Tag Archives: Old Testament

On Racing Against Horses

The prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament complains to God that men in his hometown are plotting to kill him. He has had a difficult ministry towards unwilling people. You would think God would say something like, “that’s okay, Jeremiah, just trust in my grace.” Instead God says, in effect, “suck it up. It’s gonna get harder.”

If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses?
(God’s word to Jeremiah, Jer. 12:5)

At first, it does not sound encouraging. G. Campbell Morgan points out though, that Jeremiah had raced with men. God didn’t say he failed. He had done well in a ministry that was filled with conflict. He had already preached boldly in a temple to religious people who had missed the entire point of the temple. He had brought some brutal, yet God-sent words. The nation was in danger—not because of karma, but because God couldn’t allow himself to be misrepresented ad infinitum.

And it was going to get harder! Sometimes we expect God to set us up for success and affluence, but he sees all the chess pieces, and he knows what we can handle. He knows that he can ask us to face something that is more difficult. The logical inverse, though, is that God wouldn’t send Jeremiah to race horses when he hadn’t won against men. God knows what’s too hard for us, and the Bible says that he doesn’t ever send his children to a battle that they can’t fight with his help.

In connection with this, I have been asking, is it possible to race horses? The metaphor sounds fantastic, but there are at least two races that have pitted men against horses in long-distance running: one is a 22-mile race in Wales, and one is a 50-mile race in Arizona. In 2004, for the first time a man won the race in Wales. In Arizona, the horses have never lost, but the race is often close. In 2009, the race director said that the first man, Jamil Coury, clocked in just over seven hours for 50 miles of running, and could have beaten the first place horse if he hadn’t gotten off course.

So God’s question—how will you compete with horses? is not only relevant to long-distance runners. A man can’t compete with a horse over short distances. But it is possible for a human to beat a horse, if the human doesn’t quit. Maybe that was really God’s key to facing difficulty in ministry anyway.

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
(Paul to Timothy, 2 Timothy 4:5)

Books and Bottles

“You have kept count of my tossings [or ‘wanderings’]; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Psalm 56:8, ESV)

In the psalm quoted above, David recounts to God all that his enemies have marshaled against him. They have haunted his steps; injured his cause; plotted against him; oppressed him daily. But God is not unaware of David’s enemies. He keeps the books in heaven. His knowledge is infinite, eternal and all-encompassing, and there will be a day when God settles David’s account.

When we read of books and scribes in Scripture, we must keep in mind that literacy was a specialty, reserved for a privileged few, and still is in some parts of the world. Study was a luxury, and books were priceless. How much more priceless are they when we consider the books that God must keep.

Thou hast a book for my complaints,
A bottle for my tears.

Tears and Tossings

“You put my tears in your bottle.”

In most biblical contexts, a bottle would mean a skin, such as the wineskins Jesus refers to. In this verse, the psalmist is probably referring to a ceramic bottle used in ancient funeral rites. Ornate containers called lachrymatories were commonly added to graves all over the ancient world.

The symbolic act of putting tears in bottles is well-known to historians. Tear-bottles were added permanently to graves, perhaps both as a symbolic goodbye and an honor to the memory of the lost. Museums still hold plenty of examples of these from various centuries as well as regions. They were ceramic in New Testament times; glass was invented later on.

The fact that God puts our tears in his bottle suggests that God shares in our grief with us. The Creator alone knows the innermost self, in its sin, its suffering, and its solace.

Alabaster

“She broke an alabaster jar.”

Bottles were also used in funeral rituals to pour ointment on a body for burial in several ancient cultures. When Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus, she truly was proclaiming his death beforehand, preparing him for burial. (Mark 14:8) She understood what the disciples were blind to: Jesus had to face a shameful death. (John 12:7)

If we take Matthew’s estimation, the value of the alabaster jar was about a year’s wages. Alabaster was mined in Egypt and carved into exquisite containers; the rare spice inside, nard, grows at elevations above 12,000 feet, and is only found in the Himalayan Mountains. Why then did Mary have this priceless jar? Was it like a life insurance policy, saved for the day of death? Is it possible that she had been saving it for her deceased brother’s grave? In the light of Lazarus’ resurrection, did she surrender to Jesus the safekeeping that would follow her own death? He who holds the keys knows.

