Jacob gave his favored son, Joseph, a robe of many colors, to which Jacob's other sons became embittered.

Day 14 (Jan. 14): Joseph’s dreams, brothers sell Joseph, Judah and Tamar, Judah’s descendants, Joseph revered by Potiphar, Potiphar’s retaliates

John Paul Stanley / YoPlace.com

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
— Genesis 37-38
1 Chronicles 2:3-6
1 Chronicles 2:8
Genesis 39
(1898 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (37:5): If we are supposed to learn something from Joseph’s dream story, I would think that it is sometimes things happen for a reason and to trust in God.  But how do you know when God is influencing a situation?  This story does not tell us that God gave Joseph those dreams.  Also, being the favored son, I can totally understand why the brothers felt jealous of Joseph.  Then, to tell of his boastful dreams would have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

A. You actually make a keen observation in noting the absence of God in Joseph’s dreams.  And while dreams will become important in his life, at this point, Joseph is an arrogant young man who is basically gloating about the dreams that he is having and how he will rule over his family (even his parents, something that would have been exceedingly rare in his day).  You get it exactly right: it is Joseph’s bragging (and his special robe or coat) that gets him in trouble with his jealous brothers and motivates them to sell him into slavery.  As we will explore throughout this story, God will use all of these events (including Joseph’s arrogance) to bring about the salvation of Jacob’s family, so you could make the argument that God is “planting the seeds” for the story that will unfold in the events we have read today.

Q. (38:1-30):  What is the significance to the Judah-and-Tamar story?  I see a few points: 1) God saw evil in a descendant of Abraham — Er — and took his life. 2) Widowers were well respected.  If their husband died, they were owed a caretaker from their deceased husband’s family. 3) Birth order is important in these times.  But, like we have learned, God doesn’t give it the importance that humans do. In the birth of Tamar and Judah’s twins, maybe God did this as a point:  It’s an argument to say who was born first.  One started to come out, but then the other somehow took over.  So, maybe God is saying they are equally important.

A. I agree with these suggestions you have made, but there is a larger picture at play.  Basically, Judah’s descendants will be among the most important Israelites in their history.  Ruth Chapter 4 actually tells us why the story of Tamar is important: Perez, the firstborn twin (though not Judah’s firstborn) is the ancestor of King David, and Perez’s line will give birth to numerous kings.  Note also, that Jesus (as a descendent of David) is ALSO of the line of Perez, and therefore Judah and Tamar.  Pretty amazing that God originates the world’s salvation through this troubling story of prostitution and incest.  We will see more examples of this type of story as we read on, notably in the stories of David and Solomon.

O. (39:3): Potiphar noticed that the Lord was with Joseph.  I wonder what made him say that?  Has anyone looked at someone and said to themselves, “They must believe in God?”

Q. (39: 7-10): Joseph had the willpower to deny Potiphar’s wife who was begging him for sex.  Joseph had the strength, yet so many men and women, even followers of God, give in to temptation.  Does the Bible tell us how to ignore temptation?

A. Part of the point of the story of Joseph is that he is held up as a perfect example of submission and faithfulness to God (at least AFTER being sold into slavery).  We will continue to see the ways that God will use Joseph and Joseph will prosper because he has faith in God when things get bad (and they are about to get really bad!)

When it comes to resisting temptation, the model of Joseph is a good one: Joseph is able to resist temptation because he trusts in God.  Having a powerful faith in God, and trusting that He knows what is best for us, compared to say the fall story in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve became convinced that God was withholding something from them.  If we trust in the idea that God desires the best for us, then if we learn about the things that God (through the Bible) says are wrong or to be avoided, then we are more likely to avoid them.  Ultimately, it is important to understand that we will ALL fall into some sort of temptation eventually; it is in our nature.  This does not excuse our actions, but it does prevent us from thinking that God gives up on us when we screw up.  Quite the opposite: God desires to forgive and restore us to right relationship with Him.  So doing our best to avoid temptation is a good and desirable thing, but it is just as important for us to understand God’s desire to reconcile us to Himself through Christ.

