Jehovah’s Word Is Alive

Highlights From the Book of Genesis​—II

FROM the creation of the first man, Adam, to the death of Jacob’s son Joseph, Genesis covers 2,369 years of human history. The first 10 chapters as well as 9 verses of the 11th chapter Ge 1:1–11:9, covering the account from creation to the tower of Babel, were discussed in the preceding issue of this magazine. * This article considers highlights from the remainder of Genesis, pertaining to God’s dealings with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.

ABRAHAM BECOMES GOD’S FRIEND

(Genesis 11:10–23:20)

Some 350 years after the Flood, a man who proves to be very special to God is born in the line of descent of Noah’s son Shem. His name is Abram, later changed to Abraham. At God’s command, Abram leaves the Chaldean city of Ur and becomes a tent dweller in a land that Jehovah promises to give to him and his descendants. Because of his faith and obedience, Abraham comes to be called “Jehovah’s friend.”​—James 2:23.

Jehovah takes action against the wicked inhabitants of Sodom and its nearby cities, while Lot and his daughters are preserved alive. A promise of God is fulfilled in the birth of Abraham’s son Isaac. Years later, Abraham’s faith is tested when Jehovah instructs him to offer this son as a sacrifice. Abraham is ready to obey but is stopped by an angel. There is no doubt that Abraham is a man of faith, and he is assured that by means of his seed, all nations will bless themselves. The death of his beloved wife, Sarah, brings much sorrow to Abraham.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

12:1-3—When did the Abrahamic covenant go into effect, and for how long? Jehovah’s  covenant with Abram that “all the families of the ground will certainly bless themselves by means of [Abram]” apparently went into effect when Abram crossed the Euphrates on his way to Canaan. This must have been on Nisan 14, 1943 B.C.E.​—430 years before Israel was delivered from Egypt. (Exodus 12:2, 6, 7, 40, 41) The Abrahamic covenant is “a covenant to time indefinite.” It remains in effect until the blessing of the families of the earth and the destruction of all God’s enemies have been accomplished.​—Genesis 17:7; 1 Corinthians 15:23-26.

15:13—When was the foretold 400-year affliction of Abram’s offspring fulfilled? This period of affliction began in 1913 B.C.E. when Abraham’s son Isaac was weaned at about 5 years of age and his 19-year-old half brother, Ishmael, was “poking fun” at him. (Genesis 21:8-14; Galatians 4:29) It ended with the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage in 1513 B.C.E.

16:2—Was it proper for Sarai to offer her maidservant Hagar as a wife to Abram? Sarai’s offer was in line with the custom of the day​—that a barren wife was obligated to provide her husband with a concubine in order to produce an heir. The practice of polygamy first appeared in the line of Cain. Eventually, it became a custom and was adopted by some worshipers of Jehovah. (Genesis 4:17-19; 16:1-3; 29:21-28) However, Jehovah never abandoned his original standard of monogamy. (Genesis 2:21, 22) Noah and his sons, to whom the command to ‘be fruitful and fill the earth’ was repeated, were evidently all monogamous. (Genesis 7:7; 9:1; 2 Peter 2:5) And this standard of monogamy was reasserted by Jesus Christ.​—Matthew 19:4-8; 1 Timothy 3:2, 12.

19:8—Was it not wrong for Lot to offer his daughters to the Sodomites? According to the Oriental code, it was a host’s responsibility to protect the guests in his home, defending them even to the point of death if necessary. Lot was prepared to do that. He bravely went out to the mob, closed the door behind him, and faced them alone. By the time he offered his daughters, Lot likely realized that his guests were messengers from God, and he may have reasoned that God could protect his daughters as He had protected his aunt Sarah in Egypt. (Genesis 12:17-20) Indeed, as the matter turned out, Lot and his daughters were kept safe.

19:30-38—Did Jehovah condone Lot’s getting drunk and fathering sons by his two daughters? Jehovah condones neither incest nor drunkenness. (Leviticus 18:6, 7, 29; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) Lot actually deplored the “lawless deeds” of Sodom’s inhabitants. (2 Peter 2:6-8) The very fact that Lot’s daughters got him intoxicated suggests that they realized that he would not consent to having sexual relations with them while he was sober. But as aliens in the land, his daughters felt that this was the only way to prevent the extinction of Lot’s family. The account is in the Bible to reveal the relationship of the Moabites (through Moab) and the Ammonites (through Benammi) to Abraham’s descendants, the Israelites.

Lessons for Us:

13:8, 9What a beautiful model Abraham provides in handling differences! Never should we sacrifice peaceful relationships for the sake of financial gain, personal preferences, or pride.

15:5, 6When Abraham was getting old and had not yet had a son, he spoke with his God about the matter. Jehovah, in turn, reassured him. The result? Abraham “put faith in Jehovah.” If we open our hearts to Jehovah in prayer, accept his reassurances from the Bible, and obey him, our faith will be strengthened.

 15:16. Jehovah withheld the execution of his judgment upon the Amorites (or, Canaanites) for four generations. Why? Because he is a patient God. He waited until all hope of improvement was gone. Like Jehovah, we need to be patient.

18:23-33Jehovah does not destroy people indiscriminately. He protects the righteous.

19:16. Lot “kept lingering,” and the angels almost had to drag him and his family out of the city of Sodom. We are wise not to lose our sense of urgency as we await the end of the wicked world.

