Friday, January 16, 2009

Notes on the Bible January 15-16

Gen 36-40

Genesis 36. This surveys the descendants of Esau, in schematic fashion. As is typical in Genesis, the non-elect line is dealt with briefly before the narrative moves on to a more detailed treatment of the elect line. Perhaps the most important item to note in this chapter occurs in the last verse. Here it notes that the descendant of Esau lived in the land of their possession. It contrast radically with the first verse of Gen 37, where Jacob lives in the land of the sojournings of his father. Esau has his possession. Jacob does not yet have his. He is still waiting on the promises.

Genesis 37. The life of Joseph, from the beginning here to the time of his promotion to second in Egypt is bracketed by dreams. The dreams in this chapter need no divine interpreter, since there meaning is obvious. It is significant, though, that God is not mentioned in the chapter. God operates in the background here in the rivalry between Joseph and his brothers.

Two notes about the selling of Joseph. First, the terms Ishmaelites and Midianites are used interchangeably. See, for example, 37:36, where it is the Midianites who sell Joseph to Pharaoh, and 39:1 where it is the Ishmaelites. Second, Reuben is absent from the scene when the rest of his brothers sell off Joseph (see 37:28-29). It is Judah who is the ringleader in the selling of Joseph.

Genesis 38. The shift in focus from Joseph to Judah is intentional, not accidental. As Judah had taken the lead in getting rid of Joseph, part of the significance of the larger story is the redemption of Judah, who goes from being the leader in evil to being the leader in good, and finally the one through whom the promised one will come (see 49:8-12, especially vs 10). The events surrounding Judah and Tamar bring Judah to humbling and, evidently, repentance.

Genesis 39-40. Two things of note here. First, the specific mention of God's blessing on Joseph even in the middle of evil circumstances. At the very least the Christian should learn that God's blessing is not always attended with pleasant circumstances. Second, notice the emphatic way the text tells us that the chief cupbearer neglected Joseph. 40:23 says, "Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him." The word "remember" in Hebrew often has the connotation of calling to mind. Negatively, the cupbearer did not call Joseph to mind. In fact, he positively forgot Joseph. Nonetheless, in the midst of evil circumstances that continue for an extended period, God blesses Joseph.

Matthew 10:40-12:14

This section concludes Jesus' oration on discipleship. The narrative then moves through the transition from the conclusion of the ministry of John the Baptist to the focus on Jesus' ministry. Chapter 12 begins to show the clash between Jesus and the Pharisees, focusing initially on the law of the Sabbath. In this, Jesus' shows the Pharisees' Sabbath understanding to be legalism. Jesus does not do away with the Sabbath, but puts it in its true context.

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