The baton now passed on to Isaac we wrap up the story with Abraham. He remarries, has a few more children, dies and is buried with his wife. There are three lineages from Abraham that are mentioned. The first is the children of his second wife, Keturah. One in particular, Midian, will pop up later in the biblical story as his descendants, the Midianites. Next up is Ishmael, who has twelve sons. Each of these sons represented twelve tribes that would have been familiar to the readers. Then finally are the descendants of Isaac.
Many of the tribes and nations that descend from the people mentioned here would later be enemies with God’s chosen people. The point the author wants to make is that these enemies are actually all part of the same family. They all come from Abraham. Much of the story of the Old Testament is one big family feud, and this is shown on the big scale, and the small scale.
Isaac and Rebekah have two children, twins, Esau and Jacob. But immediately Jacob shows himself to be a trickster. He shamelessly abuses his brother’s hunger to claim Esau’s birthright for himself and then plans with his mother to steal Esau’s blessing as well.
Interestingly, we read in Genesis 25:23 that God has always planned for the older brother to serve the younger brother, so we see that God is in control the entire time. But once again, God’s people have taken something he has promised and tried to get it their own way.
While Jacob isn’t challenged for his behaviour, we see going forward that he doesn’t have an easy life. Because of his selfishness, Jacob makes life more difficult for himself in the long run.
This is a great example of God’s sovereignty, the fact that he is in control and will get what he wants. We can choose to partner him and benefit from that, or we can choose to do our own thing and struggle. But ultimately God will still get his way.
In a similar way, we see Isaac lie to Abimilech about Rebekah being his sister, much like his father did before him. While God continued to bless Isaac with cattle and wealth, the relationship with Abimilech continued to be tense going forward.
While we definitely believe in grace and mercy for when we make mistakes or sin, we also have to realise that our actions have consequences and sometimes God will forgive us and bless while also allowing us to live through the consequences of our actions.
It’s worth taking a step back to give this passage more context. The people originally reading this book were known as the Israelites. They were descendants of Jacob, and saw themselves as God’s chosen people, which is true. But the point was never to lord their chosenness over other nations.
As we’ve already established, the other nations are all part of Israel’s larger family. On top of that, a key theme that keeps coming up in Genesis is God’s chosen people often make poor decisions. Abraham and Sarah abused Hagar and lied to Abimelech, Isaac also lies to Abimelech, and Jacob lies to his father and steals his brother’s blessing. Being chosen by God doesn’t stop you from being a terrible person, and that’s one of the subtle messages this book is trying to convey.
Back to Jacob, this family has become fractured, and he needs to leave before his brother kills him. His parents arrange for him to go stay with his uncle Laban. On his way to his uncle’s God visit Jacob and makes the same promise to him that he made to his father and grandfather. He will have many descendants and God will restore him to his family home.
Finally, we get a quick break from the lament psalms. This psalm is attributed to King David and falls into the category of praise psalm (see also Psalm 67; 87; 93; 145). The structure of the psalm is another chiasm, when the psalm mirrors itself.
A) Psalm 8:1 - Opening praise
B) Psalm 8:2-3 - God’s rule
C) Psalm 8:4 - Man’s unworthiness
C) Psalm 8:5 - Man’s greatness
B) Psalm 8:6-8 - Man’s rule
A) Psalm 8:9 - Closing praise
The psalm opens with God’s name Yahweh (often translated as LORD). The psalmist praises God for his name and his greatness. They take a moment to admire God’s rule. He takes the things that are small and weak (babies) to overcome the strong.
It was God that created the heavens and arranged the moons and stars in place. In light of such great splendour then, we suddenly seem very small. How is is that the God of the universe could care for us?
And then the psalm flips on itself, because, as we have already established, God uses the small things to do great things. While humanity might be a small part of God’s creation, he has lifted them up and given them positions of authority.
While God is the one that created all things, he has placed them all under humanity’s authority. With his help, humanity is to lead and take care of his creation. Overcome by the weight of this truth, the psalmist can merely end where he began, with praise to God.
This psalm reminds us of our role in creation. We have the authority to lead and order, but we also have the responsibility to do it well. But more importantly that, none of this is because of how great we are. Literally the opposite. It is because we are so insignificant that God chose us and empowered us. All praise, ultimately, belongs to him.
Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.
Spoken Gospel look at the role of Esau and Jacob in the story of Genesis.
Tim and Jon look at God's chosen people in the Bible. We quickly see that they often make poor decisions and that the Bible is really a large family feud.Check the podcast out here
Understanding the context of your passage is always important. BibleProject always do an incredible job of breaking down each book so you can see how your passage fits into the wider story.
For a slightly different overview of where we are so far, BibleProject have done an animated recap of Genesis 1-11 to help you fit today's passage into the overarching story of Genesis.
Spoken Gospel take a look at the dream that Jacob has of angels going up and down a ladder to heaven.