19:26. How foolish to be distracted by or longingly look back at what we have left behind in the world!

JACOB HAS 12 SONS

(Genesis 24:1–36:43)

Abraham arranges for Isaac’s marriage to Rebekah, a woman having faith in Jehovah. She gives birth to the twins Esau and Jacob. Esau despises his birthright and sells it to Jacob, who later receives his father’s blessing. Jacob flees to Paddan-aram, where he marries Leah and Rachel and tends the flocks of their father for some 20 years before departing with his family. By Leah, Rachel, and their two maidservants, Jacob has 12 sons as well as daughters. Jacob grapples with an angel and is blessed, and his name is changed to Israel.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

28:12, 13—What was the significance of Jacob’s dream involving “a ladder”? This “ladder,” which may have looked like a rising flight of stones, indicated that there is communication between earth and heaven. God’s angels ascending and descending on it showed that angels minister in some important way between Jehovah and humans who have his approval.​—John 1:51.

30:14, 15—Why did Rachel relinquish an opportunity to conceive in exchange for some mandrakes? In ancient times, the fruit of the mandrake plant was used in medicine as a narcotic and for preventing or relieving spasms. The fruit was also credited with the capacity to excite sexual desire and to increase human fertility or aid in conception. (Song of Solomon 7:13) While the Bible does not reveal Rachel’s motive for the exchange, she may have thought that the mandrakes would help her conceive and end her reproach of being barren. However, it was some years before Jehovah “opened her womb.”​—Genesis 30:22-24.

Lessons for Us:

25:23. Jehovah has the ability to detect the genetic bent of the unborn and to exercise his foreknowledge and select beforehand whom he chooses for his purposes. Yet, he does not predetermine the final destiny of individuals.​—Hosea 12:3; Romans 9:10-12.

25:32; 32:24-29Jacob’s concern about obtaining the birthright and his wrestling all night with an angel to get a blessing show that he truly appreciated sacred things. Jehovah has entrusted us with a number of sacred things, such as our relationship with him and his organization, the ransom, the Bible, and our Kingdom hope. May we prove to be like Jacob in showing appreciation for them.

34:1, 30The trouble that “brought ostracism” upon Jacob started because Dinah made friends with people who did not love Jehovah. We must choose our associates wisely.

JEHOVAH BLESSES JOSEPH IN EGYPT

(Genesis 37:1–50:26)

Jealousy moves Jacob’s sons to sell their brother Joseph as a slave. In Egypt, Joseph is imprisoned because he faithfully and courageously adheres to God’s moral standards. In  time, he is brought forth from prison to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, which foretell seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Joseph is then made Egypt’s food administrator. His brothers come to Egypt seeking food because of the famine. The family is reunited and settled in the fertile land of Goshen. On his deathbed Jacob blesses his sons and utters a prophecy that gives sure hope of great blessings in centuries to come. Jacob’s remains are taken to Canaan for burial. When Joseph dies at the age of 110, his body is embalmed, eventually to be transported to the Promised Land.​—Exodus 13:19.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

43:32—Why was eating a meal with the Hebrews detestable to the Egyptians? This may largely have been because of religious prejudice or racial pride. The Egyptians also detested shepherds. (Genesis 46:34) Why? Sheepherders may simply have been near the bottom in the Egyptian caste system. Or it could be that since the land available for cultivation was limited, the Egyptians despised those seeking pasture for flocks.

44:5—Did Joseph actually use a cup to read omens? The silver cup and what was said about it were evidently part of a subterfuge or stratagem. Joseph was a faithful worshiper of Jehovah. He did not really use the cup to read omens, even as Benjamin did not actually steal it.

49:10—What is the meaning of “the scepter” and “the commander’s staff”? A scepter is a baton carried by a ruler as a symbol of royal authority. The commander’s staff is a long rod denoting his power to command. Jacob’s reference to these indicated that significant authority and power would reside with the tribe of Judah until the coming of Shiloh. This descendant of Judah is Jesus Christ, the one upon whom Jehovah has bestowed heavenly rulership. Christ holds royal authority and possesses the power to command.​—Psalm 2:8, 9; Isaiah 55:4; Daniel 7:13, 14.

Lessons for Us:

38:26. Judah was wrong in his dealings with his widowed daughter-in-law, Tamar. However, when confronted with his responsibility for her pregnancy, Judah humbly admitted his error. We too should be quick to acknowledge our mistakes.

39:9. Joseph’s response to Potiphar’s wife shows that his thinking was attuned to God’s thinking on the matter of morals and that his conscience was guided by godly principles. Should we not also strive for the same as we grow in accurate knowledge of the truth?

41:14-16, 39, 40Jehovah can bring about a reversal of circumstances for those who fear him. When adversities strike, we are wise to put our trust in Jehovah and remain faithful to him.

They Had Abiding Faith

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph were indeed God-fearing men of faith. The account of their lives, contained in the book of Genesis, is truly faith-strengthening and teaches us many valuable lessons.

You can benefit from this account as you carry out your weekly Bible reading assignment for the Theocratic Ministry School. Considering the foregoing will help make the account come alive.

[Footnote]

^ par. 1 See the article “Jehovah’s Word Is Alive​—Highlights From the Book of Genesis—​I” in the January 1, 2004, issue of The Watchtower.

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Abraham was a man of faith

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Jehovah blesses Joseph

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Righteous Lot and his daughters were preserved

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Jacob appreciated sacred things. Do you?