... After the Beginning
Summary and Analysis of Genesis 12-50
Now, we hear the story of Abram. God tells Abram to travel to the land that He has promised to him and his descendants to make a great nation. Abram travels to Canaan with his nephew, Lot, and his wife, Sarai, and erects an alter for the Lord. Abram then travels to Egypt, acquiring wealth during his stay there. Later, Abram and Lot decide to part ways, with Lot living in Sodom, and Abram living in Canaan. In Sodom, Lot is captured by an enemy army. Abram saves him by defeating the foes with 318 men. The king of Sodom wants to repay Abram for what he has done, but Abram denies his treasures. Abram returns home, and the Lord comes and speaks to him. Abram asks for an heir, and God tells him not to worry for his descendants shall be as numerous as the stars. The Lord made a covenant with Abram, promising the land to his descendants.
Abram’s wife Sarai cannot have children, but she wants to give Abram an heir. She tells him to sleep with her handmaid, Hagar. Sarai beings to resent Hagar once she is pregnant, and Hagar flees. An angel tells Hagar to go back, and she gives birth to Abram’s first son, Ishmael. God reaffirms his covenant with Abram and renames him, Abraham. To uphold the covenant between himself and the Lord, Abraham and all of his descendants must get circumcised. God said that Sarai will now be called Sarah. God promises Abraham a son from his wife Sarah, named Isaac.
One day the Lord comes to Abraham in the form of three men. They say that Sarah will have a son, but she does not think so because she is so old. The three men then set out for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destroy them for their wickedness. Abraham pleads with God to spare the cities if righteous men can be found there, and He agrees. In Sodom, two angels arrive, and Lot welcomes them into his home. Later, the men in the city come to his door demanding the angels be brought to them, for they desired to sodomize them. The angels tell Lot to take his family, leave the city and not look back. Lot’s wife looks back as God is destroying Gomorrah and Sodom, turning into a pillar of salt. Both of Lot’s daughters become pregnant with their father’s offspring to preserve their bloodline. Sarah gives birth to Abraham’s son Isaac. Sarah tells Abraham to send Ishmael and Hagar away.
God tests Abraham, telling him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. As Abraham is about to sacrifice the boy, an angel comes and commands him to stop. God is impressed by Abraham’s devotion, and reaffirms His covenant with him. Sarah dies, and Abraham mourns her. Abraham sends a servant to his relatives to find a wife for Isaac. The servant prays to the Lord to find the right wife for Isaac and is led to Rebekah. Isaac marries Rebekah, and soon after Abraham dies. Rebekah becomes pregnant with two sons of which God tells her represent two nations. First, she gives birth to Esau who is hairy and red. Next, she gives birth to Jacob who comes out holding his brother’s heel. Esau was a hunter, and loves the open country. Jacob is quiet and stays close to home. One day, Esau comes back home hungry, demanding some of the soup Jacob is cooking. Jacob says that he will give Esau some soup if he trades his birthright, and his brother agrees. Isaac is blessed by God the same as his father, prospering and growing his fortune. He continues to build altars to God as his father, Abraham, had done.
Later when Isaac was old and blind, he asked Esau to catch him some wild game, and prepare it for him to eat. He said that he would bless his eldest son. Rebekah overheard what Isaac said. She had Jacob disguise himself as Esau and give his father food to receive the blessing while his brother was away. Jacob receives the gifts of God’s covenant and power over Esau. Esau starts plotting to kill his brother, so Jacob flees out of fear. Jacob travels to the land of his uncle, Laban. While on the road, Jacob has a dream of a stairway to Heaven. God comes to Jacob and promises him a covenant, like that of Isaac and Abraham.
Jacob makes it to his uncle’s house, and he agrees to work for him for seven years for his younger daughter Rachel’s hand in marriage. Laban tricks Jacob into marrying Leah instead of Rachel. He tells Jacob that he can marry Rachel second after another seven years of work. Jacob’s wives are very jealous of each other. Rachel and Leah along with their maids have many children for Jacob. After twenty years, Jacob leaves Laban’s household and returns to Canaan. He takes his family and flocks. Rachel stole her father’s figurines of gods. Laban tracks them down to try and get them back, but Rachel hid them in her saddlebag. Laban and Jacob end up resolving their disagreement.
