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Genesis 15-50 by Robert Dean
Series:Understanding the Old Testament (2000)
Duration:1 hr 2 mins 2 secs

Why the Hebrews Went to Egypt
Genesis 15–50
Understanding the Old Testament Lesson #007
February 13, 2000

Father, we do thank You so much that we can gather together as a body of believers; that we have Your Holy Spirit not only indwelling us, but teaching us. He fills us. He helps us to understand Your Word and He produces fruit and spiritual maturity in of lives. Now Father, we pray that as we look at the episodes in the Old Testament that we may properly understand the application to our own lives and see its significance. We pray this in Jesus Name, Amen.

Last time we saw in our survey of the Old Testament that God had called out Abram to make a new nation. This is God's new initiative in grace in the context of the revolt against mandate in the Noahic Covenant; to go forth throughout the earth, multiply, fill the earth. Mankind, humanity, did not do that; they gathered together at the Tower of Babel to make a name for themselves. In that context, of the revolt of humanity, God not only judges the human race by scattering through the division of languages, but He works this new initiative of grace by calling out Abram; through Abram He is going to create a new nation. Ultimately, we have seen this to be a nation of priests, a priest-nation; that all of the nations or through whom all of the nations on the earth will have a relationship with God.

By the time we come to the Book of Exodus we find that this nation that God has called out in Genesis 12 is in slavery in Egypt. Why is it that this has come about? We might ask, what went wrong? Instead of seeing this new nation that God calls out through Abraham; instead of seeing that new nation advance triumphantly, what we see is a reverse trend. We see the collapse of the family. We see them end up in Egypt. Now if we were reading this for the first time as a Jew on the plains of Moab prior to entering into the land of Canaan, think about the kinds of questions that would be going through our minds. Here you are poised to enter this land that God has promised to give you. He promised it to Abraham from 600 years earlier. You might be asking why it has taken so long. You might ask why is it that if Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all live in the land why did they leave the land. Why did God remove them from the land of Canaan? Not only did God remove us, but why did He take us down to Egypt and make us slaves for 400 years in Egypt serving the Pharaoh?

That is one of the reasons that Moses has written this is to demonstrate to the nation God's sovereign care throughout this period. How God has preserved them; how God took them to and Egypt served as sort of an incubator for the infant nation, so that infant nation could grow from about 70 individuals who went down from Canaan to Egypt with Jacob, there were approximately 70, and when they left some 480 years later there were between 2-3 million. So Moses is answering that question. Now if we just read through these episodes from Genesis 12-Genesis 50 in a somewhat superficial manner; then we might determine that the reason that God took them down to Egypt was simply to protect them and to provide for them when this massive famine came in the Middle East. All of that area around the Mediterranean suffered this incredible seven-year famine. After two years food had run out in the land of Canaan. Jacob and the family had no food. The only place to go was to the bread basket of the world, which was Egypt at that time. Of course, unbeknownst to them at the time, Joseph, the son who had been sold into slavery, was elevated to a position second only to Pharaoh and he was put in charge of all the resources because of God's sovereign work in Joseph's life.

If you have read the story, and you ought to be reading along as we go through this because I don't have time to go through all the details of all the stories. I am trying to help you understand the overview and what the theological point is so to speak. Everybody should know the stories from Sunday School of Joseph's coat of many colors, how his brothers sold him to the Midianites, who then took him down as a slave. They took him down to Egypt and sold him as a slave. He was a slave to Potiphar. He was accused falsely by Potiphar's wife for trying to seduce her. In fact, she was trying to seduce him and he ran from her. In jealousy she charged him with rape. He was put in prison. God worked through several different events to bring him to Pharaoh's notice through the dreams that he had. In those dreams God was telling Pharaoh that there would be 14 years, seven years of plenty and then seven years of famine. So because of that Joseph was elevated to position of prime-minister to take care of the nation and to set up sort of a savings bank and storage centers for grain during the seven years of plenty to provide for the seven years of famine.

God was working through all that in order to protect and preserve the nation. This is a fantastic lesson that no matter how bad things might get, no matter how much we fail God. First, God does not desert us. God's grace is never dependent upon who we are or what we have done. I think very few things demonstrate this like the episodes concerning the family of Jacob in the last few chapters of Genesis. So when we look at this we are going to see God's sovereign control and how He preserves the nation.

Now one of the things that we should notice when we come to the Text is that there is this tremendous contrast that takes place between Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the patriarchs, and the twelve sons of Israel. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are all devoted to yahweh; They all have a high spiritual sense. They have a deep and profound sense of who they are their relationship to the Abrahamic Covenant and what God is doing in their life. Now, it sort of dilutes itself from each generation. Abraham, we see, is the father of the nation. He is the exemplar, the example, throughout the Bible of faith. Then there is Isaac; Isaac is still a fairly strong believer but he is not as strong as his father. Jacob is even less strong spiritually than Abraham or Isaac. So you can think of it as sort of gas going out of a balloon or a dilution in the spiritual dynamic that is present in Abraham becomes diluted in Isaac, diluted even more in Jacob, and by the time you get to Jacob's boys we just wonder if they ever heard of yahweh, the Abrahamic covenant and what God was trying to do with them. So by the time you go through Isaac and Jacob there is a bit of a spiritual leak then you just have a flat tire when you come to the twelve boys. All of this is just background to see what goes on at this time.

