Article: Bible Reading Week 4 (Genesis 31-39)

Jacob & Joseph(Gen. 31-39)

Overview of Section

In chapters 31-33, the account of Jacob continues to unfold.  Here, in these chapters, which cover the second half of Jacob’s life, we see that his heart is being transformed.  Jacob goes from one whose life is characterized by deceit to one who trusts in God, much like his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac.  It’s important to note the progress of faith in Jacob’s life.

Jacob has met his match when he goes up against his uncle Laban.  Laban’s trickery and deceit seems to be almost more than Jacob can bear.  Jacob learns one important principle that changes his life; God can be trusted.  No longer does he need to lie and manipulate the circumstances; God is with him (31:7-13).

Also, in this section we read about Jacob’s encounter with his twin brother Esau who has vowed to kill him.  Esau again shows that all he is concerned with is material possessions.

Chapter 33 reveals once more the materialistic orientation of Esau.  Esau expresses in verse nine that he had enough and therefore was satisfied.[1]

The rest of this section covers the family of Jacob (34-39).  Chapter 34 gives us the account of the foreigner Shechem lying with Dinah, Jacob’s daughter.  We also see the reaction by Jacob’s sons.  In 35 we have Rueben, Jacob’s oldest laying with one of Jacob’s concubines.  Chapter 36 traces Esau’s descendants.  In Chapter 37 we begin the account of Joseph.

We see the whole family has problems: Jacob loves Joseph more than the others because he is the son of his old age and he loved his mother more than his other wives.  Joseph was spoiled and taunted his brothers with this fact.  The brothers were jealous and as deceitful as their father was in his younger days.  All in all this is a family headed for trouble.

Main Theological Theme(s)

Throughout this section we continue to see the fact that the seed of Abraham is corrupt.  Sin is just as much a part of the descendants of Abraham as with anyone else.  The difference is the calling of God.  He works throughout their lives, often behind the scene, to transform sinners in saints.  We see man’s depravity and sin, we also see the mercy of God as He bears with men because of the covenant He originated with Abraham.

Approaching the New Testament

One important part of the promised seed of Abraham, which should be noted, is that each individual who has descended from Abraham had to also exercise saving faith in the promises of God.  Like with Abraham, who believed God and it was counted as righteousness, so each descendant had to exercise that same faith.

The turning point of Jacob’s life comes at Peniel, where he is humbled by the Angel (Hosea 12:3-5).  He turns from his old ways of craftiness and deceit and begins to rely solely upon the Lord in prayer.[2]

We see a similar picture in the life of the Apostle Paul.  He too had a turning point of faith while on the road to Damascus.  He did battle with the Lord and immediately Jesus threw him to the ground and conquered his rebellious heart (Acts 9).

Application Points

We too must exercise faith in order to be a child of God.  Abraham believed God and eventually all his descendants who were in the seed-line did as well.

Christians enjoy the same blessing, but with one important difference: Abraham trusted God and looked forward to the Promised Son; we trust God and look back and see the glorious fulfillment in the Promised Son.  While Abraham had believed in the Lord for many years (Heb. 11:8), it is here revealed that the faith which was ‘counted as righteousness’ was the faith that believed what God said concerning the coming Seed.  Abraham believed the promise of God that pointed to Christ.  [3]  We must exercise that same faith that is fixed on Jesus Christ

(Jn. 8:56).

Jacob Wrestles with God

(Gen. 32:22-32)

[1] God’s Plan Unfold by Jack B. Scott

[2] The Old Testament Explained and Applied by Gareth Crossley pg. 68

[3] ibid pg. 74

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