’s man). Jacob was afraid to meet Esau. So, Jacob needed the strength that God gave to him.
Esau still had 400 men with him. Jacob himself had an injury. He did not have 400 men. The men that he had were not able to fight. They had to take care of the animals. And they were probably tired after the long journey.
Verse 2 It was the custom to arrange sons in the order of their age (Genesis 43:33). This would usually be the same order as their importance in the family (1 Samuel 16:6-11). But Jacob arranged his sons in the order of the importance of their mothers. Jacob probably did not realise that he had given the most important place to Joseph. Joseph was Jacob’s youngest son at this time. But Joseph was the son of Jacob’s favourite wife.
Verse 3 Jacob showed that he had come in peace. He wanted to be friends with Esau. And he was careful to show it. He was willing to be humble. He did not want to get things from other people. He was content, because God was *blessing him.
Verses 4-11 Esau was not still angry. He, too, was content. He did not even want to take Jacob’s gifts. They were both happy to be together.
Verses 12-17 Jacob wanted to go to the country that God had promised. So he did not want to go to Seir, where Esau lived. We do not know why Jacob built a house at Succoth. ‘Succoth’ means ‘shelters’. That is, simple shelters. The people and animals probably needed a rest after the long journey. Maybe they did not stay there for a long time. However, we do not know how long they actually stayed there.
Verses 18-19 Jacob wanted to have a calm life. These verses are like Genesis 21:33-34 and Genesis 26:25. Both Abraham and Isaac found quiet places where they could live. These places were calm and Abraham and Isaac were able to pray there. Jacob hoped that he had arrived at such a place.
Verse 20 ‘El-Elohe-Israel’ means ‘God is Israel’s (Jacob’s) God’. Jacob remembered that he (Jacob) had promised this (Genesis 28:21). He had promised that God would be his God. And now, God had brought him safely back to Canaan.
Jacob served the real God (Genesis 34:20). But Jacob’s family did not. They used *idols, which were images of false gods (Genesis 35:2). And they were not behaving in the same manner as people who serve the real God.
This became a very serious matter when a man called Shechem *raped Dinah. Dinah was the daughter of Jacob and Leah. Simeon and Levi were brothers of Dinah. They became very angry when they heard about Shechem.
They made a cruel plot. They pretended that Shechem could marry Dinah. But first, Shechem would have to accept *circumcision. And they wanted every male in Shechem’s town to accept *circumcision. Shechem’s town was called Shechem too (Genesis 12:6). The men agreed. But while the men were still hurting, Simeon and Levi attacked them. Simeon and Levi killed every man in the town, including Shechem.
Jacob was very unhappy about the behaviour of Simeon and Levi. They had acted in the same manner as very wicked people behave. Shechem deserved punishment. But the actions of Simeon and Levi were much too cruel. And now, Jacob’s whole family was in danger.
Before he died, Jacob *blessed his sons. But he did not *bless Simeon or Levi. Instead, he said that their anger was terrible. So, God would scatter their *descendants across the country called Israel (Genesis 49:5-7).
Verse 1 We do not know whether Dinah had sisters. People often made lists that showed members in a family. (See Genesis 29:31-35; 30:1-24). But such a list did not include girls, unless there was a special reason for that. Maybe Dinah should not have gone out to visit those people. Maybe that was dangerous.
Verse 2 At that time, people considered that sex between unmarried people was very seriously wrong. God says that this is wrong. There are laws about this in Deuteronomy 22:23-29.
Verses 3-4 Shechem very much wanted to marry Dinah. We do not know whether Dinah wanted to marry Shechem.
Verse 5 The report about Dinah probably upset Jacob greatly. But Jacob did not say anything. Perhaps he was too sad to speak about the matter. Perhaps he did not want to make any decisions while his sons were away. Perhaps he was being careful not to speak too quickly, in case his reaction was angry. So, Jacob waited.
Verse 7 In *Hebrew, the writer says that Shechem had ‘done a foolish thing in Israel’. The word ‘foolish’ can mean ‘evil’. ‘In Israel’ may mean ‘in Israel’s family’. That is Jacob’s family, because Jacob was also called Israel. It may also mean that the writer was referring to the future nation called Israel. The nation called Israel would come from Jacob’s (Israel’s) family.
Verses 8-19 Hamor and Shechem were very polite. And Jacob and his sons were also very polite. However, Jacob’s sons were telling lies about what they would do. And Shechem had not given Dinah back.
Verses 8-9 God would give very clear rules about marriages between *Israelites and other nations. Jacob and his family did not know these rules yet. But both Abraham and Isaac thought that their children should not marry anyone from Canaan.
Verse 10 To ‘trade’ may mean to ‘move about’. Merchants (traders) were people that moved about.
Verse 13 The brothers were angry because Shechem had *raped their sister. It seems that he was still living with her.
Verses 14-17 Jacob’s sons were not respecting God. They were using *circumcision for their own advantage. They were not using it to show a *covenant with God. Jacob’s sons wanted only to make the men in Shechem weak. The sons wanted to defeat and to kill those men.
Verse 20 People usually discussed all the important things at the city’s gate.
Verses 21-23 Hamor and Shechem were clever. They told the men in their city that the *Israelites’ wealth would come to the city. Actually, Hamor had invited the *Israelites to have land in the city. But Hamor and Shechem did not tell that to the men in the city. The reason for all that was so that Shechem could marry Dinah, the *Israelite woman. But Hamor and Shechem did not say the reason. The writer writes about ‘men that went out of the gate’. It probably means healthy, skilful men that could fight. Such men could also work in the fields.
Verse 25 Simeon and Levi punished the men in Shechem too severely. The brothers were very cruel.
Verse 26 Simeon and Levi took Dinah away. In the meantime, Dinah had been with Shechem all the time. That was another reason why her brothers were so angry. Simeon and Levi may have had other men with them. But in a surprise attack, it was sometimes better to have only a few men.
Verses 27-29 After Simeon and Levi killed the men, Jacob’s sons took everything away from the city. They took all the possessions that had belonged to the dead men. And they kept these things for themselves. They also took the women and children to be their slaves. So, Jacob’s sons became wealthy. But they became wealthy because of Simeon and Levi’s cruelty.
Verses 30-31 The behaviour of Jacob’s sons upset Jacob greatly. He realised that other people would oppose him because of his sons’ actions. Now, his sons had become wealthy and powerful. And Jacob had learned that he could not control them.
God had promised to make Jacob’s *descendants into a great nation. But Jacob did not want that nation to be a wicked nation. So, Jacob needed to teach his sons about God (Genesis 35:1-15).
Nobody in the story was innocent. Dinah went out to visit those people. That was a dangerous thing to do. Hamor and Shechem did something wrong to her. And they were not honest with Jacob’s family about it. Hamor and Shechem were not honest with their own people either. Jacob probably should have done more about Dinah’s situation. But he was perhaps more worried about his own safety among his neighbours.
But the behaviour of Simeon and Levi was terrible. The brothers punished the men in Shechem too severely. They were cruel. It is clear that people in Jacob’s family were bitter and angry. And they were behaving like people who did not know God.
Jacob did not feel safe now near the town called Shechem. His sons, Simeon and Levi, had been angry, so they killed many men there. And Jacob was afraid that the relatives of those men might attack his family. God told Jacob to take his family to Bethel.
It seems that Jacob was pleased to take his family to Bethel. God first spoke to Jacob at Bethel. Jacob could teach his family about God during the journey. He explained to them how he met the real God. He told them that they should not keep their *idols (images of false gods). And he told his family that they were going to a holy place. So, they had to prepare themselves.
At Bethel, God repeated his promises to Jacob. And Jacob rebuilt the *altar that he made there.
Soon afterwards, Jacob’s last son, called Benjamin, was born. But Benjamin’s mother, Rachel, died at the birth.
A terrible event happened afterwards. It was the custom in Canaan that the oldest son should have sex with his father’s wives. Then, that son would become the leader of the family. (See 2 Samuel 16:21-22.) Jacob knew that this action was very wicked. And he hoped that his own sons had learned about God. But Jacob could not control his sons. They were adults now. So, they were responsible for their own behaviour.
Reuben, who was Jacob’s first son, had sex with Bilhah. Bilhah was Jacob’s *concubine. She had been Rachel’s maid. Jacob heard about Reuben’s behaviour. So, Jacob decided that Reuben must not receive the *birthright. And Reuben did not receive a *blessing from Jacob (Genesis 49:3-4).
Simeon and Levi were the oldest sons after Reuben. But Jacob would not give them the *birthright because of their cruelty. So instead, Jacob chose Joseph (Genesis 37:3; 1 Chronicles 5:1-2).
Verse 1 God was gently reminding Jacob that he (God) had been *faithful. He had taken care of Jacob. Now Jacob needed to *worship God at Bethel. Jacob had promised to do that.
Verses 2-4 People in Jacob’s *household still had *idols. That seems strange. However, they threw the *idols away when Jacob asked them to. They also threw away ear-rings. We think that the ear-rings had some connection with *idols. So those that wore the ear-rings served the *idols. The ear-rings were evidence of that. It is also strange that Jacob buried those things under a tree. He did not destroy them. Usually, before people *worshipped God in a special way, they washed themselves. They put on clean clothes. They did those things to respect God. It made the people remember that God is perfect. So, they must prepare themselves to *worship him.
Verse 5 Jacob’s sons had done an evil thing to the men in Shechem (chapter 34). So Jacob was afraid of the people that lived near.
Verse 7 El-Bethel means ‘God of Bethel’. That is, God who appeared at Bethel. Bethel means ‘the house of God’. Bethel was the place where Jacob decided to serve God (Genesis 28:19-22).
Verse 8 Deborah was very old. The writer speaks about her death. They buried her ‘below Bethel’. Some people think that it means ‘near Bethel’. Or perhaps they buried her at the actual spot where God first appeared to Jacob (Genesis 28:11-19).
The wives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all had maids (also called nurses). And all these maids became *concubines, except for Deborah. Deborah was a loyal servant. And it seems that the whole family loved her.
Verse 9 Perhaps the writer was saying again what had happened earlier. (Look at verse 1.) When something was repeated in the Bible, it was very important.
Verses 10-13 God repeated his promises to Jacob. Jacob’s *descendants would become a great nation. And God would give to them the country called Canaan.
Verses 14-15 This was the way that they *worshipped God. It made the column special for them.
This was the same place where God spoke to Jacob during a dream. (See Genesis 28:10-22.) At that time, Jacob put up a stone column. But it was now 20 years later. At last, Jacob was able to return to that place. Perhaps his column had fallen down and Jacob rebuilt it.
Verses 16-18 Rachel had the second son that she wanted (Genesis 30:24). But she did not stay alive after the birth. Benoni means ‘son of my sorrow’. (That means ‘the son that I got when I was sad’. ‘Sorrow’ means sad feelings.)
Benjamin means ‘son of my right hand’. A man would place his right hand on his oldest son when he *blessed that son. (See Genesis 48:13-19.) So, people associated the right hand with the *blessing. So, the name ‘Benjamin’ meant that God would *bless him.
Verses 19-20 Bethlehem became a very important town. King David came from Bethlehem, so Bethlehem became a royal town. And Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
Verse 22 What Reuben did was very serious. Such actions in a family were very bad. Reuben was probably trying to become the head of the family instead of Jacob. Reuben wanted to show his authority. Jacob heard. And he decided that Joseph would receive the *birthright instead of Reuben.
Verses 23-26 Nearly all Jacob’s sons were born in Paddan-Aram. Benjamin was not born there. But the writer added Benjamin’s name (in verse 24) so that this list of Jacob’s sons was complete.
Verses 27-29 Jacob and Esau met together again. They buried their father Isaac together.
Isaac lived much longer than anyone had expected. Isaac was a man with a calm attitude. He did not like arguments. He would have been pleased that Jacob and Esau met together for his funeral. Their arguments had ended. And they were friendly again.
People try to discover what the names of Esau’s *descendants meant. People try to link the names with nations that people knew in that area later. But that is not very helpful. God always does the things that he promises to do. In this chapter, the writer reminds us about this principle. Esau was not the son that God had chosen. But God had made a promise about Esau (Genesis 25:23). So, God gave many *descendants to Esau. Later, King David defeated the *Edomites and he ruled over them. So they did serve Jacob’s *descendants.
Verses 2-8 Esau’s first two wives did not come from Abraham’s family. The writer reminds us about that. God had especially chosen Abraham’s family. So God did not want them to marry *Canaanite wives. But Esau did not care about that. It is very difficult to compare the lists that contain Esau’s wives. From chapters 26 and 28, we can make one list of Esau’s wives. There is Judith, the daughter of Beeri the *Hittite. There is Basemath, the daughter of Elon the *Hittite. And there is Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael. Then here in verses 2 and 3, we have another list of Esau’s wives. Both lists have the name Basemath, but in each list she has a different father. And there are two fathers that have a different daughter in each list. Maybe the wives had more than one name. Maybe Esau had more than three wives. We do not know.
Verse 7 God led Esau away from Jacob’s family. He did not want Esau and Jacob to marry members of each other’s family. We do not know when Esau went to live in Seir. (In Genesis 32:3, we see that Esau was already living in Seir then.) God was *blessing both brothers with large *flocks. He had promised to do that.
Verses 9-40 The list of Esau’s *descendants continues. Their nation became large and successful. They appointed kings before Jacob’s *descendants did (verse 31). But God’s ideas about success are different from people’s ideas. In God’s opinion, a nation is not really successful just because it becomes large and powerful. And a nation does not become really successful just because it appoints important kings. The only really successful nations are those whose rulers and people serve God.
