Category Archives: Genesis

A series of posts based on my Bible studies over Genesis in the Precept Upon Precept curriculum.

Genesis 43-44: We are defined by our actions…

My study today had me go through both Genesis 43 and 44, so this post will be covering 2 chapters as opposed to the 1 chapter I usually cover per day.

In the previous chapter (42), Joseph’s brothers had come to Egypt in search of food to take back to their families in Canaan. Joseph, a man of power now, meets with them (though they don’t recognize him), and works it so that one brother (Simeon) has to stay in Egypt while the rest return to Canaan to get their other brother Benjamin and bring him back. Their father, Jacob, refuses to let Benjamin go. So in chapter 43, we see that what little food they were able to bring back from their first trip to Egypt has run out, and Jacob is now telling his sons to go back and get more. The sons, of course, know that they cannot go without taking Benjamin, and Judah stands up and says that he will take personal responsibility for Benjamin if Jacob will let him go with them. Jacob says yes, and they all head to Egypt for a second time. Joseph greets them when they arrive, and of course, they bow to him. Joseph prepares a feast at his home and gives Benjamin 5 times as much food as the others (he is his full-blood brother, after all). He gives them all the grain they can carry, he returns their silver, and he has one of his possessions (a silver cup) placed in Benjamin’s bag without any of his brothers knowing it. When the brothers head back to Canaan, Joseph has his servant stop them and accuse them of stealing his cup. The brothers vehemently deny that they would do this, but when they open their bags, Benjamin is found to have the cup in his bag. Benjamin is taken back to Joseph (supposedly to become Joseph’s slave), and the rest of the brothers go with him – they had promised their father they wouldn’t let anything happen to little Ben. Judah, who had taken personal responsibility for Benjamin, approaches Joseph and pleads to take Benjamin’s place, saying that his father would die if Benjamin was lost.

The thing that stood out to me today was the role of Judah throughout this entire story. If you recall earlier in the story, when Joseph was sold to the Ishmaelite merchants as a slave, it was really Judah’s idea. In Genesis 37:26-27 it says “Judah said to his brothers, ‘What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.’ His brothers agreed.”  Of course, you could look at this and say that Judah was talking his brothers out of killing Joseph, and this would place him in a much better light – but from a more responsible approach, if Judah had been wanting to take better care of Joseph, he wouldn’t have let him be sold as a slave. In general, slavery in ancient Egypt may not have been as bad as some people might think (see this site for a description of the treatment of Ancient Egyptian slaves), but this is not to say that slaves were not treated harshly and beaten, or that they had very few, if any, liberties of their own. To some, life without freedom is worst than death. So I contend with the point that Judah was being responsible here.

Interestingly, though Judah may have come up with the idea to sell Joseph as a slave, he was much more responsible when it came to handling Benjamin’s life. A lot had happened in Judah’s life since Joseph had left (see Genesis 38 to read about the Tamar debacle). Judah personally stood up and took responsibility for Benjamin with his father – he told him “Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die. I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life.” (Genesis 43:8-9), and Jacob gave in.  This tells me that Jacob may have had a lot more respect for Judah than Reuben (the oldest) – when they had returned from their first journey to Egypt and asked to take Benjamin back, and Jacob refused, Reuben told Jacob “You may put both of my sons to death if I do not bring him back to you. Entrust him to my care, and I will bring him back” (Genesis 42:37). Of course, Reuben had slept with one of Jacob’s wives (see Genesis 35:22). But Jacob still refused that first time. Jacob listened to Judah and allowed Benjamin to go.

When they were before Joseph and about to lose Benjamin as a slave, Judah stood up and begged for Benjamin’s life – he pleaded that he be taken as a slave instead of Benjamin, at least for the sake of their father’s life. I’m not sure most people would see the correlation between the fact that Judah had sold Joseph as a slave, but wouldn’t allow Benjamin to be taken as one.  We saw in the previous chapters how guilt had affected the brothers, and this stand taken by Judah was an action he was willing to take to make up for the fact that he had screwed up in this area once already. He wasn’t going to let it happen again.