There is no blessing in being comfortable, but “blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Jesus himself wept at the grave of Lazarus. He wept not only because of Lazarus and his family, but because death is an enemy, and a result of the curse that our sin has brought to us.

God’s Books

“The books were opened.”

Daniel says in his end-times vision that court was convened, and “the books were opened.” (Dan. 7:10) We think first of the Book of Life, and those who are blotted out. God calls it in some places “my book.” (Rev.) The most important record that God keeps is those who receive his salvation.

There are other books in heaven though. Both Daniel and John mention that God has books. Malachi tells us that one of them includes the records of our fellowship, our faithful prayers, and the results they wrought in lives changed:

“Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name.” (Malachi 3:16, ESV)

There is a crumb of comfort here for ministers with few visible successes. We struggle to reconcile our experience with the thrilling accounts of missionary biography. We could read of the apostolic triumphs in Uganda, and how Bishop Hannington perished on the forbidden road, and yet a church rose in his wake. We could read about the Palm Beach Five in the jungles of Ecuador, facing death for Christ, but giving life to a marginalized tribe. These sacrifices and successes are what fill our books. These are the ingredients of bestsellers.

But heaven has a different best-seller list. The prophet tells us that God writes it down when two believers sit and talk of him. If Malachi’s words are to be taken seriously, God keeps each of our biographies in heaven, and a page-turner to him is when his people take heed, and fear him, and talk about how they may follow on to know him

What God Values

“The Lord paid attention.”

Books and bottles are both vessels of preservation. They tell us what is precious. Precious tears are preserved in bottles; precious thoughts are preserved in books.

God values our thought life. God noticed those that feared him, and thought upon his name. We could spend our whole lifetime in the library, scouring a thousand volumes on theology, history, religion, and ritual. But one honest moment thinking about his name, dwelling on who he really is, drinking in his character from his revealed Word, would outweigh a whole lifetime of any other study.

God values our fellowship. They “spake often one to another.” Speaking to one another about spiritual topics should not be rare or specialized. One preacher said, “We are not called upon to talk theology, but we are called upon to talk gratitude.”  We need to talk to God and of God long and often.

God values our mourning. We are not the ones who treasure up our tears; God puts them in his own bottle. Our suffering is not taken lightly by God, even when he leads his children into it. One prophet said, “In all their suffering he also suffered”; and another, “He does not willingly afflict the sons of men.” He treasures the pain that we have been through, not for its own sake, but because of the eternal weight of glory that it’s working in us. Shouldn’t we?

Never a sigh of passion or of pity,
Never a wail for weakness or for wrong,
Has not its archive in the angels’ city,
Finds not its echo in the endless song.

The Redeemer’s Footprint

There are a few cryptic statements about feet in the Old Testament, which, taken together, have something profound to say about the work of Jesus as Redeemer. The first is one of Job’s prophetic glimmers of hope that shone out of his trial:

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
Job 19:25, ESV

There is no mistaking that he is referring to God as his Kinsman-redeemer and Deliverer. Since Job was likely contemporary with Abraham, the Torah’s prescriptions for kinsman-redeemers in Leviticus 25 probably did not yet exist—not to mention, Job isn’t even Jewish (Job 1:1). We could say that Job meant ‘redeemer’ in the broad sense (deliverer, liberator) in which it doesn’t involve land or money (see Isaiah 52:3, for example). However, Job’s parallel statement, (that his Redeemer will stand upon the earth) connects to the Semitic tradition of land redemption, because the feet appear to represent the right of the redeemer to his land.

Identified by Footprint

In December 2013, National Geographic published the first chronicle in a series on Paul Salopek, who is on a seven-year journey from Ethiopia to Tierra del Fuego on foot. His purpose is to follow the supposed track of human migration, from Yemen to Kamchatka, then from Alaska to Chile. (This will require two boats—one across the Gulf of Aden and one across the Bering Strait—due to past tectonic shifts.) If he succeeds in his journey, he will have walked 21,000 miles.

Paul writes about the footwear they wear in Ethiopia: millions of men, women, and children wear identical rubber sandals, cheaply produced, and usually lime green in the Afar region he is traveling.

