God’s Ancient People
An EasyEnglish Bible
Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on the Book of Genesis
Words in boxes are from the Bible.
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
This commentary has been through Advanced Theological
Many people think that Moses wrote Genesis. If he did, other
people probably helped him. And if he did, he may have used some of the words
of previous writers. The people who wrote Genesis wrote it in the ancient
*Hebrew language. This language is like the modern *Hebrew language, which
people speak in the country Israel today.
The word ‘Genesis’ means ‘beginning’. Chapter 1 tells us what God
did in the beginning. There were no people until God made them. Therefore no
people saw what God did in the beginning. Afterwards, God showed to people what
he had done. And people wrote it in books. Peter, who lived at the same time as
Jesus, tells us this. He is writing about the first part of the Bible (the Old
Testament). He writes, ‘Men whom the Holy Spirit guided spoke words from God.’
(2 Peter 1:21) That is true for the whole Old Testament. Genesis is a part of
the Old Testament. So we know that people wrote Genesis. But it is also true
that the words of Genesis came from God.
In Genesis, God tells us about himself. He tells us how he deals
with people. He also tells us about men and women. And he tells us that many
people were very wicked. But some people trusted God and some people obeyed
In the first chapter of Genesis, God tells us how he made
everything. This is not a scientific study. God does not speak only to
scientists. He speaks to everyone. God shows to everyone what he has done. And
he does this by words that everyone can understand. God has made it simple.
God creates the earth
v1 In the beginning, God created the sky and the
earth. v2 The earth had no shape. It was empty. The waters were dark.
God’s spirit moved over the waters. v3 And God said, ‘Let there be
light.’ And there was light. v4 God saw that the light was good. God
separated light and darkness. v5 God called the light ‘day’ and he
called the darkness ‘night’. And there was evening and there was morning. It
was the first day.
‘The sky and the earth’ means everything. God made the sky and
the earth out of nothing. Before he did that, only God existed.
‘To create’ means to make something that is completely new. This
chapter uses the word ‘create’ in only 3 verses. In verse 1, God created the
sky and the earth. In verse 21, he created the first animals. In verse 27, he
God made light because it would be necessary later. Later, he
made plants. Plants cannot grow if there is no light. Later, he made animals
and men. They cannot see if there is no light.
The story that is in this chapter has 6 parts. This verse is the
end of the first part. Each part is called a day. Some people think that God
made everything in 6 ordinary days. But the *Hebrew word for ‘day’ occasionally
means an age. Some people think that God made everything in 6 long periods of
‘And there was evening and there was morning.’ Some people think
that this means an ordinary evening and an ordinary morning. If that is true,
the 6 days must be 6 ordinary days. But perhaps it means, ‘One age ended and a
new age began.’ And so, the 6 days may mean 6 ages.
v6 After that, God said, ‘Let there be a space in the
middle of the waters. Let it divide the waters into two parts.’ v7 And
God made a space. There were waters above the space and there were waters under
the space. And it was so. v8 God called the space ‘sky’. And there was
evening and there was morning. It was the second day.
The space is the sky or the atmosphere. The ‘waters above the
space’ may be outer space. That is where the sun and the stars are. The ‘waters
under the space’ are the seas.
v9 After that God said, ‘Let the waters that are
under the sky come together into one place. Let dry land appear.’ And it was
so. v10 God called the dry land ‘earth’. He called the waters that came
together ‘seas’. And God saw that it was good.
v11 And God said, ‘Let the earth produce grass. Let
it produce plants that have seeds. Let it produce trees that have fruit with
seeds. Let them be many different kinds.’ And it was so. v12 The earth
produced grass. It produced plants that have seeds. It produced trees that have
fruit with seeds. They were many different kinds. And God saw that it was good.
v13 And there was evening and there was morning. It was the third day.
The earth produced grass and plants and trees. But God controlled
everything that happened.
v14 After that, God said, ‘Let there be lights in the
sky. Let them separate day and night. They will mark seasons and days and
years. v15 And let these lights in the sky give light to the earth.’ And
it was so. v16 And God made the two great lights. The larger light ruled
the day and the smaller light ruled the night. God made the stars too. v17
God put the lights in the sky so that they gave light to the earth. v18
He put them there so that they ruled over the day and over the night. He put
them there so that they separated light and darkness. And God saw that it was
good. v19 And there was evening and there was morning. It was the fourth
God had not yet made animals and people. Later, when he made
them, they would need periods to be active and periods to rest. So God made the
sun and the moon divide time into days and months and years.
God creates animals
v20 After that, God said, ‘Let the waters produce
many living animals. And let birds fly in the sky above the earth.’ v21
So God created large animals in the sea. He created every animal that moves in
the water. They were many different kinds. He also created every bird that has
wings. And God saw that it was good. v22 God promised good things to
them. He said, ‘Have large families. Increase so that you fill the seas and the
skies.’ v23 And there was evening and there was morning. It was the
God created animals. Animals were a new kind of living thing.
They were quite different from plants. Animals have minds. Minds were a new
kind of thing. Some of the animals lived in the sea. Some large animals lived
in the sea. Some of the animals that God made were birds.
v24 After that, God said, ‘Let the earth produce
living animals. Let them be many different kinds. Let the earth produce tame
animals. Let it produce animals that crawl. Let it produce wild animals. Let
them be many different kinds.’ And it was so. v25 And God made the wild
animals on the earth. He made the tame animals. He made everything that crawls
on the ground. They were many different kinds. And God saw that it was good.
God creates people
v26 Then God said, ‘Let us make people who are images
of us. Let them be similar to us. Let them rule over the fish of the sea. Let
them rule over the birds of the air. Let them rule over the animals. Let them
rule over the whole earth. Let them rule over every crawling animal that crawls
on the earth.’ v27 So God created people who were images of himself. He
created them as images of God. He created man and woman. v28 God
promised good things to them. He said, ‘Have large families. Increase so that
you fill the earth. Rule over the earth. Rule over the fish in the sea. Rule
over the birds that fly in the air. Rule over every living animal that moves on
People are images of God. This does not mean that man’s body is
like God. Man’s body is like an animal. But man’s spirit is like God. And so
man can know God.
God said, ‘Let us make people.’ He did not say, ‘I will make
people.’ Perhaps he said ‘us’ because he is 3 persons. He is the Father and the
Son and the Holy Spirit. And he is also one God. But it is more likely that
this is not the reason. The *Hebrew word that means ‘God’ is like a plural
word. Perhaps that is why God called himself ‘we’.
God created people. To create means to make something that is
God told people to rule over the earth and the sea and the birds
and the animals. Therefore, we are responsible for the whole earth. We must
look after it and we must take care of it. That is part of our duty to God.
v29 God said, ‘Look. I have given to you every plant
in the whole earth that produces seeds. I have given to you every tree that
produces fruit with seeds. They are your food. v30 I have given all the
green plants to the animals on the earth. I have given them to the birds that
fly in the air. I have given them to the animals that crawl on the earth. I
have given them to everything that is alive. The plants are their food.’ And it
v31 God saw everything that he had made. It was truly
very good. And there was evening and there was morning. It was the sixth day.
God gave plants to people as food. Later, God gave animals to
people as food too. (See Genesis 9:3.)
Everything was truly very good. God himself said so. But after
that time, evil things came into the world. The devil, who is called Satan,
persuaded man and woman to do wrong things. (See Genesis 3:1-6.)
v1 So the sky and the earth were complete. Everything
that was in them was complete. v2 On the seventh day, God had finished
his work that he had done. He rested on the seventh day, after all the work
that he had done. v3 So God made the seventh day a special day. He made
it special, because on that day he rested after his work. When he had created
everything, he rested.
When God had created everything, he rested. That means that he
did not create anything else. It does not mean that he did no more work.
Genesis tells us that God did many more things.
Many people nowadays keep one day in each week special. Some keep
the first day special, because Jesus Christ rose from death on the first day.
Other people keep the seventh day in each week as a special day.
The garden in Eden
v4 This is the story of the sky and the earth, which
God had created. v5 When the *Lord God made the earth and the sky, no
green plants were on the earth. No crops were growing. The *Lord God had not
yet sent rain to the earth. Also, there were still no people and so nobody
farmed the ground. v6 Then a mist rose out of the earth and it watered
all the ground. v7 And the *Lord God made a man out of dust from the
earth. He blew the breath of life into him. The man became a living person.
Chapter 1 told us the story about how God made everything.
Chapter 2 tells us more details about how God made people. And it tells us
about the garden that God made for his people.
The plants that man needed for his food were not growing. There
were two reasons for this.
was not enough water for them. But God could send that.
was nobody to look after them. And man could do that.
So God sent water (in verse 6) and he put man in the garden (in
verses 7-8). God’s work and man’s work were both necessary. In many things that
we do, God’s work and man’s work are both necessary.
‘God made a man out of dust.’ So he made man’s body out of things
that he had already made. ‘He blew the breath of life into him.’ This means
that he made man alive. If an animal has breath, it is alive.
But the *Hebrew word that means ‘breath’ also means ‘spirit’. So
this verse also means that God put man’s spirit into man’s body. Man is
different from animals because he has a spirit. That is why man is like God.
(See Genesis 1:26.)
v8 The *Lord God planted a garden in Eden. It was in
the east. God put into the garden the man whom he had made. v9 God made trees
to grow out of the ground. These trees were pleasant to look at and their fruit
was good to eat. The tree of life was in the middle of the garden. There was
also the tree that makes one able to distinguish good things and evil things.
v10 A river flowed out of Eden and it watered the
garden. The river divided there into 4 rivers. v11 The first river is
called Pishon. It flows through the region that is called Havilah. There is
gold there v12 and that gold is good. There are also spice and onyx. v13
The second river is called Gihon. It flows through all the region that is
called Cush. v14 The third river is called Tigris, which flows to the
east of Assyria. The fourth river is called Euphrates.
v15 The *Lord God took the man and he put him in the
garden in Eden. He told him to farm the garden and to look after it. v16
The *Lord God *commanded the man. He said, ‘Eat freely the fruit of all the
other trees that are in the garden. v17 But do not eat the fruit of the
tree that makes you able to distinguish good things and evil things. If you eat
that fruit, you will certainly die.’
We do not know much about these two special trees. (See Genesis
3:22 and the comment.)
People used ‘spice’ to give more flavour to food. ‘Onyx’ is a
special stone. We do not know where rivers Pishon and Gihon were. Rivers called
Tigris and Euphrates flow through the country that today is Iraq.
We can be sure that God made this tree for a good purpose.
Perhaps he intended that men and women should eat its fruit later, at the right
time. But it certainly made Adam and Eve distinguish between good things and
evil things. (See the comment to Genesis 3:22.)
‘If you eat that fruit,
you will certainly die.’ The *Hebrew words say, ‘In the day when you eat it you
shall die.’ But the real meaning of this is, ‘Certainly when you eat it you
shall die.’ Adam and Eve did eat the fruit. (See Genesis 3:6.) They certainly
did die, although they did not die immediately. However, ‘die’ might mean that
their spirit would die then. Their body would die later.
God makes woman
v18 After that, the *Lord God said, ‘It is not good
that man is alone. I will make a helper for him. His helper shall be suitable
v19 Now the *Lord God had made out of the ground
every animal on the earth. He had made every bird that flies in the air. He
brought them to the man so that the man would name them. Whatever name the man
gave, that was the name of each living animal. v20 Adam gave names to
all the tame animals. He gave names to all the birds that fly in the air. He
gave names to all the wild animals. But none of them was a helper who was
suitable for Adam.
v21 So the *Lord God made Adam sleep heavily. While
Adam slept, God took a bone out of Adam’s body. Then he closed the place in his
body. v22 The *Lord God changed the bone that he had taken from Adam. He
made the bone become a woman. He brought her to Adam.
A ‘helper’ means a person who will work together with another
person. It does not mean a servant or a slave. We know that because the word
‘helper’ can mean God. Exodus 18:4 says, ‘My father’s God was my helper.’ And
the *Hebrew word for ‘helper’ is the same word.
God had told man to rule over all the animals. (See Genesis
1:28.) So God did not give names to the animals. God let man do that.
‘Adam’ is a *Hebrew word that means ‘a man’. It is also the name
of the first man.
None of the animals was a suitable helper because they are not
like man. God made man as an image of himself. Man is similar to God. Man has a
spirit but animals do not have spirits. (See Genesis 1:26 and the comment.) Man
rules over the animals and he looks after them. (See Genesis 1:28 and the
comment.) And when man works with animals, they are his servants. So they are
not the helpers that man needs.
The bone was a rib. A rib is a thin bone in the upper part of the
v23 Then Adam said,
‘This at last
is my bone
it is part of my body.
I shall call
she came out of man.’
v24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother
and he and his wife join. Then the two people become one body.
v25 Adam and his wife were both naked. And they did
not think that it was wrong.
‘This is my bone’ means, ‘This was my bone until God changed it.
And ‘it is part of my body’ means, ‘This was part of my body until God changed
The *Hebrew word for ‘woman’ sounds like the word for ‘man’.
‘The two people become one body.’ From the beginning, God
intended that a man should have only one wife. But after this time many men had
several wives. And from the beginning, God intended that a man and his wife
should stay together. But after this time some people divorced each other. (See
Deuteronomy 24:1-4.) Jesus referred to this verse (Genesis 2:24) and he said
that people should not divorce. (See Matthew 19:5-6, or read all of Matthew
Adam and Eve do an evil thing
v1 The snake was the cleverest wild animal that the
*Lord God had made. The snake said to the woman, ‘Is it true that God said, “Do
not eat the fruit of any tree that is in the garden”?’ v2 The woman said
to the snake, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden. v3 But
God said, “You must not eat the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the
garden. Do not even touch it. If you touch it then you will die.” ’ v4
But the snake said to the woman, ‘You will not die. v5 When you eat it,
you will distinguish things clearly. God knows this. You will be like God and
you will distinguish good things and evil things.’
An ordinary snake could not do what this snake did. The devil,
who is called Satan, used the snake to speak to Eve. Genesis does not mention
the devil, but other parts of the Bible mention him. (See Revelation 20:1-3.)
The woman started by saying what God did allow. God allowed Adam
and Eve to eat almost all the fruit that was in the garden. (See Genesis 2:16.)
The snake said only what God did not allow (in verse 1). There was only one
tree that they must not touch. But the snake mentioned that one tree and he did
not mention all the other trees.
The devil often works like that. He wants people to think about
the things that they must not do. And he wants people to forget all the good
things that God has given. We should thank God for all those good things. That
will help us to remember them.
‘You will not die.’ It was true that they would not die
immediately. But they would deserve to die. They would die unless God rescued
them. And God had a plan to rescue them. God mentioned this plan in verse 15.
See the comment on verse 15. Also see the comment on Genesis 2:17.
‘You will distinguish things clearly.’ This does not mean that
they would see more clearly. It means that they would know the difference
between good things and evil things.
v6 Then the woman saw that the fruit was good to eat.
She saw that it was lovely to look at. She also thought that it would make her
wise. So she took some of the fruit and she ate it. She also gave some of it to
her husband and he ate it. v7 Then they distinguished things clearly.
They realised that they were naked. So they sewed leaves together and they made
clothes for themselves.
The woman decided what was good. She should not have done that.
God decides what is good. And the woman’s decision was different from what God
God accuses Adam and Eve
v8 In the evening, it was cool. Then the *Lord God
walked in the garden. Adam and Eve heard him and they hid themselves away from
him among the trees.
Adam and Eve knew that they had done a wrong thing. Their wrong
deed separated them from God. They did not want to meet God. That is why they
hid themselves. But they could not hide from God.
If we do a wrong thing, our wrong deed separates us from God.
Then we need God to forgive us. We need to ask him to forgive us. He will
forgive us because Jesus has taken the blame for our wrong deeds.
v9 But the *Lord God called to Adam. He said to him,
‘Where are you?’ v10 Adam said, ‘I heard you as you walked in the
garden. I was afraid because I was naked. Therefore I hid myself.’ v11
God said, ‘Nobody told you that you were naked! Have you eaten the fruit that I
*commanded you not to eat?’ v12 Adam replied, ‘You gave the woman to me
as a companion. She gave the fruit of the tree to me and I ate it.’ v13
Then the *Lord God said to the woman, ‘What have you done?’ The woman replied,
‘The snake tempted me and I ate.’
‘Where are you?’ God knew where they were. But God said this
because he wanted them to speak to him.
Adam did not say, ‘I have eaten the fruit of the tree that you
forbade us to eat.’ And he did not say, ‘I am sorry.’ If we do a wrong thing,
we should tell God. We should tell him that we have done it. He knows already,
but we should tell him. And we should tell him that we are sorry.
‘Have you eaten the fruit?’ God knew that they had eaten it. He
knows everything that we do. But he wanted Adam and Eve to tell him what they
had done. That is why he asked these questions.
Adam did not want to confess what he had done. So he did not say,
‘Yes’. Instead, he tried to blame God. He said, ‘You gave to me the woman who
‘What have you done?’ God knew what she had done. But he wanted
her to confess. And he wanted her to say that she was sorry. She did confess
what she had done. She tried to blame the snake. She did not say that she was
v14 The *Lord God said to the snake,
have done this,
will separate you from all tame animals and from all wild animals.
move on your stomach
you shall eat dust for your whole life.
v15 I will
make you and the woman enemies.
*descendants and her *descendants will be enemies.
of the woman will hurt your head
you will hurt his foot.’
The words ‘you shall eat dust’ mean that the snake will always
have its head low in the dust. And everything that it eats will have dust on
This verse seems to say that snakes would hurt people. And it
seems to say that people would kill snakes. Perhaps it means that. But, if it
means that, it has a more important meaning too.
The devil was using the snake. (See the comment on verse 1.) So
the first half of this verse means that people and the devil would be enemies.
In the second half of the verse, God says that a man will hurt
the devil’s head. A hurt of the head means a hurt that will cause death. And he
says that the devil will hurt the man’s foot. A hurt of the foot means a hurt
that will not cause death. So the devil would cause damage but he would lose
the fight. This has happened in many ways at many times.
Jesus Christ was a *descendant of Eve. And when Jesus died, the
devil made him suffer great injury and pain. We might say, ‘The devil hurt his
foot.’ But Jesus won the fight against the devil. So we might say, ‘Jesus hurt
the devil’s head.’ And God promised that, when he spoke to Adam and Eve. That
is a part of what God meant.
Man and woman turned themselves away from God. But God had a plan
to bring men and women back to himself. It was God’s plan that Jesus would come
into the world. And God made a promise about this to Adam and Eve. But he did
not explain it clearly at that time. He explained it more clearly afterwards.
v16 God said to the woman,
have much pain when you have children.
will have pain when your children are born.
desire your husband’s love, but he will rule over you.’
v17 And God said to Adam,
to the words that your wife said.
*commanded you not to eat the fruit of that tree, but you ate it.
the ground will produce little because of you.
will work hard for your whole life in order to eat.
v18 When you
eat the products of the earth,
ground will produce thorns and thistles for you.
v19 By hard
labour you will eat your food until you die.
you will return to the ground.
I made you
out of the dust on the ground.
are dust and you will become dust again.’
God intended to give good things to people. He intended to show
to people how they could live well on the earth. But Adam and Eve did not obey
God. They did what he had told them not to do. That spoiled God’s plans.
Therefore, people would not have all the good things from God. They would not
have plenty to eat. And they would have to work very hard.
‘Thorns’ and ‘thistles’ are two kinds of plant. They have sharp
points. One cannot eat them.
‘I made you out of the dust on the ground.’ God made man’s body
out of the things that he had already made. But he created man’s spirit out of
nothing. (See Genesis 2:7 and the comment.)
Adam and Eve leave the garden
v20 Adam’s wife was the mother of everyone who is
alive. Therefore, Adam called her Eve. v21 And the *Lord God made
clothes out of skins for Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve wore them. v22 Then
the *Lord God said, ‘The man has become like us. He distinguishes good things
and evil things. Now he might reach out his hand and he might pick the fruit from
the tree of life. He might eat it. Then he would live for ever.’ v23 And
so the *Lord God sent Adam out of the garden that was in Eden. He sent him out
to farm the ground. God had made Adam out of that ground. v24 God made
Adam go out. God put the cherubim at the east of the garden in Eden. The
cherubim had a sword. It was a flame, which turned in every direction. They
guarded the way to the tree of life.
Adam and Eve had turned themselves away from God. What they had
done spoiled God’s plans. But it did not change God’s *command. God had said,
‘Have large families. Increase so that you fill the earth.’ (See Genesis 1:28.)
So Eve was still the mother of everyone who would be born after this time. And
God provided clothes for them so that they could continue their lives.
The name ‘Eve’ is like the word that means ‘alive’.
When Adam and Eve had eaten the fruit, they knew something. They
knew that that they had not obeyed God. They knew that this deed had separated
them from God. They knew that their deed was evil. So they could distinguish
good things and evil things. And the tree was truly ‘the tree that makes you
distinguish good things and evil things’.
Cherubim are servants of God who live in heaven. They are greater
than the *angels.
Cain kills Abel
v1 Adam had sex with his wife Eve and she became
*pregnant. Her son Cain was born. She said, ‘I have gained a man by the *Lord’s
help.’ v2 Later, Cain’s brother Abel was born. Abel looked after sheep
and Cain worked on the soil.
v3 After a long time, Cain brought an *offering to
the *Lord. It was some of the products of the earth. v4 And Abel brought
pieces of meat with fat. They were from his young sheep that were born before
the other sheep. Abel and his *offering pleased the *Lord. v5 But Cain
and his *offering did not please him. So Cain was very angry and his face was
sad. v6 The *Lord said to Cain, ‘You should not be angry and your face
should not be sad. v7 If you do well, I will accept you. If you do not
do well, you could soon do an evil deed. The devil wants you, but you must
Eve said, ‘By the *Lord’s help’. So Adam and Eve still knew God.
And God still helped them. But they did not meet God as they had done in the
We do not know why Cain’s *offering did not please God. These are
two possible reasons.
the reason was that Cain did not offer an animal. Later, people killed sheep or
cows as *offerings to God. These *offerings were important because they were
signs of Christ’s death. Christ died as an *offering to God.
if that was a reason, there was probably another reason too. God saw that Abel
trusted him. (See Hebrews 11:4.) And God saw that Cain had evil thoughts in his
mind. (See 1 John 3:12.) We cannot serve God if we have evil things in our
Cain was angry. That was an evil thing, but God did not accuse
him. Instead, God offered to accept Cain. So when we do wrong things, God does
not accuse us. Instead, he asks us to come back to him. If we do that, he
v8 Cain said to Abel his brother, ‘Let us go out to the
field.’ While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel. He killed
him. v9 Then the *Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ Cain
replied, ‘I do not know. I am not my brother’s keeper.’ v10 And the
*Lord said, ‘You have done a very evil deed. I can see your brother’s blood on
the ground. v11 So I cause evil things for you. I make you go out from
the earth. That is the earth where your brother’s blood remains. v12
Now, when you farm the soil, it will not produce its crops for you. You will
run away from people and you will wander on the earth.’
Adam and Eve had not obeyed God. (See Genesis 3:6.) That was the
first evil deed. Then Cain did another evil deed. After that, evil things
spread through the earth.
‘Where is Abel your brother?’ God knew what Cain had done. He
knew that Abel was dead. But God wanted Cain to speak to him about it.
Cain deserved to die, but God did not kill Cain. Instead, he sent
Cain away so that Cain would not kill anyone else. And God protected Cain so
that nobody else would kill Cain. (See verse 15.) So Cain might think about the
evil deed that he had done. He might be truly sorry and God would forgive him.
v13 Cain said to the *Lord, ‘My punishment is too
severe. v14 Today you send me away from this country. I will not be able
to see your face. I will run away from people and I will wander on the earth.
Anyone who finds me will kill me.’ v15 Then the *Lord said to Cain, ‘No.
If anyone kills Cain, I will punish that person 7 times more severely.’ And the
*Lord put a mark on Cain. So anyone who met Cain would see the mark. And he
would not kill Cain. v16 Then Cain went away from the *Lord. He lived in
the region that is called Nod. It is east of Eden.
Cain was not sorry. He thought about himself. He did not think
about Abel, whom he had killed. But God still protected Cain because he might
be truly sorry later.
This verse tells us that there were other people on the earth in
addition to Adam, Eve and Cain. Adam and Eve had other children. (See Genesis
5:4.) One child of Adam and Eve became Cain’s wife. (See verse 17.)
‘Cain went away from the *Lord.’ God is everywhere. God was in
Nod. So Cain did not escape from God when he went to Nod. But Cain left God out
of his life. That is what this verse means. If we give honour to God, he is
with us everywhere. But if we do evil deeds, we can turn ourselves away from
v17 Cain had sex with his wife and she became
*pregnant. Her son Enoch was born. Cain built a city. He called the city Enoch
because of his son’s name. v18 Enoch was the father of Irad. Irad was
the father of Mehujael. Mehujael was the father of Methushael. Methushael was
the father of Lamech. v19 Lamech had 2 wives. One was called Adah and
the other wife was called Zillah. v20 Adah had a son who was called
Jabal. Jabal’s family lived in tents and they looked after cows. v21
Jabal’s brother was called Jubal. Jubal was the father of all those who make
music by harps and flutes. v22 Zillah had a son who was called
Tubal-cain. Tubal-cain made tools out of copper and iron. Tubal-cain’s sister
Cain certainly had many other sons and daughters before he built
the city. He built the city after he had lived in Nod for many years.
This Enoch is not the same person as the Enoch that Genesis
5:18-24 mentions. And this Lamech is not the same person as the Lamech that
Genesis 5:25-31 mentions.
We do not know whether this list of names is complete. Perhaps it
leaves out some names. The word ‘son’ in the Bible sometimes means ‘grandson’
and it sometimes means ‘*descendant’. (For example, Jesus was called ‘David’s
son’. But there were many fathers and sons between king David and Jesus.)
God had said, ‘A man and his wife join. Then the two people
become one body.’ (See Genesis 2:24.) So God intended that a man should have
only one wife. Lamech was the first man to have more than one wife. After this
time, Abraham had an extra wife. (See Genesis 16:1-2.) And Jacob married both
Leah and Rachel in addition to 2 extra wives. (See Genesis 29:21-30.) God did
not say in Genesis that to marry more than one wife was wrong. But it caused
Harps and flutes are musical instruments. A harp has many
strings. It produces sound when somebody touches the strings. A flute is a tube
with holes. It produces sound when somebody blows air across one hole.
Lamech speaks proudly
v23 Lamech said to his wives,
Zillah, hear my voice.
wives, listen to the words that I say.
I kill a man
if he hurts me.
kill a boy if he strikes me.
v24 If any
person kills Cain, God will punish that person 7 times more severely.
when a person hurts me, Lamech, I punish him 77 times more severely.’
Lamech repeated what God had said about Cain. (See verse 15.) But
Lamech said that he punished more severely than God does. He meant that he was
stronger than God is. Lamech was proud of this. But God did not punish him
Seth is born
v25 Adam had sex with his wife again. Her son was
born and she called him Seth. She said, ‘God has given me another child instead
of Abel, whom Cain killed.’ v26 Seth also had a son. He called him
Enosh. At that time men began to pray to the *Lord.
‘Seth’ means ‘given’.
‘Men began to pray to the *Lord.’ When Adam and Eve were in the
garden, they talked with God. Then their evil deed separated them from God.
Cain turned away from God and so he did not pray. Abel might have prayed, but
he was dead. But Seth and Enosh and other people prayed. People again talked
v1 These are Adam’s *descendants. When God created
man, he made man similar to God. v2 He created them as man and woman. He
promised good things to them. He called them ‘Man’ when he created them.
When Genesis describes two families, it first describes the less
important one. And after that, it describes the more important one. So it
describes the family of Adam’s son, Cain, in Genesis 4:17-22. And in this
chapter, it describes the family of Adam’s other son, Seth. Cain was older than
Seth. But Cain was less important because he was not sorry for his evil deeds.
This chapter describes God’s work and man’s work. God’s work was
to create man. (See verses 1-2.) Man’s work was to increase so as to fill the
earth. That was God’s *command. (See Genesis 1:28.)
v3 Adam lived for 130 years and then he became the
father of a son. His son was similar to himself. His son was an image of
himself. Adam called his son Seth. v4 After Seth’s birth, Adam lived for
800 years. He was the father of other sons and daughters. v5 Adam’s life
was 930 years and then he died.
v6 Seth lived for 105 years and then he became the
father of Enosh. v7 After Enosh’s birth, Seth lived for 807 years. He
was the father of other sons and daughters. v8 Seth’s life was 912 years
and then he died.
v9 Enosh lived for 90 years and then he became the
father of Kenan. v10 After Kenan’s birth, Enosh lived for 815 years. He
was the father of other sons and daughters. v11 Enosh’s life was 905
years and then he died.
v12 Kenan lived for 70 years and then he became the
father of Mahalalel. v13 After Mahalalel’s birth, Kenan lived for 840
years. He was the father of other sons and daughters. v14 Kenan’s life
was 910 years and then he died.
v15 Mahalalel lived for 65 years and then he became
the father of Jared. v16 After Jared’s birth, Mahalalel lived for 830
years. He was the father of other sons and daughters. v17 Mahalalel’s
life was 895 years and then he died.
v18 Jared lived for 162 years and then he became the
father of Enoch. v19 After Enoch’s birth, Jared lived for 800 years. He
was the father of other sons and daughters. v20 Jared’s life was 962
years and then he died.
v21 Enoch lived for 65 years and then he became the
father of Methuselah. v22 After Methuselah’s birth, Enoch walked with
God for 300 years. He was the father of other sons and daughters. v23
Enoch’s life was 365 years. v24 Enoch walked with God. Then he was no
more, because God took him.
v25 Methuselah lived for 187 years and then he became
the father of Lamech. v26 After Lamech’s birth, Methuselah lived for 782
years. He was the father of other sons and daughters. v27 Methuselah’s
life was 969 years and then he died.
v28 Lamech lived for 182 years and then he became the
father of a son. v29 Lamech called his son Noah. He said, ‘The *Lord has
made the ground produce little. But this son shall bring rest to us after our
labour. He will bring rest to us after the hard work of our hands.’ v30
After Noah’s birth, Lamech lived for 595 years. He was the father of other sons
and daughters. v31 Lamech’s life was 777 years and then he died. v32
Noah lived for 500 years and then he became the father of Shem, Ham and
We do not know whether this list of names is complete. Perhaps it
leaves out some names. For example, verse 6 may mean, ‘Seth lived for 105 years
and then he became a father. And one *descendant of Seth was Enosh.’ And other
verses may have a similar meaning. (See the comment on Genesis 4:18-22.)
Genesis tells us that ancient people had very long lives. They were
much longer than modern people’s lives.
Enoch did not die. Instead, God took him into heaven. (See
Hebrews 11:5.) The Bible tells us about one other person who did not die. That
was Elijah. God took Elijah into heaven. (See 2 Kings 2:1, 11.)
This Lamech is not the same person as the Lamech that Genesis
This does not mean that Shem, Ham and Japheth were born at the
same time. This verse probably means, ‘Noah lived for 500 years and then he
became the father of Shem. And in the next few years he became the father of
Ham and of Japheth.’
People are very wicked
v1 At that time, men began to increase on the earth.
Many daughters were born for them. v2 Then the sons of God saw that the
daughters of men were beautiful. They chose some of them and they married them.
v3 Then the *Lord said, ‘My spirit shall not always remain with men,
because they are human. They shall live for 120 years.’
v4 There were giant people on the earth in those days
and also afterwards. The sons of God had sex with the daughters of men.
Children were born for them. These children became the strong men who lived in
old times. They were famous men.
We do not know who ‘the sons of God’ were. Some people suggest
that they were *angels. Those people think that 2 Peter 2:4 tells us this. But
perhaps the ‘sons of God’ were *descendants of Seth who married *descendants of
Two different meanings of this verse are possible.
people think that God made people’s lives shorter. People’s lives had been much
longer than this. (See for example Genesis 5:27.) Instead of that, people’s
lives after this time would be 120 years or less.
different meaning of this verse is possible. God said that he would wait for
120 years. During those 120 years, people would continue to live. And during
those 120 years, God would look at people. He would decide whether any people
were good. If he found any good people, he would save them. He decided to save
Noah and his family. (See verse 8.) But everyone else died in the flood.
Compare this with the story that Jesus told about crops and bad plants. (See
Matthew 13:24-30.) The farmer did not remove the bad plants, because good crops
were among them. He waited until the harvest. God does not remove evil things
immediately when good things are among them. He waits until the right time. So
he waited for 120 years and he did not remove evil men immediately. He waited
until the right time. In that way, he could save Noah and his family.
v5 The *Lord saw the men who were on the earth. He
saw that they were very wicked. He saw that men always thought in evil ways.
And he saw that men always desired evil things. v6 And the *Lord was
sorry that he had made men on the earth. He was extremely sad. v7 So the
*Lord said, ‘I will kill men, whom I have created. I will remove them from the
earth. I will kill men and animals and birds. I will kill all that crawl on the
ground. I am sorry that I made them.’ v8 But Noah pleased the *Lord.
God made people who were images of himself. So people were like
God. God is good. So people were good. God can do anything. So people could
choose what they would do. And people chose to do things that God had
forbidden. That was the beginning of the evil things that men did. After that,
men became more wicked.
God was extremely sad. God is a judge. He removes things that are
evil. But he loves everything that he has made. Especially, he loves people. He
is very sad when he has to kill people.
God decides to save Noah
v9 This is the story of Noah. Noah was a good man.
There was no blame on him, among all those who were alive at that time. Noah
walked with God. v10 Noah had 3 sons. Their names were Shem, Ham and
v11 The earth was evil in God’s sight. All the people
who were on the earth often attacked each other. v12 God looked at the
earth. And he saw that it was evil. All the people who were on the earth lived
in an evil way.
v13 And God said to Noah, ‘I have decided to kill all
people. People who are on the earth attack each other. I will kill men and I
will destroy the earth too. v14 Make an *ark out of gopher wood for
yourself. Make rooms in the *ark. Cover the *ark with bitumen. Cover both the
inside of it and the outside of it. v15 This is how you must make it.
Its length must be 150 metres. Its width must be 25 metres. Its height must be
15 metres. v16 Make a roof for the *ark. Finish the roof to half a metre
at the top. Make a door in the side of the *ark. Make a lower deck, a middle
deck and an upper deck.’
‘There was no blame on him.’ This does not mean that Noah was
perfect. He had certainly done things that were wrong. But he was a good man.
And God had forgiven any wrong things that Noah had done.
When God made everything, it was very good. (See Genesis 1:31.)
But when Noah lived, everything was evil. This change started when Adam and Eve
did not obey God. (See Genesis 3:17-19.) The effect of their deed spread to
The *ark was a very big box that floated on water. It was like a
ship. We do not know what kind of wood ‘gopher wood’ was. Bitumen is a black
substance that people find in the ground. People put it on cracks in ships so
that the ships do not leak.
The *ark had to be big so that there was room for many animals
and for their food. Noah must have taken many years to build such a large
thing. And he must have trusted God completely. Otherwise, he would not carry
out such a big task.
‘Finish the roof to half a metre at the top.’ We do not know what
this means. Perhaps it means, ‘Make a gap at the top. The width of the gap must
be half a metre.’ The gap would let air blow into the *ark. And it would let
light come into the *ark.
v17 And God continued, ‘I will bring a flood of water
on the earth. It will kill all animals that breathe under the sky. All that
lives will die. Everything that is on the earth will die. v18 But I will
make a firm agreement with you. You
will enter the *ark with your sons. You will take your wife and your sons’
wives. v19 Take pairs of every kind of living animal. Take them into the
*ark so as to keep them alive with you. Each pair shall be one male and one
female. v20 Take pairs of every kind of bird. Take pairs of every kind
of animal. Take pairs of everything that crawls. Keep them all alive. v21
Take with you every sort of food that you can eat. Store it. It shall be food
for you and for the animals.’
v22 Noah did this. He did everything that God
God told Noah to take pairs of animals. Each pair was a male and
a female. God did not tell Noah at this time how many pairs he should take.
Later, God explained more details to Noah. Then he told Noah to take 7 pairs of
some kinds of animals. (See Genesis 7:2.)
God tells Noah what he should do
v1 Then the *Lord said to Noah, ‘Go into the *ark and
take all your family with you. I have seen you as a good person among those who
are alive now. v2 Take with you 7 pairs of each kind of clean animal.
Take males and females. Take one male and one female of each kind of animal
that is not clean. v3 Take 7 pairs of the birds, males and females. So
you will keep birds of every kind alive on the earth. v4 In 7 days, I
will send rain on the earth. It will rain for 40 days and 40 nights. I will
kill every living animal that is on the earth. I will kill all those that I
v5 And Noah did everything that the *Lord told him to
God chose Noah from among the people who were alive at that time.
God chose Noah so that Noah could live a good life with God.
‘Clean’ animals were ones that people ate. For example, people
ate the meat of sheep and cows. So sheep and cows were ‘clean’ animals. There
were some animals that people did not eat. So they were not ‘clean’ animals.
Many years later, God gave to Moses a list of ‘clean’ animals and
‘unclean’ (not clean) animals. (See Leviticus 11:1-47.) In Noah’s time, people
already called some animals ‘clean’. But Genesis does not use the word
So Noah took pairs of every kind of animal. But he took more of
the ‘clean’ animals. He took 7 pairs of the ‘clean’ animals.
The flood begins
v6 Noah had lived for 600 years when the flood came
on the earth. v7 Noah went into the *ark in order to escape from the
water. He took his sons with him. And he took his wife and his sons’ wives. v8
He took pairs of clean animals. And he took pairs of animals that were not
clean. He took pairs of birds. He took pairs of everything that crawls on the
ground. v9 They were male and female. They went into the *ark with Noah.
This was exactly as God *commanded. v10 After 7 days, the flood came.
The water of the flood came on the earth.
v11 When Noah had lived for 600 years, the water
came. In month 2, on day 17, the water came. The water rose up from the deep
seas and heavy rain fell from the sky. v12 And it rained on the earth
for 40 days and 40 nights.
v13 On the same day, Noah entered the *ark. His 3
sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, also went in. Noah’s wife went in with Noah. And
his 3 sons’ wives went in also. v14 Clean animals of every kind went in.
Animals of every kind that were not clean went in. Animals of all kinds that
crawl on the ground went in. Birds of every sort went in. v15 They went
into the *ark with Noah. They were pairs of every kind that breathes. v16
Males and females of all living animals went in as God had *commanded Noah. And
the *Lord shut him in.
‘Noah went into the *ark in order to escape.’ Noah and his family
were safe because they were in the *ark. They had done what God told them to
We shall be safe if we are ‘in Christ’. We must trust Christ, as
God tells us to do. So the *ark helps us to know about Christ.
Verses 8, 14
For ‘clean’ animals, see the comment on verse 2.
v17 The flood continued on the earth for 40 days. The
water became deeper and it lifted the *ark. The *ark rose high above the earth.
v18 The water became deeper on the earth. The *ark floated on the top of
the water. v19 The water was so deep on the earth that it covered all
the high mountains under the whole sky. v20 The water covered the
mountains so that they were under 7 metres of water. v21 All living
animals that moved on the earth died. All birds died. All clean animals died.
All animals that were not clean died. All the many animals on the earth died.
And every man died. v22 Everything that was alive on the dry land died. v23
God killed every living animal that was on the surface of the ground. He killed
people and animals. He killed everything that crawls. He killed the birds. God
removed them from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the *ark
were left. v24 And the water covered the earth for 150 days.
Many years later, Jesus Christ used this event to teach people.
It tells us about the end of the world. (See Matthew 24:37-39.) Before the
flood, people lived in an ordinary way. They ate and they drank. They married
wives. They did not know that the flood would come. Then the flood came and it
killed them. Jesus said that the end of the world will be like that. People who
do not know God will live in an ordinary way. They will eat and they will
drink. They will marry wives. They will not know that Jesus will come back
again. And what happens then will be like the flood. But anybody who continues
to trust God will be safe. (See Matthew 24:13.)
For ‘clean’ animals, see the comment on verse 2.
The flood ends
v1 But God remembered Noah. And God remembered all
the animals that were with Noah in the *ark. And God made a wind blow over the
earth. Then the water decreased. v2 God stopped the water so that it did
not rise up from the deep places. He stopped the rain so that it did not come
down from the sky. v3 The water continued to move off the earth. After
150 days, the water had gone. v4 In month 7, on day 17, the *ark stopped
on mount Ararat. v5 The water continued to decrease until month 10. On
the first day of month 10, Noah saw the mountain tops.
‘God remembered Noah.’ This does not mean that God forgot Noah
until this time. It means that at this time God acted to help Noah.
‘Mount Ararat’ means the mountains that are in the east part of
the modern country Turkey.
v6 After 40 days, Noah opened the window of the *ark,
which he had made. v7 He sent out a raven (a bird). The raven flew about
until the water disappeared from the earth. v8 And Noah sent out a dove
(a different kind of bird). Noah needed to know whether the water had
disappeared from the earth. v9 But the dove found no place to land. It
returned to the *ark, because the water still covered all the earth. Noah
reached out his hand to the dove and he brought the dove back into the *ark.
v10 Noah waited for 7 days. Then he again sent out
the dove from the *ark. v11 The dove came back to Noah in the evening.
It had in its mouth a fresh leaf, which it had picked from a tree. Then Noah
knew that the water had disappeared from the earth. v12 He again waited
for 7 days. Then he sent out the dove. It did not return again.
A raven is a black bird that can live on mountains. It can eat
dead animals. There were dead animals on the mountains. So the raven found
enough food and it did not return to the *ark.
A dove is a bird that likes to live in valleys. The dove returned
because the water still covered the valleys.
The kind of tree was an ‘olive’ tree. Nowadays people use a
picture of a dove that carries a leaf of an olive tree. It is a sign that means
v13 When Noah had lived for 601 years, the water
disappeared from the earth. On the first day of the first month, it
disappeared. Noah took off the cover of the *ark. He looked out. He saw that
there was no water on the ground. v14 In month 2, on day 27, the earth
v15 Then God said to Noah, v16 ‘Go out of the
*ark. Take your wife with you. Take your sons and your sons’ wives. v17
Bring out with you all living animals that are with you. Bring out the birds
and the animals. Bring out every animal that crawls on the earth. Then they
will have large families. They will increase so that they will fill the earth.’
v18 So Noah went out. His sons went with him. And
Noah’s wife and his sons’ wives went with them. v19 Every animal went
out of the *ark. Every crawling animal and every bird went out. Everything that
moves on the earth went out from the *ark. Each family went out together.
v20 Then Noah built an *altar for the *Lord. He took
one of every kind of clean animal. He took one of every kind of clean bird. He
burned them on the *altar. They were an *offering to the *Lord. v21 When
the *Lord smelled the smell, he was pleased. And the *Lord said in his heart,
‘I will never again make the ground produce little. Although men are evil, I
will not do that. Every thought and wish in men’s hearts is always evil. This
is so even when they are young. I will never again kill every living animal as
I have done. v22 While the earth remains, people will sow seeds. And
they will gather crops. There will be cold and there will be heat. There will
be summer and there will be winter. There will be day and there will be night.
These things will never end.’
An *altar was a pile of stones like a table. Noah made a fire on
the *altar and he burned the animals. They were a gift to God. Many ancient
people burned animals. They were *offerings to God.
The animals died as a sign that Christ would die on the cross.
Nowadays, we put our trust in Christ, who saves us. God’s ancient people did
not know about Christ. So God told them to kill animals as *offerings. Each
animal that they killed was a sign of Christ.
For ‘clean’ see the comment on Genesis 7:2.
Before the flood, all people were evil except for Noah and his
family. (See Genesis 6:12.) God killed the evil people. But God knew that
people would still be evil. Good people and bad people will live together while
the earth remains.
‘I will never again make the ground produce little.’ God had done
this in the time of Adam and Eve. (See Genesis 3:17.) He decided that he would
not do it again.