The account of Joseph’s life begins in this chapter.
Reuben was Jacob’s oldest son. So, Reuben had the *birthright. But Reuben had carried out a wicked deed against Jacob (Genesis 35:22). So, Jacob decided that Reuben should not receive the *birthright. Simeon and Levi were the oldest sons after Reuben. But they too had upset Jacob (chapter 34). So, Jacob chose Joseph to receive the *birthright. Jacob’s other sons were angry. Except for Benjamin, who was still very young, they were all older than Joseph.
Jacob made a special coat for Joseph. This probably showed that Joseph had the *birthright. And Joseph had special dreams. These dreams were *prophecies. They showed that Joseph would become the leader of the family. But Joseph’s brothers hated the dreams. In fact, they hated Joseph.
Joseph’s brothers were working away from home. They were looking after Jacob’s animals. Jacob sent Joseph to them. Jacob wanted to know what was happening. This was an opportunity for the brothers to attack Joseph. Their first plan was to kill Joseph. But Reuben had a secret plan to save Joseph. Perhaps Reuben wanted to please Jacob. Then perhaps Jacob might change his mind about Reuben’s *birthright. But when Reuben was away, Judah made another plan. Judah and the other brothers sold Joseph as a slave. Then they pretended to Jacob that Joseph was dead.
Jacob was very sad. Nobody could comfort him. He felt as if his only *righteous son was dead. But Joseph was not dead. In fact, Joseph became a slave in Egypt. God allowed these things to happen because God had a plan to save the lives of many people (Genesis 45:5).
Verse 1 Jacob made his home in the country where his father Isaac had wandered about.
Verse 2 Joseph was a helper for his brothers. (Actually, they had the same father, but they had different mothers. So they were only ‘half-brothers’.) But Joseph was more important in the family than they were. Joseph was the first son of Jacob’s favourite wife. But these brothers were just the sons of *concubines. When Joseph returned to Jacob, Joseph told a bad report to his father. People usually think that the brothers were not looking after the animals well. But the Bible does not say what the bad report was about.
Verses 3-4 Israel (Jacob) upset his family. He gave more to Joseph than he (Israel) gave to Joseph’s brothers. The coat was very special. It was not a coat that Joseph would work in. It made his brothers angry just to see Joseph wear it. They had to work hard, while Joseph wore a special coat. And he did not seem to work like them. Joseph was special. He was Rachel’s first son. And Rachel was the wife whom Jacob really loved. So, Joseph became Jacob’s favourite son.
Verses 5-8 Jacob had decided that the *birthright belonged to Joseph. Joseph’s first dream seemed to show that this decision was right. In the past, God had spoken to Jacob too by means of dreams. But Joseph’s brothers were unhappy about the dream. Perhaps they did not realise that the dream was from God. So, they hated Joseph even more because of his dream.
Verses 9-11 Joseph’s second dream was about the sun, the moon and 11 stars. It seemed as if Joseph’s family really would *bow down to him. Rachel, his mother, was probably already dead. Leah may have looked after him as his ‘mother’. The two dreams were rather similar to each other. So Joseph could expect that they would probably become true. The writer does not tell us whether God showed their meaning. Joseph’s family might think that Joseph did not really have such dreams. But Jacob continued to think about the dreams. Previously, Jacob had dreams that came from God. So, Jacob was not surprised if Joseph had such dreams.
Verses 12-13 Shechem was a long way from home. It was also the same place where the brothers had killed many people. It might have been dangerous for Joseph to go out alone. Jacob did not think that. However, Jacob was anxious about his other sons. And he trusted Joseph. Joseph would tell Jacob the truth about what was happening. Joseph was a loyal son who always obeyed his father. So Joseph went.
Verse 14-17 In fact, the brothers were not still at Shechem. Probably there was not enough grass there for all their animals. So, they had to move to another place.
Verse 18 Even before Joseph arrived, his brothers were plotting to kill him.
Verse 19 The brothers were angry with Joseph because of the dreams. If Joseph’s dreams had no meaning, there would be no reason for the brothers to be angry. So probably, the brothers were thinking that the dreams might be right. And they were jealous of God’s plan for Joseph. So, they tried to stop God’s plan. If that was their intention, they were very foolish. God is much more powerful than this. Nobody can successfully oppose God’s plans.
Verses 20-21 The brothers intended to leave Joseph without food or water. Then, he would soon die.
Verse 22 Reuben was the oldest brother. So he probably considered that Joseph was in his care. If Reuben saved Joseph, perhaps Jacob would respect Reuben again.
Verses 23-24 The brothers took away Joseph’s coat. Jacob wanted to show that he (Joseph) had the *birthright. That is probably why he had given the coat to Joseph. So, the brothers were trying to take the *birthright from Joseph.
Verses 25-27 It was better for the brothers to sell Joseph. Then they would not murder their brother and so they would not be guilty of that. Also, they would get some money. Joseph would become a slave.
Verse 28 The traders included both *Midianites and *Ishmaelites. They were travelling together. The *Midianites were friends of the *Ishmaelites, who were a larger group.
Verses 29-30 Reuben was elsewhere when the brothers sold Joseph. So, Reuben did not know that his plan to save Joseph had failed. Perhaps Reuben only realised this when he returned to rescue Joseph. Reuben tore his clothes. This action showed that he was very sad. People usually tore their clothes when a relative died.
Verses 31-32 The brothers made a plan in order to pretend that Joseph was dead. They put blood from a goat on Joseph’s special coat. They handed the coat back to Jacob. None of the brothers felt able to take the precious coat for himself. They knew that they did not deserve the *birthright.
Verse 33-34 Jacob seemed even more sad about Joseph than he (Jacob) was about Rachel’s death (Genesis 35:16-20).
Verse 35 The only daughter of Jacob that the writer has told us about is Dinah. But people did not speak much about their daughters.
Verse 36 In *Hebrew, ‘captain of the guard’ means this. It means the ‘chief man among the killers’. So it might mean the chief man among those who provided meat for *Pharaoh’s *household. It might mean the leader of the army. Or it might mean the chief man among those that killed murderers as a punishment.
*Pharaoh ruled over Egypt. All the kings of Egypt were called *Pharaoh.
Reuben, Simeon and Levi had all upset Jacob. They were his three oldest sons. Jacob did not want them to have the *birthright. So, Jacob decided that Joseph would receive the *birthright. But now, Jacob thought that Joseph was dead. So, Judah became Jacob’s most important son. Judah was Jacob’s 4th son, after Reuben, Simeon and Levi. But much of Judah’s life would also disappoint Jacob.
Judah had three sons. The first son, called Er, married Tamar. But Er was so evil that God killed him.
The people then had a custom that they considered important. If a widow did not yet have a child, the unmarried brother of the dead husband would marry the widow. Then, they would have children together. So, Er’s brother, called Onan, married Tamar. But he too was evil, and God killed him.
Judah promised that Tamar could marry Judah’s last son, called Shelah. But when Shelah became old enough to marry, Judah did not arrange the marriage.
So, Tamar made a plan. She covered her face so that nobody would recognise her. She pretended to be a *prostitute. And she tempted Judah.
Afterwards, Judah discovered that Tamar was expecting a baby. He was very angry that she had acted as a *prostitute. He wanted to kill her. But she was able to show that Judah himself was responsible for her situation.
Judah felt very guilty. He confessed that he had been unfair to her. And he allowed her to live. In fact, she had *twins (two babies born together). The oldest, called Perez, received the *birthright among Judah’s *descendants.
Judah’s character and attitudes changed after this event. Before it, he was responsible for the sale of Joseph as a slave (Genesis 37:26-27). Afterwards, Judah himself offered to become a slave in order to save Benjamin (Genesis 44:16-34).
Among Jacob’s sons, Judah was the oldest son who received Jacob’s *blessing (Genesis 49:8-12). And that *blessing was very special. Jacob said that Judah’s *descendants would include the kings of the *Israelites. And the special *descendant of Eve (Genesis 3:15) and of Abraham (Galatians 3:16) would be a *descendant of Judah too. This special *descendant means Jesus (Hebrews 7:14). God sent Jesus to free people from their *sins.
Verses 1-5 The writer never tells us the name of Judah’s wife. Jacob’s sons did not marry into their own *tribe as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had done.
Verse 6 Tamar was probably a *Canaanite.
Verse 7 The writer does not tell us what Er’s *sin was. This was the first time that God killed one particular person only. (Or anyway, Er is the first one that we can read about.) In the great flood, God had killed nearly everyone. And in Sodom and Gomorrah, he had killed all the inhabitants except for Lot’s family.
Verses 8-10 Tamar had no children and Onan was unmarried. There was an ancient custom for people in this situation. The family expected a dead man’s brother to have sex with the dead man’s widow. If a child was then born, people accepted it as the dead man’s child. It meant that the child would *inherit instead of the brother. However, the brother was the child’s actual father. It is not clear whether people expected the brother to marry the widow. Perhaps they expected him just to have sex with her. But, among the *Israelites, the brother had to marry her. Sex between people who were not married was always wrong. Onan was evil because he was doing a wrong thing to Tamar. A wife or widow was ashamed if she had no children. Onan was not obeying God. God had told Onan’s relatives to have large families. Also, Onan was not obeying his father.
Verse 11 This promise meant that Tamar and Shelah were engaged.
Verse 12 Instead of ‘his friend Hirah’, some translations say ‘his *shepherd Hirah’. Hirah may have been a *shepherd. But here he was Judah’s friend. The time when people cut the wool off sheep was a very important occasion. There were *feasts for the men that cut off the wool. And there was much wine at the *feasts.
Verses 13-14 We do not know whether *prostitutes usually wore *veils. Tamar wore one so that Judah would not know her. Maybe other *prostitutes wore *veils so that people did not know them. Tamar covered her face because she did not want people to know her.
We read here, ‘Then she sat at a cross-roads.’ But some translations say, ‘Then she sat at the side of the road. That place was on the way into Enaim.’ The original *Hebrew text has this. ‘Then she sat at the opening of the eyes.’ Some writers a long time ago thought that it meant this. ‘She sat where two roads came together.’ That seems to be a likely place for a *prostitute to meet people. There, people were going from one place to another.
Verses 16-17 Sex between very close relatives in a family was very evil. But Judah did not recognise her. He agreed a price for sex.
Verse 18 A ‘*pledge’ was a thing that a person gave as a promise. It was a promise that the person would pay a certain price. The person had agreed about the price. When the person had paid the price, then he or she received the *pledge back again. Tamar asked for some things that belonged to Judah. The *seal was a small tube that someone had made out of metal or stone. It had special marks. Those marks showed that the *seal belonged to Judah. The owner kept the *seal on a string. The stick probably had special marks on it too. So those things could only belong to Judah. They could not belong to anyone else.
Verse 20 Judah sent the *kid so that he would receive his *pledge back.
Verse 21 Hirah asked for a ‘*prostitute that meets people in the *temple’. Before, in verse 15, the writer used the word for an ordinary *prostitute. A *prostitute from the *temple was more important than an ordinary *prostitute. It was more polite to ask for a ‘*prostitute from the *temple’. But only people who served *idols would use a *prostitute from the *temple. So, perhaps Judah served *idols at this time.
Verse 23 Judah was a rich man. He was afraid that his friends would laugh at him. They might laugh because a *prostitute had kept his *seal and stick. Actually, she had stolen them. Judah had tried to pay the *prostitute with the *kid. And Judah emphasised here that Hirah certainly knew it.
Verse 24 Tamar was engaged to Shelah. Her father had promised to give her to Shelah as a wife. So, when Tamar had sex with someone else, that was *adultery. *Israelites used to punish people that had done *adultery. Later, the *Israelites threw stones at such people until those people were dead, as a punishment. But Tamar was also guilty because she had become a *prostitute. Judah felt great shame that a member of his family had become a *prostitute.
Verse 25 Tamar was able to prove that she had had sex with Judah. She still had his *pledge. The *seal and stick had special marks. They could only belong to Judah.
Verse 26 Judah knew that he had done something wrong. He had been unfair to her. He had not done the things that he promised to do. He had not followed the custom to help her to have a baby. So, he confessed that he was wrong. Afterwards, he acted in the right manner. He never had sex with Tamar again.
Verses 27-30 Tamar had *twins. It was important for the family to know who was born first. That son would have the *birthright, and he would become the leader of Judah’s family.
Joseph was just a slave when he arrived in Egypt. But soon, he began to have a successful career. Joseph worked for an important man called Potiphar. Soon, Potiphar realised that Joseph had many skills. Joseph was responsible and capable. Everything that Joseph did was successful. So, Potiphar gave Joseph authority over everything in his (Potiphar’s) *household.
The promise that God gave to Abraham (Genesis 12:3) was starting to happen. God was *blessing Potiphar because of Joseph.
Joseph even impressed Potiphar’s wife. She wanted to have sex with Joseph, who was an attractive young man. But Joseph knew that God does not permit such behaviour. So, Joseph refused. Potiphar’s wife was angry with Joseph. She lied that he tried to *rape her. So, Joseph became a prisoner.
Even in prison, Joseph impressed people. The guard realised that Joseph was responsible and capable. So, the guard gave Joseph authority over the other prisoners. Soon, Joseph was managing the prison. Joseph was still a prisoner. But even in the prison, God made Joseph successful.
Verse 1 The writer now goes back to the story about Joseph. This verse reminds us about Genesis 37:36. The writer tells us that Joseph went ‘down’ to Egypt. He probably means that a lot of the land in Egypt is lower than the mountains in Canaan. But Joseph had gone ‘down’ in another way. He also went ‘down’ in his social importance. He became a slave. He was not still a favourite son in a rich family.