The first thing we should notice as we read through the chapters on Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is that wherever the first three generations go they build an altar in Canaan and then make proclamation in the Name of yahweh. They are concerned with witnessing. This is God's evangelic program, God's missionary outreach to the entire human race through Abraham and they recognize this. The altar when they go to a place they build an altar and that altar is symbolic of their spiritual purpose in the land. They understand that they are there to represent God. Now remember when we studied the early chapters of Genesis we saw that this was set up according to the pattern of a Suzerain-vassal treaty. In the Suzerain-vassal treaty the Suzerain, who is the great lord, the great king, and in the secular context this would be the king of a great empire. He would conquer various nations and city states and then he would enter into a contract with those subservient kings. He would say that as long as you do what I tell you to do I will bless you and bless your nation. If you disobey me or violate our agreement then I am going to send in a military and I am going to punish you and wipe you out and take you off the throne. There would be cursings and blessings on it. But the idea was that this under lord, this vassal-king was to represent the great lord, the great Suzerain. This is the background; this is the imagery of Genesis 1:26-27.

Man is sent forth to be God's representative on the earth. Man failed; he disobeyed God; Adam disobeyed God. We have the Fall. We have all of the collapse between the Fall and the Flood and the deterioration, the rebellion of man against God; then God's judgment at the Flood; after the Flood God's grace once again reestablishes His covenant with Noah. He gives Noah the same basic conditions He gave Adam, go forth, "…be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it…"Genesis 1:28.But there were some changes because of the Fall.

So man is still designed, even though he is no longer in a perfect image of God and is marred because sin, man is still to go forth and represent God on the earth. He is the vice-regent of God on the earth. Once again man disobeyed through the generations that lead up to the Tower of Babel. God judges them again and He comes in and gives a new covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant, which is modeled on a royal land grant covenant in the ancient world. God is restoring this image idea. Abraham and his descendants are to His representatives on the earth. That is part of the background; they understand this dynamic when they are living as basically Bedouins and pilgrims in the land; they don't have a permanent home; they live in tents, traveling, moving about in this land that God has promised to give them. They understand clearly that their role, their purpose is to represent God to the pagan nations around them. That is part of the function of their building an altar.

If we look a couple of passages, let's just review where we have been in the Old Testament:

1. We have the Law, which is where we are studying, the Book of the Law, written by Moses; the five Books of the Pentateuch from Genesis to Deuteronomy.

2. Then we have the Historical Books that cover the conquest under Joshua up to 931 BC when the nation slipped into rebellion between the Northern Nation of Israel and the Southern Nation of Judah. At 722 BC the Northern nation goes out. 586 BC the Southern Nation of Judah is defeated by Nebuchadnezzar. Then the books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther cover the postexilic period.

3. Job, Psalm, Solomon, Major Prophets and Minor Prophets are all written within the framework of the Historical Books from Genesis through Esther. The verse Exodus 19:5-6 tells us the main idea of the Old Testament that is God's work in one nation. God's work in the nation Israel to bring about a priest-kingdom so that it is through them that the entire human race can have an intermediary with God, which will ultimately be fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

As we look at Genesis we see that there are four events and four people that organize the book:

1. The Four Events are the: Creation, Fall, Flood, and Tower of Babel.

2. As we come to the last four people we are going to summarize this and see how God uses them to establish the nation: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. There is a gradual dilution spiritually.

3. We saw the timeline last time. We understand where we are in terms of history. We are looking in BC. The numbers get larger as you go backwards. 1000 BC is the marker here. Just prior to that in 966 BC or just after 1000 BC; 966 BC is when Solomon dedicated the temple. 480 years between the temple dedication and the Exodus in 1446 BC. 430 years before the Exodus to the time that Jacob entered Egypt; this is the focal point this morning, the time period of the Patriarchs. Jacob entered Egypt in 1876 BC. Abraham was born about 2166 BC. So the time period that we look at here is roughly between 2100 BC and about 1850 BC.

Genesis 12:1-2, Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go forth from your country, And from your relatives
and from your father's house, to the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, And make your name great." And then this last phrase is really a command in the Hebrew, "And you shall be a blessing." Now they understood this mandate that they were to be a blessing to the nations. This is the point I have been making. They understand their role as a representative and that God has promised to bless the Gentiles around them, to bless all these Canaanite nations. The Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hittites, Hivites, the Jebusites, all these that make up roughly the culture of Canaan; they are all various ethnic groups, but they all have the same culture. God says that it is through you (Abraham) that they will be blessed.