God makes an agreement with Noah
v1 And God promised good things to Noah and to his
sons. He said to them, ‘Have large families. Increase so that you fill the
earth. v2 Every animal that is on the earth will be afraid of you. Every
bird that flies in the air will be afraid of you. All animals that crawl will
be afraid of you. All the fish in the sea will be afraid of you. I have given
them all to you. v3 All that moves and lives shall be food for you. I
gave the green plants to you as food. Now I give everything to you. v4
But you must not eat meat while it is alive. You must not eat it while the
blood is in it. v5 If you spill blood, I will require a punishment.
Every animal or man who kills a person must die. If anyone kills his brother,
he must die. v6 If anyone kills a man, a man shall kill him. This is
because God made men as images of himself. v7 And you must have large
families and you must increase. Have many children and fill the earth.’
God began to teach men that blood is especially important. Later,
he taught this to men in other ways. (See Exodus 12:7, 13.) Blood is especially
important because it is a sign of Jesus’ death. Jesus died so that he could
remove our blame. When he died, he gave his blood for us. Jesus has saved those
who trust him. Jesus’ blood is a sign that he has saved them.
People are very important to God. He said clearly that no-one may
kill a person. And God explained an extra reason for this. People are images of
God. (See Genesis 1:26.) Therefore, if one kills a person, that is an attack on
‘If anyone kills a man, a man shall kill him.’ So people would
kill a killer. God did not say that it was wrong. But we may want to know
whether it is right nowadays. For that, we must study also what other parts of
the Bible say. We must not decide that from this verse only.
v8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons, v9
‘Look. I make my firm agreement with you.
I make it with your family who will come after you. v10 I make it with
every animal that is with you. I make it with the birds. I make it with the
clean animals that are on the earth. I make it with the animals that are not
clean. I make it with everything that came out of the *ark. v11 I make
my firm agreement with you. Never in
the future will I kill all that is alive by a flood. Never in the future will a
flood destroy the earth.’
For ‘clean’ animals see the comment on Genesis 7:2.
An agreement is different from a promise. God made promises to
people and he also made agreements with people. He made this firm agreement
with Noah. And later he made a firm agreement with Abraham. (See Genesis
When two people agree with each other, there is an agreement.
Both people must agree. But God is the God who can do anything. He can do what
he wants to do. And he can do it when people do not agree. But he chose to meet
Noah as one person meets another person. As two people may make an agreement,
so God and Noah made an agreement.
God often meets us as one person meets another person. Abraham
was called ‘God’s friend’. (See James 2:23.) God used to speak to Moses as a
man speaks to his friend. (See Exodus 33:11.) And Jesus said, ‘Whoever obeys
God is my brother or my sister or my mother.’ (See Matthew 12:50.) We must obey
God. But God meets us as if we were his friends or his relatives.
v12 And God said, ‘This is the sign of the firm agreement that I have made between me
and you. I have also made it between me and every animal that is with you. This
firm agreement will last for all
ages. v13 I put my rainbow in the cloud. It shall be a sign of the firm agreement that is between me and the
earth. v14 When I bring clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear
in the clouds. v15 Then I will remember my firm agreement, which is between me and you and every animal of
all kinds. The water will never in the future become a flood so as to kill all
animals. v16 When the rainbow is in the clouds, I will look at it. And I
will remember the firm agreement
that will last for all ages. That is the firm
agreement that is between me and all living animals of all kinds.’
v17 God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the firm agreement that I have made. It is a firm agreement between me and all living
animals that are on the earth.’
This may not mean that God put his rainbow in the cloud for the
first time. Perhaps there had been rainbows before and Noah had seen them. But
before this time the rainbow was not a sign. God told Noah that the rainbow
would be a sign of his firm agreement with all people and animals. It was a
firm agreement that God would not again destroy all people and animals by a
Noah and his sons
v18 Noah’s sons who went out from the *ark were Shem,
Ham and Japheth. Ham was the father of Canaan. v19 These three were
Noah’s sons. The families of these sons became the inhabitants of the whole
v20 Noah began to farm. He planted vines and he made
wine. v21 He drank too much wine and therefore he slept. Then he lay in
his tent and he was naked. v22 Ham, who was Canaan’s father, saw his
naked father Noah. He went out of the tent. Then he told his two brothers what
he had seen. v23 Then Shem and Japheth took a coat and they laid it on
their shoulders. They backed into the tent. Then they covered their naked
father with the coat. They turned their faces away. Therefore, they did not see
their father while he was naked. v24 Noah woke from the effect of the
wine. Then he knew what his youngest son had done to him.
‘Canaan’ in this chapter is a person’s name. After this, *Canaan
is also the name of a country.
A vine is a kind of plant. People make wine out of the fruits of
‘Then he knew what his youngest son had done to him.’ But Noah’s
youngest son was Japheth. And what Japheth did was not wrong. And verse 25
shows us that Canaan had done something wrong. So ‘his youngest son’ may mean
Noah’s grandson, Canaan. The *Hebrew word for ‘son’ also means ‘grandson’. And
so the word ‘son’ in the Bible sometimes means ‘grandson’. (For example, Jesus
was called ‘David’s son’. But there were many fathers and sons between David
and Jesus.) But we do not know what Canaan did to Noah.
v25 Noah said,
bring evil things to Canaan.
shall be his brothers’ servant.’
v26 Noah also said,
*Lord, who is Shem’s God.
shall be his servant.
v27 Let God
make Japheth’s family be large.
Japheth live in Shem’s tents.
Canaan be Japheth’s servant.’
v28 After the flood, Noah lived for 350 years. v29
Noah’s life was 950 years and then he died.
v1 These are the *descendants of Noah’s sons. Noah’s
sons were Shem, Ham and Japheth. After the flood, they became the fathers of
v2 Japheth’s sons were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan,
Tubal, Meshech and Tiras. v3 Gomer’s sons were Ashkenaz, Riphath and
Togarmah. v4 Javan’s sons were Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim and Dodanim. v5
The people who live along the coast spread from these families. These are
Japheth’s sons. Each family lived in its own country. And each family spoke its
Genesis tells us the less important families first. After that,
it tells us the more important ones. Shem’s family is the most important
because Shem was the oldest son. So Genesis tells us the family of the youngest
son, Japheth, first. Then it tells us the family of Ham. When it has done that,
it tells us the more important family of Shem.
v6 Ham’s sons were Cush, Egypt, Put and Canaan. v7
Cush’s sons were Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah and Sabteca. Raamah’s sons were
Sheba and Dedan. v8 Cush became the father of Nimrod. Nimrod was the
first strong man on the earth. v9 He was a great hunter by the *Lord’s
strength. Therefore people say, ‘Like Nimrod, who is a great hunter by the
*Lord’s strength.’ v10 Nimrod was the king of Babel, Erech and Accad.
All these cities are in the country that is called Shinar. v11 From
Shinar Nimrod went into Assyria. He built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah and
Resen. v12 Resen is a great city and it is between Nineveh and Calah. v13
Egypt became the father of Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, v14
Pathrusim, Casluhim and Caphtorim. The *Philistines were Casluhim’s
v15 Canaan became the father of Sidon and Heth. Sidon
was Canaan’s oldest son. v16 Canaan was also the father of the
Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, v17 the Hivites, the Arkites,
the Sinites, v18 the Arvadites, the Zemarites and the Hamathites. Later
the *Canaanite families scattered. v19 And the *Canaanites’ land
stretched from Sidon to Gaza. (Gaza is on the way to Gerar.) It also stretched
to Lasha. (Lasha is on the way to Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim.) v20
These are Ham’s sons in their families. Each family lived in its own country.
And each family spoke its own language.
‘Egypt’ and ‘Canaan’ in this chapter are people’s names. After
this chapter, they are names of countries.
Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, Hivites, Arkites, Sinites,
Arvadites, Zemarites and Hamathites were *tribes that were *descendants of
v21 Shem also was the father of children. Shem was
the father of all the children of Eber. He was Japheth’s older brother. v22
Shem’s sons were Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud and Aram. v23 Aram’s sons
were Uz, Hul, Gether and Mash. v24 Arpachshad became the father of
Shelah. Shelah became the father of Eber. v25 For Eber, two sons were
born. One was called Peleg, because the earth divided during his life. Peleg’s
brother was called Joktan. v26–29 Joktan became the father of
Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Obal, Abimael,
Sheba, Ophir, Havilah and Jobab. All these were Joktan’s sons. v30 Their
country stretched to Mesha. (Mesha is on the way to Sephar.) And it stretched
to the hill country that is in the east. v31 These are Shem’s sons with
their languages, their countries and their nations.
v32 These are the families of Noah’s sons. These are
their families and their nations. From these people the nations spread over the
earth after the flood.
‘Peleg’ means ‘division’.
‘The earth was divided.’ We do not know what that means.
The tall building at Babel
v1 All the people who were on the earth had one
language. They all had one set of words. v2 And men travelled from the
east into the country that is called Shinar. There they found a plain and they
lived in it. v3 And they said to each other, ‘Let us make bricks. Let us
burn them well.’ They used bricks instead of stones. And they used bitumen
between the bricks in order to join them.
This verse tells us that all people spoke one language. But
chapter 10 tells us that people spoke many languages. (See Genesis 10:5, 20,
31.) And chapter 10 is before chapter 11. There are two possible explanations
usually tells us things in the order that they happened. But sometimes it does
not do this. Perhaps this verse tells us about an earlier time.
people spoke different languages. But there was also one language that they all
understood. So they all had one language in addition to their own languages.
That is often true nowadays. For example, some people speak English in addition
to their own language. And if they meet people with a different language, they
speak English. And so they understand each other.
The people made bricks out of clay. Clay is a kind of soil. If
clay is wet, one can form it into bricks. Sometimes people let the sun dry the
bricks so that they become hard. Then they use the bricks to make buildings.
But these people burned their bricks. That means that they dried them by a
fire. When the bricks became very hot, they became very hard and strong. So
after the bricks cooled, people could make very tall buildings.
Bitumen is a black substance that people find in the ground.
People also use it in ships. They put it on cracks in ships so that the ships
do not leak. Noah put bitumen on the *ark. (See Genesis 6:14.)
v4 Then they said, ‘Let us build a city for
ourselves. Let us build a very tall building. Its top will reach heaven. We
will make ourselves famous. And we will not scatter over the whole surface of
the earth.’ v5 So the men built the city and the tall building. The
*Lord came down from heaven in order to see the city and the building.
v6 And the *Lord said, ‘Look! They are one nation.
They have one language. This is only the beginning of the things that they will
do. Whatever they propose to do, they will be able to do it. v7 Let us
go down to the earth. We will confuse their language so that they will not
understand each other’s words.’
What the people did was evil. It is not evil to build a city. But
they tried to show that they were important. They did not give honour to God.
And they thought that they were more important than God.
God said, ‘Let us go.’ He did not say, ‘I will go.’ Perhaps he
said ‘us’ because he is 3 persons. He is the Father and the Son and the Holy
Spirit. And he is also one God. But it is more likely that this is not the
reason. The *Hebrew word that means ‘God’ is like a plural word. Perhaps that
is why God called himself ‘we’. (See Genesis 1:26 and the comment.)
We do not know how God confused their language. It is possible that
people spoke different languages. But they all spoke one language in addition
to their own languages. (See verse 1 and comment.) So perhaps when God confused
their language he made them forget that one language. Therefore, they could not
understand each other.
v8 So the *Lord made the people stop building the
city. He made them scatter from there. And they scattered over the whole
surface of the earth. v9 Therefore it was called Babel, because there
the *Lord confused the language of all the earth. And the *Lord scattered them
over the whole surface of the earth.
The people called the city ‘Babel’. That could mean ‘the gate to
God’. The people thought that its top would reach heaven. (See verse 4.) But
‘Babel’ also means ‘confusion’.
So the people did not have the things that they wanted. They
wanted a city where they could live together. But God made them scatter. They
wanted a tall building. But they did not complete it. And they wanted to show
that they were important. But their plans failed because their plans were
different from God’s plans.
v10 These are Shem’s *descendants. When Shem was 100
years of age, he became the father of Arpachshad. That was 2 years after the
end of the flood. v11 After Arpachshad’s birth, Shem lived for 500
years. He was the father of other sons and daughters.
v12 Arpachshad lived for 35 years and then he became
the father of Shelah. v13 After Shelah’s birth, Arpachshad lived for 403
years. He was the father of other sons and daughters.
v14 Shelah lived for 30 years and then he became the
father of Eber. v15 After Eber’s birth, Shelah lived for 403 years. He
was the father of other sons and daughters.
v16 Eber lived for 34 years and then he became the
father of Peleg. v17 After Peleg’s birth, Eber lived for 430 years. He
was the father of other sons and daughters.
v18 Peleg lived for 30 years and then he became the
father of Reu. v19 After Reu’s birth, Peleg lived for 209 years. He was
the father of other sons and daughters.
v20 Reu lived for 32 years and then he became the
father of Serug. v21 After Serug’s birth, Reu lived for 207 years. He
was the father of other sons and daughters.
v22 Serug lived for 30 years and then he became the
father of Nahor. v23 After Nahor’s birth, Serug lived for 200 years. He
was the father of other sons and daughters.
v24 Nahor lived for 29 years and then he became the
father of Terah. v25 After Terah’s birth, Nahor lived for 119 years. He
was the father of other sons and daughters.
v26 Terah lived for 70 years and then he became the
father of Abram, Nahor and Haran.
v27 These are the *descendants of Terah. Terah was
the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. Haran was the father of Lot. v28
Haran died in the country where he was born. He died in Ur, which is a city in
Chaldea. He died while his father Terah was still alive. v29 And Abram
and Nahor married wives. Abram’s wife was called Sarai. Nahor’s wife was called
Milcah. Milcah was the daughter of Haran, who was the father of Milcah and of
Iscah. v30 And Sarai had no child.
Nahor’s brother Haran died. After that, Nahor married Haran’s
daughter Milcah. So Nahor married his niece. In those times, a man would marry
his niece if her father had died.
Terah and Abram leave Ur
v31 Terah went away from Ur, which was a city in
Chaldea. He took his son Abram. He took his grandson Lot, who was Haran’s son.
He took Sarai, who was the wife of his son Abram. They set out together to go
into the country that is called *Canaan. But when they arrived at Haran, they
stopped there. v32 Terah lived for 205 years and he died in Haran.
We do not know where Ur was. A city in east Mesopotamia was
called Ur. (Mesopotamia is the country that is between the river Tigris and the
river Euphrates. Nowadays it is mostly in the countries Iraq and Syria.) That
city Ur is about 1000 kilometres (600 miles) from Haran. Many people think that
Abram was born there. But that city Ur would not be called ‘a city in Chaldea’.
It is in east Mesopotamia, but the Chaldea was in the west part of Mesopotamia.
And Abram called the west of Mesopotamia ‘my country’. That seems to mean that
he was born in the west of Mesopotamia. (See Genesis 24:4.) So it is more
likely that Abram’s city Ur was near to Haran. Perhaps it is the same as Urfa.
That is 30 kilometres (20 miles) to the north of Haran.
‘They set out together to go into the country that is called
*Canaan.’ They probably did not know that they would go to *Canaan. This is
probably a short way to say, ‘They set out together on a journey. And the
journey ended in the country that is called *Canaan.’ That is likely for this
reason. In Genesis 12:1, God says to Abram, ‘Go to the country that I will show
to you.’ So Abram probably did not know what country that was. He did not know
until God showed him.
We do not know why Terah and Abram left Ur. Perhaps God told them
to do so.
‘Haran’ was the name of a man. He was a brother of Abram. (See
verse 27.) And ‘Haran’ was also the name of a city. It was the city where Terah
and his family stayed.
Abram’s journey to *Canaan
v1 The *Lord said to Abram, ‘Leave your country.
Leave your home. Leave your father’s house. Go to the country that I will show
to you. v2 And I will make you become a great nation. I will bring many
good things to you. I will make your name famous. You will bring good things to
people. v3 I will be kind to those who are kind to you. I will do evil
things to those who do evil things to you. All the families that are on the
earth shall receive good things because of you.’
Abram was the person who was later called Abraham. (See Genesis
When Abram left Haran, his father Terah did not go with him.
Terah lived in Haran for 60 years after Abram left. This is how we know that:
Terah was 70 years old when Abram was born. (See Genesis 11:26.) And Abram was
75 years old when he left Haran. (See verse 4.) Therefore, Terah was 145 years
old when Abram left Haran. But Terah lived for 205 years. (See Genesis 11:32.)
So Terah lived in Haran for 60 years after Abram left.
v4 So Abram went, as the *Lord *commanded him. Lot
went with him. Abram’s age was 75 years when he left Haran. v5 And Abram
took Sarai his wife. He took Lot, who was his brother’s son. He took all their
possessions that they had gathered. He took all his relatives who had been born
in Haran. They set off together. And they went to the country that is called
When they came to *Canaan, v6 Abram went through the
region. He came to the big tree at Moreh. It was near to the town that is
called Shechem. At that time the *Canaanites lived in that country. v7
Then the *Lord appeared to Abram. He said, ‘I will give this land to your
*descendants who will live after you.’ So Abram built there an *altar to the
*Lord, who had appeared to him. v8 From there he went to the mountain
that is to the east of Bethel. He set up his tent there. Bethel was on the west
of him. Ai was east of him. He built an *altar there for the *Lord. And he
prayed to the *Lord. v9 After that, Abram travelled further toward the
The distance from Haran to Shechem, which is in *Canaan, is about
600 kilometres (400 miles).
The country was called *Canaan because the *Canaanites lived
there. The *Canaanites were the *descendants of Canaan, who was a grandson of
Many years later, Jacob gave the name ‘Bethel’ to this place.
(See Genesis 28:19.) It probably did not have that name in Abram’s time. But
the people who wrote Genesis used the name. It tells us where Abram went.
The Negeb is the southern part of the country that is called
*Canaan. It is the part of *Canaan that is nearest to Egypt.
Abram visits Egypt
v10 There was not enough food in the country and so
Abram went to Egypt. He stayed there, because the *famine was very bad in
v11 Before Abram entered Egypt, he spoke to Sarai his
wife. He said, ‘I know that you are a beautiful woman. v12 The
inhabitants of Egypt will see you. They will say, “This is his wife.” Then they
will kill me, but they will keep you alive. v13 Say that you are my
sister. So they will not hurt me because of you. They will not kill me in order
to take you.’ v14 Then Abram entered Egypt. The inhabitants of Egypt saw
that the woman was very beautiful. v15 When the princes of *Pharaoh saw
her, they praised her to *Pharaoh. And they took the woman into *Pharaoh’s
house. v16 *Pharaoh loved Sarai and therefore he was kind to Abram.
*Pharaoh gave to Abram sheep, cows, *donkeys, servants, maids and camels.
Egypt is a country in northern Africa. The river Nile provides
water to Egypt. Therefore, crops grow in Egypt even if there is no rain. So
there was no *famine (lack of food) in Egypt. There was a *famine in *Canaan
because there had been no rain.
Abram went to Egypt, which was a foreign country. He did not know
its customs. He was not confident that God would protect him and Sarai. He
thought that someone might kill him in order to take Sarai as a wife. So he
decided to say that Sarai was his sister. And, if anyone took Sarai as a wife,
he would not kill Abram. And so perhaps Abram and Sarai would escape before the
wedding. But the person who took Sarai was *Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. And
when Sarai was in *Pharaoh’s court, she could not escape.
When Abram called Sarai his sister, he did not tell the truth.
But what he said was not completely wrong. Sarai was Abram’s half-sister. Sarai
and Abram had the same father but they did not have the same mother. (See
Genesis 20:12.) At that time, some people married their half-sisters. Later,
the Bible said that a marriage with a half-sister is wrong. (See Deuteronomy
*Pharaoh was the king of Egypt. ‘*Pharaoh’ was not the name of
this king, but all kings of Egypt were called *Pharaoh.
v17 But the *Lord made *Pharaoh and his family very
ill. He did this because of Sarai, who was Abram’s wife. v18 So *Pharaoh
called Abram. He said, ‘You have done an evil thing to me. You should have told
me that she was your wife. v19 You should not have said, “She is my
sister.” Because you said that, I took her as my wife. Now here is your wife.
Take her and go away.’ v20 And *Pharaoh *commanded his men to guard
Abram. And the men sent Abram away. Abram took his wife and everything that he
Sarai could not escape from *Pharaoh’s court, but God saved her.
Abram should have told the truth about Sarai when he arrived in Egypt. If he
had done that, this trouble would not have happened.
*Pharaoh realised that Abram’s God had punished him and his
family. (See verse 17.) *Pharaoh wanted to prevent further trouble. So he told
his men to make Abram leave Egypt. But Abram had gained many possessions that
*Pharaoh had given to him. (See verse 16.) When Abram left Egypt, he took those
possessions with him. So Abram became richer because he received goods from
Many years later, a similar thing happened. Abram’s *descendants
lived in Egypt for 400 years. And when they left Egypt, they gained many
possessions. (See Exodus 12:35-36.) They took those possessions with them. So
God’s people became richer because they received goods from Egypt.
Abram and Lot separate
v1 So Abram left Egypt. He took his wife. He took
everything that he had. And Lot went with him. They went into the Negeb.
v2 Abram was very rich. He had many animals. He had
much silver and gold. v3 From the Negeb he went further. He went to Bethel,
where his tent had been at the beginning. He stopped between Bethel and Ai. v4
He stopped at the place where he had made an *altar before. There Abram prayed
to the *Lord.
v5 And Lot, who went with Abram, also had sheep and
cows and tents. v6 The land could not provide enough food for both of
them if they lived together. Their possessions were so many that they could not
live together. v7 Abram’s servants and Lot’s servants fought against
each other. These were the servants who looked after the animals. At that time
the *Canaanites and the Perizzites lived in the country.
For the name ‘Negeb’ see Genesis 12:9 and the comment. For the
name ‘Bethel’ see Genesis 12:8 and the comment.
Their possessions included many animals, which need grass. There
was not enough grass in that region for so many animals.
They fought because each wanted their own animals to have the
grass. The Perizzites were a *tribe that lived in the country called Canaan.
v8 Then Abram said to Lot, ‘You and I must not fight
against each other. Your servants and my servants must not fight against each
other. We are relatives. v9 The whole country is in front of you.
Separate yourself from me. If you go to the left, I will go to the right. If
you go to the right, I will go to the left.’
v10 And Lot looked. He saw that there was plenty of
water in the valley of the river Jordan. It was like the *Lord’s garden. The
region round Zoar was like Egypt. The *Lord had not yet destroyed Sodom and
Gomorrah. v11 Lot chose for himself all the valley of the river Jordan.
So Lot travelled to the east. Abram and Lot separated from each other. v12
Abram lived in *Canaan. Lot lived among the cities that were in the valley.
After that, Lot moved his tent near to Sodom. v13 Now the men of Sodom
were wicked. They did many things that the *Lord had forbidden.
Abram was very kind to Lot. He allowed Lot to choose where he
would live. Abram would live on the land that Lot did not choose.
‘The region round Zoar was like Egypt.’ Egypt was a flat country
and the region round Zoar was flat. The river Nile provided plenty of water for
Egypt so that crops grew well. And the river Jordan provided water for Zoar.
Most of *Canaan was hilly and it was not like Egypt.
Later, Lot realised that this was a bad choice. (See Genesis
19:24-25.) Abram had better land.
When Lot left Abram, he began to move into bad company.
chose the way that was easiest (in verses 10-11). That was a bad choice.
moved his tent nearer to Sodom, where the inhabitants were wicked (in verses
12-13). That was not wrong. But he came nearer to evil companions.
went into Sodom. (See Genesis 14:12.) He lived among wicked men. Because he did
that, he needed Abram to rescue him. (See Genesis 14:14, 16.)
took wicked men as his companions. (See Genesis 19:1. ‘Lot sat at the gate of
Sodom.’ And the gate was the place where people talked together.) Because Lot
did that, he needed God to rescue him. (See Genesis 19:15-16.)
Lot moved his tent nearer to the evil city, Sodom. And, when he
had done that, he could easily move further. And, when he was in Sodom, he
could easily take wicked men as his companions. We must not do what Lot did. We
must not do little wrong things. If we do them, we can more easily do greater
v14 After Lot separated from Abram, the *Lord spoke
to Abram. The *Lord said, ‘Look at the things that are round you. Look from the
place where you are. Look towards the north. Look towards the south. Look
towards the east. Look towards the west. v15 I will give to you all the
land that you see. I will give it to you and to your *descendants for all ages.
v16 I will make your *descendants as the dust that is on the earth.
Nobody can count the dust on the earth and nobody will be able to count your
*descendants. v17 Get up and walk through the whole country. I will give
all of it to you.’
v18 So Abram moved his tent. He went to the big trees
at Mamre and he stayed there. Mamre is also called Hebron. At Mamre he built an
*altar so that he could make *offerings to the *Lord.
The land that Abram saw was *Canaan. God had brought Abram from
Haran to *Canaan. Abram had gone to Egypt, but he had returned to *Canaan.
Later, Abram’s *descendants went to Egypt for 400 years. But they returned to
*Canaan. *Canaan became the country of God’s people and it was called ‘the land
The fight between 4 kings and 5 kings
v1 At this time there were 4 kings. One was Amraphel
and he was the king of Shinar. Another king was Arioch and he was the king of
Ellasar. Another one was Chedor-laomer and he was the king of Elam. The other
king was Tidal and he was the king of Goiim. v2 These 4 kings fought in
a war against 5 kings. One out of these 5 kings was Bera and he was the king of
Sodom. Another one was Birsha and he was the king of Gomorrah. Another one was
Shinab and he was the king of Admah. Another one was Shemeber and he was the
king of Zeboiim. The last one was the king of Bela, which is also called Zoar. v3
These 5 kings joined their armies together in the valley that is called Siddim.
That is the valley where the Salt Sea is.
The 4 kings came from countries that are east of *Canaan. They
came with their armies to fight against 5 kings. These 5 kings ruled cities in
the valley that is called Siddim. (See verse 3.) That valley is at the east
edge of *Canaan. It is a part of the valley that Lot chose. (See Genesis
v4 For 12 years, Chedor-laomer had ruled over these 5
kings. In year 13, they refused to obey him. v5 In year 14,
Chedor-laomer came. And the kings who were with him came. They overcame the
Rephaim people who lived in Ashteroth-karnaim. They overcame the Zuzim people
who lived in Ham. They overcame the Emim people who lived in Shaveh-kiriathaim.
v6 And they overcame the Horites who lived in Mount Seir as far as
El-paran. That is at the edge of the desert. v7 Then the 4 kings turned
back and they came to Enmishpat. That is also called Kadesh. There they
destroyed all the region where the *descendants of Amalek lived. They also
overcame the Amorites who lived in Hazazon-tamar.
Chedor-laomer had an agreement with the 3 kings that were with
him. Together they forced the 5 kings to pay taxes to them. Perhaps these taxes
were money or perhaps they were goods. They did that for 13 years. But after
that time the 5 kings refused to pay taxes.
The 4 kings came for two reasons. They came in order to overcome
several more nations. So they would rule over a larger area. And they came in
order to seize money and goods from the 5 kings. The Horites were a tribe of
people. For Amorites, see Genesis 10:16 and the comment on that verse.
v8 Then the 5 kings went out. One was the king of
Sodom. Another one was the king of Gomorrah. Another one was the king of Admah.
Another one was the king of Zeboiim. The last one was the king of Bela, which
is also called Zoar. They fought in the valley that is called Siddim. v9
They fought against the 4 kings. One out of these 4 kings was Chedor-laomer, king
of Elam. Another one was Tidal, king of Goiim. Another one was Amraphel, king
of Shinar. The last one was Arioch, king of Ellasar. So 4 kings fought against
v10 Now in the valley that is called Siddim there
were many deep holes. People had made these holes when they took bitumen from
the ground. The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah ran away and they hid in the holes.
Other people ran away to the hills. v11 So the enemy took all the goods
in Sodom and in Gomorrah. They took all the food that people had stored. v12
They also took Lot, who lived in Sodom. And they took all Lot’s goods. Lot was
the son of Abram’s brother. The enemy took all these things and they went away.
The 5 kings did not wait until the 4 kings came. They heard that
the 4 kings were near. So they joined their armies together (see verse 3). And
they prepared to defend their land.
The armies of the 4 kings were more skilful fighters than the
armies of the 5 kings were. So the armies of the 5 kings ran away.
Bitumen is a black substance that people find in the ground. In
ancient times, builders used it. (See Genesis 11:3.) For ‘valley of Siddim’,
see verses 1-3 and the comment.
They took Lot as a slave. And they also took other men and women
as slaves. (See verses 16 and 21.)
Abram rescues Lot
v13 Then one person who had escaped came to Abram. He
told Abram the *Hebrew what had happened. Abram the *Hebrew was near the big
trees that belonged to Mamre. Mamre was an Amorite and he was the brother of
Eshcol and of Aner. These people were Abram’s friends.
v14 So Abram heard that the enemy had made his
relative Lot a prisoner. Abram had trained 318 men who were born in his house.
He led these men and they followed the enemy as far as the place that is called
Dan. v15 There Abram divided his men into two groups. Abram and his
servants attacked the enemy at night. They defeated them and they pursued them
to Hobah. Hobah is north of Damascus. v16 Then Abram brought back all
the goods. He also brought back his relative Lot with his goods. And he brought
back all the women and the people.
The Amorites were a *tribe of people. Mamre was the name of a
town. (See Genesis 13:14.) But in this verse, Mamre is the name of a person who
lived in that town. Genesis has other examples of this.
was a man. He lived in the city that was called Ur. His relatives went to the
city that was called Haran. (See Genesis 11:28, 31.)
was a man. He lived in the city that was called Shechem. (See Genesis
Abram usually lived at peace with his neighbours. He did not
usually fight. But because Lot was a prisoner, Abram had a good reason to
fight. And he fought wisely. He and his servants attacked when most of the
enemy were asleep. They attacked as two groups. One group attacked from one
side and the other group attacked from the other side. Abram had 318 men. The
armies of the 4 kings were certainly much more than that. But God gave success
Abram’s attack was successful for two reasons. He acted wisely
and he trusted in God. We need to do the same. If we wish to succeed, we should
trust in God. But we also need to act wisely.
From Dan to Sodom is a distance of 240 kilometres (150 miles).
v17 So Abram defeated Chedor-laomer. And he defeated
the kings who were with him. Then he returned. The king of Sodom went out to
meet Abram. He met him at the valley called Shaveh, which is also called the
King’s Valley. v18 And Melchizedek also met Abram. He was the king of
Salem and he was a priest of the great God. He produced bread and wine. v19
And he blessed Abram. He said,
‘I pray that
the great God will be kind to Abram.
is the God who made the heaven and the earth.
the great God,
he has delivered your enemies to you!’
And Abram gave to Melchizedek a part of the goods that he
had brought back. He gave to him one thing out of every 10 things.
‘Salem’ was probably the city that is also called Jerusalem.
Melchizedek was the king of Salem. The word ‘Melchizedek’ means ‘*righteous
‘He produced bread and wine.’ Bread and wine were ordinary food.
It was natural that Melchizedek should welcome Abram after his fight. It was
natural that he should give food to him. Melchizedek gave honour to Abram
because Abram had overcome an enemy.
But these things have an extra meaning to us. ‘Salem’ means
‘peace’ and so ‘king of Salem’ means ‘king of peace’. We might call Christ
‘king of peace and priest of the great God’. And Christ made bread and wine
have a special meaning. So to know about Melchizedek helps us to know some
things about Christ. (See Psalm 110:4 and Hebrews 7:1, 17.)
‘He has delivered your enemies to you.’ Melchizedek knew that God
had given success to Abram.
‘Abram gave one thing out of every 10 things.’ Abram had brought
back all the goods. (See verse 16.) It was not possible to return all the goods
to their owners. Some of the goods had come from other cities. (See verses
5-7.) So Abram shared the goods in a fair manner. He gave a share to Melchizedek,
although Melchizedek’s people had not helped in the fight. Many years after
this time, God told Moses to do a similar thing. After a battle, they shared
the goods. And the people who fought the battle did not take all the goods. The
people who did not fight also had a share. (See Numbers 31:27.)
People sometimes call one thing out of every ten things a
Hebrews 7:1-25 refers to Genesis 14:18-20.
v21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give the people
to me, but take the goods for yourself.’ v22 But Abram spoke to the king
of Sodom. He said, ‘I have made a firm promise to the great *Lord God, who made
the heaven and the earth. v23 I promised that I will not take anything
from you. I will not take anything that belongs to you. I will not take the smallest
thing. I will not even take the string of a shoe. Otherwise, you might say, “I
have made Abram rich.” v24 I will take nothing except what the young men
have eaten. And I will take the share of the men who went with me. And let
Aner, Eshcol and Mamre take their share.’
We do not know why Abram did not take his share. He accepted
goods from *Pharaoh in Egypt. (See Genesis 12:16.) And he accepted goods from
Abimelech. (See Genesis 20:14, 16.) But he did not accept these goods. Perhaps
Abram knew that the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah were wicked. (See Genesis
18:20.) And he did not want people to say that his wealth came from wicked
people. Perhaps that was the reason.
God makes promises to Abram
v1 After these things the *Lord appeared to Abram.
The *Lord said, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am protecting you. I will reward
you very greatly.’ v2 But Abram said, ‘*Lord God, your gifts are no
advantage to me, because I still have no child. When I die, my possessions will
belong to Eliezer of Damascus.’ v3 And Abram said, ‘You have not given a
child to me. A man who is my servant will own my possessions.’
v4 Then the *Lord said to him, ‘This man shall not
have your possessions. Your own son shall have your possessions.’ v5 And
the *Lord led Abram out of the tent. He said, ‘Look towards heaven. Count the
stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then the *Lord said to him, ‘So shall
your *descendants be.’ v6 Then Abram believed the *Lord. Therefore the
*Lord considered that Abram was *righteous.
God had not given a son to Abram. That was a worry to Abram. He
wanted a son so that his family would continue. And he had many things that God
had given to him. He wished that those things would become his son’s
Eliezer was Abram’s chief servant. If Abram died without a child,
Eliezer would own all Abram’s possessions. That was the law of the country.
Damascus is a city north of *Canaan.
It was night and the sky was very clear. Abram could see very
many stars. There were so many stars that nobody could count them. God told
Abram that nobody would count his *descendants. Nobody could count them because
they would be so many.
Abram was not perfect. Like everybody else, he had done wrong
things. But God considered that Abram was *righteous (right with God). The
reason was that Abram believed God. He believed that God would give him a son.
We are not perfect. We have all done wrong things. But we can
believe God. We can put our trust in him. We can put our trust in Jesus. Then
God will consider that we are *righteous (right with God). (See Romans 4:3, 24,
v7 And the *Lord said to Abram, ‘I am the *Lord. I
brought you from Ur in Chaldea. I have given this country to you so that you
may possess it.’ v8 But Abram said, ‘*Lord God, how can I know that I
shall possess it?’ v9 The *Lord said to him, ‘Bring to me a young cow
that is 3 years of age. Bring to me a female goat that is 3 years of age. Bring
to me a male sheep that is 3 years of age. Bring to me a dove (a bird) and a
young dove.’ v10 And Abram brought all these. He cut each of these into
two pieces. He laid the two halves of each one opposite each other. But he did
not cut the birds into pieces. v11 Some wild birds that eat meat flew
down. They tried to land on the dead animals. Abram scared them so that they
God repeated a promise that he had made earlier. (See Genesis
13:15 and the comment.)
A dove is a kind of bird.
This was probably an ancient custom when people make a firm
agreement with each other. Perhaps it was like this. Two people kill animals as
an *offering to God and they cut the animals into two parts. They separate the
parts and they walk between the parts. That shows that they must keep the
agreement. Otherwise, someone will cut the people into two parts. God used this
custom to show that his agreement with Abram was firm. So Abram separated the
two parts of each animal. Then fire appeared and it moved between the two
parts. (See verse 17.) The fire was a sign of God.
v12 When the sun set, Abram slept. He felt fear and
there was great darkness. v13 Then the *Lord said to Abram, ‘Be certain
about what I tell you. Your *descendants will live in a country that does not
belong to them. They will be slaves there. They will have to work hard for 400
years. v14 But I will punish the nation that they serve. Afterwards your
*descendants shall come out of that country. They shall take with them many
possessions. v15 You yourself shall die in peace and then you shall be
with your fathers. When people shall bury you, you will be very old. v16
And your *descendants shall come back to this country. The sons of the sons of
the sons of your sons shall come back. But before they come back the Amorites
must do still more evil things.’
‘This country’ was the country that was called *Canaan. The
Amorites were *Canaan’s original inhabitants. Later, Abram’s *descendants lived
in *Canaan. And God told them to kill the Amorites. (See Deuteronomy 20:17.)
But God did not say that immediately. He waited for more than 400 years. If the
Amorites did good things, he would save them. But if they continued to do evil
things, he would kill them.
God does not kill people quickly. He waited for 120 years before
he killed people by the flood. (See Genesis 6:3 and the comment.)
v17 The sun set and the sky was dark. Then a pot
appeared, which contained fire. It produced smoke. Also a branch appeared,
which burned with flames. They both moved between the pieces of meat. v18
On that day the *Lord made a firm agreement with Abram. The *Lord said, ‘I give
this country to your *descendants. I give all the land from the river of Egypt
to the great river, which is called Euphrates. v19 I give the Kenites’
land and the Kenizzites’ land. I give the Kadmonites’ land v20 and the
Hittites’ land. I give the Perizzites’ land and the Rephaim people’s land. v21
I give the Amorites’ land and the *Canaanites’ land. I give the Girgashites’
land and the Jebusites’ land.’
God repeated a promise that he had made earlier. See Genesis
13:15 and the comment. And see Genesis 15:7.
‘The river of Egypt’ is a small stream that is on the border. It
is between the two countries, *Canaan and Egypt. The river Euphrates is north
and east of *Canaan.
Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Amorites,
Girgashites and Jebusites were *tribes of Canaan’s original inhabitants.
Sarai and her maid Hagar
v1 Sarai, who was Abram’s wife, had no children. She
had an Egyptian maid, whose name was Hagar. v2 Sarai said to Abram, ‘The
*Lord has made me unable to produce children. Lie with my maid and have sex
with her. Perhaps I shall obtain children by her.’ And Abram did what Sarai suggested.
v3 Abram had then lived for 10 years in the country that is called
So Sarai, who was Abram’s wife, took her maid Hagar, the
Egyptian. Sarai gave Hagar to Abram her husband so that Hagar could be his
wife. v4 And Abram had sex with Hagar and she became *pregnant. When
Hagar knew this, she did not respect Sarai. v5 And Sarai said to Abram,
‘Hagar does not respect me. I pray that the blame for this will be on you! I
gave my maid to you to have sex with you. As soon as she became *pregnant, she
did not respect me. I want the *Lord to be a judge. I pray that he will blame
either you or me!’ v6 But Abram said to Sarai, ‘You may control your own
maid. Do to her whatever you decide to do.’ Then Sarai was cruel to Hagar, and
Hagar ran away from Sarai.
Genesis tells us that several of God’s ancient people had two
wives. But that does not mean that to have two wives is right.
Abram’s wife was Sarai. Abram took Hagar as an extra wife. He did
that because he had no son. God had promised that Abram would have a son. (See
Genesis 15:4.) But Abram thought that he must do something. He thought that
otherwise God’s promise would not happen. But God wanted Abram to trust him.
God did not want Abram to marry Hagar. God gave Abram a son, by his wife Sarai,
when the time was right. (See Genesis 21:1-2.) God wanted Abram to wait for
Sarai was Abram’s wife and Hagar was only an extra wife. But
Sarai had no child and Hagar was *pregnant. Hagar would soon produce a child
for Abram. So Hagar thought that she was equal in rank to Sarai. Sarai blamed
Abram for this, and Abram did not help her. Sarai wanted to show that Hagar was
only a maid. So she was cruel to Hagar.
God rescues Hagar
v7 The *Lord’s *angel found Hagar by a well of water
in the desert. That well is on the way to Shur. v8 And the *angel said,
‘Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from? Where do you go?’ She said, ‘I
have run away from Sarai, whom I served.’ v9 The *Lord’s *angel said to
her, ‘Return to Sarai, whom you served. Serve her again and obey her.’ v10
The *Lord’s *angel also said to Hagar, ‘I will make you have a great number of
*descendants. They will be so many that nobody will be able to count them.’
An *angel is a servant of God who brings messages from heaven.
But in this verse ‘the *Lord’s *angel’ means God himself. He did not send a
servant but he came himself. We know that because of the words in verse 13.
God already knew where Hagar had come from. He asked the question
so that Hagar would speak to him.
God often says this to people who run away from difficulties. He
says, ‘I know that things were difficult. But go back and overcome the
difficulties. I will be with you and I will help you.’
God intended that Abram would have only one wife, Sarai. He did
not tell Abram to take an extra wife, Hagar. (See the comment on verse 3.) So
God did not intend that Abram should have *descendants by Hagar. But God loves
people. So he looked after those *descendants. And he promised to make them a
v11 And the *Lord’s *angel said to her, ‘You are
*pregnant and a son will be born to you. You shall call him Ishmael, because
the *Lord has heard you in your trouble. v12 He shall live like a wild
*donkey. He will be every man’s enemy and every man shall be his enemy. He will
live in front of all his relatives.’
‘Ishmael’ means ‘God heard’.
God had promised that Abram’s *descendants by his wife Sarai
would live in *Canaan. (See Genesis 12:7.) And God had also promised that
Abram’s *descendants by Hagar’s son Ishmael would be a great nation. (See verse
10.) So Ishmael’s *descendants could not live in *Canaan because there was not
enough space for both nations. Therefore Ishmael’s *descendants would live in
the desert. We are not sure what the last sentence in verse 12 means. Sometimes
in the Bible, ‘in front of’ means ‘to the east of’.
v13 So Hagar gave a name to the *Lord who spoke to
her. She called him, ‘You are a God who sees.’ She said, ‘I have really seen
the God who sees me.’ v14 Therefore people call the well Beer-lahai-roi.
It is between Kadesh and Bered.
v15 And Hagar had a son for Abram. And Abram called
his son Ishmael. v16 Abram was 86 years of age when Ishmael was born to
Hagar for Abram.
‘Beer-lahai-roi’ means ‘the well of the one who lives and sees’.
She may have meant, ‘I have seen God and I am still alive.’
God makes an agreement with Abraham
v1 When Abram was 99 years of age, the *Lord appeared
to him. The *Lord said to him, ‘I am God who can do anything. Stay near to me
and have no blame. v2 And I will make my firm agreement between me and
you. I will make you have a very great number of *descendants.’ v3 Then
Abram fell down so that his face was on the ground.
God said to Abram, v4 ‘Listen to me! My firm
agreement is with you. You shall be the father of many nations. v5 Now
your name shall not be Abram. Your name shall be Abraham, because I have made
you the father of many nations. v6 I will make you to have a large
family. I will make nations out of you. Some of your family shall be kings. v7
And I will keep my firm agreement between me and you. I will keep it with all
your *descendants who will be after you. It is a firm agreement that shall last
for all ages. I will be your God. I will be the God of your *descendants who
will be after you. v8 And I will give to you the land where you live. I
will give it to your *descendants who will be after you. I will give all the
country that is called *Canaan. It shall be for your *descendants a possession
that shall last through all ages. And I will be their God.’
‘Abram’ means ‘high father’. ‘Abraham’ sounds like ‘father of
‘Stay near to me and have no blame.’ God did not say, ‘Do nothing
that is wrong. So you will have no blame.’ Instead, he said in this verse,
‘Stay near to me.’ And Genesis 15:6 tells us that Abram believed the *Lord.
Therefore the *Lord considered that Abram was right with him. That was true
about Abram and it is true about us. We have all done wrong things. We all
deserve to have blame. So we must stay near to God. We must believe God. If we
do that, God takes away our blame. Then, like Abraham, we are *righteous (right
v9 And God said to Abraham, ‘As for you, you shall
keep my firm agreement. You yourself shall keep it. And your *descendants who
will be after you shall keep it. Their children and their grandchildren shall
keep it. v10 This is my firm agreement, which you shall keep. It is a firm agreement between me and your
*descendants who shall live after you. You yourself shall be *circumcised. And
every male person who is among you shall be *circumcised. v11 You shall
*circumcise yourselves. This shall be a sign of the firm agreement that is
between me and you.
v12 You shall *circumcise every male baby that is
among you. You shall *circumcise him when he is 8 days old. You shall
*circumcise every male who is born in your house. You shall *circumcise every
male whom you buy with your money from any foreigner. You shall do it even if
he is not your *descendant. v13 Every male person that is born in your
house shall be *circumcised. Also every male person that you buy with your
money shall be *circumcised.
