THE AGE OF THE PATRIACHS
Part IV: GOD'S COVENANT CONTINUES WITH JACOB AND HIS SONS
Biblical Period 2
Lesson # 7

God of our fathers,
You made a Covenant with the Patriarchs that promised a three-fold blessing.  You promised them land, You promised them children to rule the land, and You promised them a world-wide blessing.  All of these promised have been fulfilled in Your New Covenant Church.  You have given us the Kingdom of heaven on earth = the Universal Catholic Church, You have given Mother Church children to fill the kingdom and You have give us a world-wide blessing through Jesus the Savior of the world.  How great is Your goodness, Lord, that You have given these blessings to us as spiritual descendants of the Patriarchs!  By the power of the Holy Spirit guide us now as we study Bible in the Living Tradition of Your Holy Catholic Church.  In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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"They are Israelites; it was they who were adopted as children, the glory was theirs and the covenants; to them were given the Law and the worship of God and the promises.  To them belong the fathers [patriarchs] out of them, so far as physical descent is concerned, came Christ who is above all, God, blessed for ever. Amen."  Romans 9:4-5

Yahweh's three-fold covenant with Abraham is now extended to the third generation.  It is the same covenant promising land, descendants, and a world-wide blessing given to Abraham.  All three men, known as the Patriarchs, the fathers of the people of Israel, are imperfect men'but imperfect men called by a perfect God! In the crucible of life Yahweh moulds each of them to become the kind of man He needs to move Salvation History closer to its hinge point, the Incarnation of the Son of God. It will be the Incarnation of Jesus the Messiah, son of Abraham, son of Isaac, son of Jacob, upon which the hinge of history will turn!

Jacob's return to the Land of Canaan

Please read Genesis 32:1-33: Encounters with angels and a new name

The events around Jacob's return to the land of his fathers in this part of Jacob's story are placed between two rather curious accounts of Jacob's encounter with angels.  In Genesis 32:2 he is met by the angels of God as he reenters the land of promise and in Genesis 32:24 Jacob wrestles with an "angel" until dawn.

Question: Can you remember another passage that mentions divine beings guarding the border of a holy land?  What does this suggest?  Hint: see Genesis 3:26.
Answer: Eden was guarded at its border by angels = cherubim [Genesis 3:26]. This "Promised Land" is guarded by angels at its borders like Eden.

Genesis 32:25-33 records a very unusual encounter.  We are never told that Jacob's companion is an angel; only verses 29-31 indicate that this person is more than an ordinary man.  As the wrestling match continues it becomes clear that this encounter is meant to epitomize the whole of Jacobs's story which has been characterized by struggle--his struggle with his brother, his struggle with his father, his struggle with his father-in-law, his struggle with his wives, and with his struggle to obtain the promises of God made to his father and grandfather.   

Jacob and the "man" wrestle until daybreak when the "man" strikes Jacob and dislocates his hip.

Question: When the "man" demands that Jacob let him go what does Jacob say to the "man" that expresses the substance of his struggles? Hint: see verse 27
Answer: He replies "I will not let you go unless you bless me."

The "man" changes Jacob's name to Israel = "struggles with God" or "shows strength against God".  The "man" blesses Jacob/Israel but refuses to tell him his name. In ancient cultures to know someone's name gives power over that person'the name symbolizes the essence of the person.

Scholars do not agree about the identity of this mysterious man: is this a manifestation of "the Angel of the Lord", simply a manifestation of God or is this a manifestation of the pre-Incarnate Christ? 

Question: What does Jacob/Israel name this place and why?
Answer: He calls the place "Peniel", in Hebrew = "face of God".  He believes he has seen the face of God in the "man" who wrestled with him.

Jacob will always have his limp to remind him of this encounter.  Remembering this event will become part of the eating restrictions for the Jews who do not eat the tendon attached to the hip socket of an animal, the sciatic muscle.

The Encounter with Esau

Genesis 33:1-17
No matter what precautions Jacob ties to take, he and his family are soon at the mercy of Esau and his men.

