Genesis Overview

Genesis starts with the genesis of the whole world, but is actually about the genesis of the nation of Israel, which is actually the genesis of God’s intervention in human affairs.

Creation is there for context really: everything had a starting point. To me it visualises the world through the eyes of a newborn baby, a birth story metaphor for our world that we can all share: being formless in water, light coming into darkness, the first days of life as everything comes into focus, all new and wonderful.

Then, just as you grow up and leave your parents, breaking hearts and having yours broken, Genesis becomes a story of faults and failure.  Corrupt cynicism threatens to strangle the small flashes of optimism and hope that still co-exist in the world, in each heart in it.

Reading Genesis you learn that God plans his salvation to hang by a thread: in an ark floating on a flood of destruction, in a bloodline running through dysfunctional family generations. The thread is even traced to a literal thread, tied around the foot of an unborn baby.

Judgement comes in life spans, salvation comes threaded through generations. (If that creates massive chronological anomalies, well, he also made time).

Also God speaks and acts through the undeserving, the second wife, the child without the birthright, the un-entitled.  (Are there more urgent lessons for the western church today?)

God has patience, because we are very very slow. Here he intervenes like vivid camera flash moments in a murky world – illuminating images, visions or choices that realign our minds to him, so we learn his love and start to know his mind.

The big picture, literally. Creation, corruption, destruction and survival

1 In which the creation story drives me to rhapsodies about birth and patterns
2 A second creation story… I meditate on the differences and literalism
3 If chapter 1 was a birth, Adam & Eve is coming-of-age genre, first love and heartbeak
4 Cain wins – the evil prosper from God’s abundance of blessing and grace, for a time. It really was always thus
5 The corrupt evil lines largely win in genealogy zoom forward to Noah.
6 God’s plan to drown all and start again. How did it get to this?
7 The ark as new eden, the flood the anti creation story
8 Contemplating what a traumatic trip it would have been in the Ark, Noah’s thankfulness is quite inspiring!
9 Post ark, the preciousness of life, the indignity of life, so it goes…
10 Post Noah genealogy, the thread of God’s intervention in a desert of unholiness
11 Tower of babel and more genealogies. I love the internet, but its sort of our new tower

Abraham and Isaac, Gods nation/salvation promise

12 Abram, the bible doesn’t hide that he is a broken vessel into which God’s grace poured
13 Lot and Abram, neither perfect but one not even trying
14 Abram rescues Lot in a sticky political situation. Mechizedek turns up, from Salem (prefigures Jer-salem).  Its pre-exodus Canaan
15 The semi-covenant, the promise of the nation and land (and the slavery in egypt)
16 Abrams messy family attempts to force an heir, gives me comfort for my own
17 The full covenant, Abram becomes Abraham, gets a lesson in trusting God
18 Abraham is promised a son and bargains with God over Sodom’s destruction, a lesson in how God speaks
19 Crazy chapter – the destruction of Sodom and saving of Lot, very sordid, love conquers all?
20 Another “sister narrative” Abraham misleads about him and Sarah. I disapprove.
21 Miraculous birth of Isaac to overage Sarah is mired by her treatment of Hagar
22 Abraham asked to sacrifice the miracle son – Sacrificing sons? I marvel at the 1000 year jigsaw puzzle that is the bible.
23 The burial of sarah, significant because they don’t yet have the land to put her
24 Rebekah becomes Isaacs wife. An odd tender story of guidance
25 On to Isaac’s sons, Jacob and Esau, who sells his birthright to him for soup
26 Isaac’s life… a lot like Abraham’s, (even yet another “sister” narrative)

Sons of Isaac: Esau, & Jacob – the bible’s scummiest hero

27 Behaving badly… Jacob cheats his way through an unholy squabble the inheritance
28 A ladder to heaven in a shabby world
29 The first 3 tribe name sons are born to Jacob’s loveless 1st marriage to Leah. Her prayer of gratitude for their birth is the only reference to God in the chapter
30 A competitive sexual roundabout of 2 wives and their handmaids fills out the 12 sons who’ll become titular heads of the tribes. Jacob sets out to cheat his father in law…
31 Jacob leaves his father in law with 2 daughters 12 grandchildren and a fair whack of the family wealth – by God’s grace it goes better than it could have
32 In the buildup to a reunion with Esau, Jacob feels guilt, fear; experiences redemption
33 Esau is warm and forgiving, Jacob’s fear was unwarranted. Jacob ignores God’s next direction
34 Disengaged from God, Jacob’s family falls apart, a nasty violent greedy chapter
35 Jacob has seen a glorious ladder to God, wrestled with God and remained pretty nasty. Now he receives God’s promise. Finally, he seems to have some respect for God.
36 Esau’s fate, He was blessed, but he was not the line of God’s salvation promise…