So a mark of my firm agreement shall be in your body. It
will show that my firm agreement shall last through all ages. v14 You
shall separate from his people any male person who is not *circumcised. He has
broken my firm agreement.’
To ‘*circumcise’ means to cut the skin from the end of a male
person’s sex part. When someone has done that to a person, that person is
‘*circumcised’. It is a sign that God has made a firm agreement with that
person. And it is a sign that that person is a member of God’s people. God’s
people became a nation. Later, they were called ‘Israelites’ or ‘the children
of Israel’. They are also called the ‘Jews’.
The firm agreement that God made with Abraham is called the old
firm agreement. People were *circumcised as a sign of that agreement. But when
Jesus Christ came, he made a new firm agreement between God and people. And now
people who belong to God do not need to be *circumcised. (See Galatians 5:6;
God promises a son to Abraham
v15 And God said to Abraham, ‘Sarai is your wife. But
now you shall not call her Sarai. Her name shall be Sarah. v16 I will
bring many good things to her. Also, I will give a son to you by her. I will
bring good things to her and she shall be a mother of nations. Kings of nations
shall come from her.’
v17 Then Abraham fell down so that his face was on
the ground. And he laughed. He said to himself, ‘A child will not be born to
me. I am 100 years of age! And Sarah will not be the mother of a child. She is
90 years of age!’ v18 And Abraham said to God, ‘I wish that Ishmael
might live near to you!’ v19 God said, ‘No! Your wife Sarah shall be the
mother of a son for you. You shall call him Isaac. I will make my firm
agreement with him. It will be a firm agreement for his family who shall live
after him. It shall be a firm agreement that shall last through all ages. v20
But I have heard your words about Ishmael. I will bring good things to him. I
will make him have a big family. And I will make him have very many
*descendants. He shall be the father of 12 princes. And I will make him a great
nation. v21 But your son Isaac shall be born to Sarah at this season
next year. I will make my firm agreement with him.’
v22 When God had finished his talk with Abraham, God
went up away from him.
‘Sarai’ means ‘laughter’. ‘Sarah’ means ‘princess’.
Many years before this, God promised that Abraham would have many
*descendants. And Abraham believed God. (See Genesis 15:5-6.) But in this
verse, Abraham does not believe what God says.
Abraham’s plan was this. Abraham thought that he was too old to
have another son. He already had a son, Ishmael, whose mother was Sarah’s maid,
Hagar. Therefore, Abraham thought that Ishmael must have the rights of the
God’s plan was this. Abraham would have a son by his wife Sarah.
That son would have the rights of the oldest son. God would make his firm
agreement with that son.
Ishmael was not in God’s plan. But Abraham prayed for Ishmael.
(See verse 18.) And God gave to Ishmael a place in his plan. Ishmael’s
*descendants would be a great nation. God had already made this promise to
Hagar. (See Genesis 16:10 and the comment.)
v23 Then Abraham took Ishmael his son. He took all
the slaves who were born in his house. He took all the slaves that he had
bought with his money. He took every male person who was among the men of
Abraham’s house. He *circumcised them on that same day, as God had told him to
do. v24 Abraham was 99 years of age when they *circumcised him. v25
And Ishmael his son was 13 years of age when they *circumcised him. v26
On that same day they *circumcised Abraham and they *circumcised his son
Ishmael. v27 And they *circumcised with him all the men in his house.
They *circumcised with him those who were born in the house. And they
*circumcised those whom Abraham had bought with money from a foreigner.
Abraham obeyed God. (See verse 10 and the comment on verses
10-12.) Every man must be *circumcised. That was a sign that there was a firm
agreement between God and the man. It was only a sign. It did not bring a man
to God. To come close to God, a man must put his trust in him. He must believe.
Genesis tells us, ‘Abram believed the *Lord. Therefore the *Lord considered
that Abram was *righteous (right with God).’ (See Genesis 15:6.)
God visits Abraham
v1 The *Lord appeared to Abraham. Abraham was near to
the big trees at Mamre. He sat at the door of his tent. It was in the hot part
of the day. v2 When Abraham looked, he saw three men. They were standing
in front of him. And when he saw them, he ran from the door of the tent. He
went to meet them. He bent his head down very low. v3 He said, ‘Sir, if
you are pleased with me, do not pass by me. I am your servant. v4 I will
bring some water so that you may wash your feet. After that, please rest
yourselves under the tree. v5 I will fetch a piece of bread so that you
may eat. Since your journey brought you here to me, please eat here. After that
you may continue your journey.’ So the men said, ‘Do as you have said.’
v6 And Abraham ran into the tent to Sarah. He said to
her, ‘Prepare quickly a quantity of flour. Mix it, and make cakes.’ v7
And Abraham ran to the animals. He chose a young cow that was good for meat. He
gave it to his servant and the servant prepared it quickly. v8 Then
Abraham took cheese and milk. He took the young cow, which was ready to eat. He
put these things in front of the men. He stood by them under the tree while
Abraham gave a friendly welcome to the three men. He would do the
same for any visitors. That was the custom. Abraham thought that the three men
were ordinary travellers. He did not know that two were *angels. And he did not
realise that one was God.
The ‘quantity’ that Abraham said was ‘3 seahs’. That was a large
quantity. And Abraham chose a young cow. He did not choose a young goat, which
would be smaller. So this meal was a large one. Abraham was very generous to
his guests. And he served his guests but he did not eat with them.
v9 The men said to Abraham, ‘Where is Sarah your wife?’
And he said, ‘She is in the tent.’ v10 The *Lord said, ‘I will certainly
return to you in the spring. When I return, Sarah your wife shall have a son.’
And Sarah was behind him. She listened at the door of the tent.
v11 Now Abraham and Sarah were both very old. Women
produce children until a certain age, but Sarah had passed that age. v12
So Sarah laughed to herself. She said to herself, ‘I have grown old and my
husband is old. I cannot have a child. I cannot have that pleasure.’ v13
The *Lord said to Abraham, ‘Sarah should not have laughed. She should not have
said, “I cannot have a child, since I am old.” v14 Nothing is too
difficult for the *Lord. At the time that I have mentioned, I will return. In
the spring, I will return to you. When I return, Sarah shall have a son.’ v15
And Sarah was afraid. Therefore she said, ‘I did not laugh.’ But the *Lord
said, ‘No, you did laugh.’
The men already knew that Abraham was married. And they knew his
wife’s name. Ordinary travellers would not know these things.
The ‘door of the tent’ was a curtain on the front of the tent.
Sarah still did not know who the men were. And she thought that
God knew what Sarah said. He knew that, although she only spoke
Sarah was afraid. But the reason for her fear was not that she
might have a son. She was afraid of God. And she realised that the men came
v16 Then the men set out from there and they looked
toward Sodom. And Abraham went with them as they began their journey.
v17 The *Lord said, ‘I will not hide from Abraham the
thing that I intend to do. v18 I remember that Abraham’s family shall
become a great and powerful nation. And all the families that are on the earth
shall receive good things because of him. v19 I have chosen him so that
he may *command his children. He shall also *command his family who shall live
after him. He will *command them to live in the *Lord’s way. He will *command
them to do right things and good things. So the *Lord will bring to Abraham the
things that he has promised to him.’
v20 Then the *Lord said, ‘I have heard very bad
things about Sodom and Gomorrah. Their deeds are very evil. v21
Therefore I will go there. Perhaps they have actually done all the things that
I have heard about them. I will know the truth.’
v22 So the men went further and they travelled toward
Sodom. But Abraham stayed and he stood in front of the *Lord.
Abraham went with the men for a short distance. That was the
custom. Abraham would do the same for any travellers who had visited him. But
he knew that one traveller was God. Therefore, Abraham had another reason to go
with them. He loved to be with God.
God wants us to know what he is doing. Jesus said the same thing to
his followers. (See John 15:15.) He said, ‘I do not call you my servants. A
servant does not know what his master will do. But I have called you friends.’
And Jesus told his followers what he was doing.
‘So the men set out.’ There were 2 men that went further. And
they were *angels. (See Genesis 19:1.) The other man was God. He stayed and he
talked with Abraham. Until Jesus was born, God seldom appeared as a man. But he
appeared to Abraham. Abraham was called ‘God’s friend’. (See James 2:23.)
v23 Then Abraham came near to the *Lord. He said,
‘Will you really kill the good people with the bad people? v24 If there
are 50 good people in the city, will you destroy the place? Please let it
remain because of the 50 good people. v25 Do not do a thing like that!
Do not kill the good people with the wicked people! If you do that, the good
people will suffer with the wicked people. Do not do that! You are the judge of
the whole earth. So you will certainly do the thing that is right!’ v26
And the *Lord said, ‘Perhaps I will find 50 good people in Sodom city. If I
find them, I will let the whole place remain because of them.’
v27 Abraham answered, ‘I am only dust and ashes. But
I have boldly decided to speak to the *Lord. v28 What will you do if 5
out of the 50 good people are missing? Will you destroy the whole city because
5 good people are missing?’ And the *Lord said, ‘I will not destroy it if I
find 45 good people there.’
v29 Again Abraham spoke to him. He said, ‘If you find
40 good people there, will you let it remain?’ The *Lord answered, ‘If there
are 40, I will not destroy it.’
v30 Then Abraham said, ‘Please do let not the *Lord
be angry. So I will speak. Perhaps there will be 30 good people there.’ The
*Lord answered, ‘I will not destroy it if I find 30 there.’
v31 Abraham said, ‘I have boldly decided to speak to
the *Lord. Perhaps you will find 20 good people there.’ The *Lord answered, ‘If
there are 20, I will not destroy the city.’
v32 Then Abraham said, ‘I pray that the *Lord will
not be angry. I will speak again only once. Perhaps you will find 10 good
people there.’ The *Lord answered, ‘For 10 good people I will not destroy the
city.’ v33 And the *Lord finished his talk with Abraham. The *Lord went
away and Abraham returned to his tent.
By this prayer, Abraham changed what God intended to do. Before
Abraham’s prayer, God intended to destroy Sodom if some inhabitants were
wicked. After Abraham’s prayer, he intended to save Sodom if there were 10 good
inhabitants. So our prayers can change what happens. But Abraham could not have
prayed like this if God had not told him his plan. So God and Abraham were
Abraham said, ‘You are the judge of the whole earth. You will
certainly do the thing that is right!’ That was a statement and a request.
was a statement. Abraham said it because he trusted God to do the right thing.
was a request. Abraham asked God not to destroy good people. He meant that to
destroy good people would be a wrong thing.
Three different things were possible.
might destroy the whole city because it was evil.
asked God not to do that.
might save the city because some people were good.
asked God to do that.
might save the good people and destroy the other people.
did not think of that. But that is what God actually did.
God does not usually give judgement on whole cities or on whole
nations. And he does not usually save whole cities or whole nations. He does
save single people. And he will give judgement on each person.
Abraham said, ‘I am only dust and ashes.’ He meant that he was
worth nothing. And God was very much greater than he was. And Abraham meant
that he was only a man. God had made man from dust. (See Genesis 2:7.)
Two *angels go to Sodom
v1 The two *angels reached Sodom in the evening. Lot
sat at the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he stood up. He went to meet them.
He bent himself down so that his face was toward the earth. v2 He said, ‘Sirs,
please stop here. I will be your servant. Come to my house and spend the night
there. Wash your feet. Tomorrow you may get up early and you may continue your
journey.’ They said, ‘No. We will spend the night in the street.’ v3 But
Lot persuaded them strongly. So they went with Lot and they entered his house.
Lot prepared a meal for them and he baked bread. So they ate.
There was a wall round the city. So anyone who entered the city
had to go through the gate. And anyone who left went through the gate.
Therefore, people often met each other at the gate. And the gate became the
place where people talked. Lot was sitting there when the two *angels came. He
would give a welcome to any travellers, but he gave great honour to the
*angels. He did not know that they were *angels. But perhaps he thought that
they were very important men.
The ‘street’ was an open place that was in the city. A traveller
might sleep there. The city’s walls would protect him. He would be safe from
thieves, because they were not in the city. They were beyond the walls.
Lot knew that the men of Sodom were evil. He knew that they might
attack the two travellers. Therefore, he persuaded the travellers to stay in
v4 But when they were not yet lying down to sleep,
the men in the city came. The young men and the old men in Sodom came. None of
the men in Sodom stayed away. They surrounded Lot’s house. v5 They
called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to
us! We want to have sex with them.’
v6 Lot went out of the door and he shut the door
behind him. He spoke to the men. v7 He said, ‘I ask you strongly, my
brothers, not to do such a wicked thing. v8 I have two daughters who
have not had sex with men. I will bring them out to you. Do to them what
pleases you. But do not hurt these men, because they are guests in my house.’ v9
But the men of Sodom said, ‘Let us come in!’ And they said, ‘This man Lot came
as a visitor. Now he wants to be a judge! So we will be crueller to Lot than we
will to the men.’ Then they pushed hard against Lot and they nearly broke the
door. v10 But the two men reached out of the door. They brought Lot into
the house with them and they shut the door. v11 And they made the men
who were at the outside of the door blind. All the men became blind. The
leaders became blind and the younger men became blind. And so they could not
find the door.
The men in Sodom tried to do a very evil thing.
Lot tried to protect the *angels because they were his guests.
That was the custom. But he still did not know that they were *angels. Lot
offered to give his two daughters to the men of Sodom. He thought that the men
of Sodom would take his daughters. And so they would not take the two men. That
was a foolish and evil thing. But Lot did not know what he should do.
‘The men became blind.’ This probably does not mean that they
could not see. But they could not understand what they saw. The *Hebrew word is
not the usual *Hebrew word that means ‘blind’. The Bible uses this *Hebrew word
in only two places. The other place is 2 Kings 6:18. Elisha prayed that God
would make the soldiers from Syria ‘blind’. Then they could see Elisha and they
could follow him. But they could not see where Elisha was taking them.
Lot leaves Sodom
v12 Then the two men said to Lot, ‘Have you any
relatives here? Bring out of this city your sons, your daughters and your
daughters’ husbands. Bring out any relative whom you have in the city. v13
Very soon we will destroy this place. The *Lord has heard that its people are
very wicked. Therefore the *Lord has sent us to destroy it.’ v14 So Lot
went out. He spoke to the men who intended to marry his daughters. He said to
them, ‘Get up! Leave this place, because the *Lord will very soon destroy this
city.’ But these men thought that Lot joked.
‘They thought that Lot joked.’ They knew Lot, because Lot lived
with them. They could see that he was not sincere. Therefore, they did not
believe what he said. If we tell people about God, we must be sincere. And
people must see that we live good lives. Otherwise, they will not believe us.
v15 When the morning came, the *angels urged Lot.
They said to him, ‘Get up! Take with you your wife and your two daughters.
Otherwise you will die when the *Lord punishes the city.’ v16 But Lot
delayed. So the two men seized Lot and his wife and his two daughters. They
took them by their hands, because the *Lord was saving them. The two men
brought Lot safely out of the city.
v17 And when they had brought them out, one man spoke
to Lot and to his family. He said, ‘Run to save your life! Do not look back! Do
not stop anywhere in the valley. Run to the hills. If you do not do so, you
will die.’ v18 And Lot said to them, ‘Oh, no, sirs! v19 I know
that you have been pleased with me, your servant. You have been very kind to
me. You have saved my life. But I cannot run to the hills. If I do that, the
punishment will overcome me. So I will die. v20 Look! That city is near
enough that I can run to it. And it is a little one. Let me escape there. It is
only a little one. Then I will not die.’ v21 The man said to Lot, ‘Yes.
I grant this request for you. I will not destroy the city that you mention. v22
Hurry! Escape to it. I can do nothing until you arrive there.’ Therefore, the
city was called Zoar. v23 The sun had risen over the earth when Lot came
‘Lot delayed.’ Lot told people that they should leave the city.
(See verse 14.) But he himself was unwilling to leave. He did not believe his
‘The *Lord was saving them.’ He was saving them because Lot was
Abraham’s nephew. He was saving them because Abraham prayed for Lot. (See verse
29 and the comment.)
The *angels told Lot to go to the hills. But Lot did not go
there. The *angels allowed Lot to go to Zoar. Lot wanted to go there. But Lot
soon had to go where the *angels had said. (See verse 30.)
‘Zoar’ means ‘little’. (See verse 20.)
God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah
v24 Then the *Lord sent burning sulphur on Sodom and
Gomorrah. He sent it like rain that falls from the sky. v25 And he
destroyed those cities. He destroyed all the valley. He killed all the
inhabitants of the cities. He killed all the plants that grew on the ground. v26
But Lot’s wife looked back and she became a large lump of salt.
What happened may have been natural. It happens in many parts of
the world. This valley is a place where it sometimes happens. Very hot rock
rises from below the ground. The rock is so hot that it flows like water.
Sometimes it rises so fast that it goes up into the sky. Then it falls like
rain. This is called a ‘volcano’. Sulphur is a yellow substance that sometimes
rises with the hot rock. So the sulphur that fell like rain should not surprise
us. The wonderful things were these:
volcano destroyed only the cities that were wicked.
happened at the exact time that God had said.
God often uses natural things that he has made. He uses them like
a man who uses his tools.
Lot’s wife delayed too long. She stayed too close to the cities.
So some of the hot rock that fell from the sky fell on her. It became a solid
lump. The salt was probably not the ordinary kind of salt that people eat.
v27 Abraham went out early in the morning. He went to
the place where he had stood with the *Lord. v28 He looked down toward
Sodom and Gomorrah. He looked toward all the land in the valley. He saw that
smoke rose from the land. It was like the smoke that rises from a large fire.
It was like the smoke of the fire that men use to bake pots.
v29 So God destroyed the cities that were in the
valley. But God rescued Lot, because God thought about Abraham. But God
destroyed the cities where Lot lived.
When God did these things, he had two purposes.
had a purpose for the people at that time. He destroyed the cities in order to
kill the wicked people and to save the good people.
had a purpose to teach people who would live in later times. He did it to teach
us how Christ would save us from God’s judgement.
The two men went into the wicked city of Sodom. In the same way,
Christ came into our wicked world. The men persuaded Lot to leave the city. In
the same way, Christ calls us to leave the ways of wicked men. The people who
did not follow the two men died. In the same way, people who do not follow
Christ will die.
‘God rescued Lot, because he thought about Abraham.’ Lot did not
want God to rescue him. He delayed. (See verse 16.) But God rescued Lot because
Lot was Abraham’s nephew. And God rescued Lot because Abraham prayed for Lot.
Lot and his daughters
v30 Lot went up out of Zoar into the hills. He lived
there with his two daughters, because he was afraid to live in Zoar. So he
lived in a cave with his two daughters. v31 And the older daughter spoke
to the younger daughter. She said, ‘Our father is old. There is no man here who
might have sex with us in the normal way. v32 Let us make our father
drink wine. Then we will lie with him. So we may make our family continue by
our father.’ v33 So in the evening they made their father drink wine.
The older daughter went to her father and she lay with him. He did not know
when she lay down. And he did not know when she got up.
v34 And on the next day, the older daughter spoke to the
younger daughter. She said, ‘Last night I lay with my father. Let us make him
drink wine today also. Then you go to him and lie with him. So we may make our
family continue by our father.’ v35 So they made their father drink wine
on that evening also. The younger daughter went to him and she lay with him. He
did not know when she lay down. And he did not know when she got up.
v36 So both Lot’s daughters were *pregnant by their
father. v37 The older daughter had a son and she called him Moab. He is
the father of the Moabites who live today. v38 The younger daughter also
had a son and she called him Ben-ammi. He is the father of the Ammonites who
Lot was wealthy when he moved to Sodom. (See Genesis 13:12.) But
when he left Zoar he had very little. He had lost all his possessions. He had
done two things that were wrong. He chose to live among the inhabitants of
Sodom, who did evil things. And when the *angels came to save him, he preferred
to go his own way.
It was very important to people in those times that they should
have *descendants. Lot’s daughters could not find husbands. The men who had
intended to marry them were dead. (See verse 14.) So the daughters decided to
produce a family in the only way that they could.
In later years, the Moabites were an important nation. Their
country was called Moab. It was east of the Salt Sea. The Ammonites lived east
of the river Jordan. Both the Moabites and the Ammonites were enemies of the
nation of Israel.
Abimelech takes Sarah
v1 Abraham travelled away from the big trees at
Mamre. He went toward the region that is called the Negeb. He lived between
Kadesh and Shur. And for a time he stayed in Gerar. v2 And Abraham said
to the inhabitants of Gerar, ‘Sarah is my sister.’ But Sarah was his wife.
Now Abimelech was the king of Gerar. Abimelech sent men and
they brought Sarah to Abimelech. v3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream
at night. And God said to Abimelech, ‘You will die because you have taken this
woman. She is a man’s wife.’ v4 But Abimelech had not touched her. So
Abimelech said, ‘Surely, *Lord, you would not kill an innocent person! v5
Abraham himself said to me, “She is my sister.” And she herself said, “He is my
brother.” My heart was honest and my actions were innocent.’ v6 Then God
said to Abimelech in the dream, ‘Yes. I know that your heart was innocent when
you did this. I prevented you so that you did not do a wrong thing. Therefore,
I did not let you touch her. v7 Now give Abraham’s wife back to him. He
is a man who knows God. So he will pray for you and you shall live. But if you
do not give her back to him, you shall certainly die. You shall die and all
your family shall die.’
The Negeb is the southern part of the country that is called
*Canaan. Kadesh and Shur are in the Negeb. Gerar is at the northern edge of the
Negeb. The people that lived in Gerar were *Philistines.
When Abraham went to Egypt, he said that Sarah was his sister.
(See Genesis 12:11-13 and the comment. At that time, Abraham was called ‘Abram’
and his wife Sarah was called ‘Sarai’.) When Abraham went to Gerar, he said the
same thing. On both occasions, it was a foolish and wrong thing. Abraham was
not confident that God would protect him. But God did protect Abraham. And
later, Abraham learned to trust God completely.
‘Abimelech’ means ‘my father is king’. Every *Philistine king was
called ‘Abimelech’. It was not one king’s name.
v8 So Abimelech got up early in the morning. He
called all his servants and he told them all these things. The servants were
very much afraid. v9 Then Abimelech called Abraham. He said to him, ‘You
have done a wrong thing to us. You have made me and my nation guilty. We did
not deserve that. You have done to me things that nobody ought to do.’ v10
And Abimelech said to Abraham, ‘What were your reasons? Why did you do this
v11 Abraham replied, ‘I said to myself, “The people
in this place do not respect God. They will kill me because of my wife.” v12
And she is truly my sister. She is my father’s daughter but she is not my
mother’s daughter. And she became my wife. v13 When God made me leave my
father’s house, I spoke to her. I said, “Please do this thing for me. Say about
me: He is my brother. Say this at every place that we come to.” ’
v14 Then Abimelech took sheep and cows. He took male
and female slaves. He gave them to Abraham. Also, he gave back to Abraham
Sarah, who was his wife. v15 And Abimelech said, ‘Look! My land is in
front of you. Live wherever you choose.’ v16 Abimelech said to Sarah, ‘I
have given 1000 coins of silver to your brother. This gift shows that you are
innocent. It shows this to all the people who are with you. It shows it to
v17–18 The *Lord had made all the women who were
in Abimelech’s house unable to produce children. He did this because of Sarah,
who was Abraham’s wife. So Abraham prayed to God and God cured Abimelech. He
also cured Abimelech’s wife and his female slaves, so that they could produce
Abraham knew that Gerar’s inhabitants did not know God. So he
expected that they would be wicked. But he discovered that they were honest and
The Bible has not told us before this verse who Sarah’s mother
and father were. But this verse shows that Sarah’s father was Terah. (See
Genesis 11:26, 29.)
Isaac is born
v1 The *Lord had promised that he would visit Sarah.
He did what he had promised to her. v2 So Sarah became *pregnant. A son
was born to her for Abraham, when Abraham was old. This son was born at the
time that God had promised. v3 Abraham called his son Isaac. Sarah was
Isaac’s mother. v4 Abraham *circumcised Isaac when Isaac was 8 days old.
God had *commanded him to do that. v5 Abraham was 100 years of age when
his son Isaac was born for him. v6 Then Sarah said, ‘God has made me
laugh. Everyone who hears will laugh with me.’ v7 And she said, ‘Nobody
would have said to Abraham, “Sarah will give her milk to a child.” But I am the
mother of Abraham’s son in his old age.’
‘At the time that God had promised.’ (See Genesis 18:10.)
God had chosen the name ‘Isaac’. It means ‘he laughs’. (See
‘God had *commanded him.’ (See Genesis 17:10-12 and the comment.)
God had promised that Sarah would have a son. And Sarah did not
believe what God said. She laughed because she did not believe. (See Genesis
18:12.) After Isaac’s birth, Sarah laughed again. But then she laughed because
she was very happy.
Abraham sends Hagar and Ishmael away
v8 The baby grew. And Sarah began to give solid food
to him. So Abraham called many people to come to a big meal on the day when
Isaac ate solid food. v9 Sarah saw Abraham’s other son, Ishmael, whose
mother was Hagar the Egyptian. Ishmael was laughing at Isaac. v10 So
Sarah said to Abraham, ‘Throw out this woman and her son. She is a slave. This
slave-woman’s son shall not get any part of your wealth. That belongs to my son
v11 Sarah’s words about Abraham’s son made Abraham
very unhappy. v12 But God said to Abraham, ‘Do not be unhappy about the
boy and about your slave-woman. Do what Sarah tells you to do. Isaac’s
*descendants will be called your *descendants. v13 And I will also make
a nation from your slave-woman’s son, because he is your son too.’
‘Ishmael was laughing at Isaac.’ Ishmael knew that he was
Abraham’s oldest son. He thought that he, Ishmael, would have the right of the
oldest son. He thought that he would get Abraham’s wealth after Abraham’s
death. And so, he thought that he was more important than Isaac. He showed that
by his behaviour.
God had made a promise to Abraham, when his name was still Abram.
(See Genesis 15:4-5.) God promised that Abraham would have a son. By that son,
Abraham would have very many *descendants. And that son would be Isaac. So God
intended that Isaac should have the rights of the oldest son. Isaac was the son
of his mother, Sarah, whom God had chosen as Abraham’s wife. But Ishmael was
older than Isaac. His mother was Hagar. If Ishmael remained, he would have the rights
of the oldest son. Therefore, God told Abraham to send away Ishmael and his
mother, Hagar. But Ishmael did not become completely separate from Abraham.
When Abraham died, Isaac and Ishmael together buried him. (See Genesis 25:9.)
v14 So Abraham got up early in the morning. He gave
bread to Hagar. He gave to her a bag that was an animal’s skin. The bag
contained water. He put these things on her shoulder and he sent her away with
the child. She went away and she wandered in the desert near Beer-sheba.
v15 When they had drunk all the water, she put her
son under a bush. v16 Then she went and she sat down a little distance
away from him. She was about as far away as an arrow goes. She said, ‘Let me
not see the child die.’ While she sat there, she cried loudly. v17 But
God heard the boy’s voice. So God’s *angel called from heaven to Hagar. He said
to her, ‘Do not be so sad, Hagar. Do not be afraid. God has heard the boy’s
voice from the place where he is. v18 Stand up and make the boy stand
up. Hold him firmly with your hand. I will make him into a great nation.’
v19 Then God showed to her what she had not seen
before. She saw a well of water. So she went and filled the bag of skin with
water. She gave a drink to the boy. v20 God was with the boy. He became
a man and he lived in the desert. He became a skilful hunter with a bow and
arrows. v21 He lived in the desert of Paran. His mother chose for him a
wife, who had come from Egypt.
Abraham gave to Hagar and Ishmael all that they needed. They
could have gone to another family as servants. But Hagar chose to wander in the
desert. This desert was not yet called Beer-sheba. Abraham and Abimelech named
it at a later time. (See verse 31.)
Ishmael was not a young child. He was about 17 years of age. The
heat and the lack of water affected him more than they affected Hagar. So Hagar
led him to a bush and he sat in the shade. But Abraham had taught Ishmael to
know God. And Ishmael could still pray. Hagar cried loudly because of her
trouble, but Ishmael prayed quietly. God heard Ishmael and he saved them both.
Abraham and Abimelech make an agreement
v22 Then Abimelech and Phicol, who was the chief of
Abimelech’s army, spoke to Abraham. They said, ‘God is with you in everything
that you do. v23 So make a firm promise to me here in God’s name.
Promise that you will not deal unfairly with me. Promise that you will not deal
unfairly with my family or with my *descendants. I have dealt loyally with you.
Promise that you will deal loyally with me. Promise that you will deal loyally
with this country. This is the country that you live in.’ v24 And
Abraham said, ‘I make a firm promise.’
v25 But Abimelech’s servants had taken a well that
belonged to Abraham. So Abraham complained to Abimelech. v26 Abimelech replied,
‘I do not know who did this. You did not tell me. Until today I had not heard
about it.’ v27–30 So Abraham separated 7 young female sheep from
the other sheep. Abimelech asked Abraham, ‘Why have you put these 7 young
female sheep apart from the other sheep?’ So Abraham replied, ‘Take these 7
young female sheep from me. That will be a sign. And we will both know that I
made this well.’ So Abraham gave to Abimelech 7 sheep. He also gave to him some
cows. In this way, the two men made an agreement together.
v31 Abimelech and Abraham made firm promises to each
other there. Therefore, they called the place Beer-sheba. v32 So they
made an agreement at Beer-sheba. Then Abimelech and Phicol, who was the chief
of Abimelech’s army, set out. They returned to the *Philistines’ country, which
was their own country. v33 Abraham planted a tree in Beer-sheba. There
he prayed to the *Lord. He is the God who does not change. v34 Abraham
stayed in the *Philistines’ country for many days.
The number 7 was a sign of an agreement. That was a custom at
that time. Abraham gave 7 sheep and Abimelech received 7 sheep. So they knew
that they had made an agreement.
This agreement was very important. Abraham had many sheep and
cows and other animals. The animals needed water. Until this time, Abraham did
not own a well. By this agreement, Abraham owned the well that is called
‘Beer-sheba’ means ‘the well of 7’.
Abraham planted the tree to show his thanks to God. God had
promised to give the whole country to Abraham and to his *descendants. (See
Genesis 12:7.) And this well was the beginning of the things that God had
God tests Abraham
v1 After these things, God tested Abraham. God said
to him, ‘Abraham’. And Abraham replied, ‘I am here.’ v2 God said, ‘Take
your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love. Go to the region that is called
Moriah. Kill Isaac there on a mountain. He will be an *offering. I shall show
the mountain to you.’
v3 So Abraham got up early in the morning. He put a
saddle on his *donkey. He took with him two young servants. He took also his
son Isaac. He cut pieces of wood so that he could burn the *offering. Then he
set out. He went to the place that God had mentioned.
This was an extremely hard test. God wanted to prove that Abraham
trusted him completely.
‘Moriah’ was Jerusalem. We know that from 2 Chronicles 3:1. That
verse tells us that, many years after this time, Solomon built a building for
God. He built it on the hill called Moriah. And that building was at Jerusalem.
People killed animals in that building as *offerings. And God told Abraham to
kill Isaac at that same place.
Abraham probably expected that God would bring Isaac back from
death. Hebrews 11:17-19 seems to mean this. But Abraham did not guess what God
actually intended to do. If we serve God, we need to trust him completely. We
expect that he will help us. But we may not guess what he actually intends to
do. He may do something more wonderful than the thing that we expected.
v4 On the third day, Abraham looked and he saw the
place a long way away. v5 Then he said to his young servants, ‘Stay here
with the *donkey. I and the boy will go over there. We will praise God and we
will return to you.’ v6 Abraham then took the wood for the fire. He put
it on his son Isaac so that Isaac carried it. Abraham himself carried the fire
and the knife. So they went together. v7 Then Isaac said to his father
Abraham, ‘My father!’ Abraham replied, ‘I am here, my son.’ Isaac said, ‘Here
is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb (young sheep) for the
*offering?’ v8 Abraham replied, ‘God himself will provide a lamb for the
*offering, my son.’ So they went on together.
Isaac was familiar with *offerings. God’s ancient people used to
give animals to God as *offerings. Noah did that when the flood was over. (See
Genesis 8:20.) Abraham did that at Mamre. (See Genesis 13:18.) So Isaac had
seen Abraham kill a lamb (young sheep) as a gift to God. And he expected that
Abraham would do the same thing again.
‘God himself will provide a lamb’. Abraham said this so that
Isaac would not be afraid. He still did not know what would happen.
Abraham trusted God and Isaac trusted Abraham. And after this
time, Isaac himself learned to trust God. Sometimes we are like that. An adult
trusts God. A child has not yet learned to trust God. But the adult tells the
child that God will provide for them. And the child believes the adult. As the
child becomes older, he himself learns to trust God.
‘God himself will provide a lamb’. This had another meaning that
Abraham did not know about. Many years later God provided the Lord Jesus as an
*offering. (See John 1:29, 36.)
v9 They came to the place that God had mentioned.
Abraham built an *altar there. He laid the wood on it. Then he bound his son
Isaac. He laid Isaac on the wood that was on the *altar. v10 Abraham
stretched out his hand and he took the knife. He was ready to kill his son. v11
But the *Lord’s *angel called from heaven. He said to him, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’
And Abraham answered, ‘I am here.’ v12 The *angel said, ‘Do not kill the
boy and do not hurt him. Now I know that you respect God. You were ready to
give to me your son, your only son.’
v13 Abraham looked up. He saw a male sheep that could
not escape from a bush. Its *horns were in the bush’s thorns (sharp points). So
Abraham went and he seized the sheep. He then burned it on the *altar. It was
an *offering instead of his son. v14 So Abraham called the place ‘The
*Lord will provide’. People still say today, ‘The *Lord will provide on his
An *angel is a servant of God who brings messages from heaven.
God wanted Abraham to stop immediately. So the *angel spoke Abraham’s name
The sheep had horns. A horn is a hard point on an animal’s head.
The bush held the sheep’s horns.
God tested Abraham. But God also did something for us. He taught
us about Jesus Christ. And he did that very many years before Jesus came. This
*offering helps us to know how Jesus saves us from God’s judgement.
This is how God teaches us about Jesus:
had said that Isaac should die.
provided a sheep.
sheep died instead of Isaac.
God saved Isaac.
has said that we must die.
provided his son Jesus.
died instead of us.
God has saved us.
God has often used the deaths of sheep or cows to tell us about
Jesus. Exodus 12:3-6 tells us about one example. Each family killed a young
sheep. Because they did that, they did not die. The death of the young sheep
was a picture of Jesus’ death. And John called Jesus ‘the young sheep that God
provided’. (See John 1:29.)
v15 Then the *Lord’s *angel called again from heaven.
v16 He said to Abraham, ‘The *Lord says, “By myself I have made a firm
promise. You have done this thing. You were ready to give to me your son, your
only son. v17 I will certainly make many good things come to you. I will
make you have many *descendants. They shall be as many as the stars that are in
the sky. They shall be as many as the sand that is by the sea. Your
*descendants shall control their enemies’ gates. v18 By your
*descendants I will make good things come. These good things shall come to all
the nations that are on the earth. I will do this because you have obeyed
v19 Then Abraham returned to his young servants. They
set out and they went together to Beer-sheba. And Abraham stayed in Beer-sheba.
God used the words ‘by myself’ in this promise. These words meant
that the promise was absolutely firm. God does not change and therefore the
promise will not change. And these words meant that the promise was a very
important one. God had not used these words before. He used them on only 3
other occasions in the Old Testament (the first part of the Bible). (For more
explanation of this, see Hebrews 6:13-18.)
God said, ‘I will do this because you have obeyed me.’ Compare
this with Genesis 15:6. ‘Then Abram believed the *Lord. Therefore the *Lord
considered that Abram was *righteous.’ So Abraham believed God and Abraham
obeyed God. Because Abraham believed God, God made him *righteous (right with
God). Because Abraham obeyed God, God blessed him. It is like that for us. If
we believe God, he makes us *righteous (right with God). But if we want him to
bless us, we must also obey him. And if we obey him then he will also bless
other people by us.
v20 After this, people said to Abraham, ‘Milcah has
had children. Their father is your brother, Nahor. v21 Uz was born
before the other brothers. Buz is his brother. After these was Kemuel, who
became the father of Aram. v22 After him were Chesed, Hazo, Pildash,
Jidlaph and Bethuel.’ v23 Bethuel became the father of Rebekah. These
were Milcah’s 8 sons. Nahor, who was Abraham’s brother, was their father. v24
His extra wife, whose name was Reumah, was the mother of Tebah, Gaham, Tahash
Nahor and Milcah lived in the country that was called
Mesopotamia. Abraham had lived there before he came to *Canaan.
This news told Abraham that he had many relatives in Mesopotamia.
So Abraham waited until his son Isaac was old enough to marry. And then he sent
his servant to Mesopotamia to find a wife for Isaac. (See Genesis 24:4, 10.)
Abraham buys a field
v1 Sarah lived for 127 years. That was the number of
years of her life. v2 Sarah died in Kiriath-arba in the country that is
called *Canaan. Kiriath-arba is also called Hebron. Abraham went into her tent
and he wept for her. He showed that he was very sad for her.
v3 Then Abraham finished weeping for his dead wife.
And he said to the *Hittites, v4 ‘I am a stranger among you. I live here
only for a time. Give me some of your land as a grave so that I may bury my
dead wife properly.’ v5 The *Hittites answered Abraham, v6
‘Listen to us, sir. You are a great prince among us. Bury your dead wife in the
best grave that we have. None of us will refuse to give you his grave. We will
let you bury your dead wife.’
v7 Abraham stood and he bent himself down in front of
the *Hittites. They were the people who lived in that country. v8
Abraham said to them, ‘If you are willing, I will bury my dead properly. Then
listen to me and make a request to Ephron, the son of Zohar. v9 Ask him
to give to me the cave at Machpelah. He owns the cave, which is at the end of
his field. Let him sell it to me in front of you. Let him sell it for the right
price. It will be mine and I will use it as a grave.’
v10 Now Ephron was present and he sat among the
*Hittites. So Ephron the *Hittite answered Abraham and the *Hittites listened.
All who entered at the city’s gate listened. Ephron said, v11 ‘No, sir,
listen to me. I give the field to you. I give the cave that is in it to you. In
front of all my people, I give it to you. Bury your dead wife.’ v12 Then
Abraham bent himself down in front of the *Hittites. v13 He spoke to
Ephron and all the people listened. Abraham said, ‘Please listen to me. I will
pay the right price for the field. Take the money from me, so that I may bury
my dead wife there.’ v14 Ephron answered Abraham, v15 ‘Sir,
listen to me. The price of the field is 400 *shekels of silver. The price is
not important to you or to me. Do bury your dead wife.’ v16 Abraham
agreed with Ephron. He weighed the amount of silver that Ephron had said. The
*Hittites had heard him say this. He gave the silver to Ephron, 400 *shekels of
silver. He used the kind of *shekel that merchants use.
The *Hittites were the people who lived in that country. (See
verse 7.) They already lived there before Abraham arrived.
People often sat at the city’s gate. They talked to each other
there. Abraham was speaking to the *Hittites at the city’s gate. So anyone who
came into the city could listen. Anyone could hear what they said.
Ephron said that he gave the field to Abraham. He said that
Abraham should not pay for it. But Ephron and Abraham both knew that Abraham
Ephron said that the price was 400 *shekels of silver. That was a
very big price. But Abraham paid it and he did not argue.
v17–18 So Abraham became the owner of the field
that had belonged to Ephron. This field was in Machpelah, which was east of
Mamre. Abraham became the owner of the cave that was in the field. He became
the owner of all the trees that were in it. Abraham bought all this in front of
the *Hittites. He bought it in front of all who entered the city’s gate. v19
After that, Abraham buried Sarah his wife. He buried her in the cave that is in
the field at Machpelah. It is east of Mamre, which is also called Hebron. It is
in the country that is called *Canaan. v20 The *Hittites gave the field
legally to Abraham. They gave it to him legally with the cave that is in it. It
became Abraham’s possession and he used it as a grave.
God had promised that Abraham and his *descendants would own the
whole country. At this time, Abraham owned one field and one well. (See Genesis
21:33 and the comment.)
Abraham’s servant looks for a wife for Isaac
v1 Abraham was an old man. He had lived for many
years. The *Lord had always been very kind to Abraham. v2 Abraham’s
oldest servant managed everything that Abraham had. Abraham said to him, ‘Put
your hand under my leg. v3 Make a firm promise to me. Make it by the
*Lord who is the God of heaven and earth. Choose a wife for my son Isaac. Do
not choose a daughter from the *Canaanites, among whom I live. v4 But go
to my country and to my family. Choose there a wife for my son.’
The servant was probably Eliezer. (See Genesis 15:2.)
‘Put your hand under my leg.’ This was a sign of an important
promise. (See Genesis 24:2.)
Abraham did not want his son Isaac to marry a foreign woman. He
wanted Isaac to marry a relative. (See the comment on Genesis 38:2.)
When Abraham said ‘my country’, he meant west Mesopotamia.
Abraham had lived there, in the city that was called Haran. (See Genesis
11:31.) Mesopotamia is the land that is between the river Tigris and the river
Euphrates. Nowadays it is mostly in the countries Syria and Iraq.
v5 The servant replied, ‘Perhaps the woman will not
agree to follow me to this country. Must I take your son back to the country
that you came from?’ v6 Abraham said to him, ‘You must not take my son
back there. v7 The *Lord, the God of heaven, took me from my father’s
house. He took me from the country where I was born. He made a firm promise to
me. He said, “I will give this country to your *descendants.” He will send his
*angel in front of you. You shall choose a wife for my son there. v8 But
if the woman does not agree to follow you, then you are free from this firm
promise. You are free from the promise that you have made to me. But you must
not take my son back there.’ v9 So the servant put his hand under the
leg of his master Abraham. He made a firm promise that he would do these
‘This country’ was *Canaan. ‘The country that you came from’ was
the west part of Mesopotamia. In verse 4, Abraham called it ‘my country’.
As in verse 5, ‘this country’ was *Canaan. God had made this
promise on several occasions. (For the first occasion, see Genesis 12:7.)
‘He will send his *angel in front of you.’ Abraham did not mean
that his servant would see an *angel. Abraham meant that God and his *angel
would make the journey successful. And God would help the servant to choose his
route so that he would arrive at the right place.
v10 So the servant took 10 camels. He took valuable
gifts of many kinds. These things belonged to his master. And the servant set
off and he went to Mesopotamia. He went to the city of Nahor. v11 He
stopped by the well of water. The well was not in the city, but it was near it.
He made the camels kneel. It was evening. At that time, the women go out of the
city in order to fetch water.
He wanted to show that his master was wealthy. That is why he
took so many camels. The valuable gifts were presents for the woman whom the
servant chose. (See verse 53.) The camels carried the gifts and the camels were
For ‘Mesopotamia’, see the comment on verse 4. The length of the
journey was about 700 kilometres (450 miles) and it would take about a month.
Abraham’s servant had other men with him for the journey. (See verse 32.)
‘The city of Nahor’ probably means the city where Nahor had
lived. Nahor was Abraham’s brother. (See verse 15.) It was probably the city
that was called Haran. This is likely because Laban lived in this city. (See
verse 29.) And later, Genesis tells us that Laban lived in Haran. (See Genesis
v12 The servant said, ‘*Lord, God of my master
Abraham, I pray that you will give me success today. Show your love to my
master Abraham. v13 I stand here by the well of water. The daughters of
the men who live in this city come out. They come in order to get water. v14
I will say to one girl, “Please let down your pot into the well and give me a
drink.” Perhaps she will say, “Drink. And I will give water to your camels
too.” Let her be the woman whom you have chosen for your servant Isaac. In this
way, I shall know that you have shown your love to my master.’