I, personally, am not a Judah fan (the person, not the kingdom that came later). I’m still a little mad about the whole sell-Joseph-as-a-slave thing. And I haven’t forgotten how he treated Tamar – sending her off to her father’s home so that he doesn’t have to deal with her, then so easily permitting her to be killed for prostitution when he himself had just recently slept with a prostitute (it was her, but he didn’t know that). But he shows a little growth here, and his actions prove that.

So much of how we live in our journeys through Christian spirituality is internal (i.e., belief, hope, knowledge, love) that sometimes it’s so easy to go around acting like we are doing well spiritually, when actually we’re dead as can be. It’s when we display actions that prove that we have these internal qualities that we are truly spiritually alive.

  • Sure, we can believe all we want – “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” (James 2:19). Without outward signs of trust – living outwardly as if we trust God wholeheartedly – belief is not faith. It’s just belief, and it gets you nowhere.
  • Hope is wonderful – I know a lot of people who hope they win the lottery, but if they never buy a ticket, their hope is in vain.
  • They say that knowledge is power, but I disagree. I love martial arts movies, and I have a few instructional books, but without actually physically practicing under the instruction of someone else, I will never be a proficient martial artist.
  • Many people try to go through their marriages getting by on the ‘feelings’ of love. Unfortunately, our feelings change from day to day, and people’s marriages fail day after day. Love is a verb – it requires action.

So, although I’m still a little mad a Judah for his past transgressions, I will say that his actions are showing that he is not the same guy he used to be. And if we want to prove ourselves to be spiritually health, we must take action as well. It’s our actions that define us.

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Genesis 42: A look at famine…

My Bible study today focused on the topic of famine throughout God’s word. Honestly, living in America and never really being in need of anything, it’s hard to relate to a concept of famine. Unfortunately there are people throughout the world who understand all to well what famine is like, so I thought it interesting to get a Biblical perspective of this topic.

Famine is defined on as “extreme and general scarcity of food, as in a country or a large geographical area; extreme hunger; starvation.” This lines up exactly with what I saw in my study today. In Genesis 41, when Pharaoh has the dreams about the 7 years of plenty and the 7 years of famine, Joseph helps Egypt store food to prepare for the famine. And in 2 Kings 25, it tells the story of how Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, encamped his army around Jerusalem and put siege to the city.  From other books I’ve read and stuff I’ve seen on TV, this means that nothing is allowed in or out of the city, including food or water. It’s a tactic used to wear your enemy down so that they either give up or are so weak that they are easily defeated.  In this particular story, the siege apparently lasted about 18 months (from the 10th day of the 10th month of the 9th year of Zedekiah’s reign, to the 9th day of the fourth month of the 11th year of his reign). That is a long time to go without any imports of food or water, and you know that they weren’t able to grow much (if any) food inside the city walls. So they lived off of what they had with them, and this apparently lasted only about 18 months.  Verse 3 says “By the ninth day of the fourth month the famine in the city had become so severe that there was no food for the people to eat.”  So these passages tell me that famine is a general lack of food – perhaps you already understood that, but I always just associated famine with something bad and not anything in particular, so it was a good lesson for me.

Famines are pretty common occurrences in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. Abraham lived through a famine that was so severe he had to move to Egypt to live through it (Genesis 12). His son Isaac also lived through a famine, and had to get help from Abimelech, king of Gerar (Genesis 26). There were also famines later on in David’s time (2 Samuel 21) and in Solomon’s time (2 Chronicles 6), and both prayed to God seeking relief. In the New Testament, Jesus warned of famines as part of the end times judgments (Luke 21), and his disciple John saw famines as one of the judgments poured out on earth in his vision of the end times (Revelation 6).  So what spiritual truths can I learn about famines by reading these accounts of famines throughout the Bible?  Here are some of the points I got from my study:

  • Famines can be acts of God. In Leviticus 26:19-20, God tells the people that if they disobey his law, “I will break down your stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze. Your strength will be spent in vain, because your soil will not yield its crops, nor will the trees of the land yield their fruit.”  And in Isaiah 3:1 it says “See now, the Lord, the LORD Almighty, is about to take from Jerusalem and Judah both supply and support: all supplies of food and all supplies of water.” Both of these examples are purposeful acts of God.  What I will not say is that all famines are acts of God – I truly believe that some bad things that happen on earth are simply the results of bad human choices, acts of Satan, or are just random. It’s dangerous to attribute a disaster to any one of these things without a little evidence to back it up.
  • A famine caused by God is a judgment for disobedience. In Ezekiel 13:13 God says “…if a country sins against me by being unfaithful and I stretch out my hand against it to cut off its food supply and send famine upon it and kill its men and their animals…,” telling me that the reasoning behind the famine was a judgment for the people’s unfaithfulness to God. In Jeremiah 14:10-12, God tells Jeremiah “This is what the LORD says about this people: ‘They greatly love to wander; they do not restrain their feet. So the LORD does not accept them; he will now remember their wickedness and punish them for their sins.’  Then the LORD said to me, ‘Do not pray for the well-being of this people. Although they fast, I will not listen to their cry; though they offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Instead, I will destroy them with the sword, famine and plague.’ ” (emphasis added).  God can choose to use disaster as a corrective tool to help people see their place in the order of things. God is the all-powerful creator of everything, and sovereign ruler over the entire universe. When people do not respect that and revere Him, He has the right to correct them as He sees fit.
  • Famines caused by God will not overtake the blameless. Although God may choose to correct humankind through famine or other kinds of disasters, the Bible clearly states that He will not allow famine to overtake those who are blameless in His eyes. In the earlier passage quoted from Ezekiel 13:13, God said that due to their unfaithfulness He would send famine upon their land, but he mentions that “if these three men—Noah, Daniel and Job—were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness…” This tells me that those seen as righteous in God’s eyes would be saved from the famine. In Psalm 33:18-19 it says “But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.”  And in Psalm 37:18-19 it says “The days of the blameless are known to the LORD, and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.”
  • Sometimes we have to trust that God will prepare us for, instead of delivering us from, disaster. I believe God has the power to do whatever He chooses, but I also believe He has the wisdom to whatever is best. This means that sometimes God may choose NOT to calm the storm we are riding out.  As I heard someone once say – sometimes God calms the storm, and sometimes He calms the sailor. In the case of the famine in Joseph’s time, it was very severe throughout much of that area – including Egypt and Canaan. Jacob was a man of God, as was Joseph. They both could have prayed that the famine would abate and that God would deliver them from their starvation, and maybe they did. But God didn’t stop the famine – instead He chose to prepare them by giving Pharaoh his dreams, placing Joseph in the position to interpret those dreams and gain a place of power in Egypt, then helping all of Egypt and even his family in Canaan to prepare for the disaster. From our viewpoint, it may seem easier for God to just put a stop to the bad things on earth, but from an eternal perspective, and especially from an all-knowing and all-wise perspective (which only belongs to God), perhaps at times some good can come from something that we see as bad.

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Genesis 41: Does God Ever Cause Bad Things To Happen?

My study today highlighted the fact that, in Genesis 41, the famine that was predicted in Pharaoh’s dreams and that came about later on was planned out and caused by the actions of God.  Joseph tells Pharaoh as he is interpreting his dreams that “God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do” (v. 28), and that “the reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon” (v. 32).  So it is obvious from these verses that the 7 years of famine (as well as the 7 years of plenty) were directly caused by the powerful hand of God.This isn’t the only example of when God caused things to happen that might seem questionable in our minds, and God Himself even admits to doing it!  In Haggai 1:9 God says “you expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away.”  He is talking here about the homes that the people were building – He actually made ruin of the hard work that they were putting in to building their homes! In verse 11 He says “I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands.” And in the next chapter He says to them “I struck all the work of your hands with blight, mildew and hail…” (Haggai 2:17a), again acknowledging that He had a direct hand in the destruction of their hard work.  Why would our God do such a thing?

People have often cried “foul” over stuff like this and have questioned why God would allow something like this happen, much less actually cause it to happen.  My study discussed how often times, people only know one side of God – either the side of God that is merciful and slow to anger, or the side that is vengeful and full of wrath. The truth is, our God is all of these and more.  In an earlier post (see here), I discussed the fact that God is holy.  The best way I could sum that post up is that God is just not like us.  He is different, set apart, high and lifted up. He is so different than us that He can’t even be near us – like oil and water, or similar poles on a magnet, He is repelled by our sinful natures. And there are many other ways we could describe God – eternal, infinite, everywhere, all-knowing, and all-powerful. Not one of these attributes can be used to describe any one of us.  So what this really comes down to is whether we are able to understand God. I propose that we cannot fully understand God, and therefore we are not in a good position to question His motives.  But, I also believe that God is patient, kind, and understanding, so when we do question his motives, He is able to handle it. So before we cry “foul” let’s look at the whole story and try to get a better idea of who God is and why He might send curses on us instead of the blessings we would rather have.

