Christianity According to Christ

A Harmony and Consolidation of the Gospel of Jesus from Old and New Testaments - WordsInRed.com

Covenants

Noah

So Noah and his wife, together with his sons and their wives and - one kind after another - all the creatures they had taken with them, came out of the ark. Then Noah built an altar and taking some of the animals and birds that he found most pleasing to the eye, he sacrificed them on it. And he burned their carcasses as offerings to the Lord. Then he proceeded to get drunk on some wine that he had made, and passed out naked in his tent. When the Lord saw this, and smelled the odor of burnt flesh, he said to himself: "Nothing has changed. Every inclination of man's heart, from childhood on, is still evil."

But God found the spirit of Noah's sacrifice and celebration pleasing, and he said to Noah and his family: "I'm going to establish a covenant between me and you, and your descendants after you for all generations to come. Never again will I curse the ground because of man. And never again will I bring a flood to destroy all life on the earth. As long as the earth endures - seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter - day and night will never cease.

"Furthermore, just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you every living creature on earth. All the fish of the sea, and all the livestock and wild animals that move along the ground and birds of the air that came out of the ark with you: everything that lives and moves will be food for you. They are all given into your hands. But in order to eat of their flesh, you must take from them their lifeblood. And so the fear and dread of you will fall upon every animal with which you have hitherto lived in peace. And as for you and your lifeblood, whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood also be shed. And at the end of your days, I will surely demand an accounting from each of you for the life of your fellow man, for in my own image have I made you."

Then the Lord set a rainbow in the clouds, saying: "This will be a sign of our covenant. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth, this rainbow will appear. And I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between me and you, and all living creatures that dwell with you on the earth." And he blessed the three sons of Noah - Shem, Ham and Japheth - and their wives as he had Adam and Eve, saying: "Now go forth! Be fruitful and multiply, and increase in number upon the earth." And from these three families came the multitudes who populate the earth today.

Ge 8:18-22
9:1-20

Confusion

And so it was that, after the flood, Noah's sons themselves had sons, and their clans began to spread outward over the earth. Some of them eventually arrived at two great rivers, which they named the Tigris and Euphrates. And as they moved east along these rivers, they came to a broad, fertile plain that they called Shinar and began to congregate there. And they said to each other: "Why must we be scattered over the face of the whole earth? Come, let's make a name for ourselves right here, and build ourselves a city with a tower that reaches to the heavens!"

There was no stone to speak of there on that river plain, and so the men made bricks from the rich soil and baked them thoroughly. And they used this brick instead of stone for their construction and - for mortar - the tar that welled up from the ground in the nearby hills. God looked down and saw the city and the tower that the men had begun to build, and he said approvingly: "If these people work together as one, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them." But the Lord was not pleased with the prideful spirit that motivated the men's work.

Now at this time, the whole world had but one language and a common dialect. So the Lord said, "I will go down and confuse their language. Perhaps if they don't understand each other so well, they will turn their hearts to me." This he did, and - unable to communicate as they had - the men stopped building the city and the tower that they had undertaken out of pride in themselves. And the city on the plain became known as Babel (or Babylon), which means "confusion," because it was there that the Lord confused the languages of the whole world as they remain to this day.

And men began to drift away from there in groups according to their languages and lines of descent, and to scatter themselves over the earth as God had intended:

- The descendants of Noah's son Japheth migrated westward to the shore of the great sea which is known today as the Mediterranean. And from these came the maritime peoples who spread out into territories along the coast which eventually became separate nations, each with its own language.

- The sons of Ham gained reputations on the earth and in the eyes of the Lord as mighty hunters and warriors. They retained possession of Babylon and the plain of Shinar, and rapidly expanded from that land in all directions. They completed settlement of the Euphrates river valley, founding the great city of Ur downstream from Babylon. They went northward into what became Assyria, where they built the city of Nineveh; southward along the Mediterranean coast from Sidon to Gaza; and then inland from there, where they established the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

- The descendants of Shem, or Semites, settled in the hill country somewhere east of Babylon; probably to the north of what we today call the Persian Gulf. They appear to have become, for the most part, semi-nomadic sheepherders and peasant farmers.

And so it was that men settled within their diverse territories and nations and, as time went on, these divisions became even more fragmented and intermingled. Never again would mankind think and act as one. But this did not turn men's hearts to the Lord as he had hoped, and they continued to go their separate ways, thinking only of themselves and their own material well-being.

Ge 2:14
10:1-2, 5-6, 8-11, 19-21 and 30-32
11:1-10

Abram

Some centuries after these events took place, there was a descendant of Shem by the name of Abram who lived in the city of Ur in the land of a Hamitic people called the Chaldeans. Abram called himself a Hebrew, after one of Shem's great-great grandsons - Eber - from whom he was descended. Abram's small household consisted of his wife Sarai, his father Terah and his nephew Lot. Because Sarai was barren, Abram had no children of his own.

And there, the Word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision and said to him: "Abram! I am God Almighty! Leave your country, your people and your father's house, and go to the land I will show you. Don't be afraid to do this, Abram, for I will be your shield and your very great reward. Whoever seeks to harm you, I will curse, and those who show favor to you, I will bless. And through you, all peoples on earth will be blessed, for I will make you into a great nation and exalt your name."

So Abram obeyed and left the land of the Chaldeans as God had told him, even though he didn't know where he was going, because he believed the Lord's promise. And God credited this to him as righteousness. Abram gathered up his meager possessions and - together with Terah, Sarai and Lot - set out from Ur. Living in tents and ever on the move, they wandered northwest along the Euphrates River valley. But when they came to the city of Haran in western Mesopotamia, they settled there for a time, probably because Terah was too frail to continue. He was, after all, more than 70 years old when he fathered Abram, and Abram himself was now about that age.

There in Haran Abram acquired substantial possessions and, it is thought, a position of some standing withing the community. Nevertheless, when Terah died at a ripe old age, Abram again set out as as the Lord had told him. He took Sarai, Lot and all he had accumulated there in Haran, and headed south into the land of Canaan. Abram was seventy five years old when he set out from Haran.

They traveled through the land until they arrived at the site of the great Tree of Moreh near the Canaanite city of Shechem. There Abram pitched his tents and, building an altar, fell facedown before it and called on the name of the Lord who had appeared to him in Ur. Once again, the Lord appeared to him. And he said: "Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land you can see, and more! I will give to your heirs. Now go on from here and walk through the length and breadth of it, so that you will know the extent of the reward I am giving you."

So Abram struck his tents and set out, travelling from place to place throughout the land and building an altar to the Lord each time he stopped. From the Tree of Moreh he went on to a place in the hill country east of Bethel (which was called Luz at the time) and west of Ai and, from there, southward into the Negev desert north of Egypt. While he was in the Negev, there was a famine in the land, and Abram went on down into Egypt to live for a time because the food shortage there was less severe.