Verses 2-3 In this chapter, the writer often tells us that the *Lord was with Joseph. Joseph suffered. But the *Lord was still taking care of him. And the *Lord made Joseph successful. So, Potiphar appointed him to do more important tasks.
Verse 4 Joseph soon became more important. He was a useful person and people trusted him. At home with his brothers, his own family did not respect him. But here in Egypt, his master respected him. That is clear. Soon, Joseph had authority over everything. But he worked well. He did not cheat his master.
Verse 5 God was *blessing Potiphar because of Joseph. In other words, Potiphar became more successful because Joseph was working for him.
Verse 6 Potiphar did not worry about his *household. That shows how much Potiphar trusted Joseph.
Verse 7 Joseph would not do wrong things. The situation was very difficult for him. His master’s wife had a lot of power.
Verses 8-9 Joseph was responsible to his master. But Joseph also knew that he was responsible to God. We can see that Joseph was a *righteous man. He did not care about his own pleasure. Instead, Joseph thought about what God wanted him to do.
Verse 10 This did not just happen once. The master’s wife tried to tempt Joseph every day.
Verse 11 The master’s wife had probably sent the other servants out.
Verses 12-13 On this day, the master’s wife held Joseph’s clothing firmly. So, Joseph could not just walk away, as he had done on other days. But Joseph refused to do what she wanted. He ran out of the house. She was still holding his clothing. He had done the right thing. But the master’s wife now had evidence that seemed to prove her lie.
Verse 14 The master’s wife pretended that Joseph tried to *rape her. When the wife talked to the servants, she even blamed her husband. She said that he had brought a foreign slave into the house.
Verses 16-18 The master’s wife repeated her lies to her husband. She wanted him to punish Joseph. She was very angry with Joseph. Perhaps she felt ashamed that she tried to tempt Joseph. But she was not sorry. Like Joseph’s own brothers, she hated the fact that Joseph was *righteous.
Verses 19-20 The master’s wife had said that Joseph had tried to *rape her. The usual punishment for that was death. Potiphar put Joseph into prison. It was a special prison. If a servant of the king had to go to prison, the king’s officers kept him there.
We do not know why Potiphar did not kill Joseph. But Potiphar was the captain of the guards (Genesis 38:36). So, perhaps Potiphar was responsible for the prison too. Potiphar knew that Joseph was capable. Perhaps Potiphar thought that Joseph would be very useful in the prison.
The writer does not use people’s names very much in this story. He talks a lot about ‘he’, ‘she’, the ‘master’ and the ‘master’s wife’. Perhaps it showed that the people in the story belonged to different social classes. Joseph was a slave. Potiphar and his wife were the master and the master’s wife. They even had the legal right to kill their slaves.
Verse 21 God caused the keeper (guard) of the prison to like Joseph. But the guard did not prove that Joseph was not guilty. He did not take Joseph out of prison.
Verse 22 Soon, Joseph became very important in the prison. He had authority over all the other prisoners. Even in prison, God made Joseph successful.
Verse 23 Again the writer tells how people trusted Joseph. And the writer reminds us why Joseph was successful. Joseph was successful because God *blessed him.
Joseph was responsible for all the prisoners. So, Joseph was a skilled manager. But Joseph was also a holy man. And he knew that his relationship with God was very important. Even in prison, Joseph was still a *righteous man.
Two prisoners had strange dreams on the same night. They thought that their dreams had an important meaning. But they did not know the meaning. So, they were worried about the dreams.
Joseph told the prisoners that God knew the meaning of their dreams. Then God showed Joseph the meaning:
· The *butler’s dream meant that *Pharaoh would free the *butler. And *Pharaoh would reappoint the *butler to his old job. Joseph asked the *butler to tell *Pharaoh about his (Joseph’s) situation.
· The baker’s dream meant that the baker would soon die.
Three days later, these things happened as Joseph had said. But the *butler did not tell *Pharaoh about Joseph. It was not yet the right time for *Pharaoh to free Joseph. God had a plan for Joseph. But Joseph did not yet know about this plan.
Verse 1 *Pharaoh was the special name that all the kings of Egypt had.
Verses 2-4 These men worked for the king. So, they went to the special prison for the king’s prisoners. Joseph was responsible for the prisoners in that prison.
Verse 5 The *Egyptians believed that the gods sent dreams. They had many ‘wise men’. Those ‘wise men’ said what dreams meant. The two prisoners were unhappy. Each one believed that the gods had sent a message to him. They could not discover what the dreams meant.
Verses 6-7 Joseph really cared about the prisoners that he looked after. He even noticed that the men were anxious. He encouraged them to tell him why they were worried.
Verse 8 Joseph did not believe in their false gods. But he knew that the real God knows the solution to every problem.
Of course, most dreams have no special meaning. But sometimes God uses dreams to speak to people. Joseph had such dreams in the past (Genesis 37:5-9). And he could remember these dreams (Genesis 42:9). Perhaps he was hopeful about the future because of these dreams.
Verse 9-11 The chief *butler’s dream described the work that he used to do. He would make drinks for *Pharaoh. And then the *butler would give the drinks to *Pharaoh.
Verse 13 ‘Lift up your head’ means more than one thing. It can mean that the person does well. His head will not be down in shame any longer. He will show his face. He will not be sad. That was how the chief *butler would be.
Verses 14-15 Joseph asked the *butler to tell *Pharaoh about Joseph’s situation in prison. Joseph did not deserve to be in prison. Soon, the *butler would be free. And the *butler would be important again. So, the *butler would have the opportunity to speak to *Pharaoh about Joseph.
Verses 16-17 The baker’s dream also seemed to describe his work. But something was wrong. The birds were taking the bread that belonged to *Pharaoh.
Verse 18 Joseph was honest. He told the meaning of the dream, although the meaning was bad news. He did not pretend that the dream had a good meaning. He did not say that in order to please the baker.
Verse 19 ‘Lift up your head’ could also have another meaning. It could mean that someone would put very strong thick string round a person’s neck. Then someone would hang the person. That was what happened to the chief baker.
Verses 20-22 *Pharaoh was the king of Egypt. Kings often did special things to prisoners on the king’s birthday. It was a way for the king to show how important he was. *Pharaoh had the power of life and death over his people. He could order someone’s death. Or, he could make someone important.
*Pharaoh did whatever he wanted. But God knew what would happen.
Verse 23 Joseph remained in the prison. It was not yet God’s time for Joseph to be free.
Joseph was still a prisoner when *Pharaoh had two strange dreams. In the first dream, 7 thin cows ate 7 fat cows. In the second dream, 7 weak stems of grain ate 7 good ones. *Pharaoh tried to use magic to understand the dreams. But the magic failed.
In chapter 40, God had shown Joseph the meaning of the *butler’s dream. As Joseph had said, the *butler was now working for *Pharaoh again. So, the *butler suggested that *Pharaoh should speak to Joseph. The officials took Joseph from the prison into *Pharaoh’s palace.
Of course, Joseph himself did not know the meaning of *Pharaoh’s dreams. But Joseph was confident that God knew the answer. God showed Joseph that both dreams had the same meaning. For 7 years, the harvests in Egypt would be good. But afterwards, for another period of 7 years, there would not be enough food. So, Joseph advised *Pharaoh to store food from the good harvests. Then, this food would be available for the next 7 years.
Joseph’s wisdom impressed *Pharaoh. *Pharaoh was confident that Joseph’s advice came from God. So, *Pharaoh appointed Joseph to be a ruler of Egypt. Only *Pharaoh himself was more important than Joseph was.
Verses 1-7 The two years were after *Pharaoh had freed the *butler from prison. Joseph was still in prison for all this time. But he did not waste his time. He continued to look after the other prisoners in a responsible manner.
The Nile River was very important for Egypt. It often flooded the land round it and that made the soil rich. Cows were very important for *Egyptians. The *Egyptians thought that cows were *holy and special. The *Egyptians thought that their *Pharaoh was a ‘god’. They also thought that dreams were messages from the gods. So when *Pharaoh dreamed, it was very important.
Verse 8 Very many wise men in Egypt studied dreams. And they used magic to find out what dreams meant. But their magic failed. They could not tell *Pharaoh the meaning of these dreams.
Verse 9 Joseph had asked the *butler to speak to *Pharaoh about Joseph’s situation (Genesis 40:14-15). But the *butler forgot (Genesis 40:23). However, the *butler remembered Joseph when *Pharaoh was worried about the dreams. We can see that God arranged the right time for Joseph to see *Pharaoh.
Verses 10-11 The chief *butler was very polite to his master, *Pharaoh. It was not polite to call the king ‘you’. So the *butler said, ‘When *Pharaoh was angry...’
The *butler described to *Pharaoh the events in chapter 40.
Verse 12 Joseph was still Potiphar’s slave and he was working for Potiphar. Potiphar was the official who looked after the prison.
Joseph would seem very unimportant to *Pharaoh. But *Pharaoh needed Joseph because God was with Joseph. God had told Joseph the meaning of these dreams.
Verse 14 *Hebrew men did not shave. They had beards. But *Egyptians did shave.
Joseph had been in prison. But now, he was preparing to meet *Pharaoh in the palace.
Verse 16 Joseph could only explain dreams because God told him the meaning. It was not because Joseph was clever. He told Pharaoh that clearly. God was doing as he had promised. And God was *blessing other nations by means of Abraham’s family.
Verses 17-21 *Pharaoh described the dreams. He added some words in his descriptions. These show that the dreams were clear in his mind.
Verse 23 The east wind was hot and dry. And so it made the grains start to become dry. They were losing their proper shape. They were not thick and smooth any longer.
Verse 24 The magic had failed. Perhaps *Pharaoh realised that he needed an answer from God.
Verse 25 *Pharaoh had dreamed two dreams, but they both meant the same thing. Most dreams just come from the imagination. But this time, *Pharaoh’s dreams came from God. God was using the dreams to warn *Pharaoh. And God placed Joseph in Egypt to help *Pharaoh in this particular situation.
Verses 26-27 Joseph showed *Pharaoh the meaning of the dreams.
Verses 28-32 Joseph gave a *prophecy about the future. He emphasised that this matter was God’s decision. *Pharaoh served false gods and he used magic. But *Pharaoh’s false gods could not save him now. And no magic could stop the troubles that would affect Egypt. *Pharaoh had received a message from the real God. So, *Pharaoh should do whatever God wanted.
Verses 33-34 In verse 33, Joseph asked *Pharaoh to appoint one *overseer. But then in verse 34, he asked *Pharaoh to appoint many other *overseers. One man alone would not be able to do the job. He would need other men to work under his authority. He could order them to do what they had to do.
Verses 35-36 God had warned *Pharaoh because God did not want the people to suffer. *Pharaoh could arrange to store food. Then, food would still be available when the harvests were poor.
Verse 38 *Pharaoh knew that Joseph had more than a man’s wisdom. God had given wisdom to Joseph. So, *Pharaoh wanted Joseph to be the *overseer.
Verses 39-41 Suddenly, Joseph became the most important man in Egypt, except for *Pharaoh. Everybody had to obey Joseph. But Joseph did not change his attitudes. He was responsible when he was in prison. And he would still be responsible as a ruler.
Verse 42 The ring was a special one. It had *Pharaoh’s *seal on it. *Pharaoh could press the *seal onto some wet *clay or *wax that was on a new law or command. That made a special mark on the *clay or *wax. The mark showed to everyone that *Pharaoh approved of that law or command.
Verse 43 *Pharaoh gave great honour to Joseph. But Joseph did not become proud.
Verse 44 Joseph was now responsible for everything that happened in Egypt. He had the right to give whatever commands he wanted.
Verse 45 Joseph had an *Egyptian wife, but that was in God’s plan. Joseph gave *Hebrew names to his sons.
Verses 46-49 There were good harvests for 7 years, as God had shown to Joseph. Joseph bought all the grain that people did not need. The grain was cheap during those years, because the people had plenty. Grain stores well in Egypt because the air is dry.
Verse 50-52 Many people forget about God when they are successful. But we can see that Joseph was still serving God. Joseph was thinking about God when he (Joseph) chose his sons’ names. Joseph knew that God had guided him.
Joseph’s troubles were in the past. Joseph had suffered greatly in Egypt. But now God had made him successful.
Verses 53-54 These things happened as Joseph had said. So, Joseph’s *prophecy was right. But God had arranged for Joseph to store the food that the people needed.
Verse 55 *Pharaoh trusted Joseph completely. Joseph would make the right decision about when to sell food.
Verses 56-57 When Joseph began to sell the grain, people from many countries travelled to Egypt to buy it. There was plenty of grain in Egypt because of Joseph’s work during the 7 good years.
Like everybody else, Joseph’s brothers had to go to Egypt to buy food. They did not know that Joseph was a ruler in Egypt. They had sold him as a slave. And now, they did not even know that Joseph was alive.
When Joseph saw his brothers, his emotions felt very strong. He loved his brothers. He did not want them to suffer while the harvests were poor. He wanted to share with them the good things that he had received in Egypt. But Joseph realised that this might not be a good idea.
Joseph knew that, in the past, his brothers’ behaviour had been terrible. They had been selfish. They had been cruel. They had killed other men because of their anger. In fact, Joseph’s brothers had even wanted to kill Joseph himself.
Joseph was a very responsible man. He would not allow his brothers to cause such trouble in Egypt. So, he made a plan that would test his brothers. He needed to be sure that their attitudes had now changed. If they were humble, he would forgive them. If they respected him, he would give them honour and wealth. But if their attitudes were still wrong, Joseph could not help them.
