Earlier this week, I wrote about seeing the story of Jesus and Israel through the names of the 12 tribes. In any given story, the order and actual list of the 12 tribes changes. Each time, the order and meaning of the names, even more so the sentence spoken at each child’s birth, tells the story of Jesus and Israel in the context of the particular story being read in the Bible.
In the post above, I mentioned that the 12 tribes are really 13 since Levi was given to the service of the Lord and the tribe of Joseph was split into two. Therefore, we get an ever changing list and order of the 12 tribes throughout the Bible. It’s in Genesis 41 that we read about the birth of Joseph’s two sons who complete the list of 13 interchangeable tribes.
Joseph may be the most complete and explicit type of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. I think is important to consider when putting Joseph’s two sons among the 12 tribes of Israel.
Like Isaac and Jacob, Joseph had a Gentile wife. However, Joseph’s wife was from Egypt, which is a type of the world. This is in contrast to Isaac and Jacob’s wives who came from the country and kindred of Abraham. So, Joseph’s two sons were of the world and truly outsiders to Israel. But, later in Genesis Joseph’s two sons are adopted by Israel.
Joseph was 30 years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh, which is the same age that it is believed Jesus began his ministry. It was when Joseph was 30 that the seven plentiful years of Pharaoh’s dream began. Genesis 41:50 says, “Before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph.” So, it was sometime during the seven years of plenty that Joseph’s sons were born.
Joseph’s firstborn was Manasseh. His name means to forget, to cause to forget, to be forgotten. When he was born, Joseph said, “For God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” (Genesis 41:51)
Jesus was sent by God to Israel, to the place of God’s dwelling, to the place of God’s temple, to God’s house. When Jesus was there, his own did not believe him and killed him. But, in Luke 23:34, Jesus says from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” At that moment, Jesus forgets all his hardship in his Father’s house.
Joseph’s second son was Ephraim. Ephraim means to bear fruit, to be fruitful. While the name is singular, typically when we see the “im” ending in English translations of Hebrew it connotes a plural noun. So, there may be a sense that Ephraim’s name means bearing many fruits or to be very fruitful. When he was born, Joseph said, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (Genesis 41:52)
Jesus was crucified in Israel. That was the land of his affliction. But, God made Jesus fruitful in that very same land. In John 12:24, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Jesus, the seed, the grain of wheat, died and was planted in the earth in Israel. But, that seed rose out of the earth, was resurrected, and produced, not just fruit, but much fruit. Jesus bore many fruits in the land of his affliction.
The births of the sons of Jacob and the name changes of Abram and Jacob all take place in the context of a specific story. And, the full context of the births of Manasseh and Eprhaim is quite interesting.
As I mentioned above, they were born in the time of plenty. But, not long after their birth, the seven years of famine began. Genesis 41:54 says, “There was famine in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.” There was famine everywhere except Egypt. Why?
The answer is in Genesis 41:55, which says, “When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, ‘Go to Joseph. What he says to you, do.'” Today, the world, Egypt, is suffering through a severe famine, a spiritual hunger that can only be satisfied by Jesus. God says, “Go to Jesus. What Jesus says to you, do.” Jesus is the only one who can satisfy the spiritual hunger of the world.
Genesis 41:56-57 says, “So when the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.”
Jesus suffered and was afflicted when he came to the world, but he chose to forget the affliction that we caused him and he forgave us. Jesus is Manasseh. Having forgiven us, Jesus was that seed that died and was planted in the earth, only to spring up and bear much fruit. Jesus is Ephraim. Because of this, like Joseph, Jesus has bread stored up to satiate the whole world’s spiritual hunger. Jesus has opened the storehouses. All the earth simply needs to do is come to Jesus and they will be fed.
In addition to the written teaching below, here’s the audio to tonight’s CUMO Mid-Week Bible Study.
