Tag Archives: Jacob

Commentary on Genesis 44-45 (Joseph Reunites with His Family)

Post Author: Bill Pratt 


In chapter 37, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. When we pick up the story in chapter 44, 22 years have passed, so Joseph is now 39 years old (1876 BC). So what has transpired in the last 22 years?

While serving in Potiphar’s household, Joseph is falsely accused of the attempted rape of Potiphar’s wife, and is thrown into prison. While he is in prison, he meets two members of Pharaoh’s court (chief cupbearer and chief baker) who have also been put into prison. He correctly interprets dreams for both of them.

The chief cupbearer is released from prison and 2 years later, when the Pharaoh has 2 dreams that none of his servants can interpret, the cupbearer suggests that Pharaoh ask Joseph, who is still in prison, to interpret his dreams.

Joseph tells Pharaoh that his 2 dreams mean the same thing: there will be 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of famine. Joseph’s advice is for Pharaoh to collect 1/5th of the food in the land during the 7 years of plenty so that it can be used during the following 7 years of famine.

Pharaoh, impressed that Joseph could interpret his dreams and propose a solution to the problem, exalts Joseph to second in command over all of Egypt. This happened when Joseph was 30 years old.

When the famine begins, 7 years later, Jacob sends his sons to Egypt to buy grain because of the famine. Obviously, Jacob and his sons have no idea that Joseph is 2nd in command in Egypt. When the brothers arrive in Egypt, Joseph recognizes them but they do not recognize him. Joseph decides to test his brothers to see whether they have repented of their evil ways.

For the final test, Joseph has his steward plant a silver cup in Benjamin’s traveling bag as the 11 brothers are leaving Egypt to go back to their father, Jacob, in Canaan. When the steward stops the brothers as they are leaving Egypt to accuse them of stealing the silver cup, the brothers deny that they stole the cup and say that if the cup is found in anyone’s bag, the thief will become a slave of Joseph. The steward finds the cup in Benjamin’s bag and that is where we pick up the story in chapter 44.


Joseph demands that the brothers leave Benjamin as a slave because of his theft of the silver cup (which belonged to Joseph). In verse 18 of chapter 44, Judah, the fourth son of Leah and Jacob, steps forward to save Benjamin’s life. Recall that Judah was also the brother that suggested they sell Joseph into slavery instead of killing him in the pit.

In verses 19-29, Judah recounts to Joseph the events that have occurred up to now. A couple years before, Joseph had demanded that the brothers bring back Benjamin with them to Egypt when they returned for more grain, as they had not brought him on their first trip to Egypt. Judah explains how painful this was to their father.

According to Judah, Jacob said the following, “You know that my wife bore me two sons. One of them went away from me, and I said, ‘He has surely been torn to pieces.’ And I have not seen him since.  If you take this one from me too and harm comes to him, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in misery.” Jacob is, of course, referring to Joseph as the son who went away and was torn to pieces.

Judah tells Joseph that if they don’t bring Benjamin home with them, Jacob “will die. Your servants will bring the gray head of our father down to the grave in sorrow.” Judah then offers to stay in Benjamin’s place.

In verses 1-3 of chapter 45, Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers. Why? Because they passed the test. Judah had been willing to give up his life for his brother, Benjamin. Rather than allow Benjamin to become a slave, as he had with Joseph, he intervened to save his life.

When Joseph reveals himself, the brothers are terrified, but Joseph reassures them that their sin was used by God to save the family. Verses 4-7 encapsulate the central theme of the Joseph narrative: “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”

God providentially turned the brothers’ evil act against Joseph into good. Joseph was now in a position to save their entire family from starvation and relocate them to Egypt where they could survive the famine. Joseph repeats the theme in Gen 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

In verses 8-15, Joseph instructs his brothers to go back to their father, Jacob, and tell him to move the family to Egypt. They will be given a region called Goshen to inhabit.

Jacob does move his family to Egypt, and that is where the Israelites will reside for hundreds of years. Although the Israelites start out well in Egypt and multiply into great numbers, the situation will reverse in time, and that is where we will pick up in the book of Exodus.

Is God Sovereign or Does Man Have Free Will?

Post Author: Bill Pratt  

Some Christians believe that God’s sovereignty over events on earth means that he ignores or overrides the free will of human beings. Other Christians believe that God only makes decisions after seeing what human beings will decide, and thus he is not really sovereign over everything. Under this second view, events on earth seem to split into things God controls and things humans control.

Both of these views, however, are wrong. The biblical view is that God is both sovereign over everything, and human beings have free will. We see this illustrated in Genesis 25. In verse 23, God tells Rebekah that Esau’s descendants (the nation of Edom) will be weaker than Jacob’s descendants (the nation of Israel), indicating His sovereignty over human history.

But in verse 34 we see that it is Esau who despised his birthright. The biblical author is indicating that Esau is not some impotent pawn being pushed around a chessboard by God, but an active participant in giving up his birthright. These two verses illustrate that God is sovereign and that Esau is free to reject his birthright. Both are true.

Does the Bible Say that God Blesses Everyone Equally?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Some Christians seem to think so, but nowhere in the Bible does God promise that every believer will receive the same material rewards on earth.  In fact, the Bible tells us that each believer will even receive different rewards in heaven.