Verse 1 Joseph’s brothers had grown older and they were married. But Jacob was still the master. The brothers were unhappy. They had no crops to harvest. They probably did not trust each other. Maybe they thought about whether there might be secret stores of food. People behave like that when there is *famine.
Verse 2 In chapter 12, Abraham went to Egypt for food. He went there because of a bad *famine.
Verses 3-4 Jacob believed that Joseph was dead. So, perhaps Jacob thought that Benjamin should have the *birthright. Benjamin was in fact Jacob’s youngest son. But Jacob acted as if Benjamin was more important than his other sons.
Verse 5 *Famines happened sometimes in Egypt and Canaan. But they did not usually happen in both those countries at the same time.
Verse 6 This was like Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37:7.
Verse 7 Joseph wanted to know whether his brothers still hated him. Or perhaps they were sorry about what they had done to him earlier. He did not want to punish them.
Verse 8 Joseph dressed as an *Egyptian (Genesis 41:42). He had shaved (Genesis 41:14). He spoke the *Egyptian language (Genesis 42:23). He even had an *Egyptian name (Genesis 41:45).
Verse 9 Joseph remembered his dreams in Genesis 37:7-9. So, Joseph knew that this event was God’s plan. And Joseph knew that God was guiding him.
Verses 10-12 There were many wars at this time. Rulers would send men in secret. Then, the men would return with information. Rulers would use this information when they made their plans to attack.
Joseph’s brothers had not really come to Egypt for this reason. In fact, Joseph was using this as an excuse, so that he could ask them questions. He wanted to test their attitudes.
Verse 13 The brothers clearly remembered what they had done to Joseph. Jacob probably talked about Joseph often. In *Hebrew, the brothers said that Joseph was ‘no more’. It might mean that he was dead. Or, that they did not know where he was.
Verse 15 Joseph made a serious statement. And he said that it was true ‘as certainly as *Pharaoh is alive’. So Joseph seemed very *Egyptian to his brothers.
Verses 16-17 Perhaps this was the same prison where Joseph himself had spent several years. Joseph was strict, but he was not cruel. He freed them after just three days.
Verses 19-20 Joseph wanted to send the grain to Canaan quickly. He did not want his brothers’ families to suffer. His brothers had not yet passed Joseph’s test. But Joseph knew that they would have to return. The harvests in Canaan would be poor for several more years.
Verse 21 Joseph’s brothers had put him into a pit (very big hole) and then they had sold him. Joseph had cried out to his brothers for help. The writer did not tell us about that earlier.
Verse 22 Until now, Joseph did not know that Reuben tried to save him. Now Reuben thought that God was punishing the brothers. But Joseph did not want to punish the brothers. Joseph wanted to forgive them. He felt sorry for them. He knew that they were feeling guilty. But he was not sure that their attitudes had really changed.
Verse 24 The writer does not say why Joseph chose Simeon. Joseph had just learned that Reuben, the oldest son, had tried to save Joseph (verses 22 and 23). So Joseph did not take Reuben. Simeon was the second son in order of age. Perhaps he was a leader. Simeon and Levi were very cruel when they attacked the men in Shechem (chapter 34). Simeon was Leah’s second son. Joseph kept Simeon there in Egypt. In that way, he made sure that Benjamin, Rachel’s second son, would come to Egypt.
Verse 25 The writer does not say why Joseph gave the money back. Possibly Joseph was testing the brothers. In that way, he would discover what they would do. They might keep the money. Or they might come back so that Joseph would free Simeon.
But perhaps Joseph was just being kind. He knew that the *famine would last for several more years. The brothers would need money in order to buy food. Joseph cared about his family.
Verses 27-28 The reaction of the brothers shows us that they were very worried. They did not think that God returned their money in order to show kindness. Instead, they felt even more guilty. They thought that God was punishing them. They were afraid that the *Egyptians would consider them thieves.
Verses 29-33 The brothers described the events in Egypt to Jacob, even before they opened their sacks. These events seemed terrible. Simeon was now a prisoner. The brothers never even imagined that the *Egyptian ruler might be Joseph.
Verse 34 ‘You can trade in this country.’ That means that they would be free. They could travel about in Egypt as free men.
Verse 35 The brothers probably opened only one sack on the way home (verse 28). They were afraid that it was a clever plan by Joseph. They thought that Joseph wanted an excuse. So then he could call them thieves because of the money.
Verse 36 The news really upset Jacob. Jacob probably spoke about Joseph first because Joseph had the *birthright. Then he spoke about Simeon. Jacob had not been pleased about Simeon’s cruelty. But Simeon was still Jacob’s son, so Jacob cared about him. Then Jacob spoke about Benjamin. Benjamin had become Jacob’s favourite son. Jacob had not allowed Benjamin to go to Egypt in order to protect him.
Verse 37 The brothers argued with Jacob. But Jacob certainly did not want to kill anyone, and Reuben knew this. However, Reuben still tried to argue with Jacob.
Verse 38 Jacob would not agree with his ten sons. He spoke about Joseph and Benjamin as if they were his only sons. Jacob believed that Joseph was dead. So, Jacob did not want to risk Benjamin’s life. If anything bad happened to Benjamin, Jacob would be sorry for the rest of his life.
As the *famine continued, Jacob’s family became desperate for food again. But Jacob still would not let Benjamin go to Egypt. And the other brothers did not dare to go to Egypt without Benjamin. The *Egyptian ruler had warned them not to enter Egypt without Benjamin. Of course, the brothers did not know that this ruler was really Joseph, their own brother.
In the end, Judah persuaded Jacob to let Benjamin go. Judah promised that he would protect Benjamin. And Judah would accept the blame if anything bad happened to Benjamin.
Jacob ordered the brothers to take a gift for the *Egyptian ruler. Then, Jacob *blessed them. And he prayed for them.
When the brothers arrived in Egypt, Joseph prepared a wonderful surprise for them. He wanted to show his kindness to them. And he wanted to show them how wealthy he was. So, he provided a great meal for them. Joseph showed special honour to Benjamin, who was Joseph’s closest brother.
But Joseph still did not tell his brothers who he really was. He wanted to test them first. In the past, they had been jealous, cruel and selfish. So now, Joseph needed to know whether their attitudes had changed.
Verse 2 It is not possible to say how long this would be after the first journey. But it was probably the next year (Genesis 45:6). There were many people to feed. Each of Jacob’s sons had a family (except Benjamin). And they also had servants and animals to feed. It would have been difficult for the brothers to take back large amounts of corn. They would have needed very many *donkeys. Jacob was trying to talk as if another journey to Egypt would be simple. Perhaps he was hoping that the brothers would go, without Benjamin. Maybe Jacob hoped that ‘the man’ in Egypt had forgotten them. Jacob did not seem worried about Simeon.
Verses 3-5 Judah explained that the brothers would not return without Benjamin. They were too afraid of ‘the man’ in Egypt. They thought that he would make them prisoners or slaves.
Verse 7 Joseph really asked these questions because he cared about his family. Of course he wanted to know whether his father was still alive. Of course he wanted to know about his younger brother.
Verse 8 Judah realised that the whole family would starve without food. So, he decided to accept personal responsibility for Benjamin. Judah was making a very serious promise to his father. Of course, anyone could speak such words. The real test for Judah would be his actions when Benjamin was in danger. (See Genesis 44:33.)
People could not always trust Judah in the past (chapter 38). But Jacob trusted Judah now. Perhaps Jacob realised that Judah’s attitudes had changed.
Verse 9 The *Hebrew text has ‘I will be a surety for him’. A ‘surety’ meant that the person was willing to pay for someone else’s debt. It was a promise that the person definitely had to carry out. If the brothers stayed at home, they would all die because of hunger. That would include Benjamin.
Verse 11 Jacob made the final decision. He was the head of the family. And he was also acting as their priest. He prayed for them.
There were still special foods in Canaan. The merchants were taking such things to Egypt when Joseph’s brothers sold him. Such foods were even more precious during a *famine.
Verse 12 Jacob advised his sons that they needed a humble attitude in this situation. Their lives were in danger. They could not succeed on this journey by any clever schemes. They had to pay their debts.
Verse 13 Jacob allowed Benjamin to go.
Verse 14 Jacob prayed for them and he *blessed them. He knew that there were great dangers during this journey.
Jacob’s final words might seem to show despair. He thought that he might lose Benjamin. Jacob really loved Benjamin (Genesis 44:30-31). And Jacob cared about all his sons, although they caused him many troubles. But perhaps Jacob’s words do not really show despair. Perhaps Jacob realised that he had to trust God completely. So, Jacob told his sons not to worry about him.
Verse 15 Here we see a list of what the brothers took to Egypt. The writer puts Benjamin last in that list. Jacob did not send Benjamin because he wanted to do it.
Verse 16 Joseph felt special love toward Benjamin. Benjamin was Joseph’s closest brother. They had the same mother, Rachel. And Rachel died at Benjamin’s birth. So, when Joseph saw Benjamin, Joseph wanted to show special kindness to him. At once, Joseph invited all his brothers to a special meal.
Verse 18 The brothers did not realise that Joseph was showing kindness to them. Instead, they were afraid. So, they remembered Jacob’s advice that they needed to have a humble attitude.
Verse 19 Here the brothers were humble. They were not only humble towards Joseph himself, but they were also humble towards his servant!
Verses 20-22 The brothers offered all their silver to Joseph’s servant. They wanted to pay for everything.
Verse 23 Joseph probably told the *steward what to say. God had been kind to them. So, they should not worry.
Then the *steward brought Simeon to them. The brothers would be very pleased to see Simeon again. And they were able to relax for their meal with Joseph.
Verse 24 These were the normal acts of kindness to show to travellers.
Verse 26 Again they *bowed down to Joseph! They would even call Jacob ‘Joseph’s servant’ (verse 28)!
Now the events of Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37:7 really happened. Joseph’s 11 brothers all showed him honour.
Verses 27-28 Joseph’s first question was about his father. We can see that Joseph really cared about his father.
Verse 29 Joseph said to Benjamin, ‘Let God be *merciful to you, my son.’ Perhaps Joseph seemed older than he actually was. He was a very important person. So it was right for him to call Benjamin ‘my son’. That was a polite way for an older person to talk to a younger man.
Verse 30 Joseph’s emotions felt too strong for him to control. So, he cried. But he had to cry in private. He was not yet ready to tell his brothers who he really was.
Verse 32 Perhaps the *Egyptians had this attitude because Joseph’s brothers were *shepherds (Genesis 46:34). So, Joseph’s brothers did not sit with the *Egyptians.
Verse 33 Joseph arranged for his brothers to sit in the order of their ages. This was a custom that showed honour to the older brothers. But this astonished the brothers. They could not explain how the *Egyptians knew the correct order.
Verse 34 Joseph’s table would have the best food. The *steward passed this food to Joseph’s brothers. The *steward would serve the brothers in order. But there was too much food. So, Benjamin, the youngest brother, received much more food than anyone else. Joseph arranged this in order to show special kindness to Benjamin, whom Joseph loved.
Joseph’s plan to test his brothers was a simple plan. But it was also very clever.
In chapter 37, Jacob had given the *birthright to Joseph. Joseph’s brothers were jealous and they hated him. So, they sold him to be a slave when they had the opportunity.
Now, Joseph would give his brothers the opportunity to make Benjamin a slave. Benjamin had become Jacob’s favourite son. So, perhaps they were now jealous of Benjamin. Perhaps they wanted Benjamin to lose the *birthright too.
Joseph arranged the test well. The brothers really believed that the *Egyptians wanted to take Benjamin as a slave. And perhaps the brothers even thought that Benjamin deserved this, as a punishment.
In Genesis 43:9, Judah accepted responsibility for Benjamin’s safety. Judah was the brother who actually sold Joseph as a slave. But now, Judah’s attitudes had changed. Judah wanted to become a slave himself, so that Benjamin could be free. So now, Judah was both noble and humble. He offered to lose everything in order to rescue his brother.
Verses 1-4 Joseph wanted to pretend that Benjamin was a thief. Then, Joseph could see the reaction of the other brothers.
Verse 5 *Egyptians used to look into cups that they had just drunk from. They looked at the bottom of the cups. The wine would leave a pattern in the bottom of the cups. And the *Egyptians studied such patterns as a type of magic. A cup that someone used for that purpose would be very special. It would be much more important than an ordinary cup that people drank from. We do not think that Joseph really used his cup in that special way. God has told us not to do such things. Joseph continued to be loyal to God (Genesis 45:5-8). Instead, we think that Joseph was pretending to use magic. His brothers used to serve *idols (Genesis 35:2). So, perhaps they would be afraid when Joseph spoke about magic.
Verses 7-8 The brothers were sure that they were innocent. They had even tried to return the silver that they found in their sacks after the first journey.
Verses 9-10 It was polite for the brothers to offer more than they needed to. And it was polite for the *steward to refuse their offer.
Verse 12 This happened in the order of their ages, as in Genesis 43:33. Of course, this meant that the *steward looked in Benjamin’s sack last.
Verse 13 Usually, when people tore their clothes, they were very sad and very anxious. In that way, they were showing how bad they felt. This was the custom when a relative died. So, the brothers were acting as if Benjamin would die.
Verse 14 Judah was the leader of the brothers at that time because of his promise (Genesis 43:9). Earlier they had *bowed, because they respected Joseph. This time, they threw themselves to the ground. They did that because they were afraid. And they wanted *mercy.
Verse 15 We do not think that Joseph really used magic. He was using these words because of the effect that they would have on his brothers.