Genesis 22 is one of the most well-known and most important chapters in the Bible. It is the story of God telling Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham’s obedience to God, and God providing the lamb in the place of Isaac. I rarely look at commentaries anymore, I looked through eight to 10 to see what they said about the climactic event of Abraham’s life. While commentaries have some useful information, I wasn’t surprised to find that the commentaries rarely, if ever, mentioned Jesus (which is why I rarely read commentaries anymore). I find this astounding, considering that Genesis 22 is an astounding prophetic revelation of Jesus.
Let’s take a look, sort of verse by verse, to see Jesus.
AFTER THESE THINGS
Genesis 22:1 begins “After these things…”
After what things?
Well, everything from Genesis 12 through Genesis 21.
Genesis 12:1-3 says, “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’”
The very first thing we read about Abram is that God calls him to be a great nation and that Abram will both be blessed and be a blessing. God could only fulfill his promise to Abram if he had a son. But, at this time Abram has no son, which is somewhat ironic since Abram’s name means exalted father.” At the time of God’s call, Abram was 75 years old.
In Canaan, “the Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’” (Genesis 12:7) The Hebrew word for offspring also means seed and derives from the root word meaning to sow. From chapter 12 through chapter 22, offspring occurs 23 times. While, I haven’t studied Hebrew, I want to throw out the idea that a number of these 23 uses of the word offspring are used with the concept “your sowed seed” being implied. I say this because in John 12:24 Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Abram’s seed needs to be planted. The seed needs to die.
will be given Canaan (Genesis 12:7)
will be given Canaan and counted as the dust of the earth (Genesis 13:15-16)
shall be numbered [not counted, but written about] as the stars in the sky (Genesis 15:13)
will be given the land from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates (Genesis 15:18)
will be given and keep an established covenant and will be given all the land of Canaan (Genesis 17:7-12)
will have a covenant established with Isaac and his offspring (Genesis 17:19)
will have his offspring named through Isaac (Genesis 21:12)
In chapter 17, God reiterates his promise to and covenant with Abram. And, God changes his name to Abraham, which means exalted father of a multitude. At this time, Abram has a son Ishmael, but Abraham does not have the son of the promise yet. However, God says that from the son, Isaac, Abraham’s offspring will be named. In chapter 17, Abraham is 99 years old. So, 24 years have passed since God first called and made his promise to Abraham.
One year later, Abraham finally has the son, Isaac, in Genesis 21. So, the son came 25 years after the initial promise from God.
It’s “after these things” that Genesis 22 takes place.
GOD TESTED ABRAHAM
Genesis 22:1 says, “After these things God tested Abraham.” This is the first use in the Bible of the Hebrew word nasa. Nasa means to venture; to put someone to the test; to give experience, train; to conduct a test. A test is a critical examination, observation, or evaluation. As the first test in the Bible, Abraham’s test sets the precedent for all future testing.
So, what is God testing Abraham on?
To understand God’s testing of Abraham, we need to see that Jesus was tested. Hebrews 5:8-9 says, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” What does it mean that Jesus learned obedience? If Jesus always obeyed, then what does it mean that he learned obedience? Jesus didn’t learn to obey, but he did learn the cost of obeying. He learned this by being tested. The Greek word for “learned” denotes the action of deciphering the meaning of information both practically and conceptually. Jesus learned what it meant to obey.
What did Jesus’ testing lead to? Philippians 2:8 says, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Jesus’ testing led his death, burial, and resurrection. This is the gospel.
Is this what Abraham is being tested on?
In Romans 4:3, Paul quotes Genesis 15:6 when he says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
So, what did Abraham believe?
Galatians 3:5-8 says, “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or hearing by faith – just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’”
Therefore, in Genesis 22, God was testing Abraham’s belief.
Abraham’s test was about God providing his own son as the lamb slain before the foundation of the world to die for his sins and that God’s son would be resurrected to give life. If Abraham passed the test, then this gospel would be how all the families of the earth would be blessed.