Abraham had said to his servant, ‘Choose a wife for my son
Isaac.’ (See verse 3.) And he had said, ‘Go to my family.’ (See verse 4.) The
servant did not know how to choose. And he did not know how to find Abraham’s
relatives. He might have asked one of the city’s inhabitants, ‘Where do Nahor’s
family live?’ But he knew that his task was important to God. And Abraham had
said that God would guide him. (See verse 7 and comment.) So he prayed. And God
answered the prayer while the servant was still speaking. (See verse 15.)
Abraham’s servant finds Rebekah
v15 While the servant was still speaking, Rebekah
came out of the city. She carried her water pot on her shoulder. She was the
daughter of Bethuel, who was Milcah’s son. Milcah was the wife of Nahor, who
was Abraham’s brother. v16 Rebekah was very beautiful. She had never had
sex with a man. She went down to the well and she filled her pot. Then she came
v17 The servant ran to meet her. He said, ‘Please
give me a little water from your jar so that I may drink.’ v18 She said,
‘Drink, sir.’ She quickly took down her pot into her hand and she gave him a
drink. v19 After that she said, ‘I will give water to your camels too,
until they have finished drinking.’ v20 So she quickly emptied her pot
into the basin where the animals drank. She ran to the well and she filled the
jar again. She fetched water until all his camels had enough. v21 The
servant watched her silently. He wanted to know whether the *Lord had made his
Events happened fast. Rebekah came while the servant was still
praying. Both people ran. (See verses 17 and 20.) Rebekah worked quickly. (See
verses 18 and 20.) God had prepared so that things happened immediately.
Rebekah gave a drink to Abraham’s servant. That was normal. But
she also gave water to 10 camels. That was a big task because camels drink a
lot of water. Rebekah lifted all the water from the well in her pot.
Rebekah had offered to give water to the camels. That was the
answer to the servant’s prayer. (See verse 14.) So the servant believed that
Rebekah was the right wife for Isaac. But he was not sure. Rebekah had not yet
said that she was a relative of Abraham. Therefore the servant still waited to
hear whether the *Lord had made his journey successful.
v22 The man waited until the camels had drunk enough
water. Then he produced a gold ring, which weighed a half of a *shekel. He also
produced 2 large gold rings, which weighed 10 *shekels. He put the large rings
on her arms. v23 He said, ‘Tell me whose daughter you are. Is there room
in your father’s house where we may stay?’ v24 She replied, ‘I am
Bethuel’s daughter. Bethuel is Nahor’s son and his mother is Milcah.’ v25
She added, ‘We have enough straw and enough food for the camels. We also have
room where you may stay.’
v26 Abraham’s servant bent his head down and he gave
honour to the *Lord. v27 He said, ‘Praise the *Lord, the God of my
master Abraham. He still loves my master. He has continued to be kind to my
master. And the *Lord has led me in the right way. He led me to the house of my
The rings were gifts to Rebekah as Isaac’s bride. But Rebekah
probably did not realise that at the time.
Abraham’s servant said ‘we’. He meant himself and the men who
were with him.
Rebekah might have said, ‘My father is Bethuel. You must ask
him.’ But instead, she invited Abraham’s servant to stay at Bethuel’s house.
‘He gave honour to the *Lord.’ He had expected that he would have
to search for Abraham’s relatives. And he did not know how to choose a wife for
Isaac. But God answered his prayer immediately. So he thanked God aloud.
Probably Rebekah heard what he said.
v28 Then the young woman ran to her mother’s house.
She told everyone what had happened. v29–30 Rebekah had a brother,
who was called Laban. Laban saw the ring. And he saw the large rings that were
on his sister’s arms. He heard Rebekah his sister tell what the man had said to
her. So he ran to the well. He found the man, who stood by the camels at the
v31 Laban said, ‘Come in. The *Lord has been kind to
you. Do not stand outside. I have prepared the house and I have prepared a
place for the camels.’ v32 So Abraham’s servant came into the house.
Laban took the saddles off the camels. He gave straw and food to the camels. He
gave water to Abraham’s servant so that he could wash his feet. He gave water
also to the men who were with him. v33 Laban put food in front of
Abraham’s servant so that he could eat. But Abraham’s servant said, ‘I will not
eat now. I will tell you why I have come. After that, I will eat.’ And Laban
The house is called ‘her mother’s house’ and it is not called
‘Bethuel’s house’. Also, the following verses tell us that Laban, Rebekah’s
brother, gave a welcome to the visitors. Bethuel did not do that, although
Bethuel was the head of the family. Probably Bethuel was unable to do things.
Perhaps he was old and perhaps he was very weak. So Laban did the things that
the head of the family would usually do.
This welcome was more than the welcome that one would give to a
stranger. Rebekah had heard the servant mention Abraham. (See verse 27.)
Rebekah had told Laban. (See verses 29-30.) And so, Laban knew that the servant
came from his relative, Abraham. Therefore, he gave a special welcome to the
Abraham’s servant speaks
v34 So he said, ‘I am Abraham’s servant. v35
The *Lord has been very kind to my master so that he has become great. God has
given to him many sheep and cows and silver and gold and servants and maids and
camels and *donkeys. v36 And a son was born to Sarah, my master’s wife,
when she was old. Abraham has given to his son everything that he has.’
v37–38 Abraham’s servant continued, ‘My master
made me make a firm promise. He said, “Choose a wife for my son. Do not choose
a daughter from the *Canaanites, among whom I live. But go to my father’s house
and to my family. Take a wife there for my son.” v39 I said to my master,
“Perhaps the woman will not agree to follow me.” v40 But Abraham said to
me, “The *Lord, before whom I walk, will send his *angel with you. He will make
your journey successful. You will choose a wife for my son from my own family.
She will be one who lives in my father’s house. v41 When you do that,
you will be free from your firm promise. When you reach my family, you will be
free from your firm promise. If they do not give her to you, you will be free
from your firm promise.” ’
v42 Abraham’s servant continued, ‘Today I came to the
well. I said, “*Lord, the God of my master Abraham, please make my journey
successful. v43–44 I stand here by the well. I will speak to a
young woman who comes to fetch water. I will say: Please give me a little water
from your pot to drink. Perhaps she will say: Drink and I will give water to
your camels too. Let her be the woman whom the *Lord has chosen for my master’s
v45 And Abraham’s servant continued, ‘While I was
still praying in my mind, Rebekah came out. She carried her water pot on her
shoulder. She went down to the well and she fetched water. I said to her,
“Please give me a drink.” v46 At once she took down her pot from her
shoulder. She said, “Drink. I will give water to your camels too.” So I drank
and she gave water to the camels too. v47 Then I asked her, “Whose
daughter are you?” She said, “I am Bethuel’s daughter. Bethuel is Nahor’s son
and his mother is Milcah.” So I put the ring on her nose and I put the large
rings on her arms. v48 Then I bent my head down and I gave honour to the
*Lord. I praised the *Lord, the God of my master Abraham. He led me in the
right way. So I found the daughter of my master’s relative for his son. v49
Now tell me whether you will deal loyally and truly with my master. If you will
not, tell me. In that case I will go to another place.’
Abraham’s servant told clearly all the good things that God had
done. God made Abraham great and God made him rich. (See verse 35.) Abraham
said that God would make the servant’s journey successful. (See verse 40.) God
answered the servant’s prayer. (See verses 45-46.) And God brought the servant
to his master’s relatives. (See verses 47-48.)
We should be like Abraham’s servant. We should be ready to tell
people about all the good things that God has done.
v50 Then Laban and Bethuel answered, ‘The *Lord has
done this. We cannot say any good thing or any bad thing to you. v51
See, Rebekah is here. Go and take her with you. Let her be the wife of your
master’s son. The *Lord has said this.’
Laban and Bethuel realised that God was working. They could not
decide that Rebekah should marry Abraham’s son. And they could not decide that
she should not marry him. They could not make the decision, because God had
already made it. God had already decided that she should marry him. The only
thing that they could do was to agree.
Rebekah travels to meet Isaac
v52 When Abraham’s servant heard their words he bent
himself down to the ground in front of the *Lord. v53 He produced
valuable things of silver and gold. He produced clothes. He gave these things
to Rebekah. He also gave valuable gifts to her brother and to her mother. v54
Then Abraham’s servant ate and drank. And those who were with him ate and
drank. And they stayed there for the night.
He bent himself down to praise God. He thanked God because God
had brought him to the right place. And God had made his journey successful.
When the morning came, they got up. Then Abraham’s servant
said, ‘Send me back to my master.’ v55 Rebekah’s brother and her mother
said, ‘Let the young woman stay here for a time. Let it be for 10 days or more.
After that time she may go.’
v56 But Abraham’s servant said to them, ‘Do not make me
delay. The *Lord has made my journey successful. Let me go and let me return to
my master.’ v57 They said, ‘We will call the young woman and we will ask
her.’ v58 So they called Rebekah. They said to her, ‘Will you go with
this man?’ She said, ‘I will go.’ v59 So they sent away Rebekah and her
nurse. They sent away Abraham’s servant and those who were with him. v60
They asked God to be kind to Rebekah. They said to her, ‘Our sister, we pray
that you will be the mother of many people. Be the mother of more people than
anyone can count. We pray that your *descendants will control their enemies’
v61 Then Rebekah and her maids set out and they rode
on their camels. They followed Abraham’s servant. So the servant took Rebekah
and he went on his journey.
They had already agreed that Rebekah would go. But they asked
Rebekah whether she would go immediately. Rebekah’s answer meant that she
wanted to go. And it meant that she did not want to delay for several days.
The nurse was called Deborah. (See Genesis 35:8.)
v62 Meanwhile, Isaac had left Beer-lahai-roi and he
was in the Negeb. v63 Isaac went out into the field in the evening in
order to think quietly. Then he looked. And he saw that some camels were
coming. v64–65 When Rebekah saw Isaac, she got down from the camel.
She said to the servant, ‘Who is the man who walks in the field over there? He
is coming to meet us.’ The servant replied, ‘It is my master.’ So Rebekah
covered herself with a cloth over her head. v66 The servant told Isaac
everything that he had done. v67 Then Isaac took Rebekah into the tent.
Isaac married her and he loved her. So Isaac had comfort after his mother’s
The Negeb is the southern part of the country that is called
Rebekah hid her face from Isaac because they were not yet
married. That was the custom.
v1 Abraham married another wife, who was called
Keturah. v2 She became the mother of Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian,
Ishbak and Shuah. v3 Jokshan was the father of Sheba and Dedan. The sons
of Dedan were Asshurim, Letushim and Leummim. v4 The sons of Midian were
Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah.
v5 Abraham gave everything that he had to Isaac. v6 However
Abraham also gave gifts to the sons of his extra wives. And, while he was still
alive, he sent them away from his son Isaac. He sent them towards the east
v7 The years of Abraham’s life were 175 years. v8
He died at a great age. He was an old man and he had lived for many years. So
he went to be with his fathers. v9 Abraham’s sons, Isaac and Ishmael,
buried him in the cave at Machpelah. The cave was in the field that had
belonged to Ephron. Ephron was the son of Zohar, who was a *Hittite. The field
was east of Mamre. v10 Abraham had bought that field from the *Hittites.
They buried Abraham there. That was the place where Abraham had buried Sarah
his wife. v11 After Abraham’s death, God was very kind to Isaac. Isaac
was Abraham’s son. And Isaac lived at Beer-lahai-roi.
Isaac was the son that God had promised. Isaac owned everything
that had belonged to Abraham. So Isaac must be Abraham’s only son who lived in
*Canaan. Therefore, Abraham sent the other sons away. Before this, Abraham sent
his son Ishmael away for the same reason. (See Genesis 21:14.) God had told him
to do that.
‘He went to be with his fathers.’ A man’s body dies. But, if the
man knows God, his spirit still lives. Abraham knew this. He knew that he would
be with his fathers and with God. Jacob also knew this. (See Genesis 35:29.)
And so did Joseph. (See Genesis 47:30.)
Abraham had sent Ishmael away with his mother Hagar. But Ishmael
was not completely separate from Abraham. Ishmael heard that Abraham had died.
And Ishmael came to bury him. (See the comment on Genesis 21:12.)
v12 These are Ishmael’s *descendants. Ishmael was
Abraham’s son. Ishmael’s mother was Hagar, who had come from Egypt. Hagar was
Sarah’s maid. v13–15 These are the names of Ishmael’s sons. The
names are in the order of their sons’ births. Nebaioth was Ishmael’s oldest
son. After him were Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema,
Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. v16 These are the names of Ishmael’s sons.
These are their names by villages and camps. They were 12 princes of 12
*tribes. v17 The years of Ishmael’s life were 137 years. He died and he
went to be with his fathers. v18 Ishmael’s sons lived in the region
between Havilah and Shur. It is opposite Egypt and it is towards Assyria.
Ishmael lived near to all his family.
Isaac’s family is more important than Ishmael’s family. So
Genesis tells us Ishmael’s family first. When it has done that, it tells us the
more important family of Isaac.
v19 These are Isaac’s *descendants. Isaac was
Abraham’s son. Abraham was Isaac’s father. v20 Isaac was 40 years of age
when he married Rebekah. She was Bethuel’s daughter and she was Laban’s sister.
Bethuel and Laban lived in Paddan-aram. They were Arameans (people from Aram).
v21 Isaac prayed to the *Lord about his wife because
she had no child. The *Lord granted Isaac’s prayer and Rebekah became
*pregnant. v22 The children fought against each other while they were in
her. She said, ‘I do not understand why this is happening.’ So she went to the
*Lord and inquired from him. v23 The *Lord said to her,
are in you.
groups of people are separating as they are born.
One shall be
stronger than the other one.
older one shall serve the younger one.’
Paddan-aram was the same as west Mesopotamia. (See the comment on
Rebekah did not know yet that she had two babies in her. But the
two babies caused great trouble for her. They kicked and they moved strongly.
So she prayed. She asked God what was happening.
‘Two nations are in you.’ God told Rebekah that she had two babies.
Each baby was a son. Each son would grow and he would have many *descendants.
The *descendants of each of her sons would become a nation.
‘Two groups of people are separating as they are born.’ The two
boys were already fighting against each other. After their birth, they would be
enemies. And their *descendants would fight against each other.
‘One shall be stronger than the other one.’ The older son, Esau,
was the stronger one. But later, the *descendants of the younger son, Jacob,
would be stronger. The next line says this.
‘The older one shall serve the younger one.’ This started to
happen when Esau sold to Jacob the right of the oldest son. (See verse 33.) It
became true almost 1000 years later, when the Edomites became king David’s
servants. (See 2 Samuel 8:14.) ‘Edom’ was Esau’s other name. (See verse 30.)
The Edomites were Esau’s *descendants.
v24 When the time for the birth came, there were two
children in her. v25 The first one came out and he was red. All his body
was like hairy clothes. So they called him Esau. v26 Afterwards his
brother was born. His hand had gripped the back of Esau’s foot. So they called
him Jacob. Isaac was 60 years of age when the boys were born.
‘He was red.’ This probably means that his hair was red. He had
hair on all his body.
The name ‘Esau’ is not the same as the *Hebrew word for ‘hairy’.
So we do not know why they called him Esau.
The back of the foot is called the ‘heel’. Jacob seized Esau’s
heel. Jacob means ‘someone who follows another person’s heels’. That can mean
‘someone who takes the place of another person’. So it can mean ‘someone who
Esau sells the right of the oldest son
v27 When the boys became men, Esau was a skilful
hunter. He was usually outdoors. Jacob was a quiet man. He stayed in the tents.
v28 Esau hunted wild animals and Isaac ate some of the meat. For this
reason, Isaac loved Esau. But Rebekah loved Jacob.
v29 On a certain day, Jacob cooked meat in boiling
water. Esau came in from outdoors and he was very hungry. v30 Esau said
to Jacob, ‘Let me eat some of that red meat. I am very hungry.’ Therefore, he
was called Edom. v31 Jacob said, ‘Before you eat it you must give to me
the right of the oldest son.’ v32 Esau said, ‘If I do not eat, I will
die. I have the right of the oldest son. But that right is not useful to me if
I am dead.’
‘Edom’ means ‘red’. Probably Esau was already called Edom because
his hair was red. Perhaps this verse means, ‘He likes red meat. That is another
reason to call him Edom.’
The right of the oldest son was very important. There were two
reasons for this. The oldest son took most of his father’s possessions when his
father died. That was one reason, but the other reason was more important. When
the father died, the oldest son became the head of the family. But sometimes
God chose another son instead of the oldest son. Here are some examples.
Abraham died, Isaac had the right of the oldest son. But Ishmael was older than
Isaac. (See Genesis 21:12 and the comment.) However, Ishmael’s mother was
Hagar, who was Abraham’s extra wife. So Ishmael was not a son of Abraham’s
took Esau’s right of the oldest son. (See verse 33.) God made this happen.
was Joseph’s oldest son. But God told Jacob to bless Ephraim as if he was the
oldest. (See Genesis 48:5, 13, 19.) Jacob was Joseph’s father and he was the
grandfather of Ephraim and Manasseh.
was Jacob’s oldest son. But God told Jacob to bless Judah as the oldest son
instead of Reuben. (See Genesis 49:4, 8.) Judah was Jacob’s third son.
So God chooses the best person to do his work. That is not always
the oldest person.
v33 Jacob said, ‘Make a firm promise to me before you
eat.’ So Esau made a firm promise to Jacob. He sold to Jacob the right of the
oldest son. v34 Then Jacob gave to Esau bread and meat and vegetables.
Esau ate and drank. Then he stood up and he went away. So he did not think that
the right of the oldest son was important.
The firm promise that Esau made was not enough. Their father
Isaac had not agreed to it. And before Isaac died he must give his *blessing to
his oldest son. But God was working out his plan. God had already said that the
older son would serve the younger son. (See verse 23.) And before Isaac died he
gave his *blessing to Jacob instead of Esau. (See Genesis 27:18-29.) He did
that because Jacob cheated him. And Rebekah told Jacob what he should do. But
this was part of God’s plan.
This verse, with verse 27, tells us about Esau’s character. He
enjoyed hunting and he enjoyed eating. He did not think that his family was
important. So it is not surprising that God did not choose him. But Jacob was
not honest. He cheated his father Isaac and he cheated his uncle Laban. But God
chose him and God made him an honest man.
Isaac among the *Philistines
v1 Now there was a *famine in the country. It was
like the previous *famine when Abraham did not have enough food. And Isaac went
to the town of Gerar. He went to Abimelech who was the king of the
v2 And the *Lord appeared to Isaac. He said to him,
‘Do not go down to Egypt. Live in the country that I will show you. v3
Stay in this land and I will be with you. I will bring many good things to you.
I will give all these lands to you and to your *descendants. I will keep the
firm promise that I made to Abraham your father. v4 I will make you have
very many *descendants. They shall be as many as the stars that are in the sky.
And I will give all this land to your *descendants. All the families that are
on the earth shall receive good things because of you. v5 I give you
these things because Abraham obeyed me. He obeyed all that I said. He obeyed my
demands and my *commands and my laws.’
(For the previous *famine, see Genesis 12:10.)
Gerar was a town that was west of Beer-sheba. It was near to the
coast. The inhabitants were *Philistines.
‘Abimelech’ means ‘my father is king’. Every *Philistine king was
called ‘Abimelech’. It was not the name of one king. Abraham had met Abimelech.
(See Genesis 20:2-18.) But Abraham probably met the father of the Abimelech
that Isaac met.
‘Do not go down to Egypt.’ Egypt was a good place to live when there
was a *famine. The river Nile provided water for Egypt. Therefore, crops grew
in Egypt even when there was no rain. And so there was food in Egypt even when
there was a *famine in other countries. To go to Egypt would be a wise thing.
Abraham went to Egypt when there was a *famine. But God told Isaac not to go to
Egypt. God said that he would provide for Isaac. Sometimes we have to make
decisions like this. We know what is a wise thing to do. And perhaps God will
let us do that. Or perhaps God will tell us to do something different. We must
be ready to hear what God says to us.
God repeated to Isaac the promises that he had made to Abraham.
(See Genesis 12:2-3; 15:18-21; 17:1-8; 22:15-18.)
v6 So Isaac lived in Gerar. v7 The men in
Gerar asked Isaac about his wife Rebekah. He said to them, ‘She is my sister.’
He was afraid to say, ‘She is my wife.’ He thought, ‘If I say that, the men in
Gerar will take her. They will take her because she is very beautiful. And they
will kill me.’ v8 Now Abimelech was the king of the *Philistines.
When Isaac had been in Gerar for a long time, Abimelech
looked out of a window. He saw Isaac. Isaac touched Rebekah as a man touches
his wife. v9 So Abimelech called Isaac. He said to Isaac, ‘I see that
she is your wife. Why did you say, “She is my sister”?’ Isaac said to him, ‘I
thought that someone might kill me because of her.’ v10 Abimelech said,
‘You have done an evil thing to us. Somebody might have had sex with your wife.
You would have made us guilty.’ v11 So Abimelech warned all the people.
He said, ‘Whoever touches this man or his wife shall be put to death.’
During the previous *famine, Abraham went to Egypt. And he said
that his wife Sarah was his sister. (See Genesis 12:10-13. At that time,
Abraham was called Abram. And Sarah was called Sarai.) And on another occasion,
Abraham went to Gerar. Again, he said that his wife Sarah was his sister. (See
Genesis 20:2.) On both occasions, this caused trouble. For the reasons why
Abraham said this, see the comment on Genesis 12:11-13.
During this *famine Isaac went to Gerar. He did the same thing
that Abraham had done. He said that his wife Rebekah was his sister. What
Abraham said was not completely wrong. (See the comment on Genesis 12:11-13.)
But when Isaac called Rebekah his sister, that was a lie.
Abimelech insisted on right moral standards. Probably he knew
what had happened when Abraham visited Gerar. Probably his father had told him
about his dream. (See Genesis 20:3. For ‘his father’ see the comment on verse
1.) So Isaac had no need to lie about his wife. He was not in danger.
v12 And Isaac sowed seeds in that country. In the
same year, he gathered the crops. They were 100 times more than he sowed. The
*Lord brought many good things to Isaac v13 and he became rich. He
gained more property and he became very wealthy. v14 He had many sheep
and cows and servants. Therefore the *Philistines were angry with Isaac because
he had so much. v15 The *Philistines ruined all Isaac’s wells. The
servants of Abraham, who was Isaac’s father, had made those wells. The
*Philistines filled the wells with earth. v16 And Abimelech said to
Isaac, ‘You are much more powerful than we are. Go away from us.’
A harvest that was 100 times was a very good harvest. The *famine
was over. And Isaac’s animals increased greatly. But the *Philistines did not
gain so much. God brought good things to Isaac but he did not bring good things
to the *Philistines.
Wells were very important. The animals needed to drink water.
Apart from the wells, there was little water in the country. Therefore, to fill
wells with earth was like an act of war. Things like this happen nowadays. God
may give good success to people who know him. Then other people may attack
those people because they are successful.
Abimelech would not attack Isaac. But he could not prevent his
people from attacking Isaac. So he advised Isaac to go away.
v17 So Isaac left there. He put his tents in the
valley of Gerar and he lived there. v18 And Isaac repaired the wells
that people had made in the days of Abraham his father. The *Philistines had
ruined them after Abraham’s death. Isaac called the wells by the same names
that his father Abraham had given to them. v19 But when Isaac’s servants
made a hole in the valley, they found water. It was a new well. v20 Then
the men who kept cows in Gerar were angry. They quarrelled with the men who
kept Isaac’s cows. They said, ‘The water is ours.’ So Isaac called the well
Esek, because they quarrelled with him. v21 Then Isaac’s servants made
another well and the men of Gerar quarrelled about that well also. So Isaac
called it Sitnah. v22 And Isaac moved from there and he made another
well. Nobody quarrelled about that well and so Isaac called it Rehoboth. He
said, ‘Now the *Lord has made enough room for us. Now we shall gain wealth in
Isaac did not fight against the *Philistines. He did not try to
defend the wells that the *Philistines had ruined. Instead, he went away, as
Abimelech had said. But he did not go far.
Isaac repaired other wells, which the *Philistines had ruined on
a previous occasion. Abraham had shown to Isaac where these wells were. That
was important information. So Isaac was able to find them. He called them by
their old names in order to prove that they had belonged to Abraham. Therefore,
they were Isaac’s property.
The *Philistines still quarrelled with Isaac’s men because there
was not enough space. But when Isaac moved far enough away they stopped
‘Esek’ means ‘difficulty’. ‘Sitnah’ means ‘quarrel’. ‘Rehoboth’
God appears to Isaac
v23 From there Isaac went to Beer-sheba. v24
During that night the *Lord appeared to him. The *Lord said, ‘I am the God of
Abraham your father. Do not be afraid. I am with you. I will bring many good
things to you. I will give you many *descendants because you are the son of my
servant Abraham.’ v25 So Isaac built an *altar there and he prayed to
the *Lord. He put his tent there. And Isaac’s servants made a well there.
God repeated the promises that he had already given to Isaac.
(See verses 3-4 and the comment.)
Isaac’s agreement with Abimelech
v26 Then Abimelech went from Gerar to visit Isaac. He
took with him Ahuzzath, who advised him. And he took with him Phicol, who
*commanded his army. v27 Isaac said to them, ‘I do not know why you have
come to me. You hate me and you have sent me away from you.’ v28 They
said, ‘We realise that the *Lord is with you. So we propose that we should make
firm promises to each other. Let us make an agreement with you. v29
Promise that you will not do evil things to us. We have not done any evil thing
to you. We have done only good things to you and we have sent you away in
peace. The *Lord has now brought many good things to you.’
v30 So Isaac made a big meal for Abimelech and
Ahuzzath and Phicol. They ate and they drank together. v31 On the next
morning they got up early. They made a firm agreement with each other. And
Isaac saw them set out. They went away him in peace.
Abimelech was the king of the *Philistines. (See verse 1 and the
comment.) Abimelech realised that Isaac had become powerful. Isaac had many
servants. So Abimelech did not want Isaac to be an enemy. Therefore, Abimelech
wanted to make an agreement with Isaac. And probably he thought, ‘I sent Isaac
away. I did not punish the men who ruined his wells. Perhaps he will come and
he will attack me.’
Isaac did not want to be friendly with the *Philistines. But
also, he did not intend to fight against them. So he was willing to make an
agreement with them. They agreed to live in peace with each other.
v32 On that same day, Isaac’s servants came to him.
They told him that they had made a well. They said to him, ‘We have found
water.’ v33 Isaac called the well Shibah. Later, people built a town
there. This town is still called Beer-sheba today.
v34 When Esau was 40 years of age, he married Judith.
She was the daughter of Beeri, who was a *Hittite. Esau also married Basemath.
She was the daughter of Elon, who was also a *Hittite. v35 These two
women made Isaac and Rebekah very unhappy.
Abraham had called this well ‘Beer-sheba’. (See Genesis 21:31.)
That means ‘the well of 7’. The number 7 was a sign of an agreement. (See the
comment on Genesis 21:27-30.) Isaac calls it ‘Shibah’, which means ‘agreement’.
‘Shibah’ is almost the same word as ‘sheba’. Isaac might have said, ‘Abraham
called this well “the well of 7”. I call it “the well of the agreement” because
I have made an agreement with Abimelech. But my name for the well is the same
as Abraham’s name for it.’
Esau married foreign women. Genesis does not tell us that
marrying foreign women was always wrong. But sometimes it caused trouble and it
made people unhappy. And in later times, God told Jacob’s *descendants not to
marry foreign women. (See the comment on Genesis 38:2.)
Jacob cheats his father
v1 Isaac was very old. His eyes had become so weak
that he could not see. Then he called Esau, who was his older son. Isaac said
to Esau, ‘My son!’ And Esau answered, ‘I am here.’ v2 Isaac said, ‘You
see that I am old. I do not know how soon I will die. v3 Take your bow
and your arrows. Go out and hunt. Kill a wild animal for me. v4 Prepare
for me a tasty meal, such as I love. Bring it to me so that I may eat. So I may
bless you before I die.’ v5 And Rebekah listened when Isaac spoke to his
son Esau. Then Esau went out to kill an animal.
In ancient times, before a father died, he gave *blessings to his
sons. The *blessing to his oldest son was the most important one. It showed
clearly that he had the right of the oldest son. So Isaac intended to give his
*blessing to Esau.
But God had said that the older son would serve the younger one.
(See Genesis 25:23.) And Esau had made a firm promise to give his right of the
oldest son to Jacob. (See Genesis 25:33.) But Isaac did not agree with that. He
still intended to give his *blessing to Esau.
Isaac lived for more than 20 years after this time. Jacob stayed
in Paddan-aram for 20 years. (See Genesis 31:41.) And Isaac did not die until
Jacob had returned. (See Genesis 35:29.)
v6 When Esau had gone out, Rebekah spoke to her son
Jacob. She said to Jacob, ‘I listened when your father spoke to your brother
Esau. v7 He said, “Fetch meat for me. Prepare a tasty meal so that I may
eat it. Then I will bless you in front of the *Lord before I die.” v8 So
listen to me, my son. Do what I tell you to do. v9 Go to the animals and
choose two good young goats. Bring them to me so that I may cook them. I will
prepare a tasty meal for your father, such as he loves. v10 You shall
take it to your father so that he may eat. So he will bless you before he
v11 But Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, ‘My brother
Esau is a hairy man and I am a smooth man. v12 Perhaps my father will
feel me. Then he will think that I am cheating him. Then he will not bless me.
Instead, he will bring evil things on me.’ v13 His mother said to him,
‘If evil things come, let them come to me. Do what I tell you to do. Go and
fetch the two young goats.’ v14 So Jacob went. He chose two young goats
and he brought them to his mother. And his mother prepared a tasty meal, such
as his father loved.
This family was in two halves. Isaac loved Esau and Rebekah loved
Jacob. (See Genesis 25:28.) Rebekah wanted Jacob to have Isaac’s *blessing. So
she cheated and she told Jacob to lie to Isaac. These things were wrong, but
God used them. God had chosen Jacob instead of Esau. So God made Rebekah and
v15 Then Rebekah took the best clothes that belonged
to Esau, her older son. These clothes were there in the house. She put the
clothes on Jacob, her younger son. v16 She took the skins of the young
goats. She put the skins on Jacob’s hands. She also put them on the smooth part
of his neck. v17 And she took the tasty food that she had prepared. She
also took bread that she had prepared. She gave this food to her son, Jacob.
Rebekah had many times watched Esau go to Isaac. Isaac was blind.
(See verse 1.) And Isaac wanted to be certain who came to him. So he used to
feel Esau’s clothes. He used to feel the backs of Esau’s hands. And he used to
feel Esau’s neck. Esau’s hands and neck were hairy like a goat’s skin. (See
Genesis 25:25 and the comment.) So Isaac recognised Esau. And so, Rebekah knew
what she should do. She could make Isaac think that Jacob was Esau.
v18 So Jacob went to his father. He said, ‘My
father!’ And Isaac said, ‘I am here. Who are you, my son?’ v19 Jacob
said to his father, ‘I am Esau, your oldest son. I have done what you told me
to do. Now get up and eat some of my meat. And when you have eaten it, bless
me.’ v20 But Isaac said to his son, ‘How did you find the meat so
quickly, my son?’ Jacob answered, ‘The *Lord your God made me succeed quickly.’
v21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, ‘Come close to me so that I may feel you,
my son. So I will know whether you are truly my son Esau.’ v22 So Jacob
went close to Isaac his father and Isaac felt him. Isaac said, ‘The voice is
Jacob’s voice, but the hands are Esau’s hands.’ v23 And Isaac did not
recognise Jacob, because his hands were hairy. His hands were his brother
Esau’s hands. So Isaac blessed Jacob.
v24 Isaac said, ‘Are you really my son Esau?’ Jacob
answered, ‘I am.’ v25 Then Isaac said, ‘Bring the meat to me. I will eat
some of the meat that my son killed. After that I will bless you.’ So Jacob
brought the meat to Isaac and he ate. Jacob brought wine to him and he drank.
Isaac expected Esau to come to him. But he did not expect Esau to
come so soon. To hunt a wild animal takes a long time.
Isaac himself had lied. He lied when he called Rebekah his
sister. (See Genesis 26:7.) And in these verses, Jacob lies several times to
Because Isaac was so old, he could not hear clearly. He thought
that the voice was Jacob’s voice. But he was not certain. However, he felt the
goat’s skin on Jacob’s hands. So he was certain that the hands were hairy.
Therefore, he believed that it was Esau.
When Jacob came close to Isaac, Isaac smelled his clothes. (See
verse 27.) They were Esau’s clothes, which Jacob was wearing. (See verse 15.)
So Isaac was certain that it was Esau.
Isaac blesses his sons
v26 Then his father Isaac said to Jacob, ‘Come close
to me and kiss me, my son.’ v27 So Jacob came close to him and he kissed
him. Isaac smelled the smell of his clothes. He blessed him and he said,
‘The smell of
my son is like the smell of a field
the *Lord has made rich.
v28 Let God
give you the dew that comes from the sky.
God give you the good things that the earth produces.
God give you plenty of grain and wine.
v29 Let many
people serve you
let nations bend themselves down in front of you.
Be a ruler
over your brothers
let your mother’s sons bend themselves down to you.
things come to everyone who wishes evil things for you.
good things come to everyone who wishes good things for you.’
Dew is water that appears on the ground. It comes out of the air,
especially in the morning. The country where Isaac lived, *Canaan, had very
little rain for a part of each year. So at that time, dew was very important.
‘Let nations bend themselves down in front of you.’ This shows
that you are their master. It shows that they give honour to you. And it shows
that they are not your enemies.
‘Be a ruler over your brothers.’ This clearly gave the right of
the oldest son. Isaac believed that he gave this right to Esau. Actually, he
gave it to Jacob. Genesis does not tell us that Jacob had any other brother
except Esau. So perhaps ‘your brothers’ means ‘your brother and your other
v30 So Isaac blessed Jacob. As soon as Jacob had left
his father Isaac, Esau his brother returned from his hunt. v31 He also
prepared a tasty meal and he brought it to his father. And Esau said to his
father, ‘Please get up, my father. Eat some of your son’s meat, so that you may
bless me.’ v32 His father Isaac said to him, ‘Who are you?’ Esau
answered, ‘I am your oldest son, Esau.’ v33 Then Isaac trembled
strongly. He said, ‘Who killed an animal and brought it to me? I ate it before
you came. And I have blessed him. Nobody shall change that.’
‘I have blessed him. Nobody shall change that.’ When a father
gave his *blessing to his son, that *blessing was true. God showed to the
father what he should say. Therefore, the father could not change it.
v34 When Esau heard his father’s words, he cried with
a loud and bitter cry. He said to his father, ‘Bless me! Bless me also, my
father!’ v35 But Isaac said, ‘Your brother came and he cheated.
Therefore I blessed him instead of you.’ v36 Esau said, ‘It is right
that he is called Jacob. He has cheated me twice. He stole the right of the
oldest son from me and now he has stolen my *blessing.’
Then Esau said to Isaac, ‘Can you bless me too?’ v37
Isaac answered Esau, ‘I have made him a ruler over you. I have given all his
brothers to him to be his servants. I have given him plenty of grain and wine.
So what can I do for you, my son?’ v38 Esau said to his father, ‘Can you
give me just one *blessing, my father? Bless me! Bless me also, my father!’ And
Esau wept loudly. v39 Then Isaac his father said to him,
live far from the plenty that the earth produces.
shall live far from the dew that comes from the sky.
v40 You shall
use your sword in order to live.
shall serve your brother.
But you shall
escape from him
after that you shall not serve him.’
‘Jacob’ means ‘one who cheats’. (See the comment on Genesis
(For the meaning of ‘dew’, see the comment on verse 28.)
When Jacob came to Isaac, Isaac thought that he was Esau. (See
verse 27.) He did not know which of his sons he was blessing. But he did know
things that happened very many years later. He knew because God told him. He
said to Esau, ‘You shall escape from him.’ This happened when Jehoram was the
king of Judah. (See 2 Kings 8:22. Esau’s *descendants are called ‘Edom’. See
Genesis 25:30 and the comment.)
Esau hates Jacob
v41 Esau hated Jacob because his father had blessed
Jacob. And Esau said to himself, ‘Soon it will be the time to weep for my
father’s death. Then I will kill my brother Jacob.’
v42 But someone told to Rebekah the words that Esau,
her older son, had said. So she called Jacob, her younger son. She said to him,
‘Your brother Esau intends to kill you. v43 So listen to me, my son. Do
what I tell you to do. Run to Haran, where Laban my brother lives. v44
Stay with Laban for a short time. Stay there while your brother is angry. v45
Stay until your brother’s anger stops. Stay until he forgets what you have done
to him. Then I will send a message to you. I will tell you to return from
there. It is not right that I should lose both my sons in one day.’
v46 Then Rebekah said to Isaac, ‘I am very unhappy
because of the *Hittite women whom Esau has married. Perhaps Jacob will marry a
*Hittite woman like these. Perhaps he will marry a woman of this country. If he
does that, I will not want to live.’
Esau expected that Isaac would die very soon. So he decided to
wait until after Isaac’s funeral. Then he would kill Jacob. But Isaac lived for
many more years. (See the end of the comment on verse 4.)
Rebekah was wrong when she said ‘a short time’. Jacob stayed with
Laban for 20 years. And after that time, Jacob still did not know whether Esau
would accept him.
There were two reasons why Jacob went to Haran.
Jacob did not go, Esau would kill him. That was the reason that was important
Haran, Jacob could find a suitable wife. That was the reason that Rebekah told
And the second reason was important in God’s plan.
Jacob sets out on his journey
v1 Then Isaac called Jacob and he blessed him. He
*commanded him, ‘Do not marry a *Canaanite woman. v2 Go to the district
that is called Paddan-aram. Go to Bethuel’s house. He is your mother’s father.
Find a wife there. Marry a daughter of Laban. He is your mother’s brother. v3
Let God, who can do anything, give success to you. Let him give to you a large
family. So your *descendants shall be many nations. v4 Let God bring
many good things to you and to your *descendants. Let him bring to you the good
things that he promised to Abraham. So you shall possess the land where you
have lived. That is the land that God gave to Abraham.’
v5 Then Isaac sent Jacob away. And Jacob went to the
district that is called Paddan-aram. He went to Laban, who was the son of
Bethuel the man from Aram. Laban was the brother of Rebekah, who was the mother
of Jacob and Esau.
Isaac blessed his son Jacob again although Jacob had cheated his
father Isaac. Isaac realised what God wanted. God intended that Jacob should
receive Isaac’s *blessing. Isaac realised this and so he blessed Jacob again.
‘Do not marry a *Canaanite woman.’ This is like what Abraham
said. Abraham did not want his son Isaac to marry a foreign woman. (See Genesis
24:3-4. See also the comment on Genesis 38:2.)
Paddan-aram was the same as west Mesopotamia. (See the comment on
Genesis 24:4.) For Bethuel and Laban see Genesis 24:24, 29.
v6 So Isaac blessed Jacob. He sent Jacob away to
Paddan-aram in order to take a wife from there. And Esau saw this. When Isaac
blessed Jacob, he *commanded him. He said, ‘Do not marry a *Canaanite woman.’ v7
Jacob obeyed his father and his mother. He went to Paddan-aram. And Esau saw
all these things.
v8 Then Esau realised that the *Canaanite women did
not please Isaac his father. v9 So Esau went to Ishmael and he took a
wife from Ishmael’s family. He married Mahalath, who was the daughter of
Abraham’s son Ishmael. She was the sister of Nebaioth. He took Mahalath in
addition to the wives that he already had.
Esau had married foreign women. And he did not realise that this
caused great trouble to his parents. (See Genesis 26:35 and 27:46.) But Esau
heard what Isaac said to Jacob. (See verse 6.) So he married another wife who
was a relative. This probably did not improve the situation.
v10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and he travelled toward
Haran. v11 He travelled until the sun set. Then he stopped for the night
at the place where he was. He found a stone and he put it as a pillow. He lay
down there and he slept. The stone was under his head.
v12 And he dreamed that he saw a staircase. It stood
on the earth and its top reached to heaven. And he saw God’s *angels. Some of
them climbed up the staircase and some of them came down the staircase.
v13 And he saw the *Lord, who stood above the
staircase. The *Lord said, ‘I am the *Lord. I am the God of Abraham your
grandfather. I am the God of Isaac your father. I will give the land where you
are lying to you and to your *descendants. v14 I will make your
*descendants as the dust that is on the earth. Your *descendants shall spread
far to the west and to the east. They shall spread far to the north and to the
south. All the families that are on the earth shall receive good things because
of you. v15 Be sure that I am with you. I will keep you wherever you go.
And I will bring you back to this country. I will not leave you until I have
done these things. I will do all the things that I spoke to you about.’
Jacob was in a place where there were many stones. There was
nothing else that he could use as a pillow. He probably chose a flat stone. And
probably he folded some clothing and he put that on the stone. If he did that,
it would be less hard.
Many Bibles call the staircase a ‘ladder’. But *angels went up
and other *angels came down. They could not do that at the same time on a
ladder. We do not know exactly what the *Hebrew word means.
God gave the dream about the staircase to Jacob. God showed to
Jacob that there is communication between earth and heaven. Therefore Jacob
said, ‘This is the gate that leads to heaven.’ (See verse 17.)
‘As the dust that is on the earth.’ God made the same promise to
Abraham and he explained it. He said, ‘Nobody can count the dust on the earth
and nobody will be able to count your *descendants.’ (See Genesis 13:16.) And
the end of this verse is like God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3.
v16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep. He said, ‘Now I
know that the *Lord is in this place. I did not know it before.’ v17 And
he was afraid. He said,
‘This is a
place that one must greatly respect!
is certainly God’s house!
this is the gate that leads to heaven!’
v18 So Jacob got up early in the morning. He took the
stone that he had put under his head. He put it so that it stood up. And he
poured oil on the top of it. v19 He called that place Bethel. Before
that time, the town that was near to that place was called Luz.
Jacob said, ‘I did not know it before.’ Until this time, he did
not know that God was with him. He knew that God was the God of his father,
Isaac. But Jacob himself did not know God until God came to him in a dream. But
after this time, he knew God. He knew that God was with him. And he knew that
he belonged to God.
‘Bethel’ means ‘God’s house’.
v20 Then Jacob made a firm promise. He said, ‘Perhaps
God will be with me. Perhaps he will keep me in this way where I go. Perhaps he
will give bread to me, so that I may eat. Perhaps he will give clothing to me,
so that I may wear it. v21 Perhaps I shall return to my father’s house
in peace. If the *Lord does these things for me, then the *Lord shall be my
God. v22 And this stone, which I have put here, shall be God’s house.
And I will give to God a part of everything that he shall give to me. I will
give to him one thing out of every 10 things.’
Jacob had met God. He immediately made a change in the way that
he lived. He started to give a part of his wealth to God. But his character did
not change immediately.
Jacob decided to give to God one thing out of every 10 things.
This probably means that he would do that regularly. He would not do it only on
Many people nowadays give a part of their wealth regularly to
God. Some of them always give one part in 10 parts of their wealth. They call
this part a ‘tithe’. Perhaps they give their tithe to the church. Or perhaps
they give a part of the tithe to the church. And they give the rest to other
people who work for God. We do not know how Jacob gave his tithe to God.
Jacob meets Rachel
v1 Then Jacob continued his journey. He came to the
land where the people in the east lived. v2 As he looked, he saw a well
in the field. And he saw three groups of sheep that lay near to the well.
People used to take water out of that well to give it to the sheep. A large
stone lay on the top of the well so as to close it. v3 When all the
sheep gathered there, people used to roll the stone away from the top of the
well. And they would give water to the sheep. Then they used to put the stone
back on the top of the well.
v4 Jacob said to the people, ‘My brothers, where is
your home?’ They said, ‘We have come from Haran.’ v5 Jacob said to them,
‘Do you know Laban, who is Nahor’s son?’ They said, ‘We know him.’ v6
Jacob said to them, ‘Is he well?’ They said, ‘He is well. And look! Rachel, who
is his daughter, comes with the sheep!’ v7 Jacob said, ‘The day is not
yet over. It is not yet the time when the animals will gather together. Give
water to the sheep. Then take them to eat grass.’ v8 But they said, ‘We
cannot do that. We must wait until all the sheep gather together. Then people
will roll the stone away from the top of the well. Then we will give water to
‘The people in the east’ were those who lived near to the rivers
Euphrates and Tigris. That land is nowadays Syria and Iraq. Jacob had actually
gone more to the north than to the east.