Despite the universality of the sandal, Paul’s Ethiopian assistant stoops down in the dust and examines the various tracks zig-zagging the desert. He then affirms confidently—and correctly—that their friend had passed through and would be waiting for them later. This kind of desert tracking, which can differentiate between the gaits of people who wear identical shoes, is lost to Westerners.

The Feet of Boaz

There may actually be a distant cultural link between the Cushitic Afar tribe and the Jews of Ruth’s day: If modern Afar can identify their friend’s feet in the dust, then this may explain why sandals were exchanged during a transaction of land in the Book of Ruth.

Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one drew off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was the manner of attesting in Israel.
Ruth 4:7, ESV

In his Handbook on Bible Manners on Customs, James Freeman further explains this strange custom:

“It probably originated from the fact the right to tread the soil belonged to only to the owner of it, and hence the transfer of the sandal was a very appropriate representation of the transfer of property.”

There was no harm in trading sandals if they were generic, as they are in the Afar Triangle. The shoe of the former owner, combined with the gait of the buyer, creates a new footprint that would be recognized as the new land-owner. So giving a shoe to Boaz, the redeemer, meant that he could not be mistaken for an intruder: he had the house-master’s shoeprint.

John the Baptist, who was technically Jesus’ cousin, said that he was not worthy to loose Jesus’ sandal. In the vein of the familial redeemer, John could have meant that he would never be worthy to inherit any of Jesus’ family or land rights.

Stand upon the Dust

Job’s statement about his heavenly Redeemer, literally translated, says “at the last, he will stand upon the dust.” Jesus’ footprint will claim the earth: “On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives” (Zech. 14:4, ESV). Not only that, but in the Jewish understanding of Redeemer, Jesus will stand on the dust as native, lord, and rightful owner—not a trespasser. He will have fully reclaimed his right to the earth.

May Jesus have the same reception when he enters our hearts, lives, and homes. May he set his footprint there as both Friend and Master.

Come then, and added to thy many crowns
Receive yet one, the crown of all the earth,
Thou who alone art worthy! it was thine
By ancient covenant ere Nature’s birth,
And thou hast made it thine by purchase since,
And overpaid its value with thy blood.
Thy saints proclaim thee king; and in their hearts
Thy title is engraven with a pen
Dipped in the fountain of eternal love… .

Come then, and added to thy many crown
Receive yet one, as radiant as the rest,
Due to thy last and most effectual work,
Thy word fulfilled, the conquest of a world.

William Cowper

Jonah: God’s Heart for the Nations

JONAH
is a story about
MISSIONS
in which God is
MERCIFUL.

God’s Mercy: The Theme of Jonah’s Book

Missions is but one manifestation of God’s mercy. God shows his mercy in Jonah’s book by sending Jonah and saving the sailors (ch. 1), in saving Jonah from the storm (ch. 2), in using Jonah’s message and saving Nineveh (ch. 3), and in soothing Jonah (ch. 4). The entire book is a manifestation of God’s mercy.

Jonah’s book is unique among the Prophets because his story includes both the prophecy and the response. Only a small portion of his book is strictly prophetic, and that is his message to Nineveh.

“There’s a wideness in God’s mercy” begins a hymn by F. W. Faber. Jonah is set up as a foil (or a contrast) to God’s perfect mercy—towards the sailors, towards Nineveh, and towards the prophet himself. “The selfish unbelief and vindictiveness of man is contrasted with the gracious patience and benevolence of God.”1

The humor of the book is a large part of its appeal. The sailors and Ninevites receive God’s message eagerly, but God’s ordained prophet gives it reluctantly. He is the most self-effacing prophet of the Old Testament, and he accomplishes the bare minimum of righteousness. Yet Jonah uses humor to deal with serious needs that are universal to Christian life.

Jonah’s Flight

Comparing Jonah with John the Baptist (John 1:6), S. D. Gordon writes, “All men are sent. But they don’t all come, some go. There was a man sent from God whose name was Jonah. But he didn’t come. He went.”2

The reason for Jonah’s flight to Tarshish is explained by G. Campbell Morgan: “The book of Jonah is a prophetic story indicating the inclusiveness of the Divine government for Nineveh as well as Israel; and rebuking the exclusiveness of the Hebrew nation as manifested in the prophet himself.”3 Even today ethnocentrism is one of the largest barriers to missions. We are often glad to see someone else go, but feel in our hearts that we would never do so ourselves because we do not love other nations, and do not desire their salvation.

