Seven Scenes of Joseph Weeping

joseph weepingThe stories in Genesis 37-50 report the trials and vindication of Joseph. The chapters are full of moving accounts for the reader, and characters inside the events are moved as well. Jeremiah may be the weeping prophet, but Joseph is the weeping ruler. In multiple scenes he weeps both privately and openly: 42:24; 43:30; 45:2; 45:14-15; 46:29; 50:1; 50:17. Here’s how it breaks down:

  1. In 42:24, Joseph weeps privately during his brothers’ first visit to Egypt. He recognizes them, but they don’t recognize him.
  2. In 43:30, Joseph weeps privately as he is moved over one brother in particular, the arrival of Benjamin in Egypt.
  3. In 45:2, Joseph weeps openly as he reveals himself to his brothers after more than twenty years since they betrayed him.
  4. In 45:14-15, Joseph weeps openly on all his brothers.
  5. In 46:29, Joseph weeps openly as he presents himself to his father after many years of relational separation.
  6. In 50:1, Joseph weeps openly in response to his father’s death.
  7. In 50:17, Joseph weeps openly before the messengers whom his brothers had sent.

Seven scenes of weeping. SEVEN.

Isaac and Jesus at Gethsemane

While studying for a sermon about Jesus at Gethsemane, I noticed several Matthew commentaries highlighting an echo of the Abraham-Isaac story in Genesis 22. They pointed to Jesus’ words in Matthew 26:36, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray,” as an echo of Genesis 22:5 when Abraham told his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”

Echoes of Isaac would not be surprising in Matthew, for the opening verse of the Gospel says, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1). Jesus is the true and greater Isaac, the Father’s Son who would be sacrificed.

Consider some correspondences between Genesis 22 and Matthew 26.

  • Both stories involve a mountain. Abraham journeyed to a mountain in the land of Moriah (Gen. 22:2-4), and Gethsemane was at the Mount of Olives (Matt. 26:30).
  • Both stories involve a son who is facing death. In Genesis 22, the plan is to sacrifice Isaac. In Matthew 26, Jesus is facing sacrifice as well, an experienced heightened by the reality of the “cup” he will drink.
  • Both stories involve other people traveling with the person who will be sacrificed. In Genesis 22, young men from Abraham’s household joined them on the journey. In Matthew 26, eleven of Jesus’ disciples came with him to the Mount of Olives.
  • Both stories report instructions to stay and wait. In Genesis 22, the two young men receive instructions. In Matthew 26, the eleven disciples receive instructions.
  • Both stories climax with a son being alone with his father. In Genesis 22, Isaac is alone with Abraham. In Matthew 26, Jesus is alone with his heavenly Father.

Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, facing sacrifice and wrath. But no voice from heaven would stop the proceedings. There would be no ram provided in a thicket. The Father would not rescind the knife. The Son would willingly lay down his life, in obedience to the Father and in the stead of sinners. Jesus is the true and greater Isaac.

Noah, Abraham, Melchizedek: Counting to Ten in Genesis 5, 11, and 14

In Genesis 5 the narrator gives a genealogy of death. Again and again comes the refrain “he died” (except in the case of Enoch). The tenth name in the genealogy is Noah (Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, and Noah).

In Genesis 11 there is another genealogy. In 11:10 the generations go from Shem to Arpachshad to Shelah to Eber to Peleg to Reu to Serug to Nahor to Terah to Abraham. Abraham’s name is also the tenth in the list.

Something is going on with names in the tenth position, for Noah and Abraham are significant characters. When Noah’s name is mentioned at the end of the genealogy in Genesis 5, the Noah story begins in the next chapter. And when Abraham’s name is mentioned in the genealogy in Genesis 11, the Abraham narratives begin in the next chapter.