Here is a map that gives us the basic area we are studying. And Abraham, when we talk about his first altar, it is right down here in this area near Jerusalem, when he is first in the land (see map). Let's remind ourselves of the overall line of the sea here. Abraham marries Sarah; Sarah is barren. They are both advanced in years. It is not until Abraham is 100 years old before he finally has a son. In the meantime they try to solve their problem with their own effort. So Sarah suggested that Abraham take her handmaid, which was common practice in the ancient world. If the wife was barren and did not have a child, she would give her slave to her husband and they would have a child and the child would be raised up as the heir. So they are trying to solve the problem for him and provide a solution. God has told them that Abraham would have a son from his own loins and Sarah would be the mother. Abraham and Hagar have a son, Ishmael, father of most of the Arabs, which is the origin of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Finally the promised seed comes, Isaac. Isaac marries Rebekah; they have twin sons, Esau is the elder; Jacob is the one through whom the seed will go. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are regenerates; they are believers. The seed of Israel must be through the regenerate son. Jacob takes two wives, first Leah, he is duped by Laban, his father-in-law gave him Leah. She has a veil on. He really wanted to marry Rachel. He had to work seven years for Leah and then seven years more for Rachel. Through Leah he has four sons: Rueben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. Rachel gets a little jealous. She gives him her (maid). She hasn't been able to have children; she is barren. There is a tremendous illustration here of the barrenness of these women, Sarah, Rachel, others in the Old Testament, all foreshadow the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. It is in this dead womb that God brings forth "life." That is the point of all this barrenness. It is not that there is something special about barrenness. There are about seven women in the Bible who are barren and there is a point that God is making. And the point is that it is He and He alone that brings forth life where there is death and it all foreshadows and pictures regeneration.

So Rachel is barren; she gets impatient, sends in her maid, Bilhah. Bilhah gives birth to Dan and Naphtali. Then Leah gets jealous, so she sends in her maid Zelpah. Zelpah has two sons, Gad and Asher. Doesn't this just sound like something you'd watch on a soap opera? Then Leah has two more sons, Issachar and Zebulun. Finally, God opens Rachel's womb and she has two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. Frankly, Joseph and Benjamin are the only ones in the whole lot who seem to have any kind of spiritual sensitivity, Joseph more than Benjamin. Joseph is the only one who has a heart for God. This is who we are going to be talking about mostly this morning, Abraham, Jacob and the sons, who are the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel.

We saw that in Genesis 12:3-6 that Abraham at this point is commanded to be a blessing. So that is the purpose of building the office. He goes forth. The very nest verse says in Genesis 12:4 "So Abram went forth as the LORD had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions." Remember, he was to leave his family so he got incomplete obedience to God. "Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan. Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh." Then Moses puts an editorial comment in here just to remind us. He said, "Now the Canaanite was then in the land."

Now he is talking to the Jews in 1400 BC. The Canaanites had the land at the time Abram was given the land. Remember that; don't lose sight of that. In our culture what happens so often in the church is that a person gets saved and they go join a church and they get involved in the local Christian community and within 18 months they don't have non-Christian friends anymore. They become isolated. When God calls out Abram he does not send him off to a monastery; he sends him to the midst of the most degenerate, perverted, immoral, anti-God culture on the planet. See God has a totally different perspective and a totally different set of priorities than the average self-righteous legalist Christian. He (God) wants to change the world and the only way to do that is to put people out in it. Though as we will see, not to be influenced by that surrounding culture, but they are to impact that surrounding culture.

Genesis 12:7-8 "The LORD appeared to Abram and said, 'To your descendants I will give this land;' so Abram built an altar there to the LORD (yahweh) who had appeared to him." So this is the first mention, he builds an altar and then it says in verse 8, "Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east." This is about five miles north of Jerusalem up in the ridge country there. "There he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD." This is an interesting phrase ("called upon the name of the LORD"). It is a Hebrew idiom. It doesn't mean that he sang hymns to God. It doesn't mean that he prayed to God. It is a Hebrew idiom and it means 'He made proclamation in the name of yahweh."

Martin Luther translated; even today the Bible that you would get in Germany, the German Bible, was translated by Martin Luther. Martin Luther translated this, "He preached throughout the land." That may be a little strong but it comes very close to the main idea that is here, and that is that Abram made proclamation. He took a stand in the midst of this pagan culture for the God of heaven and earth and continuously made proclamation, taught doctrine, and witnessed to the surrounding culture around him. He was functioning now as the representative of God to this pagan culture. It is comparable to the believer's responsibility as an ambassador for Christ to be a witness to the world. So we see Abram fulfilling this particular responsibility. Remember, he is surrounded by the Canaanites. They are involved in Baal worship, which is the phallic cult, fertility worship. In the midst of this he is going to continuously be the one who proclaims the gospel. Remember, his commission to be a blessing; he understands this and he is self-consciously going out to fulfill the mission that God has given him.

Now Isaac does the same thing. In Genesis 26:25 we read concerning Isaac, "So he built an altar there and called upon the name of (yahweh) the LORD, and pitched his tent there; and there Isaac's servants dug a well." So once again we see Isaac doing the same thing. He understands the covenant; he understands his role as a representative of God and that he is to be a blessing to the pagan culture that is surrounding him. So he continues that role, as does Jacob, Genesis 33:20. Jacob erects an altar and called it el-elohe-israel (meaning the God of Israel). Now one of the things that you should note is that it is not mentioned by Genesis 33:20 that he made proclamation in the name of the LORD. So you see this deterioration, this dilution of the spiritual dynamics among the Patriarchs. Now Jacob is still concerned. He is still fulfilling a witness and he is building this altar where he goes throughout the land to fulfill that role as a representative of God to the pagans.

