Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Records of the Chiefs of Esau’s Descendants - Genesis 36:40-43


Now these are the names of the chiefs descended from Esau, according to their families an their localities, by their names: chief . . . .These are the chiefs of Edom (that is, Esau, the father of the Eomites), according to their habitations in the land of their possession.

In the previous section we read about the kings of Esau. Here we read about the chiefs that descended from Esau. These duke-like individuals ruled at the same time in several places across the land. In the case of the Edomites it is possible they copied the style of government they found in the land and practiced by the Horites. If one looks back to verse 29 of this chapter, one finds the “chiefs” that had descended from the Horites. Whatever the origin, Edom now had kings and dukes and a great dispersion of power throughout the land.

Perhaps another way to look at this hierarchy of rulers and power, all within Esau’s descendants, is to consider how much God blessed a man that was not chosen as a means by which He would bless the nations or carry out other parts of His plan for mankind. If Esau was blessed that much, can one really fathom the eternal blessings of those that are chosen? What a thought.

Finally, verse 43 says the Edomites dwelled in their own “habitations” including the fact that they possessed Seir. Meanwhile the Israelites only had a promise of great blessing that would be theirs someday. As Christians today survey the lay of the land, we notice that most of our contemporaries who are not children of God seem to have it all. In fact, they do likely have all they will ever have at their immediate disposal right now. Some of them do not even have to hope for anything, according to their own thinking. As children of God however our wealth is currently vested in the “certainty of the hope” that is still before us, the eternal promises of God. While to some it may seem like a bad deal today, true and experienced believers are convinced the best is yet to come, having confidence of spending eternity with God.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

The Records of the First Kings Before Israel’s - Genesis 36:31-39


Now these are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the sons of Israel. . . .Then Bela died, and Jobab the son Zerah of Bozrah became king in his place. . . . Then Baalhanan the son of Achbor died, . . .

What we have here is two groups, the newcomer Edomites and the resident Horites, now living in the same area, but having their own separate governments. The kings listed here ruled prior to the kings that reigned over the children of Israel. You will remember back in Genesis 35:11, God promised Jacob that kings would come from his descendants, yet here is his brother Esau seeing royalty first. Does it not seem odd that often those not in the very center of God’s will, seem to get the better deal first or in a bigger way? Evil does have its way of succeeding first or quickly, but its impact is relatively short-lived. What those who walk with God and rely on Him are blessed with gifts that are everlasting.

Finally, here it may be important to note that some have supposed that Jobab is the same as Job, the main character of the book of Job. And that the Eliphaz referred to earlier in this chapter (vs. 4,10,11,12,15,16) was the same person as the one who was Job’s friend in that book. There is no conclusive proof to these assertions. If the assertions are true, it means that there is some connection timewise between the book of Job and what is going on here in this chapter. Eliphaz could have been one of his uncles that had come to visit him during his afflictions. These assumptions would also imply that Job was living at the same time as Jacob and Esau and these events. All things are possible, and some even probable. However, we cannot make any definitive statements about things that are not clearly ‘definitive’ in scripture.

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Study Interruption: Pure Descendants of Ishmael and Esau


As we were studying these portions of scripture, someone requested a study on the “pure descendants of Ishmael (not those mixed with Isaac's progeny) and the descendants of Esau as they exist in the Middle East today). I was happy to oblige to the best of my ability.

1. Ishmael was born to Abraham and Hagar (Genesis 16:15).
2. Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarai (Genesis 21:3).
3. Esau was born to Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 25:25).
4. Ishmael then was Esau’s half-uncle as he was his father’s half-brother.

5. Ishmael gets married but we are not given his wife’s name (Genesis 21:21). We do know she, like his mother, was from Egypt.
6. Ishmael has twelve sons (Genesis 25:13-15).
7. Ishmael has at least one daughter whom he gives to Esau in marriage (Genesis 28:9).

That much we know from the Bible. But from there things start to get complex. Let’s start with what we know about Ishmael’s genealogy. Most Jewish and Islamic traditions hold that Ishmael was an ancestor of the Northern Arab people. Another designation to this group for the sake of emphasis and distinction is “Arabized-Arabs”. They are different or separate from the group of Arabs who were descendents of Ya’rub. Think of Northern and Southern Arabs as occupying the whole of Arabia (as the land came to be known around the first centrury B.C.). The Northern “Arabized-Arabs” lived in the northern, central and western parts of Arabia. This group is also know as Adnan, Ma’add, or Nizar, after some key ancestors.