The above observations are widely acknowledged. But counting a tenth figure may also be important when we get to Genesis 14. In that chapter there isn’t a genealogy, but there are a lot of names, particularly a lot of kings. Nine of them are involved in warfare, four against five. Then comes the–wait for it, wait for it–tenth king on the scene, one who isn’t involved in the warfare and who is the king of peace (Salem): Melchizedek.

Abraham Owning Land Within the Land

Genesis 23 comes after the remarkable near-death and figurative resurrection of Isaac, so it feels like a major drop in drama. We’re told that Sarah died at age 127 (Gen. 23:1-2), Abraham sought to purchase a burial plot for her (23:3-18), and he succeeded (23:19-20). That’s the story.

However, more is going on here when we zoom out from Genesis 23. Abraham will die without inheriting the promised land (see Gen. 25:8; Heb. 11:13), but he did have some land within the Land. Genesis 23 reports the purchase of a field from Ephron the Hittite. In this field was a cave, and in that cave Abraham buried his wife Sarah.

The purchase of that field is a significant development in the storyline of Genesis because up to this point Abraham was only a foreigner and owned no property. He self-identified as “a sojourner” (Gen. 23:4) even though he had been in the land of Canaan sixty-two years (see 12:4; 23:1-2)!

After the events of Genesis 23, Abraham now owned land within the Land. This development is encouraging when we consider the promises of 12:7, “To your offspring I will give this land,” and 17:8, “I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

The transition in Genesis 23 was an installment of fulfillment. Sarah’s body had a place to rest, and Abraham had land that was truly his in real time. This cave in the field, this land within the Land, was a reminder that God would keep his promises. Though a place of death, in a strange way the cave of Machpelah reminds readers that God’s purposes are alive and well.

Adam and Eve Not Created Physically Immortal

Genesis 2 reports the creation of Adam and Eve. They lived in the garden of Eden, and in the center of this garden were two trees. One tree was the “tree of life” (Gen. 2:9). We may gain insight about this tree when we see God’s words in 3:22: “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever . . . ”

The “tree of life” was (1) accessible to Adam and Eve, (2) able to be eaten, and (3) associated with immortality. Then in Genesis 3:24 God “drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” Here we see that the “tree of life” was (4) guarded after the expulsion of Adam and Eve.

Outside the garden, and at age 930, Adam “died” (Gen. 5:5). But did he die because his body was no longer immortal after his sin? Or were Adam and Eve created mortal yet given the hope of greater life (signified by the “tree of life”)?

Sometimes I’ve heard believers speak of Adam and Eve as if God created them with invincible bodies. The notion of a “perfect” beginning seems to exclude bodies that could die. The impression seems to be of a physically immortal couple who are subjected to death only after their expulsion from the garden. After all, doesn’t Genesis 2:17 say “in the day that you eat of [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] you shall surely die”? Doesn’t this imply that if they don’t eat of the forbidden tree, they can’t die?

But I don’t believe Adam and Eve were physically immortal. The words of Genesis 3:22 (“lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever”) suggest that immortal life was what Adam didn’t yet have and what he was then prevented from acquiring (see 3:24). And if he didn’t have immortal physical life, then by implication he had mortal physicality.

Adam and Eve could die, and this ability coexisted in a state of being without sin in the garden. The ability to die doesn’t equate to a state of sinfulness. If it did, wouldn’t this objection also apply to Jesus? When Jesus was born, he was born physically mortal, able to die. And if we are to remain biblical in our christology, we must assume that mortal Jesus was also sinless Jesus.

In the situation of Adam and Eve, God clearly promised that “in the day that you eat of [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17), but the fulfillment of that promise did not involve a reversal of physical immortality. If immortality could be taken away, was it ever true immortality in the first place? The “death” Adam and Eve experienced was first an effect on their relationship with God, but there was a physical component as well because God exiled them out of the garden. Exile was a kind of death, and it ensured their physical death.