Sons of Jacob: Joseph and the very scummy brothers

37 Joseph’s favourite son status enrages his brothers, they leave him for dead in a pit
38 Sub plot moment, Judah’s family, Tamar gives birth to a child who’ll be in Jesus’ line
39 Joseph is rescued and finds success in Egypt… prompting more jealousy, and jail time
40 Joseph, the truth teller, has a chance to interpret dreams for the pharaoh
41 Stunning reversal, J goes from jail to 2ic in all of Egypt
42 Famine brings J’s brothers to Egypt and he sets about schooling them in grace.
43 J’s brothers don’t recognise him, and he plays on it for maximum effect
44 The situation gets so intense that sacrificial love is drawn out of the brothers
45 Finally Joseph reveals his identity, mega happy resolution (of this story…)
46 The Israelites all come to Egypt to live in happy protected peaceful coexistence (hmm)
47 Pharaoh accepts Josephs family and grants them land
48 Talk about setting up the sequel: as Judah dies, he shares God’s promise about returning to Canaan
49 Judah’s final blessings/summaries of the brothers, and dies
50 Genesis starts and ends on a high, but its been quite a journey in between


Genesis 50

Massive happy ending, a bit of a rarity for old testament books. Joseph buries his father up in Canaan as he requested. 

He forgives his brothers again, emphasising the nature of god’s grace. They did indeed mean him harm but it was all part of the mighty plan, so who is he to hold a grudge. The brother’s do feel truly guilty for what they did.

Joseph lives a long and happy life. 

Genesis 49

Jacob gathers all the sons as he dies. And doesn’t pull any punches giving each a blessing that recalls their strengths and weaknesses in poetic form. 

The first three are strong, but Reuben the first born’s future will be constrained because of his incestuous relationship with Jacob’s concubine.

Simeon and Levi are strong but their bloodthirsty revenge for their sister Dinah back in chapter 34 still stains them. 

So he goes on though them, a clearly messianic prophesy for Judah. He will hold the “rulers scepter” until the one comes who owns it and claims the obedience of nations.

Joseph gets the greatest blessing, the best among brothers, blessed by the almighty, and rightly so. No one can call it boasting now.

And he dies. The one who walked a crooked path to his faith, who struggled with God. The embodiment of the contradictions of genesis, of humanity.

Genesis 48

Death of Jacob/Israel.

I must do a new tag to identify the theme of the “blessed second”. Jacob tricked dying Isaac into blessing himself, the younger, as the older. Now he deliberately and knowingly repeats the scene as he dies with two of Jacob’s sons, giving the blessing of his right hand to the younger, ephraim, not the first born.

God shows his strength by exalting the lesser. Jacob, who had this habit of being in struggling, furious agreement with God, tricked his way into seizing the blessing of the second for himself. The wrong means, when he should have had faith. But the end was a godly insight.

He shares with Joseph the promise God made him if return to Canaan. He can see now, as he reviews his life before death, god’s hand everywhere. Promises kept and promises to come.

Yesterday I wanted to reclaim god’s plans for me. I can strengthen that by remembering what he’s done for me already.

Genesis 47

Joseph settles his family in Egypt. And his acumen pays off for the Pharaoh.

His diplomatic presentation of the family to Pharaoh works a charm. He selects 5 brothers to present… Wouldn’t it be interesting to know which? They are suitably humble, grateful and unthreatening. Old Jacob comes in and blesses Pharaoh. They get prime land to use.
Then the chapter spells out how Pharaoh’s God given dream and administrator worked out.

Bring the only source of food for 7 years consolidated his power and wealth in the whole region. He had a lot to be grateful to Joseph for. And Joseph’s family thrived.

And we are so close, just chapters away from, the slavery and escape of exodus.

God gives happy endings. Enjoy them. But you can’t second guess his plans.