For more insight: Dreams can be important! https://guideposts.org/angels-and-miracles/miracles/gods-grace/the-importance-of-dreams-in-the-bible/ 

Shop: Human emotions — like Joseph’s pride and his brothers’ jealousy — can get in the way of true joy. In Philippians 4:8, God gives us instruction to think about only good things. This shirt design is a great reminder for you and all of those around you to seek positivity: https://livinlight.org/product/all-good-thoughts/

Tomorrow’s reading: Genesis 40; Genesis 35:28-29; Genesis 41

Jacob wrestles with the Angel of the Lord all night. The Angel blesses him and names him Israel.

Day 12 (Jan. 12): Jacob returns home, faces Esau, wrestles God, becomes “Israel”, peace with Esau, revenge at Shechem, Rachel and Isaac die, 12 sons

Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Genesis 32-35:27
(1906 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (32:22, 30): Why did God and Jacob wrestle?  How did he know the man was God?

A. The story tells us that Jacob has been struggling against God and men his entire life (his father, his brother, his uncle, etc.) but in the end he conquered each of them.  The timing of the event is crucial to recognize: Jacob is leaving his confrontations with Laban, and about to confront Esau, but it is at this moment that the person who Jacob has struggled most with appears: God Himself.  (There are some who think that Jacob is wresting with an angel of God, though as we established the angel would have basically been seen as the same thing as God Himself).  God wanted more than Jacob’s worship and acknowledgement, He wanted Jacob’s heart, and this is the way that He wins it.

While it is not directly stated that the man is God (or an angel), verses 28 and 30 point to this reality.  In case it is not directly stated by the text (some translations do), the word Israel (the name for the entire nation in the Old Testament) means “wrestles with God.”  We shall indeed see what an appropriate title this is.

O. (33: 4): The differences between siblings can be night and day to where they want to be worlds away from one another.  Yet, when they have been apart for some time, their differences go by the wayside and their love for one another takes over.  This happened between my sister and I when she went away to college.  She purposely did things to annoy me … I’m sure for good reasons.  But, once she left for college and I had my own space, we became much closer.  Can anyone relate to the Jacob and Esau reunion?  Or, have you had a different experience?

O. (33:10): This reminds me of when we go out to eat with the family: It’s always a race to pay the bill.

Q. (33:16): Why did Jacob not follow Esau to Seir?

A. Honestly, my suspicion is that he still didn’t trust his brother, and therefore wanted to put a little distance between himself and Esau.

Q. (34:15):  This is an intense scene.  I am glad that Jacob stood up for his daughter.  It was quite a trick to have them agree to be circumcised, then when they are still healing from the procedure, Jacob’s family attacked.  If this hadn’t been a trick, God would not have supported the agreement, right?  Doesn’t God have to be the one who chooses the people to bear the sign of His chosen?

A. Circumcision was one of the most important rules of the Law.  And indeed, there are sections of the Law that describe the procedures for admitting alien people (usually slaves, an entirely different topic) into the “house” of Israel.  The simplest rule: if you weren’t circumcised, you weren’t part of the tribe.  Actually, marriage, the reason for this little event, was the major way that people could join the tribe of Israel (think of people like Ruth).  There were particular rules about which other tribes were not to be admitted (we will see these later), but generally, there were some routes for a people of various other tribes to “join up” in certain circumstances.

Q. (35:1) Bethel is where Jacob spent the first night on his journey to Laban’s, right?  Bethel means House of God.  Does this place have long-term significance or importance in the future?

A. That’s the one, where Jacob saw the ladder.  Bethel does not appear to play a major role in the future of the nation of Israel.  The town is mentioned throughout the territorial sections (land distribution in the book of Joshua after the land is conquered) and Bethel is given to one of Joseph’s sons named Ephraim.  It did gain one infamous role: it became the center of cult worship in the Northern Kingdom (this is way in the “future” of the story, if you will) after the death of King Solomon.  So in the era of 1 and 2 Kings, it would have been known, but not in a good way.