When Jacob said ‘Nahor’s son’ he meant Nahor’s grandson.
We can be certain that God caused Jacob and Rachel to meet.
Abraham’s servant and Rebekah met in a similar way. (See Genesis 24:15.)
Perhaps people had agreed that they would give water to the sheep
at the same time. And not all the sheep had arrived.
v9 While Jacob still spoke with them, Rachel arrived.
She was looking after her father’s sheep and she brought them to the well. v10
Jacob saw Rachel, who was his uncle Laban’s daughter. He saw Laban’s sheep. So
Jacob went to the stone that was on the top of the well. He rolled the stone
away from the well. Then he gave water to his uncle Laban’s sheep.
v11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel and he wept aloud. v12
And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s relative. He told her that he
was Rebekah’s son. And she ran to her father and she told him these things.
v13 So Laban heard that Jacob, who was his sister’s
son, had come. Laban ran to meet Jacob. He greeted him and he kissed him. Then
he brought him to his house. Jacob told to Laban all the things that he had
already told to Rachel. v14 And Laban said to him, ‘Certainly you are a
member of my family!’ And Jacob stayed with Laban for a month.
Until Jacob left home, he used to do what his mother told him to
do. (For example, see Genesis 27:13-14.) But from this time, he himself decided
what he would do. He did not wait to see what the local people did. He opened
the well himself. He wanted to show to Rachel that he was strong. And he wanted
to show to her that he could make strong decisions.
Rachel’s aunt Rebekah had gone to *Canaan to marry Isaac. (See
Genesis 24:50-51, 61.) We can be sure that Rachel’s father Laban had told her
This does not mean that Jacob stayed for only a month. He began
by staying for a month. After that, he agreed that he would stay for another 7
years. (See verse 20.) And in the end, he stayed for 20 years.
v15 At the end of the month, Laban spoke to Jacob. He
said, ‘You are my relative. But that is not a reason that you should serve me
without wages. Tell me, what shall your wages be?’ v16 Now Laban had two
daughters. The older daughter was called Leah and the younger daughter was
called Rachel. v17 Leah’s eyes were gentle but Rachel was beautiful and
lovely. v18 Jacob loved Rachel. So he said to Laban, ‘I will serve you
for 7 years. My wages shall be your younger daughter Rachel.’ v19 Laban
said, ‘It is good that I should give her to you as your wife. That is better
than that I should give her to any other man. Stay with me.’ v20 So
Jacob served Laban for 7 years in order to earn Rachel. The 7 years seemed to
Jacob to be only a few days. That was the effect of his love for her.
Genesis does not tell us that Jacob served Laban during the first
month. But we can guess that Jacob looked after Laban’s animals. And that is
why Laban said, ‘You should not serve me without wages.’
Many Bibles say, ‘Leah’s eyes were weak.’ But the *Hebrew word
probably means ‘gentle’ or ‘lovely’. It probably does not mean ‘weak’. Rachel
was younger and she was beautiful. Leah was older and she was not beautiful.
But her eyes were lovely.
Laban said ‘her’. He did not say ‘Rachel’. Perhaps he had already
decided that he would give Leah to Jacob instead of Rachel. (See verse 23.)
v21 After 7 years, Jacob spoke to Laban. He said, ‘Give
me my wife so that I may have sex with her. I have served you for the time that
I promised.’ v22 So Laban prepared a big meal. He gathered together to
the meal all the men who lived in the place.
v23 But in the evening Laban took his daughter Leah
and he brought her to Jacob. So Jacob had sex with her. v24 And Laban
gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid. v25 When it
was morning, Jacob saw that his wife was Leah. And Jacob said to Laban, ‘You
should not have done this to me. I served you in order to earn Rachel. And now
you have cheated me.’
Jacob thought that his wife was Rachel. He did not recognise
Leah. There could be several reasons for this.
covered her head with a cloth when she came to Jacob. That was the custom. (See
Genesis 24:64-65 and the comment.)
was dark while Leah lay with Jacob.
had drunk much wine during the big meal.
Jacob and Rebekah had cheated Jacob’s father, Isaac. (See Genesis
27:19.) Leah and Laban cheated Jacob in a similar way. The next 6 lines show
how the two events were similar.
Jacob cheated Isaac,
pretended to be his older brother.
mother Rebekah made the plan for this.
Leah cheated Jacob,
pretended to be her younger sister.
father Laban made the plan for this.
v26 Laban said, ‘In our country we do not give the
younger daughter until we have given the older daughter. v27 This
daughter’s wedding will last for one week. That is the custom. After that, we
will give you our other daughter also. She shall be your wages if you will
serve me for another 7 years.’
v28 Jacob waited for a week until the wedding
finished. At the end of the week, Laban gave his daughter Rachel to Jacob as
his wife. v29 And Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to
be her maid. v30 So Jacob had sex with Rachel also. He loved Rachel more
than he loved Leah. And he served Laban for another 7 years.
Perhaps this was true. Perhaps Laban had a good reason to give
Leah first, before he gave Rachel. But Laban ought to have explained that to
Jacob. He ought to have told that to Jacob 7 years earlier. So for 7 years he
had been cheating Jacob. Jacob was working so as to earn Rachel as his wife.
But Laban intended to give Leah to him.
Jacob’s first 4 sons
v31 Then the *Lord saw that Jacob did not love Leah.
So he made Leah able to produce children. But Rachel had no child.
v32 And Leah became *pregnant and a son was born to
her. She called him Reuben. She said, ‘The *Lord has seen my trouble. Now my
husband will love me.’
v33 She became *pregnant again and another son was
born to her. And she said, ‘The *Lord has heard that my husband does not love
me. Therefore he has given me this son also.’ So she called him Simeon.
v34 Again she became *pregnant and a son was born to
her. She said, ‘Now this time my husband will join with me, because I have
given him 3 sons.’ Therefore, he was called Levi.
v35 And she became *pregnant again and another son
was born to her. And she said, ‘This time I will praise the *Lord.’ Therefore,
she called him Judah. After that, she had no more children for a time.
Some people are very sad because of trouble in their family.
Perhaps their relatives do not love them. God helped Leah because he loved her.
He helped her when Jacob did not love her. God can help us too, if we ask him.
‘Reuben’ means ‘see a son’.
‘Simeon’ means ‘one who hears’.
‘Levi’ sounds like ‘joined’.
‘Judah’ sounds like ‘praise God’.
Jacob has 6 more sons
v1 Rachel saw that she produced no children for
Jacob. And she was angry with her sister because her sister was successful. So
she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children! If you do not give me children, I shall
die!’ v2 Jacob was angry with Rachel. He said, ‘I do not have God’s
power! I did not prevent you from producing children. God did that.’ v3
Then Rachel said, ‘Here is my maid Bilhah. Have sex with her. She shall produce
a child on my knees. So I may have children by her help.’ v4 So Rachel
gave her maid Bilhah to Jacob as a wife. And Jacob had sex with Bilhah. v5
So Bilhah became *pregnant and a son was born to her for Jacob. v6 Then
Rachel said, ‘God has given his judgement for me. He has heard my voice and he
has given me a son’. Therefore, she called him Dan.
v7 Rachel’s maid Bilhah became *pregnant again and a
second son was born to her for Jacob. v8 Then Rachel said, ‘I have
struggled fiercely against my sister and I have overcome.’ So she called him
v9 Leah saw that she produced no more children. So
she gave her maid Zilpah to Jacob as a wife. v10 And Leah’s maid Zilpah
produced a son for Jacob. v11 Leah said, ‘Fortunately!’ So she called
him Gad. v12 And Leah’s maid Zilpah produced a second son for Jacob. v13
Leah said, ‘I am happy because all the women will call me happy.’ So she called
God intended that Rachel should have children at a later time.
But the time was not yet right. And Rachel did not know that she could trust
God. Many years before this time, Sarai was in the same situation. (See Genesis
16:1-2. Sarai was later called Sarah. Her husband Abram was later called
‘She shall produce a child on my knees.’ This was an ancient
custom. When Bilhah’s child was born, Bilhah and Rachel were together. And the
child was born on Rachel’s knees. Then Rachel took the child and the child
‘Dan’ means ‘he gave his judgement’.
‘Naphtali’ means ‘struggle’.
‘Gad’ means ‘fortunately’.
‘Asher’ means ‘happy’.
v14 At the time when people harvest wheat, Reuben
went out into the field. He found *mandrake plants that had fruit. He picked
the mandrake fruits and he brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to
Leah, ‘Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.’ v15 But Leah said
to Rachel, ‘You have already taken my husband. Now you want to take my son’s
*mandrakes too!’ Rachel said, ‘If you give your son’s mandrakes to me I will
let him lie with you tonight.’ v16 In the evening, Jacob came in from
the field. Leah went out and she met him. She said, ‘You must come in to me. I
have hired you with my son’s *mandrakes.’ So he lay with her that night and he
had sex with her.
A mandrake is a yellow fruit. Women who had no children would eat
the mandrakes. They believed that they were then more likely to become
*pregnant. Rachel probably believed that. She wanted to eat the mandrakes. She
thought that in that way she would produce a child.
v17 And God listened to Leah’s prayer. She became
*pregnant and a fifth son was born to her for Jacob. v18 Leah said, ‘God
has given me my reward because I gave my maid to my husband.’ So she called him
v19 And Leah became *pregnant again and a sixth son
was born to her for Jacob. v20 Then Leah said, ‘God has given me a
valuable gift. Now my husband will give honour to me, because I have given him
6 sons.’ So she called him Zebulun. v21 Afterwards she produced a
daughter and she called her Dinah.
v22 Then God was kind to Rachel and he heard her
prayer. He made her able to produce children. v23 A son was born to her.
She said, ‘God has taken away my shame from me.’ v24 And she called him
Joseph. She said, ‘Let the *Lord add another son to me!’
‘Issachar’ sounds like ‘reward’.
‘Zebulun’ means ‘honour’.
Jacob had other daughters too. (See Genesis 46:7.) But Genesis
does not tell us the names of the other daughters. Genesis mentions Dinah for a
special reason. A *Canaanite who was called Shechem seized Dinah. And Genesis
tells us about that. (See Genesis 34:1-2.)
God made Rachel able to have children. The *mandrakes did not do
it. (See verse 14 and the comment.)
‘Joseph’ means ‘let him add’.
Jacob becomes wealthy
v25 After Joseph was born to Rachel, Jacob spoke to
Laban. He said, ‘Send me away. Let me go to my own home and to my own country. v26
Give to me my wives and my children. I have served you in order to earn them.
Now let me go. You know how well I have served you.’
Jacob had been with Laban for 14 years. Rebekah, Jacob’s mother,
had promised to tell him when he could return home safely. (See Genesis 27:45.)
She had not yet done so. So perhaps it was too soon for Jacob to return.
Actually, Jacob stayed with Laban 6 more years after this time.
v27 But Laban said to him, ‘Please listen to me. I
have become wealthy because of you. And the *Lord has blessed me. v28
Tell me what wages you want, so that you may stay with me. I will give to you
whatever you ask.’
v29 Jacob said to him, ‘I have served you well. You
yourself know that. You know that your animals have increased with me. v30
You had few animals before I came to you. Since I came, they have greatly
increased. And the *Lord has brought good things to you wherever I went. But
now it is the time when I should provide for my own family.’
Laban saw that God made Jacob successful. Before this time, God
made Isaac successful. (See Genesis 26:12-13.) And after this time, God made
Jacob’s son Joseph successful. (See Genesis 39:3.)
Jacob had been looking after Laban’s animals. Laban wanted Jacob
to continue to do this. Laban’s reason was a selfish one. When Jacob looked
after the animals, they increased. And so, Laban became richer.
Jacob meant, ‘You ought to be grateful for what I have done for
you. But now I will work for myself and for my family.’ Jacob wanted to return
to the country that is called *Canaan. (See verse 25.)
v31 Laban said, ‘What shall I give to you?’
Jacob said, ‘You shall not give anything to me. If you will
do one thing for me, I will again look after your sheep. v32 Let me look
at all your sheep today. Let me take from them every spotty sheep. Let me take
every young sheep that is black. Let me look at the goats and let me take the
spotty ones. That shall be my wages. v33 So you will know that I am
honest. When you check my wages with me, you will know that I am honest. You
may look at the animals that are with me. You may look for a goat that is not
stripey or spotty. You may look for a young sheep that is not black. You will
not find any animals that are like that. Otherwise you will know that I have
v34 Laban said, ‘That is good! Let it be as you have
Jacob changed his plan. He would not yet go to *Canaan, but he
would stay longer with Laban. He had made Laban rich. And he realised that he
could make himself rich instead. He would cheat Laban.
There was a reason why Jacob changed his plan. Jacob told his
wives, 6 years after this time, why he changed his plan. God’s *angel spoke to
Jacob in a dream and he told him what to do. (See Genesis 31:10-12.)
In that region, most sheep were white and most goats were black.
Spotty sheep and black sheep were unusual. And spotty goats were unusual.
v35 On the same day Laban removed some of his goats.
He removed the ones that were stripey or spotty. He removed the ones that were
partly white. He also removed every young sheep that was black. He told his
sons to look after these animals. v36 Then Laban and his sons went away.
They took these animals. They went away from Jacob a distance that a man can go
in 3 days. Jacob remained and he fed the rest of Laban’s sheep.
Laban tried to cheat Jacob. He agreed to Jacob’s plan. (See verse
34.) Jacob would take as his wages all the sheep that were not white. And he
would take all the goats that were not black. But Laban left only white sheep
with Jacob. And he left only black goats. He removed the other goats. Laban’s
sons looked after those at a long distance away from Jacob. Laban thought that
white sheep would produce only white young sheep. And he thought that black
goats would produce only black young goats. Therefore, Jacob would not have any
animals as his wages.
v37 Then Jacob took fresh sticks from bushes. He
removed part of the outsides of the sticks so that one could see the white
insides. v38 He put these sticks at the place where the animals came to
drink. And they mated when they came to drink. v39 Therefore the animals
mated at the place where they could see the sticks. And the young animals that
were born were stripey or spotty.
v40 Jacob separated the male animals. He brought the
female animals to the male animals that were stripey or black. So he collected
animals for himself and he did not put them with Laban’s animals.
v41 Whenever the stronger animals mated, Jacob put
the sticks in front of the animals. So they mated where they could see the
sticks. v42 But he did not put the sticks in front of the weaker
animals. Then the weaker animals belonged to Laban and the stronger animals
belonged to Jacob.
v43 So Jacob became very rich. He had sheep, goats,
maids, servants, camels and *donkeys.
The sticks did not affect the colour of the young animals.
Perhaps Jacob thought that the sticks did have that effect. Or perhaps Jacob
pretended to Laban that they had that effect.
Some stripey male animals were born after Laban took away the
other animals. So Jacob made these stripey male animals mate with the stronger
female animals. And he let the male animals that were not stripey mate with the
weaker female animals. Therefore, the young animals that were stripey were
stronger. And the young animals that were not stripey were weaker. Laban did
not know how Jacob did this. He thought that the sticks had an effect. He
thought that the sticks caused the young animals to be strong and stripey.
God tells Jacob to return
v1 Laban’s sons said, ‘Jacob has taken all that
belonged to our father. He has gained all his wealth from our father.’ People
told Jacob what Laban’s sons had said. v2 And Jacob saw that Laban was
not pleased with him. Laban was not friendly with Jacob as he had been before. v3
Then the *Lord said to Jacob, ‘Return to the country where your fathers and
your relatives have lived. And I will be with you.’
Jacob had left the country that is called *Canaan 20 years before
this time. Jacob’s mother Rebekah had promised to tell Jacob when he should
return. (See Genesis 27:45.) But she did not tell him. Perhaps she had already
died at this time. But God told Jacob that he should return.
v4 So Jacob called Rachel and Leah. They came into
the field where his animals were. v5 And Jacob said to them, ‘Your
father is not pleased with me as he was before. But my father’s God has been
with me. v6 You know that I have served your father with all my
strength. v7 But your father has cheated me. He has changed my wages 10
times. However, God did not permit him to have any bad effect on me. v8
Sometimes your father said, “The spotty animals shall be your wages.” Then all
the animals that were born were spotty. And sometimes he said, “The stripey
animals shall be your wages.” Then all the animals that were born were stripey.
v9 So God has taken your father’s animals and he has given them to me.’
If they spoke in the house, someone might hear them. Someone
might hear what they said. So they spoke in the field, where nobody else could
This was only partly true. Initially, Jacob had served Laban
well. But for many years, Jacob had served himself more than he had served
Laban. And Jacob had cheated Laban.
Jacob complained that Laban cheated him. But Jacob cheated Laban
more than Laban cheated Jacob.
‘He has changed my wages 10 times.’ Jacob was not right when he
complained like this. Jacob suggested what his own wages should be. (See
Genesis 30:31-32.) Laban changed Jacob’s wages only once. (See Genesis
29:26-28. Laban agreed that Jacob’s wages for his first 7 years was marriage to
Rachel. Laban changed this and he made it marriage to Leah.)
What Jacob said in verse 8 is not true. But God had shown Jacob
how to gain animals from Laban. So what Jacob said in verse 9 is partly true.
v10 And Jacob said to Rachel and Leah, ‘In the season
when the animals mate, I saw the animals in a dream. The male goats that mated
in my dream were stripey and spotty. v11 Then God’s *angel spoke to me
in the dream. He said, “Jacob!” And I said, “I am here!” v12 And he
said, “Look! All the male goats that mate are stripey and spotty. I have seen
all that Laban has done to you. v13 I am the God of Bethel. Remember
Bethel, where you poured oil on a tall stone. There you made a firm promise to
me. Now set out and leave this country. Return to the country where you were
God showed to Jacob how he could cheat Laban. This does not mean
that to cheat is right. But Jacob and Laban were already cheating each other.
And God intended that Jacob should gain wives and children and wealth. So God
caused this to happen.
God changed Jacob’s character so that he did not cheat. But God
did not do this suddenly. He did it slowly during many years.
‘You poured oil on a tall stone.’ Jacob did that during his
journey from *Canaan to Laban’s home. (See Genesis 28:18.)
v14 Then Rachel and Leah answered Jacob, ‘We have no
place to live in our father’s house. v15 He thinks that we are
foreigners. He has sold us. He has spent all the money that belonged to us. v16
All the property that God has taken from our father belongs to us. It belongs
to us and to our children. Therefore do whatever God has said to you.’
‘He has spent all the money that belonged to us.’ Jacob had
worked for Laban for 14 years. Jacob’s wages were marriage to Leah and to
Rachel. So the value of Jacob’s work was the marriage gift. (See Genesis 34:12
and the comment.) Laban should have kept a part of that for Leah and Rachel.
But Laban had used it for himself. He cheated his own daughters.
v17 So Jacob put his sons and his wives on camels and
he set out. v18 He took all his animals that he had gained. He had
gained them while he was in that district, Paddan-aram. He set out and he
started to go to his father Isaac. He set out for the country that is called
v19 Laban went out into the field to cut the wool
from his sheep. And while Laban was out, Rachel stole her father’s gods. v20
Jacob did not tell Laban that he intended to go away. So he cheated Laban, the
man from Aram. v21 He ran away with all that he possessed. He set out
and he crossed the river Euphrates. He travelled to the hilly region that is
Jacob did not take animals that belonged to Laban. He took his
own animals. He had gained them by his agreement with Laban. (See Genesis
‘Rachel stole her father’s gods.’ These were small models of
human shapes. Perhaps they were wooden or perhaps they were like pots. They
were models of false gods. Perhaps Rachel thought that the gods would bring good
luck to her during the journey. Or perhaps she stole them because they were
valuable. She did not tell Jacob that she had taken them. (We know that from
Gilead is east of the country that is called *Canaan. Gilead is
east of the river Jordan.
Laban chases Jacob
v22 Two days later, people told Laban that Jacob had
run away. v23 So Laban set out and he took his relatives with him. He
pursued Jacob for 7 days. He followed him to the hilly region that is called
Gilead. v24 But God appeared to Laban the man from Aram at night. God
spoke to Laban in a dream. He said, ‘Do not say anything to Jacob. Do not say
good things or bad things.’ v25 And Laban came to the place where Jacob
was. Jacob had put his tent in the hilly region that is called Gilead. Laban
with his relatives put their tents in the same region.
v26 And Laban said to Jacob, ‘You did not need to
cheat me! You should not have carried off my daughters like prisoners that an
army takes. v27 You did wrong when you ran away secretly. And you should
have told me. I would have sent you away with happiness and songs and music. v28
And why did you not permit me to kiss my sons and my daughters? I would have
said goodbye to them. You have done a foolish thing. v29 I have the
power to hurt you. But your father’s God spoke to me last night. He said, “Do
not say anything to Jacob. Do not say good things or bad things.” v30
Now you greatly desire to be in your father’s house. Therefore, you have gone
away. But you should not have stolen my gods.’
Laban was away from his home because he was cutting the wool from
his sheep. That took several days because there were many sheep. Jacob chose
this time to set out. So Laban did not know immediately that Jacob had gone.
Therefore, Jacob could travel a long way before Laban came to him.
Laban pretended that he was friendly and generous to Jacob. But
Jacob did not trust Laban. And Jacob was wise not to trust Laban.
‘I would have sent you away.’ Probably Laban would not have let
Jacob take all his wealth and his animals with him. But God let Jacob escape
safely. God did two things. He told Jacob to leave secretly. (See verse 3.) And
he spoke to Laban in a dream. (See verse 29.)
(For ‘my gods’ see verse 19 and the comment.)
v31 Jacob answered Laban, ‘I went because I was
afraid. I thought that you would take your daughters from me by force.’
v32 Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen Laban’s
gods. So he said, ‘Search for your gods. If any one has them here, that person
shall not live. Show us any of your possessions that we have. Show it to us and
take it.’ v33 So Laban went into Jacob’s tent. He went into Leah’s tent.
He went into the tent of the two maids. But he did not find the gods. And he
went out of Leah’s tent and he entered Rachel’s tent.
v34 Now Rachel had put the gods in the camel’s saddle
and she sat on them. Laban searched everywhere in the tent, but he did not find
them. v35 And Rachel said to her father, ‘Let not my master be angry
because I cannot stand in front of you. The thing that happens to women is
happening to me.’ So Laban searched, but he did not find the gods.
Jacob did not believe that any of his people had the gods. He did
not think that any of Laban’s possessions were in his camp. Otherwise he would
not have said, ‘That person shall not live.’
Perhaps what Rachel said about herself was true. Or perhaps she
lied to her father Laban.
v36 Then Jacob was angry and he accused Laban. Jacob
said to Laban, ‘Tell me what wrong deed I have done. You pursued me as one
pursues a criminal. Tell me what my crime is. v37 Now you have searched
through all my possessions. You searched for anything that is yours. If you
have found anything, put it here in front of my relatives and in front of your
relatives. They shall say which of us two is right. v38 For 20 years I
have been with you. Your female sheep and your female goats have not lost their
young ones. I have not eaten your male sheep. v39 When wild animals
killed a sheep or a goat, I did not tell you. The loss was mine. You demanded
that I should pay for it. I paid for all that I lost in the day or at night. v40
It was always the same. In the day, I suffered from the heat and at night, I
suffered from the cold. I was not able to sleep.’
v41 Jacob continued, ‘For 20 years I have been in
your house. I served you for 14 years for your two daughters. I served you for
6 years for your animals. And you have changed my wages 10 times. v42
But God is my father’s God. He is Abraham’s God. He is Isaac’s God. He helped
me. If he had not done so, you would certainly have sent me away with no
possessions. God saw my trouble and my labour. And he showed his decision to
you last night.’
Most of what Jacob said was right. But Jacob had cheated Laban and
he did not say that.
‘You have changed my wages 10 times.’ Jacob was not right when he
said that. (See the comment on verse 7.)
‘He is Isaac’s God.’ The actual *Hebrew words mean ‘Isaac’s
fear’. That means the God who caused Isaac to have fear. God showed his great
power to Isaac and therefore Isaac was afraid. Verse 53 uses the same *Hebrew
words. That verse says, ‘Jacob made a firm promise by the God of his father
Isaac.’ The actual *Hebrew words mean ‘by the fear of his father Isaac’.
Jacob and Laban agree
v43 Then Laban answered Jacob. He said, ‘The
daughters are my daughters. The children are my children. The animals are my
animals. All that you see is mine. But I can do nothing to these daughters who
are mine. And I can do nothing to their children. v44 Let us make a firm
agreement. And let there be a sign of the agreement between you and me.’
v45 So Jacob chose a large stone. He put it so that
it stood up. v46 And Jacob said to his relatives, ‘Gather stones.’ So
they took stones and they made a heap. And they ate a meal there by the heap.
Laban said that Leah and Rachel and their children were still
his. That was not true. And he said that Jacob’s animals belonged to him,
Laban. That also was not true. Laban might have said, ‘Your wives were my
daughters. Your family came from my family.’ And he might have said, ‘The
animals came from my animals. All that you see came from my possessions.’ That
would have been true. But these things did not still belong to Laban. When
Jacob took things from Laban, he took them with Laban’s agreement.
The tall stone and the heap were signs of the agreement that
Jacob and Laban had made. If either of them passed that place (see verse 52),
they would see the signs. The signs would remind them about the agreement.
Also, when they were far from that place, they would remember the signs. They
would remember that they had made the signs. And they would remember the
*offering and the meal. (See verse 54.) That too would remind them of the agreement.
v47 Laban called that place Jegar-sahadutha, but
Jacob called it Galeed. v48 Laban said, ‘This heap is now a sign of the
agreement between you and me.’ That is the reason why they called it Galeed. v49
Laban called the tall stone Mizpah. He said, ‘Let the *Lord be a guard between
you and me, when we are absent from each other. v50 If you do evil
things to my daughters, God will see. If you take other wives in addition to my
daughters, God will see. Although nobody is with us, God is a witness between
you and me.’
‘Jegar-sahadutha’ means ‘the heap that is a sign’. It is in the
Aramaic language. The inhabitants of the region that is called Paddan-aram
spoke the Aramaic language. Haran, where Laban lived, is in Paddan-aram.
‘Galeed’ also means ‘the heap that is a sign’. It is in the *Hebrew language.
These two languages were similar. People who knew one language could usually
understand the other language.
‘Mizpah’ means ‘a place to watch’ or ‘a look-out’.
This verse tells us the reason why Laban made an agreement with
Jacob. He was anxious about his daughters, Leah and Rachel. He did not know
whether Jacob would deal fairly with them. Laban forgot that he himself did not
deal fairly with Jacob.
v51 Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘See this heap. See the
tall stone that I have put between you and me. v52 This heap is a sign
and the tall stone is a sign. I will not pass this heap to go to you for an
evil purpose. And you will not pass this heap and this tall stone to come to me
for an evil purpose. v53 Let God be a judge between us. He is Abraham’s
God and he is Nahor’s God.’ So Jacob made a firm promise by the God of his
Laban said that he set up the heap and the stone. That was not
true. Jacob and his relatives set them up. (See verses 45-46.)
Jacob made a firm promise to Laban. And when he made that firm
promise, he used the words ‘by God’. Jacob meant that God heard his promise.
Jacob had promised to do certain things. And God would know whether Jacob did
those things. So Jacob meant that his promise was absolutely firm.
God said a similar thing to Abraham. He said, ‘By myself I have
made a firm promise.’ (See Genesis 22:16 and the comment.)
Jesus said that it is better not to make promises ‘by God’. It is
better to make ordinary promises. We should always do the things that we have
promised. If we do that, we do not need to say ‘by God’. (See Matthew 5:33-37.)
(For ‘the God of his father Isaac’ see the comment on verse 42.)
v54 Jacob killed an animal there in the hilly region.
He gave part of it as an *offering to God. And he invited his relatives and
they ate a meal. They stayed there for the whole night. v55 Laban got up
early in the morning. He kissed his grandchildren and his daughters. Then he
blessed them. And he set out and he returned to his home.
Jacob burned part of the animal. That was the part that was an
*offering to God. The rest of the animal was the meat for the meal. By the
*offering, Jacob thanked God. He thanked God for the things that God had done
Jacob prepares to meet Esau
v1 Jacob continued his journey. God’s *angels met him
v2 and Jacob saw them. He said, ‘This is God’s army!’ So he called that
v3 Jacob sent some of his servants to take a message
to his brother Esau. They went before Jacob to Esau. Esau was in the region
that is called Seir. It is in the country that is called Edom. v4 Jacob
said to the servants, ‘Say, “This is what your servant Jacob says to my master Esau:
I have stayed with Laban until now. v5 I have cows, *donkeys, sheep,
servants and maids. I have sent this message to my master so that you may be
pleased with me.” ’
v6 And the *messengers returned to Jacob. They said,
‘We came to your brother Esau. He comes to meet you. He brings 400 men with
him.’ v7 Then Jacob was greatly afraid. He divided those that were with
him into two groups. He divided the people and the sheep and the cows and the
camels. v8 He thought, ‘If Esau kills one group, the other group will
God’s *angels did not give any message to Jacob, but Jacob saw
them. So Jacob knew that God was guarding him. ‘Mahanaim’ means ‘two armies’ or
‘two camps’. Perhaps he meant God’s army and his own people. His own people
were not strong enough to defend themselves against Esau. But if God’s army
camped round him, he was safe.
Many years after this time, Elisha saw God’s army. He too knew
that God was guarding him. (See 2 Kings 6:15-17.)
‘Edom’ was another name for Esau. ‘Edom’ also means Esau’s
*descendants. And it also means the country where they lived. This country is
south and east of *Canaan.
Jacob did not know whether Esau was friendly to him or not.
Perhaps Esau was bringing 400 men so as to kill Jacob and all his people.
v9 And Jacob said, ‘God of my father Abraham! God of
my father Isaac! You said to me, “Return to your country and to your relatives.
I will do good things to you.” v10 I do not deserve any of the great
love that you have shown to me, your servant. When I crossed this river Jordan,
my only possession was my stick. But now because of your care I have become two
groups of people and animals. v11 Please save me from my brother Esau. I
am afraid of him. I am afraid that he will kill us all. He will kill the
mothers and the children. v12 But you said, “I will do good to you. I
will make your *descendants as many as the sand of the sea. The sand is many
tiny pieces and nobody can count them.” ’
Jacob was greatly afraid. (See verse 7.) But he had learned to
trust God. So he prayed. These are the parts of his prayer. We might use them
as a pattern for our own prayers.
speaks to God. He says, ‘My father’s God’. We might say, ‘Our father in heaven’.
repeats God’s promise. (See the end of verse 9.)
tells God that he does not deserve anything. (See verse 10.)
thanks God for his gifts. (He says, ‘your care’, in verse 10.)
asks God for what he needs. (He says, ‘Please save me’, in verse 11)
repeats God’s promise again. (See verse 12.)
‘You said to me, “Return.” ‘ (See Genesis 31:3.)
God said these words to Abraham. (See Genesis 22:17.) He said a
similar thing to Jacob but he mentioned dust instead of sand. (See Genesis
28:14.) But the meaning is the same.
v13 So Jacob stayed there that night. And he chose
from his possessions a gift for his brother Esau. v14 He took 200 female
goats. He took 20 male goats. He took 200 female sheep. He took 20 male sheep. v15
He took 30 female camels and their young camels. He took 40 female cows and 10
male cows. He took 20 female *donkeys and 10 male *donkeys. v16 These
animals were in separate groups. He gave them to his servants. And he said to
his servants, ‘Go on before me. Let there be a space between one group and
Jacob chose the gift after he had prayed. That was the right
thing to do. We should pray before we decide. Perhaps God will answer our
prayer by helping us to make the right decision.
Jacob believed that God would protect him. But he also did
sensible things so that Esau would accept him. These were the effects of the
showed to Esau that Jacob wanted to be friendly.
showed to Esau that Jacob respected Esau. Notice that Jacob used the words
‘master’ and ‘servant’ in verse 18.
Jacob behaved to Esau as one behaves to an older brother. Jacob
had taken from Esau the right of the oldest son. (See Genesis 25:33.) Jacob had
also taken from Esau his father’s *blessing. (See Genesis 27:27.) But these
gifts showed to Esau that Jacob was not proud. Jacob did not say, ‘I was the
younger son but I became the oldest. My father made me the head of the family.
So I am better than Esau.’ Instead, he showed that he respected Esau.
v17 Jacob *commanded the servant who had the first
group. He said, ‘Esau my brother will meet you. He will ask you, “Whose servant
are you? Where do you go? And whose are these animals that are in front of
you?” v18 You shall say, “They belong to your servant Jacob. He has sent
them as a gift to his master Esau. And your servant Jacob is behind us.” ’
v19 Jacob said the same words to the servants who had
the second and the third groups. And he said the same words to all those who
followed the animals. He said, ‘You shall say the same thing to Esau when you
meet him. v20 And you shall say, “And your servant Jacob is behind
us.” ’ Jacob thought, ‘I may make him pleased with me by this gift. The
gift goes before me and afterwards I shall meet him. Perhaps he will be
friendly with me.’
v21 So the animals that were a gift went on in front
of Jacob. And Jacob himself stayed in his tent that night.
Jacob’s servants gave messages to Esau. The messages told Esau
that Jacob was friendly to him. And Esau had enough time to think about those
messages before he met Jacob.
Jacob fights with God
v22 During the night, Jacob got up. He crossed the
stream that is called the Jabbok. He took his two wives. He took his two maids.
He took his 11 children. v23 And he made them cross the stream. He made
everything that he had cross the stream. v24 Then Jacob remained alone.
And a man struggled with him until the day came.
v25 The man saw that he did not win against Jacob. So
he touched the side of Jacob’s leg. Jacob discovered that he could not use his
leg. But he continued to struggle. v26 Then the man said, ‘Let me go,
because the day is near.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you
bless me.’ v27 And the man said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he
said, ‘Jacob.’ v28 Then the man said, ‘You shall not be called Jacob.
You shall be called Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men.
And you have won.’ v29 Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’
But the man said, ‘You do not need to ask my name.’ And there the man blessed
The Jabbok is a stream that flows into the river Jordan from the
east. It is shallow and one can cross it easily. It divides the region that is
called Gilead in two parts.
This was God, who appeared as a man. We know that from verse 28
(‘struggled with God’) and from verse 30 (‘seen God’s face’).
‘The man saw that he did not win.’ God is powerful. He can do
anything. But he did not overcome Jacob, because he used only a man’s strength.
‘Jacob’ may mean ‘one who cheats’. (See Genesis 25:26 and the
comment.) ‘Israel’ probably means ‘God struggles’ or ‘he struggles with God’.
God said to Jacob, ‘You shall be called Israel.’ But after this
time he had two names. He was sometimes called Israel and he was sometimes
called Jacob. And even God called him Jacob. (See Genesis 46:2.) It was
different for Abraham. He was initially called Abram. God said to him, ‘Now
your name shall not be Abram. Your name shall be Abraham.’ (See Genesis 17:5.)
And after that time he was only called Abraham. He was not called Abram.
v30 Jacob said, ‘I have seen God’s face. But I did
not die.’ So he called that place Peniel. v31 The sun rose as Jacob
passed through Penuel. He walked with one weak leg, because the man had touched
v32 Therefore even today Jacob’s *descendants do not
eat the meat that is at the side of the leg. That is the place where the man
touched Jacob’s leg.
God had appeared as a man. See the comment about verse 24. Many
Bible students believe that it was Jesus who met Jacob.
‘Peniel’ and ‘Penuel’ are
both names of the same place. They both mean ‘God’s face’.
‘Penuel’ became the usual name of that place but its meaning is
not quite clear. The meaning of ‘Peniel’ is clear, but it is not the usual name
of the place.
To understand this, use English words to make the name. Imagine
that the place was called ‘Godface’. Then these 2 sentences would be like this.
‘So he called that place “God’s Face”. The sun rose as Jacob passed through
Esau and Jacob meet
v1 Jacob saw that Esau approached. And 400 men came
with him. So Jacob divided the children into 4 groups. Leah and Rachel and the
2 maids took care of the groups. v2 Jacob put the maids with their
children in front. After them, he put Leah with her children. Rachel and Joseph
followed after all the other people. v3 Jacob himself went in front of
them. He bent himself down to the ground 7 times, until he came near to his
brother. v4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob. He hugged him and he kissed him.
They both wept.
v5 And Esau looked and he saw the women and the
children. He said, ‘Who are these that are with you?’ Jacob said, ‘These are
the children that God has kindly given to your servant.’ v6 Then the
maids came near and they brought their children. They all bent themselves down
to the ground. v7 Leah also came near with her children. They also bent
themselves down. After them, Joseph and Rachel came near and they bent
v8 Esau said, ‘Why did you send these animals that I
met?’ Jacob answered, ‘I sent them so that you, my master, would be friendly
with me.’ v9 But Esau said, ‘I have enough possessions, my brother. Keep
your own possessions for yourself.’ v10 Jacob said, ‘No, I ask you to do
this. If you are pleased with me, accept my gift. Your face is to me like God’s
face because you greeted me so kindly. v11 Please accept my gift that I
have brought to you. God has dealt kindly with me and so I have enough
possessions.’ So Jacob urged Esau and Esau took the gift.
Jacob greeted Esau in a very polite way. He started his greeting
before they came close to each other. Esau did not delay so as to be polite.
Instead, Esau ran to meet Jacob.
Esau refused Jacob’s gift. Then Jacob insisted. Then Esau
accepted. That was the custom. If Esau accepted the gift immediately, that
would be an insult. But when Jacob insisted, then Esau accepted it. That showed
to Jacob that Esau was genuinely friendly to him.
v12 Then Esau said, ‘Let us travel on our way. I will
go before you.’ v13 But Jacob said to him, ‘My master knows that the
children are weak. I must take care of the young animals. If they travel too
fast for one day, all the animals will die. v14 Let my master go before
his servant and I will follow slowly. I will travel at the right speed for my
animals. I will go at the speed of the children. And I will come to my master
v15 So Esau said, ‘I have men with me. Let me leave
some of them to guard you.’ But Jacob said, ‘There is no reason that my master
should help me in that way.’ v16 So Esau returned at once to Seir. v17
But Jacob travelled to Succoth. There he built a house for himself. He made
shelters for his cows. Therefore, the place is called Succoth.
Esau lived in the region that was called Seir. (See Genesis 32:3
and the comment.) Jacob’s home was the country that was called *Canaan. He
wanted to go there. He did not want to go to Seir. And Jacob was afraid that
Esau might not always be friendly. Esau had said, 20 years earlier, that he
would kill Jacob. (See Genesis 27:41.) Esau might still do that. Therefore,
Jacob wanted to separate from Esau. So he said that he needed to travel slowly
because of his animals. He said that he would meet Esau in Seir. That was not
true. He did not intend to go to Seir. And Jacob and Esau probably did not meet
again until they met to bury their father Isaac. (See Genesis 35:29.)
Jacob did not want Esau’s men to guard him. They would expect
that he would go towards the south to Seir. But actually, Jacob went west. He
crossed the river Jordan and he went to Shechem. (See verse 18.)
‘Succoth’ means ‘shelters’.
v18 So Jacob had come from Paddan-aram. He arrived
safely at the city that was called Shechem. Shechem is in the country that is
called *Canaan. And he put his tent in front of the town. v19 He bought
the piece of land where he had put his tent. He bought it from the sons of
Hamor, who was Shechem’s father. He paid for it 100 pieces of money. v20
There he built an *altar and he called it El-Elohe-Israel.
‘Shechem’ is the name of a city and it is a man’s name. In verse
18, it is the name of a city, but in verse 19 it is a man’s name.
‘El-Elohe-Israel’ means ‘God is Israel’s God’.
Shechem wants to marry Dinah
v1 Now Dinah was Leah’s daughter and her father was
Jacob. Dinah went out to visit the women who lived in *Canaan. v2 And
Shechem, who was Hamor’s son, saw her. Hamor was a Hivite and he was the prince
of the district. Shechem seized Dinah. He had sex with her and he made her
ashamed. v3 And Shechem loved Dinah, who was Jacob’s daughter. He loved
her and he spoke gently to her.
‘Shechem’ was the name of the town. (See Genesis 33:18.) And
‘Shechem’ was also a man’s name. In this chapter, it is a man’s name. The
Hivites were one of the *tribes that lived in Canaan before Abraham went there.
v4 So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor. He said, ‘Get
this young woman for me. She shall be my wife.’ v5 Now Jacob heard that
Shechem had spoiled his daughter Dinah’s honour. But Jacob’s sons were with his
animals in the field. Therefore, Jacob did nothing until his sons came back. v6
And Hamor, who was Shechem’s father, went to Jacob. He went to speak with
v7 Jacob’s sons heard about this and they came in
from the field. They were very sad and very angry because Shechem had sex with
Jacob’s daughter. Shechem had done a very wrong thing against Israel. That is a
thing that nobody ought to do.
v8 But Hamor spoke with them. He said, ‘My son
Shechem greatly desires your daughter. Please give her to him as his wife. v9
Make marriages with us. Give your daughters to us and take our daughters for
yourselves. v10 You shall live with us and the country shall be open to
you. Make this country your home. Do your business in it and get property in
it.’ v11 And Shechem also spoke to Dinah’s father and to her brothers.
He said, ‘Please be friendly to me. I will give to you whatever you ask. v12
You may make the marriage present and the gift very large. I will give to you
whatever you say. But give the young woman to me so that she shall be my wife.’
The marriage present was a present that the man’s family gave to
the woman’s father. The gift was a present from the man’s family to the woman.
So what Shechem said meant this. It meant, ‘Give Dinah to me as my wife. And I
will give to you as much wealth as you ask.’
Jacob’s sons defend Dinah
v13 Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father
Hamor. They decided to tell lies to them, because Shechem had spoiled their
sister Dinah’s honour. v14 They said to Shechem and to Hamor, ‘We cannot
do this thing. We cannot give our sister to one who is not *circumcised. That would
take away our honour. v15 We will do this only if you will obey our
demand. You must become as we are. Every male person who is among you must be
*circumcised. v16 If you will do this, we will give our daughters to
you. And we will take your daughters to ourselves. And we will live among you
and we will become one nation. v17 But perhaps you will not listen to
us. Perhaps you will not become *circumcised. If so, we will take our daughter
and we will go away.’ v18 Their words pleased Hamor and Hamor’s son
Jacob’s sons decided to tell lies so that they could kill the
inhabitants of Shechem. They could not kill only Hamor. If they did that, all
the other inhabitants would attack Jacob’s family. So they decided to kill all
the inhabitants and not only Hamor. Jacob did not agree to this plan. We know
that he did not agree from verse 30 and from Genesis 49:6.
For ‘*circumcised’ see Genesis 17:10-12 and the comment.
This was a lie. It was a part of the brothers’ plan. Jacob and
his family were not willing to marry *Canaanites. (For the question of marrying
foreign women, see the comment on Genesis 38:2.)
Jacob’s sons called Dinah ‘our daughter’. She was not their
daughter. She was their sister. They might have meant that she was the daughter
in their family.
Jacob’s sons kill the *Canaanites
v19 Shechem had more honour than all the other
members of his family had. He did not delay, because he had delight in Jacob’s
daughter. He did what Jacob’s sons said. v20 So Hamor and his son
Shechem went to the gate of their city. They spoke to the men from their city,
who were at the gate. They said, v21 ‘These men are friendly with us.
Let them live in this country. Let them do their business here. There is enough
room in this country for them. Let us take their daughters as our wives and let
us give our daughters to them. v22 The men will live with us and we will
become one nation. They will do this if we obey their demand. Every male person
who is among us must be *circumcised. We must be *circumcised as they are
*circumcised. v23 Their cows and their property will be ours. All their
animals will be ours. Let us do what they say. If we do that, they will live
v24 Everyone who went through the gate of the city listened.
They heard what Hamor and his son Shechem said. And every male person who went
through the gate of the city was *circumcised.
There was a wall round the city. So anyone who entered or left
the city had to go through the gate. Therefore, people often met each other at
the gate. And the gate became the place where people sat and talked. And people
might meet there to make decisions. So the gate was the best place to speak to
the men from the city.