It’s important to understand how old Abraham was at the time of testing. Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 years old. We know that Isaac was weaned in chapter 21. That’s at least three more years before Abraham was tested. We also know that in chapter 23 Sarah died at the age of 127 when Isaac was 37 years old. And, we know that Isaac s a type of Jesus. Given that Sarah gave birth to Isaac, I think that makes Sarah a type of Israel in this story. In effect, Israel, as God’s wife, gave birth to Jesus. When did Israel (Sarah) die, or come to an end? Shortly after Jesus’ death when he was about 33 years old. So, I think Genesis 22 takes place when Isaac is about the same age as Jesus when he died. I believe that the point is that Isaac was not a small boy in Genesis. This would make Abraham about 130 years old. Their ages will be important later.
YOUR SON, YOUR ONLY SON ISAAC
In Genesis 22:3, God tells Abraham “Take your son, your only son Isaac.” Abram had a son, Ishmael. But, Abraham had the son, Isaac. Plus, Ishmael had been sent away. Isaac was Abraham’s only son. Similarly, in the Old Testament, the angels are called the sons of God. But, God has only one Son.
“glory as of the only Son into the world.” – John 1:14
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” – John 3:16
“that God sent his only Son into the world” – 1 John 4:9
WHOM YOU LOVE
God tells Abraham to take his only son, “whom you love.” God loves his son, Jesus.
“The Father loves the Son.” – John 3:35
“as the Father has loved me” – John 15:9
“So that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” – John 17:23
“to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” – John 17:24
“I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them” – John 17:26
AND GO TO THE LAND OF MORIAH
Abraham is to take the son whom he loves “and go to the land of Moriah.” The only other mention of Moriah is in 2 Chronicles 3:1, which says, “Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to David his father, at the place David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” The threshing floor is a symbol of judgment. It is the place where the husk was separated from the grain by beating and the place where the grain is crushed. Isaiah 53:5 says, “he [Jesus] was crushed for our iniquities.”
The root word of Moriah means to see, to understand, to spy, to reveal, look at, examine, or inspect. We could think of Moriah as the place where Christ was examined and inspected for his worthiness.
Another meaning of Moriah is “bitterness of the Lord.” At the time of the call in Genesis 22:3, Abraham and Isaac were in Beersheba. Beersheba means the well of underground water. But, Abraham and Isaac were journeying to the bitterness of the Lord, which speaks to the separation of the Father and the Son.
SO ABRAHAM ROSE EARLY IN THE MORNING
Having been told by God what to do, Abraham set to action right away. He took Isaac and headed out to Moriah early in the morning. When did Jesus’ testing begin? Early in the morning. In Luke 22, after the last supper and early in the morning, Jesus was praying with his disciples in the garden. We know it was early in the morning because the disciples kept falling asleep. In Luke 22:66, Jesus was arrested early in the morning, and when day came, the elders, chief priests, and scribes gathered together to hold a trial.
SADDLED HIS DONKEY…AND HE CUT THE WOOD FOR BURNT OFFERING
When the journey started, Abraham cut the wood for sacrifice and put it on the donkey for the three day journey. This is a picture of Jesus, who had someone carry the cross for him at one point.
“And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus.” – Luke 23:26
“As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross.” – Matthew 27:32
“And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.” – Mark 15:21
Consider that neither the donkey nor Simon had any choice in the matter. The donkey was saddled, and Simon was seized or compelled. Also, notice that Simon carried the cross behind Jesus, which is where a donkey would walk.
AND TOOK TWO OF HIS YOUNG MEN WITH HIM
Having saddled the donkey with the wood for the sacrifice, Abraham and Isaac set out for Moriah with two of Abraham’s you men. What is this a picture of?
“Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.” – Luke 23:32
“Then two robbers were crucified with him.” – Matthew 27:38
“And with him the crucified two robbers.” – Mark 15:27
ON THE THIRD DAY ABRAHAM LIFTED UP HIS EYES AND SAW THE PLACE AFAR OFF
The journey from Beersheba to Moriah was three days. So, three days after setting out, Abraham sees the place that he was to sacrifice Isaac afar off. Last week, I mentioned that the third day is an important day in the Bible as an unusually high number of events take place on the third day. This is because on the third day Jesus is resurrected. But, how do we reconcile that Abraham saw the place of Isaac’s sacrifice on the third day, which represents resurrection, but Isaac has not been sacrificed yet? The day they set out on the journey and Abraham obeyed God was the day that Isaac was sacrificed in Abraham’s mind. Isaac died on the first day of the journey. This was the day Abraham and Isaac set out from Beersheba, which is the well of underground water. This is the well spring of life. When Abraham and Isaac left this place it spoke of their broken fellowship and the broken fellowship between the Father and the Son.
The third day speaks of resurrection. And, on the third day, Abraham sees the place afar off. Abraham sees the place that Isaac would be resurrected. Hebrews 11:17-19 says, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did received him back.”
But, Abraham saw much more than how far away in distance Isaac’s resurrection on the third day. The Bible says he “saw the place afar off.” I think this is not speaking of distance but of time. Listen to what Jesus says in John 8:37, 39-40, 56, 58, “I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you…If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who was told the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad…Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
THEN ABRAHAM SAID TO HIS YOUNG MEN, “STAY HERE WITH THE DONKEY”
Having seen the place of Isaac’s resurrection, Abraham tells his two young men to stay behind. He and Isaac would go off alone. Even though the thieves were always present on either side of Jesus during his crucifixion, I believe there was a moment when the Father and Jesus were “alone.” Matthew 27:46 says, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” I think the Father and Jesus were “alone” at this time because no one understood what Jesus was saying. They thought he was calling out to Elijah.
I AND THE BOY WILL OVER THERE TO WORSHIP AND COME TO YOU AGAIN
Abraham and Isaac went off by themselves to worship. We see this with the Father and Jesus too. In Luke 23:46, Jesus says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Jesus is quoting Psalm 31:5, and it is even the title of the psalm. John 19:30, says, “He [Jesus] said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” Jesus’ spirit went back to the Father. They were worshiping together.
But, this was also the moment that Abraham clearly expressed his belief in the gospel – the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. This was the moment that Abraham showed that he clearly knew Isaac would be resurrected since he said they would both come back to the servants. Perhaps Abraham even knew that he was acting out an exact prophecy of Jesus’ death.
AND ABRAHAM TOOK THE WOOD OF THE BURNT OFFERING AND LAID IT ON ISAAC HIS SON
At this time, Abraham is likely 130 years old and Isaac is probably in his early 30s. Abraham was not sacrificing a small boy that he could force the wood upon. Abraham was sacrificing a grown man. And, given the age difference, a man that he could not force to do anything. Therefore, Isaac willingly let Abraham put the wood on him. He did not fight or resist. This is a perfect picture of the Father and Jesus. The Father did not force Jesus to the cross. Rather, Jesus willingly went to it. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Looking unto Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
GOD WILL PROVIDE FOR HIMSELF THE LAMB
The Hebrew word “for” has a range of meanings, including of, by, that, and from. Try reading verse 8 with each of those words substituted for the quite common translation “for.” I think when we understand this entire chapter with Abraham and Isaac as a picture of the Father and Jesus going to the cross we see that what Abraham is saying is that the lamb that God will provide is himself. So, I think the ISV translation gets it right, “God will provide himself the lamb for the burnt offering.” Jesus, as God, is not just any lamb, but the lamb for the burnt offering.
ABRAHAM…BOUND ISAAC HIS SON AND LAID HIM ON THE ALTAR, ON TOP OF THE WOOD
Abraham assured Isaac that God would provide himself the lamb. Did Abraham just preach the gospel to Isaac, if he hadn’t already? Because the lamb that God would provide is nowhere to be found yet.