From this we see that the patriarchs had a clear sense of their purpose. They understood that God had called them out and was performing a unique work through them and as a result of this concern for their purpose, that is to be a witness for God, they had a sense of unity. This sense of purpose gave them a sense of unity. That has application for the church today. One of the most nauseating things I think that has happened in Christianity in the last 30 years is all of this talk about unity. This has been going on, I think a lot of it came out of the Jesus Revival in the early 70s, "Let's all get together and have fellowship." There is a lot of criticism about denominations, the distinctions in churches and people, one group separating from another. What everybody forgot was that the Bible talks about unity of the faith.

Unity is based on doctrine. Unity is not based on having some common experience or simply being saved. Unity is based on truth. It is not at the expense of truth. That is what gave rise to the whole Ecumenical Movement, which goes back even earlier. But Evangelicals started buying into to that as they became more and more experiential in the 70s. So as Evangelical theology became experientially based, everybody wanted to hold hands and talk about their experience with Jesus rather than being concerned about learning truth and learning doctrine and taking a stand on doctrine. But the Patriarchs understood that a sense of purpose, which is the content, which was derived from the Abrahamic Covenant. In other words, on the basis of the doctrine they were taught in the Abrahamic Covenant they had a sense of purpose and that gave them a sense of unity and through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob they do not mingle with the people that surround them. There is this sense of isolation from them.

One example that we can look at that illustrates this is in Genesis 13:5-8, It is the episode with Lot's separating from Abram. Genesis 13:5-8 "Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. And the land could not sustain them while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together." The land had not sustained them. This is a fertile area at the time. It is not like you may think of Israel as being relatively arid and dry and not being able to support very many crops. At that time it was a much more humid climate and much more fertile climate. They are wealthy men. Abram has many servants, many men who work for him and Lot does too. These are two huge successful agricultural enterprises. And so they have grown so much that the land cannot sustain both of them. There has been some outbreaks of hostility between the people who work for each one of them. So Abram shows grace orientation in problem-solving. Notice that he has a personal problem, a people testing with his nephew Lot. Let's see how he solves the problem.

Genesis 13:7 "And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram's livestock and the herdsmen of Lot's livestock." Then once again, Moses wants to remind us of something important. "Now the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling then in the land." What is the point? Here you have this outbreak of hostility and friction between believers in the land. Lot is a believer and Abram is a believer and what is this doing to their testimony? They are living in the midst of the pagan nations and yet there is this hostility breaking out. Abraham is sensitive to that and says in Genesis 13:8 to Lot, "Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers." In other words, the emphasis is on the family relationship and their common testimony to the pagan nations surrounding them. Abram's exercises grace orientation to solving the problem. He says to Lot, we cannot operate in the same area. So you take your pick. You pick the land. I will go east; you go west; You go west; I go east. So you take the pick of the land. See his humility in the whole situation. Of course, Lot took the land down around Sodom and Gomorrah. Eventually that led to his demise and his destruction as he got involved with all the immorality of the people the shore there, Sodom, Gomorrah, and the other cities.

This sense of purpose and unity further led them to recognize the need to live separately from the Canaanites, but this is only seen in the first three generations. They were to be in the world but not of the world. This is illustrated by the fact that Abraham did not want his son to take a wife from among the Canaanite women around them. So he sent his servant Eleazar back home among his relatives at Haran to find a suitable wife for Isaac that was from his people and not one who was from among the Canaanites. Rebekah too, Isaac's wife, when it is time for Jacob to take a wife, she does not want Jacob to take a wife the pagan culture surrounding the family. We see this in Gen 24:1-3 "Abraham was old, advanced in age, and the LORD had blessed Abraham in every way. Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he owned, 'Please place your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth.'" Notice the reference to the God of Creation. How Creation continuously plays a role as the backdrop of so much of this. God is the God who created the heavens and the earth. "and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live."

This is also true of Rebekah, Genesis 27:46 "Rebekah said to Isaac, 'I am tired of living because of the daughters of Heth.' These are Hittites. The culture is kind of a melting pot culture in Canaan at this time, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, two or three other groups, the Hittites. But they all partake of the same common culture; they are all operating on the same fertility worship religious system. They are all involved in the phallic cult. They are all involved in immorality. Rebekah, like any believer mother, who is concerned about the spiritual welfare of her children, recognizes as a parent there is a real sense of failure for her if her child grows up and marries one of the pagans he runs around with and does not pursue spiritual maturity and is not positive to God in their own spiritual life. So she says, 'I am tired of living' all the options around here for Jacob to take a wife is just these pagan Hittites. And if Jacob takes a wife from the daughters of Heth, like these, from the daughters of the land, what good will my life be to me?' I am sure some of you mothers can relate to her feelings at this time. She does not want Jacob to marry a pagan. So she just thinks her life will have no meaning whatsoever.