In the situation in Haggai 1, the Israelites have returned from their captivity in Babylon (which is a whole other story on blessings and curses). When they return, instead of taking it upon themselves to rebuild the temple, they build themselves nice new homes. In v. 4 God asks “is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” Because the people had neglected the Lord, He withheld his blessing from them. And to get their attention, He even provided the curses of blowing away their hard work and causing a drought on the land.  I believe God does curse us at times by allowing our circumstances to be difficult, but I also believe that His motive is love. If you continue reading the story, in chapter 2, God reminds them of what he has allowed to happen (as I quoted v. 17 above), but because they have responded to Him in obedience, he restores His blessing upon them, saying “from this day on I will bless you.”

As a parent, sometimes there are situations where I understand the circumstances much better than my daughter. And when she gets out of line, I try to be quick to get her attention and remind her of where she should be.  Why would it be different with God? He knows more than we do!  In His wisdom, He may find it necessary to get our attention with difficulties in our lives. We should ask ourselves and ask Him if there is something we’re doing wrong when these kinds of things happen.  If so, a quick turn-around may solve everything. If we don’t feel we have done anything wrong, perhaps it’s a just a test of our faith, or we’re just tangled up in someone else’s issues. And I’m not saying that this is the reason why God sent the famine to the land of Egypt in Genesis 41 (He had other plans for that – like putting Joseph in the position to bless his family later on). But we should understand that in His love, God may allow or even cause things to happen that don’t seem very loving at the time.

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Genesis 41: Joseph in Egypt…

I posted yesterday on what I learned from my Bible study on Genesis 41, but my study today also required me to go over this same chapter. So, instead of attempting to read into something else in that chapter (and perhaps see something that really isn’t there), I have decided to do a short study of different commentaries on the chapter, as well as some other sources, to see what other people may have learned. I have been warned multiple times about the dangers of reading commentaries and getting influenced by other people’s interpretation of scripture (no one’s interpretation is infallible), but after going through the chapter on my own and studying through it without any other interpretation other than the Bible itself, and getting my own view as to what the scripture says, I think it is okay to go back and read other commentaries every once in a while.

The first commentary I read was by Robert Jamieson (found here). Jamieson begins by talking some about who he believes Pharaoh was at the time of Joseph (he says “Aphophis, one of the Memphite kings, whose capital was On or Heliopolis”), and he says that the name “pharaoh” came from the Egyptian word “Phre” which means “sun”. I tried to find something to back that up, but I was unsuccessful – what I read elsewhere was that the word “Pharaoh” meant “Great house,” and that it originally stood for the house of the king, or the palace, before it was given as an “address for the person of the king.” (see Pharaoh on Wikipedia). This whole idea of who Pharaoh was and how this related to the story of Joseph was really interesting to me, so I continued some research on this topic.

I came across a site that proposed an idea about who Joseph might have been in Egyptian history. You would think that, since we do have a good archeological history of Egypt (compared to some ancient cultures), if Joseph was made second to the ruler of that land, there might be some archeological evidence of this. Turns out…there might just be!  About the same time that Joseph would have been in Egypt, there arose to power a man in Egyptian history name Imhotep. Imhotep was not a Pharaoh, but was a ‘second-in-command’ person who had so much respect in Egypt that he was elevated to the status of a god. Here are the evidences they propose:

  • “When excavations were carried out at the Step Pyramid at Sakkara, fragments of a statue of pharaoh Djoser were found. The base was inscribed with the names of Djoser and of ‘…Imhotep, Chancellor of the King of Lower Egypt, Chief under the King, Administrator of the Great Palace, Hereditary Lord, High Priest of Heliopolis, Imhotep the Builder, the Sculptor, the Maker of Stone Vases…'” – showing that Imhotep was very likely a real person
  • “…the first evidence which connects Imhotep with Joseph is an amazing inscription found carved on a large rock on the island of Sihiel just below the First Cataract of the Nile…This inscription claims to be a copy of a document written by Djoser in the 18th year of his reign…”  Here is a comparison between this inscription and the Biblical account:
  • The inscription begins with the great distress of the pharaoh: “I was in distress on the Great Throne…” The Bible: “And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled” GEN 41:8
  • In the inscription, the pharaoh is troubled about a famine and asks Imhotep who the god of the Nile is, so he can approach him about the drought: “… I asked him who was the Chamberlain,…Imhotep, the son of Ptah… `What is the birthplace of the Nile? Who is the god there? Who is the god?'” Imhotep answers: “I need the guidance of Him who presides over the fowling net,…” The Bible: “And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.” Genesis 41:16; In the Egyptian text above, Imhotep is termed “the son of Ptah”, who was the Egyptian god known as the “creator” of everything else, including the other gods.
  • In the inscription, Imhotep answers the pharaoh about the god of the Nile and tells him where he lives. In the Bible, Joseph interprets the pharaohs dream. But, the next part of the inscription tells that when the king slept, the Nile god Khnum, revealed himself to him in a dream and promised the Nile would pour forth her waters and the land would yield abundantly for seven years, after a seven year drought. This passage reflects the fact of a dream by the pharaoh of seven years of plenty and seven years of famine, although reversed.
  • The inscription then goes on to record Djoser’s promise to the Nile god, Khnum, in which the people were to be taxed 1/10 of everything, except for the priests of the “house of the god,” who would be exempted. The Bible: “And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part, except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh’s.” Genesis 47:26

So, it really looks like “all of the components of the Biblical account are present in this inscription, except that the story has been ‘Egyptianized’ to fit their religious beliefs.”

One of many other pieces of evidence they provide is the name Imhotep – the name is translated in ancient Egyptian to mean “the voice (or mouth) of Im.” There are no Egyptian gods named Im, but the authors do wonder if perhaps it is referring to the Hebrew God, who was called I AM (see Exodus 3:14). It would be interesting if the Egyptians knew Joseph’s God as I AM (or Im), and therefore this is why God told Moses later to tell Pharaoh that “I AM” had sent him. Purely speculative, I’m sure, but interesting all the same.

Another interesting side note from Genesis 41 is the fact that Joseph was required to shave himself before coming into the presence of Pharaoh. Jamieson says “…the Egyptians were the only Oriental nation that liked a smooth chin. All slaves and foreigners who were reduced to that condition, were obliged, on their arrival in that country, to conform to the cleanly habits of the natives, by shaving their beards and heads, the latter of which were covered with a close cap.” Apparently, Egypt was the first nation to establish hair removal as a regular part of grooming (see the history of shaving), and it was mainly for the purpose of cleanliness and health. I guess they didn’t want Joseph, who had been in prison for a couple of years, to pass lice and coodies to Pharaoh…and I can’t blame them. :)


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Genesis 41: Giving credit where credit is due…

I could probably write 2 or 3 different posts on the things I could learn from Genesis 41, but as usual, one thing stood out to me more than anything else.

In this chapter, Joseph goes from rags to riches, literally from a prison to a palace. In the previous chapter, Joseph had helped two of Pharaoh’s officials interpret dreams – the cup-bearer and the baker. These guys had some troubling dreams, and could not find anyone to help them interpret them. Joseph comes to them and says “Do not interpretations belong to God?” Joseph then tells them what their dreams mean, and everyone goes on their happy way (well, the cup-bearer does – the baker gets killed and Joseph gets forgotten). Two years later, Pharaoh has 2 dreams that trouble him, and he has trouble finding anyone to help him interpret them. This is when the cup-bearer remembers Joseph and recommends Pharaoh ask him about what the dreams mean. Pharaoh summons Joseph, and once again Joseph says “I cannot do it,…but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” Joseph interprets the dreams (with God’s help, presumably), and Pharaoh makes Joseph his #2 man. Joseph successfully helps Egypt prepare for 7 years of plenty, followed by 7 years of famine.

