Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 43:15-18

15 And the men took that present, and they took double money in their hand, and Benjamin; and rose up, and went down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph.

16 And when Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the ruler of his house, Bring these men home, and slay, and make ready; for these men shall dine with me at noon.

17 And the man did as Joseph bade; and the man brought the men into Joseph’s house.

18 And the men were afraid, because they were brought into Joseph’s house; and they said, Because of the money that was returned in our sacks at the first time are we brought in; that he may seek occasion against us, and fall upon us, and take us for bondmen, and our asses.

Jacob’s sons set out as instructed, bringing with them the present, the double-money, and their youngest brother. Once again they come to Egypt, and once again they find themselves dealing directly with the great Egyptian ruler Zaphnath-paaneah, who is in reality Joseph. And so, at last, Joseph sees Benjamin, and he is moved. Shortly he will show an abundance of tender and caring feeling towards him.

Rather than conduct his business with his brothers right away, Joseph makes ready for the second stage of his test. He is going to play the part of gracious host and treat them kindly, presumably to set his brothers at ease.

But Joseph’s brothers do not receive the invitation to his house with any enthusiasm! Thus far Zaphnath-paaneah, has seemed extremely paranoid towards them, and they immediately assume that this is all a trap. What would stop him from doing whatever mischief he desired to them, just as soon as the doors to the outside world were closed?

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 33:17-20

17 And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.

18 And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padan-aram; and pitched his tent before the city.

19 And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for an hundred pieces of money.

20 And he erected there an altar, and called it El-elohe-Israel.

Jacob continues on to Succoth and makes a more permanent dwelling-place there, but then continues again to the city of Shechem. Some scholars have wondered whether the temporary stay at Succoth was to heal from the thigh wound he endured from his night-time wrestle, but whatever the reason, at long last Jacob had found himself in the land of Canaan once more.

But though he was back in familiar country, Jacob did not try to move in on his father’s abode. Rather he bought his own place, with his own money, and erected his own altar to the Lord. Jacob is putting in his stakes, finally choosing a place of permanent abode.

Or so he thinks. In a little bit we will read how he is moved once again to a different part of the country, and even in his old age he will move to Egypt when famine strikes the land. He seems to have his heart set upon settling down, but like his grandfather Abraham, his fate is to spend considerable time as a stranger in a strange country.

Spiritual Analysis- Genesis 20:1

1 And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.

In Abraham’s own words, he was “a stranger and a sojourner,” journeying from place to place throughout his entire life. He had spent much of his time in the valley and mountains of Canaan, but now he left the area of his future inheritance for Gerar.

Earlier, when he went to Egypt, we were told that he was compelled to do so by a famine. Here it is not explained to us whether he was driven by need or by want, and I am very curious to know. I recently noted how Abraham’s living out in the open had meant he was free to follow his own morals, as opposed to Lot who dwelt in a dangerous city where he made compromises with evil. But in the next verses we will learn that Abraham is similarly afraid of the people in the land of Gerar, as he once again tries to conceal the fact that Sarah is his wife. As before, this results in a difficult situation for the two of them. It would seem strange to come to a land that he considers so godless and dangerous as a passing curiosity, but then what was the reason?

In any case, Abraham will eventually have his fears of this land resolved, will make important friends therein, be free to live in honesty, and even his long-promised son Isaac will be born there.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 13:17-18

17 Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.

18 Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the Lord.

There is something very satisfying in God’s command to walk the length and breadth of the land, to feel out the whole of it. Even if Canaan was more humble than the plain of Jordan I get excited by the idea of Abram taking stock of the land that God is giving to him.

Maybe this stands out to me because my wife and I recently bought our first single-family home, and I very much enjoy walking between its borders, too! There is something so exciting about having a place of your own. Large or small, lavish or humble, it is the foundation to build your future from.

And now, at long last, we have Abram living fully within the boundaries of Canaan, the place that will be the backdrop for most of the Biblical record. In fact, all of the stories that Abram is best known for will all begin from here.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 13:1-4

1 And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south.

2 And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.

3 And he went on his journeys from the south even to Beth-el, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Beth-el and Hai;

4 Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the Lord.

Abram’s story highlights the mysterious ways that God works in. First there was that famine which got Abram into the land of Egypt, where he would accumulate great wealth, the beginnings of his future kingdom. But Egypt was not supposed to be the land of Abram’s inheritance, Canaan was. So then there arose the dispute about Abram’s wife, another blessing in disguise, which pushed out of Egypt and back to his prior home on Canaan’s outskirts.

Abram has returned home, but he is not the same as when he went out. As we will see in the next verses he has grown too big for this place, the old clothes don’t fit anymore. God led him away to obtain the things that he needed, then led him back to continue his larger story.

Leading to Water- Review of Jacob

Over the past few days I have considered the story of Jacob in the Old Testament, and I have found that it has several lessons to teach. First, though it is important to understand the context of where Jacob begins his story.

Jacob was born into a rich family and likely lacked for nothing. He even obtained the birthright from his father, and thus all of the luxuries he enjoyed as a son would one day become his very own. His father and grandfather were also very spiritual men, and had no doubt educated him about God and the covenant that he had been born into.