Verse 16 We do not know what Judah thought. Possibly he might have thought that Benjamin had really stolen the cup. But maybe Judah meant something else. Perhaps God was punishing the brothers because they had done evil things in their lives. Or perhaps God was punishing them because of what they had done to Joseph. Judah did not know that the whole situation was part of God’s plan.
Judah was very humble. He did not try to argue with Joseph. And Judah was polite. He again offered that all the brothers would suffer the punishment together. But, unlike in verse 9, he did not offer that Benjamin might die. Judah had promised to look after Benjamin.
Judah did not agree that the magic had proved Benjamin to be guilty. Instead, Judah said that God knew the truth. We do not know whether Judah really understood this.
Verse 17 Joseph was testing the brothers. He wanted to discover what they would do. Possibly the other brothers might leave Benjamin, so that they could save themselves. Joseph would discover whether they would do that. Or perhaps they would risk their own lives in order to save Benjamin.
Verse 18 Judah might have said nothing. Then, he and his brothers would be free. Only Benjamin would remain in Egypt, as a slave. In the past, Judah would have done that. But now his attitudes had changed.
Verses 19-26 Judah explained the events in chapters 42 and 43.
Verse 27 Judah was speaking as if Jacob had only one wife, Rachel. That would mean that Judah’s own mother (Leah) was a *concubine. And it would mean that Joseph always deserved the *birthright. If Joseph were dead, Benjamin would have the *birthright.
Verse 28 Judah thought that Joseph was dead (verse 20). But it seems that Jacob still had hope. However, he did not deny the evidence that the brothers had produced.
Verse 29-31 Joseph often asked the brothers about their father. And it seems that the *Egyptians respected old people (Genesis 47:8-9). So, Judah asked Joseph to save Benjamin because otherwise Jacob would suffer.
Verse 32 Judah told Joseph about Judah’s promise in Genesis 43:9. Now, Judah would do what he had promised to do. And Judah would do it, although it would ruin his own life.
Verses 33-34 Judah asked to become Joseph’s slave so that Benjamin could go free. Judah thought that he himself would never be a free man again. He showed great courage.
When Joseph heard this, he could not control his emotions. At last, the time had come for Joseph to tell his brothers who he really was.
Joseph had to pretend that he was someone else. He did that in order to test his brothers. But now, Judah had shown that their attitudes had changed. In the end, Joseph could not control his emotions. He had to cry. And he wanted to hug his brothers. So, he quickly ordered his servants to leave the room.
Even when Joseph spoke to his brothers in their own language, they could not immediately recognise him. And they were afraid of him. But Joseph’s words helped them to feel more confident. Joseph was not angry with his brothers. He forgave them. He believed that, in fact, God sent him (Joseph) to Egypt. God sent Joseph there to save lives. And now, Joseph was able to save his own family from the terrible *famine.
*Pharaoh was pleased to hear that Joseph’s brothers had come from Canaan. *Pharaoh wanted the whole family to live in Egypt. *Pharaoh even sent wagons so that the weaker members of the family could travel to Egypt more easily.
The news from Egypt astonished Jacob. But, when he saw the wagons, he believed. He knew that God had been kind to Joseph. And Jacob saw that the events in Joseph’s dreams (Genesis 37:7-9) really happened. Jacob could remember the promises that God gave about his family (Genesis 35:11-12). So, Jacob was confident that God would do these things too. These things would happen after Jacob’s death, but Jacob still believed (Hebrews 11:21; Hebrews 11:13). But now, Jacob would go to see Joseph again. And, during the journey, God would speak to Jacob again (Genesis 46:3-4).
Verse 1 Joseph wanted this to be a special time that he could spend with his family. He wanted to take away anything that was between his brothers and himself. For them, he was their *Hebrew brother. Although he was also an important *Egyptian ruler, he need to be with his own family now.
Judah had shown that the brothers had changed. They were not willing to leave Benjamin in order to save themselves.
Verse 2 Joseph wept. We can imagine his feelings of delight and relief.
Joseph tried to make this meeting private. Perhaps he was unsure what the *Egyptians would think about his family. But in fact, everybody heard that Joseph’s family had arrived. Even *Pharaoh heard. And *Pharaoh was very pleased.
Verse 3 Joseph asked again about his father. That showed again his love for his father. Judah had made it clear that the father was very weak.
In some translations, the brothers were ‘dumbfounded’. It means that they could not speak. And they could not do anything. That was because they were so surprised, afraid and confused!
Verse 4 Joseph was a very great ruler. His visitors usually stood at a distance in order to give honour to him. But he wanted his brothers to come closer. They needed to recognise him. And he wanted to hug them.
Verses 5-8 Joseph knew that God had controlled his (Joseph’s) life. He mentions God many times in these verses.
In verse 8, a ‘father to *Pharaoh’ meant someone that advised *Pharaoh. It meant someone that helped *Pharaoh. It had no connection with age. And it had no connection with relatives in a family.
Verses 9-11 Joseph wanted his father and the whole family to come to Egypt. Then, Joseph could look after them during the *famine.
Verse 12 Here Joseph was speaking *Hebrew to his brothers. He was not speaking in the *Egyptian language.
Verse 13 Joseph wanted his father to hear how much God had *blessed Joseph.
Verses 14-15 This was a very happy meeting. It was the custom for relatives to hug and to kiss. These actions showed that Joseph loved his brothers. The brothers had not met Joseph for nearly 20 years, until they saw him in Egypt.
Verse 16 People in Egypt liked Joseph very much. Everyone was pleased about his family.
Verses 17-20 *Pharaoh was very generous. He did everything possible to bring the whole family to Egypt. He did not even want them to bring their possessions from Canaan. *Pharaoh could provide much better things for them in Egypt.
Verse 21 Joseph sent his brothers back to Canaan. He told them to bring the entire family back to Egypt.
Verse 22 Joseph gave new clothes to his brothers. They had torn their clothes when Joseph’s *steward arrested Benjamin (Genesis 44:13).
Verse 24 In the *Hebrew text, Joseph told his brothers not to ‘tremble’. In other words, they should keep their emotions calm. It may mean that they should not be afraid or anxious. And they should not accuse each other. They should be friendly to each other.
Verses 25-26 At first, Jacob did not believe the news. The brothers had to show him the wagons that *Pharaoh sent.
Verse 27 Jacob had been sad about Joseph since the events in Genesis 37:34-35. And Jacob thought that those terrible feelings would never leave him. Only Benjamin was able to comfort Jacob (Genesis 44:30-31). But the wonderful news about Joseph changed everything for Jacob. At last, Jacob’s spirit felt strong again. Jacob was excited. He wanted to go to see Joseph at once.
Verse 28 The writer suddenly calls Jacob by his other name, ‘Israel’. This was the special name that God gave to Jacob (Genesis 32:28). The writer uses this name to emphasise Jacob’s relationship (friendship) with God. Jacob’s (Israel’s) family was starting to grow into the nation called Israel. And the families that belonged to that nation would live in Egypt for over 400 years.
Jacob said that he would see Joseph before his (Jacob’s) death. These might seem like sad words, but they are not. Jacob meant that his life’s work was complete. God had done everything that Jacob hoped. God had even returned Joseph, who seemed dead, to Jacob. So, Jacob was not worried about the future. Jacob needed nothing else to make him content. And he would be content for the rest of his life.
On the way to Egypt, Jacob stopped at Beersheba. Beersheba was a special place for Jacob. There, God had spoken to his father, Isaac (Genesis 26:24). Isaac had gone to Beersheba because God told him not to go to Egypt (Genesis 26:2). But God’s message to Jacob was different.
In a dream, God spoke to Jacob. God told Jacob not to be afraid to go into Egypt. God had a plan for Jacob’s family in Egypt.
The chapter then contains a list of Jacob’s sons and grandsons. The numbers are difficult to calculate. But the final figure is 70 people. This was a very large family. In time, the family would become a great nation. God had promised Abraham that he (Abraham) would have very many *descendants (Genesis 15:5). God made this promise before Abraham had his son. And Jacob was Abraham’s grandson.
Jacob and Joseph were very happy to see each other again. Joseph knew that Jacob would encourage him. Joseph still had his important work to do for *Pharaoh. Until now, Joseph was probably the only person in Egypt who served the real God. The *Egyptians served *idols. But now Joseph had Jacob to support him.
Joseph arranged a place where his brothers could work. They would continue to be *shepherds. So, they would not become rulers. But Joseph continued his important work for *Pharaoh.
Verses 1-4 Jacob was planning to leave Canaan and he would go to Egypt. But Canaan was actually the country that God had promised to Jacob and his family. So Jacob needed to be sure that God wanted him to leave it. Jacob was probably very anxious. He very much wanted to see Joseph. But Jacob was old. And it was a long way to travel. However, the family might all starve if they did not go to Egypt. Jacob needed to know what God wanted.
So, Jacob stopped in order to pray at Beersheba. That night, God spoke again to Jacob. God promised to make Jacob’s family into a big nation in Egypt (verse 3). Here God was not talking about Canaan, the country that he had promised to them. In Egypt, the family would not only stay alive. It would also grow. But God did not want the family always to live in Egypt. Centuries later, God would arrange for their *descendants to return to Canaan.
Verses 5-7 Jacob’s family continued their journey. The weaker members of the family used the wagons that *Pharaoh sent. They took everything that they owned.
Verses 8-14 The writer gives a list of Leah’s family first. He gives a list of her sons and grandsons. Leah was Jacob’s first wife.
Verse 15 Leah’s ‘sons’ include also her grandsons. But the 33 people here probably do not include Er and Onan. Those two grandsons had died already in Canaan. They did not go to Egypt. But without Er and Onan, there are still only 32 *descendants. Those 32 include the daughter, called Dinah. So it is possible that the 33 people here include also Jacob, the father.
Verses 16-18 These are the sons and grandsons of Jacob and Zilpah. Zilpah was Leah’s maid. Zilpah became Jacob’s *concubine.
Verses 19-22 These are the sons and grandsons of Jacob and Rachel. Rachel was Jacob’s favourite wife.
The list in this chapter contains Jacob’s whole family. At that time Benjamin was probably too young to have 10 children. The writer mentions Benjamin’s family here to make the list complete.
Verses 22-25 These are the sons and grandsons of Jacob and Bilhah. Bilhah was Rachel’s maid. Bilhah became Jacob’s *concubine.
Verses 26-27 The 66 people in verse 26 were Jacob’s sons, grandsons and daughter. They went to Egypt with Jacob. Joseph and his two sons were already in Egypt. The 70 people in verse 27 include also them as well as Jacob himself. The number 70 in the Bible often has a special meaning. It means that something is complete.
Verse 28 Judah had been the leader of the brothers when they sold Joseph. Here, he was the leader when they brought Joseph and Jacob together again.
Verses 29-30 As soon as possible, Joseph went to see his father. They were very pleased to be together again. Jacob’s words in verse 30 meant that his life felt complete. He had done everything that he needed to do. But in fact, God had more work for Jacob. Jacob would *bless *Pharaoh (Genesis 47:7-10). And Jacob would *bless each of his sons by a special *prophecy (chapter 49).
Verses 31-32 God’s plan was that Jacob’s family should live together as a nation. The *Egyptians did not like *shepherds. So Jacob’s family did not live in different places among the *Egyptians. The family was able to live together in one place.
Verse 34 Egypt had a very strong culture and an ancient religion. So, the *Egyptians had strong opinions about other people. Perhaps the *Egyptians did not like *shepherds because they travelled from place to place.
Joseph was a ruler in Egypt. But he did not want his brothers to work in the government. Instead, he decided that they should continue to be *shepherds. Then, they could live in the region called Goshen. Goshen was near Egypt. But Joseph did not want them to live in the important cities in Egypt. He knew that their decisions had not always been sensible in the past. He was careful in case they made any more mistakes. Joseph was a very capable ruler.
The right time came for Joseph to introduce his family to *Pharaoh. Joseph chose 5 brothers (on behalf of the whole family) to meet *Pharaoh. Then, Joseph introduced his father, Jacob, to *Pharaoh.
*Pharaoh respected Jacob because Jacob was a very old man. And *Pharaoh also gave honour to Jacob because of Joseph’s importance. *Pharaoh realised that Jacob, like Joseph, was a holy man.
Jacob explained to *Pharaoh that he (Jacob) did not consider himself a great man. Jacob referred to the lives of Abraham and Isaac. Jacob believed that they were really great men. He said that life on earth was like a journey. Perhaps he was desiring his permanent home in heaven (Hebrews 11:16). Then, Jacob *blessed *Pharaoh.
Afterwards, *Pharaoh became much more important as a ruler. This happened because of Joseph’s great skill. He bought the land in Egypt for *Pharaoh. And Joseph also arranged regular taxes that made *Pharaoh much more wealthy.
At the end of the chapter, Jacob was very old. Soon, he would die. So, he called Joseph. Jacob asked Joseph to promise to bury him (Jacob) in Canaan. Jacob wanted his *descendants to realise that Egypt was not their permanent home. Instead, God had promised Canaan to them. Joseph made the promise. In fact, Joseph would ask his own *descendants to make a similar promise about his own body, too.
Verse 2 Joseph took only 5 brothers to *Pharaoh. Joseph did not take them all. We do not know how he chose those 5 brothers. In the *Hebrew text, Joseph chose them ‘from the edge’. It means that he chose from all the brothers. Perhaps he took the most impressive ones, so that *Pharaoh would want such people in Egypt. Or perhaps he took the weaker ones, so that *Pharaoh would not take them into the government. God has not told us the reason why Joseph chose those 5 brothers. So we do not need to know why.
Verse 3 The brothers answered as Joseph had told them in Genesis 46:33-34.
