Hello! Welcome to Episode 2 of the Faith Chase Podcast. I’m Heather Tabata, and this podcast is about making our faith real in everyday life.
It’s been an exciting week for the little podcast! We’ve gotten up and running, I’ve heard from a few of you, which is awesome, and the podcast is available on more platforms, including iTunes and Apple Podcast.
If this is your first episode, welcome aboard! We covered Genesis 1-24 last time, and today we’ll be talking about Genesis 25-42. The plan is to read through the Bible this year together. Every week we’ll read the chapters on our own, and then at the end of the week we’ll come together to talk about them. So if you missed the beginning, you can still catch up, or if you want to work through at your own pace that’s fine too. I’ll leave the podcasts up all year, so they’ll be here whenever you’re ready. Please chime in along the way. The main goal is to read through the Bible this year, but sharing the experience will help keep us motivated. So let’s dive in!
Last week we finished up by talking about how Abraham was tested when God told him to sacrifice his son. Genesis 25 picks up with Abraham’s death and starts following Isaac. When he and Rebekah had children, they had twins: Jacob and Esau. Esau was older, and in the Old Testament times the oldest son traditionally became the head of the family, so we’d expect Esau to be the one God fulfilled His promises through. But that’s not quite what happened.
Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. And Esau said to Jacob, “Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.” Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright as of this day.” And Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?” Then Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. – Genesis 25:29-33
One thing that has always amused me about the Bible is how it doesn’t sugar coat anything. These families were dysfunctional. Just imagine Esau coming home from working their land and saying he’s so hungry he’s about to die, and Jacob says, “Sure, I’ll give you some food, just let me get what you’d inherit.” So they make the deal. And that’s how Jacob got part of what Esau would have been entitled to by being the oldest.
There was a famine, and God told Isaac where He wanted him to go.
Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed… – Genesis 26:3-4
So God makes the same promise to Isaac that He made to his father, Abraham. This is really important because this is the family line that Jesus will be born into.
As Isaac traveled, his servants dug a well for water, and they fought over it with some of the shepherds who were from that area. So Isaac’s servants dug a second well. The same thing happened. They tried a third time.
And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, because he said, “For now the LORD has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.” – Genesis 26:22
This reminds me of Romans 12:18, which says, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Isaac’s servants had a disagreement with these herdsmen. They could have kept making an issue out of the first well. After all, they did all the work, only to have it stolen, right?
But they didn’t. They moved on and dug another well. And when it caused a problem, they moved on and tried again. I think especially the second time it would’ve been hard to do that. I’d have thought, “Look, I was the bigger person once already. Enough is enough.” But they moved on until there was a well that didn’t cause a fight. They gave God the credit, because they said He’d made room for them.
In Genesis 27, the family gets really dysfunctional. All families have issues, and maybe this one can give us hope because we aren’t alone. Besides the birthright that sons inherited, the fathers would give specific blessings to the sons. So when Isaac was old and wanted to give his blessings, he told Esau to go hunt and make food for him, and then he would bless him.
Well, Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, heard it. So she told Jacob to let her cook food for Isaac and to go in and tell his father that he was Esau so he could get the blessing. She took Esau’s clothes and disguised Jacob as his brother and sent him in to Isaac with food. Isaac’s eyesight was so bad he felt Jacob’s hands and smelled his clothes to try to make sure it was Esau, and because Jacob was disguised, Isaac thought it was Esau. But he asked Jacob if it was Esau, and he said he was. I mean, that took some audacity, to lie to your blind father like that.
Isaac did bless Jacob, thinking he was Esau. When he was finished and Jacob left, Esau came in with food ready to feed his father and be blessed. That’s when Isaac realized he’d been tricked. Jacob was afraid Esau would kill him, so he fled from home.
While Jacob was traveling, God passed on the promise he’d made to Abraham and then to Isaac. Jacob had a dream of a ladder that reached to heaven.
And behold, the LORD stood above it and said: “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. – Genesis 28:13-14
Jacob traveled to where Rebekah’s relatives lived, and he met Rachel. He fell in love and wanted to marry her. Her father, Laban, told him he could, but he had to work seven years for him first. There’s some romance in the Bible, too.
So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her. – Genesis 29:20
But it didn’t end well easily. Rachel had an older sister who wasn’t married, and the custom was the oldest daughter married before the younger ones. So at the wedding, Laban tricked Jacob and traded Rachel for her sister Leah. Jacob wasn’t too happy about it when he figured out what had happened. Laban agreed to let Jacob marry Rachel too, but this caused problems in their family for years. It was no secret that Rachel was Jacob’s favorite.
When Leah had her first son, what she said is heartbreaking to me.
So Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben; for she said, “The LORD has surely looked on my affliction. Now therefore, my husband will love me.” – Genesis 29:32
I don’t know how willing Leah was to help trick Jacob to begin with. Maybe she was at fault too. But in this time, women weren’t respected like they are today, so she may not have had much choice. Whatever the case, she was married to someone who loved her sister more. There are so many examples of the problems favoritism causes in the Bible, and this is a big one.
Eventually both Leah and Rachel had children, and Jacob wanted to go back home. But he and Esau still hadn’t worked things out. So as they were traveling, Jacob sent messengers ahead to tell Esau that he was coming.