The garden of Eden had provided the conditions for physical immortality, for in the center was a tree called the “tree of life” (Gen. 2:9), and any who ate its fruit would live forever (3:22). But the hope for immortality was outside the bodies of Adam and Eve. Apart from the tree of life, their bodies would not live forever. And barred from the garden of Eden, their bodies would and did die. Their death outside Eden was not the reversal of immortality, it was the proof of mortality.

Fast forward to 1 Corinthians 15. There was a first Adam in Genesis, but Paul speaks of “the last Adam” Jesus (1 Cor. 15:45). Jesus, the Last Adam, was raised from the dead as the firstfruits of all who will be raised at his coming (15:20-23). At the future resurrection of the dead, “this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (15:53).

Jesus was born mortal, able to die. But he was raised immortal, never to die again. His glorified body is now imperishable. Like Jesus, we will be raised imperishable and put on immortality. This hope means that Adam and Eve, who were created mortal, will be raised immortal too. The first couple will finally have what they never had in the garden of Eden.

Five Barren Women in the Old Testament

When a woman is identified as “barren” in the Old Testament, you can depend on God to reverse it in the story. There are five such women in the Old Testament, and each experiences the power of God leading to a fruitful womb.

  1. Isaac’s mother, Sarah (Gen. 11:30; 21:1-2) who had married Abraham
  2. Jacob’s mother, Rebekah (Gen. 25:21) who had married Isaac
  3. Joseph’s mother, Rachel (Gen. 29:31; 30:22) who had married Jacob
  4. Samson’s mother, who was unnamed (Judg. 13:1-3) and had married Manoah
  5. Samuel’s mother, Hannah (1 Sam. 1:5-6, 20) who had married Elkanah

You can count these women on one hand, which shows the rarity of such accounts. Their stories nonetheless showcase the power of God as He advances His promises by overcoming obstacles.

Viewing the five women as a whole, three (Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel) were wives of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), all in Genesis. And since Abraham had Isaac and Isaac had Jacob, barrenness was an important motif for three generations in a row.

The other two women–the unnamed mother and Hannah–appear not only after Genesis but outside the Pentateuch and even after the entrance into the promised land. Any thoughts as to the timing of the births of Samson and Samuel in the history of Israel?

Foreshadowing the Conquest of the Promised Land

Genesis is filled with the foreshadowing of later events. In the book of Joshua the Israelites enter the promised land and begin its conquest, and this event was foreshadowed in Genesis 12.

Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Morah. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. (Gen. 12:6-7)

Three observations: first, the land is currently occupied (“the Canaanites were in the land”); yet, second, the land would eventually belong to Abraham’s offspring (see the promise in v. 7); and third, the future possession of the land by Abraham’s offspring would ultimately be the work of God (“I will give this land”).

If the current occupants of the land were only temporary stewards, then a conflict was inevitable. For the land of Canaan to become the land of Israel, a conquest is in store.

Abraham’s Ages at Ten Major Events in Genesis 12-25

We’re introduced to Abraham at the end of Genesis 11, where we learn that his father is Terah, his brother is Nahor, and his wife is Sarah. Then from 11:27 to 25:11, we get episodes from his life. Not every episode can be connected to a specific year, but some can. Here are ten events where his age can be known explicitly or implicitly:

  1. At age 75, Abraham arrived in the land of Canaan (Gen. 12)
  2. At age 85, Abraham took Hagar as a wife (Gen. 16; 16:3)
  3. At age 86, Ishmael was born to him by Hagar (Gen. 16:16)
  4. At age 99, Abraham was circumcised (Gen. 17:24)
  5. At age 99, Abraham was visited by three travelers (18:1; 18:10)
  6. At age 100, Isaac was born to him by Sarah (Gen. 21)
  7. At age 103 (giving approximately three years for Isaac’s weaning), Abraham sent away Ishmael and Hagar (Gen. 21)
  8. At age 137, Abraham buried his wife who died at 127 (Gen. 23:1)
  9. At age 140, Abraham’s son Isaac and Rebekah were married (Gen. 24; 25:20)
  10. At age 175, Abraham died (Gen. 25:7)

From Genesis 12 through 25, the narratives span Abraham’s life from age 75 to 175. In other words, Genesis 12-25 covers one hundred years.