The Qahtani Arabs lived in the south and southeastern part of Arabia. They are the Kahtan or Semitic peoples who originated from or claimed genealogical descent from Yemen and the surrounding southern extent of Arabia. According to Islamic tradition the Islamic prophet Muhammad descended from Qahtan, the ancestor of this southern group of Qahtani Arabs. Having said that, some believe that some modern Arabs see their ancestry as being of Isaac’s bloodline.

Here’s where we are: the Qur’an contains no genealogies. And neither does the Holy Bible tell us anything more about this Ishmael, Abraham’s son.

Into the story comes a place or site known as Kaaba. According to Wikipedia, the Kaaba is a cube--shaped building in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and is the most sacred site in Islam. The building predates Islam, and, according to Islamic tradition, Abraham built the first building at the site. The building has a mosque built around it, the Masjid al-Haram. All Muslims around the world face the Kaaba during prayers, no matter where they are. Qur’an 2:127 tells us that Abraham and Ishmael “raised the foundations” of this site. It is not clear whether that means ‘built’ or ‘rebuilt’ as some Islamic traditions claim Adam was the original builder. Do you see the emerging weaknesses in all these various claims?

Returning to Ishmael, you remember that he was about to die of thirst when an angel showed his mother a well and told her again that he would become a great nation (Genesis 21:18). According to Genesis 25:9-18, Ishmael’s twelve sons had ancestors of twelve tribes that dwelt from Havilah to Shur, land that was crossed, on route to Egypt, on route to Assyria.

There is no undeniable evidence to be found which can correctly and with total certainty identify Havilah with a modern-day location. The same is true for the place called Shur. Thus it becomes difficult to pinpoint who Ishmael’s exact descendants are today.

In Rabbinical literature, we read that the angels protested to God on the issue of Ishmael being given water when he was dying of thirst because they believed his descendants would destroy the Israelites by thirst. The literature goes on to say that God replied that at that point in time, Ishmael was innocent and that He judged him according to what he was at that time. (Which by the way, is an interesting take on God’s view of both the time we operate in and how he deals with us during various stages of our lives.) Rabbinical literature goes on to claim that Ishmael returned to his father Abraham in his later life and did in fact repent of his evil ways.

Switching to Esau’s genealogy, we find this in the Jewish Virtual Library: “Traditional enemies of the Israelites, the Edomites were the descendants of Esau who often battled the Jewish nation. Edom was in southeast Palestine, stretched from the Red Sea at Elath to the Dead Sea, and encompassed some of Israel's most fertile land. The Edomites attacked Israel under Saul’s rulership. King David would later defeat the rogue nation, annexing their land. At the fall of the First Temple, the Edomites attacked Judah and looted the Temple, accelerating its destruction. The Edomites were later forcibly converted into Judaism by John Hyrcanus, and then became an active part of the Jewish people. Famous Edomites include Herod, who built the Second Temple.” I’ll let our readers study that on their own for more details and in order to arrive at their conclusion.

The majority of the material that I was able to peruse came to the conclusion that either Edomites no long exist today, or we really do not know who they are. One possibility is that indeed if we consider Esau’s blessings, we would have to admit that his descendants would also multiply and scatter throughout the world. It is possible they have done just that and integrated many other diverse societies and culture. They are still around, but not as Edomites. If we accept that possibility, then who we think they may be today depends greatly on our worldview. Some may believe the descendants of Esau have given up their hatred of the Judaic people. Others may think they have gravitated towards those cultures and peoples whose very singular goal in life is to obliterate Israel. Perhaps one day, and maybe soon, we will know. In the meantime, I will leave the guesswork to you.

In summary, the bottom line is still this. Ishmael did come from Abraham’s line. Esau did come from Isaac’s line, which in turn came from Abraham. Jesus came from Jacob’s line, which in turn came from Abraham. Today we have Jews and Arabs. The great majority of original Jews (those not converted to Judaism) come from Jacob’s line. It is possible that some descendants of both Ishmael and Esau may have at one time or another converted to Judaism, but for the most part the rest existed as Arabs and either integrated into more vibrant Arab cultures or died off. As a result, we must contend ourselves with the realization that what matters today, from this perspective of this discussion, and with respect to the end times is this – there are Arabs and there are Jews. And of course, there is God.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

The Records of the Sons of Seir, the Horite - Genesis 36:20-30


These are the sons of Seir the Horite, the inhabitants of the land . . . of Edom. . . . These are the chiefs descended from the Horites, according to their various chiefs in the land of Seir.