So you see, among the Patriarchs there is this sense of purpose, this transcendental sense of purpose that there is a greater reason for their being called out and God is doing something unique through them. So they have this sense of purpose, this sense of unity and this sense of being kept separate and distinct from the Canaanites. But by the time we come to the fourth generation; by the time we come to Abraham's great grandchildren you see a tremendous shift in their orientation. No longer do you have the descendants, the sons being positive to God. Now we have a negative generation, a generation that is caught up in self-absorption and self-indulgence, a generation that is negative to God, and a generation that is basically wicked and they have lost the sense of unity; they have lost the sense of purpose; they have lost the sense of concern for one another. Remember Abram said to Lot, we are family, lets make a decision based upon grace and humility so that we can have an honest testimony to the pagans around us. By the time you get to his great-grandchildren they just really don't care anymore about God's plan and program.

Look at Genesis 37:2. We are going to take about three examples to illustrate this and to see what God is doing. Why? The big question here that you would be asking if you were a Jew getting ready to go into the land to conquer it; you would be asking, 'Why did God take us out of the land in the first place?' 'Why were we in Egypt and what is God's plan for us in the future?' So this is the answer to that. It is more than simply to protect Jacob and his sons during the time of famine. It is that God does something with them in Egypt to protect them from themselves. Genesis 37:2 "These are {the records of} the generations of Jacob. Joseph, when seventeen years of age, was pasturing the flock with his brothers while he was still a youth, along with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives. And Joseph brought back a bad report about them to their father." This isn't the sense that he is a tattletale, but obviously things are going on. We don't know what it was, but in terms of their business practices or whatever they were doing, Joseph comes back to tell Jacob that the other brothers are all evil. This is our hint that there is no longer any spiritual gas in the tank, so to speak, and the tire has gone flat. There is no interest in spiritual things in this new generation.

Now there are four examples that I want to look at, four of the sons that is all we are told about in the Scriptures. We can extrapolate from that that perhaps the rest the rest of them were just as bad. The first example comes from Reuben in Genesis 35:22. "It came about while Israel was dwelling in that land." By this time Jacob has been renamed Israel, "prince with God," and his name Israel comes the name by which all his descendants are known. "It came about while Israel was dwelling in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine, and Israel heard of it." So now we have one of his pride and joy coming back and taking his concubine for his own. So we see that this is some clue as to Reuben's character and that he has no remorse, he is sexually promiscuous with what amounts to his stepmother. This is a power play directed against his father because he is basically making the claim, 'I have a right to everything that you have.' It is a statement of rebelliousness, a rejection of the authority of his father, and a rejection of everything that his father stands for. That is all we know about Rueben. It is wonderful to have a son like that.

Then we have an interesting episode in Genesis 34 regarding Simeon and Levi. So turn to Genesis 34. It is a lengthy story. This is not one of those stories you normally heard about when you were in Sunday school. In fact, this is one of those chapters that whenever the liberals or the atheistic crowd gets together and decides that they are going to attach the Bible. They always pick on a chapter like this to show that the Bible is really awful and filled with terrible stories and it is not fit reading for children. It just shows that they miss the whole point of the passage and its whole spiritual lesson. We read in Genesis 34:1 "Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to [a]visit the daughters of the land." There is one daughter and she gets tired of living at home; she gets tired of her restricted environment. She gets tired of being separate from the culture around her; she wants to be like all the other kids. That sort of has a modern ring to it. And she goes out to hang around with all the other girls. She goes out to Shechem and there she runs into this good looking young man, the son of Hamor the Hivite, who is the prince of the land. Not only is he good looking but he has got money and he's got position and his family is up there, so this appeals to her approbation lust and her power lust. And the son of Hamor takes her and lays with her, procreates with her, and she is basically raped, Genesis 34:2 "When Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivites, the prince of the land, saw her, he took her and lay with her by force." But he is so much in love with her that he wants to marry her.

So he sends and tries to make a deal with, to get his father to make a deal so that she will be his wife. At that time you had arranged marriages. Let's ship down to Genesis 34:11. The whole family is upset that this has happened to Dinah. It is a matter of honor, a matter of prestige. But lets see how they handle it. Remember the background; they are to be a blessing to the nations around them. In Genesis 34:11 "Shechem also said to her father and to her brothers, 'If I find favor in your sight, then I will give whatever you say to me.'" So he is bargaining for the dowry here. "Ask me ever so much bridal payment and gift, and I will give according as you say to me; but give me the girl in marriage." Now notice how Jacob's boys handle this. "But Jacob's sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor with deceit, because he had defiled Dinah their sister." They are operating on revenge motivation and vindictiveness; they are not going to be a blessing to Hamor's family. "They said to them, 'We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us'." The more we read this the more it has the modern ring to it. They don't really care about spiritual things, about circumcision and its spiritual significance as far as the Abrahamic Covenant was concerned, but they are going to use this now for their own purposes. And sometimes it happens today; you'll have somebody who is a Christian and they will say, 'Okay, I can't marry you unless you are a Christian.' I want you to go to church and get baptized in order to get married. It is all form with no reality. It is just let's go through the ritual; let's go through the motion but there doesn't have to be anything of significance behind it.