Verse 4 We do not know exactly where Goshen was. It was probably on the east side of the Nile.
Verse 6 *Pharaoh was very kind. He did not behave towards Jacob and his family as if they were strangers. *Pharaoh received them with pleasure. He had this attitude because of Joseph. Joseph had *blessed *Pharaoh. So, *Pharaoh wanted to *bless Joseph’s family.
Verse 7 Jacob *blessed *Pharaoh. God was doing as he had promised. He was *blessing other people by means of Jacob and his family. Usually, the more important person *blessed the less important one. However, Jacob was an old man and therefore he was important. The ‘*blessing’ may have been a greeting, ‘Let God be with you.’ Or ‘I hope that you will live for a long time.’ Jacob was grateful for *Pharaoh’s kindness.
Verse 8 In the *Hebrew Bible, *Pharaoh asks, ‘How many are the days of the years of your life?’ That makes Jacob seem very old.
Verses 9-10 Jacob said, ‘I have lived.’ For ‘lived’, he used a certain *Hebrew word that he often used. That word means ‘to live in a temporary home’, ‘to camp’ or ‘to travel’. It does not mean that he always lived in one place. It is the opposite of that.
Jacob said that the years in his life had been ‘few and evil’. He was not quite as old as Abraham or Isaac. But they, too, had many difficulties during their lives. Jacob was trying to emphasise that his life was not perfect. He had made many mistakes. But he was aware of God’s greatness. God lives always. And God never does anything wrong. So, Jacob *blessed *Pharaoh. In other words, Jacob prayed that God would be kind to *Pharaoh.
Verse 11 The ‘region called Rameses’ may be a name that people gave later to the region called Goshen. Or it may have been another name for Goshen already. The name meant ‘Ra has created it’. (Ra was a god that the *Egyptians *worshipped.)
Verse 13 The *famine would continue for 5 more years (Genesis 45:6). This was a very long *famine. But Joseph had stored the excess food from the years before the *famine began.
Verses 14-15 Joseph was very honest. He was also a very good, careful official. At the start of the *famine, people used money to pay for their food. But the people ran out of money to buy food.
Verses 16-19 As the *famine continued, people had no money to pay for their food. But Joseph was very wise. He fed the people so that they did not die. They paid for the corn with their animals (verse 17). The people also paid with their land (verse 20). And they paid with themselves, as they became slaves (verse 21). They did it so that they did not owe anything to Joseph. Joseph also took good care of what belonged to *Pharaoh, his master.
Verses 20-24 After that, all the land belonged to *Pharaoh. So then it was easier to make sure that people used it well. Then, there would not be frequent *famines. It was not bad to be a slave. The master fed his slaves. Some slaves had important jobs. When Joseph was a slave, he had an important job with Potiphar. The people would have four fifths of future harvests. So really, the effect was that the people were paying taxes.
Verse 25 The people were not angry about Joseph’s taxes. They knew that he saved their lives by his careful plans. So, they were grateful to Joseph and to *Pharaoh. People respect governments that look after them carefully.
Verse 26 In the *Hebrew Bible, the writer says that Joseph’s law ‘remains at this day’. ‘This day’ means the day when the writer wrote the account.
Verse 27 God did as he had promised. Jacob’s family became rich and his sons had many children.
Verse 28 Joseph lived with Jacob for 17 years before the brothers sold Joseph. Here, Jacob lived near Joseph for another 17 years. That was the last part of Jacob’s life.
Verses 29-30 ‘Israel’ is Jacob’s name as the head of the family. The family would become a nation called ‘Israel’. Before Jacob’s request, he said, ‘Please be kind to me.’ The *Hebrew writer says, ‘If now you look at me with a kind attitude’. Jacob wanted people to take his body to Canaan when he died. That was the country that God had promised to him. So Jacob trusted that God would take the family back to Canaan. Jacob needed to remind his family that God would do that. Egypt was not their home.
Verse 31 Joseph had to do what Jacob wanted. So Joseph needed to make a very serious promise. Joseph needed to be very careful to do that. We do not know exactly what this verse means. Jacob may have *bowed because he was thanking God. Or he may have been very weak and tired. The *Hebrew text may mean that Jacob leaned on the head of his stick. It may not have been the head of the bed. We know that Jacob was a weak old man. He was grateful to God that he (Jacob) was content before his death.
The *blessings that Jacob gave to his family start in this chapter. These *blessings were not just Jacob’s own ideas about his sons and grandsons. In fact, the *blessings were *prophecies about the future. Jacob spoke these things by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
Many of Jacob’s *blessings are difficult for us to understand. Some phrases have several possible meanings. But we need to remember that the *descendants of Jacob’s 12 sons became the 12 *tribes of Israel. So, often the words in the *blessing describe the places where the *tribes would live in Canaan.
The *blessings were also a type of poetry. They use descriptions that may seem strange to us today. And they often repeat the same ideas in different words.
Jacob began with his *blessings for Joseph’s sons. Joseph received the *birthright because of Reuben’s *sin (1 Chronicles 5:1-2). So, Jacob gave a special *blessing to Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. Jacob wanted people to include Ephraim and Manasseh when they made lists of his (Jacob’s) sons. So, the *descendants of Ephraim became another *tribe of Israel. So did the *descendants of Manasseh. And the *descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh would receive their own land in Canaan (Joshua chapters 16 and 17).
The writer often uses Jacob’s other name, Israel, in this chapter.
Verse 1 Isaac gave his final *blessing to his sons when he expected to die (Genesis 27:2). That *blessing was very important. It included *prophecies about the future.
So, when Jacob was old and ill, Joseph went to receive his father’s *blessing. There would be a special *blessing for Joseph because he had the *birthright (1 Chronicles 5:2). And Joseph probably hoped that God would give a *prophecy to Jacob.
It seems that Joseph also wanted his own sons to receive a *blessing. They had lived a very strange life. Their mother’s father was the priest of a false god (Genesis 41:45). They had always lived in Egypt. They spoke the *Egyptian language. They wore *Egyptian clothes. They probably felt like *Egyptians. So, it was probably a great surprise for them to discover their real family. But Joseph wanted his sons to receive the benefit of God’s promise too. So, Joseph brought them to Jacob.
Verse 3 Luz is another name for Bethel. Jacob was describing the event in Genesis 28:10-15.
Verse 4 God had chosen certain people to be his servants. God had promised many times that he would make those servants ‘be *fruitful’. And he would make them ‘grow in number’. They would have many *descendants. And their *descendants would become a great nation. This was God’s promise to Abraham and Isaac. God repeated this promise to Jacob at Bethel. And now Jacob’s *blessings would include *prophecies with a relationship to this promise. God also promised that Jacob’s *descendants would rule Canaan.
It was as if Jacob was passing out these promises to his sons. Jacob would soon die. But Jacob’s sons would receive the benefit of these promises.
Verse 5 Jacob chose a special way to show that Ephraim and Manasseh belonged to his family. Jacob adopted them. The *descendants of all Jacob’s sons became *tribes. For example, there were a *tribe of Reuben and a *tribe of Simeon. And there were also a *tribe of Ephraim and a *tribe of Manasseh. Everybody knew that they belonged with Jacob’s *descendants. This was because Jacob adopted Ephraim and Manasseh.
Although Manasseh was the oldest son, Jacob mentioned Ephraim first here. Again, God especially *blessed the younger son. God had *blessed Joseph similarly, although his brothers were older than him.
Verse 6 Any other sons of Joseph would be part of the *tribes called Ephraim and Manasseh. And they would share the land of those *tribes.
Verses 8-9 The words that Israel used here may have been special words. People often used such words when they adopted children. But perhaps Israel (Jacob) was making sure whom he would soon *bless. He probably remembered how he had made Isaac *bless him.
Verse 10 Some Bible students say that this was actually a ceremony. When people were adopting children, they kissed those children. And they hugged the children. It was part of that event. In any case, it was natural that a grandfather would do that. He was very eager to love Joseph’s sons.
Verse 11 Israel (Jacob) and Joseph both knew that God had *blessed them.
Verse 12 We are not sure exactly where the grandsons were. They would not have been on Israel’s knees. They were both over 17 years old. Maybe they went near Israel’s knees because he was taking them into his family. It may have been part of that event. Look at Genesis 30:3. There, Rachel offered her maid to Jacob. In the *Hebrew Bible, she did it so that ‘she can have babies upon my knees. And even I can have children by means of her.’ In Egypt, Joseph was a more important man than Israel (Jacob) was. Joseph *bowed low because Israel (Jacob) was old. And Israel (Jacob) was dying. And Israel (Jacob) was his father. Joseph showed honour to Israel (Jacob) for those reasons. And Joseph also showed Israel (Jacob) honour because Israel (Jacob) was a holy man. Soon, like a priest, Israel (Jacob) would *bless his family. And he would give a *prophecy from God.
Verses 13-14 Israel (Jacob) clearly knew which son was which. He did not make a mistake. As he gave his *blessing, he was trusting God to guide him (Hebrews 11:21).
Verses 15-16 When Israel (Jacob) had *blessed Joseph’s sons, he *blessed Joseph. Israel (Jacob) cared more about God’s honour than he cared about his family’s happiness. He emphasised that God was really giving the *blessing.
Verses 17-19 Joseph wanted Manasseh to receive a greater *blessing. So, Joseph thought that his father had made a mistake. But there was no mistake. Israel (Jacob) knew what God wanted him to do.
Verse 20 ‘Israel will use your names to *bless people.’ In this sentence, ‘Israel’ means ‘*Israelites’. But in other places here, it means Jacob.
Verse 21 Israel (Jacob) had not forgotten the country that God had promised to him. He had been away from it for 17 years. But he had not forgotten it. He wanted to remind his family that they should return there.
Verse 22 Joseph had the *birthright. Usually, the oldest son in the family received the *birthright. But Reuben lost this right because of his evil behaviour.
The son with the *birthright received a double share of his father’s possessions. Of course, Joseph was very wealthy. He needed nothing more from his father. So, his father gave him some land in Canaan. It seems that this is the land in Genesis 33:19-20. (See also John 4:5.) This was a special place where Jacob built an *altar. So, this gift would remind Joseph to pray. And it would also remind Joseph that, in the future, his *descendants would return to Canaan.
Chapter 33 says that Jacob bought this land. But this chapter says that he fought for it. We do not know when he fought such a battle. Maybe he had to fight in order to protect his family after his sons attacked Shechem.
After Jacob *blessed Joseph’s sons, Jacob *blessed his own sons.
In fact, Jacob did not give a *blessing to all 12 sons. Reuben, Simeon and Levi deserved no *blessing because of their evil deeds.
But God still gave Jacob a *prophecy about each son. All the sons belonged to Jacob’s family. And all the sons received the benefit of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God would make the *descendants of all the sons into a great nation. The *descendants of each son would become a *tribe in that nation. God would give them the country called Canaan.
And God would use them to *bless people from all the nations. Among them, Eve’s special *descendant (Genesis 3:15) would be born. That *descendant would free people from *sin and from the devil’s power. God’s promises to Abraham were also promises to that *descendant (Galatians 3:16). And that *descendant would be the real king of Israel (Genesis 49:10). The Bible tells us that these promises were about Jesus. He was that special *descendant.
This is a very difficult chapter to translate. Some phrases have many possible meanings. We have tried to explain the probable meaning. But different Bible students have other ideas about some verses.
Verses 1-2 This was a *prophecy about the future. Of course, Jacob could not speak about the future by his own knowledge. God showed him what to say. That is how he was able to speak such things.
Jacob often referred to past events as he spoke. But he was using these events as a way to explain what would happen in the future. He also used the names of some sons in a special way. The meanings of their names also helped to explain future events.
These *prophecies would not happen during the lives of Jacob’s sons. Instead, the *prophecies were about the *descendants of Jacob’s sons. These *descendants became the 12 *tribes of Israel. The *descendants of each son became a *tribe. The *prophecies were about the regions that each *tribe would receive in Canaan. And, they were about the work that each *tribe would do. And, sometimes, they were about that *tribe’s troubles.
Verses 3-4 People thought that the first son should become the head of the family after his father’s death. So, Jacob had great hopes for Reuben. But Reuben disappointed Jacob when Reuben had sex with Bilhah (Genesis 35:22). (Bilhah was Jacob’s *concubine.) So, Jacob decided to give the *birthright to Joseph instead of Reuben (1 Chronicles 5:1-2).
Reuben’s *descendants became the *tribe of Reuben. The *tribe of Reuben was never an important *tribe.
Verses 5-7 Jacob was referring to the events in chapter 34. Jacob thought that the behaviour of Simeon and Levi was terrible. Simeon and Levi did not respect God. They had been angry. So, they used the *covenant that the family had made with God. They used it in order to kill their enemies.
Jacob said that they should not live together. This was a *prophecy. Each *tribe of Israel received its own land in Canaan. But the *tribes of Simeon and Levi were different.
The *tribe of Simeon was small. So, it did not receive its own region in Canaan. Instead, the *tribe of Simeon received part of the land that belonged to the *tribe of Judah (Joshua 19:1-9).
The *tribe of Levi became very important. Moses belonged to this *tribe. And God appointed families from this *tribe to become the priests. Because they were priests, they were responsible for all the people in Israel. So, the *tribe of Levi could not receive its own region. Instead, the people from this *tribe received their own towns. These towns were in every region in Canaan (Joshua chapter 21). So, people from the *tribe of Levi were available to help people from all the *tribes to *worship God.
So, the things that Jacob said actually happened. They were *prophecies from God. But these things did not always happen in the way that people might expect.