For some reason, the author of Genesis, inserts in the middle of the genealogy of the Edomites, Esau’s people, the genealogy of the Horites. These people are Canaanites or more specifically Hittites. In Genesis 26:34 we learned that Esau had married two of their daughters. They were the natives of Mount Seir as we first learned in Genesis 14:6. But why here, why now, is their genealogy given?

It is possible that this was inserted as a reminder to us that if we allow people into our lives, they remain, in one form or another, ‘with us’ forever. The Edomites, beginning with Esau, had intermarried with the Hittites. By so doing, they likely adopted the ways of the Hittites in many respects and thus corrupted themselves and the pure monotheistic faith they had in God Almighty. When Esau lost his blessings he turned to and joined the Hittites. Their impact on him and his family remained forever.

If a young man falls into a group of bad friends and gets into trouble, he will always have that experience in his life’s databank and while he may be able to rise above it some day, its impact will have taken its course. Similarly, if a person has an affair, he/she does not easily forget the circumstances of that relationship, no matter whether it is cut short or not. If someone intentionally pursues an action or activity that results in permanent physical damage or loss to part of his/her body or faculties, he/she is reminded of that each time they go to use that part of the body or that ability. God once again, even with this simple genealogy inserted here, may well be suggesting, that life is indeed about choices that are ours to make. But once we make them, we must accept the fact that the positive outcomes of Godly decisions or the negative consequences of poor ones, are also part of the package, and cannot easily be abandoned.

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Need for Clarification re. Esau’s Wives


As we studied Genesis chapter 36, I realized that a need for a potential clarification arose regarding the number and the names of Esau’s wives. We step back for a moment to address that issue.

In Genesis 26:34 and then again in 28:9, we read that Esau’s wives were as follows: Judith (the daughter of Berri the Hittite); Basemath (the daughter of Elon the Hittite); and Mahalath (the daughter of Ishmael and the sister of Nebaioth).

Yet, in Genesis 36:2,3 his wives are recorded as follows: Adah (the daughter of Elon the Hittite); Oholibamah (the daughter of Anah and the granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite); and Basemath (as above).

Basemath is mentioned in both accounts. However, Judith and Mahalath are mentioned in the first account and not the second, while the reverse is true for Adah and Oholibamah. So, is there a contradiction in the book of Genesis? If not, how can the differences be explained?

The literature on this is extensive and interesting. Here are some possibilities as I see them:
1. One of the early wives died and was replaced, so there were still three at the time the genealogy in Genesis 36 was written down.
2. Esau divorced one of his wives and remarried, so again there were still three at the time the genealogy in Genesis 36 was written.
3. While five different wives’ names are mentioned (Judith, Basemath, Mahalath, Adah, Oholibamah), one and/or two of those names have alternative names or nicknames (common in the Patriarchial Era).
4. A combination of two or three of the above possibilities.
5. The author did not record all of the wives in one or both occasions.
6. There were in fact four wives, a concept that would nicely parallel Jacob’s four wives.

The last suggestion above would work out like this:
1. Judith – group one original from Genesis 26:34
2. Adah -- group two, Genesis 36:2 (also known as Basemath, daughter of Elon the Hittite – group one original from Genesis 26:34)
3. Oholibamah – group two, Genesis 36:2
4. Mahalath -- group one, but from Genesis 28:9 (also known as Basemath, daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth – group two, Genesis 36:3.

The above-supposed scenario would likely mean that in the case of Wife 2 and 4, Adah and Mahalath were their original foreign names, and Basemath their nickname or alternative. No other Israelite woman used these original names to our knowledge.

I have spent several hours working through all the possibilities. There are some interesting points to note. For example:
 There is some support in historical literature for the use of nicknames.
 Basemath (named in the first group of references) and Adah (in the second both have as their kinship reference “the daughter of Elon the Hittite”, leading us to at least entertain the possibility they are one and the same.
 Mahalath (named in the first group of references) and the Basemath (in the second) are both referred to as “the daughter of Ishmael and the sister of Nebaioth”, leading us to entertain the possibility that they are one and the same.