Jonah’s Song of Repentance

As always, the believer who flees from the Lord then seeks God “out of his distress” (2:2). “Out of the belly of Sheol I cried” (2:2). Thus Jonah compares his underwater hideaway to the grave itself. By taking him to the depths of death, God chose to make Jonah a sign of resurrection.

His song concludes: “Salvation belongs to the LORD!” (2:9) Then the sea-creature spits him out. By this God-wrought salvation, Jonah proclaimed death and resurrection(Matthew 12:39-40), both to Nineveh and to future generations.

Jonah’s Sermon of Repentance

Alexander Whyte summarizes thus: “The prophet Jonah was both the elder son and the unmerciful servant of the Old Testament.”4 The key is that he did not rejoice at the mercy received by others; as Christians, we should rejoice when God pours mercy on any other nation. We should never have any nation written off in our mind, as if God could not or would not grant mercy to those people, or they would not receive it.

Jesus gave credit to the Ninevites, saying that Jonah’s generation of Nineveh would rise in judgment against Jesus’ generation of Jews that had rejected him (Matthew 12:41). In this way, Jesus asserted that Jews could live stubbornly unrepentant while Gentiles could be righteous with God by faith.

Jonah’s Depression

Finally, after all the lessons that God has taught him, Jonah still shows resentment, in spite of his correct view of God! (4:2) However, Whyte writes that Jonah must have repented and written the book “in sackcloth and ashes”5 as he learned that God’s mercy was not to be hoarded. Through the repeated dealings of God, he must have learned God’s intended lesson, for no one else could have shared the story. May God teach us this same great truth.

The book ends with God’s glorious expression of mercy. “And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” (4:11)

Study Recommendations

Many books and Bible studies show that God’s plan has always included all nations. A few that come to mind are Eternity in Their Hearts by Don Richardson, Missions in the Age of the Spirit by John York and Mission in the Old Testament by Walter Kaiser.

1 Herbert Lockyer. All the Books and Chapters of the Bible, pp. 203-4. Zondervan, 1966.

2 S. D. Gordon. Quiet Talks on John’s Gospel, Locations 585-586. Kindle Edition.

3 G. Campbell Morgan. Voices of Twelve Hebrew Prophets, p. 12.

4 Alexander Whyte. Concise Bible Characters, p. 301. AMG Publishers.

5 Ibid.

“I Am the Lord” in Ezekiel’s Prophecy

When Will We Know That He is Lord?

– God tells us over and over that he is the LORD (YHWH), and he tells us when we will know that he is the LORD. This revelation of God’s character is a constant theme in Ezekiel, whether this revelation comes through judgment or mercy.

– The quote “I am the LORD” is God’s self-identification that began with Moses in the book of Exodus. In Exodus, as here, God identifies himself primarily by his activity. The verbal revelation clarifies an action which could otherwise be misinterpreted (e.g. Ex. 20:2, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt”). This revelation does not change or develop who he is, but it does develop our understanding of him, and that is a goal worth mentioning around 80-90 times in Ezekiel’s book (listed below).

– Exodus 6:7 introduces two promises: “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”
The first part, “you will be my people, and I will be your God”, is repeated six times by Ezekiel (11:20, 14:11, 34:30, 36:28b, 37:23, 37:26-28). It is also found in Jer. 24:7, 30:22, 31:1, 31:33, 32:38, and Rev. 21:3.
The second part, “you will know that I am the Lord”, is repeated by Ezekiel about 70 times.
While “knowing that he is the Lord” involves revelation, owning up to him as “your God” and us as his people involves commitment—or, in biblical language, covenant. In both cases, the wealth of repetition gives a sense of the idea’s importance.

– Here, in particular, I am looking at the second part of the promise. When does Ezekiel say that we will “know that he is the Lord”?

– Note that Ezekiel’s final passage of this kind, 39:28, is somewhat summative. Both the negative results—Babylonian captivity—and positive results—promised restoration—for Israel were part and parcel of God’s self-revelatory activity.

– These are not the only verses in Ezekiel that display God revealing himself, and many others could be named; but this list shows how important and well-developed this single motif is in Ezekiel’s book.

