Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 38:1-6

1 And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. 

2 And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her.

3 And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er.

4 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan.

5 And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bare him.

In Genesis 39 we will return to the story of Joseph, but first the Bible takes a detour to develop the story of Judah. Judah was the fourth-born of Leah, the last of the first set of sons born to Jacob. After him two sons were born to Bilhah, then two to Zilpah, then two again to Leah, and finally two to Rachel.

This there were three sons elder than Judah, and we have previously discussed how Reuben had sullied himself by adultery with his father’s wife Bilhah, and also Simeon and Levi by slaying the men of Shechem. Thus far all Judah has been guilty of is despising his brother and suggesting that they sell him to Egypt, though that might have been an attempt to save Joseph’s life. Now, however, we will take a view on Judah’s adult life, and it is a distasteful scene, fit for a modern soap opera.

It begins with Judah leaving his father to spend time with the people of the land. Then, like his uncle Esau, that leads to him taking a Canaanite woman to be his wife, someone who is outside of the covenant. There can be no doubt that he knew this was offensive to his father and God, but it does not seem like he was concerning himself with matters of virtue heretofore anyway. Together, Judah and this Canaanite woman have three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. Now the stage is set and next we will begin to see how their unpleasant inter-relationships worked out.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 36:1-5

1 Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom.

2 Esau took his wives of the daughters of Canaan; Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite;

3 And Bashemath Ishmael’s daughter, sister of Nebajoth.

4 And Adah bare to Esau Eliphaz; and Bashemath bare Reuel;

5 And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these are the sons of Esau, which were born unto him in the land of Canaan.

The narrative is now paused for a chapter as the Bible recounts the genealogy that proceeded from Esau. We are reminded that Esau had two wives of the Hittite and Hivite nations, and a third from the daughters of Ishmael.

As discussed earlier, Esau only married the third wife to appease his parents, who wished him to keep his family within the covenant lineage. However, I am not sure that marrying the daughter of Ishmael fit that bill. Yes, the covenant people would emerge from the children of Abraham, but not all of the children of Abraham would be part of that group. Isaac would be part of the covenant and not Ishmael, just as how Jacob was now part of the covenant but not Esau.

In any case, Esau only had one son from two of the wives, but three from the third. Five sons were enough to assume his lineage would be carried forward, though, and the following verses will show that it was indeed.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 28:20-22

20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,

21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God:

22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.

We have previously heard mention of tithing in the Old Testament, such as when Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek, but these verses are, in my opinion, the clearest definition of what tithing actually is.

Tithing is a covenant. Jacob is entering into a solemn, two-way agreement with God. On the one hand Jacob is agreeing to give up one tenth (a tithe) of all he possesses to God, and in return God will sustain Jacob in all of the necessities of life: food to eat, clothes to wear, and a roof over one’s head.

Gifts and offerings to God are not bound but such clearly defined criteria, because they are not solemn covenants. But when we today speak of tithing, we are again referring to this idea of a two-way contract between us and God. And the parameters for us are the same as they were for Jacob. We give a tenth of our increase and we are cared for in our earthly needs. And, for what it’s worth, this is a covenant that I live, and I absolutely have seen God’s hand sustaining me and my family in all of the essentials.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 28:12-15

12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

13 And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;

14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

In this moment of lonely isolation Jacob lays down to sleep and has a heavenly vision. We have not been told what sort of spiritual encounters he had before this moment, but surely this was his first time experiencing anything quite like this.

Let us examine a few of the details from this vision.

First, the image of a ladder between heaven and earth and angels climbing up and down it is a wonderful testimony of God’s active interest in the world. This is showing a direct conduit between God and man, and God’s servants being constantly busy with carrying out God’s work among the mortals.

Second, God introduces Himself as the one who blessed and prospered Jacob’s father Isaac, and his grandfather Abraham. Surely Jacob was aware of how those men had flourished under the hand of their God, and now he knows that he is being welcomed into the same covenant that they enjoyed.

Third, God now gives to Jacob the same covenant that He instituted with Abraham and continued with Isaac. I have always loved this scene because it shows that God does not give a blessing to our ancestors and then leave us to assume that we have just inherited it also. There are no implicit or assumed blessings when it comes to God, all of them are made directly to each of his children when they are ready to receive it. Rather than being left to assume “God loved my father so he must love me,” Jacob has his own manifestation of that love directly.

Fourth, God speaks directly to Jacob’s worries in that particular moment. He concludes the vision by assuring Jacob that He is with him, that Jacob is not alone, that he will be preserved in this strange land, and that he will be brought back safely, all because he is safely held in the hand of God. What a sweet sign of God’s intimate knowledge of Jacob’s heart and His immense desire to comfort it.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 25:1-2, 5-6

1 Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah.

2 And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah.

5 And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac.

6 But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.

After Sarah’s passing Abraham took another wife, who bare him six sons that we hardly hear anything about. Abraham gave gifts to all of these sons and then sent them away to establish their own households, retaining the full inheritance for Isaac. Giving the inheritance to a single son was a common custom of the time, but more than that, God had chosen Isaac to carry on His covenant, and not the other sons.