I have decided that one cannot come to any conclusive decision, only conjectures. I do not even want to venture an opinion. My study, however, has led me to believe that all four possibilities are certainly probable if not possible. While some may not be satisfied with that, I am. While the idea of ‘four’ wives has some merit, the problem I face is twofold. First, the text especially that given with the genealogy record seems to clearly favor three wives. Second, in total we are given five different names in the text but only three at a time. Four sounds like a possible good compromise. All suggested possibilities require some restructuring of that offered by scripture. In addition, I have discovered that compromises do not always lead to the absolute truth. For that, we’ll need to wait for the end of our journey. Feel free to ask the question when you get ‘there’.

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Friday, July 09, 2010

The Records of the Sons of Esau - Genesis 36:9-19


These then are the records of the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir. . . . These are the sons of Esau (that is, Edom), and these are their chiefs.

The Bible provides us great details in respect to the generations that followed Esau from his five sons. We have left out all the verses with all their names. What matters for us is that here is clear evidence that God cares about each one of us. True it records only male children for in those days the culture was indeed very patriarchal in nature. It is not a statement against women. Women were revered as we have seen time and time again even up to this point in Genesis. In fact, the records provide the names of the male offspring based on who there mother was, even when that mother was a concubine rather than a full spouse.

In verse 15 we are introduced to the ‘chiefs’ or as the King James puts it, the “dukes” of the sons of Esau. It appears that the clan were divided into tribes, whose names were taken from the different sons. The word ‘duke’ here is likely equivalent to the sheiks or emirs of the modern East rather than a reference to high rank and wealth as in the British peerage. There are fourteen of these dukes or chiefs in Esau’s Edomite people. Each likely had command of a certain number of soldiers. You will remember back in Genesis 27:40 that Esau and his people were to live “by the sword”.

Let us note also that what we have here is simply a listing of names of Esau’s sons and grandsons. Their history is not given. The author of the book seems to want to focus on recording only that part of Abraham and Isaac’s history through which the Promise is fulfilled. Those names that would come after these names here are for the most part, at least in Esau’s lineage, lost forever. But, as we will find out, that is not the case for Jacob’s bloodline of the Israelites, those who are rightfully heirs to the Promised Land. There is no reason to think that Esau’s dukes and chiefs did not prosper or become great in number through the generations that came after them. In fact, God allowed Esau to prosper numerically before He made that a reality for Jacob as we found out from our earlier studies. Worldly men do indeed prosper. The problem is that the prosperity does not last forever. Kingdoms fall. But when God decides to bless His own, it lasts longer and leads to full spiritual eternal prosperity.

Titles of ‘human’ honor seem to be more at home outside the spiritual family of God. In the true spiritual family of God, we will see the title of “shepherd” and “shepherd boy” play the prominent role.

So should we as Christians bestow titles on each other? (Honorary degrees come to mind.) There is nothing in scripture to prohibit it as I read it. The problem is not the title; it is whether or not the title owner overestimates his/her worth because of it. True honor comes from God and God alone. In the history of mankind, it is better to be a King or a Priest appointed by God than one appointed by man.

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Esau and Jacob Separate Again - Genesis 36:6-8


Then Esau took his wives and his sons and his daughters and all his household, and his livestock and all his cattle and all his goods which he had acquired in the land of Canaan, and went to another land away from his brother Jacob. For their property had become too great for them to live together, and the land where they sojourned could not sustain them because of their livestock. So Esau lived in the hill country of Seir; Esau is Edom.

Here again we are reminded that not only Jacob, but Esau as well, had done well. Esau takes his three wives, his five sons, and his daughters – again we are not told at this juncture how many there were – and all his servants, livestock, cattle, earthly goods, and moves away from his brother Esau. He moves the scripture say to “another land”.

After Esau had sold his birthright blessing to Jacob for the potage he so badly craved, he cried out to his father Isaac for a second blessing. It appears that because he was Isaac’s son, God did bless Esau in the only way that really mattered to him – materially.

The scene is reminiscent of Abraham and Lot parting ways when their wealth was expanded and the land could not sustain both effectively, strictly from an agricultural perspective because of their livestock and cattle. However, it is interesting to note that wealth does often create separation. I have seen this over and over again, especially between brothers. They are left a vibrant business by their father and they grow it together. Yet at some point as so often happens, they turn it into two businesses, or one leaves to head up a new offshoot or a totally different organization. For some reason, they cannot co-exist. They cannot co-manage the blessing that God has given them. But does it need to be that way? One would think that if no egos were involved, they could work together.