Now, despite her age, Abram's wife Sarai was still a beautiful woman. As they were about to enter Egypt, he said to her: "I know what's going to happen because of you. When the Egyptians see you, they'll say, 'This is a desirable woman, but she's this man's wife,' and they'll kill me to possess you. Tell everyone you're my sister, so that my life will be spared and I'll be well-treated." (Strictly speaking, Sarai really was Abram's sister; the daughter of Terah though of a different mother. It was not unusual according to the customs of the times that she became Abram's wife.)

The Egyptians indeed saw that Sarai was very beautiful. And when Pharaoh's officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoah and she was taken into his palace. He treated Abram well for her sake, seeing to it that Abram acquired additional sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels and bondservants. But the Lord was displeased at Sarai's abandonment, and he inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household. Discovering the cause of his misfortunes, Pharaoh summoned Abram: "What have you done to me?" he said. "Why didn't you tell me this woman was your wife? Why did you say, 'She's my sister,' so that I felt free to take her into my household? Now then, here she is. Take her back, and go!"

Then Pharaoh gave orders to his men, and they sent Abram on his way with Sarai, Lot and everything he had brought with him into Egypt and acquired while he was there. He moved back into the region of the Negev and lived for a while in Gerar, between Kadesh and Shur. Again, Abram said to Sarai: "This is how you can show your love to me. Everywhere we go, say: 'He is my brother,' and I will say: 'She is my sister'." And again, the local ruler - Abimelech, king of Gerar - hearing of Sarai's beauty, sent for her and took her into his household.

This time, in his displeasure at Sarai's treatment, the Lord closed up every womb in Abimelech's household. And he came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, "Your line is as good as dead because of the woman you have taken. She is married to this man Abram, who is my prophet. Now, return her to him and he will pray for you and your family will live. If you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die without issue."

Early the next morning, Abimelech summoned all his officials and - when he told them all that had happened - they were very much afraid. Then Abimelech called Abram in and said: "You've caused things to be done to us that we did not deserve." And he asked Abram, "What was your reason for doing this? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom?" Abram replied, "God had me wander from my father's household and promised to protect me, but - when I came into this place - I said to myself, "There is surely no fear of God here, and they will kill me to possess my wife'."

Abimelech brought sheep, cattle and slaves and gave them to Abram. And he returned Sarai to him, saying to her: "I am giving you 25 pounds of silver to cover the offense against you before all who are traveling with you. You are completely vindicated." Then Abram prayed to God and the Lord healed Abimelech, his wife and his slave girls so they could again have children. But the Lord said to Abram: "Because you did not trust me here and in Egypt to protect you as I promised, your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, where they will be enslaved and mistreated. Eventually, I will punish the nation they serve as slaves and lead them out of that country to worship me in this land I have given you, but only after four hundred years of captivity."

So Abram departed from there and proceeded north from the Negev until he came to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar commemorating the Lord's promise. Thus, he completed his tour of the promised land. From the time he left Haran, his journey had taken him about ten years.

Ge 10:21b
11:26 and 30-32
12:1 and 3-20
13:1 and 3-4
14:13b

15:1, 6, 13-14 and 18b
17:1b
20:1-3, 7-14 and 16-18

28:19b
Mt 22:14
Ac 7:3 and 6-7
He 11:8b and 9b

Abraham

Now, not only had Abram become very wealthy in livestock (as well as in silver and gold). but his nephew Lot - who was moving about with him - had also acquired sizable flocks and herds of his own. Abram could see that their combined possessions were so great that the land could not support them if they stayed together. So he said to Lot, "We're brothers, you and I, but if we try to stay together, there's bound to be quarreling between your herdsmen and mine, and then between you and me. And there's no need for that. Look at all this land before us. Let's separate in peace here and now. If you go to the left, I'll go to the right; if you go to the right, I'll go left."

And so the two men parted company. Lot looked out over the land, and saw that the plain of the Jordan River was well-watered; a sort of Garden of Eden, like the Nile Valley in Egypt. He chose for himself the whole plain, and set out southeast toward the great cities of Zoar, Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot pitched his tents and grazed his flocks and herds outside of Sodom, and took his family to live among the people of the town.

After Lot departed from him, Abram went to live in the land of the great trees of Mamre near Hebron: he was now about 85 years old. There, as always, he built an altar to the Lord. And one night in his tent, the Word of God again appeared to him in a vision and said: "All of the land that you have seen in your travels, I will give to you and your heirs forever." But Abram said, "O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me that has any real meaning, since you've given me no children of my own. As it now stands, the one who will inherit my estate is a servant in my household; Eliezer of Damascus."

And the Lord said to him, "This man will not be your heir, but a son from your own body. I will make you fruitful and greatly increase your numbers." Then he took Abram outside and said: "Look up at the heavens and count the stars if, indeed, you can count them. So shall your offspring be. I will make them like the dust of the earth so that, if anyone could count the particles of dust, then your offspring could be counted. No longer will you be called Abram. Your name will be Abraham, for I will make of you many nations and kings will be your issue. (Abram means 'exalted father;' Abraham, 'the father of many')."

Ge 13:2, 5-6, 8-10a and 11-12
15:1-6

17:4b-6

Hagar and Ishmael

When Abram - or Abraham, as the Lord had renamed him - told his wife Sarai what had happened, she said to him: "The Lord has kept me from having your children, but perhaps he intends that I build a family through my Egyptian maidservant, Hagar. Go and sleep with her." Abraham agreed to this and took Hagar to be his second wife. He slept with her, and she conceived.

When Hagar discovered she was pregnant, however, she began to treat Sarai with contempt. Wounded by this, Sarai went to Abraham and said, "I know that I put my servant in your arms but, now that she knows she's pregnant, she despises me. Rightly or wrongly, I hold you responsible for the humiliation I'm suffering. May the Lord judge between you and me." "She's your servant," Abraham said. "Do with her what you think best." Then Sarai mistreated Hagar so badly that Hagar fled from her out into the desert.

An angel sent by the Lord found Hagar near an oasis on the road to Gaza. And he said to her, "Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?" "I'm running away from my mistress," she answered. Then the angel said to her, " The Lord has heard of your misery, and has sent me to tell you: 'The child you are now carrying will be a son, and you shall name him Ishmael (which means, "God hears"). And when he is grown, he will live free and untamed - like the wild donkey of the desert - to the east of all his brothers. His hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, but I will make him into a great nation. Now go back to your mistress and submit to her, and I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.' "

And so Hagar returned to the house of Abraham and, in due time, bore him a son. And Abraham gave the child the name Ishmael, as the Lord had commanded. When Ishmael was born, Abraham was eighty-six years old. He had been living in Canaan for ten years.

Ge 16:1-12 and 15-16
21:18b

The Old Covenant

When Abraham was ninety-nine years old, and his son Ishmael thirteen, the Lord again appeared to him and said: "Abraham!" Abraham fell facedown and God said to him, "The time has come to establish an everlasting covenant between me and you, and your descendants after you for all generations to come.

