Old Testament Reading Guide – March 12-18, 2012

How do I use this reading guide?

Genesis 44:18-34        Judah’s Plan to Rescue Benjamin

When last we left our hapless Hebrew travelers, Joseph (Zaphenath-Paneah) had decided to release all of the brothers (including Simeon) and only keep Benjamin with him.  This stirred in Judah a desire to do whatever it took to get Benjamin released; he offered himself as a substitute for his younger brother.  There are any number of reasons for Judah to do this.  Chief among them is a deep concern for Israel’s well-being.  Judah knows that if Benjamin does not return to his father that it likely would kill Jacob.  Let’s allow that that is the principal reason motivating Judah.  Consider also that it would be Judah who would have to report to Israel all that had transpired and that he (Judah) was personally responsible for Benjamin’s welfare.  There is yet another aspect to consider here: Judah wants to take Benjamin’s place, who by all appearances was actually guilty of the charge of stealing, while he, Judah, was not.  What must this remind us of?
[This reminds us of the trade that Jesus makes for all who believe in him.  He was actually innocent of any sin and yet he takes our sin so that he can atone for it in our place.]

Hear Judah’s remarks at the close of Chapter 44.  “Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers.  How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me?  No!  Do not let me see the misery that would come upon my father.” (Genesis 44:33-34 NIV)

Genesis 45:1-15         Joseph Reveals Himself to His Brothers (A Resurrection of Sorts)

Zaphenath-Paneah dismisses all of his servants and attendants and is left alone with his brothers.  The moment has finally arrived: Joseph reveals himself to his brothers amid great weeping and wailing – so much so that the attendants in an outer room could hear.  His brothers’ jaws must have dropped.  It must have been quite an emotional scene; of course it is likely that Judah and the others did not believe this Egyptian at first.  Why do you think Joseph picked this pivotal moment to reveal himself?  Whom does Joseph first inquire about?  
[“Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph!  Is my father still living?’” (Genesis 45:3 NIV)]

Of course their reaction to this news was stunned silence.  How does Joseph comfort his brothers?
[“Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come close to me.’  When they had done so, he said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt!  And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.’” (Genesis 45:4-5 NIV)]

Joseph goes on to tell his brothers of the prophecy concerning the current famine and that it will last yet another five years.  What commission does Joseph give his brothers?
[“Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your sons Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt.  Come down to me; don’t delay.  You shall live in the land of Goshen…’” (Genesis 45:9-10 NIV)]

To say the least, it took some time for Judah and his brothers to absorb all of this miraculous information.  How they must have pondered how they would be able to convey this turn of events.  Suddenly Joseph is alive and thriving in Egypt – prime minister, as it were.  Then they shared a “group hug”: “Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping.  And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them.” (Genesis 45:15 NIV)

Genesis 45:16-28            Pharaoh Welcomes the Hebrews

How does Pharaoh express his support to Joseph regarding his father Jacob?
[“You are also directed to tell them, ‘Do this: Take some carts from Egypt for your children and your wives, and get your father and come.  Never mind about your belongings, because the best of all Egypt will be yours.’” (Genesis 45:19-20 NIV)]

Joseph again shows partiality toward Benjamin.  How?
[Joseph gave Benjamin about 300 shekels of silver (about 7 ½ lbs.) and five sets of clothes.  His brothers got no silver and but one set of clothes.  Not that it matters and that it is completely beside the point, but Benjamin was never complicit in Joseph’s being sold into slavery in the first place.]

What is Joseph’s parting advice to his brothers?
[“Then he sent his brothers away, and as they were leaving he said to them, ‘Don’t quarrel on the way!’” (Genesis 45:24 NIV)]

Once Israel’s boys return to him and tell him, “Joseph is still alive!  In fact he is ruler of all Egypt.”, what is his reaction?  
[Naturally Jacob is reluctant, he was, in fact, stunned, to believe that Joseph could be alive after all this time (about twelve years).]

How is Jacob convinced of the truth of the news he has just received?
[Israel sees all the carts that were sent along with his sons to convey Jacob and his family to Egypt.  This persuades him that he will see Joseph before he dies.]

Genesis 46:1-7, 28-34          Jacob Pulls Up Stakes and Goes to Egypt

In Chapter 37 we learn that Jacob is residing in Hebron and now sets out for Egypt.  Once they get to Beersheba (which is quite far south in Canaan) Israel offered sacrifices to the Lord.  How does the LORD allay Jacob’s fears?
[“And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, ‘Jacob!  Jacob!’
‘Here I am,’ he replied.
‘I am God, the God of your father,’ he said.  ‘Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there.  I will go down to Egypt with you…’” (Genesis 46:2-4a NIV)]

Judah was sent ahead to get directions to Goshen and to prepare for Israel’s arrival.  Joseph rides out to meet his father.  How did that reunion go?
[This was a very emotional meeting between Jacob and Joseph.  “As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time.” (Genesis 46:28 NIV)]

Jacob begins his reunion with Joseph with a cheery thought: “Israel said to Joseph, ‘Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive.’” (Genesis 46:30 NIV)  What does Joseph caution his brothers against saying?
[Joseph urged his brothers to refer to their livelihood as tending livestock but not shepherds because shepherding was “detestable” to the Egyptians.  The Notes in the NIV Study Bible indicates that the Egyptians’ distaste for shepherds may be cultural.  Who knows?]