There is a need for us to examine our egos when it comes to both business and ministries. In Africa recently, I observed so many national pastors working under very poor circumstances trying to establish their own local churches – often within literally yards from each other, and both evangelical protestant in nature. I am working to try and bring unity in both purpose and efforts in this regard. A while back I attended a missionary conference in Toronto and to my disappointment I noticed close to a dozen different missions trying to reach the Jewish people in Israel for Christ. Can you imagine how much more effective and efficient they would be if they joined forces? We need to check our egos at the door of ministry.

As I write this account, the Lord has given me a desire to help Christians in developing countries “learn how to fish” in order to make themselves, their families, and their ministries self-sufficient. My first preference for this ministry is to seek the cooperation of my current mission to expand our mandate to do so. My second is to work with another existing charity to do so. My last resort is to start another mission – yet I realize that sometimes, that is what needs to be done. I just think His preference is that we work together as one.

The land of Seir was first mentioned in Genesis 14:6 with reference to the Horites, one of the groups that waged war against other groups in the area. In Genesis 32:3 we note that Esau was already living in the land of “Seir, the country of Edom (Esau)”. And in our current verses he “dwells” here after he apparently moved away from Esau who had returned to Canaan. It is possible that either the timing of the account is not provided chronologically or that Seir is a much larger portion of land and that the place Edom is only part of it, implying that Esau moved within Seir. In fact, the latter is more likely as Seir is a mountain range extending from one part of the dead Dead Sea all the way to its eastern gulf.

In the end, God’s plan remains in tact. Esau may have wanted, and indeed struggled during his life for, Canaan, yet now finds himself settling in Seir.

The lessons for us are twofold. First, we must realize that God does bless others, even those that may not appear to us to have walked closely with Him. He is God and has the right to do whatever He wants. Secondly, while He may bless, He never does so in a way that detracts from His original and main plan for mankind and us.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Esau’s Sons - Genesis 36:4-5


And Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau, and Basemath bore Reuel, and Oholibamah bore Jeush and Jalam and Korah. These are the sons of Esau who were born to him in the land of Canaan.

These two verses name the five sons of Esau through his three wives. A closer study of each yields the following information:

Eliphaz is translated as “my God is (fine) gold”, or “to whom God is strength”. Reuel or Raguel is translated as “a friend of God”. Jeush is translated “assembler” or “whom God hastens”. Jalam or Jalaam is translated as “concealed” or “he whom God hides”. And Korah is simply translated “bald”.

Interesting that at least four out of the five sons of Esau were all given names related to the family’s strong belief in God. There are two things we can think about here. First, how do we go about naming our children these days? Secondly, while God’s promise to Abraham may have come through Jacob’s branch of the family, it is clear that Esau’s branch, at least to this point, still was deeply rooted in a belief in God.

As we watch the world conflicts today between Jew and Arab, we can see that strong belief at play as the Muslims everywhere communicate on their mosques, “None to be worshipped but Allah”.

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Esau’s Three Wives - Genesis 36:1-3


Now these are the records of the generations of Esau (that is, Edom). Esau took his wives from the daughters of Canaan:
Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and
Oholibamah the daughter of Anah, the granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite; also
Basemath, Ishmael’s daughter, the sister of Nebaioth.


Here the Bible makes this portion of the family tree very clear for us. Esau is also known as Edom. The word is translated “red”. He was called that in Genesis 25:30 when he was famished and asked his brother Jacob for some ‘red’ pottage.

As can be seen from the rest of the text, his Edomites multiply through his three wives from various backgrounds. The first was a daughter of a Hittite. We first heard of the Hittites, when Ephron the Hittite agreed to sell Abraham a burial place for his wife Sarah in Genesis 23.

Esau’s second wife was a Hivite. We first hear of the Hivites in Genesis 10 where the generations of Noah are recorded. There in verse 17 we learn that the Hivites were descendants of Ham, Noah’s second son.

Esau’s third wife was none other than Ishmael’s daughter. In the King James Version her name is given as Bashemath. Ishmael you will remember was his grandfather Abraham’s eldest son, borne to him by Sarah’s handmaiden, Hagar. Muslims today believe that Ishmael is indeed the child of promise and it was Ishmael that was going to be sacrificed by Abraham, not Isaac, according to them. Needless to say, Islamic traditions see Ishmael as the father of Arab people. His descendants in this branch of Abraham’s family tree are today’s Muslims.