So, Abraham and Isaac reach the place God showed Abraham. Abraham built an altar and laid the wood on top of Isaac. Isaac was bound, but he willingly let it happen, just like Jesus let himself be bound.
“The chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and delivered him to Pilate.” – Mark 15:1
“And they bound him.” – Matthew 27:2
“You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” – John 19:11
The priest, scribes, elders, and Pilate had no authority to bind Jesus. The authority came from the Father, and Jesus willingly let it happen.
THE ANGEL OF THE LORD CALLED TO HIM FROM HEAVEN
Throughout the entire chapter, it was God telling Abraham what to do. But, now the angel of the Lord, Jesus, calls out from heaven. Notice how the angel of the Lord seems to be equated with God.
The angel of the Lord says, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” We would have expected God the Father to say this to Abraham. But, instead it’s the angel of the Lord, Jesus, that says because Abraham has not withheld his only son Abraham has passed the test. The angel of the Lord knows that Abraham believes the gospel and, indeed, believes in him. This is important because it’s when we believe in Jesus that he gives us life.
“whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” – John 3:16
“whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” – John 3:36
“Truly, truly I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.” – John 5:24
“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life.” – John 6:40
“whoever has the son has life” – 1 John 5:12
BEHOLD, BEHIND HIM WAS A RAM, CAUGHT IN THE THICKET BY HIS HORNS
Now that the angel of the Lord knows that Abraham believes, Abraham looks behind him and sees a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. God provided not just a lamb, but a ram. Is that because Jesus was fully grown, a man, and not a small boy? I think so.
The ram was caught by his horns. Horns are a symbol of power throughout the Bible. Horns are on the head of the animal. Colossians 1:18 says, “And he [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” And, 1 Corinthians 1:24 says that Jesus is the power of God. John 19:2 says, “And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head.” The ram was caught by his horns in a thicket, or thorn bush. And, Jesus, the power of God, had a crown thorns put on his head.
Thorns were produced by the earth due to Adam’s sin. And, Christ bore the crown of thorns, our sins, on the cross. It says in 1 Peter 2:24, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”
It was while Jesus had the crown of thorns on his head on the cross that the full power of God was revealed. According to 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Why did the ram have to be caught by its horns? If the ram had been caught anywhere else, then its flesh would have been torn. But, 1 Peter 1:19 says that we were redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.
“THE LORD WILL PROVIDE” AND “ON THE MOUNT OF THE LORD IT SHALL BE PROVIDED”
Now that the ram has been provided, Abraham calls the name of the place of the resurrection (remember we are three days from Beersheba) “the Lord will provide.” And, according to Moses, the place is still called “on the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
However, “provide” and “provided” are not the correct translations. According to the multiple Hebrew dictionaries I looked at, that is not what the Hebrew word jireh means. Therefore, I believe we have been mistranslating Jehovah Jireh. Jireh means to see; to understand, to spy, to reveal, to look at, to examine, to inspect, to show. Therefore, verse 14 should say, “So Abraham called the name of that place ‘The Lord will be seen’, as it is to this day, ‘On the mount the Lord shall be seen.’” There are actually a couple of Bible translations that translate the verse this way. This is more appropriate because Abraham is acting out prophecy and has already seen the place afar off in time. He’s looking ahead and seeing the Lord Jesus in his resurrection. Remember what Jesus says in John 8:56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”
BY MYSELF I HAVE SWORN, DECLARES THE LORD
After Abraham declares the Lord will be seen in his resurrection in this place, the angel of the Lord calls from heaven a second time. Just like God, the angel of the Lord, who calls himself Lord, has the power to swear and take action. In John 5:21, Jesus says, “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.”
What does the angel of the Lord declare? He reiterates the original promise to Abraham. “Because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed because you have obeyed my voice.”