I am happy at the moment, it at least at peace in myself. But there is much sad. I feel ineffectual. In my family, my spiritual life. My use of time. My relationship with Kelly I’m thinking about today particularly because of St. valentine (not to mention the hallmark card company).

I can’t second guess god’s plans but I can subvert them. We’ve seen a lot of that in genesis. I need to get into what I feel god is calling me to do, give it priority.

Genesis 46

The Israelites all come. It’s a list chapter. Heartfelt moment when Joseph hugs his father. 

God speaks to Jacob/Israel and promises good when they get to Egypt, and to bring them back.

It starts with a plan to keep them separate, which seems like a diplomatic win win for both peoples. The Israelites will be shepherds in goshen. It is a verdant bit of rural land near the nile Delta, it will mean geographic and cultural separation. 

They will be nomadic shepherds, something very unattractive to the urbanised Egyptians, self supporting, so no economic or social threat.

Should work out, shouldn’t it?

Anyway, sometimes it is god’s will to go to Egypt.

Genesis 45

Joseph reveals himself. He’s full of praise for God, his planning, so there are no recriminations directed at his brothers. Though as he sends them off to fetch their father and households, he tells them not to argue on the way. 

Such a happy ending. Though in the back of my mind I’m remembering that the next book is exodus, where the nation of Israel are shaves in Egypt trying desperately to leave. There has already been mention of how the Egyptians detest the Israelites. 

We still have a long long path until the Messiah comes. 

Still, this is a great lesson in how, as the old hymn says “God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year”.

I’m 54. Lots of years left, most likely. What has God for in store for me?

Genesis 44

Joseph continues to seriously punk his brothers, engineering a false accusation of theft to justify demanding that Benjamin, his only full brother, stay in Egypt as his slave and not return to his homeland and father.

Enough already, this has been going on for chapters. What is going on? 

Judah’s response answers, I think. He offers and impassioned and brave defense talking about how loved the youngest brother is, how it would break their fathers heart… He even mentions the other brother who “died” IE: Joseph.

He offers himself in substitute as slave.

Back in chapter 38, the brothers as a group came up with the plan to kill Joseph. 

Reuben softened the plan by suggesting they put him down a well (the word used in my translation was”cistern”. I hope it was a well). 

It was Judah who came up with the suggestion of selling him into slavery. He said at the time it would prevent his blood being on their shoulders.

The summary of Joseph’s fate is”he died” however. And now Judah is offering to sell himself into slavery to avoid that fate for another younger, loved, brother.

He lived though the silent shame of their father’s grief over Joseph. 

He came face to face with his own callousness and hypocrisy over the birth of his own son to Tamar, who had to trick him by posing as a prostitute to conceive the heir.

He made a solemn vow to his father to protect Benjamin on the journey to Egypt to get food.

This is a man with a lot of bad mistakes behind him, repentant, pleading to offer his liberty for anothers.

That’s what Joseph is about. That’s what he has drawn out. Time for the reveal, I think.

Genesis 43

The brothers need more food and they know to go back to Egypt they must take Benjamin, the youngest and Joseph’s only full brother. Rachel their mother died giving birth to him.

It tears papa Israel apart. You’d think he’d rather they starve.

Judah promises earnestly to keep him safe. Rachel was Israel’s true love, and the lost Joseph was his favoured son. Judah’s vow is ironic since it was  his jealous plan to get rid of Joseph.

When they arrive Joseph embraces Benjamin and runs away to weep in his bedroom, deeply moved. He keeps organising them to get silver valuables and they panic, thinking they’ll be accused as thieves. The chapter ends in a big feast. But still they don’t know who he is.

Genesis 42

Egypt is rich in a time of famine, under Joseph (and god’s) stewardship. The brother’s come, and so starts a multi chapter lesson in grace.

Joseph is almost toying with them. There is no question of him forgiving them. He has seen god’s plan in all of it. 

But they don’t recognise him so he sets tasks of faith for them, they must trust his words, and he engineers grace. He gives them more than they asked for, and their guilty consciences keep them in a fine state of panic the more good things happen.

They desperately need to be schooled in faith, goodness and grace. We’ve seen into some of their lives. 

This is god’s transformation of the whole family into the nation of Israel, his people.

Oh that I could be this influence.  In my family, in my world. 

I love the non preachy nature of it. Joseph is where he is by acts of grace and faith. And he demonstrates rather than speaks it to his brothers.