Question: Will Esau seek revenge for what he perceives as the wrongs done to him by his brother?
Answer: No, Esau will offer reconciliation.  God has softened Esau's heart and He has protected the "promised seed."

The conflict between Cain and Abel, between Ham-Canaan and Shem, and between Esau and Jacob [and future conflicts between the sons of Jacob] is related to the prophecy of Genesis 3:15 when God cursed the serpent: "I shall put enmity between your offspring [seed] and her offspring [seed]."  These rivalries illustrate the conflict between the faithful "promised seed" and the unfaithful. Out of each of these struggles, despite human efforts, God's will is accomplished and the promised seed is preserved.  The prophecy here in Genesis 25:23 that "the older shall serve the younger" will be repeated many times in Genesis as "older sons" are rejected in favor of the younger son: Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, and now Esau and Jacob.  The point is the recurring theme of God's sovereign plan of salvation. The blessing of God was not a natural right like the right of the re'shiyt [firstborn] but instead it was God's prerogative to extend His blessings to those who had no claim to it other than it was God's will to give it.

When he returns to Shechem in Canaan, Jacob [Genesis chapter 35] is still dwelling in the land of promise as a foreigner like his father and grandfather before him [Hebrews 11:13].  Jacob builds an altar [Genesis 35:7] to God, paying a hundred pieces of silver for the portion of the land.  Most scholars presume that the purchase of the land and the building of the altar fulfills Jacob's vow to God that if he returned to the land of Canaan in peace that he would give God a tenth of all he had. It is difficult to say if this altar fulfilled that vow but this is the portion of land where the Israelites will bury the bones of Joseph in Joshua 24:32, representing the Children of Israel's hope in God's ultimate fulfillment of his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel.

The Story of Joseph

Please read Genesis chapter 37:1 - 47:31
Genesis chapter 37 begins the well-loved story of Rachel's son Joseph.  The question this long narrative doesn't answer until the very end is which son of Jacob will be the re'shiyt?  Which son will inherit the promises of the covenant made with Abraham? The answer may not be as obvious as you think.

Jacob's special love for Rachel has carried over to her firstborn son, Joseph [Hebrew = "let him add" or "let him gather"].  See Genesis 29:30 and 37:3.

Question: Jacob shows his favoritism for this son by elevating him to the status of the "firstborn" over all his other sons and gives Joseph an item to indicate that he carries his father's power and authority as the heir. What is the item?
Answer: It is a richly decorated coat with long sleeves, which indicates Joseph's status to his brothers and to his father's retainers.  The description of this coat as one "of many colors" is a mistranslation.

Question: It is the custom for the eldest son to be designated the heir. What birth order son is Joseph and how does his father's favoritism affect the other sons of Jacob?
Answer: He is Rachel's firstborn son but Joseph is at this time the youngest if Jacob's sons and his brothers are jealous.

Question: Jacob's preferential treatment of Joseph is a central problem in the family but how does Joseph contribute to the unrest in the family? Hint: see Genesis 37:2, 7, 10 and 14.
Answer: He tells his family about his dreams in which his brothers bow down to him in recognition of his power and authority, and in his duties as his father's heir he reports to his father on the brother's bad behavior which only elevates his brother's intense dislike for him. 

Question: How do the brothers plan to solve their problem?  What is the reason given for the plot?
Answer: They form a plan to kill him.  Their plot is motivated by Joseph's two dreams. 

It is ironic that their very plans were to lead to the fulfillment of those dreams.  What they mean for evil will turn for good because God is with Joseph.  This is another imperfect man who will be reformed in the crucible of suffering to become the kind of man God has created him to be.

Question: Which two brothers work to prevent Joseph's death?
Answer: Reuben, the firstborn and Judah the 4th son, both by Leah.

Question: To whom do the brothers sell Joseph and for how much?
Answer: He is sold to Ishmaelites traveling with a Midianite caravan for 20 shekels of silver.