List of Occurrences in Ezekiel

– This list includes every time that God says “I am the LORD” in Ezekiel’s prophecy. Verses in italics are simply God stating, “I am the LORD.” Verses in normal font include reasons leading up to knowing that he is “the LORD.”

Unqualified statements: “I am the LORD”: 19 times*
Judgment/scattering of Israel/Judah: 25 times
Judgment on Gentiles: 21 times
Regathering/New Covenant of Israel: 15 times
Mixed/other (explanation in parentheses): 12 times
Total: 92 times

*See end note.

Continue reading

The “Antihero” in Judges

Unwilling Leaders: No One Wants to Go First
“Who shall go up first…?” (1:1)
Barak tells Deborah that he will only go into battle if she goes with him. (4:4-10)
In ch. 5, the song of Deborah and Barak celebrates willing fighters like Jael (v. 2, 9, 24)  but curses draft-dodgers like Meroz (v. 23).
Jotham’s parable: righteous leaders are unwilling, so the wicked take the reins. (9:7-15)
“Who is the man who will begin to fight against the Ammonites? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” (10:18)
“Come and be our leader” (11:6)
“There was no king” (17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25)
“There were no rulers in the land who might put them to shame” (18:7, NKJV)
“Who shall go up first for us to fight…?” (20:18)

Unlikely Heroes
Ehud’s left-handedness, considered a bad omen in many cultures, was also the reason he could sneak a weapon into the king’s chamber (see 3:16).
Barak requests the help of Deborah, a prophetess and judge. Then another woman, Jael, defeats the enemy commander (ch. 4)
An unnamed prophet reminds Israel of the Exodus while they are oppressed by Midian. (6:1-10)
Gideon fears Midian (6:11), fears his neighbors (6:27), doubts his own valor (6:12), doubts his pedigree (6:15), and requires several assurances from God (6:17, 6:36-40).
Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute.” (11:1) He is a tragic figure, rejected by his half-brothers. Like David at Adullam, “worthless fellows collected around Jephthah” (11:3). He  delivers Israel, but ends up killing his own daughter to fulfill a vow. (In his culture this was more honorable than breaking his vow.) (11:29-40)
Four obscure judges from small towns. We know almost nothing about them.
Tola from Shamir, judge for 23 years. (10:1-2)
Ibzan of Bethlehem, judge for 7 years. (12:8-10)
Elon of Aijalon, judge for 10 years. (12:11-12)
Abdon from Pirathon, judge for 8 years. (12:13-15)
Samson is a strange and angry man, whose wife marries his best friend (14:20). Among other aberrant behaviors, he poses riddles and kills animals bare-handed.  He is eventually entrapped by his girlfriend; the reader thinks he would have seen it coming. (ch. 16)

Unorthodox Methods
Left-handed Ehud subverts the king’s guards and kills him in his own palace. (3:15-30)
Shamgar saves Israel and wields an ox-goad. (3:31)
Jael lulls Sisera to sleep with milk, and afterwards kills him with a tent stake. (ch. 4)
Gideon thins his fighting forces instead of expanding them. Even his methods for choosing men are strange. (ch. 7)
Gideon gives his warriors trumpets and lanterns, using innovative smoke-and-mirror techniques against Midian. (ch. 7)
A certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head…” (10:53)
Jephthah commits linguistic genocide by killing everyone with an Ephraimite accent. (12:1-6)
Samson ties torches to foxes’ tails to destroy Philistine crops. (15:4-5)
Samson uses a donkey’s jawbone to kill 1000 Philistines. (15:14-17)
Samson pulls down two load-bearing columns, destroying many Philistines and himself with them. (ch. 16)
Benjamin’s army includes 700 left-handed stone-slingers (20:16).

“The Seed of the Woman” in Genesis

“And the Lord God said unto the serpent … I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
Genesis 3:14-15 (KJV)

What does seed of the woman mean?

This very ancient promise refers to a descendant of Eve who would defeat the serpent, or Satan. The unique part of the promise is that seed in Hebrew is normally equivalent with semen, which a man contributes toward a pregnancy. A woman does not have a seed, but an egg; she is the one in whom the seed grows. So the seed of the woman refers to a person born without the help of a man, i.e., a virgin birth.

Who is the seed of the woman?