God loves every person, but God’s love does not guarantee that he will bless each of us in the same manner. God blesses in ways specific to each person. We are given unique parents, siblings, experiences, material wealth, heath, intelligence, and talents.

For example, in Genesis 25, when God blesses Jacob and makes him the father of the Israelites (instead of Esau), that is His prerogative. It is silly to compare one person’s blessings to another. In fact, covetousness is a sin! The Bible tells us to be content with what we are given, not be jealous of other people’s blessings.

Commentary on Genesis 25 (Jacob and Esau)

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

God has promised Abraham that his descendants would be blessed with great numbers and with the promised land of Canaan. In turn, they would also be a blessing to all mankind. In previous chapters, we learned that Abraham’s son, Isaac, was the child of the promise. But now that Isaac has married Rebekah, we want to know who will receive the blessing from God after Isaac has died. Which child of Isaac will the covenant pass to?

In verses 19-21, we see that Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, is barren (just like Sarah was). She cannot conceive a child. Isaac prays for Rebekah and 20 years later she becomes pregnant. Barren wives becoming pregnant, is a repeating theme in the Bible. The biblical writers want us to understand that these births require the supernatural intervention of God. Without God, the plan of redemption could not occur. Remember that the Israelites are reading these words before they enter the promised land. They are being reminded that God intervenes and He is in control of the outcome.

In verse 22, we learn that Rebekah is having a rough pregnancy. It seems as if, first of all, there are multiple children in her womb, and second of all, that they are battling each other! The situation is so serious that Rebekah asks God to tell her what is happening.

In verse 23 God tells Rebekah that there are two children in her womb. Each child will be the father of a nation, but these nations will be separated from each other. They will be at war, in other words. One nation will be stronger than the other.

In the ancient near east, the oldest child always received a double portion of the inheritance, and thus the younger children were always expected to serve the oldest. But when God tells Rebekah about the twins inside of her, he flips this relationship completely around. In her case, the older child would serve the younger. God’s choice is not always man’s choice.

In verses 24-26, we learn that the first baby to come out is named Esau and the second to come out is named Jacob. The Israelites, who were reading these words 600 years after these events occurred, would have immediately known which two nations would come from Esau and Jacob. Esau’s descendants would become the nation of Edom, and Jacob’s descendants would become the nation of Israel. The father of the Israelites was Jacob, and the father of their enemies in Edom was Esau, Jacob’s brother.

Verses 27-28 tell us that Jacob and Esau were quite dissimilar. Because Esau was an outdoorsman, Isaac preferred him. Jacob, on the other hand, was more of a home-body, and his mother Rebekah preferred him.

In verses 29-34, a famous biblical incident occurs. Esau returns from an outdoor foray, and he is famished. Jacob has prepared a lentil soup and Esau desperately wants some. Taking advantage of the situation, Jacob demands that Esau give up his birthright in order to get some of the soup. Surprisingly, Esau agrees. The chapter ends with the following words: “So Esau despised his birthright.”

This incident is significant for a few reasons.  First, we learn how it is that Jacob, the second-born, is granted the status of being first-born, and how he thus inherits the double portion from Isaac. Second, since the firstborn would be the child of promise – the child that receives the covenant promises passed down from Abraham to Isaac – we see how Jacob becomes the father of God’s chosen people, the Israelites. Third, and tragically, we see that Esau did not seem to care about the covenant promises, and thus thought it nothing to give away his birthright.

Does God Really Hate Esau?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Many Christians are shocked when they read Romans 9:13: “Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'”  Since when does the God of love hate people?  This verse, coupled with the rest of Romans 9, has led many to believe that God does not love all people, at least with regard to their eternal salvation.  He seems to arbitrarily choose some people for salvation and some people for damnation.  But must we interpret this verse in that way?

I think the answer is “no.”  A more careful reading of this passage indicates that the subject is not individual salvation, but Israel’s national role in redemptive history.

Paul is actually quoting from Mal. 1:2-3, and a reading of those verses in the context of Malachi’s book clearly indicates that Malachi is using the word “Jacob” to refer to the nation of Israel and the word “Esau” to refer to the nation of Edom.

This makes perfect sense because Romans 9, 10, and 11 are all about national Israel and her role in redemptive history.  Romans 9 refers to Israel’s past, Romans 10 refers to her present, and Romans 11 refers to her future.

It is a serious exegetical mistake to interpret Romans 9 to be referring to individuals’ salvation.  According to Norman Geisler, “the election of the nation was temporal, not eternal; that is, Israel was chosen as a national channel through which the eternal blessing of salvation through Christ would come to all people (cf. Gen. 12:1–3; Rom. 9:4–5). Not every individual in Israel was elected to be saved (9:6).”

God works through nations to accomplish his will, just as he works through individuals.  Just because Israel was the chosen nation to bring forth the Messiah did not mean that every Israelite would be individually saved.  Individual salvation has never been and will never be based on a person’s nationality.  Paul is talking about the nation of Israel in Romans 9, not individual salvation.

Finally, it is also important to explain that the word used for “hate” in Malachi 1 is a Hebrew idiom which actually means to “love less.”  Norman Geisler explains: “This is evident from Genesis 29:30: The phrase ‘loved Rachel more than Leah’ is used as the equivalent of ‘Leah was hated’ (cf. also Matt. 10:37).”

God does not hate anyone, but he does bless some nations more than others.