"As for me, this will be my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. And the whole land of Canaan where you are now an alien - from the great Wadi of Egypt to the river Euphrates - I will give to you and your descendants after you as an everlasting possesion. As for you, this is the covenant you must keep. I will be your God and the God of your descendants after you. Be blameless on this account, and always walk only before me.

"And this will be the sign in your flesh of the covenant between me and you: you and each of your descendants after you who is eight days old must be circumcised. And every male among you who is not your offspring - including those born in your household or bought with your money from an outsider - must undergo circumcision. Any male who has not been circumcised in the flesh is not a part of our covenant, and will be cut off from his people."

God also said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai but Sarah (which means "Princess"), for she will be the mother of nations and kings of my people will descend from her. I will bless her and surely give you a son by her."

Abraham laughed and said to himself: "A son born to a man a hundred years old? Sarai to bear a child at the age of ninety?" And he said to God, "Lord, it will be enough if only Ishmael might live under your blessing." Then God said, "Yes, but do you think that anything is too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at this time next year, and your wife Sarah will have a son. And you will call him Isaac (which means, "he laughs"). And it is through him and his descendants after him that I will hand down the everlasting covenant between you and me.

"As for Ishmael, I have heard you and I will surely bless him. I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you!" And when he had finished saying this to Abraham, God ascended up and out of his sight.

On that very day, Abraham took his son Ishmael with him and they were both circumcised. And every male in Abraham's household - including all those born there or bought with his money from a foreigner - were also circumcised, as God had commanded.

Ge 15:18
17:1-4a and 7-27
18:14

Sodom and Gomorrah

Not long after this, Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the great trees of Mamre during the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men appear, standing under a nearby tree. As soon as he saw them, Abraham knew that it was the Word of the Lord with two of his angels. He hurried from his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. And he said, "If I've found favor in your eyes, O Lord, don't pass your servant by. Now that you're here, let me bring a little water so that you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. And then let me get you something to eat, so that you can be refreshed before you go on your way." "Very well," the Lord said, "do as you say."

So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. "Quick!" he said, "take some of our finest flour and knead it and bake some bread." Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. When the calf had been prepared, Abraham brought it with the freshly-baked bread and some curds and milk, and set these before the three men. Then, while they ate, he stood near them ready to get anything else they might require.

When the men got up to leave, Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. They came to the crest of a hill that overlooked Sodom, and the Lord said to himself: "Shall I hide from Abraham what I'm about to do?" Then, deciding, he said to Abraham: "The outcry against the men of Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and the sins of which they are accused so grievous, that I have brought my angels down to see if what they have done is as bad as the reports that have reached me say. If not, I will know and will spare them. But if they are as wicked and sinning as greatly against me as I have heard, then I will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah and all who dwell in them."

The angels turned away and headed toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Abraham approached him and said: "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once. Will you kill the righteous and the wicked alike? Far be it from you to do such a thing! What if ten righteous men can be found there in Sodom? Will not the Judge of the Earth do right?" The Lord answered, "For the sake of ten , I will not destroy it." And having said this, the Lord left, and Abraham returned home.

Now the two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he too recognized them as the Lord's messengers. He got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. "My lords," he said, "please turn aside to your servant's house. You can wash your feet and spend the night, and then go on your way early in the morning." "No," they answered, "we'll spend the night in the square." But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate.

Just before they went to bed, all the men of Sodom - both young and old - came and surrounded Lot's house. And they called out to him: "Where are those men who came here tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them!" Lot went out to meet them and shut the door behind him. And he said, "No, my friends! Don't do this wicked thing!" "Get out of our way!" they replied. And they said, "This fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge. We'll treat you worse than them!" And they pressed in on Lot and moved to break down the door.

The two angels inside the house reached out and pulled Lot to safety, and they struck all of the men surrounding the house with blindness so that they couldn't find the door. Then they asked Lot: "Do you have any righteous people in this city other than yourself? As many as nine?" "Only my wife and two daughters, who are here in the house," he replied. "And perhaps the two men who are engaged to my daughters." "Then you'd better get them out of here," the angels said, "because the outcry to the Lord against this place and its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it."

Lot ran out and found the men who were pledged to marry his daughters, and he said to them: "Let's hurry and get out of this place because the Lord is about to destroy the city!" But they thought he was joking, so Lot returned home without them. Dawn was near, and the angels urged him to hurry his departure. And, when Lot hesitated, they grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and led them safely out of the city. As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said: "Now flee to Zoar and run for your lives! Don't look back and don't stop anywhere else on the plain, or you will be swept away when the city is punished!"

By the time Lot and his family drew near to Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur from out of the heavens on Sodom and Gomorrah and the entire surrounding plain. Lot and his daughters continued to run, and safely reached the town. But his wife stopped and looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

Early the next morning, Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the Lord. He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and the fertile land of the plain, but all he saw was dense smoke - like smoke from a furnace - rising from the land. Thus God destroyed those wicked cities, including all who lived in them and the rich vegetation surrounding them. But even in the midst of this total devastation, the Lord remembered Abraham and was merciful to him, and brought his nephew Lot out alive.

Ge 13:13
18:1-8, 16-17, 20-23, 25 and 32-33
19:1-7, 9-17 and 23-29

Isaac's Birth: Ishmael's Exile

Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah, and did for her as he had said. She became pregnant and bore Abraham a son in his old age - he was a hundred years old - at the very time God had promised. When the boy the was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him and gave him the name Isaac ("he laughs") as God had commanded. And Sarah said: "God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me. For who would have said that Sarah would nurse a child at the age of ninety?"

The child grew and was weaned, and on that day Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah caught Ishmael making fun of Isaac and she said to Abraham: "Get rid of that woman and her brat once and for all! No slave woman's son will ever share in the inheritance of my son Isaac!" The matter distressed Abraham greatly because Ishmael was his eldest and - for nearly fourteen years - only son. But God said to him, "Don't agonize over the fate of the boy and your maidservant. Because he is your offspring, I will make him into a great nation as well. But listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that our covenant will be judged." And so it was that, early the next morning, Abraham took some food and a skin of water and set them on Hagar's shoulders. And he sent her off with the boy into the Negev desert.

When the water in the skin was gone, Hagar put Ishmael under one of the scrub bushes there. Then she went off about a bowshot away and sat down, for she thought: "I can't bear to watch my son die." And she began to sob. God heard her crying and he called to her from heaven: "What's the matter, Hagar? Don't be afraid. Go and take the boy by the hand and lift him up, for I will make him into a great nation." And she opened her eyes and saw a bubbling spring of water. So she filled the skin and gave Ishmael a drink.

They stayed there in the desert, and God was faithful to the boy as he grew up. Ishmael became an archer of renown, and his descendants eventually settled the entire area of the Ru'ub al Khali, the great desert which stretches from just north of Yemen to the Sinai. And, as the Lord prophesied, they have lived in hostility toward all their brothers.