In this statement by the angel of the Lord, every use of the word offspring is singular. Remember, that in Galatians 3:16 Paul points out that this means it is referring to Jesus. So, the angel of the Lord, says that he will multiply Abraham’s single offspring, or seed, who is Jesus. There are several verses in the New Testament that fulfill this entire statement from the angel of the Lord.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“Therefore from one man, and in him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.” – Hebrews 11:12
“So that in Christ the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles.” – Galatians 3:14
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!’” – Revelation 7:9-10
ABRAHAM LIVED AT BEERSHEBA
After the angel of the Lord reconfirmed the promise to Abraham, Abraham and his young men went together to Beersheba. They go back to the well of underground water, which is the place of living water, or eternal life. But, it’s interesting that Isaac is not mentioned as going back to Beersheba. Is this because he has ascended to the Father?
So, Genesis 22 is an amazingly detailed prophetic passage of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. While the information provided in commentaries may be helpful, it doesn’t make my heart burn within me. But, when I see Jesus in almost every word, then I feel like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus after Jesus translated where he was in all the scriptures.
Genesis 38 is the story of Judah sleeping with his daughter-in-law Tamar. We know this is an important story because Tamar is the first woman listed in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1:3, which says, “and Judah the father of Perez by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron.”
I don’t want to focus on how Tamar became pregnant by Judah, but I do want to look at the result of the relationship. Genesis 38:27-30 says, “When the time of her labor came, there were twins in her womb. And when she was in labor, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, ‘This one came out first.’ But as he drew back his hand, behold, his brother came out. And she said, ‘What a breach you have made for yourself!’ Therefore his name was called Perez. Afterward his brother came out with the scarlet thread on his hand, and his name was called Zerah.”
In yesterday’s post, we looked a little bit at the story of another pair of twins – Esau and Jacob. In that story, we saw that the older shall serve the younger. And, we saw that in 1 Corinthians 15:45-49 the first is natural but the second spiritual. This principle is found throughout scripture and applies to Perez and Zerah.
In Genesis 38, we see that Zerah actually stuck his hand out first and the midwife tied a scarlet thread on his hand. But, Zerah pulled back his hand and Perez was born first. Zerah, the one with the scarlet thread on his hand, was born second.
Perez and Zerah’s birth order becomes more enlightening when we look at the meaning of their names. Perez means to make a split, to make a breach, to break down/through/out. Perez means to divide.
Zerah means to rise, to shine, to come out, to appear. Zerah is a shortened form of the name Zerahiah. The “iah” in a Hebrew name indicates that God’s name, Yahweh, is part of the person’s name. So, Zerah’s full name means something like “the Lord will rise” or “the appearing of the Lord.”
In Matthew 10:34, Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Why did Jesus say this? What does a sword do? It divides. It separates. Recall from last week’s teaching Creation: A Witness to Jesus, we saw that God creates by separating. God separates light from darkness, or truth from lies, and so on. Perez, as the firstborn, is symbolic of Jesus’ first coming. Jesus didn’t come to kill with a sword and was not advocating that. He came with a sword to separate the spiritual from the natural, life from death, love from fear, etc.
Zerah, as the second born, is symbolic of Jesus after the resurrection and/or his second coming. Notice that after Zerah was born he still had the scarlet thread on his hand. This speaks to the blood that ran down from Jesus’ hand after he was nailed to the cross and the wound that is forever in his hand. It was after the resurrection, and will be even more so at his second coming, that the full glory of Jesus was seen. It was then that Jesus rose and appeared, which is the meaning of Zerah’s name. And, what was almost always the first word Jesus spoke to his disciples every time he appeared to them after the resurrection? “Peace.” (See John 20:19 and Luke 24:36 as just two examples.)
Therefore, isn’t it interesting that Perez, instead of Zerah, is the one listed in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:3. Perez, the natural first born, the one that divides, is listed in Jesus’ earthly genealogy from Abraham that legally made him king. But, Zerah, the second born, represents Jesus as the firstborn of all creation, the only begotten son of God, the Lord to whom every knee shall bow, that appears as a life-giving spirit after the resurrection. The older shall serve the younger.