Archaeologists have discovered numerous ancient texts from ancient Near Eastern sources which record the common price for a slave in some detail for a period lasting about 2000 years from 2400BC to 400BC.  This data provides a solid body of evidence that can allow comparison with the figures in the Bible, in which the price of slaves is mentioned [i.e.Genesis 37:28; Exodus 20ff; Exodus 21:32; 2Kings 15:20].  In each case the Biblical narrative "slave price" fits the general period of the narrative account. The price of slaves prior to the 21st century BC sold for approximately 10-15 shekels, from the 21-18th centuries BC the price for a slave held steady at about 19-20 shekels of silver. By the 8th century BC the price had risen to 50-60 shekels and to 90-120 shekels in the 5th and 4th centuries BC.  [see K.A. Kitchen "Ancient Orient and Old Testament pages 52-53].

Question: Who are the Ishmaelites and the Midianites?  Hint: see: Genesis 17:20 and Genesis 25:1-3, and 18].
Answer: The Ishmaelites and Midianites are kinsmen.  Both are descendants of Abraham: the Ishmaelites are descendants of Hagar's son Ishmael and the Midianites from Keturah's son Midian. [Abraham married Keturah after Sarah's death and she bore him 6 sons].

Question: What do the brothers do with Joseph's long-sleeved coat?  Considering Jacob's character what is the irony in what his sons tell him?  See Genesis 37:31-35
Answer: The brothers smear the coat with blood and present it to their father with the lie that a wild animal has killed his beloved Joseph.  The irony is that Jacob, who deceived his own father, is now cruelly deceived by his own sons. 

Joseph's adventures in Egypt are one of the most entertaining of the Biblical narratives with everything from treachery and betrayal, to sex and power, to revenge and reconciliation.  Joseph goes from a 17-year-old slave-prisoner to the 30 year old Vizier, the royal Prime Minister/governor, of Egypt. In Genesis 41:39-49 the Pharaoh elevates Joseph to this position of power saying "only this throne shall set me above you." Joseph is dressed in Egyptian finery, is given the Egyptian name, Zaphenat-paneah [in Egyptian = "God says he is living"], and is given a wife of noble rank, Asenath, daughter of the high priest of On.  Joseph's father-in-law is the high priest at On [later known as Heliopolis], the center of one of Egypt's principal gods, the sun god Ra.  Joseph, the former slave has now married into Egypt's most exclusive nobility! 

Please note the repetition of 7s in the narrative of Joseph.  There are 27 sevens in the Pharaoh's dream section alone:  41:2, 3, 4,5,6, 7, 7, 18, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24, 26, 26,27, 27, 27, 27, 29, 30, 34, 36, 47, 48, 53, 54,

Judah and Tamar

In Genesis chapter 38 the story of Joseph is interrupted by the story of Tamar and her sons. This story seems jarringly out of place, however, such seemingly misplaced events are meant to grab our attention. Once again Jacob's narratives, which include those of his children, offer another account of the struggle of twin sons, as Jacob's narrative began in Genesis 25:22.  These twins, however, are the sons of Jacob's #4th son, Judah.

Question: What are the similarities in the struggle between these twins and the struggle between Esau and Jacob?
Answer: In both cases the struggle results in a reversal of the right of the firstborn and of the right of the blessing.  The result of both struggles is that the younger gained the advantage over the elder.  As Jacob struggled with Esau and overcame him so will Perez overcome Zerah, the elder twin, and gain the right of the firstborn.  This is another of a long series of reversals in Genesis in which the younger son gains the upper hand.  The reason this story was included in Genesis becomes clear in the toledoth of Jesus of Nazareth in Matthew chapter 1 as well as in the eschatological interpretation of Jesus' Parable of the Prodigal Son [Luke 15].

Genesis chapter 42 recounts the dramatic first meeting between Joseph and his brothers. The sons of Jacob-Israel do not recognize the Prime Minister of Egypt as their brother when they come to purchase food from the wealthy store-houses of Egypt. 