With this background, we can follow the generations that came after Esau, as we will see in verses that follow.

What’s your family tree look like? Have your relatives been part of a major world movement, perhaps one you haven’t identified yet? It is worth taking a look at our history. The development of Abraham’s family tree went on to create a major split that has lasted for centuries, more notably since the end of the 19th century, between Jews and Arabs. That conflict today monopolizes much of the world political scene. It certainly is central to how Christians view the second coming of Christ. Many believe that all the political talk by all the parties involved means nothing and the only thing that matters in this issue is what God has planned and will carry out in His own time. Those of us that follow the situation in the Middle East would do well to follow it with eyes wide open, looking through the third lens of scripture, especially as outlined in Ezekiel 38 and 39.

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Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Death of Isaac - Genesis 35:28-29


Now the days of Isaac were one hundred and eighty years. And Isaac breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people, an old man of ripe age; and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

Scripture records that Isaac lived 180 years and then simply breathed his last. We can return to our chronological timeline that we last updated in Genesis 31:41. But to relate the timeline to Isaac’s life we have to go back and add the timeline we developed when we were studying Genesis 25:26.

• 3331 Isaac, at age 60, becomes father to Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25:26)
• 3371 Esau at age 40 marries Judith and Basemath (Genesis 26:34)
• At least: 3391 Jacob and his family leave Laban’s home (Genesis 31:41)
• 3394 The death of Ishmael (based on his birth in 3257 and Genesis 25:17)
• 3451 The death of Isaac at age 180 (Genesis 35:28,29)

Can you imagine living to be 180 years old today? The world would have changed so drastically. I am not sure that my mind would be able to fathom it. Recently my wife and I returned from a trip to Kenya, one of the more advanced countries in Africa by some accounts, yet the difference between the lives of our new friends there and our lives here is incredible. Perhaps the difference is due to a century of cultural change or modernization. But can you image almost twice that and at today’s exponential rate of change? I for one am happy with our current life spans that we enjoy. When the time comes, I hope I go simply having “breathed my last”.

The text makes reference to Isaac being “an old man of ripe age”. You will remember that in the earlier years of mankind’s history and in the generations that closely followed that of Adam, men did live for several centuries, some most notably lived well into their tenth century. But after that God seemed to have reduced the normal lifespan to a much shorter period of time, estimated at about 120 years. Isaac then, under those terms, could well have been thought of to have lived to a “ripe age” and have been an “old man”. These days when one lives into his or her nineties, we consider that being a “ripe age” and one living for a century is considered very rare. It is interesting that we use the word ‘ripe’ to refer to an advanced age. I cannot help but think that funny. We usually talk of food or fruit being ‘ripe’ – that is the perfect time to enjoy them. They have the most to offer when they are perfectly ripe. I think we need to view our seniors in the same way. But at the same time, it is a sad fact that ripe fruit or food, not properly kept or enjoyed, very quickly decays into something that is no longer desirable. Yes, our seniors sometimes lose their minds or their physical abilities. But it is a known fact that they do so much more slowly if they are given the proper care, attention, and love they deserve. And the rest of us get to enjoy their flavor much longer.

The phrase “gathered to his people” used here for Isaac and meaning to have been buried with his family, relatives, or kin, was previously used in the case of his father Abraham (Genesis 25:8) and also his half-brother Ishmael (Genesis 25:17). The exact meaning is not clear. One can assume that indeed his remains were delegated to join the remains of those among his predecessors that had died before him. And one would assume that his soul would have joined the souls of others whom God would have blessed with eternal life before him. Death has a way of doing just that. It gathers us to our people – those we have loved or known before, depending on whether they and/or we were children of God or not. One way or another, we’ll be joining others.

Finally, I think it is important to note that the death of one often brings others together. We know that Jacob and Esau, Isaac’s sons, had had their differences. We know that even prior to Jacob arriving at Isaac’s place, the two brothers had met en route and worked these differences out. Yet, we have no record of their relations since that point in time. The quarrel they had may have been set aside, but there is no evidence that a strong brotherly friendship had begun and that their families were enjoying each other’s company. But here at their father’s death, we see Esau and Jacob working together as brothers to bury their beloved father. We continue to see that in our funerals today. People who have not seen each other for decades or spoken to each other for years, often set everything aside and unite, even momentarily, in order to deal with their loss. Can you imagine what could be accomplished in our families and circles of friends if somehow we had the ability to bring those people together prior to, and without, our death? Now, that is worth living for.