The seed of a woman could hardly refer to anything except the virgin birth of Jesus, in which he was not born of a man’s seed. The most famous verse of the Bible in English is John 3:16: “for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that he who believes in him would not perish, but have everlasting life.” The phrase “only begotten” is somewhat confusing for at least two reasons:

1. Christian orthodoxy has always held that Jesus existed before he was born as a human, and birth was not the beginning of existence for him. (John 8:58) This aspect is especially confusing to Muslims.

2. John says that Jesus grants us the right to be born as “children of God” (John 1:12-13). If we become sons and daughters of God through the new birth, then Jesus is not God’s only son.

The Greek word is a unique compound word, monogenes, which many interpret to mean “uniquely begotten” or “singly born”—a probable reference to the virgin birth.

How does this promise figure in the rest of the Book of Genesis?

When Cain was born, it is quite possible that Eve thought that he was the promised seed of the woman. After all, she was the only woman around, and she had brought him forth “from the LORD” (4:1, KJV). When Seth was born Eve celebrated that God had “appointed another seed” for her (4:25). If Eve indeed thought that either Cain or Seth was her promised seed, then, as is the pattern in human life, she had misestimated God’s timetable for bringing his promises to pass.

Genealogies became important because there is a promised seed that would come forth in a specific way, and repeated promises in Genesis indicate that this “seed” will come from a specific lineage (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob). Many cultures have very high views of genealogy, and many Middle Eastern cultures still relate their tribes back to the book of Genesis without interruption.

Noah also was a man of promise, since his father prophesied that he would comfort them concerning the work of their hands (Gen. 5:29). Mankind was preserved through him, but it would be many more generations before the promised seed of the woman would come.

Abraham is commanded to count the stars because “thus will his seed be.”⁠1  Although the meaning could refer to the number of Abraham’s descendants, Paul points out “Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ.” (Galatians 3:16, NIV) The seed of Abraham and the seed of the woman are one and the same.

Isaac, more than anyone else in the book of Genesis, bears the weight of the coming seed. Abraham is given more seed promises than anyone else in the Bible, and the most immediate application would be his son. Since Ishmael is excluded from the promise, now we understand the significance of God’s request that Abraham sacrifice his son. His son was the only means he had of fulfilling God’s promise, and God asked him to sacrifice him. When he goes alone with Isaac, Abraham says, “we will go, and we will return.” The writer of Hebrews says that Abraham showed his faith in the resurrection from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19).

The purpose of election continues as God decides that Jacob and not Esau will be the source of the promised seed. Paul writes to the Romans about these twins, saying that God used them to make it obvious that God does not choose the best, brightest, or holiest to join him in his plan, so “that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth” (Romans 9:11). Election here means choice, and God’s choice is key to following both the narratives and the genealogies of the book of Genesis. All of these are tending towards the fulfillment of the promise that was spoken at the beginning.

Even Joseph’s story, centers around the preservation of this covenant people and the “seed of the woman.” Even though the scepter fell to Judah, Joseph preserved the family through whom salvation would be revealed. He received riches and wealth in the story, but he tells his family that the express purpose of God was to preserve his family through the crisis (Gen. 45:4-8, 50:15-21, Ps. 105:16-17).

Summary

In the first half of Genesis, God speaks, promises, and explains himself over and over. He appears to Abraham twice in chapter 12, and once in almost every chapter from there until Abraham’s death.

In the second half of Genesis, there is much more action and much less of God’s voice. From chapter 36 to chapter 45, there is no mention of the seed of the woman or the promise of the land. Jacob and Joseph only see in retrospect that God’s redemptive purposes were at hand. So Jacob says that God has “redeemed” him from all trouble (48:16), and reminds himself and his family of all the promises that God had spoken so many years before (48:3-4, 48:21).

After Genesis, the story of the seed of the woman does not advance significantly until God begins sharing the promise with David in the book of 1 Samuel. However, this promise becomes a background to understanding the promise of the land, the Exodus, the conquest of Joshua, and the rejection of God as king in 1 Samuel. The entire Old Testament leads us toward the victory and resurrection of Eve’s seed, our virgin-born Messiah.

1 Although the view is eccentric, E. W. Bullinger believed that God had spoken to Abraham using the constellations as a pre-biblical revelation of Jesus, “the seed of the woman.”