So they say, what you need to do them is to get circumcised. Just go through the ritual and then everything will be okay. Now let's get down to Genesis 34:24 "All who went out of the gate of his city listened to Hamor and to his son Shechem, and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city." They made a deal It sort of reminds you of some of the deals that happened in the middle ages when you would have a Christian king send in a missionary into a town and say, 'Okay, you either be Christians or we will wipe you out.' And then they would get everybody baptized. And they would be declared a Christian country after that. So they are going to get everybody circumcised, which when you are dealing with adult males, this must have been an extremely painful circumstance.

Genesis 34:25-29 "Now it came about on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of Jacob's sons…." Notice how they have managed to put the entire populace of the city at a disadvantage; they had just wiped out the military capability by causing this to happen to all of the men of the city. "…Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, each took his sword and came upon the city unawares, and killed every male." So now you have no the blessing on the city but the cursing on the city. They just wipeout, annihilate every man in the city. "They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah from Shechem's house, and went forth. Jacob's sons came upon the slain and looted the city…." So now the other boys come along behind them and they loot the city for their own purposes in revenge …"because they had defiled their sister. They took their flocks and their herds and their donkeys, and that which was in the city and that which was in the field; and they captured and looted all their wealth and all their little ones and their wives, even all that was in the houses."

Genesis 34:30 "Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, 'You have brought trouble on me by making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and my men being few in number, they will gather together against me and attack me and I will be destroyed, I and my household'." So what we see is the deterioration of Abraham's line, and now his great-grandchildren, instead of being a blessing to the nations around them, have become a cursing. They have perverted the entire institution of circumcision. If something like this happened in the Middle Ages under Charlemagne, you attacked one German tribe and assisted upon their baptism and then while they were being baptized you beheaded every one of them. So it is a perversion of what is designed to be a spiritually significant ritual, circumcision. It perverts it to nothing more than an empty form, an empty ritual and then it is utilized as a means of murder and destruction.

1. So what we see with the twelve (sons), there is something that we no longer see again, that is an altar. There is no altar that they build. You search in vain to see Rueben, Simeon, Levi and Judah build an altar in the land. There is no altar. There are simply evil actions.

2. The second thing is that there is no longer a unity in the family. They have lost their sense of purpose. Once doctrine is removed unity collapses. There is a lack of unity in the family. They go back, they are reduced now to the same pattern as Cain and Abel, brother against brother, and divine program begins now to disintegrate because of negative volition.

3. Third, there is no longer a care or concern about being separate from the pagan environment around them. We want to live like everybody else lives. We are going to have the same values system as the Canaanites; we want to live like they live; we want to intermarry with them. We don't want to be distinct anymore; we don't want to standout anymore because of what we believe.

This is exemplified even more in the case of Judah in Genesis 38. Genesis 38 is another one of those chapters that you probably didn't study when you were in Sunday School. Turn with me to Genesis 38. Now this chapter covers a period of 22 years. I skipped over it a little bit, but what has happened during this time is that you have Abraham is the seed of Isaac; Isaac and the story about the birth of Jacob and Esau. Esau selling his birthright for a mess of pottage. All of this is the positive side showing God's control through the family to preserve the nation and to build the nation through the regenerate son. On the other side we see this dark picture of the negative volition within the family and its self-destruction through sinfulness. After Jacob had had his twelve sons, when Joseph is a young man, probably close to twenty, he is sold into slavery to the Midianites, who take him down and sell him into slavery in Egypt. During the time, roughly a twenty year period, when Joseph is down in Egypt, this takes place with his brothers and Judah back in the land. So this is a different scene illustrating to us the depravity of the family. We will read through this.

Genesis 38:1"And it came about at that time that Judah departed from his brothers…" it is a loss of unity. I don't want to be with you anymore and he separates out. He did this to go to the village of Abdullah; he visits a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. He befriends Hirah and they become close associates and while he is staying there with Hirah "Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua; and he took her and went in to her." So he takes her as his wife. "So she conceived and bore a son and he named him Er." Now during this episode Judah is going to have three sons; so just so you can keep it straight, the oldest is Er, the second is Onan, and the third is Shelah. As we go through this we discover that the deterioration of the family gets even worse.

She gives birth we read hear in Genesis 38:5 "She bore still another son and named him Shelah; and it was at Chezib that she bore him." That is an interesting Hebrew word, chezib, it means liar. The writer doesn't note what any of the others were born, but he notes this one. There is a pun going on here, kind of a hint to that what we are going to see here, massive deception. He is using a play on words here. If you were reading this you would get a chuckle out of it in the Hebrew. Genesis 38:6-7 "Now Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar." So Tamar and Er get married, "but Er, Judah's firstborn, was evil in the sight of the LORD, so the LORD took his life." What is going on here is that you have the infant nation Israel and they are becoming so evil by this time that God had to step in and intervene in order to protect the infant nation.