Ge 21:1-19
25:18

Isaac and Rebekah

Forty years went by, and Abraham was now well advanced in years. His wife Sarah had died three years before at the age of a hundred and twenty-seven, and he still wept and mourned for her. The Lord had blessed him, though, in every other way but one. His son Isaac was still unmarried. And so Abraham called in the chief servant in his household, who was in complete charge of all that Abraham owned. And he said to the servant, "I want you to find a wife for my son Isaac. And you must swear by the God of heaven and earth that you will not choose her from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom we are living, but will go to my native land and get him a wife from among my own relatives." And the servant swore the oath his master Abraham asked of him concerning this matter.

The next day the servant took ten of Abraham's camels, laden with rich gifts, and set out for western Mesopotamia. And he made his way to a village near Haran, where Abraham had begun his journey to Canaan. It was toward evening, the time when women go out to draw water. The servant had the camels kneel down near the well outside the town, and he prayed: "O Lord, God of my master Abraham, show kindness to me today and give me success. See, here I am, standing beside this well and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. May it be that when I say to a girl, 'Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,' she says 'Drink, and I'll water your camels too.' By this, I will know that you have heard my prayer, and that she is the one you have chosen for your servant, my master Abraham's son Isaac."

No sooner had he finished praying than a very beautiful girl came out of the town with her water jar on her shoulder. One sensed at a glance that she was a virgin: that no man had ever lain with her. She went down into the well, filled her jar, and came up again. The servant hurried to meet her and said, "Please give me a little water from your jar." "Drink, my lord," she said, and quickly lowered the jar from her hands and gave him a drink. Without saying a word, the servant watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful. And when he had drunk his fill, the girl said: "I'll draw water for your camels too, until they are filled as well." And she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back down into the well to draw more water, and continued this until she had drawn enough for all his camels.

When the camels had finished drinking, the servant asked the girl: "Please tell me your name and whose family you are from?" She answered, "I am Rebekah, sister of Laban. We are the children of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram, the son of Milcah and Nahor." Nahor was Abraham's brother! The servant fell to his knees and worshiped the Lord, saying: "Praise be to the God of Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. Or to me, for the Lord has gone before me on my journey and led me straight to the house of my master's relatives!"

Then he stood up and, taking a gold nose ring and two gold bracelets from the treasure Abraham had sent with him, gave them to the girl. And he asked her, "Is there room in your father's and mother's household for me to spend the night?" "I'll see, sir," Rebekah said, and she ran home and told her brother Laban about all that had happened. And, as soon as he laid eyes on the gold nose ring and bracelets, Laban hurried out to the servant and found him standing with his camels beside the well.

"Why are you standing out here, you who are blessed by the Lord?" Laban asked. "Come! I have prepared the house for you, and a place for your camels." So the servant went with him to the house. Straw and fodder were brought for the camels, and water for him to wash his feet. Then food was set before him, but he said: "I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say." "Then tell us," Laban encouraged. He said, "I'm only a servant of your grandfather's brother Abraham. He instructed me to find his father's family, and to get a wife for his son Isaac from within his own clan." And he went on to recount everything that had happened to bring him to their house.

When the servant had finished his account, he said: "Now, if you will show the same kindness and faithfulness to my master that the Lord has shown him, tell me that I might take Rebekah back with me to my master's house. And if not, tell me so that I may know which way to turn." Laban and his father conferred for a moment and then answered: "This is clearly the Lord's doing, but we can say nothing to you one way or the other. Let's call the girl and ask her about it." So they called Rebekah and asked her, "Will you go back with this man to the house of Abraham?" "I will go," she said.

And so it was that they entrusted Rebekah to Abraham's servant and his men. She immediately readied herself and, along with her nurse and her maids, mounted his camels. And as her family sent her on her way, they blessed Rebekah, calling out: "Our sister! May you increase to thousands upon thousands! May your offspring possess the gates of their enemies!" And, with that, Abraham's faithful servant took Rebekah and left on the long journey back to Canaan.

Now Isaac had come up from Beer Lahai Roi where he was living to visit his father. And, one evening, he went out to the field to meditate. Hearing some noise, he looked up and saw camels approaching. Rebekah looked up at the same time from her seat on her camel and saw Isaac. She got down and asked the servant, "Who is that man coming to meet us?" "That's my master's son Isaac," the servant answered. So Rebekah quickly lowered her veil and covered her face, as was the custom in her land when the bride and the groom first meet. The servant told Isaac all he had done and introduced him to Rebekah. And Isaac loved her from that very moment. He carried her into the empty tent of his mother Sarah, and she became his wife. And so it was that Isaac and Rebekah were married, and he and his father Abraham were comforted over the loss of Sarah.

Ge 24:1-4, 9-24, 26-34, 47, 49-50 and 57-67
25:20

The Death of Abraham

Abraham was so reinvigorated that he took another wife, whose name was Keturah, and she bore him six more sons! But - ever conscious that his son Isaac would inherit his covenant with the Lord - Abraham gave gifts to all his other sons, including those from his concubines, and sent them away to the lands of the east. Everything else that he owned, he left to Isaac while he was still living.

Then, as all men must, Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age: an old man and full of years, and he was gathered to his people. His sons Isaac and Ishmael came together - perhaps for the only time during their adult lives - and buried him next to his wife Sarah in the cave of Machpelah, on a plot of ground that Abraham had bought from Ephron the Hittite. It was the only part of the promised land that Abraham ever actually owned.

Ge 25:1-2, 5-6 and 8-10

Jacob and Esau

The years passed by and Isaac was nearing his sixtieth birthday. But he was not happy, because Rebekah had thus far been barren. So Isaac prayed to the Lord on her behalf, and the Lord answered his prayer to overflowing. His wife became pregnant with twins!

A few months into her pregnancy, the babies began to jostle painfully with each other within her womb. And Rebekah cried out to the Lord: "Why is this happening to me?" The Lord said to her, "Two nations and two peoples are within you. They will be separated, and their dispute has already begun. One will be stronger than the other and the older will serve the younger."

When the time came for Rebekah to give birth to them, the first of the twins to come out was covered with fine red hair. So they named him Esau, which means, "hairy," and sometimes called him Edom, which means "red." After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau's heel. So he was named Jacob, which means "heel-catcher" or - figuratively and prophetically - "supplanter."

The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country. Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents. Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau the most, but Rebekah loved Jacob more.

Once when Esau came in from the wilds famished, he found Jacob cooking a tasty stew of red lentils. And he said to Jacob, "Quick, brother! Let me have some of that stew! I'm starving to death!" Jacob replied, "All right, but first you must swear that you'll sell your birthright to me in exchange for it." Esau said, "If I'm dead, what good will my birthright be to me then? Right now, I despise it!" And he impetuously swore an oath selling his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and stew. He ate and drank his fill, then got up and left; thinking no more about his lightly-given oath.

Ge 24:62
25:21-34

The Covenant Passes On

Now there was once again a famine in the land, and Isaac moved his tents to Gerar where a king named Abimelech still ruled. It is thought, though, that "Abimelech," - which means "Moloch is his father" - had become a dynastic title, like "Pharaoh" in Egypt, and that this was a different king than the one in Abraham's time nearly a hundred years earlier. Also during those years, the area had been taken over by a people called the Philistines, who were originally brought in by the Canaanites as mercenary soldiers.