Q. (35:5): Any idea what the terror was?  It would be so awesome to see God’s power like that.  Do you think it happens today, like in earthquakes, floods, etc.?

A. It would be tough to guess what God exactly did to make the people afraid.  Usually if it is a natural disaster, the text will say so, so this might have been something more psychological.  Whether one sees the power of God displayed in earthquakes and floods is one of the toughest questions a Christian can ask.  I leave that up to the readers to decide.

Q. (35:8): Can you tell us anything about servants of those days.  The master’s family obviously cared about them as we see in this passage as they name the tree where a nurse was buried “weeping tree.”  How did one become a servant versus a master?  How were they revered?

A. Part of the implication of Jacob’s wealth (which would have been assumed by the audience) was that he would have servants, including slaves, who came to work for him seasonably (think migrant workers today) or other servants who were hired to keep the flocks or crops, supervise workers (like field managers), cook and prepare meals, work closely with the children (like the nurse in question), or keep the tents and other dwellings clean.

While we tend to think of slavery and servanthood as racially motivated, it was mostly the result of financial considerations in the ancient world.  Servants could be hired and align themselves with masters (which would likely use the covenant ceremony we discussed last week) for protection and even have families of their own.  We must be very careful about not applying Western American notions of slavery and service to the ancient world that thought very differently about people’s value.  There would have been none of this “all men are created equal” business (actually Jesus is the person single handedly most responsible for that concept, so that gives you the timeframe- more than a thousand years in the future), they would have understood masters as being superior to servants.  People would have worked for masters, be bought and sold as slaves (sometimes to pay off debt, sometimes as a result of being taken prisoner during war), and depended upon the wealthy to survive.

Even in such a harsh world, it is not hard to see how certain servants (head servants or nurses for example) would have come to be revered by the family due to their years of service.

Q. (35:20):  Can the monument be seen today?

A. When the writer says, “the monument can be seen today”, we do not know exactly when “today” is, and there are a number of theories about that.  But if you mean, can you still see the original site, well, that depends on who you ask.  For many of the important landmarks of this story (including events that take place in the New Testament, so you’re talking about literally thousands of years later), there are usually what are called “traditional” sites of an event or marker.  (You can read about the traditional site for Rachel’s tomb here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel’s_Tomb).  If you read the article, it notes that there are several sites that claim to be the “correct” one, but that generally we can only guess about the accuracy of the assessment.  The same is actually true for the site of Christ’s crucifixion and burial (there are TWO traditional burial sites for Christ).  The biggest problem for a lot of these sites is that for Rachel’s tomb as example, we are talking about a place that was marked more than 3000 years ago.  With all of the war, destruction, new construction, and endless movement and death of people, it is sometimes surprising that we know so much about this era at all.

Q. (35:27): If I remember right, Abraham and Isaac lived in Hebron as foreigners because this was the land God had promised to them and their descendants.

A. Most of the areas described in these stories (notably around the Jordan river) will ALL be taken over by Jacob/Israel’s descendants in about 400 years.

For further study: Get the lowdown on each of Jacob’s sons: https://www.christianity.com/wiki/bible/why-did-god-choose-the-12-sons-of-jacob.html

Shop: This shirt is reminiscent of Jacob because he camped out — and wrestled — with God.  The night sky reminds us of God’s covenant with Abraham — that his descendants, Jacob included, would be as numerous as the stars in the sky: https://livinlight.org/product/campout/

Tomorrow’s reading: Genesis 36:1-19; 1 Chronicles 1:35-37; Genesis 36:20-30; 1 Chronicles 1:38-42; Genesis 36:31-43; 1 Chronicles 1:43-2:2