As Jacob nears Canaan, he fears what will happen when he confronts his brother. He sends ahead gifts for Esau to gain favor in his eyes. Jacob then splits everyone into two just in case they get attacked, so the other group can flee. That night, Jacob meets God disguised as a man, fights him until dawn, and demands a blessing from him. God blessed Jacob by renaming him Israel. Esau meets Jacob with open arms. Jacob sets up camp in the city of Shechem. Later, Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, is raped by a man from town. Jacob’s sons confront him saying he can marry Dinah if all the men in Shechem get circumcised, and the man agrees. While the men in the town are healing, Jacob’s sons kill all of the men there. Jacob’s people leave Shechem. While traveling, Rachel gives birth to Benjamin, but dies later. Isaac dies and is buried by his sons.
Jacob’s sons are all jealous of their younger brother, Joseph, who happens to be Jacob’s favorite. The older brothers plot to kill him, but end up selling him into slavery. Jacob believes that Joseph is dead when his sons bring back his bloody robe. Joseph is bought by Potiphar, one of the Pharaoh’s officials. Potiphar soon makes Joseph his attendant, and trusts him to take care of his household. One day, Potiphar’s wife accuses Joseph of sleeping with her, and Potiphar throws him in prison. Later, the Pharaoh has two dreams, hears that Joseph can interpret them, and brings him from prison to do so. Joseph tells the Pharaoh the dreams mean that Egypt will prosper for seven years, but then be hit with a terrible famine. The Pharaoh then sends Jacob out to prepare for the famine by collecting food stores. As the famine grows worse, spreading across the land, Joseph’s brothers and Jacob travel to stay in Egypt. After blessing his sons, Jacob dies. Later, Joseph also dies.
There are some parts of Genesis that confuse me. Why is Jacob called both Jacob and Israel? It gets very confusing to figure out who is being talked about sometimes, because I always forget that Jacob goes by two names. I wonder if the names are used interchangeably since Genesis has multiple authors and the Redactor messed it up like what we talked about in class with the story of the Flood. I do not know if there is an actual purpose of using both names.
Why does every man take multiple wives and sleep with their handmaids? I thought they were not supposed to cheat on their wives. God establishes marriage as a union between one man and woman (Genesis 2:24). Wouldn’t taking on multiple wives and sleeping with maids be considered adultery? “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). Do the Ten Commandments not apply to the events of Genesis, because they are not established until Exodus? The Old Testament seems wilder than what we think of civilized humans nowadays. Why did Lot’s daughters sleep with him? Was incest not considered a bad thing at that time? I’m pretty sure in Leviticus somewhere incest in condemned, so why does it seem like it is accepted at this time? Also, Jacob’s sons kill all those men in Shechem after their sister, Dinah, is raped, and they never get punished for it. A distinction can be made in the Bible before Jesus, and when Jesus came to us. Maybe people during that time did not have as high of standards, at least not as explicitly stated as Jesus did. It seems like a lot of deception happens in Genesis, too. Like Jacob tricking his father into blessing him instead of his brother Esau, and Potiphar’s wife accusing Joseph of sleeping with her, getting him thrown into prison.
Why does Lot’s wife turn to salt when she looks back at Sodom being destroyed? I think it might have to do with the symbolism of salt in literature and the Bible. I know that salt is considered a symbol of purity. Salt is also talked about in different places of the Bible. For example, in Matthew, people are referred to as “the salt of the Earth,” but I do not know if that is related to this instance (Matthew 5:13).
Why are the events of Genesis so lawless compared to those of other books in the Bible like in the New Testament?
What is the point of circumcision? Besides the fact that God tells Abraham that he and all of his descendant have to be circumcised, there is no reason given for it. Now we can at least support it for medical reasons, but there’s no evidence to support why they did it back then.
If we are all created equal and in the image of God why does he pick sides? There’s clearly favoritism in play. It seems like only certain people are punished for what they have done, while others are allowed to continue.