Joseph was now 38 years old.  Twenty-one years have passed since his brothers sold him into slavery when he was seventeen years old. Joseph was a Hebrew slave for thirteen years before he became the Vizier of Egypt.  He has spent the past seven years collecting a surplus of grain in preparation for the famine that he prophesized.  It is now the first year of the famine, and in Canaan Jacob has sent ten of his sons into Egypt for supplies.  Notice that Joseph's fourth eldest brother, Judah, is no longer living with the Canaanites; he has returned to his family.  Judah turned a corner in his life in his repentance of his sin against Tamar.  His change of heart in the acceptance of his family responsibilities has resulted in his restoration to the covenant family.  He will play an important role in the restoration of Jacob's family.  The theme of this part of the narrative is "life" versus "death": 'there there are supplies in Egypt.  Go down and procure some for us there, so that we may survive (live*) and not die... "Live" is repeated five times (42:2, 18-20; 43:8; 47:19); "live and not die" is repeated three times (42:2; 43:8; 47:19), spoken by Jacob, Judah, and finally by the people of Egypt.

Question: How are Jacob's sons divided in the narrative?
Answer:  The sons of Jacob are divided into two groups: the 10 sons of the other wives who make the first journey to Egypt and the two sons of Rachel (Joseph and Benjamin).

Please read Genesis 42:5-17: Joseph's First Audience with His Brothers
42:5Thus the sons of Israel were among the other people who came to get supplies, there being a famine in Canaan. 6It was Joseph, as the man in authority over the country, who allocated the rations to the entire population.  So Joseph's brothers went and bowed down before him, their faces touching the ground. 7As soon as Joseph saw his brothers he recognized them.  But he did not make himself known to them, and he spoke harshly to them. 'Where have you come from?' he asked.  'From Canaan to get food,' they replied. 8Now when Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him, 9Joseph remembered the dreams he had had about them, and said to them, 'You are spies.  You have come to discover the country's weak points.' 10'No, my lord,' they said, 'your servants have come to get food. 11We are all sons of the same man.  We are honest men, your servants are not spies.' 12'Oh no,' he replied, 'you have come to discover the country's weak points.' 13'Your servants were twelve brothers,' they said, 'sons of the same man in Canaan, but the youngest is at present with our father, and the other one is no more.' 14To which Joseph retorted, 'It is as I said, you are spies. 15This is the test you are to undergo: as sure as Pharaoh lives you shall no leave unless your youngest brother comes here. 16Send one of your number to fetch your brother; you others will remain under arrest, so that your statements can be tested to see whether or not you are honest.  If not, then as sure as Pharaoh lives you are spies.' 17Whereupon, he put them all into custody for three days.

The word "spies" is a significant word in this part of the narrative; it will be used seven times, as an accusation and as a denial of the accusation in Genesis 42:9, 11, 14, 16, 30, 31, and 34:

Genesis 42:5: Thus the sons of Israel were among the other people who came to get supplies, there being a famine in Canaan.  This is the beginning of the journey that was prefigured in Abram going down to Egypt in the time of famine in Genesis 12:10-20 that was played out with the same five elements repeated three times (Gen 12:10-20; 20:1-13 and 26:1-14; see Genesis Lesson 8: handout #1).

Question: What earlier prophecy was fulfilled when the ten Israelite brothers bowed down before Egypt's Vizier?  Was the prophecy literally fulfilled?  See Genesis 37:5-8.
Answer: Joseph's dream of his brother's the sheaves bowing down to his sheaf is not literally fulfilled in the audience chamber as his brothers prostrated themselves before him.  The dream is not completely fulfilled because one "sheaf" is missing.  In the dream there were eleven sheaves, not ten'Benjamin is missing

Genesis 42:7: As soon as Joseph saw his brothers he recognized them. But he did not make himself known to them, and he spoke harshly to them.  The word "recognize" is repeated in verses 7 and 8.  Joseph may have spoken harshly to his brother in an attempt to control his emotions.  As we will see later, Joseph was an emotional man and Scripture records that he broke down three different times when his emotions overcome him (Gen 42:24; 43:30-31; 46:29).