Genesis 47:1-26            Israel Meets Pharaoh

Joseph chooses five of his brothers to present to Pharaoh.  Of course, when they are asked about their occupation, they unhesitatingly tell him that they are shepherds.  Apparently Pharaoh (as the chief priest among the Egyptians) is unfazed by this revelation.  Pharaoh next meets the patriarch Jacob.  What is his first question?
[“After Jacob blessed Pharaoh, Pharaoh asked him, ‘How old are you?’” (Genesis 47:7b-8 NIV)]

So how old is Israel?
[Jacob, at this time, is 130 years of age.]

Joseph, at Pharaoh’s insistence, gave the choicest land to his father and brothers.  It was called the “district of Rameses” or Goshen.  Rameses (II) was Pharaoh many years later and this area was named for him.  This was edited (perhaps by Moses) perhaps to clarify exactly where the Hebrews resided.

The famine continued (only two years of five had elapsed) and was to continue for another five years.  Pharaoh had instructed his people to go to Zaphenath-Paneah (Joseph) for relief.  What did Joseph decide regarding payment for the food?
[All the people (including the Hebrews) had to buy (pay with silver) their food and once the money was gone they then had to sell their livestock.)]

What was the last resort of the people to buy grain once the money and livestock were gone?
[The “last resort” was that the people had to “sell themselves” into slavery to the Pharaoh for grain.]

Who were the only ones exempt from all this distress?
[The priests were exempt – perhaps because Pharaoh was regarded as the chief priest.]

Going forward, what was to be the policy of the land as dictated by Joseph?
[Joseph would provide seed for planting (once the famine was past) and the people were to return one-fifth of the harvest as payment to Pharaoh.)]

What was the people’s attitude toward Joseph during this time?
[“‘You have saved our lives,’ they said.  ‘May we find favor in the eyes of our lord; we will be in bondage to Pharaoh.’”  (Genesis 47:25 NIV)]

Genesis 47:27-48:7         Israel Wants to Return to Canaan When He Dies

How old is Jacob when he dies?
[Israel is 147 years old when he dies.]

What odd demonstration of an oath does Jacob require of Joseph?  Where have we seen this before?
[Israel tells Joseph to place his hand under his thigh and to promise that Jacob would be buried in the land of Canaan.  We saw Abraham do the same thing in Genesis 24:2.]

In verse five Israel says “Ephraim (the younger) and Manasseh (the firstborn) will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine.”  Why is this so significant?
[This is going to be fun.  Many years before Jacob displayed his favoritism on Joseph.  He was the firstborn of Rachel whom Jacob loved.  Reuben added to his own misfortune (he was the firstborn of Leah) by “going into” his father’s concubine (Bilhah – Rachel’s handmaid) thus making a public declaration of his contempt for his father.  He is no longer going to be treated as the firstborn – more on that in Chapter 49.  {Simeon may have lost favor because of his actions done to the sons of Hamor the Hivite in the matter of the rape of Dinah (Chapter 34) – j.t.}  Also, you may remember how Jacob tricked Isaac into believing he (Jacob) was actually his older brother Esau when it came time for the blessing of the firstborn.  Jacob does it again (foreshadowing actually) in addressing Ephraim (the younger) before the older Manasseh.  So history will repeat itself.  Joseph will receive the double portion of the firstborn when Jacob dies.]

Genesis 48:8-22           Israel’s Blessings for Ephraim and Manasseh

As Jacob is about to die, Joseph brings his two sons to Jacob for him to bless them.  What does Joseph do to make things easier for Jacob?  What unusual action does Jacob take?
[Joseph approaches Jacob with Ephraim on his (Joseph’s) right and Manasseh on his left.  Ephraim would then be on Jacob’s left and Manasseh was on the right.  Jacob then, as he blesses Joseph’s two sons, crosses his hands over the children so that the right hand lands on Ephraim and his left hand on Manasseh.  So Ephraim is treated as the firstborn.  Jacob had appropriated Joseph’s sons as his own (above).]

How did Joseph feel about that?
[Joseph probably thought that Jacob just made a mistake: “Joseph said to him, ‘No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.’” (Genesis 48:18 NIV)]

Jacob makes it clear that he made no mistake: “‘I know, my son, I know.  He too will become great.  Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.’  He blessed them that day and said, ‘In your name will Israel pronounce this blessing: “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.”’”  (Genesis 48:20 NIV)

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