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Book Of Genesis – Lesson #23

Lesson 23:  Genesis 35; Genesis 36; and Genesis 37

Read Genesis 35:1-15

Chapter 35 opens with God’s command to Jacob to fulfill the vow made about thirty years earlier (Gen. 28:20-22). The Lord used the tragic events of the previous chapter to prepare the patriarch to do it. Notice that God is referred to about twenty times in this chapter, in contrast to no references in Genesis 34.  Before obeying God’s command to return to Bethel, Jacob first ordered his family to put away the foreign household gods and to put on clean clothes. As soon as they did this, they became a terror to their heathen neighbors. It was appropriate that Jacob should build an altar at ͅEl Bethel and worship the God who had protected him from his brother, Esau.

Once again God stated that Jacob’s name was now Israel and renewed the covenant He had made with Abraham and Isaac. The patriarch marked the sacred spot with a pillar and once again named the place Bethel.

Read Genesis 35:16-29

As Jacob’s family journeyed south from Bethel, Rachel died in childbirth. She had named the child Ben-Oni (son of my sorrow), but Jacob named this twelfth son Benjamin (son of my right hand). These two names pre-picture the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. The traditional (but probably not authentic) site of Rachel’s grave may still be seen on the road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. Why was she not buried with Abraham, Sarah, and Rebekah in the cave of Hebron? Perhaps it was because she had brought idols into the family.

A brief mention is made of Reuben’s sin with Bilhah, his father’s concubine, a sin by which he forfeited the birthright (Gen. 49:3-4). The last sentence in Gen. 35:22 begins a new paragraph: Now the sons of Jacob were twelve. The next two verses list the twelve sons. Though it says in Gen. 26 that these sons were born to Jacob in Paddan Aram, Benjamin (Gen. 35:24) is the exception. He was born in Canaan (Gen. 35:16-19). Jacob returned to Hebron in time to see his father Isaac before he died. His mother, Rebekah, had died some years earlier. Three funerals are recorded in this chapter: that of Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse (Gen. 35:8); of Rachel (Gen. 35:19); and of Isaac (Gen. 35:29).

Read Genesis 36:1-30

Chapter 36 is devoted to the descendants of Esau, who dwelt in the land of Edom, southeast of the Dead Sea. The genealogy represents the fulfillment of the promise that Esau would be the head of a nation (Gen. 25:23). Esau had three or possibly four wives, depending on whether some of the women had two names (compare Gen. 26:34;  Gen. 28:9; Gen. 36:2-3). In Gen. 36:24 Anah found water (or “hot springs,”).

Read Genesis 36:31-43

Moses, the author of Genesis, knew by divine revelation (Gen. 35:11) that Israel would eventually have a king. As seven generations of the ungodly line of Cain were given in Gen. 4, so seven generations of kings in the ungodly line of Esau are mentioned here in Gen. 33-39. Seven, the number of completeness, probably indicates the entire line. Not one of Esau’s descendants is mentioned in God’s registry of the faithful; all are lost in the obscurity of those who depart from the living God. They had temporary riches and the passing fame of this world, but nothing for eternity.

Read Genesis 37:1-17

The words “This is the history of Jacob” seem abrupt. Jacob’s history (Gen. 25-35) is interrupted by the generations of Esau (Gen. 36), then continued from Gen. 37 to the end of the book, with emphasis on Jacob’s son, Joseph.

Joseph is one of the most beautiful types (symbols) of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, though the Bible never labels him as a type. Several commentators list over 100 correspondences between Joseph and Jesus.  For example, Joseph was loved by his father (Gen. 37:3); he rebuked the sin of his brothers (Gen. 37:2); he was hated by his brothers and sold into the hands of enemies (Gen. 37:4; and Gen. 37:26-28); he was punished unjustly (Gen. 39); he was exalted and became the savior of the world, for all the world had to come to him for bread (Gen. 41:57); he received a Gentile bride during his rejection by his brethren (Gen. 41:45).

The tunic of many colors (or a long robe with sleeves) was a sign of his father’s special affection, and it stirred up the jealous hatred of his brothers. In Joseph’s first dream, eleven sheaves of grain bowed down to the twelfth sheaf, a prophecy that his brothers would one day bow down to him. In the next dream, the sun, moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to Joseph. The sun and moon represented Jacob and Leah (Rachel had died), and the eleven stars were Joseph’s brothers (Gen. 37:9-11).

Read Genesis 37:18-36

When Joseph was sent on an errand to his brothers, they conspired to kill him, but at Reuben’s suggestion they agreed to cast him into a pit near Dothan. As they sat down to eat, they saw a company of Ishmaelites bound for Egypt, and at Judah’s suggestion decided to sell him. In this passage, the Ishmaelites are also called Midianites, as in Judges 8:22-24. As the Midianite traders passed by, Joseph’s brothers brought Joseph out of the pit and sold him to the traders.

Reuben was absent when all this was taking place. When he returned he was terrified, since he would be responsible to explain Joseph’s absence to his father. So the brothers dipped Joseph’s tunic in the blood of a goat and then callously returned it to Jacob, who naturally assumed that Joseph had been killed. Jacob had once deceived his father with a goat, using the skin to impersonate his brother’s hairy arms (Gen. 27:16-23). Now he himself was cruelly deceived by the blood of a goat on Joseph’s coat. “The pain of deceit is learned once again.” The Midianites unwittingly fulfilled God’s purposes by providing free transportation for Joseph to Egypt and selling him to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh. Thus God makes man’s wrath to praise Him, and what will not praise Him, He restrains (see Ps. 76:10).