These things were not true. They were the lies that Jacob’s sons
had told to Hamor and Shechem. (See the end of verse 16.) And Hamor and Shechem
believed them. But Hamor and Shechem were lying to the men of the city. They
said that these things were the reason to *circumcise themselves. And the true
reason was that Shechem wanted to marry Dinah.
v25 On the third day the men were very sore. Then
Simeon and Levi took their swords. Simeon and Levi were Jacob’s sons and they
were Dinah’s brothers. They went to the city. The inhabitants of the city did
not expect them to come. Simeon and Levi killed all the male inhabitants of the
city. v26 They killed with their swords Hamor and his son Shechem. They
took Dinah out of Shechem’s house and they went away.
v27 And all Jacob’s sons came to the city where the
men were dead. They took away all the goods that they could find. They did this
because Shechem had spoiled their sister’s honour. v28 They took the
sheep and the cows and the *donkeys. They took everything that was in the city.
They took everything that was in the field. v29 They took all the
valuable things. They took all the women and they took all the children. They
took all that was in the houses. They took all these things and they made them
v30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have
brought trouble to me. The people who live in this country will hate me. The
*Canaanites and the Perizzites will hate me. We are only a few men. Perhaps
they will gather themselves together and they will attack me. If they do that,
they will kill me and all my family.’ v31 But Simeon and Levi said, ‘He
would have made our sister into a woman who has sex for money.’
‘On the third day’ does not mean 3 days later. The *Hebrews
counted the first day and the last day. So the 3 days were:
end of the day when they *circumcised the people
early morning of the next day
That makes about 2 nights and a day.
What Simeon and Levi did was an evil deed. Jacob said that it was
wrong (in verse 30). He said that because he was afraid of the other
*Canaanites. However, we know that the deed was evil from Genesis 49:5-7. In
that verse, Jacob is giving his *blessing to his sons. The *blessing was true,
because Jacob’s words came from God. And because Simeon’s and Levi’s deeds were
wicked, their *descendants would not receive land with the other *tribes. It
was wrong to kill all the men in the city because Shechem had done an evil
Jacob moves to Bethel
v1 God said to Jacob, ‘Move away from here. Go to
Bethel and live there. Make an *altar there for me. I am God. I appeared to you
when you ran away from your brother Esau.’ v2 So Jacob spoke to his
relatives. And he spoke to all who were with him. He said, ‘Hide the foreign
gods that are among you. Make yourselves clean and put on clean clothes. v3
Then we will set out and we will go to Bethel. There I will make an *altar for
God. He answered me when I was in trouble. He has been with me wherever I have
v4 So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that
they had. They gave to him the rings that were in their ears. And Jacob buried
these things under the big tree that was near to the city of Shechem. v5
And as they travelled to Bethel, God protected them. He made the inhabitants of
the cities that were near to them afraid. Therefore, those people did not
pursue Jacob’s sons.
Jacob was afraid of the *Canaanites who lived near to Shechem.
(See Genesis 34:30.) He might be safer if he moved away from Shechem. Perhaps
that was the reason why God told Jacob to move away from Shechem. But that was
certainly not the main reason.
Jacob had met God at the place that he named ‘Bethel’. (See
Genesis 28:16-19.) That name means ‘God’s house’. So God was saying to Jacob,
‘Go to the place where you met me. Go to my house. Build an *altar there. Use
the *altar to bring *offerings to me. When you met me at Bethel for the first
time, you were alone. Now you have wives and children and servants. Bring them
with you. They too must come to my house.’
God did not tell anyone else in Genesis to build an *altar.
People built *altars when they wanted to give *offerings to God. But on this
occasion God said, ‘Make an *altar.’ This caused two changes for Jacob’s
this time, Jacob had one special place where he would give *offerings to God.
Many years later, God’s people had a special place where God met them. After
they left Egypt, this place was a tent. (See Exodus 4:2.) And, many years later
than that, it was a building that king Solomon built. (See 1 Kings 9:1-3.) So
God was beginning to prepare his people for those later ages.
this time, Jacob’s family and his servants had to approach God, in addition to
Jacob. That was the reason why they needed to hide their foreign gods. (See
Probably these foreign gods included the gods that Rachel had
stolen from Laban. (See Genesis 31:19 and the comment.)
This is the answer to Jacob’s fear. (See Genesis 34:30.) They
were safe because God protected them.
v6 And Jacob came to Luz, which is also called
Bethel. It is a city in the country that is called *Canaan. Jacob and all the
people who were with him came there. v7 And Jacob built an *altar there.
He called the place El-bethel. At that place, God had shown himself to Jacob
when Jacob ran away from his brother.
v8 Deborah, who was Rebekah’s nurse, died. They
buried her under a big tree below Bethel. So that place was called
‘El-bethel’ means ‘God of Bethel’ or ‘God of God’s house’.
‘God had shown himself.’ (See Genesis 28:13.)
‘Allon-bacuth’ means ‘the tree of weeping’.
God appears to Jacob
v9 God appeared to Jacob again, when Jacob came from
Paddan-aram. And God promised good things to him. v10 And God said to
him, ‘You are called Jacob. But you shall not be called Jacob. You shall be
called Israel.’ So he was called Israel. v11 And God said to him,
‘I am God who
can do anything.
shall have a large family and you shall have many *descendants.
shall become a nation and it shall become a group of nations.
of your family shall be kings.
v12 I will
give to you the land that I gave to Abraham and to Isaac.
I will give the land to your *descendants who shall live after you.’
v13 Then God left him. v14 And Jacob set up a
tall stone in the place where God had spoken with him. And Jacob poured wine on
the stone as an *offering. And he poured oil on it. v15 So Jacob called
the place, where God had spoken with him, Bethel.
Before this time, God spoke to Jacob at this same place, Bethel.
(See Genesis 28:13-15.) And when Jacob returned to Bethel, God spoke to him
again (in these verses). God repeated some of the things that he had said
earlier. He repeated Jacob’s new name, Israel. (For ‘Israel’ see Genesis 32:28
and the comment.)
‘Bethel’ means ‘God’s house’. Jacob had already named this place
‘Bethel’. (See Genesis 28:19.) So ‘Bethel’ was not a new name. But Jacob had
just met God there. So he called the place Bethel again. He might have said,
‘When I was here 20 years ago, I named this place “God’s house”. Now I have met
God here again. So it is truly God’s house.’
Rachel and Isaac die
v16 Then they travelled away from Bethel towards
Ephrath. Before they reached Ephrath, Rachel struggled to produce her baby. She
suffered much and she had great pain. v17 And the nurse who helped at
the birth spoke to her. She said to her, ‘Do not be afraid. Now you will have
another son.’ v18 Rachel called her son Ben-oni and then she died. But
his father called him Benjamin. v19 So Rachel died, and they buried her
on the way to Ephrath, which is also called Bethlehem. v20 Jacob set up
a tall stone on her grave. The stone is called ‘the stone of Rachel’s grave’.
It is still there today.
‘Ben-oni’ means ‘son of my pain’.
‘Benjamin’ may mean ‘son of my right hand’.
v21 Israel travelled on and he put his tent beyond
Migdal-Eder. v22 While Israel lived in that district, Reuben had sex
with Bilhah. Bilhah was an extra wife of Reuben’s father. And Israel heard what
Reuben had done.
Now Jacob’s sons were 12.
(Jacob’s oldest son), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.
sons (Bilhah was Rachel’s maid) were
sons (Zilpah was Leah’s maid) were
These were Jacob’s sons who were born to him in Paddan-aram.
Most of these sons were born in the district that is called
Paddan-aram. But Benjamin was not born in Paddan-aram. He was born in the
country that is called *Canaan. These verses do not name the sons in the order
of their birth. The order of their birth was this:
Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar,
Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin.
v27 And Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre.
Mamre is near to Kiriath-arba, which is also called Hebron. Abraham and Isaac
had both stayed at Mamre. v28 Isaac’s life was 180 years v29 and
then he died. He died when he was very old. So he went to be with his fathers.
His sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
‘His fathers’ means his father and his grandfather and those who
had lived before them.
v1 This is the story of Esau’s family. Esau is also
v2 Esau took his wives from the *Canaanites. They
Adah, who was
Elon the *Hittite’s daughter
who was Anah’s daughter (Anah was Zibeon the Hivite’s son.)
who was Ishmael’s daughter and Nebaioth’s sister.
v4 Adah was the mother of Esau and Eliphaz. Basemath
was the mother of Reuel. v5 Oholibamah was the mother of Jeush, Jalam
and Korah. These sons of Esau were born in the country that is called *Canaan.
v6 Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters, his
servants, his cows and his animals. He took all his property, which he had
gained in *Canaan. And he went into a region that was far away from his brother
Jacob. v7 He did this because their possessions were great. Their
possessions were so great that they could not live close together. The region
where they were could not produce enough food for all their animals. v8
So Esau lived in the hilly region that is called Seir. Esau is also called
Jacob’s family is more important than Esau’s family. So Genesis
tells us Esau’s family first. When it has done that, it tells Jacob’s family.
It tells us the more important family afterwards.
The Hivites were another *tribe.
‘Esau went into a region that was far away from his brother
Jacob.’ That region was Seir. (See verse 8.) But Esau already lived in Seir
when Jacob returned to *Canaan. (See Genesis 33:14.) So these verses probably
mean that Esau had moved to Seir before that time. Perhaps this sentence is a
short way of saying this:
went into a region that was far away from his family.
went far away from his father Isaac.
when Jacob returned to *Canaan, Esau was far away from Jacob.’
Jacob and Esau each had great possessions and most of these
possessions were animals. These animals needed to eat grass. And there was not
enough grass in a small region.
v9 These are Esau’s *descendants. Esau was the father
of the Edomites. They live in the hilly region that is called Seir. v10
These are the names of two out of Esau’s sons:
son of Adah (Adah was Esau’s wife.)
son of Basemath (Basemath was Esau’s wife.)
v11 Eliphaz’s sons were Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam and
Kenaz. v12 Amalek was another one of Eliphaz’s sons. His mother was
Timna, who was an extra wife of Eliphaz. These are the grandsons of Adah, who
was Esau’s wife.
v13 Reuel’s sons were Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and
Mizzah. These are the grandsons of Basemath, who was Esau’s wife.
v14 And Esau had 3 other sons. They were Jeush, Jalam
and Korah. Their mother was Oholibamah, who was Esau’s wife. She was the
daughter of Anah, who was Zibeon’s son.
v15 This is a list of the *tribes who were Esau’s
*descendants of Eliphaz, who was the oldest son of Esau:
*tribes of Teman, Omar, Zepho, Kenaz, v16 Korah, Gatam and Amalek.
These are the
*tribes of Eliphaz in the country that is called Edom.
were *descendants of Adah.
*descendants of Reuel, who was Esau’s son:
*tribes of Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah.
These are the
*tribes of Reuel in the country that is called Edom.
were *descendants of Basemath, who was Esau’s wife.
*descendants of Oholibamah, who was Esau’s wife:
*tribes of Jeush, Jalam and Korah.
These are the
*tribes who were *descendants of Oholibamah, Anah’s daughter.
v19 These are Esau’s *descendants. Esau is also
called Edom. These are the *tribes who were members of his family.
A member of the *tribe of Teman was called a ‘Temanite’. Job had
a friend who was called Eliphaz the Temanite. (See Job 2:11.) He was not the
first Eliphaz and he was not Esau’s grandson. He was a *descendant of the first
Eliphaz. But he had the same name as the father of his *tribe.
v20 This is a list of Seir the Horite’s sons. (The
Horites were the people who already lived in the region.) These are their
Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, v21 Dishon, Ezer and
These are the princes of the Horites. They were Seir’s sons
in the country that is called Edom.
v22 Lotan’s sons were Hori and Heman. Lotan’s sister
was Timna. v23 Shobal’s sons were Alvan, Manahath, Ebal, Shepho and
Onam. v24 Zibeon’s sons were Aiah and Anah. Anah found the wells of hot
water in the desert. He found them while he looked after his father Zibeon’s
*donkeys. v25 Anah’s children were Dishon and Oholibamah. Oholibamah was
Anah’s daughter. v26 Dishon’s sons were Hemdan, Eshban, Ithran and
Cheran. v27 Ezer’s sons were Bilhan, Zaavan and Akan. v28 Dishan’s
sons were Uz and Aran.
v29 This is a list of the *tribes of the Horites:
Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, v30 Dishon, Ezer and Dishan.
These are the *tribes of the Horites. They lived in the
district that is called Seir.
v31 This is a list of the kings who ruled the country
Edom. (At that time, no king ruled Israel’s *descendants.) v32 Bela,
Beor’s son, ruled in Edom. The name of his city was Dinhabah. v33 Bela
died. And Jobab, who was the son of Zerah of Bozrah, ruled instead of him. v34
Jobab died. And Husham, who had come from the region of the *tribe of Teman,
ruled instead of him. v35 Husham died. And Hadad, Bedad’s son, ruled
instead of him. And Hadad defeated the *descendants of Midian in the country
that is called Moab. The name of his city was Avith. v36 Hadad died. And
Samlah, who had come from Masrekah, ruled instead of him. v37 Samlah
died. And Shaul, who had come from Rehoboth on the river Euphrates, ruled
instead of him. v38 Shaul died. And Baal-hanan, who was the son of
Achbor, ruled instead of him. v39 Baal-hanan, Achbor’s son, died. And
Hadar ruled instead of him. The name of his city was Pau. His wife’s name was
Mehetabel. She was the daughter of Matred, who was Mezahab’s daughter.
v40–43 This is a list of the *tribes who were
Esau’s *descendants. Each one had its city. The names of the *tribes were:
Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, Kenaz,
Teman, Mibzar, Magdiel and Iram.
These are the *tribes of Edom. Each one lived in its own
district. Esau was the father of the Edomites.
‘No king ruled Israel’s *descendants.’ It is difficult to
understand why this verse is here. Israel’s *descendants had no kings until
very many years later. The first king of Israel was Saul. (See 1 Samuel
10:1.) Writers who wrote after that time knew about kings. Perhaps a later
writer added this comment to Genesis.
v1 Jacob lived in the country that is called *Canaan.
That is the country where his father had stayed.
v2 This is the story of Jacob’s family. When Joseph
was 17 years of age, he and his brothers looked after the sheep. He assisted
the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, who were his father’s wives. Joseph told their
father Jacob bad things about his brothers. v3 Now Joseph was born when
Israel was old. Therefore, Israel loved Joseph more than he loved any of his
other children. He made for him a long coat, which had sleeves. v4 But
his brothers saw how much their father loved Joseph. He loved Joseph more than
he loved them. Then they hated Joseph and they could not speak to him in a
‘The sons of Bilhah and Zilpah’ were Dan, Naphtali, Gad and
Asher. (See Genesis 35:25-26.) Bilhah and Zilpah were Jacob’s extra wives. His
wives were Leah and Rachel.
Most people wore coats that had no sleeves. Their coats reached
to their knees. Joseph’s coat had sleeves and it was extra long. It was a
special gift that his father gave to him. Probably it meant that Joseph was
Jacob’s favourite. (But some people think that the *Hebrew word does not mean a
long coat with sleeves. They think that it means a coat of many colours.)
v5 Now Joseph dreamed. And when he told his dream to
his brothers, they hated him more. v6 He said to them, ‘Hear this dream
that I have dreamed. v7 I dreamed that we were in the field. We tied the
corn into bundles. Then my bundle rose from the ground and it stood up. Your
bundles gathered round my bundle. And they bent themselves down in front of my
bundle.’ v8 His brothers said to Joseph, ‘You mean that you will rule
over us. You mean that you will actually have power over us. That will never
happen!’ So they hated him more because of his dreams and because of his words.
v9 Then Joseph dreamed another dream and he told it
to his brothers. He said, ‘I have dreamed another dream. I dreamed that I saw
the sun, the moon and 11 stars. They bent themselves down in front of me.’ v10
Joseph told this dream to his father and to his brothers. And his father told
Joseph that he should not insult his own father. His father said to him, ‘Think
what your dream means! You mean that I and your mother and your brothers shall
come to you. And you mean that we shall truly bend ourselves down to the ground
in front of you.’ v11 Joseph’s brothers hated him. But his father
remembered what Joseph had said.
Genesis usually tells us things in the order that they happened
in. But sometimes it does not do this. These verses tell us what had happened
earlier. We know that because of verse 10. That verse tells us that Joseph’s
mother Rachel was still alive. So the things that are in these verses happened
before Rachel’s death. So they happened before Genesis 35:18. Genesis tells us
about these things now for a good reason. We need to know about these things
when we read verses 18-19.
Jacob was foolish to tell his dream to his brothers. He knew that
it would make them hate him more. His father had made him think that he was
important. So he thought that he was more important than his brothers.
Many years after this time, Joseph’s brothers did bend themselves
down in front of him. (See Genesis 42:6; 44:14; 50:18.)
Many years after this time, Joseph’s father and his brothers did
go to Egypt to see him. But his father did not bend himself down in front of
him. Instead, Joseph went to greet his father. (See Genesis 46:29-31.)
Joseph’s brothers plot against him
v12 After that time, Joseph’s brothers took their
father’s sheep to Shechem. They went there so that the sheep could eat the
grass near Shechem. v13 And Israel said to Joseph, ‘Your brothers have
taken the sheep to Shechem. I will send you to them.’ And Joseph said to
Israel, ‘I will do what you say.’ v14 So Israel said to him, ‘Go. See
whether your brothers are well. See whether the sheep are safe. Then come back
here and bring me news.’ So Israel sent Joseph from the valley of Hebron and
Joseph went to Shechem.
Journeys like this were usual. When the sheep had eaten the grass
in one region, they needed to move to another region.
God began to carry out an important plan. Joseph’s journey from
Hebron to Shechem was 80 kilometres (50 miles). But soon after this, God sent
Joseph out of *Canaan, the country where he was, to another country. He sent
him to Egypt. That was a journey of 400 kilometres (250 miles). And after that,
in God’s plan, all the children of Israel went to Egypt. They spent many years
there and they increased in number. Then they returned across the desert to
When God made this plan, he had two great purposes. God’s
purposes were these:
intended to turn Israel’s family into a great nation. He could not do that
while they looked after sheep and cows in *Canaan. So he sent them to Egypt.
intended to teach all people how to trust and follow God. He led the children
of Israel out of Egypt. He led them across the desert. That journey was like a
picture of the lives of people who obey God. And God uses that journey to teach
v15 As Joseph wandered in the fields near Shechem, a
man spoke to him. The man asked him, ‘What are you searching for?’ v16
Joseph said, ‘I am searching for my brothers. Please tell me where they have
taken the sheep.’ v17 And the man said, ‘They have gone away. I heard
them say, “Let us go to Dothan.” ’ So Joseph followed his brothers and he
found them at Dothan.
The brothers had gone to Dothan. That was an important part of
God’s plan. By God’s plan, Joseph must go to Egypt. So it was important that
Joseph should meet his brothers near Dothan. There the brothers might meet merchants
who went to Egypt. They would not meet them anywhere else.
The reason for this is that the brothers kept their animals in
the hilly country. The merchants travelled along the coast near the sea. So the
brothers and the merchants did not meet. But when the merchants went further
north they turned to the east. There they travelled away from the sea. Some of
them travelled near Dothan and they went on to Gilead. (Gilead is a region that
is east of the river Jordan.) Now the brothers had come north from Hebron to
Shechem. They went further north to the end of the hills near Dothan. There
they might meet merchants who went to Egypt.
Perhaps God had made the grass poor at Shechem. Perhaps that made
the brothers decide to go further to Dothan.
v18 The brothers saw Joseph while he was still far
away. And before he came near to them, they plotted against him. They plotted
to kill him. v19 They said to each other, ‘The dreamer comes. v20
Let us kill him! Let us throw him into a deep hole in the ground. Afterwards,
we shall say that a wild animal has eaten him. Then we shall see whether his
dreams were true.’
v21 But when Reuben heard this, he saved Joseph. He
said, ‘Let us not kill him.’ v22 And Reuben said to the other brothers,
‘Do not kill anybody. Drop Joseph into this deep hole here in the desert. Do
not hurt him.’ Reuben intended to rescue Joseph from his brothers. He intended
to give Joseph back to his father. v23 So when Joseph came to his
brothers, they took his coat off him. That was the long coat with sleeves that
he wore. v24 They took Joseph and they dropped him into a deep hole. The
hole was empty and there was no water in it.
‘Deep holes in the ground’. People had made deep holes in the
rock in order to store water. The holes were large but they were narrow at the
top. People filled the holes with water in the rainy season. They used the
water in the dry season. Nobody could climb out of such a hole unless somebody
else helped them.
Reuben was the oldest brother. He considered that he was
responsible for his brothers. Especially he was responsible for Joseph because
Joseph was only 17 years of age.
‘They dropped him into a deep hole.’ See the comment on verse 20.
Joseph goes to Egypt
v25 Then the brothers sat down to eat a meal. While
they ate their meal, they saw a group of Ishmaelite merchants. These merchants
had come from Gilead and they were going to Egypt. They had camels, which
carried spice and balm and myrrh. v26 Then Judah said to his brothers,
‘We could kill our brother and we could hide his blood. But if we did that, we
would not make a profit. v27 Let us not kill him but let us sell him to
the Ishmaelites. He is our brother! He is a member of our own family.’ And Judah’s
brothers agreed with him.
The Ishmaelites were probably *descendants of Ishmael. (See
Genesis 25:12-18.) Gilead is the east part of the country that is called
*Canaan. Gilead is east of the river Jordan.
People use ‘spice’ to give more flavour to food. ‘Balm’ is a
medicine. People use ‘myrrh’ to produce a pleasant smell.
Judah and most of the other brothers made this plan. But Reuben
considered that he was responsible for Joseph. He intended to go alone to the
deep hole as soon as the meal was over. (See verse 29.) He intended to pull
Joseph out of the hole. And he intended to send him back to his father at
v28 Then a group of Midianite merchants passed. And
they lifted Joseph and they helped him out of the deep hole. And they sold
Joseph to the Ishmaelites for 20 pieces of silver. So the Ishmaelites took
Joseph to Egypt. v29 After that, Reuben returned to the deep hole. He
saw that Joseph was not in the hole. So he tore his clothes because he was so
sad. v30 He returned to his brothers. He said, ‘The boy has gone! And I
was responsible for him. Now there is nowhere where I can go.’
The Midianites were probably *descendants of Midian, who was a
son of Abraham. (See Genesis 25:2.) For Ishmaelites, see comment on verse 25.
Reuben intended to rescue Joseph. (See verse 22.) But he did not
find Joseph in the hole. He did not know what had happened. He was very sad
because he could not give Joseph back to his father.
v31 Then the brothers took Joseph’s coat. They killed
a goat and they put the goat’s blood on the coat. v32 And they took the
long coat with sleeves and they brought it to their father. They said, ‘We have
found this. See whether it is your son’s coat.’ v33 And Israel
recognised the coat. He said, ‘It is my son’s coat. A wild animal has eaten
him. It is certain that an animal tore Joseph to pieces.’ v34 Then Jacob
tore his clothes. He dressed himself in rough cloth. He wept for his son for
many days. v35 All his sons and all his daughters tried to comfort him,
but he refused their comfort. He said, ‘I shall be very sad as I go down to the
place of dead people. I shall meet my son there.’ So his father wept for him.
v36 Meanwhile the Midianites sold Joseph to Potiphar
in Egypt. Potiphar was an officer of *Pharaoh. He was the captain of the
The brothers did not know what to tell their father. So they
pretended that they had not seen Joseph. They pretended that they had found
Joseph’s coat. They pretended that there was blood on the coat. So Jacob would
not blame them. Instead, he would blame a wild animal.
Bible students do not agree about why this verse says
‘Midianites’ and not ‘Ishmaelites’. (See comment on verse 28.) Some students
say that this verse speaks briefly. It probably means, ‘Meanwhile the
Midianites sold Joseph as a slave. People took him to Potiphar in Egypt.’ The
Midianites did not sell Joseph to Potiphar. They sold him to the Ishmaelites.
The Ishmaelites took Joseph to Egypt and they sold him to Potiphar. (For a similar
verse that speaks briefly, see Genesis 45:4 and the comment.)
Other students say that ‘Ishmaelites’ and ‘Midianites’ are two
names for the same people. Perhaps they were *descendants of Ishmael who lived
Judah and Tamar
v1 At that time, Judah left his brothers. He stayed
with a member of the *tribe of Adullam, whose name was Hirah. v2 There
Judah saw the daughter of Shua, who was a *Canaanite. Judah married her. He had
sex with her v3 and she became *pregnant. A son was born to her and
Judah called him Er. v4 Another son was born to her and she called him
Onan. v5 And again, a son was born to her and she called him Shelah. She
was in Chezib when he was born. v6 And Judah took a wife for Er, who was
his oldest son. Her name was Tamar.
This chapter is not a part of the main story. The main story
continues from the end of chapter 37 to chapter 39 verse 1.
This chapter has two purposes:
tells the origin of three families of Judah. These were the families of Shelah
(see verse 5) and Perez and Zerah (see verses 29-30 and the comment). The Bible
also mentions them in Numbers 26:20.
tells about the duty of a husband’s brother. (See verse 8 and the comment.)
Judah married a foreign woman. That caused trouble. Their first
two sons were evil. (See verses 7 and 10.) Many years before this, Esau took
foreign women as his wives. And that made his parents very unhappy and it
caused great trouble. (See Genesis 26:34-35.) Abraham insisted that his son
Isaac should not marry a foreign woman. (See Genesis 24:3-4.) And Isaac wanted
his son Jacob to marry a woman from his own family. (See Genesis 28:1-2.) So
some of God’s ancient people thought that to marry a foreign woman was wrong.
And some of those who married foreign women caused trouble.
But to marry a foreign woman was not always wrong. Joseph married
the daughter of an Egyptian priest. (See Genesis 41:45.) That did not cause
trouble. And God blessed their sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.
In later times, God told his people that they must not marry
foreign women. (See Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3-4; Nehemiah 13:23-25.) But
some of God’s people did not obey this rule. Solomon married many foreign wives
and they made him do evil things. (See 1 Kings 11:1-6.)
v7 But the *Lord saw that Er, who was Judah’s oldest
son, was wicked. And the *Lord killed him. v8 Then Judah said to Onan,
‘Lie with your brother’s wife. Do the duty of a husband’s brother to her.
Produce a child for your brother.’ v9 But Onan knew that the child would
not be his. So whenever he lay with his brother’s wife he spilled his seed on
the ground. So he did not produce a child for his brother. v10 And the
*Lord was not pleased with what Onan did. So the *Lord killed him also.
Genesis does not tell us what wicked things Er did. But we can be
sure that his deeds were very evil. God had not killed people since the time of
Sodom and Gomorrah. (See Genesis 19:25.) And before that, God killed people by
the flood. (See Genesis 7:21.) But God did not kill one man alone until he
The duty of a husband’s brother forms part of Moses’ law. (See
Deuteronomy 25:5-6.) It is important in Ruth 3:1–4:22. We read about it in Mark
12:18-23. But this chapter (chapter 38) shows that the duty was much older than
Moses’ law. The duty was this. A married man dies and he has no son. His wife
is still alive. The dead man’s brother has a duty that he must have sex with
the wife. If there is no brother, the dead man’s nearest relative has the duty.
Their son is called the son of the dead man.
The reason for the duty was this. It was important to people in
those times that they had *descendants. (See God’s *command to increase in
Genesis 1:28.) If a man died without *descendants, his brother should give him
*descendants. They were not his own *descendants, but they were *descendants of
a close relative. And they were called his *descendants.
When Onan spilled his seed, that was not very wrong. These things
did not do his duty. He did not produce a child for his brother.
was not honest. He pretended to do his duty and he lay with Tamar. He could
have said, ‘I will not do my duty. I will not lie with Tamar.’ That would not
be so bad because he would be honest. But instead he pretended to Judah and he
pretended to God.
was selfish. If he produced a child for Tamar, that child would have some of
the family’s possessions. Otherwise, Onan would have them because he was the
next brother. He wanted those possessions for himself.
v11 Then Judah spoke to Tamar, who was his son’s
wife. He said, ‘Stay as a widow in your father’s house. Stay there until my son
Shelah is older.’ He was afraid that Shelah would die, as his brothers had
died. So Tamar went to her father’s house and she lived there.
Shelah was not yet old enough to have sex with Tamar. When Shelah
was older, he would have the duty of the husband’s brother. He would have a
duty to produce a son for his dead brother Er. So Tamar waited until Shelah was
older. But Judah did not intend to let Shelah do his duty. Judah was afraid
that Shelah might die. (See the comment on verse 14.)
v12 After a long time Judah’s wife, who was Shua’s
daughter, died. Judah wept for her for a time. After that time, he went to
Timnah, where his servants were cutting the wool from his sheep. He went there
with his friend Hirah the Adullamite.
v13 People said to Tamar, ‘Your husband’s father goes
to Timnah. There they are cutting the wool from his sheep.’ v14 Tamar
had realised that Shelah had become a man. And he had not taken her as a wife.
So she took off her widow’s clothes and she covered her face. She put perfume
on herself. Then she sat at the gate to Enaim, which is on the way to Timnah.
An Adullamite was a member of the tribe of Adullam.
Shelah had become old enough to do the duty of a husband’s
brother for Tamar. But Shelah’s father Judah did not allow him to do his duty.
Judah was afraid that Shelah would die. Shelah’s two brothers had died because
they were wicked. Judah thought that they had died because they married Tamar.
So Judah wanted to protect Shelah. And Judah did not allow Shelah to have sex
‘Perfume’ is a substance that has a very pleasant smell.
v15 Judah saw her there. He thought that she was a
woman who had sex for money. He thought that because she had covered her face. v16
He went to her at the side of the road. He said, ‘Let me lie with you.’ He did
not know that she was his son’s widow. She said, ‘What will you give me, so
that you may lie with me?’ v17 He answered, ‘I will send to you a young
goat from my animals.’ And she said, ‘How may I know that you will send it?
Will you give me a sign?’ v18 He said, ‘What sign shall I give to you?’
She replied, ‘Give your seal and its string to me. And give to me also your
stick that is in your hand.’ So he gave them to her. Then he had sex with her
and she became *pregnant by him. v19 Then she rose up and she went away.
She uncovered her face. And she put on again the clothes that a widow wears.
There were women who had sex for money. And some of those used to
cover their faces. So Judah thought that Tamar was such a woman. He did not
recognise her because she had covered her face.
Judah promised to send a young goat to Tamar. That was her price.
But she pretended that she did not trust Judah. She asked him to give her some
of his possessions. She would give them back to him when he brought the goat to
her. (See verse 20.)
The seal was a special stone. It had a string so as to hang from
a person’s neck. Its shape had a special pattern. Its owner would press the
seal on a flat lump of clay. (Clay is a kind of soil. One can form it into a
flat lump. One can write on the flat lump with the point of a stick. People
used flat lumps of clay as we use paper nowadays.) Then anyone could see the
pattern on the lump of clay. That was like signing a letter nowadays. (See the
comment on Genesis 41:42.)
v20 Judah sent his friend the Adullamite to look for
the woman. The Adullamite took the young goat that Judah had promised to give.
He intended to receive from the woman Judah’s seal and his stick. But the
Adullamite could not find the woman. v21 He asked the men of the place,
‘Where is the woman who has sex for money? She was at the side of the road at
Enaim.’ And they said, ‘No such woman has been here.’
v22 So the Adullamite returned to Judah. He said, ‘I
have not found her. And the men of the place said, “No such woman has been
here.” ’ v23 And Judah replied, ‘Let her keep the things. Let them
be hers. Otherwise, people will laugh at us. And I did send this young goat to
her but you could not find her.’
v24 About 3 months later people said to Judah,
‘Tamar, your son’s widow, has had sex for money. And because of that she is
*pregnant.’ And Judah said, ‘Bring her here. We must burn her.’ v25 As
they brought her, she sent a message to her husband’s father. She said, ‘These
belong to my child’s father.’ And she said, ‘Please look at these things.
Discover whose are the seal and the string and the stick.’ v26 Then
Judah said that the things were his. He said, ‘She has done better things than
I have done. I did not give her as a wife to my son Shelah.’ And he did not lie
with her again.
An Adullamite was a member of the tribe of Adullam. For ‘seal’,
see comment on verse 18.
The seal was much more valuable than the goat. So Judah wanted to
give the goat to the woman and to have his seal back. But he did not want to
ask all the people who the woman was. Otherwise, they would know what he had
done. He had had sex with a strange woman for money. He did not want people to
know that. And so he decided that he would do nothing.
For ‘seal’, see the comment on verse 18.
Judah realised his duty. He should have given his son Shelah as a
wife to Tamar. If Shelah did not do the duty, the duty was on Judah. Judah was
Er’s nearest relative apart from Shelah.
v27 The time of the birth came. Tamar realised that
she had two children in her. v28 One child put out a hand. And the nurse
who helped at the birth took the hand. She tied a red string on his hand. She
said, ‘This one came out before the other one.’ v29 But he pulled his
hand back and his brother came out. And the nurse said, ‘You certainly broke
out!’ Therefore he was called Perez. v30 Then his brother came out and
the red string was on his hand. He was called Zerah.
‘Perez’ means ‘breaking out’. ‘Zerah’ means ‘red’.
Jesus Christ was a *descendant of Perez. (See Luke 3:33.)
Joseph in Potiphar’s house
v1 The Ishmaelites took Joseph to Egypt. Now Potiphar
was an Egyptian. He was an officer of *Pharaoh, who was the king of Egypt.
Potiphar was the captain of the guards. He bought Joseph from the Ishmaelites
who had brought Joseph to Egypt. v2 The *Lord was with Joseph and he
became a successful man. He stayed in his master Potiphar’s house.
v3 Joseph’s master saw that the *Lord was with
Joseph. He saw that the *Lord made all that Joseph did successful. v4 So
Joseph’s master was pleased with Joseph and he made Joseph his own servant. He
made Joseph the manager of his house. And he gave Joseph authority over all
that he had. v5 From the time that he did that, the *Lord blessed
Potiphar’s house. The *Lord made all that he had do well, in his house and in
the field. The *Lord did this because of Joseph. v6 So Potiphar let
Joseph manage all that he had. Because of Joseph, Potiphar did not need to
think about anything. He only needed to think about his food.
The previous chapter (chapter 38) tells things that happened in
*Canaan during approximately 20 years. This chapter and chapter 40 tell what
happened in Egypt during the same time. So this verse follows after the end of
Egypt is a country that is south and west of *Canaan. An Egyptian
is an inhabitant of Egypt. Every king of Egypt was called ‘*Pharaoh’. *Pharaoh
was not the name of this one king of Egypt.
For the meaning of ‘Ishmaelites’ see Genesis 37:25 and the
comment on that verse.
God often makes people who follow him successful. But he does not
always do this. Some people who follow God have many troubles. If that happens,
we should not be surprised. If God causes troubles for us, he does so for a
good reason. He caused great trouble for Joseph. After Joseph had been in
Potiphar’s house, he was in prison for many years. (See verse 20.) And God did
that for a good reason.
God was starting to train Joseph. After 13 years, Joseph would
rule the whole country, Egypt. So the management of a house in Egypt was good
practice for him. And after 13 years, Joseph would need to speak the Egyptian
language very well. Potiphar’s house was a good place to learn the language.
Probably Joseph worked as an ordinary slave for a time before Potiphar made him
his own servant. And after some time as Potiphar’s own servant, Potiphar gave
him more authority.
Joseph had authority ‘in the field’ as well as ‘in his house’.
After 13 years, Joseph would deal with the farmers of Egypt. Potiphar’s fields
were a good place to learn how the inhabitants of Egypt farmed their land.
Potiphar’s wife accuses Joseph
Now Joseph was handsome and attractive. v7 And, after
a time, his master’s wife looked at Joseph. And she said, ‘Have sex with me.’ v8
But he refused. He said, ‘My master has appointed me to manage the house. He
does not think about anything that is in the house. He has given to me
authority over all that he has. v9 He is not more powerful in this house
than I am. And he has put everything in my care except you, because you are his
wife. So I cannot do this very wicked thing. I cannot do this evil thing
against God.’ v10 And although she spoke to Joseph every day, he refused
to listen to her. He refused to lie with her. He refused to be with her.
Joseph was right to refuse. Potiphar’s wife was doing an evil
thing. But God used her evil deed for a good purpose. He used her evil deed in
his plan to prepare Joseph for his future work.
‘He is not more powerful in this house than I am.’ Joseph told
everyone in the house what they should do. So Joseph was powerful. Potiphar did
not say what people should do in his house. He let Joseph do that. So Potiphar
did not use his power in the house. But Potiphar could tell people what to do
in the house if he wanted to do that.
v11 But one day Joseph went into the house in order
to do his work. None of the servants was there in the house. v12
Potiphar’s wife seized Joseph’s coat. She said, ‘Lie with me.’ But he left his
coat in her hands and he ran away from her. He went out of the house. v13
And she had his coat in her hand. She saw that he had run out of the house. v14
So she called the servants. She said to them, ‘Look! My husband has brought a
*Hebrew among us so that he can insult us. The *Hebrew came to me in order to
have sex with me. So I called out loudly. v15 When he heard my loud cry,
he ran away. He left his coat with me and he ran out of the house.’ v16
Then she kept his coat by her until his master came home.
v17 She told the same story to her husband. She said,
‘The *Hebrew servant whom you brought among us came in to me. He insulted me, v18
but I cried out. Then he left his coat with me and he ran out of the house.’ v19
Joseph’s master heard what his wife said. She told him what his servant had
done to her. Then he was very angry. v20 He took Joseph and he put him
into the prison. He put him in the place where the king’s prisoners were. And
Joseph remained there in prison.
‘Potiphar put Joseph into the prison.’ One would expect that
Potiphar would kill Joseph. That would be the usual punishment, if Joseph was
guilty. But perhaps Potiphar did not believe what his wife said.
God was still training Joseph for his future work. It seemed that
God was not pleased with Joseph, as he had been before. But Joseph had to learn
to trust God. We must trust God even when things are bad. Nowadays many
Christians are in prison. People have put them there because they are
Christians. Some remain there for many years. It is difficult to trust God in
such circumstances. But God has his own purposes. We often do not know what he
v21 But the *Lord was with Joseph. The *Lord showed
him constant love. He made the prison keeper pleased with him. v22 And
the prison keeper let Joseph look after all the prisoners who were in the
prison. Whatever anybody did in the prison, Joseph did it. v23 The
prison keeper did not need to think about anything that was in Joseph’s care.
The *Lord was with him. The *Lord made all that Joseph did successful.
After Joseph managed Potiphar’s house, he managed a prison. So
God used this also to train Joseph. Later, Joseph managed the whole country,
It is possible that the prison keeper was Potiphar. The reason
that it is possible is this. Potiphar was called ‘the captain of the guards’.
(See Genesis 37:36 and 39:1.) And, at a later time, Joseph’s prison was the
house of the captain of the guards. (See Genesis 40:3.) Potiphar put Joseph ‘in
the place where the king’s prisoners were’. (See verse 20.) Perhaps that place
was a room in Potiphar’s house. Or perhaps it was a building near to Potiphar’s
When Potiphar put Joseph in prison, perhaps Joseph doubted God.
Perhaps he did not trust that God was still with him. But ‘the *Lord made all
that Joseph did successful.’ So Joseph knew that God was with him.
The *cup-bearer and the baker in prison
v1 Some time after this, the king of Egypt’s
*cup-bearer offended his master the king. And the king’s baker also offended
him. v2 *Pharaoh was angry with his two servants. He was angry with the
chief *cup-bearer and with the chief baker. v3 He put them in prison. He
put them in the prison where Joseph was. That was the house of the captain of
the guards. v4 The captain of the guards told Joseph to look after them.
So Joseph was responsible for them. And they remained in prison for a long
A *cup-bearer was an important person. He provided the wine that
the king drank. He gave the king’s cup to the king whenever the king drank. But
if anybody wanted to poison the king, they might put poison in the wine. So the
*cup-bearer guarded the wine carefully. And the *cup-bearer always drank some
of the wine before he gave it to the king. That showed that there was no poison
in it. So the *cup-bearer was always near to the king. The king trusted him.
The *cup-bearer might even give advice to the king, as he did in Genesis
41:9-13. We can be sure that Joseph often talked with the *cup-bearer in the
prison. So Joseph heard many things about *Pharaoh and about his court. That
was a part of God’s plan. God was preparing Joseph for his future work.
v5 And one night they both dreamed. The king of
Egypt’s *cup-bearer dreamed and his baker dreamed. Each one had his own dream
and each dream had its own meaning.
v6 In the morning, Joseph came to them. He saw that
they were worried. v7 So he spoke to *Pharaoh’s servants who were with
him in the prison. He asked them, ‘Why are your faces sad today?’ v8 And
they said to him, ‘We have had dreams. And there is nobody who can explain
their meanings to us.’ And Joseph said to them, ‘God knows the meanings. Please
tell the dreams to me.’
They said, ‘There is nobody who can explain their meanings to
us.’ In *Pharaoh’s court there were wise men. These wise men believed that they
could tell the meanings of dreams. But the *cup-bearer and the baker were in
prison. Therefore, they could not ask the wise men to explain their dreams.
‘God knows the meanings.’ That does not mean that God will always
tell us the meanings of dreams. And it does not mean that all dreams are
messages from God. But God can use dreams. He can use anything that he has
made. He can use dreams to speak to us. And when God gives a dream, he can
explain its meaning.
The *cup-bearer’s dream
v9 So the chief *cup-bearer told his dream to Joseph.
He said to him, ‘In my dream there was a vine plant. v10 The vine had 3
branches. The flowers appeared and they grew very quickly. Then the grapes
appeared and they became ripe. v11 I held *Pharaoh’s cup in my hand. So
I took the grapes. And I squeezed them so that the juice ran into *Pharaoh’s
cup. Then I put the cup into *Pharaoh’s hand.’
v12 Then Joseph said to him, ‘This is what the dream
means. The 3 branches mean 3 days. v13 In 3 days, *Pharaoh will forgive
you and he will put you back in your job. And you shall put *Pharaoh’s cup into
his hand as you did before. You shall again be his *cup-bearer. v14 But
please remember me, when things are well with you. Please be kind to me and
mention me to *Pharaoh. Then he may let me leave this prison. v15 I did
not deserve that they should put me into the prison. People seized me and they
brought me here from the land of the *Hebrews. And while I have been here in
Egypt I have not done a wrong deed.’
Verses 9, 10
A vine is a plant that produces grapes. Grapes are the fruits of
vines. People make wine out of grapes.
The chief *cup-bearer dreamed that he was doing his usual job.
‘In 3 days’ does not mean 3 days later. The *Hebrews counted the
first day and the last day. So the 3 days were:
day when the chief *cup-bearer told his dream to Joseph
morning of the next day
That makes a little more than 2 nights and a day.
The baker’s dream
v16 The chief baker realised that the meaning of the
*cup-bearer’s dream was good. So the chief baker said to Joseph, ‘I also had a
dream. There were 3 baskets on my head. v17 In the highest basket there
were bread and cakes for *Pharaoh. But the birds ate the food that was in the
basket. They ate it while the basket was on my head.’ v18 And Joseph
answered, ‘This is the meaning of the dream. The 3 baskets mean 3 days. v19
In 3 days *Pharaoh will cut off your head and he will hang you on a tree. And
the birds will eat the meat from your body.’
The baker dreamed that he was trying to do his usual job. But he
could not give the bread and the cakes to *Pharaoh. Before he could do that,
the birds ate them.
v20 The third day was *Pharaoh’s birthday. So he made
a big meal for all his servants. He sent for the chief *cup-bearer and the
chief baker. People brought them and they put them in front of *Pharaoh among
his servants. v21 *Pharaoh took the chief *cup-bearer back into his job.
So the *cup-bearer again put the cup into *Pharaoh’s hand. v22 But
*Pharaoh hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had said to them.
v23 But the chief *cup-bearer did not remember
Joseph. He forgot him.
These two dreams told what would happen 2 days later. And, 2
years after this time, *Pharaoh had two dreams. (See Genesis 41:1.) Those
dreams told what would happen during the next 14 years. All these dreams told
the future correctly because God had given them. God knows what will happen in
the future. But he does not often tell us what will happen in the future.