Similarly, God would select only one of Isaac’s sons to receive the covenant promise: Jacob. But then, in the next generation, all of Jacob’s twelve sons would be included in the covenant, not just one. Thus, the decision for how the covenant was passed along to each generation was God’s to make, and then the father’s inheritance followed suit.

While God’s reasoning for which sons he chose for the covenant are not always elaborated, we do see in the case of Jacob and Esau that God selected the son who was more faithful. It seems likely that the continuation of the covenant was based on one’s worthiness, rather than a matter of random election.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 17:7, 9-10, 14

7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.

9 And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.

10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.

14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

The promises that God had for Abraham were not for Abraham only. In order for the promises to come true, they would need to be reiterated to all of Abraham’s willing descendants. Abraham wasn’t going to have a nation of children immediately in the next generation, so his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and beyond would all have to be included in the promise of raising a great nation and possessing the land of Canaan.

This is a very special sort of perpetual blessing. Usually when I think of a promise from God what comes to mind is a personal thing. I receive my promises from God and you receive yours, and just because God gives one person one thing does not mean He is likely to give the same thing to someone else. But, evidently, sometimes a promise from God is made to a group, or even to an entire line of posterity.

And this is a foreshadowing of the New Testament covenants that Jesus would later introduce. Covenants that would be offered even more liberally, to the entire human race instead of just one family line!

Though not necessarily all of Abraham’s descendants were going to be part of his covenant, and not necessarily all of humanity will be part of the New Testament covenants either. All of Abraham’s descendants could be, but it would depend upon them showing God a specific sign, which was being circumcised, and following a specific law. And the New Testament covenants are also fully entered into by showing God certain signs, such as baptism, and by following Jesus’s higher law.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 8:20-22

20 And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

21 And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

I mentioned yesterday how Noah represented a new beginning for mankind, and this notion is further echoed in today’s verses. And here we see that God is establishing a new covenant with mankind. The natural order of the world, its cycles and seasons, its days and nights, all these things will continue, and there will not be any more mass extinction.

And He promises this even knowing that man will go astray again. He calls out how “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth,” but that doesn’t change His promise. Jesus would accurately observe “he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). From this point on it is official and covenanted: God knows that is committed to seeing this human experiment all the way through. No matter how many rebellions we make He will continue to work with us.

The Nature of Sacrifice- Psalm 50:5, Exodus 24:8, Matthew 26:28

Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.

And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words.

For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

COMMENTARY

Those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice
Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you
For this is my blood of the new testament
There are some passages of scripture that I read, and I feel like I understand their reasoning immediately. Then there are some that I read, but I frankly do not understand them. Instead I get the sense that I am teasing at ideas that are still beyond me. One such example of feeling out of my depth is when I consider the three verses that I shared above.
It seems that there is something about sacrifice being a necessary component of our covenants with God. I’m not entirely sure why these two are so connected, but I get a sense that they really are. The Law of Moses was a covenant instituted by regular animal sacrifice, and the Higher Law was a covenant instituted by the great sacrifice of Christ.
In Hebrews 9:15-22, Paul gives us a small treatise on covenants and sacrifices, in which he states that no testament is in force until after the death of its testator. Why, exactly, I do not know, but there it is even so.
I suppose that performing a sacrifice as part of entering into a covenant makes the experience far more impactful in the heart of the disciple. Also, making that sacrifice would be a representation of what the covenant life will surely require multiple times in the years that follow.
But still I think there are things here that I do not understand, and so my mind continues to turn these verses over. I hope my thinking-out-loud on them is helpful for you, it certainly has been useful for me.

Personal Promises- Galatians 3:26-27, 29; Mark 10:39, Matthew 3:16-17

For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:

And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

COMMENTARY

And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise
We have spent some time examining the covenant blessings, which we noted were given through Abraham to all his generations. To inherit eternal life we must come through that same covenant lineage, which is made possible to all of us by being adopted through Jesus Christ.

For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ
Being adopted through Jesus Christ requires being baptized into him. Thus all that have this baptism will, by default, inherit the blessings of Abraham.

And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:
Note that this is not just any baptism, though. Language like “baptized into Christ” and “the baptism that I am baptized with” seem to suggest that we are supposed to have the same experience with our baptism that he did. And what exactly was that baptism experience?

And the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Jesus, it turns out, was a direct descendant of Abraham. Therefore he already had all of the same covenant promises by default. But God is not a God of “by default.” When Jesus was baptized it was accompanied by a personal declaration of divine approval.
This is the baptism experience Jesus intends for us. Not some impersonal wetting and an assumption of blessings received, but rather a direct and personal affirmation from God Himself.
If you have already been baptized and it lacked this sort of grandeur, don’t feel bad. That was my situation as well, but I learned that this moment of affirmation will still come. It will come, but only when you are ready and the time is right.