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

Abraham Sarah Hagar

Day 5 (Jan. 5): God and Abraham’s covenant, sacrifices, God cares for Hagar, circumcision

image credit: 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 15-17
(2081-2067 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

O. (15:5): I would love to be a fly on the wall at this conversation.  I can’t imagine the Lord telling me that I am the father of all of a great nation.  How incredible that must have felt to be handed that kind of gift.  If we all trust in God, we can feel that way too.

Q. (15:9): You talked about sacrifices in Day 4’s readings, but I still don’t get it.  Killing animals seems so violent.  I just don’t understand why such violence would be pleasing.  Maybe it’s something for me not to understand?  Also, I see the three’s in this passage — a goat, a ram and a heifer, all 3 years old.

A. I’m afraid there’s not much I can do to help you address the violent aspects of the usage of animal sacrifices; this was simply the world that they lived in, and, frankly, our entire world lived in until a couple of generations ago.  Today, we are mostly spared from the sight of animal slaughter, but it is a reality in our continued survival, vegetarian and vegan company excluded.  Let’s stick to this passage for the moment, and I will address the reasons for the sacrifice system when that comes up in Leviticus.  There are particular circumstances going on in Genesis 15 that I want to make sure we understand.

This ceremony that takes place between Abram and God in this passage is unique as it comes to sacrifices.  The animals are not sacrificed to cover sin, but rather to confirm a covenant.  As I understand it, in the ancient Middle East, a king would hold a covenant ceremony with a servant or vassal who agreed to serve the king (God of course is the King, and Abram the vassal).  The king and servant would conduct a ceremony in which animals were sawed in half (violent, I know, but it was the ritual) and the participating parties would walk between the two halves (as God does in verse 17 with the movement of the torch) to symbolize the establishment of the covenant relationship.  The sawed animals represented the punishment is either party broke the covenant, though not in a literal way.  The parties basically said, “may I be sawed in half like these animals if I violate this sacred relationship.”

God is using this ceremony to formalize the relationship between Himself and Abram in a way that Abram (and the subsequent readers) would clearly understand.  Though it seems foreign and violent to us, it would have been an especially significant experience to Abram and the ancient Jews who read these words.

I will try to keep addressing the sacrifice system as it comes up, but frankly, the Bible does not shy away from the violence (of many sorts) that takes place on its pages.

O. (15:13-16): The Lord tells of the Israelites saga.  There’s so much back-and-forth references in the Bible that it’s foolproof.  I am surprised that people still try to dispute it!

Q. (16:12): If the Lord or anyone told me that I was going to have a child wilder than a donkey, I would be a little upset.  And, God tells Hagar to go back to live with Sarai who was treating her poorly.  Hagar does not seem to be troubled with any of this.  God said that he had heard her cries, so maybe she was a believer and trusted God?

A. While it seems harsh (a common theme so far I guess), the story of Hagar is actually one of my favorites from the OT.  God made His promises to Abraham and Sarah, and a slave like Hagar could be excused for thinking that her actions (and her child) did not matter to God.  But she is wrong!  God sees her, as she points out, and cares greatly for her needs, as well as the needs of her son.  We will see more of this story in a few chapters, because it happens again.

Q. (17:12-14): Circumcision is something I totally don’t understand.  It is such a violent act for a newborn boy.  And, if it’s the mark of the everlasting covenant, no one can visibly see it unless they are naked.  So, what is the purpose?  Is this still one of God’s requirements today?

A. Regarding the current requirement of circumcision: yes, pious Jews will tell you that circumcising a male child on the eighth day is one of their most sacred duties as a new parent: the circumcision is the ritual for a child becoming “part of the family”.  And just FYI, it is part of pious Muslim ritual as well, and called “Khitan”.  Some Christians choose to participate, but there is disagreement about the requirement.  Christians who argue that we are no longer under the Law because of Jesus may still choose to do so in order to honor God.

Circumcision was (and frankly still is) a unique way of marking a person as a follower of God — and it would have been completely unique in the ancient world.  This gets at a larger theme of the first five books of the OT: that God is requiring that His chosen people act in various ways to show that they are set apart from the world (and other tribes) around them.  I won’t try to defend the violence of the act (like a broken record, I guess that would be the title for our Day 5 discussion), but there are Jews, Muslims, and Christians who to this day see circumcision as bringing their children into covenant relationship with God — something that can literally have eternal consequences.

For further study: 
— More on God’s covenant with Abram/Abraham: https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-covenant-of-abraham, https://www.thenivbible.com/blog/abrahamic-covenant-with-god/
— Lessons from the account of Hagar: https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/4-powerful-lessons-from-the-life-of-hagar.html

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Tomorrow’s reading: Genesis 18:1-21:7