Verses 8-9 The *tribe of Judah became a very large *tribe. And it became very important. Even before there were kings in Israel, men from the *tribe of Judah led Israel’s army into battle. (See Judges 20:18.)
Jacob said in his *prophecy that the *tribe of Judah would overcome its enemies. Lions are very strong animals. And the men from Judah’s *tribe would be strong in battle. Someone cannot put his hand on his enemy’s neck until that person has completely defeated his enemy.
Verse 10 Jacob was saying that the kings of Israel would come from Judah’s *descendants. David and Solomon came from the *tribe of Judah. They were the greatest kings of Israel. And their *descendants ruled as kings for many centuries. But the other *tribes did not remain loyal to David’s family.
In the end, God’s plan is that the ‘real owner’ will be king. This means Jesus, who is the king of kings (Revelation 19:16). As the real king of Israel, Jesus owns the objects that show royal authority. He is the king of Israel, but he is also the king of every nation.
Jesus deserves to rule the nations because he is God. With God the Father and the Holy Spirit, Jesus created everything that exists (John 1:1-3).
Jesus also deserves to rule because he is Eve’s special *descendant. God promised that Eve’s special *descendant would free people from the power of *sin and the devil (Genesis 3:15). Jesus achieved this by his death for us.
Jesus also deserves to rule because he is David’s *descendant. And Jesus belongs to the *tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5).
And, because Jesus will rule, God will *bless the people from all nations (Revelation 22:2-3). If we confess our *sins, God forgives us because of Jesus. And we shall rule with him, because we belong to his royal family (1 Peter 2:9). This is a wonderful promise to everyone who trusts Jesus. We do not deserve these things. And we cannot earn them by our own efforts. But God said that he would *bless people from every nation by means of Abraham’s special *descendant (Genesis 12:3). And that special *descendant is Jesus (Galatians 3:16).
Verses 11-12 These verses do not seem to describe Judah himself, who was a *shepherd. The verses probably describe the land in Canaan that the *tribe of Judah would receive. So, ‘he’ means someone from the *tribe of Judah.
Jacob described a place where the land was very good. People would plant fruit bushes. And the fruit harvest would be plentiful. A farmer would need a *donkey to carry the fruit from one bush. (See Numbers 13:23.) There would even be enough wine to wash clothes in it! People did not really wash clothes in wine. Usually, wine was much too precious to waste.
Verse 12 describes someone who is strong and healthy. That person is healthy because his food is good. His food is good because the land is good. So, the *tribe of Judah would receive good land.
Verse 13 Jacob was saying that trade would be important to the *tribe of Zebulun. This tribe’s land included part of the shore of the sea called Galilee. But the land did not include the city called Sidon. And it did not include the shore of the great sea, called the Mediterranean. But perhaps the men from this *tribe traded in these places also.
Verses 14-15 Men from the *tribe of Issachar would become farmers. Their land would be very good. And, like the *donkey, they would work very hard.
Verse 16 Dan’s name means “judgement”. These words are not a description of a modern judge, who merely makes decisions. Jacob was saying that God would use Dan (or the *tribe of Dan) to fight for his people. Samson did this, and he came from the *tribe of Dan (Judges 13:2).
Verses 17-18 A snake may be small. But it can fight a much larger animal. And the snake will win.
So, God would use the *tribe of Dan to defeat enemies that seemed very powerful. The *tribe of Dan would succeed because God was using it to save his people.
Verse 19 Jacob repeats the same letters often in his *prophecy about Gad. Our translation also does this (with the letters ‘g’ and 'd'). This is a style of poetry.
Many enemies attacked the *tribe of Gad. These enemies belonged to the nations called Ammon, Moab and Aram. The people from Gad fought them successfully.
Verse 20 The *tribe of Asher received good land. When Solomon became the King of Israel, the *tribe of Asher provided food for the palace. Each year, they provided the food that the palace used in one month. You can read a list of the food that the *tribe provided in 1 Kings 4:22-28.
Verse 21 This verse seems to refer to the battle that Barak fought. Barak came from the *tribe of Naphtali (Judges 4:6). And the beautiful words may refer to the poem in Judges chapter 5.
Verse 22 This verse is like Psalm 1:2-3. These are descriptions of a *righteous person. Such a person does whatever God wants that person to do. Other people might think that a *righteous person is foolish. But the Bible teaches that only *righteous people are really successful. And *righteous people are successful whether they are rich or poor. Joseph was a *righteous man. And so, Joseph’s life did not just benefit Joseph himself. In fact, God *blessed *Pharaoh because of Joseph. God saved the lives of the *Egyptians during the *famine because of Joseph. And God helped Joseph’s own family, because of Joseph.
Verses 23-24 Joseph had many troubles during his life. But God protected Joseph. And God made Joseph able to overcome his (Joseph’s) problems.
Jacob described Joseph’s problems as if Joseph was a soldier in a battle. Joseph was not actually a soldier. This is just a description.
Verses 25-26 Joseph received a special *blessing because he had the *birthright. Jacob said that God would give many good things to Joseph. God had been very kind to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But the good things that God would give his people had not ended. In fact, the opposite was true. God would do even greater things for Joseph’s *descendants.
The son who had the *birthright used to receive a double share of his father’s possessions. The *descendants of each son of Jacob became a *tribe. But Joseph’s *descendants became two *tribes: Ephraim and Manasseh. And they were both large *tribes.
Verse 27 People from the *tribe of Benjamin would have a tendency to fight. In Judges chapter 20, this attitude caused a terrible war between the *tribe of Benjamin and the other *tribes. The *tribe of Benjamin refused to hand over criminals for punishment. Instead, the *tribe of Benjamin decided to fight.
The men from the *tribe of Benjamin were brave soldiers. But they still lost the battle. Nearly everyone from the *tribe of Benjamin died. Only 600 men from the *tribe of Benjamin escaped.
Many years afterwards, the first king of Israel, called Saul, came from the *tribe of Benjamin. Saul became a cruel king.
Paul too belonged to the *tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5). Paul had this tendency too, but he used it in a good way. He was brave. And he was not afraid to suffer (2 Corinthians 11:23-29).
Verse 28 This is the first time in Genesis when the writer writes about ‘Israel’s 12 *tribes’.
Verse 29 Jacob told his sons that he was dying. He said, ‘God will soon gather me to my people.’ Maybe he used these words to show that there is life after death. We do not know whether he did. Jacob may have meant only that his body would be with his dead relatives (verses 30-32). Jacob insisted that his sons should bury him in Canaan. Canaan was the country that God had promised to them. The sons needed to remember that. Their *descendants would not always remain in Egypt.
Jacob had asked his sons to bury his body in Canaan. So, after Jacob’s death, Joseph arranged for the funeral to be in Canaan.
It was not just Jacob’s family who attended the funeral. Many *Egyptians came to the funeral too. This fact shows how many people respected Jacob. It took several days to travel from Egypt to Canaan. And it was a difficult journey.
After the funeral, Joseph’s brothers became afraid of him again. They thought that he might be angry with them. They thought that he might punish them.
Joseph wept when he heard about their fears. He never wanted to be cruel to his brothers. He had forgiven them. He was sad that they did not seem to realise this. So, he explained that God placed him in Egypt in order to do God’s work. Their actions had been evil. But they could not prevent God from doing something good.
Joseph was an old man when he died. Before he died, he gave an instruction to his family. He did not want them to bury his body in Egypt. Instead, he asked them to store his bones. At the right time, God would take their *descendants back to Canaan. (God promised this to Abraham in Genesis 15:13-16.) And Joseph wanted them to take his bones with them. Joseph showed by these instructions that he trusted God (Hebrews 11:22).
And the *descendants of Joseph’s family did what he wanted (Exodus 13:19; Joshua 24:32).
Verse 1 There was special love between Joseph and Jacob. There were several reasons why such love existed between them. Joseph was the son of Rachel, Jacob’s favourite wife. Jacob and Rachel had waited for many years before Joseph was born. Jacob and Joseph were away from each other for many years. They had not thought that they would meet each other again. But particularly, they felt this love because they both served God. So, they both had the same attitudes.
Joseph was a very important person in Egypt. So, when his father was dying, Joseph would be the chief person by his father’s bed. God had promised that Joseph would close Jacob’s eyes when Jacob died (Genesis 46:4).
Verse 2 *Egyptians used to *preserve dead bodies. This was a special ceremony in their religion. So, usually, their priests did this task. But Joseph and Jacob did not belong to the ancient *Egyptian religion. Instead, they served the real God. So, Joseph arranged for doctors (instead of priests) to *preserve Jacob’s body.
Verse 3 ‘40 days’ may mean ‘a long time’ in the *Old Testament. However, it may actually mean 40 days here, because the writer mentions other such times also. People were usually sad for dead kings for 72 days. Jacob’s family considered him very important. The *Egyptians, too, considered him important, because he was Joseph’s father.
Verse 4 Joseph did not go to *Pharaoh himself. Probably, people did not usually go to a king while they were sad. It was probably not right to do that. Jacob wanted his family to bury him in Canaan because of God’s promises. But Joseph did not mention that reason. Perhaps he thought that it might not be polite to the people in Egypt. Joseph talked about the matter gently. He also spoke about a grave that Jacob had made for himself. Joseph did not mention that the graves of Jacob’s relatives were in the same place. Some translations have ‘the grave that I cut (out of the rock)’.
Verse 5 Joseph promised to return to Egypt.
Verse 7 All *Pharaoh’s *Egyptian servants went with Joseph. In that way, they showed great honour towards Joseph and Jacob. Perhaps the *Egyptians also wanted to be sure that Joseph would come back to Egypt.
Jacob’s funeral was a very great occasion.
Verse 9 The *descendants of people that went to the funeral would follow the *Israelites later. They chased the *Israelites when the *Israelites left Egypt for Canaan. But then, at that later time, the *Egyptians and the *Israelites were enemies.
Verse 10 We are not sure where this place was. It was usual to cry and be sad for 7 days. To separate the grains from the corn, people beat the corn. Each farmer chose a special area with flat ground for this task.
Verse 11 People could see that Joseph’s group were very sad. And people could hear it. The group made a noise and they probably tore their clothes. Probably, they threw ashes over their bodies and they shaved their hair. And they cried loudly. The name Abel-Mizraim meant that the *Egyptians were very sad there.
Verse 13 It seems that only Jacob’s family went further to his burial. (A burial is when people bury a dead person in the ground.) The *Egyptians stayed at Abel-Mizraim. Families usually buried their dead relatives in private.
Verse 14 Joseph did as he had promised to *Pharaoh. He returned to Egypt. Actually, many people went back together to Egypt. But Joseph was the most important person.
Verse 15 ‘Saw’ here means knew. The brothers were afraid. They thought that maybe Joseph would not still be friendly to them. Perhaps he was kind in the past only because he loved his father. So, Joseph’s brothers were afraid that he might now punish them. He was very powerful.
Verses 16-17 The writer does not tell us whether Jacob really told the brothers to say those things. The brothers had done bad things to Joseph. But we do not know whether Jacob ever knew that. Jacob would have wanted the family to be friendly, because God had promised great things for their future.
Maybe the brothers had not asked Joseph to forgive them before. If they had, we do not know it. But now, they asked him clearly to forgive them. They even offered to become his slaves.
Their message upset Joseph. He had already forgiven them. But it seems that they still did not realise this fact.
Their attitude was like many people today. God wants to forgive us because he is kind. He sent Jesus to die for us. Because of Jesus, God will forgive us if we humbly confess our evil deeds to him. Then, if we invite God into our lives, we become friends of God. But many people think that they must earn this by their own efforts. They are wrong. God forgives us as a free gift. God makes us his friends because he loves us.
Verses 19-20 Although Joseph had a lot of wealth and power, he had not become proud and unkind. He knew that God is the judge over everyone. He knew that God is always good. And God is powerful. Our evil deeds cannot stop God’s plans to do good things. God had a plan to use Joseph. And God’s plan succeeded. He used Joseph to save people’s lives.
Verse 21 Joseph promised to provide for his brothers’ families. They would be safe then. And they would continue to be safe during his whole life.
Verse 22 Joseph lived until he was very old.
Verse 23 In the *Hebrew of this verse, it is not clear whether the children were Ephraim’s grandchildren or Joseph’s grandchildren. Joseph adopted Manasseh’s grandchildren.
Verse 24 Joseph believed God’s promise that God would give the country called Canaan to the *Israelites. It is unlikely that many of Joseph’s actual brothers were still alive. The verse probably means that he spoke these words to his brothers’ families.
Verse 25 ‘Israel’s sons’ probably means Jacob’s grandsons, grandsons’ sons, and other *descendants. All Joseph’s brothers were older than he was, except Benjamin. Joseph used this promise to remind his family that he trusted God. And Joseph wanted them to trust God too.
Verse 26 Usually, the *Israelites buried bodies soon after death. But Joseph wanted the *Israelites to remember God’s promises. So, he told them not to bury his body. Instead, he told them to put it in a coffin. (A coffin is a big box that someone has made out of wood. People place dead bodies in it.) Whenever the *Israelites saw that coffin, they remembered God’s promise to them. God had promised that they would live in Canaan. It took several centuries before their *descendants arrived in Canaan. But, in the end, God did for them what he had promised. And, at last, they buried Joseph’s bones in the country that God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
adultery ~ when a married person has sex with someone that is not the person’s husband or wife.
almighty ~ when someone has enough power to defeat all his enemies; the Person who is better than everyone else; the *Lord over everything; the Person who has power over everything.
almond ~ a kind of tree with pink flowers; a nut that this tree produces.
altar ~ a table that people made out of stone or metal. People burned gifts to God (*sacrifices) on it.