Question: Joseph recognized his brothers immediately, but why didn't his brothers recognize him?  Also see Genesis 43:23.
Answer: More than 20 years have passed.  Joseph is not only older but he is dressed as an Egyptian minister, clean shaven with the characteristic black cosmetic eye paint and the customary black wig that would make him difficult to recognize.  Joseph was also speaking Egyptian, with an interpreter translating for him. 

Genesis 42:9: Joseph remembered the dreams he had had about them, and said to them, 'You are spies. You have come to discover the country's weak points.' 

Question: What was significant about Joseph remembering his dreams?  See Genesis 37:5-11 and 45:5-8.
Answer: When Joseph recognized his brothers he "remembered" the dreams and recognized that the first prophetic dream about the sheaves was in the process of being fulfilled at that moment as ten of his brothers were bowing down in submission to him.  At that moment he understood that everything that had happened to him had been part of God's plan for his life and for his family, but the dreams were not yet fulfilled.

The interpretation of the story of Joseph and his brothers rests upon Joseph's realization that it is God's plan that his two dreams reach fulfillment.  Everything Joseph does from this point forward is motivated by his desire to bring God's plan to completion.

Question: Why did Joseph accuse his brothers of being spies?   How many times did he accuse them?
Answer: Joseph accused them of being spies three times (Gen 42:9, 14, and 16).  There are three possible reasons:

  1. Joseph was getting retribution for their treatment of him.
  2. He wanted them to come to understand the fear and distress they caused him when he was powerless and falsely enslaved.
  3. Joseph was using the accusation of spying as part of a plan to force the brothers to bring Benjamin to Egypt so the dreams could be fulfilled as God intended them to be fulfilled'with all the brothers bowing down before Joseph and his father and mother bowing down as well.

According to the biblical text, it is unlikely that Joseph was seeking retribution.  Joseph has already forgiven his brothers, and he has come to understand that everything that happened to him was the will of God for his life (Gen 41:51; 45:5-8).  But he also understood that his brothers' salvation and the restoration of the covenant family unity depended on their repentance.  Unless they came face to face with their crime against him, and unless they acknowledged their sin and repented it, the family would never be reunited.  Salvation is linked to repentance of sins and turning away from sin that causes division and brings disunity.  Joseph's dreams depicted a united family under his leadership.  For the family to be united under his leadership there must be forgiveness' and Benjamin and Jacob must come to Egypt!

Question: In trying to convince the Vizier of their innocence what did the ten brothers acknowledge about their family and the two other brothers who were not present?   What is significant about the mention of the youngest brother?
Answer: They acknowledged that they were 12 sons of the same father, that the youngest brother was in Canaan with their father, but the other brother was "no more."  The youngest brother is Joseph's full brother, Benjamin; both are the sons of Rachel.

Question: On the third day Joseph makes an offer to the sons of Israel.  What is it? See Genesis 42:17-20
Answer: They can only take supplies back to Canaan if they leave one brother in custody and if they return for more food they must leave their youngest brother behind in Egypt.

Question: The brothers distraught.  What do they believe is the cause of their present suffering?  See Genesis 47:21
Answer: The brothers believe they are being punished by God for the sin against the brother they sold into slavery.

Question: Who is chosen to stay behind?
Answer: Simeon is chosen to stay behind in Egypt as a hostage while the brothers return to Canaan with the food. 

In Genesis chapter 43 the famine grows worse and it is necessary for the sons of Jacob to make another trip to Egypt but this time, according to the agreement with the Royal Governor [Joseph], they must bring Benjamin, Joseph's younger brother.

Question: What promise does Judah make to his distraught father as the brothers prepare to leave for Egypt with young Benjamin?  See Genesis 43:6-10
Answer: He promises his father that he will personally take responsibility for his brother's safety.