You see the same dynamic takes place in Acts where you have the infant church. And what happens? You have two people, a husband and wife, Ananias and Saphira, and they are going to lie about how much money they are giving to the church. Now, at no other time if you lie, you come in here and you sell some property and you come in and you say, I am going to give everything off the property to the church and you put some money back in the grace box in the back; God is not going to strike you dead if you are lying. But he did that with Ananias and Saphira. Why? Because the church was in its infancy and needed to be protected. God needed to take dire measures at that time in history. He does the same thing with Israel. He intervenes and takes very strong steps in order to protect the nation from this incipient evil that is coming out through this next generation. So Er is evil in the sight of the LORD and the LORD takes him out under the sin unto death. He immediately intervenes and kills him.

Judah goes to the second son, Onan. Genesis 38:8 "Then Judah said to Onan, 'Go in to your brother's wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.'" This is something that is totally foreign to us as a culture:

1. It was called levirate marriage, from the Latin word levir, meaning husband's brother. The purpose was to preserve the memory, the name, and the inheritance of a man who died childless. The man married, he doesn't have children, he dies young, has no children. He still has his inheritance, his name, his family lineage. So his brother would take the wife, the widow, as his wife. They would procreate and have a child and that child would be raised up in the name of the brother who had died and would receive his inheritance and pass on his name. So there is a sense here in which it reflects a desire for immortality amongst some people that by carrying on the family name you have some sense of continuous life and immortality. Notice, God does not even denigrate this practice at all. God does not treat it lightly. It is authorized even in the Mosaic Code to carry on this practice of levirate marriage.

2. I think the second reason that levirate marriage was accepted and put into operation was that it preserved and protected the widow. This is not time when women had careers. If they did not have a husband or father to take care of them they would become destitute. So this way the woman, the widow was provided for; she would be taken by the brother; she would go into his family, his house. She would be taken care of and provided for; this is also one reason why polygamy was tolerated by God during this time. It was because it was a way to provide for the protection and preservation of a widow and for women who would otherwise have no means of support in the culture.

Now one of the things we should note here is that there id a divine purpose for sex. There is divine purpose for sex. God created sex for the pleasure of the human race; for man and woman to be part of marriage. It was in the garden. It was before the Fall; it had nothing to do with sin. It was tainted after the Fall because of man's sin nature. But God invented sex and designed sex for the human race for their pleasure. And it is part of love. Love is not a self-centered thing. Love is other-centered. And in sex there is a concern for the partner within the bonds of marriage. Outside the bonds of marriage, then sex becomes a self-centered thing. This is what destroys it. It becomes the focus of just personal pleasure.

This is the background for understanding what goes on in this episode with Onan. It says in Genesis 38:9 that "Onan knew that the offspring would not be his;" it is not my kid! I don't care! You see the breakdown of family concern. He is not concerned about his brother; he's not concerned about raising up a family in the name of his brother; he is just totally self-absorbed and self-indulgent. "And so when he went in to his brother's wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother." So he interrupts the sexual activity so that there will not be a descendant come from this union. He is just totally self-serving. He is just there for self-gratification and he is not at all concerned about the family. So what is the result? The result is Genesis 38:10 "But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD; so He took his life also." This is the complete breakdown of the family into self-indulgence, self-absorption, and arrogance in rejection of God. And in order to protect the infant nation God is having to intervene and take each one of these kids out under divine discipline.

Now we have one boy left, Shelah. Shelah is much younger. Tamar is still a widow and doesn't have anyone to take care of her. But Judah is not a fool. Judah sits back, of course he is not thinking doctrinally. Judah has a problem. His sons are dropping like flies and rather than analyzing the situation from a doctrinal perspective and saying, well there must be some sin going on here and we have a totally carnal dynamic operating within the family and the solution is a spiritual solution, he just blames Tamar; she is the problem. So he makes a decision not to give Shelah to Tamar. Genesis 38:11 "Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, 'Remain a widow in your father's house until my son Shelah grows up;'… He is thinking. This is the divine perspective here; we get to know what is really going on. He tells her, look; when he gets a little older you can marry Shelah. But what he is really thinking is, if Shelah marries her, he is dead. I am not going to do it. So he is self-consciously deceiving her. "I am afraid that he too may die like his brothers." So Tamar went and lived in her father's house." But she is being maltreated by him and she is not getting what she deserves, totally in line with the culture, and so then we have a very interesting episode take place.

We read in Genesis 38:12 "Now after a considerable time Shua's daughter, the wife of Judah, died;" now he is a widower, "and when the time of mourning was ended, Judah went up to his sheepshearers at Timnah, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite." So the two men are going to go party on the town a little bit and "It was told to Tamar, 'Behold, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep'." What she does is to disguise herself, she takes off her normal clothes and she covers herself up; puts on a veil so she won't be recognized. The she sits on the roadway outside the gates going into the town. This is normally where the temple prostitutes, the qédeshah would sit. The word qédeshah from the root qadesh, which means "holy", but it also means "to be set apart for the purpose of God." So the temple prostitute was set apart for the service of Baal in the fertility worship. And so she sits outside the gate waiting for Judah to come along and she seduces him. In the process of seducing him she asks him for some tokens to indicate his concern for her, a sort of payment for their sex, and then he leaves. After he leaves he needs to get his stuff back and he sends his friend, Hirah, to look for her. He can't find her anywhere. Some people in the town say no, there was no temple prostitute out there and he just forgets about it.