Yet for having had a claim on everything, from a broader point of view Jacob actually possessed nothing. These were Abraham and Isaac’s wealth and blessings just being handed down to him. His forefathers had earned all this, not him. Fortunately, it was not his destiny to just become his father. It was intended that he would find his own self.

And so he was sent out from his home, and his comforts, and his family, and the entire land of his youth. Alone in the wild he made his pillow out of stones and asked God for the thing he wanted most: to just go back home to his father’s house.

But that was not what happened.

God’s intent was that Jacob build his own house. To be motivated in that cause, God led Jacob to Rachel who awoke a powerful love in him. He felt inspired by her to toil and labor for the things his heart yearned for. Fourteen years he served for her, and along the way he obtained for himself large flocks of goats and sheep. These became the foundation of his own personal vocation, a wealth that he had earned rather than inherited.

Eventually Jacob did return to his homeland, bringing with him his great entourage. He received word that his brother Esau was coming to meet him, though, with a large host of men. It seemed certain to Jacob that Esau was coming to kill him and everything that he had. Family, servants, flocks…all of it.

Once again Jacob had a private conversation with God, pleading for the thing he wanted most: that he and his family would be kept alive.

And that was what happened.

Esau’s heart had been softened and he welcomed his brother in peace. Not only this, but Jacob was given a new name from the Lord: Israel. This is a very fitting symbol for how Jacob had truly become a new man. His own man.

His relationship to God was his own. His family was his own. His vocation was his own…. Through the help of God, his entire life was his own.

Leading to Water- Genesis 29:9-11, 18, 20

And while he yet spake with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep: for she kept them.
And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother.
And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept.
And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.
And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.

COMMENTARY

When Jacob saw Rachel, Jacob went near, and kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept
And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve seven years for Rachel
With yesterday’s passage we read Jacob’s plea to “come again to my father’s house in peace.” At the time, all he wanted was to go back home to exactly what he had before. But at that point he had not yet met Rachel. For as soon as he did meet her he stopped speaking of a hasty return to his father and instead committed to seven years of labor in a strange land so that he could marry her!
And when that dowry was doubled to fourteen years he prolonged his absence from home without hesitation! In fact, Jacob’s relationship to his childhood home becomes so unimportant that his story doesn’t recount anything more of it until he and Esau are burying their father after his passing (Genesis 35:29).

And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her
Jacob had a love of his own now. And through that love he found a new vocation and a new home. While his father and grandfather had been well-diggers, he became an accomplished herdsman. While his father and grandfather set their roots in Canaan, Jacob took an extended leave of absence to Padan-Aram. In short, Jacob had become his own person. It was a hard thing for him to leave the nest, but truly it led him to spread his wings.

Leading to Water- Genesis 28: 1-2, 10-12, 18

And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.
Arise, go to Padan-aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother.

And Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran.
And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.
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.

COMMENTARY

And Isaac called Jacob and charged him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padan-aram, and take thee a wife from the daughters of Laban.
I want to start this series by looking at several points from the story of Jacob. These first verses describe the moment where Jacob is pushed out of his father’s nest. He has been raised in the land of Canaan and Isaac wants him to leave that area to marry someone within the Abrahamic covenant. Jacob is sent out to achieve this, and it appears that he was sent out alone.

And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.
It is also worth noting that this is not Jacob’s natural environment. Where his twin brother Esau loved to roam and hunt it has been previously stated that Jacob “was a plain man, dwelling in tents” (Genesis 25:27).
He was the son of a rich man, and the grandson of another rich man. Now he is out in the wild, laying out hard stones for his pillow. As we will see tomorrow, this hardship is not lost on him. His great desire is to “come again to my father’s house in peace” (Genesis 28:21).

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.
But it is in this moment, alone and unprotected by his father, that Jacob has a character-defining encounter with God. It is while venturing out under his own power that he starts to meet his maker.

Evolving Your Beliefs- John 8:39-40, 52-53

They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.
But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.
Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death.
Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?

COMMENTARY

They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father.
Art thou greater than our father Abraham?

A major point of contention between Jesus and the disbelievers was that they perceived his teachings as an attack on their patriarchs. Here they are making an appeal to authority, claiming that their doctrine is derived directly from Abraham. Jesus frankly refutes that claim.
Their position, though, is one that I believe many of us can directly relate to. We often bristle when someone suggests that some of our conceptions of God and morality are amiss, even when the person making that suggestion is God, Himself! One reason is because that accusation feels like a slight against the place where we received our teaching: our childhood home. “Art thou greater than our father?!”
Sometimes God is going to say things that we don’t like. And it might be “your parents were wrong, so stop holding onto their old beliefs.” Even if He’s only saying they were wrong in part, that still stings us.
Or, it might be the exact opposite. He might be saying to you “your parents were right all along, so stop trying to be smarter than them.” Even if He’s only saying that they were right in part, it still stings us.
In the end, people tend to feel very passionately about their family of origin. They either love them or they hate them, they are proud of them or they are proud of having grown past them. In either case they struggle to accept that some parts of that home could be good, and other parts not so much. Sooner or later, though, God is going to come disrupt our personal pride, and coax us toward a higher truth.