Jacob's dream One night Jacob used a rock for a pillow. As he slept he saw a ladder from earth reaching to heaven with the angels of God ascending and descending on it. God then blessed Jacob (Genesis 28:13-15). Rejoicing, Jacob praised God and with the stone as a monument called the place Bethel. (Genesis 28:16-19) – Slide 11 John Paul Stanley / YoPlace.com

Day 10 (Jan. 10): Jacob travels to Uncle Laban, Jacob’s dream, Jacob finds Rachel, Laban tricks Jacob, Jacob’s children

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
— Genesis 28:6-30:24
(1928-1921 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

O. (28:9): I find it interesting that Esau marries Ishmael’s daughter.  If you remember, Ishmael was Abraham’s other son (Isaac’s half brother) whom he loved by Hagar, but was not the son God chose for his “nation.”  Yet, God said Ishmael would prosper in another land.  Likewise, Esau was denied his firstborn birthright and blessing.  But, as the story goes, Esau also has a great many people, but not the great nation God is choosing for His people through Isaac and Jacob.

Q. (28:17): … the very gateway to heaven.  To me this is saying the stories of the generations of the Israelites, which includes Jesus, will show you the way to heaven.

A. That’s an interesting take on the image.  Many Christians view the bridge or ladder as an image of Christ himself, the connection between heaven (the realm of God) and earth (the realm of man).  As the bridge between them, Christ returns the proper relationship between God and man.  Jacob’s vision can be seen as a prophetic vision of the future of his family (as you have pointed to) and one (very distant) son in particular (Jesus) who will complete the reunion between God and man.

Q. (29:22-27): I understand the custom of a man’s oldest daughter must be married first.  However, why didn’t Laban just tell Jacob of this rule?  Jacob was so much in love with Rachel that he likely would have agreed to marry Leah first as long as he gets Rachel too.  Again, there is deception here.  This also sets a scene for sibling rivalry.

A. Interesting that in this story the shoe is on the other foot.  Jacob surely did not like being deceived.  It appears to be one of those “what goes around comes around” kind of moments.  Absolutely Laban deceived Jacob, and with good reason: Jacob’s love for Rachel got Laban seven additional years of free service out of Jacob.  Considering the misery Jacob caused his brother and father, it only seems fair that this is how his uncle treats him.  But this generation is especially important to keep track of, because the four women (Rachel, Leah, and their two servants) will give birth to the 12 sons of Jacob that will become the 12 tribes of Israel.  One of the things that is worth noting is that here, as in previous generations, God is not concerned with birth order (especially compared to how people are concerned with it).  Over the rest of the story (basically the rest of Genesis will focus on the lives of the 12 sons), note the way that God uses them for various roles, and the way that some of the younger sons will be the most influential.

Q. (29:31-30:24): Rachel and Leah are rivals.  We also have seen it in Cain & Abel, Esau and Jacob and soon Joseph and his brothers.  Does the Bible address sibling rivalry — the causes, the reasons, the cures?

A. Like other less than perfect aspects of the people in the story, the Bible does not shy away from mentioning sibling rivalry, and even mentions some of the ways that God redeems these rivalry situations.  As far as I know, the Bible does not specifically address the particular circumstance of sibling rivalry, though it has plenty to say about respect for family and loving people in general (including family of course).  The Bible tells us that, as much as it is up to us, we should live at peace with those around us (Romans 12:18), Psalm 133 informs us that it is good when brothers live in unity.  And Luke 15 (the story of the prodigal son) describes the way that a loving God (the father) attempts to bring about peace between rival brothers.

For further study: Laban’s trickery: https://lifehopeandtruth.com/bible/blog/jacob-and-a-tale-of-two-daughters/

Shop: When the world seems full of trickery, we can become discouraged and angry.  In Philippians 4:8, God gives us advice to think about good things to keep our hearts righteous.  Livin’ Light has a fun T-shirt design — All Good Thoughts — that can lift spirits of someone who is down in the dumps.

Tomorrow’s reading: Genesis 30:25-31:55