Isaac was preparing to continue down into Egypt as his father had done. But the Lord appeared to him and said, "Isaac! I am the God of your father Abraham. Obey me and keep my commands and my laws as he did, and I will confirm to you the covenant I swore to him. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky, and give them all these lands in which you are now an alien. And - through your offspring - all nations on earth will be blessed, for you will make me known to them. Stay in this land for now, and do not go down into Egypt. And wherever I tell you to live, do not be afraid to go, for I will be with you and bless you in everything you do."

And so, trusting in the Lord's promise, Isaac stayed there in Gerar. He planted crops that same year and reaped a hundredfold because the Lord blessed him. He became rich, and had so many flocks and herds that the Philistines envied him. And they stopped up all the wells that his servants had dug, filling them with earth. So, without protest, Isaac moved away from there and encamped in another part of the Valley of Gerar. He had his servants dig there, and they discovered a well of fresh water. But the Philistines quarreled with his herdsmen, saying: "The water here belongs to us!" Then they dug another well, but quarreled over that one also. Despite these troubles, however, Isaac's wealth continued to grow until he became the richest man in that part of the country. Finally, Abimelech sent for him and said: "Move away from here! You've become too powerful for us."

So Isaac gathered up his possessions and moved away from there, and he went up into the dry hills of southern Canaan. There he pitched his tents and built and altar, and he called on the name of the Lord to aid him in that barren land. Then Isaac sent his servants out to dig a well. And, that same day, they came running back to him and said: "We've found water!" Isaac called the well Shibah and, down to this day, the nearby town has been called Beersheba: which means, "The well of the Covenant."

Ge 26:1-6, 12-17, 19-21, 23-25 and 32-35

Jacob's Blessings

When Isaac grew older, his eyes became so weak that he could no longer see. And one day he called for Esau. "Here I am, father," Esau answered. And Isaac said to him, "My son, I want to be sure I have some of my favorite food before I die. Get your quiver and bow, and go out into the open country to hunt some wild game for me. Then prepare it for me in the tasty way that you know I like, and bring it to me to eat. And I will give you my blessing in the presence of the Lord."

Now Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to Esau. And when Esau left for the open country to hunt, she said to her favorite son Jacob: "Look, I just overheard your father say to your brother Esau, 'Bring me some game to eat, and I will give you my blessing.' Now listen carefully and do what I tell you. Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, and I will prepare a gamy dish for your father just the way he likes it. Then take it to him to eat, and he will bestow his blessing on you rather than on Esau."

Jacob said to his mother, "But Esau's hairy and I'm smooth-skinned. What if my father touches me? He'd know immediately that I was trying to trick him, and would bring down a curse on me instead of a blessing." "Let the curse fall on me, my son," Rebekah said. "Just do what I say. Go and get those goats for me, and I'll take care of everything." So Jacob went and selected two choice young goats and brought them to his mother, and she prepared them just the way his father liked. And she took some unwashed clothes that Esau had worn and put them on Jacob, and covered the backs of his hands and neck with the goatskins. Then she handed him the food and some bread she'd made, and sent him to his father's tent.

Jacob went and called out from the tent entrance, "My father?" "Yes, my son," Isaac answered. "Who is it?" Jacob said, "It's Esau, father. I've done as you told me and brought you some wild game. Please sit up and eat so that you may give me your blessing." Isaac asked, "How did you find it so quickly?" "The Lord gave me success," Jacob replied. Then Isaac said, "You say you're Esau, but your voice is the voice of Jacob. Come near so I can touch you." Jacob fearfully went up close to his father, and Isaac touched him and said: "Ah, these are the hands of Esau." And he said, "Now, bring me some of that game to eat!" Jacob brought him the meat and bread and some wine, and Isaac ate and drank.

Then Isaac said to him: "Come here, my son, and kiss me, so that I may give you my blessing." So Jacob went to him and kissed him. And when Isaac caught the smell of Esau's clothes, he said, "The smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed." And he blessed Jacob, saying: "May God give you of heaven's dew and earth's riches; an abundance of grain and new wine. May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. May you be lord over the sons of your mother and all your brothers. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed."

Jacob had scarcely left the tent after his father had finished blessing him, than his brother Esau came in from hunting. He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to Isaac. And he said to him, "Sit up, my father! Eat some of this game I brought you, and you'll indeed want to give me your blessing." Isaac asked him, "Who are you?" "Why, I'm your firstborn son Esau," he answered jovially. Isaac trembled violently and said, "Who was it then that brought game to me just before you came in? I ate it and blessed him. Oh, my son! Your brother Jacob has come deceitfully and taken your blessing, and it is him who will be blessed."

When Esau heard his father's words, he said: "Bless me - me, too! - my father!" But Isaac said, "I've made Jacob lord over you and made all his relatives his servants, and I've sustained him with grain and new wine. So what is left that I can give to you?" Then Esau wept aloud, and he said: "Don't you have even one blessing for me, father?" Isaac answered him, "Your dwelling will be away from the earth's richness, away from the dew of heaven above, and you will serve your brother. But you will live by the sword and, when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck."

After he left Isaac's tent, Esau burst out with a loud and bitter cry: "Isn't my brother rightly named Jacob? He's deceived me twice! First, he took my birthright, and now he's stolen my blessing! The days of mourning for my father are near, and then I'll kill him!"

When Rebekah was told what Esau had said, she sent for Jacob and said to him: "Your brother Esau is consoling himself over losing the blessing your father gave to you with the thought of killing you, and I don't want to lose you both in one day if it comes to a fight. My son, do what I say, and flee at once to my brother Laban in Mesopotamia. Stay with him for a while until Esau's fury subsides and, when he's no longer angry with you, I'll send word for you to come back. But before you go, let me secure your father's blessing for your journey."

Now when Esau was forty years old, he'd married two Hittite women, who were a constant source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah. So Rebekah went to Isaac and said: "I'm disgusted with these Hittite women of Esau's. If Jacob also takes a wife from among the women of this land, my life won't be worth living." So Isaac called for Jacob and commanded him: "I don't want you to marry a woman from this country. Go at once to Paddan Aram, to the house of your mother's father Bethuel, and take a wife for yourself there from among the daughters of your uncle Laban." Then Isaac sent Jacob on his way with this blessing: "May God Almighty bless you and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. May you and your descendants take possession of the land God gave to my father Abraham and to me, where we now live as aliens."

And so it was that Jacob fled from Beersheba with the clothes on his back and set out for western Mesopotamia. Some days later, he came to a place near the city of Luz just as the sun was setting. And, taking a large stone from there, he rested against it and lay down to sleep. That night, he had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God ascending and descending on it. At the head of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said to Jacob: "I am the Lord, the God of Abraham and the God of your father Isaac. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go. I will bring you back to this land, and will not leave you until I have done what I promised. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and they will spread out to the west and the east, and to the north and the south, from the ground on which you are lying. All this I will give to you and your offspring. And through you and your descendants, all earth will be blessed."

Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it upright, and he consecrated it as a monument to the place that God had spoken to him. He called it Beth-El, which means "God's House," and it is known by that name to this day. Then Jacob made a vow, saying: "Lord, if you will be with me and watch over me on this journey; if you will give me food to eat and clothes to wear; if you will make it so that I may one day return safely to my father's house: then you will be my God, and I will return to you a tenth of all that you give me."

Ge 21:18a
27:1, 3-22 and 25-46
28:1-5, 10-15 and 18-22

The Covenant with Israel

The Lord was faithful in his promises and saw Jacob safely to Paddan Aram, where he went to work for his uncle Laban. He married two of Laban's daughters, Leah and Rachel, and by them and their maidservants Zilpah and Bilhah, he had twelve sons. These were the sons of Jacob who were born to him: Reuben the firstborn, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun - from him best loved wife Rachel - Joseph and Benjamin. And, over time, Jacob became exceedingly prosperous and came to own maidservants and menservants, camels and donkeys, and large flocks of sheep and herds of cattle and goats.

Then, after twenty years, the Lord again appeared to Jacob and said to him: "The time has come. Go back to your fathers and your relatives, and I will be with you." So Jacob left Mesopotamia with all he had and, crossing the Euphrates, headed down into the hill country of Gilead east of the Jordan River. When he reached there, Jacob prayed, "O God of my fathers, when I crossed this Jordan valley twenty years ago, I had only my staff. But you said you would make me prosper, and I have become a community as my father Isaac prophesied. I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have already shown me, but I must ask you for one thing more. Now, O Lord, I am afraid that when my brother Esau finds out that I have returned to this land, he will come and attack me and the women and children in my household. Save us, I pray, from his hand."

After he had finished praying, Jacob got up and sent his wives, his sons and all his possessions across the Jabbok, a tributary of the Jordan, so that he was left alone there on the northern bank of the stream. And, that night, a stranger appeared and challenged Jacob. He wrestled with the man throughout the night, neither gaining an advantage.

When the man saw that he could not overpower Jacob, he said: "Let me go. It's nearly daybreak and neither of us is going to win this contest." But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you tell me your name and bless me." "Do you really need to ask me my name?" the man asked him. Then he merely touched the socket of Jacob's hip, and it was painfully wrenched! And the man said to him, "I am God Almighty, and you are Jacob. But you will no longer be called by that name. Your name will be Israel, because you have struggled with God and men and have overcome."

And so it was that the Lord named Jacob and his heirs Israel, which means, "He struggles with God." And he blessed him there in Gilead, saying: "Be fruitful and increase in number, and a community of nations and their kings will come from your body. And this land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac, I also give to you and your descendants after you."

Ge 30:43
31:3 and 21
32:9-11 and 22-29
35:9-12 and 23-26

Reconciliation

The next morning, Jacob crossed over the stream and rejoined his household. And from the livestock he had with him, he selected a gift for Esau of nearly six hundred of his finest goats, sheep, camels, cows and donkeys. He put them in the care of his servants, and said to them: "Go on ahead of me, and when my brother Esau meets you and asks, 'Where are you going with all these animals,' you are to say, 'They belong to your servant Jacob who is coming behind us, and are a gift to my lord Esau.' "

No sooner had Jacob started out with the main body of his household than two of his servants returned, saying: "We met your brother Esau, and he's right behind us with four hundred men!" Jacob looked up and could see Esau and his men coming; so he quickly put his women and their children in front of his remaining livestock, while he himself went on ahead. And, fearing the worst, he bowed low to the ground as he approached his brother. But Esau ran to Jacob and threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And the two brothers embraced and wept.

Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children ranged behind Jacob. "Who are all these people with you?" he asked. Jacob answered, "They are the wives, maidservants and children God has graciously given to me." Then each of the women and her children came forward and they too bowed down to Esau.

Esau embraced and blessed each of them. And then he asked, "What was the meaning of all those droves I met on my way to you?" "To find favor in your eyes, my lord," Jacob said, "and as some small compensation for the birthright and blessing that I took from you. Please accept this gift from me, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need." But Esau said, "I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself." "No, please!" said Jacob. "Now that you've received me favorably, to see your face is like seeing the face of God. Accept this present as though it was him who brought it to you." And because Jacob insisted, Esau accepted the gift.

So it was that, on that day, the two brothers were reconciled. Esau headed back to his home in the mountains east of the Sea of Arabah (which we know today as the Dead Sea). Jacob, however, went west along the River Jabbok to the Jordan valley, where he built a place for himself and made shelters for his livestock (That's why that place is called Succoth - which means "shelter" - to this day). For reasons which are not known, Jacob remained at Succoth for several, perhaps as many as ten, years. Then, for equally unknown reasons, he picked up camp and crossed the Jordan into Canaan, where he camped within sight of the city of Shechem. There Jacob set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel, which means, "God, the God of Israel."

Ge 32:3-4, 6 and 13-18
33:1-11, 16-18 and 20

Painful Journey Home

Some time after they set up camp there at Shechem, the son of the ruler of that area saw Jacob's daughter Dinah and his heart was drawn to her. He took her aside and spoke tender words to her, and then he violated her. Now Jacob's sons heard what had happened, and they were filled with grief and fury. The ruler's son had done a disgraceful thing against Israel, a thing which could not be tolerated, by lying with their virgin sister.

The ruler himself came and tried to make peace, saying to them: "My son has his heart set on your sister. Please persuade your father to give her to him as his wife." But they replied, "We can't give her to a man who hasn't been circumcised. Such a thing would be a disgrace to us." The ruler agreed with this and he and his son, along with every male in the city, allowed themselves to be circumcised. Three days later, when the Shechemite men were immobilized by pain, two of the brothers - Simeon and Levi - went through the defenseless city with their swords and methodically murdered every male. Then their brothers came and looted the bodies. And they carried off all the women and children and everything else of value that they could find as plunder. When Jacob heard about these terrible things, he said to Simeon and Levi: "Your wicked deeds have made us a stench in the nostrils of the people living in this land. You've brought great trouble on us all, for we are few in number. And if the towns around here join forces against us, we will be destroyed." But then the Lord came to Jacob and said, "Go to Bethel, where I appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau, and build an altar to me. And there, you will find refuge."

So Jacob said to his family and all the others who were with him: "Come! Let us go up to Bethel where I will build an altar to my God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone. But first, get rid of any foreign gods and cult symbols you have with you. And then wash yourselves and change into new clothes, as a sign that my God is the God of us all!" So they came forward and surrendered all their pagan gods and symbols to Jacob, and he buried them under an oak tree there in Shechem. Then they set out, and the terror of God fell upon the towns all around them so that no one pursued them.

So Jacob and all the people with him traveled safely through Canaan to the place near the city of Luz that he had called Bethel, because it was there that God had first revealed Himself to him. And there he built an altar as the Lord had commanded. They remained at Bethel for a time, and then moved on from there southward toward Hebron.