Then when we come down to Genesis 38:24 "Now it was about three months later that Judah was informed, 'Your daughter-in-law Tamar has played the harlot, and behold, she is also with child by harlotry.' So pregnancy reveals that she has had illicit sex and Judah said, 'Bring her out and let her be burned!'" He is going to execute judgment, but she comes out and says, "Hmm, I wonder who this stuff belongs to." She pulls out his stuff and he immediately recognizes what he has done. Genesis 38:26 "Judah recognized them, and said, 'She is more righteous than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah." See that was his responsibility under their custom and their law. He should have given Shelah to her to take care of her and to fulfill the levirate marriage position. And she goes ahead and has children. In the picture of all this we see the total collapse of family unity and their distinction from the culture around them. They are operating just like all of the pagans around them.

So why is it; let's go back to our original question and answer it. Why is it that God took them down to Egypt? He did this in order to protect them from themselves. They have now become assimilated into the culture; they are not any different from the Canaanites around them and God has to preserve them in order to protect His program. Even though men go negative it doesn't jeopardize God's plan, He is always going to take care of His plan and He is still going to deal with them in grace. He does not judge them but He provides a solution. Now what has been going on in the background is Joseph is down in Egypt and he has been elevated to the position of prime minister, the second in command. He has plenty of food down there. So God moves the family down there and the reason is the nature of Egyptian culture.

Now Egyptian culture was very segregated; not that I approve of segregation or racial segregation or anything like that; and not that the Bible is supporting that. It cannot be derived from this passage. But God is going to use their segregation in practice, their racism in Egypt, in order to protect the Jews. The problem is that they are to be separate from those around them and they are not. They are marrying those around them, raising up children; they are being assimilated into the pagan culture; and so God is going to take them down to Egypt where they will be protected because of the Egyptian prejudice and their segregationist practices. If you look at Genesis 43:32 we get a hint of this when Joseph's brothers come to Joseph. It says that they have dinner, a big banquet. We read, "So they served him by himself." Joseph is eating by himself at one table and "them," the brothers, "by themselves" at another table. He has not revealed himself to them at this point. They still do not know who he is. And the Egyptians who ate with him "by themselves." They won't even eat at the same table as Joseph and the brothers. If they won't sit down and eat at the same table with them they are not going to have sex with them and they are not going to marry them. That is the point. The Egyptians do not want to have anything to do with the Semites coming out of the Middle East. They will keep them distinct. We read further, "they ate by themselves because the Egyptians could not eat bread with the Hebrews for that is loathsome to the Egyptians." They did not want to have anything to do at all with the Hebrews.

And then later we see Joseph, the son, tries to bring back family. That is the whole idea behind the story when he sends them back to get Benjamin; and to bring Benjamin. He is trying to resurrect in the brothers the sense of family concern, family loyalty. He is trying to bring unity back to the family. He understands the spiritual dynamics that are going on; when they are going to have their interview with the Pharaoh this is what he tells his father, Genesis 46:33-34 "When Pharaoh calls you and says, 'What is your occupation?' you shall say, 'Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,' that you may live in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is loathsome to the Egyptians." So, what I want you to do, is not only do they not like us racially, racial prejudice, but if you tell them that we are shepherds, shepherds are on the bottom of the social strata; so if you tell them that the family is shepherds, then they are going to stick us out in Goshen and they are going to leave us alone. So we will have food, shelter, and clothing and we will be protected and it is in that environment that God places the descendents of Abram in order to protect them and to build the nation. So we see in all of this that God's grace continues; His program continues; despite the sinfulness of man, despite failures, despite our rejection of Him; God continues to exercise His initiative of grace. And one thing we learn from this is that no matter how much we fail God; no matter how bad it might be; no matter how miserable it might be; if we are still alive God still has a plan for our life. God still has grace toward us and we can recover fellowship with Him and move forward in the spiritual life. And that is the lesson we learn from this whole section in Genesis; God's plan is never dependent upon us but God's grace is always there to restore us, despite our failures or sins, whatever happens in our own life.

With our heads bowed and our eyes closed, Father we thank you for Your Word. We thank you for the way that we can look at this and see the trend and the benefit and how You provided and protected Abram and his descendents. And how you set them apart to be a special and unique nation. We see their failures. We see all of the misery that came from that and we still see Your remarkable infinite grace, always providing it to us. Father, we thank you for the grace in our lives; that You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the Cross for our sin that we could have eternal life. Father we pray that if there is anyone here that is unsure of their salvation that they would take this opportunity to make that straight. Just as Your grace took care of the Jews; Your grace is taking care of us in providing salvation. It is not a matter of our works, but it is matter of Your works. You sent your Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the Cross for our sin. So, right now, all you have to do to secure your salvation is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. It doesn't involve works it doesn't involve moral reformation; it doesn't involve joining a church. It essentially means that you put your faith alone in Christ alone for your salvation. Now Father we pray that you would help us to remember the things that we have studied and be challenged by them. In Jesus' Name, Amen.