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Friday, July 02, 2010

Jacob Returns Home - Genesis 35:27


And Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre of Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had sojourned.

Later this morning my son will be coming to his parents’ and what was formerly his grandparents’ home to visit. Today my second daughter, who lives with us, leaves with her family for a two-week vacation and already I am thinking about when they will be coming back home. On a regular basis, since the beginning of Canada’s involvement in the Afghanistan war, the bodies of men and women have been coming home in a ceremonial convoy along Highway 401, now renamed the ‘Highway of Heroes’. There is something about human nature, both in life and in death, which causes us to one way or another head for home.

While we are alive, we still have the ability to choose when we go or even if we go home. Once we have died, others make that decision for us. But no matter the case, home always seem to be a good place to head.

So Jacob, having traveled afar, having been blessed financially, having met with God and made part of the promise that God first gave his grandfather and later his father, having struggled with the sins of his sons, having lost and buried his beloved Rachel, now comes home to his father’s house. He had been for decades. His children had never seen their grandfather nor he them. There were no telephones, no emails, and no daily mail delivery. Word of each other could only travel by individuals who may be heading in the general direction of the loved you wanted to communicate with. We have no record of too much news traveling back and forth between Jacob and Isaac.

But none of that seems to have mattered. The only thing that counted in our story was that “Jacob came to his father Isaac”. You will remember Mamre, or Hebron, as the place from as far back in the text as Genesis 13:18 when Jacob’s grandfather, before he was even called Abraham, came and dwelt there. Now Jacob returns to that place, now called Hebron, to join his own father, Isaac.

As an aside, permit me to stop and give God glory for His wonderful blessing on my own life. As I reflect on this verse, I realize that when my son and my eldest daughter visit their parents, they are visiting the very place they used to come as toddlers and later as teenagers and even as married adults, to visit their grandfather (my father). For my own grandchildren, these visits connect them back to their great-grandfather. What a joy that is for my wife and I.

One needs truly to be a parent in order to fully comprehend the joy that Isaac must have felt as Jacob comes home after all these years. One needs truly to be a child who loved his/her parents deeply and to have lost them, to know what it means to remember ‘coming home’ to see them. These are indeed precious moments. I believe they are gifts from God to be treasured.

Are you waiting for someone to come home? Do you need to go home to someone else? The pundit who came up with the expression “There’s no place like home” had it right. God wants you home – with your spouse, with your family, in communion with your parents, and most of all, in a personal relationship with Him. It is never too late to come home and if you have done your part, you will find loving arms spread wide open there – be those of people who mean so much to you, or those of the Heavenly Father who gave His Son to die for your sins. Fall into those arms today.

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

A Listing of Jacob’s Sons, Grouped By Their Mother - Genesis 35:22a-26


Now there were twelve sons of Jacob –
the sons of Leah: Reuben, Jacob’s first-born, then Simeon and Levi and Judah and Issachar and Zebulun;
the sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin; and
the sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s maid: Dan and Naphtali; and
the sons of Zilpah, Leah’s maid: Gad and Asher.
These are the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan-aram.


His grandfather Abraham had eight sons through three different women. His father Isaac had two sons and one wife. Jacob himself had twelve sons through two wives and two concubines, each being a maid of one of his two wives. Generally speaking, and especially judging by the number of sons he had, Jacob lived a blessed and prosperous life.

It is interesting to note that the text’s author takes special care to list all his sons in groups, in accordance with the women who bore them to Jacob. While we have not yet discovered it to this point in the text, we will see that these twelve sons play unique and significant roles in the history that unfolds in subsequent chapters of Genesis and other books of the Bible. Their groupings, based on their mother, are also crucial to the outcome of the history of God’s people, right up to this very day. This text, I believe, establishes for us a key foundation on which Israel’s history can continue.

In one sense, this is no different than following the story of some modern-day people of fame who have been married more than once and tracing the lives of their children. One would find that children of one spouse, as a group, often fair differently then those of another spouse. The differences are even more evident when the children are outside of marriage and a result of adultery. Even within marriage, where a person has been married more than once and has offspring from more than one spouse, the difference in the fairing of the children I believe is more profound when the subsequent marriages are a result of selfish desire or sin. Somehow, when God gets involved as He always is, the consequences are unavoidable, even if observed in generations to come.

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