‘He forgot him.’ This also was a part of God’s plan. The time had
not come when Joseph should go to *Pharaoh. God planned that it would happen 2
years later. Sometimes we think that God works very slowly. We often need to be
patient. God knows the best time for each of the things that he does.
v1 After two whole years, *Pharaoh had a dream. He
dreamed that he stood by the river Nile. v2 And he saw 7 cows, which
came up out of the river Nile. The cows were healthy and fat. They fed among
the plants that were by the river. v3 And *Pharaoh saw 7 other cows,
which came up out of the river Nile after the first cows. These cows were ugly
and thin. They stood by the first 7 cows near the river Nile. v4 And the
ugly, thin cows ate the healthy, fat cows. And *Pharaoh awoke.
The Nile is a very big river. Egypt has very little rain, but the
river Nile provides water for Egypt. It provides water so that the crops can
grow. It provides water for the plants that the cows eat. So the river Nile is
very important in Egypt. And a dream about the river Nile might bring a very
v5 *Pharaoh slept again and he dreamed again. He saw
a stem of corn that had 7 grains. Each grain was fat and good. The grains grew
on one stem. v6 And he saw 7 more grains that grew after the first
grains. These grains were thin, as if a cold wind had blown on them from the
east. v7 And the thin grains swallowed the 7 fat grains. And *Pharaoh
awoke. He realised that it was a dream.
v8 So in the morning, *Pharaoh was worried. He sent
for all the people in Egypt who knew magic. He sent for all the wise men and he
told his dreams to them. But nobody could explain to *Pharaoh the meaning of
The corn had long stems. The grains were at the tops of the stems.
Each grain was a seed.
Probably the wise men tried to explain the dreams. Perhaps they
guessed part of the meaning of the dreams. But they were afraid to say that bad
things would happen. And *Pharaoh did not believe that their explanations were
true. Later (in verse 37) *Pharaoh believed what Joseph said.
v9 Then the chief *cup-bearer said to *Pharaoh, ‘I
remember my faults today. v10 I remember that *Pharaoh was angry with
his servants. He put me and the chief baker in prison. He put us in the house
of the captain of the guards. v11 We both dreamed on the same night. The
baker and I both dreamed. We each had a dream that had its own meaning. v12
A young *Hebrew was there with us. He was a servant of the captain of the
guards. And when we told him our dreams, he explained to us their meanings. He
explained to each man the meaning of his dream. v13 And the meanings
that he explained to us actually happened. I came back to my job, but *Pharaoh
hanged the baker.’
This was happening in the way that God intended. The *cup-bearer
had forgotten Joseph until this time. But the *cup-bearer was with *Pharaoh
when *Pharaoh spoke to the wise men. That reminded the *cup-bearer about
The *cup-bearer said that Joseph was ‘a servant of the captain of
the guards.’ He did not say that Joseph was a prisoner. This tells us about how
Joseph lived in the prison. He had some freedom while he was in the prison. He
did not have to remain in a small room. (See Genesis 39:22.)
*Pharaoh sends for Joseph
v14 Then *Pharaoh sent for Joseph. So people brought
Joseph quickly out of the prison. Joseph shaved himself and he put on other
clothes. Then he came in front of *Pharaoh. v15 And *Pharaoh said to
Joseph, ‘I have had a dream. There is nobody who can tell me its meaning. I
have heard that you can explain the meaning of a dream. If someone tells you
the dream you can explain the meaning.’ v16 Joseph answered *Pharaoh, ‘I
do not have the power to do that. But God will give the right answer to
Joseph had been in Egypt for 13 years. (See Genesis 37:2, ‘Joseph
was 17 years of age’. And see Genesis 41:46, ‘Joseph was 30 years of age’.) And
Joseph had been in the prison for most of that time.
‘Joseph shaved himself.’ *Hebrews often had beards. But in Egypt,
only prisoners or lazy people had beards. The Egyptians did not allow anybody
to come to *Pharaoh with a beard.
Joseph needed great courage to say this. The inhabitants of Egypt
believed in many false gods. They also believed that *Pharaoh was a god. Joseph
had learnt about the one God from his father Jacob. He knew that God had been
with him. He had the courage to tell *Pharaoh about God. And he trusted God to
help him now.
Joseph knew God well. He could tell *Pharaoh what God would do.
His father Jacob also knew God well. But Jacob and Joseph learned to know God
in different ways.
did not know God until he was adult. Jacob’s father, Isaac, had told Jacob
about God. But Jacob himself did not know God. Then God appeared to him in a
dream. (See Genesis 28:12‑17.) Many people nowadays are like that. And
they remember the first occasion when they met God.
learned about God from his father Jacob. And the Bible does not tell us that
God appeared to Joseph. Instead, God guided Joseph and he taught Joseph by his
experiences. Many people nowadays are like that. They knew about God when they
were young. And they have learnt to know him better during their lives.
Joseph explains the dreams
v17 Then *Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I saw in my dream
that I stood near to the river Nile. v18 And 7 cows came up out of the
river Nile. They were fat and healthy. They fed among the plants that were by
the river. v19 And 7 other cows came up after them. Those cows were poor
and ugly and thin. I have never seen cows anywhere in Egypt that were like
those. v20 And the thin, ugly cows ate the first 7 fat cows. v21
But when they had eaten them, they were not fatter. Nobody would have known
that they had eaten them. They were still as ugly as they were at the
beginning. Then I awoke.
v22 I also saw in my dream 7 grains that grew on one
stem of corn. The grains were fat and good. v23 And 7 other grains grew
after them. Those grains were poor and thin. They seemed as if a cold wind had
blown on them from the east. v24 And the thin grains swallowed the 7
good grains. I told these dreams to the people who know magic. But there was
nobody who could explain the meaning to me.’
v25 Then Joseph said to *Pharaoh, ‘*Pharaoh’s two
dreams are one. God has shown to *Pharaoh what he will do. v26 The 7
good cows are 7 years. And the 7 good grains are 7 years. The two dreams are
one. v27 The 7 thin, ugly cows that came up after them are 7 years. And
the 7 empty grains that the wind from the east blew are also 7 years. They are
7 years when there will be no food. v28 What I said to *Pharaoh is true.
God has shown to *Pharaoh what he will do. v29 There will be 7 years when
food will be plentiful in all Egypt. v30 But after those years, there
will be 7 years when there will be no food. The inhabitants of Egypt will
forget the plenty. The *famine will ruin the land. v31 People will not
remember the plenty because of the *famine that will follow. The *famine will
be very bad. v32 And *Pharaoh’s dream was double. That means that God
has decided this thing. God will soon make it happen. ‘
‘The *famine will be very bad.’ In some years there is not enough
rain and so there is a *famine. This is natural. This happened during Abraham’s
life. (See Genesis 12:10.) It had happened during Isaac’s life. (See Genesis
26:1.) Sometimes the *famine lasts for several years. So the 7 years *famine
should not surprise us. The wonderful things were:
the 7 years before the *famine, the crops were extra good.
*famine started at the time that God had said.
*famine lasted for the time that God had said.
*famine brought Israel’s children to live in Egypt. That was God’s plan.
God often uses things that are natural. He uses things that he
has made. He uses them as his tools. They are wonderful because events happen
at the right time and in the right way.
‘God will soon make it happen.’ God could have sent enough rain
to prevent the *famine. But he did not do that. He sent the *famine and he
warned people about it. The *famine was a part of God’s plan. Because of the
*famine, Jacob and his family moved to Egypt. And in Egypt, Jacob’s
*descendants became a nation. So we can see the reason why God sent the
*famine. Usually, when God sends a *famine or a flood, we do not know the
v33 Joseph continued, ‘Now therefore let *Pharaoh
select a man who is clever and wise. And let *Pharaoh give him authority over
the whole country, Egypt. v34 Let *Pharaoh appoint managers over the
land. And let them take parts of the crops that the land produces. Let them
take one part out of every 5 parts. Let them do this during the 7 years of
plenty. v35 And let them gather all the food during these good years
that will come. Let them store grain as *Pharaoh gives authority to them. The
grain shall be food for the people who live in the cities. Let the managers
store the grain until people need it. v36 The grain shall be a reserve
of food for the country. People will need that food during the 7 years when
there will be no food in Egypt. So the inhabitants of the country shall not
die. The lack of food shall not kill them.’
Joseph did not have enough time to think about this plan. But he
proposed a plan that was correct. ‘One part out of every 5 parts’ (verse 34)
was the correct amount. Joseph did not make the plan himself. God had made the
plan and he showed it to Joseph. God does not always do that for us. More
often, he wants us to think for ourselves. He has given us brains and he wants
us to use them. But we must always be ready for God to guide us.
*Pharaoh gives authority to Joseph
v37 *Pharaoh and his servants considered that this
proposal was good. v38 And *Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘We could not
find another man who is like this man. God’s Spirit is in him.’ v39 So
*Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘God has shown all this to you. Nobody is as clever
and as wise as you are. v40 Therefore you shall have authority over my
house. All my people shall do as you *command them. Only I, who sit on the
king’s high chair, will be greater than you are.’
Joseph had explained *Pharaoh’s dreams. But *Pharaoh realised
that Joseph had done more than that. He had also proposed a plan. By Joseph’s
plan, the inhabitants of Egypt could have enough food during the *famine.
*Pharaoh decided that the plan was good. So *Pharaoh told Joseph to carry out
v41 And *Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I have given you
authority over the whole country, Egypt.’ v42 Then *Pharaoh took his
ring of authority from his hand. He put it on Joseph’s hand. He dressed Joseph
in linen clothes. He put a gold chain round Joseph’s neck. v43 He made
Joseph ride in his second *chariot. And men shouted in front of his *chariot,
‘Make way!’ So *Pharaoh put Joseph over all Egypt. v44 Moreover *Pharaoh
said to Joseph, ‘I am *Pharaoh. But nobody shall move a hand or a foot in all
Egypt if you do not permit it.’
*Pharaoh’s ring was a ‘signet ring’. The shape of a ‘signet ring’
has a special pattern. Its owner would press the ring on a flat lump of clay.
(Clay is a kind of soil. One can form it into a flat lump. One can write on the
flat lump with the point of a stick. People used flat lumps of clay as we use paper
nowadays.) Then anyone can see the pattern on the lump of clay. So the words
that are on the lump of clay have authority. Therefore when *Pharaoh gave
Joseph the ring he gave him authority. (See the comment on Genesis 38:18.)
‘Linen’ is a material. People
make cloth out of it. Only important people and priests wore linen clothes.
*Pharaoh made Joseph into a ruler. He may have also made him into a priest.
A *chariot was a cart that had 2 wheels. One or two horses pulled
it. It could move fast. *Pharaoh and other important people rode in *chariots.
The army used *chariots of a different kind when they fought. Joseph rode in
*Pharaoh’s second *chariot because the first *chariot was for *Pharaoh only.
Nobody knows whether ‘Make way!’ is the right meaning. Some people suggest that
the meaning is ‘Bend the knees’. To bend the knees is to show that you respect
‘I am *Pharaoh.’ *Pharaoh meant that he was the only person with
great authority. But he gave that authority to Joseph. In future, Joseph would
have the authority that *Pharaoh usually had.
‘Nobody shall move a hand or a foot.’ *Pharaoh did not mean
exactly what he said. But he meant that Joseph had complete authority in all
v45 *Pharaoh named Joseph Zaphenath-paneah. He gave
Asenath to Joseph as his wife. Asenath was Potiphera’s daughter and Potiphera
was a priest of On. So Joseph had authority over all Egypt. v46 Joseph
was 30 years of age when he became a servant of *Pharaoh king of Egypt. Joseph
went out from *Pharaoh’s palace and he travelled through the whole country,
Some people suggest that ‘Zaphenath-paneah’ may mean ‘one who
preserves people alive’.
Joseph rules over Egypt
v47 During the 7 years of plenty, the earth produced
a large quantity of food. v48 And Joseph gathered all the food during
the 7 years when there was plenty in Egypt. He stored food in the cities. He
stored in the cities the food that came from the fields. He stored in each city
the food that came from its neighbourhood. v49 And Joseph stored a great
amount of grain. It was an amount like the sand that is by the sea. And Joseph
stopped measuring it, because nobody could measure it.
v50 Before the years of *famine came, Joseph had two
sons. Their mother was Asenath, who was Potiphera’s daughter. Potiphera was a
priest of On. v51 Joseph called his older son Manasseh. He said, ‘God
has made me forget all my trouble. He has made me forget my father’s house.’ v52
He called his second son Ephraim. He said, ‘God has made me able to produce in
the country where I have had much trouble.’
This does not mean that Joseph gathered food himself. Joseph
*commanded what his managers should do. (*Pharaoh had appointed managers. See
verse 34.) And the managers *commanded their workers.
‘Manasseh’ sounds like ‘forget’. ‘Ephraim’ means ‘fruit’. Fruit
is something that a plant produces.
‘God has made me forget my father’s house.’ Joseph thought that
he would not see his father and his brothers again. He did not know God’s plan.
God had put Joseph in *Pharaoh’s court so that he could help his father and his
brothers. God seldom tells us his plans before they happen.
v53 The 7 years of plenty in Egypt finished. v54
The 7 years when there was no food began. It happened as Joseph had said. There
was a *famine in every country. But in all Egypt there was bread. v55
When all the inhabitants of Egypt were hungry, they cried for bread. They cried
to *Pharaoh. And *Pharaoh said to all the inhabitants of Egypt, ‘Go to Joseph.
Do what he tells you to do.’
v56 So when the whole country had a lack of food,
Joseph opened all the stores. He sold grain to the inhabitants of Egypt. He did
this because there was a *famine in all Egypt. v57 Moreover, people from
all the earth came to Egypt. They came to Joseph in order to buy grain. They
did this because the *famine was very bad in all the earth.
‘Go to Joseph.’ The people did not go to Joseph himself. Joseph
told the people what they should do. But he provided grain through the
organisation that he had set up.
‘All the earth’ means the parts of the earth that those people
knew. That was only a small part of the whole earth.
Jacob sends his sons to Egypt
v1 Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt. So he
said to his sons, ‘You look at each other and you do nothing! v2 I have
heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go there and buy grain for us. Then we
shall live and we shall not die.’
v3 So Joseph’s 10 brothers went to Egypt in order to
buy grain. v4 But Jacob did not send Benjamin, who was Joseph’s brother,
with the other brothers. He was afraid that some evil thing might happen to
him. v5 So Israel’s sons came to Egypt. They were among many other
people who came to Egypt. They came to buy grain, because the lack of food was
serious in their own country, *Canaan.
When Jacob mentioned Egypt, his sons were unwilling to go there.
Perhaps the word ‘Egypt’ reminded them of Joseph and therefore they felt
guilty. But they went when Jacob told them to go.
Benjamin was Joseph’s brother. Their father was Jacob and their
mother was Rachel. The 10 other brothers might be called Joseph’s
‘half-brothers’. Their father was Jacob but they had different mothers. But all
12 were often called ‘brothers’. (For a list of the brothers, see Genesis
35:23-26 and the comment.)
When Joseph was still with his father Jacob, Joseph was Jacob’s
favourite. Jacob cared for Joseph more than he cared for his other sons. (See
Genesis 37:3.) After that time, Jacob believed that Joseph was dead. So Benjamin
became Jacob’s favourite. Jacob refused to send Benjamin anywhere where he
would be in danger. So he sent his other 10 sons to Egypt but he did not send
v6 Now Joseph was the ruler over the whole country,
Egypt. He was the one who sold grain to all the inhabitants of the country. And
Joseph’s brothers came and they bent themselves down to the ground in front of
Joseph. v7 Joseph saw his brothers and he knew them. But he acted toward
them as if they were foreigners. He spoke severely to them. ‘From where have
you come?’ he said. They said, ‘We have come from *Canaan in order to buy
food.’ v8 And Joseph knew his brothers, but they did not know him.
‘Joseph was the one who sold grain.’ Joseph certainly did not
sell all the grain himself. His servants did that. But perhaps Joseph sold
grain to those who came from far away. Or perhaps he saw his brothers and so he
decided to deal with them himself.
It was God who had brought Joseph to Egypt. Joseph knew that. And
God had changed Joseph’s character since he came to Egypt. Because of this,
Joseph did not blame his brothers and he was ready to forgive them. But he did
not tell them yet that he forgave them. He waited until he knew more about
them. Perhaps they would not be friendly to him. And perhaps they were not
sorry for what they did to him.
Joseph acted in the way that God acts. God does not blame us for
the wrong things that we have done. He is ready to forgive us. But he waits
until he knows two things about us. Do we want to know him? And are we truly
sorry for the wrong things that we have done?
There were many reasons why the brothers did not recognise
Joseph. These are some of the reasons.
believed that Joseph was dead.
had shaved his beard off.
spoke in the Egyptian language and an interpreter translated.
wore Egyptian clothes.
had an Egyptian name.
Joseph speaks with his brothers
v9 Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed
about them. And he said to them, ‘You are spies. You have come to see the weak
places of this country. You are discovering how an enemy might attack it.’ v10
They said to him, ‘No, sir! Your servants have come in order to buy food. v11
We are all one man’s sons. We are honest men. Your servants are not spies.’ v12
He said to them, ‘No, you have come to see the weak places of this country.’ v13
And they said, ‘We, your servants, are 12 brothers. We are the sons of one man,
who lives in *Canaan. The youngest brother is now with our father. And one
brother is dead.’
Spies are people who come from a foreign country. They come in
order to gather information. Spies may discover how an army could attack the
country successfully. Joseph knew that his brothers were not spies. But he
probably wanted to test them. Perhaps he wanted to know whether there had been
a change in their character. However, he did not really want to hurt them.
The youngest brother, who was with their father, was Benjamin.
And when they said, ‘one brother is dead’, they meant Joseph. And Joseph knew
that they meant him. The brothers had persuaded their father Jacob that Joseph
was dead. (See Genesis 37:31 and comment.) But, when they did that, they were
lying to their father. They did not actually know whether Joseph was dead. But
they believed that he was dead.
v14 But Joseph said to them, ‘What I said is true.
You are spies. v15 But I will test you. You shall not leave this place
unless your youngest brother comes here. That is as certain as that *Pharaoh
lives. v16 Let one person go. Let him bring your brother, while you
remain in prison here. I will test your words. I will discover whether you say
true things. If you do not, you are certainly spies. That is as certain as that
*Pharaoh lives.’ v17 And Joseph put all the brothers together in prison
for 3 days.
For ‘spies’, see comment on verse 9.
‘So I will test your words.’ It would not test whether they were
spies. But Joseph did not really want to test them. He wanted to see his
‘For 3 days’ does not mean 3 whole days. The *Hebrews counted the
first day and the last day. So the 3 days were:
end of the day when Joseph spoke to his brothers
early morning of the next day
That makes about 2 nights and a day.
v18 On the third day, Joseph spoke to them. He said,
‘Do what I *command. So I will let you live, because I respect God. v19
If you are honest men, let one remain in the prison. Let the other men go. Let
them carry grain for your families, who have no food. v20 And bring your
youngest brother to me. In this way I will test whether your words are true. So
you shall not die.’ And they did so.
Joseph had changed his plans since he last spoke to his brothers.
Then, he said that only one should return to *Canaan. (See verse 16.) But he
decided that 9 should return. There were several reasons for this.
brother could not carry enough grain to *Canaan.
would be more likely to send Benjamin if 9 sons persuaded him.
might think that he had lost 9 more of his sons. That would be a great shock to
brothers had sent away one brother, Joseph, 20 years before. So Joseph took
away one more brother. That was a suitable punishment.
v21 Then they spoke to each other. They said, ‘Truly
we are guilty for what we did to our brother, Joseph. We saw his great fear. He
appealed to us and we refused to listen. Therefore this trouble has come on
us.’ v22 And Reuben answered them, ‘I told you not to hurt the boy. But
you did not listen to me. So now this is a punishment for his death.’ v23
They did not know that Joseph understood them. When they spoke to Joseph,
somebody interpreted their words into the Egyptian language. v24 Joseph
turned away from them and he wept. Then he returned to them and he spoke to
them. And he took Simeon from them. He bound Simeon while they watched him.
The brothers were losing one member. That reminded them that they
had sent Joseph away many years before. They thought that God was punishing
them for what they had done.
Reuben called Joseph ‘the boy’. Joseph’s age had been 17 years at
that time. But Joseph was the youngest except for Benjamin, who was still with
his father. And Reuben considered that he was responsible for Joseph. So Reuben
called Joseph ‘the boy’.
‘He bound Simeon.’ Joseph told his servants to tie Simeon with
strong strings. Probably he untied him when the brothers had gone.
Joseph had said that Simeon would be ‘in prison’. (See verse 19.)
He would probably live in Joseph’s house. He would not be free to go wherever
he wanted to go. But he would not have to stay in a small room.
v25 And Joseph told his servants to fill the
brothers’ bags with grain. He told his servants to put each brother’s money in
his sack. And he told his servants to give food to the brothers for the
journey. His servants did what Joseph *commanded. v26 Then the brothers
loaded their grain onto their *donkeys and they set off.
The ‘bags’ contained the grain that the brothers had bought. The
‘sacks’ contained their clothes and their other possessions. The food for their
*donkeys was in their sacks. The food for their *donkeys was not part of the
grain that they had bought.
To give honour to one’s father was very important in those days.
Joseph would never take money from his own father. But the money that his
brothers brought belonged to their father. Therefore, Joseph could not take the
money from them. But he could not refuse the money. If he refused it, he would
need to explain his reason. He would need to say that he was their brother. And
he was not yet ready to say that. So he returned the money to them secretly.
Perhaps he did not expect that this would make his brothers and his father so
anxious. (See verse 28, ‘Then they were very anxious.’)
The brothers return home
v27 The brothers reached the place where they would
stay for the night. One brother opened his sack in order to give food to his
*donkey. And he saw his money, which was in the mouth of his sack. v28
And he said to his brothers, ‘Somebody has put my money back. It is here! It is
in the top of my sack!’ Then they were very anxious. They looked at each other
and they trembled. They said, ‘What has God done to us?’
The brothers did not understand what was happening. Therefore
they were afraid. They did not understand why the ruler of the country himself
spoke with them. They expected to buy grain from a less important person. They
did not understand why Joseph spoke severely to them. They did not understand
why he called them spies. (See comment on verse 9.) They did not understand why
he put them in prison. They did not understand why Joseph wanted to see
Benjamin. They did not understand why Joseph kept Simeon in Egypt. And they did
not understand why the money was in the sack.
The brothers were afraid for another reason too. These events
reminded them about Joseph. They were responsible for Joseph’s death. (That is
what they thought.) And if they brought Benjamin to Egypt, they might cause
Benjamin’s death. And Benjamin was Joseph’s brother. (See the first part of the
comment on verse 4.) Also, they had intended to sell Joseph for money. (See
Genesis 37:26-27.) And they had lost Simeon but they had gained some money. So
these two events were similar. They thought that perhaps God was punishing
them. And they said, ‘What has God done to us?’
v29 They reached their own country, *Canaan, and they
came to Jacob their father. They told him all that had happened. They said, v30
‘The man who is the ruler of the country spoke severely to us. He said that we
were spies. v31 But we said to him, “We are honest men and we are not
spies. v32 We are 12 brothers. We are sons of one father. One brother is
dead and the youngest brother is now with our father in *Canaan.” v33
Then the man who is the ruler of the country spoke to us. He said, “I shall
know that you are honest men in this way. Leave one brother with me and go on
your way. Take grain for your families, who have no food. v34 And bring
your youngest brother to me. Then I shall know that you are not spies. Then I
shall know that you are honest men. And I will give your brother back to you
and you shall trade in this country.” ’
For the meaning of ‘spies’, see the comment on verse 9.
v35 The brothers emptied their sacks. Then they saw
that every man’s bundle of money was in his sack. They and their father saw
their bundles of money. They were all very worried. v36 And Jacob their
father said to them, ‘You have taken my children away from me. Joseph is dead.
We have lost Simeon. And now you want to take Benjamin away. All these evil
things have happened to me.’ v37 Then Reuben said to his father, ‘Kill
my two sons if I do not bring Benjamin back to you. Let me look after Benjamin
and I will bring him back to you.’ v38 But Jacob said, ‘My son shall not
go to Egypt with you. His brother is dead and only he remains. Perhaps some
evil thing will happen to him during the journey that you will make. You would
send me and my grey hairs sadly to my grave.’
God promised to Jacob’s grandfather Abraham that his *descendants
would be as many as the stars. (See Genesis 15:5.) God repeated this promise to
Jacob’s father Isaac. (See Genesis 26:3-4.) And God promised to Jacob, ‘Your
family shall become a nation and a group of peoples.’ (See Genesis 35:11.) But
Joseph was dead. (That is what Jacob thought.) Simeon was a slave in Egypt.
(That too is what Jacob thought.) And people wanted to take Benjamin away. It
seemed to Jacob that he was losing all his sons. God’s promises were failing.
Jacob probably thought of how God tested Abraham. He probably
compared himself with Abraham.
had promised that Abraham would have a son, Isaac. Then God told Abraham to
kill Isaac as an *offering. (See Genesis 22:1-2.) Abraham obeyed because he
trusted God. And God saved Isaac.
had promised that Jacob would have sons. But God could not save Jacob’s sons.
One was dead and one was a slave in a foreign country. (That is what Jacob
thought.) And Jacob could not obey God as Abraham did. God had not told him
what to do. And so he could not obey God.
We may sometimes be in a situation that is similar to this. It
seems to us that God’s promises are failing. It seems that God’s plan is not
working. And God has not told us what to do. And so we cannot obey him. We must
trust him, especially when it is difficult to trust him.
Actually, God’s plan was working well. All Jacob’s 12 sons lived
and they had large families. And Joseph was ready to save them all from the
*famine. And God was ready to move them all to Egypt. Egypt was the place where
their *descendants could learn to become a nation.
‘I will bring him back to you.’ This promise meant nothing.
Reuben did not have the power to keep Benjamin safe.
‘His brother is dead.’ Joseph was Benjamin’s only real brother.
The other 10 men were half-brothers. ‘Only he remains.’ Benjamin was the only
one whose mother was Rachel. (See the comment on verse 4.)
Jacob sends his sons to Egypt again
v1 Now there was an extreme lack of food in the
region. v2 And they had eaten the grain that the brothers had brought
from Egypt. So their father said to them, ‘Go again. Buy a little food for us.’
v3 But Judah said to him, ‘The man warned us definitely. He said, “You
shall not see my face again unless your brother is with you.” v4 If you
will send our brother with us, we will go. We will go to Egypt and we will buy
food for you. v5 But if you will not send him, we will not go. The man
said to us, “You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with
v6 Israel said, ‘Why were you so cruel to me? Why did
you tell the man that you had another brother?’ v7 They replied, ‘The
man asked us all about ourselves and about our relatives. He said, “Is your
father still alive? Have you another brother?” We gave him answers to these
questions. We could not know what he would say. But he said, “Bring your
brother here.” ’
v8 And Judah spoke to Israel his father. He said,
‘Send the boy with me and we will set out on the journey. So we and you and our
children may live and we may not die. v9 I will be responsible for him.
If anybody hurts him, you shall blame me. I shall bring him back to you and I
shall put him in front of you again. And if I do not, then the blame shall be
on me for all ages. v10 If we had not delayed, we would now have gone
and returned twice.’
Judah spoke on behalf of all the brothers. We would expect that
Reuben would do this. Reuben was the oldest brother. And, before this time,
Reuben was the most responsible brother. (See Genesis 37:21.) But Judah became
the leader. And, later, Jacob dealt with Judah as if he was the oldest. (See
Genesis 49:8 and the comment.)
Benjamin was not a boy. He was more than 22 years of age. This is
how we know that.
was born before Joseph went to Egypt.
was in Egypt for 13 years before he met *Pharaoh. (See Genesis 37:2, ‘Joseph
was 17 years of age’ and see Genesis 41:46, ‘Joseph was 30 years of age’.)
Joseph met *Pharaoh there were 7 years of plenty.
*famine had already lasted 2 years. (See Genesis 45:6.)
total of 13 and 7 and 2 is 22.
But Benjamin was the youngest brother. Also, he was Jacob’s
favourite son. So Judah called him ‘the boy’.
Reuben had made a promise like this. (See Genesis 42:37 and the
comment.) And now Judah promised that he would bring Benjamin back. However, he
knew that he might not be able to do that. But he still made the promise. If he
did not promise, his father would not agree. So Benjamin would not go to Egypt.
And the brothers would not go and they would have no food.
v11 Then their father Israel said to them, ‘If it
must be so, then obey me. Take in your bags some of this country’s best
products. Carry a present to the man. Take balm, honey, spice, myrrh, nuts and
almonds. v12 Take double money with you. Carry back with you the money
that came back in the tops of your sacks. Perhaps it was a mistake. v13
Take also your brother. And set out and go again to the man. v14 I pray
to the God who can do anything. I pray that God will protect you when you are
in front of the man. I pray that the man will send back your other brother and
Benjamin. If I lose my children, I lose everything.’
v15 So the brothers took the present and they took
the double money with them. They took Benjamin and they set out. They went to
Egypt and they stood in front of Joseph.
‘Balm’ is a medicine. People use ‘spice’ to give more flavour to
food. People use ‘myrrh’ to produce a pleasant smell. ‘Almonds’ are a kind of
The ‘double money’ included the money that they found in their
sacks earlier. And it included money to buy more grain.
The meal in Joseph’s house
v16 Joseph saw that Benjamin was with them. So he
said to the manager of his house, ‘Bring these men into my house. Kill an
animal and prepare a meal. These men shall eat with me at noon.’ v17 The
manager did what Joseph told him to do. And he brought the brothers to Joseph’s
v18 The brothers were afraid because men brought them
to Joseph’s house. They said, ‘They have brought us here because of the money
that they returned to our sacks before. That is the reason why they brought us
here. He wants to show that we are guilty. They will attack us. He will make us
slaves and he will take our *donkeys.’
To eat together was a sign of friendship. So the manager knew
that Joseph was friendly towards the brothers. But the brothers did not know
The brothers did not know why they were going to Joseph’s house.
They could not guess that they would eat a meal with Joseph. They made the only
guess that they could make. And they were very much afraid.
v19 So they went to the manager of Joseph’s house and
they spoke with him. They spoke at the door of the house. v20 They said,
‘Oh, sir! We came here the first time in order to buy food. v21 Then we
reached the place where we stopped for the night. There we opened our sacks.
And we discovered every man’s money! The money was in the tops of the sacks.
All our money was there. So we have brought it again with us. v22 And we
have brought other money so that we may buy food. We do not know who put our
money in our sacks.’ v23 The manager of Joseph’s house replied, ‘Do not
worry. Do not be afraid. Your God and your father’s God put money in your sacks
for you. I received your money.’ Then he brought Simeon out to them.
They spoke at the door because they did not want to go into the
house. They thought that it was like a trap. They did not know what Joseph
would do to them.
The manager of Joseph’s house already knew about the money.
Perhaps he had put the money back into the sacks during the brothers’ previous
visit. (See Genesis 42:25.) So he knew that Joseph refused to take money from
the brothers. And he knew that Joseph would not hurt the brothers. Otherwise,
he would not eat a meal with them. But he did not know that they were Joseph’s
But this verse also tells us something else. It tells us that the
manager knew about Joseph’s God. The manager knew that Joseph served God. He
knew that Joseph had learned about God from his father. And he knew that
Joseph’s God cared about people. Otherwise, nobody would believe that God might
give money to people. So it is certain that Joseph had told the manager about
God. Joseph is a model for us. We might ask ourselves, ‘Do the people that we
work with know about God? Do they know that God cares about people? Have we
told them about God?’
v24 The manager of Joseph’s house led the brothers
into the house. He gave water to them and they washed their feet. And he gave
food to their *donkeys. v25 The brothers heard that Joseph would return
at noon. And they heard that they would eat a meal in Joseph’s house. So they
prepared the present that they had brought. v26 And when Joseph came
home, the brothers brought the present to him. They bent themselves down to the
ground in front of him.
To eat together was a sign of friendship. And the brothers heard
that they would eat a meal at Joseph’s house. Perhaps they would eat a meal with
Joseph. That would mean that they were not in danger. But they were still
worried. They did not understand what was happening. And they still could not
be sure that they were safe.
v27 Joseph asked whether they were well. And he said,
‘Is your father well, the old man, whom you mentioned? Is he still alive?’ v28
They said, ‘Your servant our father is well. He is still alive.’ And they bent
their heads down in honour of Joseph. v29 And Joseph saw Benjamin, who
was his brother. Benjamin was his mother’s son. Joseph said, ‘Is this your
youngest brother, whom you mentioned to me? Let God be kind to you, my son!’ v30
Then Joseph went quickly out of the room, because of his emotion when he saw
his brother. He looked for a place where he might weep. And he entered his own
room and he wept there. v31 Then he washed his face and he came out. He
controlled himself. And he said, ‘Bring the food.’
‘Benjamin was his brother.’ All the brothers were sons of
Joseph’s father. But only Benjamin was a son of Joseph’s mother.
Joseph called Benjamin ‘my son’. But that was a common greeting
by an important person to someone who was young. Joseph was not saying that
Benjamin was a relative.
v32 The servants brought food to Joseph apart from
the other men. The brothers also were apart. And the Egyptians who ate with
Joseph were apart. The Egyptians did not eat with the *Hebrews, because
Egyptians never eat with foreigners. v33 The brothers were sitting as
Joseph directed. The oldest brother sat at the head of the table. That was his
right because he was the oldest son. And the youngest brother sat at the other
end. And the brothers looked at each other in great surprise. v34 A
servant took shares to them from Joseph’s table. But Benjamin’s share was 5
times bigger than the share of the other brothers. So they ate and drank with
It was the custom that Egyptians (inhabitants of Egypt) did not
eat with foreigners. Also, *Pharaoh may have made Joseph an Egyptian priest.
And it was the custom that Egyptian priests did not eat with other Egyptians.
But Joseph had another reason to eat separately. He was not ready to show that
he was friendly with his brothers.
On important occasions, the brothers would sit in order. The
oldest brother would sit nearest to the head of the table. The other brothers
would sit in the order of their ages. And Joseph put each brother in the right
position. The brothers were very surprised. They could not understand how
Joseph knew the correct order.
These shares were not the main part of the meal. Joseph ate at a
separate table from them. He sent small shares from his own table to his
brothers. That showed that they were eating the meal together. It showed that
they were his guests. So these shares were small. And Benjamin’s larger share
was not more than he could eat.
Joseph’s plot against his brothers
v1 Then Joseph *commanded the manager of his house.
He said to him, ‘Fill the men’s bags with grain. Give to them as much grain as
they can carry. And put each man’s money in the top of his sack. v2 And
put my cup, the silver cup, in the top of the youngest one’s sack. Put it there
with the money that he paid for the grain.’ And Joseph’s manager did as Joseph
v3 As soon as the morning came, Joseph sent the
brothers away with their *donkeys. v4 When the brothers had gone only a
short distance from the city, Joseph spoke to his manager. He said, ‘Go! Follow
the men. When you catch up with them, speak to them. Say, “You have done an
evil thing to us after we did good things for you. You have stolen the silver
cup. v5 My master drinks from this cup. He also uses it to find the
truth by magic. You have done a very wrong thing.” ’
‘To find the truth by magic.’ Egyptians used to pour oil into
water that was in a cup. Then they looked at the pattern of the oil. They
thought that the pattern showed what was true. The *Hebrews did not do this.
Joseph probably did not do it. But he pretended to his brothers that he did it.
The cup that an Egyptian used for this purpose was a very special
cup. So if the brothers had stolen such a special cup, that was a very evil
v6 When the manager caught up with the brothers, he
spoke these words to them. v7 They said to him, ‘My master should not
say such words as these. We, who are your servants, would never do such a
thing. v8 We found the money that was in the tops of our sacks. And we
brought it back to you from our own country, *Canaan. We have no reason to
steal silver or gold from your master’s house. v9 If you find the cup
among one person’s possessions, let him die. And we also will be my master’s
slaves.’ v10 The manager said, ‘We will do what you say. He who has the
cup shall be my slave. The other men shall be without blame.’ v11 Then
every man quickly put his sack down on the ground and every man opened his
sack. v12 And the manager searched. He began with the oldest brother and
he finished with the youngest brother. And he found the cup in Benjamin’s sack.
v13 Then they tore their clothes. Every man loaded his *donkey and they
returned to the city.
The brothers were certain that they had not taken the cup. They
proposed that anyone who had the cup should die. They proposed that all the
other brothers should become slaves. If the manager agreed to that, it would be
definite. The punishment that they proposed would happen. That was the custom
by Egyptian law. But the manager did not agree to such a severe punishment. He
pretended that the brothers had proposed a smaller punishment.
The manager also found the money that was in the top of each
sack. But the cup was very much more important than the money. So the manager
did not mention the money.
Judah appeals to Joseph
v14 When Judah and his brothers reached Joseph’s
house, Joseph was still there. They fell to the ground in front of him. v15
Joseph said to them, ‘You have done an evil deed. You should have known that a
man like me can certainly find the truth by magic.’ v16 And Judah said,
‘We do not know what to say to my master. We do not know how to speak. We
cannot show that we are honest. God has shown that we are guilty. We are my
master’s slaves. Both we and the one who had the cup are my master’s slaves.’ v17
But Joseph said, ‘I would certainly not do that! Only the man who had the cup
shall be my slave. But you other men, go in peace to your father.’
Probably Joseph did not believe that he could find the truth by
magic. (See the comment on verse 5.) *Pharaoh believed in magic. (See Genesis
41:8.) Many wise men in Egypt believed in magic. So Joseph told his brothers
that he could find the truth by magic. That is what a ruler of Egypt would say.
And Joseph said it in order to make his brothers more anxious.
Judah knew that he had not taken the cup. He was sure that his
brothers had not taken it. They were too worried to do that. They wanted to take
the grain that they had bought. And they wanted to return to their father in
*Canaan. They would not want the cup. And Judah knew that Benjamin had not
taken the cup. He would never do that. So Judah said, ‘God has shown that we
are guilty.’ He thought that God had put the cup in Benjamin’s sack. He thought
that God was punishing them. It was a punishment for what they had done to
Joseph 22 years before.
Joseph was testing his brothers. Many years before this time,
they had plotted to kill Joseph. (See Genesis 37:18.) And they had plotted to
sell him as a slave. They plotted to sell him to Ishmaelites, who were going to
Egypt. (See Genesis 37:27.) Joseph wanted to know whether the brothers would do
the same thing again. Would they let Benjamin become a slave? Would they leave
Benjamin in Egypt? Or were they more honourable than they were 22 years before?
v18 Then Judah went closer to Joseph. And he said,
‘Sir, please let your servant say a word to my master. And let not your anger
be fierce against your servant. Truly you are like *Pharaoh himself. v19
My master asked his servants, “Have you a father or a brother?” v20 And
we said to my master, “We have a father, who is an old man. And we have a young
brother. He was born while his father was already old. He had another brother
by the same mother, but he is dead. He is the only child of his mother who
remains. His father loves him.” v21 Then you said to your servants,
“Bring your brother to me, so that I may see him.” v22 We said to my
master, “The boy cannot leave his father. If he should leave his father, his
father would die.” v23 Then you said to your servants, “Unless your
youngest brother is with you, you shall not see my face again.” v24 Then
we went back to your servant my father. And we told him what my master had
Reuben was the oldest brother but Judah had become the leader.
(See verse 14. See also Genesis 43:3, 8.) And after this time, when Jacob gave
his *blessing to his sons, he made Judah the most important. (See Genesis 49:8
and the comment.)
Judah’s character was very different from what it had been 22
years before. Judah had suggested that the brothers should sell Joseph. (See
Genesis 37:26-27.) But in these verses, he showed that he cared deeply about
Benjamin. And he cared deeply about his father Jacob.
Judah called Benjamin ‘the boy’. But Benjamin was more than 22
years of age. (See the comment on Genesis 43:8.) Probably Joseph remembered
that the brothers used to call him, Joseph, ‘the boy’. (See Genesis 37:30.)
v25 Judah continued, ‘Then our father said, “Go again
and buy some food for us.” v26 We said, “We cannot go there. If our
youngest brother goes with us, we will go there. But we cannot see the man’s
face unless our youngest brother is with us.” v27 Then your servant my
father spoke to us. He said, “You know that my wife produced two sons for me. v28
One son left me. And I said: Certainly wild animals have torn him apart. I have
never seen him since that time. v29 If you take this son also from me,
then perhaps some evil thing will happen to him. You would send me and my grey
hairs sadly to my grave.” ’
v30 And Judah continued, ‘I shall come to your
servant my father, and the boy will not be with us. His father’s life depends
on the boy’s life. v31 Therefore, when he sees that the boy is not with
us, he will die. Your servants will send our father and his grey hairs sadly to
his grave. v32 And I, your servant, became responsible for the boy. I
said, “If I do not bring him back, then the blame shall be on me for all ages.”
v33 Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy. I
will be a slave to my *lord. But let the boy go back with his brothers. v34
I cannot go back to my father if the boy is not with me. I am afraid of the
evil thing that would happen to my father.’
The brothers had already mentioned Joseph. They had said, ‘One
brother is dead.’ (See Genesis 42:13, 32.) But in this verse, Judah said more
than that. However, Judah did not confess that the brothers were responsible.
They were unwilling to say that they were guilty. And Judah did not think that
it would be helpful to confess.
Judah had promised to Jacob, ‘I shall bring him back.’ (See
Genesis 43:9.) But he was not able to bring Benjamin back. So he tried to send
Benjamin back. If he could do that, he would have kept his promise to his
Judah alone offered to stay in Egypt as a slave. But, apart from
that, he spoke on behalf of all the brothers. He showed that they all cared
deeply about Benjamin.
‘The evil thing that
would happen to my father.’ Judah thought that his father would die. His father
had said that. (See Genesis 42:38.) And Judah had just told Joseph what his
father had said. (See verse 29.)
Joseph tells his brothers who he is
v1 Then Joseph could not control himself in front of
all those who stood by him. He cried, ‘Make every one go out from me.’ So
nobody stayed with Joseph when he showed himself to his brothers. v2
Joseph wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him. And the people who were in
*Pharaoh’s court heard.
Joseph had tested his brothers. He had acted as a judge. And he
had proved that the character of the brothers had changed. But he could not
say, ‘You deserve that I forgive you.’ His emotion was too strong. He could not
still act as a judge. He could only act as a brother.
‘And the people who were in *Pharaoh’s court heard.’ Perhaps they
heard the sound when Joseph wept. Or perhaps they heard about it when people
told them afterwards.
v3 And Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph. Is
my father still alive?’ But his brothers could not answer him, because Joseph
astonished them. v4 So Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come near to me.’
And they came near to him. And he said, ‘I am your brother, Joseph, whom you
sold into Egypt. v5 And now, do not be worried. Do not be angry with
yourselves because you sold me here. God sent me here before you. He did that
so as to keep us alive. v6 The *famine has lasted for 2 years. And for
another 5 years, people will not plough and they will not harvest crops. v7
And God sent me before you so that your families should remain on the earth. He
sent me so that many people would remain alive. v8 So you did not send
me here, but God sent me. And he has made me like a father to *Pharaoh. God has
made me the master over *Pharaoh’s house. He has made me the ruler over all
Before this, Joseph had spoken with his brothers by an
interpreter. Joseph spoke in the Egyptian language and the brothers spoke in
the *Hebrew language. The brothers thought that Joseph did not understand the
*Hebrew language. But at this time, Joseph sent all the Egyptians out. So there
was no interpreter. And Joseph spoke in the *Hebrew language.
Joseph knew that his father was still alive. The brothers had
told him that. But he said this so as to show that he cared about his father.
‘I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.’ This verse
speaks briefly. It means, ‘I am your brother, Joseph, to whom you did a wrong
thing. So people sold me in Egypt.’ The brothers did not sell Joseph in Egypt.
But because of their deed, other people sold Joseph in Egypt. (For a similar
verse that may speak briefly, see Genesis 37:36 and comment.)
Joseph said, ‘Do not be angry with yourselves. God sent me here.’