The thing that stood out to me here was how quickly Joseph was to give all credit to God. A couple of posts ago I mentioned that Joseph could have easily gotten ticked off at God and said “how could you let this happen!?!?”  Joseph had been sold into slavery, framed, thrown into prison, and forgotten for at least 2 years. He could have easily developed a bad attitude about the whole thing (I know I would have). But Joseph is still in the right frame of mind in his relationship with God. Though it will seem as though Joseph has great power in the interpreting of dreams, he is quick to give credit to God. And when his interpretations are correct, God receives the glory.  And when Joseph’s God receives the glory, Joseph ends up receiving the favor of the men who control his fate. I don’t know how God does this – when we put Him first and give Him the credit He is due, He is able to bless us in ways we can’t even imagine.

1 Corinthians 10:31b: “…whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

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Genesis 40: To blame or not to blame…

My Bible study today was over Genesis 40, which tells the story of Joseph after he was wrongfully imprisoned by Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. I believe Joseph must have spent some significant time in jail, because the first line of the chapter just says “some time later…” Anyway, Joseph once again receives the blessing of God and the favor of his superiors (this is actually talked about at the end of Genesis 39), and he is quickly put in charge of everything and everyone at the prison. While Joseph is there, some of Pharaoh’s officials get sent to the same prison. These men end up having dreams while there, and Joseph (who has a little experience in this area) is able to help them interpret their dreams.  To the cup-bearer he says that his dream means that he will be made right with Pharaoh again and will be restored into his old position in 3 days. Joseph tells him that he is completely innocent, and he asks the cup-bearer to remember him when he is in high places again. To the baker he says that his dream means that he will be hanged in 3 days. I notice that Joseph didn’t ask anything special of him (who wants to be associated with someone who is going to get executed?).  The chapter ends by saying that everything happened the way Joseph said it would, but that the cup-bearer did not remember Joseph when he was restored back to Pharaoh’s service.

So what can I learn from this passage? The thing to stood out to me was how Joseph, in his response to the cup-bearer, never placed the blame for his circumstances on anyone. He says “I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon” (v. 15). It would have been so easy to start throwing blame at his brothers, but he only says that he was carried off forcibly and against his will. He could have easily told them how Potiphar’s wife lied and manipulated the situation so that it made Joseph look guilty, thus the reason why he was currently in prison. But instead he only argues his innocence. I’m not sure I could do the same in Joseph’s situation. When I am treated with injustice, I usually demand that those who have treated me this way should make it right. Of course, I have never been sold into slavery or wrongly imprisoned (thank God!), but I have been overcharged at restaurants and tricked into getting repairs done on cars that probably didn’t need to be done. I was once told by a dentist that I needed to have thousands of dollars of work done on one tooth because of a cavity, and that I would be hospitalized if I didn’t get it done soon – I didn’t get the work done and it’s been almost 10 years! (I’ve been to dentists since then that say everything is fine…I’m still steaming over this one!). And in these situations, I am usually quick to place blame and to tell everyone I know about these low-down, dirty scoundrels that would dare to treat me this way! But Joseph didn’t do this. He was content to prove himself innocent.

Without reading the rest of this story right now, I can’t draw any conclusions about the benefits of refusing to pass blame in Joseph’s situation. But I can say this – people expect us to pass blame when we are treated unjustly. Everyone does it!  And when we choose not to, we stand out as someone who is different. And if you think about it, in a way it reflects some of the grace that we’ve received through Christ, in that though we have plenty to be blamed for, Jesus isn’t pointing any fingers.

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Genesis 39: How could God let this happen?

Today my Bible study asked me to do something interesting. In case you haven’t read my previous post, let me catch you up, then I’ll tell you what it is my study asked me to do.

I’m studying the last part of Genesis, over Joseph’s life, and in Genesis 39 it tells the story of how Joseph was seduced by his master’s wife. Joseph had been sold as a slave by his brothers, and eventually ended up as a slave in the house of Potiphar, the captain of Pharoah’s guard. Potiphar saw that Joseph was successful in all he did and truly had God’s favor, so he put Joseph in charge of everything he had. Potiphar’s wife thought Joseph was sexy, so she tried to seduce him, but Joseph not only refused, he fled from her and tried to stay away from her. But she ended up getting him alone, and as she tried to get him into bed he ran off, and she got a hold of his tunic. Probably upset that she didn’t get what she wanted, she accused Joseph of trying to rape her and used his tunic as evidence. Potiphar was understandably angry and had Joseph thrown in prison.  So, this leads up to what my study asked me to do:

Many people reading Genesis 39 would question God. If Joseph honored God, why didn’t God watch over him? Wouldn’t God be obligated to do so? Why did something bad happen when  someone was being good? Is that fair of God? How would you answer this? (If you know the remainder of Joseph’s story, don’t use it in your answer at this point.) Answer the question as if you were sitting in the prison with Joseph and he had just told you why he was there. — Precept Upon Precept: Keeping Your Focus When Your Dreams Are Shattered, Week 1, Day 5

I tried to answer this in two parts. The first thing I said was that I think it is completely fair to question God. In fact, I think he likes it when we are so emotionally wrapped up in Him that we are willing to just let it all out in His direction. The best Biblical example I could think of was David – I think at times David could be an emotional mess, and he definitely had his share of hard times. In Psalm 22, David wrote “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?” Did you catch that? David was questioning God – he was saying “why have let this happen?” Yet, as you may know, God called David a man after His own heart.

I know that not everyone agrees with me on this. I have a great example of the arguments that can arise on this topic. In late February and early March of this year, a Facebook friend of mine posted that an old college friend of hers was in the hospital and was septic, and she asked for prayers for her. I didn’t know her friend, but my heart went out to her – she was a young mother and wife, and she was in the hospital with a life-threatening problem. I kept up with the situation through a website called CarePages, where the family of this young woman would post updates periodically. Since so many people were praying for her, I thought it was a great idea to do the CarePages site – it gave everyone a place to keep up with what was going on even though they didn’t know this woman (like me). Well, it was a long ordeal, and they ended up having to amputate her legs due to the infection – the family underwent a roller coaster of emotions, I’m sure, but I could tell from their CarePages posts that they were strong in their faith in God, and they truly trusted Him. The young woman passed away a few days after the surgery, and although I didn’t know her I was deeply saddened, especially for her young daughter. A few days after the funeral, the family posted a song that someone had written about the whole ordeal called Some Explaining To Do. Here are the lyrics (copied without permission I might add, but the writer’s names are there, so hopefully no one will be mad that I posted this here):

by Lisa Aschmann & Karen Taylor-Good

Her faith was like a river, it ran so strong and wild
She was full of love and promise, and she was Your child
So why’d she have to suffer when she loved You so well
You must have had a reason………… tell

God, You’ve got some explaining to do
I’m not saying I’m over believing in You
But when I take my last breath and my life here is through
God, You’ve got some explaining to do

I believe that someday we’ll have a heart to heart
We’ll all sit down together, You’ll illuminate each part
And I’ll say….”OH, I get it, she was living out Your Plan”
But now it just seems mean, like we’re Play Dough in Your hands

God….You’ve got some explaining to do
I’m not saying I’m over believing in You
But when I take my last breath and my life here is through
God….You’ve got some explaining to do

Cancer & Columbine, earthquakes and tsunamis
Children who are starving cause land mines kill their Mommies
I swear from this perspective it sure looks hit or miss
I can hardly wait to understand all this

God….You’ve got some explaining to do
I’m not saying I’m over believing in You
But when I take my last breath and my life here is through

I hope to understand the gain that lies behind the grief and pain
I hope to hear in Your own words the reasoning for what occurred
I hope to have more than a hint of what this was and what it meant
I still believe in Your great works but God this really hurts

God, You’ve got some explaining to do

I was shocked at the comments some people were leaving! People were saying things like how the song was blasphemous and that we should never question God. I can’t help but think that these people don’t know the same God I know – the God who is “our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). God is not so small that He can’t handle our emotions – He often shares our emotions!

Now, although it is okay to go to God with your emotions, I also believe that we should keep our emotions in check. We can’t make all our decisions based on emotions, because our emotions tend to be fickle. One moment we may be on the verge of tears over something, and the next moment we are happy – it all depends on the circumstances. But some decisions have to be made based on absolute truth – whether or not to murder someone when I am angry with them is a decision I make based on the fact that I know it’s wrong. If I relied on my emotions, I might just do it (just kidding…). So the second thing I would tell Joseph in this situation is to remember that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). And part of faith is trusting Him – faith is more than just simple belief. And we can trust “that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him” (Romans 8:28).

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Filed under Bible Study, Genesis