Now Rachel was pregnant with Jacob's twelfth son and, when they came near to Bethlehem, she began to give birth. She had great difficulty and, as her son was delivered, she breathed her last. Jacob named the boy Benjamin - which means, "son of my right hand" - for Rachel was the most beloved of his wives. And Jacob buried Rachel there beside the way to Bethlehem, and he set up a pillar over her tomb that marked the place for centuries.

Finally, Jacob came home to his father Isaac, who had moved his flocks and herds back to Mamre near Hebron, where Abraham had lived. It had been almost thirty years since Jacob had fled Esau's wrath to Mesopotamia, and the brothers were now nearly a hundred and ten years old. Isaac, who was sixty when his sons were born, was a hundred and seventy. He lived another ten years, then breathed his last and was gathered to his people: old, and full of years. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him there among the great trees.

Ge 34:2-3, 7-8, 14, 24-25, 27 and 29-30
35:1-7, 16-20 and 27-29

Joseph and His Brothers

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons and, to show his love, made him a richly-colored robe. His brothers hated Joseph for this bright reminder of their father's preference, and couldn't speak a kind word to him. And to make matters worse, Joseph had a dream that he related to his brothers that caused them to hate him all the more. "Listen to this dream that I had," he said. "We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while yours gathered around mine and bowed down to it!" They were furious and exclaimed, "Are you telling us that you intend to reign over us? That you are worthy to rule us?"

Now soon after this, Joseph's brothers went off to graze their father's flocks near Shechem. And Israel called Joseph to him and said, "As you know, your brothers are grazing our flocks up around Shechem. I want you to go and see if all is well with them and with the flocks, and bring word back to me." "Very well, father," Joseph replied, and Israel sent him on his way.

So Joseph went after his brothers and finally found them near Dothan, some distance north of Shechem. The brothers saw him approaching in the distance as they sat down to eat their mid-day meal. And they said to each other: "Look! Here comes that dreamer! Let's rid ourselves of him once and for all!" And they plotted to kill Joseph when he got there. Just then, though, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead; their camels loaded with spices, balm and myrrh bound for Egypt. And Judah said to the others, "What will we gain if we kill him? After all, he is our brother; our own flesh. Come, let's not stain our hands with his blood, but sell him to the Ishmaelites." His brothers agreed, so - when Joseph arrived at their camp - they stripped him of the richly ornamented robe he was wearing. And they sold him for half a pound of silver to the Ishmaelite merchants, who carried him off to Egypt.

After the caravan had gone, the brothers slaughtered a goat and poured its blood over Joseph's robe. Then they took the bloody robe back to their father and said, "We found this on our way back from grazing your flocks." Israel took one look at it and cried out, "It's Joseph's! Some ferocious animal has surely torn him to pieces and devoured him!" Then Israel wept for his lost son. He tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned without ceasing for many days. All of his other sons and daughters came to him with consoling words, but he refused to be comforted. "No!" he said, "in mourning will I go down to the grave with my son."

Ge 37:3-8, 12-14, 17b-20a, 23, 25-28 and 31-35

Egypt

Meanwhile, the Ishmaelites who had bought Joseph from his brothers arrived in Egypt, where they sold him to an Egyptian named Potiphar - the captain of Pharaoh's guard - and Joseph went to live in the house of his Egyptian master. But the Lord was with Joseph and, even in slavery, he prospered. And when his master saw that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph became his personal attendant. Eventually, Potiphar put him in charge of his entire household and entrusted to his care everything he owned.

Now Joseph was well-built and handsome and, after a while, his master's wife took notice of him. And once, when no one else was within hearing, she said to Joseph: "Come to bed with me!" He steadfastly refused to go to bed with her, or even be alone with her, even though she continued to importune him in this way day after day. But one day, when Joseph went into the house to attend to his duties, she contrived that none of the other household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak to keep him from leaving and said, "Now you will come to bed with me!" But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.

When she saw that Joseph was never going to make love to her, Potiphar's wife screamed. Her household servants came running in, and she said to them: "That Hebrew slave Joseph came in here and tried to make sport of me but, as soon as I screamed for help, he ran out of the house! And, look! He left his cloak here beside me!" When Potiphar returned home, his wife berated him, saying: "Listen to how your pet slave treated me!" And she repeated the story she had concocted for her servants.

When he heard her tale, Potiphar burned with anger and had Joseph thrown into the prison where those who had offended Pharaoh were confined. But even there, the Lord was with Joseph and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. Within a short time, the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners, and made him responsible for all of the prison's daily activities.

Now one of the prisoners was Pharaoh's cupbearer, who had somehow offended his master. And one day the cupbearer came to Joseph and asked him to interpret a dream he'd had. He said, "In my dream, I saw a vine with three branches. Before my eyes it budded, blossomed and then produced clusters of ripe grapes. I was holding Pharaoh's cup and I took the grapes, squeezed them into the cup, and put it in Pharaoh's hand."

"This is what your dream means," Joseph said. "The three branches are three days. Three days from now, Pharaoh will restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh's cup in his hand just as you used to do." Now the third day was Pharaoh's birthday and he gave a feast for all his officials, including those who were out of favor. And, just as Joseph had predicted, he restored the cupbearer to his position.

One night two years later, Pharaoh himself had a disturbing dream: He was standing by the Nile when out of the river came seven cows, sleek and fat. After them, seven other cows - ugly and gaunt - came out of the Nile and ate the seven fat cows. Pharaoh woke up startled, but fell asleep again. And then he had a second dream: Seven heads of grain, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk. After them sprouted seven other heads of grain, thin and scorched-looking. The thin heads of grain swallowed up the nourishment of the seven healthy heads, and the entire stalk crumbled into dust.

They had only been dreams but, in the morning, Pharaoh's mind was still troubled by them. He sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt and told them to interpret the dreams for him, but no one could. Then his cupbearer said to him, "My lord, once when Pharaoh was angry with his servant, he imprisoned me in the dungeons. Today I am reminded that there was a young Hebrew in prison with us; a slave of the captain of the guard. We would tell him our dreams, and he would give us interpretations of them. And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them: I, for example, was restored to my position, just as he foretold."

So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes he came before Pharaoh, who said to him: "I've had dreams that no one can interpret. But I've heard it said of you that perhaps you can." "I can't do it on my own," Joseph replied, "but my God will give me the answer." And Pharaoh told him what he had dreamed.

Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, "Both dreams carry one and the same message: God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. The seven good cows and heads of grain are seven years of great abundance throughout the land of Egypt. But seven years of unfruitfulness, the seven lean cows and worthless heads of grain, will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and famine will ravage the land. Now, let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. They should collect all this food and store it up in the cities and villages for distribution when the famine strikes. And let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man, and put him in charge of the land of Egypt - under the authority of Pharaoh only - to supervise this task."