Question: What plan does Joseph formulate to keep Benjamin with him in Egypt? See Genesis 44:1-5
Answer: He instructs his servants to plant an expensive silver cup in Benjamin's saddle bag and then to catch up with the caravan and to find the cup and arrest the brothers for theft.

Question: When the Egyptian Prime Minister [Joseph] announces that Benjamin must stay behind and be his slave but that the others may return to their homeland what is Judah's response?  See Genesis 44:18-34
Answer: Judah offers to sacrifice his life to live as a slave for the freedom of his younger brother.

Question: How does Joseph react to this act of self-sacrificial love?  See Genesis 45:1-15
Answer: Unable to contain his emotions any longer Joseph begins so sob uncontrollably and reveals his true identity to his brothers and they are reconciled.

Question: When the Pharaoh hears about the events that have transpired what offer does he make to Joseph's kinsmen?  See Genesis 45:16-20
Answer: He offers Joseph's kinsmen the best land in Egypt. 

In chapter 46 Jacob/Israel and his sons and their families leave for Egypt. 

Question: What prophecy made to Abraham in Genesis chapter 15 is partially fulfilled in this exodus into Egypt?  What are the other parts of the prophecy that will have a future fulfillment?
Answer: "Know this for certain, that your descendants will be exiles in a land not their own, and be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years.  But I shall bring judgment on the nation that enslaves them and after this they will leave, with many possessions. For your part, you will join your ancestors in peace; you will be buried at a happy old age.  In the fourth generation they will come back here...." Genesis 15:13-15

Question: How many members of Jacob's family [sons] enter Egypt?   See Genesis 46:27
Answer: The male descendants of Jacob that entered into Egypt with him numbered 66.  Adding Jacob himself and Joseph and his 2 sons, who were already in Egypt, the male family members of Jacob/Israel in Egypt totaled seventy.  It is significant that Scripture makes this division in numbering the male members of God's covenant family.

Joseph's family is given possession of the most lush and fertile region of Egypt: the Nile Delta.  It is perfect land for herdsmen like the Israelites. 

Question: Genesis 47:13-26 records the results of Joseph's agrarian policy. What happened to private ownership of the land in Egypt?
Answer: The land of Egypt will now become crown property with the exception of Goshen where the Israelites live, and the land controlled by the Egyptian priesthood. 

At about the time Jacob's family would have entered Egypt, the Hyksos an Asiatic people, had conquered the native Egyptians. Egyptologists estimate the Hyksos began to infiltrate the Nile Valley around 1900BC and overwhelmed the native Egyptian rulers about 1780-30BC.  For a Hyksos Pharaoh to offer sanctuary to another foreign people who would be valuable allies is entirely feasible. Scriptural evidence that supports this theory is found in the change in private ownership of land in Egypt as reported in Genesis 47:13-26.  Private land ownership suddenly ended in Egypt circa the 18th century BC, or about the time Joseph would have been governing Egypt.  The Hyksos were also the first to introduce horses and chariots into Egypt and Genesis 47:17 is the first instance where horses are mentioned in the Bible.  Furthermore, the description of Joseph's official gifts when he was appointed Prime Minister/governor of Egypt: a ring, a gold collar and a robe, are all normal procedure for Egyptian office promotions. [see Howard Vos, Genesis and Archaeology pages 102-106].  Egyptian documents report many Semitics who rose to positions of power and influence in the Egyptian court including Aperel, the Vizier [Prime Minister] of Amenhotep IV, who was also the tutor to the future Pharaoh Tutankamun.

The prophecy of Genesis 15:15 is fulfilled. 

Question: When Jacob/Israel time to die drew near what did he make Joseph swear to him?
Answer: He made him swear to bury him in Canaan.

Please read Genesis 48:1-50:26

Question: What does Jacob/Israel do for Joseph's half Egyptian sons to ensure their inheritance?   What mistake occurs and what is its significance? See Genesis 48:5-6, 20
Answer: He officially adopts the boys but in blessing them he crosses his hands and his right hand rests on the head of the younger son.  Once again the younger will have supremacy over the older son [see the overhead chart of the dispossessed sons of Genesis].