He did not say, ‘You did a wrong thing, but I forgive you.’ He could not say
that. The thing that happened was right. God did it. God brought Joseph to
Egypt. God did that so as to save Jacob’s family in the *famine. And he did it
so as to save Egypt.
God also had another purpose, which Joseph did not know. God had
brought his people to Egypt to make them into a nation. In Egypt, they would learn
many things that they would need to know in later times.
‘Like a father to *Pharaoh’ Perhaps this means that he had looked
after *Pharaoh’s business. Or perhaps this was an official name that described
v9 Joseph continued, ‘Hurry! Go to my father. Say to
him, “Your son Joseph says: ‘God has made me the master of all Egypt. Come to
me here and do not delay. v10 You shall live in the district that is
called *Goshen. So you shall be near to me. You and your children and your grandchildren
shall live there. Bring your sheep and your cows. Bring all that you have. v11
There will still be a *famine for a further 5 years, but I will provide for
you. Otherwise, you will starve. Your family will starve. And all that you have
will starve.’ ” v12 And now it is I who speak to you. You can see that
it is I. My brother Benjamin can see that it is I. v13 You must tell my
father how important I am in Egypt. Tell him about all that you have seen.
Hurry and bring my father here.’
v14 Then Joseph put his arms round his brother
Benjamin’s neck and he wept. And Benjamin put his arms round Joseph. v15
Joseph kissed all his brothers and he wept with them. And after that, his
brothers talked with him.
Joseph gave honour to God. He told the brothers what God had
Joseph had made this plan long before this time. And he had
chosen the district that was called *Goshen. That was the place where his
family should live.
They had many things to say. They had not met as brothers for 22
years. During that time, they had all changed in character. Probably they
talked about what the brothers had done to Joseph. (See Genesis 37:24.) That
was easier to do because of what Joseph said. He said, ‘Do not be angry with
yourselves. God sent me here before you.’ (See verse 5.)
The brothers go to fetch their father
v16 *Pharaoh and his servants heard that Joseph’s
brothers had come. They were very pleased. v17 And *Pharaoh said to
Joseph, ‘Say to your brothers, “Do this! Load your animals and go back to your
country, *Canaan. v18 Bring your father and all your people to me. I
will give you the best things in Egypt. And you shall eat the best food in the
country.” v19 *Command your brothers also, “Do this! Take wagons from
Egypt so that your children and your wives may ride. And come and bring your
father. v20 Do not worry about your goods. The best things in all Egypt
are yours.” ’
v21 Israel’s sons did so. And Joseph gave to them
wagons, as *Pharaoh *commanded. And he gave to them food for the journey. v22
He gave new clothes to each of them. But to Benjamin he gave 300 pieces of
silver. And he gave to him 5 sets of clothes. v23 Moreover he sent to
his father 10 *donkeys, which carried products of Egypt. And he sent 10 female
*donkeys, which carried grain, bread and other food. These things were for his
father on the journey. v24 Then Joseph sent his brothers away. And as
they left, he spoke to them. He said, ‘Do not quarrel during the journey.’
Joseph had already said this to his brothers. But it was
necessary that *Pharaoh should approve. And *Pharaoh approved gladly.
Actually, they did bring their goods to Egypt. They brought their
animals and all their possessions. (See Genesis 46:6.)
Joseph spoke as a brother would speak. He did not speak as a
foreign ruler would speak. He had a friendly relationship with his brothers and
he did not blame them.
v25 So the brothers left Egypt and they came to their
father Jacob in their own country, *Canaan. v26 And they told their
father, ‘Joseph is still alive! And he is the ruler of all Egypt.’ Their words
astonished Jacob and he did not believe them. v27 But they told him all
that Joseph had said to them. And Jacob saw the wagons that Joseph had sent. He
recovered from the shock. v28 And Israel said, ‘Now I believe what you
say. Joseph my son is still alive. I will go. I will see him before I die.’
Perhaps the brothers confessed to their father Jacob at this time
what they had done 20 years before. They had dropped Joseph into a deep hole
and they had put a goat’s blood on his coat. (See Genesis 37:24, 31.)
Jacob travels to Egypt
v1 So Israel set out on his journey and he took all
his possessions with him. He came to Beer-sheba. And there he gave *offerings
to the God of his father Isaac. v2 And God spoke to Israel in dreams. He
said, ‘Jacob, Jacob.’ And Israel said, ‘I am here.’ v3 Then God said, ‘I
am God. I am your father’s God. Do not be afraid to go to Egypt. There I will
make from you a great nation. v4 I will go with you to Egypt and I will
also bring you back again. And when you die Joseph’s hand shall close your
‘Israel’ and ‘Jacob’ are two names of the same man. (See Genesis
God had sent Joseph to Egypt. God had prepared a place in Egypt
where Jacob and his family could live. God was providing food for Jacob and for
his family during the *famine. By these things, God was guiding Jacob. God was
showing him that he should go to Egypt. But Jacob still needed to make sure
that God wanted him to go to Egypt. So he went to Beer-sheba, which was on the
way to Egypt. Perhaps he used the *altar that Isaac had built for his
*offering. (See Genesis 26:23, 25.) Jacob prayed. And then he was certain what
God wanted him to do.
When God guides us, he may prepare the way for us. He may make
some things impossible for us. And he may give us opportunities. These things
may tell us what we should do. But we still need to pray. Then we can be
certain what God wants us to do.
Until this time, Jacob expected to go to Egypt for a short time.
He expected that he would return as soon as the *famine was over. But at this
time God told him that his *descendants would stay there for a long time. They
would stay until they became a great nation.
‘I will bring you back again.’ The word ‘you’ does not mean Jacob
himself. It means the nation that Jacob would become. So it means Jacob’s
*descendants. Jacob himself would not return. But when he was dead, his body
would return. And his sons would bury him in *Canaan.
In the phrase ‘when you die’, the word ‘you’ does mean Jacob
himself. ‘Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.’ That means that Jacob would die
in peace. And Joseph would be with him. So Joseph would close Jacob’s eyes when
he died. That was a son’s duty.
v5 Then Jacob set out from Beer-sheba. And Israel’s
sons carried Jacob their father. And they carried their children and their
wives. They carried them in the wagons that *Pharaoh had sent for them. v6
They also took their cows and their possessions, which they had gained in
*Canaan. And they came into Egypt. Jacob and all his family came with him into
Egypt. v7 He brought his sons and his sons’ sons. He brought his
daughters and his sons’ daughters. He brought all his family with him into
From Hebron to Beer-sheba was 50 kilometres (30 miles). And from
Beer-sheba to *Goshen was 300 kilometres (180 miles). When the brothers
travelled to Egypt before, they took food for themselves and for their
*donkeys. And the journey might take 10 days. But when the whole family
travelled with all their animals, they had to go more slowly. The animals
needed to eat grass, but there was little grass because of the *famine. So the
journey took much longer.
The names of those who entered Egypt
v8 These are the names of Israel’s family who entered
Egypt. They were Jacob and his sons. Jacob’s oldest son was Reuben.
Pallu, Hezron and Carmi.
Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar and Shaul.
mother was a *Canaanite woman.)
Kohath and Merari.
Onan, Shelah, Perez and Zerah.
Er and Onan died in *Canaan.)
Perez’s sons were Hezron and Hamul.
Phuvah, Iob and Shimron.
Elon and Jahleel.
v15 These are Leah’s sons. They were born to Jacob in
Paddan-aram. His daughter Dinah was also born there. The number of these sons
and daughters of Jacob was 33.
Haggi, Shuni, Ezbon, Eri, Arodi and Areli.
Ishvah, Ishvi, Beriah, with Serah their sister.
Beriah’s sons were Heber and Malchiel.
v18 These are Zilpah’s sons. Laban gave Zilpah to
Leah his daughter. These 16 children were born to Jacob.
sons (Rachel was Jacob’s wife) were
v20 Joseph became the father of Manasseh and Ephraim.
They were born in Egypt and their mother was Asenath. She was Potiphera’s
daughter. Potiphera was the priest of On.
Becher, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim and Ard
v22 These are Rachel’s sons. These 14 children were
born to Jacob.
v23 Dan’s son
Guni, Jezer and Shillem.
v25 These are Bilhah’s sons. Laban gave Bilhah to
Rachel his daughter. These 7 children were born to Jacob.
v26 The number of people who came into Egypt was 66.
Those were Jacob’s own relatives. That number does not include Jacob’s sons’
wives. v27 And Joseph’s sons, who were born to him in Egypt, were 2. The
number of all the persons of Jacob’s family who entered Egypt was 70.
‘These are’ refers to the names in the verses that follow.
In these verses, the word ‘sons’ sometimes means ‘grandsons’. And
it can also include the sons of grandsons.
We do not know why the total is 33. Verses 9-15 mention 33 names.
With Dinah too, the total is 34. Perhaps these verses leave out Er and Onan
because they did not go to Egypt. And perhaps there was another daughter. That
could make a total that is 33.
Verses 15, 18, 22, 25
‘These are’ refers to the names in the previous verses.
Joseph meets his father
v28 Jacob sent Judah before him to Joseph. He asked
Joseph to meet him in the district that is called *Goshen. And they came into
*Goshen. v29 Then Joseph prepared his *chariot and he went to meet
Israel his father in *Goshen. He presented himself to his father and he put his
arms round his father’s neck. He wept for a time. v30 Israel said to
Joseph, ‘Now I am ready to die. I have seen your face. And I know that you are
v31 Joseph spoke to his brothers and to his father’s
family. He said, ‘I will go and I will speak to *Pharaoh. I will say to him,
“My brothers and my father’s family, who were in *Canaan, have come to me. v32
The men are keepers of animals. They have their own sheep and cows. They have
brought their sheep and cows and they have brought all their possessions.” v33
When *Pharaoh calls you, he will say, “What is your occupation?” v34 And
you shall say, “Your servants have kept animals for our whole lives. Our
fathers did the same thing before us.” In that way you may live in the district
that is called *Goshen. The inhabitants of Egypt avoid those who keep animals.’
Jacob said, ‘Now I am ready to die.’ Actually, Jacob lived for 17
years after this time.
Joseph was afraid that his brothers would become slaves. So he
told them to emphasise that they kept animals. The inhabitants of Egypt
themselves kept few animals. They avoided people who kept animals. So they
would not want the brothers as slaves in their houses. Instead they would let
the brothers live in the district that is called *Goshen. There they would be
separate from the inhabitants of Egypt. Joseph said this because he did not
Jacob and his sons meet *Pharaoh
v1 So Joseph went to *Pharaoh. He said to him, ‘My
father and my brothers have come from *Canaan. They have brought their sheep
and their cows and all their possessions. They are now in *Goshen.’ v2
Joseph had chosen 5 out of his brothers and he introduced them to *Pharaoh. v3
*Pharaoh said to Joseph’s brothers, ‘What is your occupation?’ And they said to
*Pharaoh, ‘Your servants keep animals. Our fathers did the same thing.’ v4
They said to *Pharaoh, ‘We have come to this land because there is no food for
your servants’ sheep. The lack of food is serious in our own country, *Canaan.
And now, please, let your servants live in *Goshen.’
v5 Then *Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘So your father and
your brothers have come to you. v6 The land of Egypt is in front of you.
Let your father and your brothers live in the best part of the land. Let them
live in *Goshen. And if you know any capable men among them, let them look
after my cows.’
Perhaps Joseph took only 5 brothers because the other brothers
were looking after the animals. Or perhaps *Pharaoh did not allow more than 5
foreigners to visit him at one time.
‘Your servants keep animals.’ See Genesis 46:34 and the comment.
‘Please let your servants live in *Goshen.’ Joseph had already
said that they should live in *Goshen. And *Pharaoh had made Joseph the ruler
of all Egypt. Therefore, Joseph had the authority to make that decision. But it
was right that they should ask *Pharaoh to agree.
‘Let them look after my cows.’ *Pharaoh offered employment to
some of Jacob’s family. *Pharaoh expected that they would mix with the Egyptian
people. But they did not mix. About 400 years after this time, they were still
separate. (See Exodus 1:8-9.)
v7 Then Joseph brought Jacob his father and he introduced
him to *Pharaoh. And Jacob blessed *Pharaoh. v8 *Pharaoh said to Jacob,
‘How many are the years of your life?’ v9 And Jacob said to *Pharaoh,
‘The years that I have stayed on the earth are 130 years. The years of my life
have been few and evil. They have been fewer than the years of my fathers who
were before me.’ v10 And Jacob blessed *Pharaoh. And he went out from
v11 Then Joseph gave a place to live to his father
and to his brothers. He gave them a possession in Egypt. It was in the best
part of the country. It was in the region that is called Rameses. That was as
*Pharaoh had *commanded.
v12 And Joseph provided food for his father and for
his brothers. He provided enough food for all the people who lived in his
Jacob changed *Pharaoh’s word ‘life’. (See verse 8.) Instead, he
said, ‘I have stayed on the earth’. He meant that it was a temporary stay.
Jacob knew that his stay on the earth was temporary. After it, he would be with
his fathers and with God.
Jacob called 130 years ‘few’. It was less than his father Isaac’s
life, which was 180 years. But it was not ‘few’ years. We can only guess why
Jacob called 130 years ‘few’. The Egyptians did not live for so many years.
Jacob did not say, ‘We live for more years than you do.’ To say that would be
not to respect *Pharaoh. So he said, ‘The years of my life have been few.’
Jacob calls his life ‘evil’. Perhaps this is to respect *Pharaoh.
He does not say, ‘I have lived a better life than you have.’ Instead, he says
the opposite. But this also has another meaning. Jacob remembers that he has
done many things that were wrong. For example, he cheated his brother Esau and
his father Isaac. (See Genesis 27:19.) And he cheated Laban. (See Genesis
31:20.) And Jacob had much trouble in his life.
When Jacob initially decided to go to Egypt, he expected to go
for a short time. He expected to stay in Egypt until the *famine was over. He
did not expect to own property in Egypt. But Joseph gave them land as a
possession. This was part of God’s plan. He intended to make them a great
nation. So their *descendants would live in Egypt for about 400 years.
‘Rameses’ was the name of a part of the region *Goshen.
Joseph sells grain to the people
v13 Now there was no food in all the country. The
*famine was very bad. It ruined all Egypt and it ruined all *Canaan. v14
And Joseph gathered all the money that was in Egypt and in *Canaan. People gave
it to him when they bought grain. And Joseph brought the money into *Pharaoh’s
v15 And the inhabitants of Egypt and the inhabitants
of *Canaan spent all the money that they had. Then the inhabitants of Egypt
came to Joseph. They said, ‘Give us food. If you do not do so, we will die. We
will die because we have spent all our money.’ v16 And Joseph answered,
‘Give me your animals. I will take your animals and I will give food to you. I
will do that because you have no money.’ v17 So they brought their
animals to Joseph. And Joseph took the animals and he gave food to the people.
Joseph took their horses, their sheep, their cows and their *donkeys. He took
their animals and he gave food to them during all that year.
Joseph did not do this himself. He had appointed managers, who
organised the work. (See Genesis 41:34.) And the managers had many servants,
who helped them. The managers and their servants gathered the money. And the
people did not bring the animals to Joseph himself. They brought them to the
managers and to their servants.
They did not take the animals away from the people. They let the
people keep the animals. But the animals belonged to *Pharaoh.
v18 So that year ended. And in the next year, the
people came to Joseph. They said to him, ‘We will not hide from our master that
we have spent all our money. All our animals belong to you, our master. We have
nothing else that we can give to our master except our bodies and our lands. v19
It is not right that we and our land should die. Take us and take our land. And
give food to us. We will be *Pharaoh’s slaves and our land shall belong to
*Pharaoh. And give us seed so that we may sow it. So we may live and not die.
And so the land may not become a desert.’
v20 So Joseph bought all the land in Egypt for
*Pharaoh. All the inhabitants of Egypt sold their fields, because the *famine
was so bad. The land became *Pharaoh’s. v21 And Joseph made the people
slaves in all Egypt. v22 But Joseph did not buy the land of the priests,
because *Pharaoh gave to them a regular payment. The priests lived on the
payment that *Pharaoh gave to them. Therefore, the priests did not sell their
Perhaps some of the people came to Joseph himself. But usually
they went to the managers. The managers reported to Joseph and Joseph sent
instructions to the managers.
The land became *Pharaoh’s property. The people became slaves and
they too belonged to *Pharaoh. So *Pharaoh became more powerful. But the people
continued to farm the land, as they had done before. Their lives did not change
when they became slaves.
v23 Then Joseph said to the people, ‘I have bought
you and your land for *Pharaoh. Now I give seed to you. Sow the seed on the
land. v24 And at the harvests, you shall give a part of the crops to
*Pharaoh. You shall give to *Pharaoh one part in every 5 parts. And 4 parts in
every 5 parts shall be your own. It shall be seed for the field. And it shall
be food for yourselves and for your families and for your children.’ v25
And the people said, ‘You have saved us and we are still alive. We will be
slaves to *Pharaoh, if that pleases you, our master.’ v26 So Joseph made
a law, which still stands in Egypt. The law says that *Pharaoh should have one
part in every 5 parts. Only the priests’ land did not become *Pharaoh’s.
Joseph made big changes in Egypt. And the people realised that
they benefited from these changes. They benefited because they had enough food
during the *famine. And they realised that they would also have enough food
during future *famines. Therefore, they were willing to become slaves.
Nowadays, the word ‘slaves’ means people who are not free. A
slave is a person who belongs to another person. That is a very evil thing. But
slaves in ancient Egypt were different. They farmed the land and they lived in
an ordinary way. But, because they were slaves, they did not manage their own
affairs. *Pharaoh’s servants told the people what they should do. And they told
the people when they should sow their seeds. *Pharaoh’s servants managed the
farming in the whole country. This was an advantage for the people. The reason
was that farming was difficult in Egypt. Egypt has a very dry climate. There is
not enough rain for the crops. So people had to use water from the river Nile
to water the crops. And they needed canals to bring the water from the river.
*Pharaoh and his servants managed all this. And they stored grain in case there
was a *famine. They could do these things better than the separate farmers
could do them.
The law still stood at the time when people wrote Genesis. Joseph’s
law remained after Joseph’s death. So there would still be a store of food in
case there was a *famine.
Joseph’s promise to Jacob
v27 Israel and his family lived in Egypt. They lived
in the district that is called *Goshen. They gained possessions in it. They had
large families and they increased greatly. v28 And Jacob lived in Egypt
for 17 years. So Jacob’s life was 147 years.
v29 And when the time of Israel’s death was near, he
called his son Joseph. He said to him, ‘If now you are pleased with me, put
your hand under my leg. Promise that you will be honest and true toward me. Do
not bury me in Egypt, v30 but let me lie with my fathers. Carry my body
out of Egypt. Bury me in the place where people buried my fathers.’ Joseph
answered, ‘I will do as you have said.’ v31 And Israel said, ‘Make a
firm promise to me’. And Joseph made a firm promise to him. Then Israel bent
himself down over the head of his bed.
‘If you are pleased with me.’ This is not what the father of the
family would say to his son. The son should respect and obey his father. But
Joseph was not only Jacob’s son. Joseph was also the ruler of the whole country
where Jacob was staying. So Jacob gave honour to Joseph. And Joseph gave honour
to Jacob, because he was his father.
‘Put your hand under my leg.’ This was a sign of an important
promise. (See Genesis 24:2.)
Jacob blesses Joseph’s sons
v1 After this, Joseph heard that his father was ill.
So he went to his father and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and
Ephraim. v2 And someone said to Jacob, ‘Your son Joseph has come to
you’. Then, by an effort, Israel sat up in his bed. v3 And Jacob said to
Joseph, ‘God, who can do anything, appeared to me at Luz. That is in the land
that is called *Canaan. He blessed me. v4 And he said to me, “I will
make you have large families. I will make you have many *descendants. I will
make from you a group of peoples. And I will give this land to your
*descendants who shall be after you. They shall possess it for all
‘Israel’ was the same person as Jacob.
Luz was the same place as Bethel. (See Genesis 28:19.)
Jacob reminded Joseph about God’s promise. (See Genesis
35:11-12.) God had given the country that is called *Canaan to Jacob’s
*descendants. He gave it to them so that they should possess it for all ages.
Therefore, they should not always live in Egypt. They lived in Egypt for 400
years. And after that time God led them back to *Canaan.
v5 Jacob continued, ‘And now your two sons, Ephraim
and Manasseh, shall be mine. They were born to you here in this country, Egypt,
before I came here. But they shall be called my sons, as Reuben and Simeon are
my sons. v6 And the children who shall be born to you after them shall
be called your sons. When they come to their own land, they shall be called by
their brothers’ names. v7 When I came from Paddan, Rachel died during
the journey. I was very sad that she died. She died in *Canaan, when we were
still some distance from Ephrath. I buried her there on the way to Ephrath,
which is called Bethlehem.’
‘Your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, shall be mine.’ Later, the
*tribes had the names of Jacob’s sons. But two *tribes were called the *tribe
of Ephraim and the *tribe of Manasseh. And Ephraim and Manasseh were not
actually Jacob’s sons. They were actually Jacob’s grandsons. So Ephraim and
Manasseh were called Jacob’s sons.
‘They shall be called by their brothers’ names.’ Joseph’s later
sons would not give their names to *tribes. Their *descendants would be part of
the *tribe of Ephraim and the *tribe of Manasseh.
v8 Then Israel saw Joseph’s sons. And he said, ‘Who
are these?’ v9 Joseph said to his father, ‘These are my sons, whom God
has given to me here.’ And Israel said, ‘Bring them to me, please, so that I
may bless them.’ v10 Now Israel’s eyes were weak because of his age, so
that he could not see. So Joseph brought them near to him. And Israel kissed
them and he hugged them. v11 And Israel said to Joseph, ‘I did not
expect to see your face. But God has let me see your children also.’ v12
Then Joseph took the children from Israel’s knees. And he bent himself down
with his face to the earth.
v13 And Joseph took the two children. He took Ephraim
in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand. And he took Manasseh in his left
hand toward Israel’s right hand. And he brought them near to Israel. v14
And Israel reached out his right hand and he put it on Ephraim’s head. But
Ephraim was the younger son. And Israel reached out his left hand and he put it
on Manasseh’s head. But Manasseh was the older son. So Israel held one arm
across the other arm.
Probably Israel could see that two people were with Joseph. But
he could not see clearly. He could not recognise them until they were close to
For many years, Jacob thought that Joseph was dead. (See Genesis
37:33.) That was why he did not expect to see Joseph’s face.
‘Children’ does not mean young children. They were more than 19
years of age. These are the reasons why we know that. They were born before the
*famine began. (See Genesis 41:50.) Jacob came to Egypt 2 years after the
*famine began. (See Genesis 45:6.) And Jacob lived for 17 more years. (See
Genesis 47:9, 28.) So we can be sure that Joseph’s sons did not sit on Israel’s
knees. They stood by his knees.
‘And he took Manasseh toward Israel’s right hand.’ Joseph did
this so that Jacob would put his right hand on Manasseh’s head. So Jacob would
give to Manasseh the right of the oldest son.
Jacob knew that Ephraim’s *descendants would be greater than
Manasseh’s *descendants. (See verse 19.) God told him this.
v15 And Israel blessed them. He said,
Abraham and Isaac lived in front of God’s face.
God has led me through all my life to this day.
v16 He is the
*angel who has rescued me from all evil things.
shall bless these boys.
They shall be
called by my name
by the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac.
increase greatly on the earth.’
Jacob called God ‘the *angel who has rescued me’. God had
appeared several times as an *angel. (For example, see Genesis 31:11.)
v17 Joseph saw that his father put his right hand on
Ephraim’s head. That did not please Joseph. He took his father’s hand so as to
move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. v18 And Joseph said to
his father, ‘No, my father! This one is the older son. Put your right hand on
his head.’ v19 But his father refused. And he said, ‘I know, my son. I
know. He also shall become a nation and he also shall be great. But his younger
brother shall be greater than he shall. And his family shall become many
nations.’ v20 So Israel blessed them that day. He said,
of Israel will use your names when they bless people.
God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh.” ’
So Israel made Ephraim more important than Manasseh.
v21 Then Israel said to Joseph, ‘I shall die very
soon, but God will be with you. He will bring you back to the country where
your fathers lived. v22 Moreover I give Shechem to you rather than to
your brothers. I took it from the Amorites with my sword and with my bow.’
Joseph thought that Jacob had made a mistake because of his weak
‘The nation of Israel’ means Israel’s *descendants. They are
still called ‘Israel’ nowadays.
Perhaps this refers to Genesis 34:25-29. That city was called
Shechem. And the son of the chief man of the city was also called Shechem.
Jacob did not take the city himself, but his sons, Simeon and Levi, took it.
Perhaps Jacob meant that he had the responsibility as their father. For
Amorites, see Genesis 10:16 and the comment on that verse.
Many years after this, people buried Joseph at Shechem. (See
Joshua 24:32.) They buried him in the piece of land that Jacob had bought. (See
Jacob blesses his sons
v1 Then Jacob called his sons. He said to them,
‘Gather yourselves together. I will tell you what shall happen to you in the
Before Jacob died, he gave his *blessing as the father of the
family. A father’s *blessing was very important. (See Isaac’s *blessing in
Genesis 27:26-40.) God told Jacob what he should say. Therefore, the things
that Jacob said were true. And Jacob said things that actually happened many
After this time, Jacob’s *descendants lived in Egypt for 400
years. The *descendants of each of Jacob’s sons became a *tribe. Then they
returned to the country that is called *Canaan. And each *tribe obtained land
in *Canaan. Many parts of this *blessing refer to those lands.
The names in this chapter sometimes mean Jacob’s sons. And
sometimes they mean the *tribes, which were the *descendants of Joseph’s sons.
In verses 3-7, the names usually mean the sons. After verse 8 the names mean
Many *Hebrew words in this chapter are difficult to understand.
We cannot be sure what they mean. These are likely meanings, but some of these
meanings are not certain.
near to me and listen, Jacob’s sons.
to Israel your father.
you are my oldest son.
are my strength and you have come out of my strength.
are very proud and you are very powerful.
you flow as water flows. You shall not be first,
you had sex with your father’s extra wife.
did a very wrong thing. You went into my bed.’
‘You flow as water flows.’ A person cannot lean on water because
the water moves. So this means, ‘A person cannot trust you.’
‘You shall not be first.’ Before this time, Reuben had the right
of the oldest son. Jacob said that Reuben would not keep that right. But this
verse does not only mean that Reuben himself would not be first. It refers to
Reuben himself, but it also refers to Reuben’s *tribe. Reuben’s *tribe would
not lead the other *tribes. Judah’s *tribe would lead them.
‘You had sex.’ See Genesis 35:22.
and Levi are brothers.
make plans for deeds of war.
do not join in with their plans.
do not go with them.
are angry and they kill men.
are fierce and they kill animals.
anger is evil, because it is so fierce.
deeds are wicked, because they are so cruel.
will divide them in Jacob
I will scatter them in Israel.’
‘They use their swords.’ Simeon and Levi attacked the men in
Shechem. (See Genesis 34:25-26.) ‘I do not agree.’ Jacob told them that their
deed was wrong. (See Genesis 34:30.)
‘I will divide them in Jacob and I will scatter them in Israel.’
This does not refer to Simeon and Levi themselves. It refers to the *tribes of
Simeon and Levi. When those *tribes reached their own country, they did not
receive land. The *tribe of Simeon shared land with the *tribe of Judah. So God
divided the land for them. (See Joshua 19:9.) The *tribe of Levi lived among
all the other *tribes. So God scattered them in Israel. (See Joshua 13:14.)
your brothers shall praise you.
hand shall be on your enemies’ necks.
father’s sons shall bend themselves down in front of you.
is like a young lion.
have returned with the animal that you killed, my son.
prepare to attack and you lie down like a lion.
are like a female lion. Nobody dares to wake you.
shall always be a king in Judah.
shall always be a ruler in the *tribe of Judah.
he shall receive the things that belong to him.
the peoples must obey him.
shall tie his *donkey to the vine.
shall tie a young *donkey to the red vine.
washes his clothes in wine.
washes his coat in the new wine.
eyes shall be darker than wine.
teeth shall be whiter than milk.’
‘Judah’ means Judah himself and it also means the *tribe of
Judah. But the verses that follow refer to the *tribe of Judah.
Judah was not the oldest son. But Jacob blessed Judah as if he
was the oldest son. And the *tribe of Judah later became the most important
Later, there were many kings in the *tribe of Judah. David and
Solomon were two famous ones. Jesus too is a king and he also is a member of
the *tribe of Judah.
A ‘vine’ is a plant. People make wine out of the fruits of vines.
This verse probably means that there would be plenty. If one ties
a *donkey to a vine, the *donkey will eat the grapes. (Grapes are the fruits of
the vine.) One would only do that if there were plenty of grapes.
This verse probably also means that there would be peace. A king
would ride on a *donkey if he came in peace. That was the custom. Otherwise he
would ride on a horse or in a *chariot. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, he rode
on a *donkey. (See Matthew 21:5.)
shall live at the sea’s shore.
shall become a harbour for ships
his border shall be at Sidon.
is like a strong *donkey,
lies in the sheep’s pens.
sees that his home is good
that the land is pleasant.
he lifts up his load
he becomes a willing worker.’
Jacob blessed his first 4 sons (Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah)
in the order of their birth. He blessed the other 8 sons in a different order.
The order of their birth was this:
Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin
The *tribe of Zebulun later possessed land in the north part of
*Canaan. The edge of their land that was towards the west was near the coast.
Sidon is there. The east edge of their land reached to the big lake that is
called the ‘Sea of Galilee’. They used ships on the sea and on the lake. Most
of Jacob’s *descendants did not use ships.
The *tribe of Issachar would have land that was good for farming.
They would work hard on their land.
shall be a judge for his people.
shall be as the other families in Israel.
shall be like a snake on the way.
shall be like a snake that waits by the path.
bites the horse’s feet
that the rider falls from the horse.
wait until you save me, *Lord.
shall attack Gad,
he shall attack them from behind.
shall eat good food every day.
shall provide food that is for a king.
is a wild animal that goes free.
young ones are lovely.’
A small snake can overcome a large horse. So the *tribe of Dan
will be a small *tribe but it will be powerful.
The *tribe of Gad would have land east of the river Jordan. So
robbers might come from the desert in the east. The *tribe would be too small
to fight a battle and so they might attack from behind.
The *tribe of Asher would have land where crops grow well.
The meaning of the *Hebrew language in this verse is not certain.
Perhaps it means that the *tribe of Naphtali would be peaceful people.
is like a young wild *donkey.
is like a young *donkey, which is drinking at a pool.
is like a young *donkey by the side of a rock.
who use bows attack him fiercely.
shoot arrows at him in order to kill him.
the bow broke.
strong arms trembled.
hand of the strong one of Jacob helps him.
keeper, who is Israel’s rock, supports him.
stand by your father’s God, who helps you.
God who can do anything blesses you.
blesses you from heaven that is above.
blesses you from the deep place that is underneath.
blesses the mothers and their children.
father’s *blessings are strong.
are stronger than the high mountains.
are stronger than the hills that last for all ages.
these *blessings be on Joseph’s head.
was a prince over his brothers.’
The *tribe of Joseph was usually called the two *tribes of
Ephraim and Manasseh. Ephraim and Manasseh were Joseph’s sons.
The meaning of the *Hebrew words in this verse is doubtful. Some
people translate it as, ‘Joseph is a branch with fruit, which is near to a
pool.’ But this is not likely. People do not shoot arrows at trees.
If the translation ‘*donkey’ is right, these verses mean this.
Joseph is in a dangerous place. One can shoot a wild *donkey when it is
drinking. It cannot hide itself when it is by a rock. So people attack Joseph’s
*descendants, but God protects them. He makes the strong arms of the attacker
is a hungry wild dog.
the morning, he eats what he has killed.
the evening, he shares the things that he has taken.’
v28 These are the 12 *tribes of Israel. And their
father said these words to his sons as he blessed them. He blessed each one
with the *blessing that was suitable for him.
The *Hebrew word for ‘wild dog’ means ‘wolf’. A wolf is a fierce
wild dog that hunts in groups.
In later times, the *tribe of Benjamin were fierce people. They
fought a war against the other *descendants of Israel. (See Judges 20:12-48.)
And they were skilful fighters. (See for example 1 Chronicles 12:2.)
‘The 12 *tribes of Israel’ means the *descendants of each of
Israel’s 12 sons.
v29 Then Jacob *commanded his sons. He said to them,
‘I will soon go to be with my fathers. Bury me in the cave where people buried
my fathers. The cave is in the field of Ephron the *Hittite. v30 It is
in the field at Machpelah. It is east of Mamre, in *Canaan. Abraham bought the
field and the cave from Ephron the *Hittite. He bought it so as to use it as a
grave. v31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife. There they
buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife. And there I buried Leah. v32 Abraham
bought the field from the *Hittites. And he bought the cave that is in the
v33 Then Jacob finished *commanding his sons. He drew
his feet up into his bed and he died. So he went to be with his fathers.
Jacob’s real home was the country that was called *Canaan. Egypt
was only a temporary home for Jacob’s *descendants. That was important. God had
promised to Abraham that his *descendants would live in *Canaan. (See Genesis
12:7; 13:15; 15:7 and 17:18.) So Joseph must bury Jacob in *Canaan. And Jacob’s
*descendants would live in Egypt for only 400 years. After that time, they
would return to *Canaan.
Genesis 23:17-18 tells how Abraham bought the field and the cave.
Joseph buries his father
v1 Then Joseph bent himself down over his father’s
face. He wept over him and he kissed him. v2 And Joseph told his
servants the doctors to embalm his father’s body. So the doctors embalmed
Israel’s body. v3 They did that in 40 days, because 40 days are
necessary to embalm a body. And the Egyptians wept for him 70 days.
‘To embalm’ means to put special substances on a dead body and in
it. These substances keep the body in a good state. A dead body that people
have embalmed is called a ‘mummy’. It lasts for very many years. The Egyptians
used to embalm the bodies of important people who had died.
v4–5 And when the days for weeping were over,
Joseph spoke to *Pharaoh’s servants. He said, ‘If you are pleased with me,
please speak to *Pharaoh. Please tell *Pharaoh that my father made me give a
firm promise. He said to me, “I will die soon. Bury me in the grave that I
bought in *Canaan.” Therefore, please let me go to bury my father. After I do
that, I will return.’ v6 And *Pharaoh answered, ‘Go! Bury your father.
Do what you promised to him.’
Joseph did not speak to *Pharaoh but he sent a message. We do not
know why he did not speak to *Pharaoh himself. Perhaps he did not approach
*Pharaoh because he had touched Jacob’s dead body.
‘After I do that, I will return.’ Jacob promised to *Pharaoh that
he would return to Egypt. He would not take the opportunity to move his home
back to *Canaan.
v7 So Joseph went to bury his father. And all
*Pharaoh’s servants went with Joseph. The leaders of *Pharaoh’s court went and
all the important inhabitants of Egypt went. v8 Joseph’s brothers went.
Joseph’s servants and his father’s servants went. Only the children and the
sheep and the cows stayed in *Goshen. v9 And *chariots and horsemen also
went with Joseph. Very many people went together.
v10 They came to the farm of Atad, which was near the
river Jordan. They stopped there and they wept loudly and bitterly. There
Joseph wept for his father for 7 days. v11 The *Canaanites, who lived in
the region, saw the weeping at the farm of Atad. They said, ‘The inhabitants of
Egypt weep bitterly.’ Therefore, they called the place Abel-mizraim. It is near
the river Jordan.
v12 And so Jacob’s sons did for him as he had
*commanded them. v13 They carried him to his own country, *Canaan. And
they buried him in the cave that is at Machpelah. It is east of Mamre. The cave
is in the field that Abraham bought from Ephron the *Hittite. He bought it so
as to use it as a grave. v14 When Joseph had buried his father, he
returned to Egypt with his brothers. And all those people who had gone with him
returned to Egypt.
The inhabitants of Egypt gave great honour to Jacob. The reason
was that Jacob was Joseph’s father. And Joseph was the most important person in
Egypt apart from *Pharaoh.
The ‘farm of Atad’ was actually ‘the threshing-floor of Atad’. A
‘threshing-floor’ is the part of a farm where people beat grain with sticks.
That separates the seeds from the rest of the grain.
‘Abel-mizraim’ means ‘Egypt weeps’.
They did as Jacob had said. (See Genesis 49:29.)
Joseph’s promise to his brothers
v15 After the death of their father, Joseph’s
brothers said, ‘Perhaps Joseph will hate us. Perhaps he will punish us for all
the evil things that we did to him.’ v16 So they sent a message to
Joseph. They said, ‘Your father *commanded us before he died. v17 He
said, “Say to Joseph: ‘Please forgive your brothers’ faults and their evil
deeds. I know that they did evil things to you.’ ” So please forgive the evil
deeds that we have done. Remember that we are the servants of your father’s
God.’ Joseph wept when they spoke to him. v18 Joseph’s brothers also
came to him and they fell down in front of him. They said, ‘We are your
Joseph had forgiven his brothers. He did not blame them for what
they did. He showed this clearly, by what he said. (See Genesis 45:5 and the
comment.) And he showed it by what he did. (See Genesis 47:11-12.) But the
brothers were still not sure that Joseph had forgiven them.
We may sometimes be like the brothers. We may not be sure whether
God has forgiven us. But God forgives all those who come to him. He shows this
clearly, by what he says in the Bible. And he shows it by the help that he
gives to us. If we forget this, we may ask, ‘Has God really forgiven us?’ We
should always trust him.
We do not know whether Jacob actually said this. Probably the
brothers were lying.
‘Joseph wept.’ Joseph had already forgiven his brothers but his
brothers did not trust him. Joseph wept because they did not trust him.
Initially, the brothers sent a message. (See verse 16.) They also
came themselves. (See verse 18.)
v19 But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I am
not a judge, as God is. v20 You intended to do evil things to me. But
God intended to do good things. The purpose of his plan was to keep many people
alive. And they are alive today. v21 So do not be afraid. I will provide
for you and I will provide for your children.’ And so, Joseph took away his
brothers’ fear and he comforted them.
The brothers had asked Joseph to forgive them. (See verse 17.)
But Joseph did not say, ‘I forgive you.’ He had already forgiven them, many
years before this time.
The things that had happened were a part of God’s plan. Joseph
realised that and so he did not blame his brothers. Instead, he praised God.
v22 So Joseph lived in Egypt. He and his father’s
family lived there. And Joseph lived for 110 years. v23 Joseph saw
Ephraim’s grandchildren. The children of Machir, who was Manasseh’s son, were
born on Joseph’s knees.
v24 And Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I will soon
die. But God will be with you and he will bring you out of this country, Egypt.
He will bring you to the country, *Canaan, that he promised. He promised it to
Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.’ v25 Then Joseph made Israel’s sons give
him a firm promise. Joseph said, ‘With God’s help you shall carry my bones away
from here.’ v26 So Joseph died when he had lived for 110 years. The doctors
embalmed Joseph’s body. And they put Joseph’s body in a box in Egypt.
Many years after Joseph’s death, Israel’s *descendants left
Egypt. They crossed the desert and they entered *Canaan. And they overcame the
people who lived in *Canaan.
For ‘embalm’ see the comment on verses 2-3.
Nearly 400 years after this time, Israel’s *descendants left
Egypt and they went to *Canaan. They took Joseph’s mummy with them and they
buried it in *Canaan. (See Exodus 13:19 and Joshua 24:32.)
Exodus follows Genesis in the Bible. Exodus describes how God’s
people left Egypt. And it tells how they began their journey to *Canaan.
altar ~ a table where one burned an animal as an *offering
to God. An altar is usually several large stones that form a pile.
angel ~ a servant of God who brings messages from heaven.
The *Hebrew word that means ‘angel’ also means ‘*messenger’.
ark ~ an ark is a box. The ark in Genesis was a very big
box that floated on water like a ship.
blessing ~ a father’s prayer for his sons before the
father died. God sometimes showed the father what would happen to the son. And
so the blessing said what would happen in the future. The blessing of the
oldest son was extra important. It showed that the oldest son took his father’s
place as the head of the family. (The word ‘blessing’ also has other meanings.)
Canaan ~ the country where the *Canaanites lived. (See *Canaanites.)
It is approximately the same land as the modern country Israel together with
the land of the Palestinians.
Canaanites ~ Canaan’s *descendants. Canaan was a grandson
of Noah. (See Genesis 9:18.) The word Canaanites included Amorites and Hivites and
other nations. (See Genesis 10:16-17.) It sometimes also included other people
who lived in the country *Canaan. These people were not *descendants of Canaan.
chariot ~ a cart that has 2 wheels. One or two horses pull
it. It can move fast. Some important people rode in chariots. Armies used
chariots of a different kind when they fought.
circumcise ~ to cut the skin from the end of a male
person’s sex part. (See Genesis 17:10-12 and the comment.)
circumcised ~ without the skin on the end of his sex part.
command ~ to tell people (or a person) that they must do
something; to say to people (or to a person) something that they must obey; to
control by means of commands. A command is an order that one must obey.
cup-bearer ~ a person who provided the wine that the king
drank. He gave the king’s cup to the king whenever the king drank.
descendants ~ children and grandchildren and later members
of the family.
donkey ~ an animal like a small horse. Donkeys can carry
heavy loads on their backs. People ride on them.
famine ~ a period when crops do not grow. It may last for
several years. There is a serious lack of food.
Goshen ~ a district that was a part of Egypt. It was on
the east side of Egypt. A canal brought water to it from the river Nile. It was
good land for sheep and cows. Few Egyptians lived in Goshen. Most of the
Egyptians lived on land that was good for crops.
Hebrew ~ the Hebrew people were Abraham and his
*descendants. The ancient Hebrew language is the original language of Genesis. It
is also the original language of most of the Old Testament (the first part of
the Bible). This language is like the modern Hebrew language, which people
speak in the country Israel today.
Hittites ~ one of the *tribes that lived in Canaan before
Abraham went there.
horn ~ a long, hard bone that grows on the head of some
lord ~ a person who has authority.
Lord ~ a lord is a person who has authority. ‘The Lord’
means God. It is a translation of God’s name. The *Hebrews wrote God’s name as
YHWH. We may write it as Yahweh.
mandrake ~ a yellow fruit.
messenger ~ someone who brings a message.
offering ~ a gift to God. An offering may be an animal.
People killed the animal and burned it on an *altar.
Pharaoh ~ every king of Egypt was called ‘Pharaoh’. It was
not one king’s name.
Philistines ~ people who lived on the coast of the country
that is called *Canaan. In the times of Genesis, few Philistines lived in
*Canaan. And they were peaceful people. Very many years after that, many more
Philistines arrived. They were not peaceful. The modern name ‘Palestine’ comes
from the name ‘Philistine’.
pregnant ~ a woman is pregnant when she has a baby in her.
righteous ~ to be right with God; people whom God sees as
clean and not his enemies; people who do what is right; just, good.
shekel ~ approximately 90 shekels are 1 kilo and
approximately 40 shekels are 1 pound.
tribe ~ a large group of people who are relatives of each
other. Judah’s *descendants were called ‘the tribe of Judah’. In a similar way,
each of the 12 sons of Israel became a tribe. But Joseph’s *descendants were
not called ‘the tribe of Joseph’. They were the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.
Ephraim and Manasseh were Joseph’s sons.
G. Ch. Aalders ~ A Short Introduction to the Pentateuch ~ Tyndale
V. P. Hamilton ~ The Book of Genesis (NICOT) ~ Eerdmans
E. F. Kevan ~ ‘Genesis’, The New Bible Commentary ~ IVF (1953)
G. T. Manley ~ The New Bible Handbook ~ IVF
M. Salisbury (editor) ~ Skills for Translating and Exegeting the
Primary Scriptures (STEPS) ~ SIL (CD-ROM)
J. A. Thompson ~ The Bible and Archaeology ~ Paternoster
G. J. Wenham ~ ‘Genesis’, New Bible Commentary 21st Century
Edition ~ IVP
Chambers Concise Dictionary
Oxford Bible Atlas ~ Third edition
Logos Bible Computer Software 1.6
Strong’s Enhanced Lexicon
Bibles ~ KJV, NIV, REB, RSV, TEV
© 1997-2004, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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