Then the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he also is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two companies. – Genesis 32:6-7
Consequences have a way of finding us, and it looked like Jacob was going to have to deal with some pretty harsh ones. So he split his servants and family up that way if Esau did attack them, hopefully at least part of them would get away. He also got a present ready for Esau and sent people ahead with it. But when they got near each other, Esau ran to meet him and hugged him. Esau forgave Jacob, even though Jacob couldn’t undo what he’d done. When the birthright and blessing were given, that was the end of it. Families will have disagreements and sometimes we’ll hurt each other, but we need to try to work it out and not let the hurt affect our whole lives and everyone we care about.
Then God talked to Jacob.
And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.” So He called his name Israel. Also God said to him: “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. Genesis 35:10-11
Here God gave Jacob the promise He had made to his father Isaac. It’s also when God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, and he is the father of the 12 sons who became the tribes of Israel.
Now we get to another incident when favoritism led to big problems in a family.
Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him. Genesis 37:3-4
Remember how Israel had 12 sons? Maybe he gave gifts to the other 11 sons, but if he did it’s not recorded. So Joseph’s brothers got jealous. After that happened, Joseph had a dream that his brothers and parents bowed down to him. And he told his family about it.
Now his brothers really didn’t like that. One day they were taking care of their flocks of animals, and Israel sent Joseph to check on them. They saw Joseph coming and started planning what they could do. Some of them wanted to just kill him, but his brother Reuben suggested they could throw him in a pit. Reuben planned to come back for Joseph, but he didn’t tell his brothers that.
So that’s what they did. They took his special tunic and threw Joseph in the pit. Before Reuben could get Joseph out, some traders came by on their way to Egypt. Another of the brothers, Judah, said they should sell Joseph to them rather than killing him. So they sold him, tore his coat, put blood on it, and took it to Israel. They told him they found it and asked if it was Joseph’s.
Israel knew it was, and he assumed that Joseph had been killed. He grieved for Joseph like he’d died. I can’t imagine the brothers putting their father through something like that and letting him think his son had died. They were so jealous of Joseph that they let it completely take over.
Joseph was sold to Potiphar, who was one of Pharaoh’s officers and a captain of the guard. Even though all this had happened to him, God hadn’t forgotten Joseph.
The LORD was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. – Genesis 39:2
Joseph worked hard for Potiphar and earned his respect. Potiphar put Joseph in charge of everything he had. Then one day, Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph. He told her that he couldn’t do that to his master and to God. She lied and told the servants and her husband that Joseph had tried to take advantage of her.
Even though Potiphar had trusted Joseph enough to put him in charge, he listened to his wife’s lie and threw Joseph in prison. It’s amazing how fast someone’s reputation can be ruined. Joseph hadn’t done anything wrong, but he was going to suffer anyway because of one lie.
But just like when he worked for Potiphar, Joseph worked hard and earned the prison keeper’s respect.
The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper. – Genesis 39:23
Joseph could have said, “I’ve had such a horrible life, nobody’s been fair to me, and I just quit.” But he didn’t. Even in prison, he made the best of his circumstances. It’s a good example for us. It’s so easy to start feeling sorry for ourselves about something that’s not going right in our lives, whether it’s something significant or minor. But it doesn’t give us a pass on using our abilities and trying to do the best we can for God.
Two of the prisoners who were there with Joseph had dreams, and he interpreted them correctly. One of them was the chief butler to Pharaoh, and he got out of prison and served Pharaoh again. Two years later, Pharaoh had a dream that nobody could explain to him. The butler remembered Joseph and told Pharaoh about him, so he sent for Joseph to see if he could tell him what the dreams meant. Joseph told Pharaoh that God could give Pharaoh an answer.
The first part of the dream was that seven well-nourished cows came up from the river and ate in a meadow. Then seven skinny cows came from the river and ate the first cows, but they were still skinny. The second part was that seven healthy heads of grain grew on a stalk. Then seven thin heads of grain came up and ate the first ones, but they were still skinny.
Joseph explained to Pharaoh that there were going to be seven years when crops did really well and there was plenty of food, and then there would be seven years of famine. Joseph told Pharaoh that he should start storing food in the good years so they’d be able to survive the famine.
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.” – Genesis 41:39-40
The Egyptians didn’t worship God, but because of the way Joseph lived and because he gave credit to God, even the king had to acknowledge Him. Joseph was put in charge again, and this time he was second only to Pharaoh. The famine came, just like Joseph said it would.
So all countries came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine was severe in all lands. Genesis 41:57
Guess who came to buy food from Joseph? His brothers! The famine was bad in Canaan too, so Israel sent them to get grain from Egypt. When they met Joseph, they didn’t recognize him, and they bowed down in front of him. He recognized them, and he didn’t tell them who he was. He told them they were spies and held them for three days.
Then he told them that he would let all but Simeon go back home, and they had to come back with the youngest brother, Benjamin, for him to let Simeon go. Before they left, Joseph had the money they had paid put back in the grain sacks, but the brothers didn’t know it. Isn’t that whole situation ironic?
That’s all for this week! Next week we’ll talk about what happened with Joseph and his brothers. In the meantime, let’s work on this week’s reading schedule. Let me know what you think! Head over to the website, http://www.heathertabata.wordpress.com, or Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and let me know what your favorite verses from the week were, a question you had, or something that stuck with you. See you in a week!