The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and all his officials, so Pharaoh said to Joseph: "Because it is your God who has made this known, there can be no one else in all Egypt so wise and discerning as you. I am Pharaoh, but you will ride in a royal chariot throughout the land, and my men will shout before you: 'Make way for Pharaoh's second-in-command!' Without your word, no one will lift hand or foot. And so that none will doubt your word as that of a foreigner, you will be called Zaphenath Paneah, and take Asenath - daughter of the priest of Heliopolis - to be your wife." Then Pharaoh took the signet ring from his own finger and put it on Joseph's, and he ordered that Joseph be dressed in robes of fine linen with a gold chain around his neck. Thus did Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of the whole land of Egypt.

Ge 37:36
39:1-4, 6b-8, 10-15 and 17-22
40:1-2, 9-13, 20a and 21
41:1-10, 12-16, 25-30, 33, 35, 37, 39 and 41-44

Reunion

And so Joseph went out from Pharaoh's presence and traveled throughout the land of Egypt: He was now thirty years old. During the seven years of abundance, the land produced plentifully. Joseph collected all the surplus food and stored it in warehouses that he ordered built in centrally-located cities. And in this way, he stored up huge quantities of grain; so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.

The seven years of abundance came to an end and the seven lean years began just as Joseph had predicted. There was severe famine throughout that part of the world but, in Egypt, there was food. And people from other lands swarmed into the country to buy grain from Joseph. When Jacob - who was called Israel by God - learned of this back in Canaan, he said to his sons: "Don't just stand around here looking at each other. I've heard that there's grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us before we all starve to death!"

And so the brothers set out to buy grain in Egypt. Now Joseph had taken personal charge of selling grain to all the people coming in from other lands so, when the brothers arrived, they were brought before him. As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, although they did not recognize him. Joseph, after all, had matured considerably since they had last seen him; was shaven and attired like a prince of Egypt, and was even known by the Egyptian name Pharaoh had conferred on him.

So Joseph pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. "Where do you come from," he demanded. "From the land of Canaan," they replied, "to buy food." "Liars!" Joseph shouted. "You are spies, sent here to see where our land is unprotected! You will all be kept here in prison!" Dismayed, they fell down before him with their faces to the ground, and Joseph remembered his youthful dream about them. And they cried out, "No, my Lord! Your servants are honest men; not spies! We are all the sons of one man, who has sent us here only to buy food!"

Joseph asked them, "Your father is still living then?" And Judah spoke up, saying: "Please, my lord! Don't be angry with us! Even though you are equal to Pharaoh himself, let your servant speak plainly to you." Joseph nodded his assent, and Judah said: "We have an aged father, and the youngest of us is one of two sons born to him in his old age by the wife he loved most. But his brother is dead, and he is the only one of his mother's sons left. Our father has placed all the love he felt for the dead son in him and, if he does not return, our father will surely die."

At that, Joseph could no longer control himself before his attendants, and he cried out to his brothers: "I am Joseph!" At first, they couldn't believe it was him, but he said to them, "Come close to me." And when they had done so, he said: "I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt. Don't be distressed and angry with yourselves for selling me, because it was to save your lives that God sent me ahead of you. Look closely at me, and you can see for yourselves that it is I who am speaking to you." Then he threw his arms around his brothers and kissed them, and they all wept for joy. Afterward, they talked together for a long time about all that had taken place since Joseph had come to Egypt.

Ge 41:45b-49, 53-54 and 57
42:1-3, 6-11 and 16b
43:27b
44:18 and 20
45:1a, 3a, 4-5, 12 and 14-15

Israel in Egypt

When the news reached Pharaoh's palace that Joseph's brothers had come, Pharaoh and all his officials were pleased. For, by now, Joseph was considered indispensable, and they saw this as an opportunity to perpetuate his ties to Egypt. So Pharaoh called Joseph to the palace and said to him: "You are directed to do this: Take some of our carts and give them to your brothers. And tell them, 'Load your animals and these carts with grain, and return to the land of Canaan. Then get our father and your families and return to me here. Never mind about your belongings in Canaan, because the best of all Egypt will be yours, and you will enjoy the fat of the land'."

And so Joseph's brothers went up out of Egypt and returned to their father in Canaan. They told him, "Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is the governor of all Egypt!" Israel was stunned, and he did not believe them. But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back, his spirit revived enough to consent to accompany his offspring back to Egypt.

So Israel set out with all that was his and, when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to him in a vision that night, calling out: "Israel! Israel!" "Here I am," he replied. "I am the God of your fathers," the Lord said. "Don't be afraid to go down into Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will always be with you and, one day, I will surely bring that nation back again. And, as for you, Joseph's own hand will close your eyes." And Israel said, "I'm convinced, Lord! My son Joseph is still alive, and I will go and see him before I die!"

And so Israel made his way to Egypt, where he was tearfully reunited with his son Joseph. And, as Pharaoh had promised, he gave them the best land in the country on which to settle. Israel was a hundred and thirty years old when he arrived in Egypt, and he lived another seventeen years. When the time drew near for him to die, he called for his sons and said: "Gather around and listen, my sons; listen to your father Israel, and I will tell you what is to happen in days to come.

"When I left my father's home to go to Mesopotamia, God Almighty appeared to me near the town of Luz, at the place I called Beth-El. And there he blessed me and said, 'I will make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you are a community of peoples. And I will give this land of Canaan as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.' Thus will God be with your children's children, and take them back to the promised land."

Then Israel said, "But I am about to die. If I have found favor in your eyes, swear to me that you will show me kindness and faithfulness even after I am gone." And he gave his sons these instructions: "Don't bury me in Egypt, but let me rest with my fathers. Carry me up out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried, in the cave of Machpelah in the field that Abrahmam bought from Ephron the Hittite." When he had finished these instructions, his sons swore to him, "We will do as you say, father." Then Israel worshiped the Lord and blessed his family, saying: "May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked; The God who has been my shepherd all my life and delivered me from harm to this day; may he bless you all. May you be called by my name and increase greatly upon the earth." Then Israel drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.

His sons did as he had commanded them. They carried him back to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, which Abraham had bought as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. Then they returned to Egypt, where their families lived for generations in peace and prosperity. Israel's blessings were honored by God, and they multiplied greatly; becoming so numerous that they spread out over the entire land. And they came to be called Israelites.

Now Joseph and his brothers, and all of that generation, eventually passed away. And a new pharaoh, who knew nothing of Joseph's stature and achievements in Egypt, came to power. "Look," he said to his officials, "these Israelites have become too numerous and prosperous for us, and will only increase more as time goes on. I am concerned that if war breaks out, they will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country with all their wealth. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them." And so it was that Egypt confiscated the Israelites' belongings, and put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor. Thus began the four hundred years of captivity that the Lord had prophesied to Abraham centuries before in Gerar.

Ge 45:16-20 and 25-28
46:1-4 and 28-29
47:5a, 6a and 28-31
48:3-4, 15-16 and 21
49:1-2, 29-30 and 33
50:12-14
Ex 1:6-11a

Moses
(Unifinished by the Editor - See Notes on Moses for more info.)

 

All original text © 2003 by The Wayne Chaffer Estate
The Holy Bible, New International Version © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

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