In Genesis 48:22 there is a play on the word "Shechem".  Jacob/Israel promises Joseph a "shechem" more than his brothers.  The Hebrew word "shekem" means "shoulder" but it is also the name of the town and district of Shechem in Canaan which would become the property of the sons of Joseph [Ephraim] and where Joseph himself would be buried.  In a banquet the choicest meat was the "shoulder" and this choicest land is what Jacob/Israel is giving Joseph. 

Chapter 49 is Jacob/Israel's last will and testament.  He prophesies for each of his 12 sons beginning with the firstborn Ruben, who Jacob/Israel disinherits for sleeping with his father's concubine. Simeon and Levi are not blessed and are also eliminated as the re'shiyt because of their disgraceful conduct in the murder of the men of Shechem in Genesis 35:35

Please read Judah's blessing in Genesis 49:8-12
It may be Jacob/Israel's desire that Joseph becomes the re'shiyt but Judah is God's choice.

Question: What prophecy will be fulfilled in Genesis 49:10?  The literal translation is "The scepter shall not pass from Judah nor the ruler's staff from between his feet until shiloh come."
Answer: David the descendant of Judah will be the first in a long line of Kings.

Question: What is the significance of verses Genesis 49:11-12?  Read the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 and then read Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-11; and Luke 19:28-38?
Answer: This passage is a prophecy of Palm [Passion] Sunday.

Question: The word "shiloh" is translated in the Greek of the New Testament as siloam.  It a pool in south Jerusalem that is filled by the Gihon stream.  In the Gospel of St. John 9:7, we are told the meaning of the Greek word "siloam" or in Hebrew "shiloh".  What does it mean?
Answer: "the one who has been sent"

Now read Genesis 49:10 with John's translation of the word "Shiloh": "The scepter shall not pass from Judah nor the ruler's staff from between his feet until the one who is sent comes." The Fathers of the Church saw this as a prophecy only partially fulfilled in King David.  They saw it as a prophecy completely fulfilled in the Son of David, Jesus the Messiah; He who would "wash his clothes in wine, his robes in the blood of the grape."  The Fathers of the Church saw this passage in Genesis 49:11 as a prophecy of Christ's passion and the Eucharist.

Question: From which of the 12 tribes of Israel was Jesus descended? Please see Matthew 1:1; 1:3; 1:6 and 1:16
Answer: The tribe of Judah.

Question: In Jacob/Israel's blessing to his sons he assigns each son a symbolic animal.  What is Judah's animal?  See 49:9
Answer: A lion.

Question: In Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, St. John the Apostle is taken up into the heavenly court and is told by an "elder" in Revelation 5:5 to "Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed, and so he will open the scroll and its seven seals."  When John turns to look what does he see in verse 6?
Answer: He sees "..a Lamb standing that seemed to have been sacrificed.."

Question: Who is the Lamb?  Read John 1:29-30 and Revelation 5:6-13
Answer: The Lamb of God who sacrificed Himself for the sins of the world. John the Apostle sees Jesus the Messiah, the last of the Davidic kings of Judah.

Did you notice that in John 1:30 John the Baptist acknowledges that Jesus existed before he was born [John is 6 months older than Jesus; see Lk 1:36] and in the Revelation 5:5 passage the Lamb is the "root" of David" = having existed before David. The Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity united in the Godhead as One True and Holy God existed before the world was made [see 1Peter 1:20]. 

In Genesis 50:25-26 we are told that Joseph died at the age of 110 and was embalmed, as was the Egyptian custom, and was laid in a grave in Egypt, but before he died he made his kinsmen swear not to leave his bones in Egypt when they returned to the Promised Land [50:25].