Gender and the Resurrection of the Dead

The Christian worldview teaches that our future hope should affect our present lives. We shouldn’t lose heart because an eternal weight of glory awaits us (2 Cor. 4:16-18). We can endure mistreatment now because of a greater reward to come (Heb. 11:24-26). We can labor for Christ knowing that our work will not be in vain (1 Cor. 15:50-58).

The future is ever relevant for the present. Specific future hopes can even clarify commonplace confusion in the culture. Let’s take the doctrine of bodily resurrection and hold up to it the hot topic of gender. What might the future resurrection of the body teach us about gender?

First, the resurrection will be gender-specific. Jesus was born a male, died a male, and rose a male. Gender didn’t become inconsequential once his resurrection happened. His glorified body reflected gender. From the beginning God made us male and female, and he will raise us male and female too. Nothing we do to alter our physical body now will circumvent our resurrected state. People who are born men will not be raised as women, nor vice versa. Sex-reassignment surgery doesn’t change gender, and the resurrection of the dead will make this abundantly clear.

Second, the resurrection shows the eternality of gender. Since the resurrection of the dead will establish eternal physical states for believers and unbelievers, our gender is eternal. Not even marriage is eternal, because that temporal earthly covenant points to, and will be eclipsed by, the union of Christ and the Bride (Rev. 21:1-21), but gender will last forever. When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we will be there as men and women glorifying the Lamb who was slain. And in hell, those enduring the just wrath of God will be male and female rebels.

Third, the resurrection demands present bodily stewardship. If God will one day raise what dies now, then bodily resurrection vindicates the importance of the physical in life. Matter matters. We must not be practical Gnostics. The body is meant for the Lord, who will raise it up (1 Cor. 6:13-14). The term “stewardship” is apt, then, because we are not our own (1 Cor. 6:19; Rom. 6:12-13). God is sovereign over us, and we must faithfully steward what he has given us, including our bodies. A female body should be cared for and maintained as such, and a male body cared for and maintained as such.

Gender is not malleable like clay. Gender exists by the design of God and for the glory of God.

7 Ways Genesis 1 Stands Out from Ancient Near Eastern Creation Accounts

It is no secret that there are connections in Genesis to ancient Near Eastern creation accounts. Debate exists as to how that relationship should be explained, though that’s not the purpose of this post. I want to highlight seven elements in Genesis 1 that, when compared with other creation accounts from the Near East, shine brightly like diamonds on black cloth.

(1) There is one God in Genesis 1. This truth flies in the face of the ancient Near Eastern creation accounts which consistently speak of multiple deities. One God made the world.

(2) The one true God has no past genealogy. This too is different from creation accounts which speak of gods who were born because other gods came together. There never was a time when God was not.

(3) God is omnipotent. This all-powerful Being is superior to all he’s made, with no equal rivals. His power differs from gods in the ancient Near East who were restricted, vulnerable, and could be defeated.

(4) Creation happened according to God’s command. “Let there be,” he said, and there was. Gods of the ancient Near East often had to contend with creation, to wrestle with material and divine forces.

(5) God did not use already-existing materials when he began to create. By his power, he made everything from nothing. The gods of the Near East, however, relied on coexistent material (and even other gods) to create.

(6) God is majestic and set apart. Ancient Near Eastern accounts tell of immoral deities who acted in surly, immature, temperamental, undignified ways. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.

(7) God made creation “good,” even “very good.” No warfare, no skirmishes between gods, no tainted world. In Genesis 1, the Lord evaluated what he made and declared it good!

The creation account in Genesis 1 may stand out in other ways when you compare its language with other accounts from the ancient Near East, but the previous seven distinctions certainly are a start.