Amorites ~ a group of people that lived in the country called Canaan.
ancestor ~ a relative that lived a long time ago. A person’s parents are *descendants of such a relative.
angels ~ God’s servants from *heaven, who sometimes bring God’s messages to people.
ark ~ the big boat that Noah built; or a box that someone has made out of wood.
arrow ~ a stick with a point on it. People shoot it from a bow.
backward ~ when people go in the direction where their back is; the opposite direction to forward.
balm ~ an oily, sticky substance from a tree. It smells good. People used it to cure troubles in people’s skin. And they used it to make the skin feel comfortable.
barren ~ a description of a married woman who has no children.
birthright ~ the oldest son had the birthright in the *Old Testament. He would be the leader of his family when his father died. And he would get a double share of the things that had belonged to his father. Sometimes in the Book of Genesis, a younger son actually received the birthright. Each time, there were special reasons why the birthright did not belong to the oldest son.
bless ~ to give someone a *blessing; or to be kind to someone; or to do good things for someone; or to promise good things to someone.
blessing ~ a good thing that God does for us; or when we ask God to help a person; or when we ask God to do something good in that person. In the Book of Genesis, blessings were often a type of *prophecy.
bony ~ so thin that people can see where the bones are, under the skin.
bow ~ to bend one’s body over to respect someone else. To bow one’s head means to bend one’s head forward.
bracelets ~ large rings that women put round their arms to make them beautiful.
buds ~ they grow on a plant or tree. Then they open out and they become flowers (or leaves).
burnt offering ~ something that someone burns as a gift in order to please God.
butler ~ a male servant that serves wine in a *household. And maybe he arranges the table and he does other such things there.
Canaanites ~ people that were living in Canaan, the country that God had promised to the *Israelites. The Canaanites were already living in that country before the *Israelites went there.
cattle ~ animals that people look after in order to get milk or meat from them. They include cows.
chariot ~ a kind of car that horses pulled. Soldiers could ride in it when they fought. Or important people could ride in it.
cherubim ~ special *angels that live with God in *heaven.
circumcise ~ to cut off the loose skin from the end of a boy’s or man’s sex part.
circumcision ~ when someone cuts off the loose skin from the end of the male sex part; something that specially reminds people about God’s agreement with Israel. For *Israelites, it was a proof that a man agreed to obey God’s laws. Or it might show that a person had a good, innocent spirit.
clay ~ a kind of earth. When it is dry, it is heavy and firm. When it is wet, it is stiff but also fairly soft.
clean ~ a clean animal was an animal that God allowed the *Jews to eat.
cloak ~ a large piece of warm cloth. People wore it on top of other clothes. And they used it as a blanket at night.
concubine ~ a woman that lives with a man but she is not his wife; or people do not know her as his wife.
confirm ~ say something again so that people will certainly believe it.
covenant ~ an agreement between two or more people, in which they all have responsibilities; such an agreement between God and a person (or people).
creation ~ when God made the world; and when he made everything that exists; everything that God has made.
creatures ~ many things that live are creatures. They include all animals, insects and things that crawl. They do not include people, trees, plants or things similar to plants. God made all creatures.
cubit ~ a measurement that people used to measure length. It is equal to 18 inches (about 45 centimetres).
curse ~ say that something bad will happen to a person or thing by God’s (or a false god’s) power; when someone curses a person or thing; what someone says when they curse a person or thing. In the Book of Genesis, the word ‘curse’ often means a *prophecy about future troubles.
deer ~ a graceful animal that can run fast. A male deer has two hard bony things like branches that grow on top of its head.
descendant ~ a child, grandchild, and so on; a person in your family who lives after you are dead.
dew ~ water on the ground at night. It comes from the air.
dome ~ a roof with a round top. Here, it means a very big roof over the whole earth.
donkey ~ an animal like a small horse. It carries things or people.
dove ~ a kind of bird. People consider it a gentle bird.
drunk ~ a description of a person who has had too much alcohol. Such a person cannot think clearly. And that person does not behave in a sensible manner.
ear (of corn) ~ in a corn plant, the part that contains the grains. It is at the top of the stem.
Edomites ~ the *descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau, who was also called Edom.
Egyptian ~ a person from the country called Egypt; when someone or something is from Egypt.
faithful ~ loyal; when someone does what they promise.
famine ~ a time when plants for food do not grow, so people cannot eat food from them.
feast ~ a very big, special meal; a special time when people eat a lot and they drink a lot. People usually have a feast for a certain special reason.
flesh ~ the soft material that covers a person’s bones.
flock ~ a large group of such animals as sheep.
flute ~ something like a tube that has holes in it. People blow into it in order to make music.
foreskin ~ the loose skin at the end of a boy’s or man’s sex part.
fruitful ~ fruitful land produces a lot of good crops. When a thing is fruitful, it produces many good results. When people are fruitful, they have many children.
grape ~ a small, sweet fruit that people make a drink (*wine) from.
gum ~ a sticky substance from a kind of bush. When the substance comes out into the air, it becomes hard. From it, people used to make a powder that made things smell good.
harp ~ something very large with very many strings. People pull the strings gently in order to make music.
heaven ~ the place that is God’s home.
Hebrew ~ the language that the *Jews spoke; someone from the nation that spoke the Hebrew language. The writer wrote Genesis in the Hebrew language.
heel ~ the back part of the foot.
herd ~ a large group of such animals as cows.
herdsman ~ a man that keeps cows and other animals safe.
Hittite ~ someone from a group (*tribe) of people called the Hittites. They lived in the country called Canaan.
Hivite ~ someone from a group (*tribe) of people called the Hivites. They lived in the country called Canaan.
holy ~ what God is like; completely good, with nothing bad in it; separate from *sin; perfect and clean; when something belongs to God.
Horite ~ someone from a group (*tribe) of people called the Horites. They lived in the country called Edom. The Horites were already living in that country before Esau (Edom) went to live there.
horn ~ a hard bony thing that grows on top of some animals’ heads, such as cows and some sheep. It is often like a stick that has a point on its end. Usually such an animal has two horns. The horns show that the animal is strong.
household ~ your household means everyone that lives with you. They do not have to be your family.
idol ~ a false god that people made out of wood or stone or metal.
inherit ~ to receive something from someone that has died. That thing is a gift. God too gives gifts to us, but he has not died!
Ishmaelite ~ a *descendant of Abraham’s son Ishmael. (Ishmael’s mother was the female servant Hagar.) Many Ishmaelites were traders.
Israelite ~ a person from the nation called Israel; a *descendant of Jacob, who was also called Israel.
Jew ~ a person that was born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children. People also use it to mean a person from the nation called Israel.
judge ~ to decide whether someone has done wrong things or right things; to punish people for wrong things that they have done.
kid ~ a very young goat.
kingdom ~ a place or country that a king rules over. (God is the greatest king. He is over all other kings. We are expecting his kingdom to come.)
lamb ~ a very young sheep.
lord ~ a man that has complete authority over someone or something.
Lord ~ a special name for God. Sometimes it is the *Hebrew word YHWH. YHWH means that God is always God. Elsewhere, it is the *Hebrew word ADONAI, which means ‘my master’. People used these words to give honour to God.
lyre ~ something with strings that people can pull gently in order to make music.
mandrake ~ a kind of plant. People thought that it would make them want to have sex.
merciful ~ when someone has *mercy or he or she shows *mercy.
mercy ~ help to those that have lack or difficulty; the love that God shows when he forgives people; God’s love and goodness; God’s pity towards all that he has made; when someone is kind to bad people.
Midianite ~ a *descendant of Abraham’s son Midian. (Midian’s mother was Keturah.)
myrrh ~ a sticky substance from a plant. People used it in order to make things smell good. Or they put it on dead bodies before they put them into a grave. Myrrh was one gift that the wise men gave to Jesus. They gave gifts to Jesus after he was born.
New Testament ~ the second part of the Bible, which the writers wrote after Jesus went back to *heaven.
oak ~ a kind of tree whose leaves fall off in winter. People often considered an oak tree a *holy tree.
oath ~ a serious appeal to God; when a person makes a serious statement that he or she will carry out a certain promise; a serious statement that something is true.
offering ~ a gift to please God.
Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible, which the writers wrote before Jesus came; the *holy things that the writers wrote before Christ’s birth.
olive ~ a small fruit from which people make oil in order to cook food; the tree that this fruit comes from.
overseer ~ an officer who tells people to do certain tasks. And he makes sure that they do those tasks.
ox ~ a big cow.
oxen ~ the plural of *ox.
peel ~ to take the thin outer cover off something (a branch, a fruit or a vegetable for example).
Perizzites ~ a group (*tribe) of people that lived in the country called Canaan.
Pharaoh ~ the king of Egypt.
Philistines ~ a nation of people that lived in Canaan or near Canaan.
pigeon ~ a kind of bird. Sometimes people have used it to carry messages to other people.
plane ~ a kind of tree. Its leaves fall off in winter. It often has white or nearly white spots on its stem.
pledge ~ a thing that a person gives to someone as a promise. It is a promise that the person will pay a certain price. When the person has paid the price, he or she can receive the thing (the pledge) back again.
poplar ~ a kind of tree, whose leaves fall off in winter. This particular kind of poplar had a white or nearly white colour.
praise ~ to say how great somebody is; words to express how great someone is.
pregnant ~ when a lady is expecting to have a baby.
preserve ~ to keep something in a good state, so that it does not go bad.
prophecy ~ messages that God wants to tell or teach to people, often about future events.
prophet ~ a person that hears God’s messages. Then that person tells God’s messages to other people. Some prophets wrote books in the Bible.
prostitute ~ a woman whom a man pays for sex.
ram ~ a male sheep.
rape ~ when a man forces a woman to have sex with him although she does not want to.
redeem ~ when someone pays the price to allow a person in prison to go free; to give money in order to receive something or someone back; to bring back from a dangerous place; to give help in order to get someone out of a problem.
religious ~ when people do something in order to *worship God.
righteous ~ very good (only God is really righteous). God says that the people that love him are righteous. And those people obey him. Such people do whatever God wants them to do.
sacrifice ~ when someone puts an animal on an *altar in order to offer the animal to God; to give something valuable for someone or for God; to die for someone or for God.
Satan ~ the devil. He is God’s enemy.
sceptre ~ a special stick that a king or queen holds. It shows that he or she has authority.
seal ~ a small hard object that has its owner’s particular design or text. Its owner presses it onto a thing in order to make a mark. The mark shows that the thing is genuine.
shekel ~ a way that people measured weight, equal to 0.4 ounces (11 grams). People also measured silver or gold in shekels for payment.
shepherd ~ a person that looks after sheep.
sin ~ to do bad things against God or other people; a bad thing that a person does against God or other people; when a person does a bad thing.
sinew ~ a narrow piece of hard, thick skin that connects a bone to a muscle.
sinful ~ evil and wrong.
sinner ~ someone that *sins.
speckle ~ a small, slight mark on an animal, bird or egg. There are usually many speckles close to each other.
spies ~ people that one country’s government sends in order to discover secret information about another country.
stew ~ food that people make from vegetables, meat or fish, which they cook slowly in water.
steward ~ a person that looks after another person’s house or land.
sulphur ~ a yellow material that burns things.
sweat ~ to have water that comes out of the skin. That can happen when someone is working hard with his or her body. Or it can happen when the weather is hot.
tambourine ~ something that people use in order to make the rhythm in music. They can hit it. Or they can shake it. (That is, they can move it very fast many times from one side to another and back again.)
temple ~ a building where people *worship God or a false god and they *praise him there.
thigh ~ the upper part of a leg.
thread ~ a long, thin piece of material like cotton or wool. People use it to make cloth. And they use it to sew with.
tower ~ a tall, narrow building.
tribe ~ a family (and *descendants) from the same father; the whole family (and *descendants) from one of Jacob’s 12 sons.
trough ~ a long narrow container from which animals can drink water (or they can eat food from it).
twin ~ someone that was born about the same time as a brother or sister; twins are two children that were born together from the same mother.
unclean ~ an unclean animal was an animal that God did not allow the *Jews to eat.
veil ~ a piece of material that covers a woman’s face.
vine ~ a plant that climbs. Its fruits are called *grapes. People use them to make *wine.
vision ~ a dream; sometimes a dream that comes to a person that is awake.
wax ~ a white or nearly white substance that is not very hard. An insect called a ‘bee’ makes it. People can use it to fasten things. People also use it to make candles. They burn candles to give light.
wine ~ a drink that contains alcohol. People make it from small, sweet fruit called grapes. People can use it as medicine.
wolf ~ a wild animal like a large dog.
worship ~ to show very great honour to God; to show that we respect him very much; to *praise God and to serve him; to tell God that we love him very much.
yeast ~ a substance that makes bread rise. People include the yeast in the mixture for the bread. The yeast makes the mixture rise before people bake the bread. Then the bread continues to rise while people are baking it.
John Calvin ~ Commentary on Genesis ~ Eerdmans
Rev. Stephen Dray ~ Genesis – Lecture notes (unpublished)
Victor P. Hamilton ~ The Book of Genesis (2 volumes) ~ New International Commentary on the Old Testament ~ Eerdmans
Matthew Henry ~ Commentary on the Whole Bible ~ Marshall Morgan and Scott
Rev. Derek Kidner ~ Genesis ~ Tyndale
C. H. Spurgeon ~ Treasury of the Old Testament ~ Marshall Morgan and Scott
Gordon J. Wenham ~ Genesis (2 volumes) ~ Word Biblical Commentary ~ Word
Bibles ~ RSV, NIV, International Children’s Bible, Bible for the Deaf
© 2006, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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