There is a wealth of archaeological evidence that supports the Biblical account of this age. Here are just a few examples of discoveries that support the Biblical record:

Archaeological evidence that supports the Biblical account of the Age of the Patriarchs:

Questions for group discussion:

Question: The Fathers of the Church saw Joseph as a "type" of Christ. What similarities can you see between the lives of Joseph and Jesus?
Answer:

JOSPEH JESUS
1. Joseph escapes death by going into Egypt. 1. Jesus escapes death by going into Egypt
2. He is betrayed by his brothers, the sons of Jacob/Israel. 2. Jesus is betrayed by his brothers, the sons of Israel--the Jews.
3. Joseph's brothers believed he was dead but he was found to be alive. 3.  Jesus was believed to be dead but He was Resurrected from the dead.
4. Joseph is the beloved son of Jacob 4.  Jesus is the beloved Son of God

Question: Of all the stories that could be related to us from the Age of the Patriarchs why did God choose these particular stories to be included in Holy Scripture? 
Answer: These stories identify the preservation of the "holy seed" promised in Genesis 3:15 and illustrate God's faithfulness to His promise, but they are also instructive in that they provide lessons to us in obedience and faithfulness as well as illustrations of the suffering brought about by sin and by willful disobedience to God.  The sins reflected in these stories will be basis of the Laws of holiness given to the Children of Israel in the 10 Commandments.

Question: Compare Abraham's travels and adventures especially in Egypt to what will be the travels and adventures of the 12 sons of Israel and their children.  How does the physical and spiritual father of the Covenant people symbolically pave the way for Israel's encounter with God?
Answer: 1. famine sends Abraham and the sons of Israel/Jacob into Egypt. 2. Both are initially treated with kindness. 3. Both Abraham and his descendants face persecution in Egypt followed by plagues sent by God on their oppressors. 4. the plagues compel the Pharaoh to release Sarah and later to release enslaved Israel.  5. Abraham witnesses God's judgment on Sodom while the people of Israel witness God's judgment on Egypt.  The adventures of Abraham and Sarah recorded in the Bible have meaning beyond their lives.  Their actions prefigure their descendants, people of Israel's later experiences!

Readings for the next Biblical period:

THE TWELVE TRIBES IN EGYPT/ THE SINAI COVENANT

Enslavement of Israel Exodus 1:1-22
Infant Narrative of Moses Exodus 2:1-10
Moses Flees Egypt Exodus 2:11-25
The Call of Moses Exodus 3:1-6:30
The Return of Moses/ The Ten Plagues Exodus 7:1-11:10
The First Passover Exodus 12:1-51
The Exodus/ Manna, Quails, and The Rock Exodus 12:33 - 14:31; 16:1-17:7
The Sinai Covenant/
The Establishment of Liturgical Worship
Exodus 19:1-28:42
The Aaronic Priesthood/ The Daily Sacrifice Exodus 29:1-34
The Sin of the Golden Calf Exodus 32:1-35
The Building of the Tabernacle Exodus 36:8 - 40:38
The Laws of the Covenant/
The Seven Sacred Feasts
Leviticus 23:1-44

Resources and recommended reading:

  1. Many Religions--One Covenant: Israel, the Church and the World, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, [Ignatius Press, 1999].
  2. Catholicism and Fundamentalism, Karl Keating, [Ignatius Press, 1988].
  3. Dictionary of the Bible, John L. McKenzie, S.J.,[Bruce Publishing Company, 1965].
  4. Tanach, edited by Rabbi Nosson Scherman,  [Mesorah Publications, Ltd,, 1998].
  5. Jewish Literacy, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, [William Morrow, Inc., 1991, 2001].
  6. The Navarre Bible Commentary: the Pentateuch
  7. The Anchor Bible Commentary: Genesis
  8. On Genesis, St Augustine
  9. "The Patriarchal Age: Myth of History?",  W.F. Albright, [Biblical Archaeology Review, March-April 1995].
  10.  "The Bible After Twenty Years of Archaeology", W.F. Albright, Religion in Life, 1952
  11. The Bible in Its World, Kenneth A. Kitchen, [InterVarsity Press, 1978].

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.