But, it is not just Perez that is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus. Tamar is mentioned as well. It was extremely unusual to mention women in genealogies in Jesus’ day. So, why does Matthew say “Judah the father of Perez by Tamar”?
Tamar’s name means date palm or palm tree. In the Bible, women are often symbolized by palm trees. The palm tree is determined to grow even when it is loaded down with weight. The palm tree is an endogen, which means that its trunk grows from the deposits made on the inside. It grows from within instead of without. Psalm 92:12 says “the righteous flourish like a palm tree.” Are you starting to see Tamar as a picture of the believer, the church, the bride of Christ?
Perez came by Tamar. Division came by the palm tree. How so? John 12:13, “So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!'” Division comes by what you believe about Jesus. Do you believe he is King and Lord? If so, then you will be separated from the world and wave the branches of the palm tree.
However, Zerah came by Tamar too. The Jews used palm fronds as a symbol of victory and peace. Victory and peace occur at the cross and Jesus’ resurrection. Revelation 7:9-10 says, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'” Victory and peace come when the Lamb rises and takes his place on the throne. And, those who have been saved will have palm branches in their hand.
Since Genesis 12, we have been reading the story of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But, the story we have been reading is also about (and perhaps more importantly about) the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. The first time we fully see this is in Exodus 3:6 when Moses meets God at the burning bush and God says, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
But, have you ever wondered why it’s written that way? Why is Abram’s new name but Jacob’s old name used? Why isn’t it the God of Abram, Isaac, and Jacob? Why isn’t it the God of Abram, Isaac, and Israel? Why isn’t it the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel? (It actually is just a handful of times in the Old Testament.) Of the three, why is Isaac the only one without a name change?
Well, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel are providing us a picture of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And, their names and their changes, or lack thereof, reveal something about their persons and their work.
The name Abram comes from two Hebrew words that mean “exalted father.” Think of the irony of the name Abram as he went 86 years without a child. Then, he has Ishmael. At last a son. But, not the son.
When did God change Abram’s name to Abraham? The change occurs when God is reiterating his original promise to Abram one year before he is going to have the son he’s been promised. The name change is linked to the coming of Isaac.
Genesis 17:4-5 says, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.” Abram was the exalted father, but Abraham was the exalted father of a multitude of nations.
The name Abram is made of two Hebrew words. The name Abraham has the idea of six Hebrew words that mean:
to make a noise, be tumultuous, turbulent; to roar, moan
to be high above, exalted
to love, to greet with love, to pity
While this may not be the actual meaning of Abraham, if I tried to put all that together I might say that Abraham is the exalted father of a multitude through a turbulent one from the womb that will greet with love. Again, I’m just trying to give a sense of what is happening here, not an actual definition of Abraham’s name.
So, Abram, the exalted father, becomes, Abraham, the exalted father of a multitude of nations, in connection with the coming of Isaac, who is a type of the Son, Jesus. Do you see what this is saying?
God at one point was the father of a single nation, Israel. He chose them, not because of anything they were, but because he loved them. God chose them to bring forth Jesus, his Son. And, when Jesus came, God was no longer the father of just one nation but the father of many nations, every nation in fact. Revelation 7:9-10 says, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
The revelation of Jesus, the birth of Isaac, changes our conception of who God is. He is no longer the father of a single nation. God is the father of all nations. And, the fact that Abram’s name was permanently changed to Abraham means that God is forever the father of all nations and no longer to be thought of as the father of a single nation any more. Jesus, the Son, is the key to that change.
Abram had a son Ishmael. Abraham had a son Isaac. Have you ever noticed that difference? I didn’t until I just typed it.
Ishmael is of the flesh. Isaac is of the spirit.
Ishmael is of the earth. Isaac is of heaven.
Ishmael is Adam. Isaac is Jesus.
1 Corinthians 15:45-49 says, “Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.”
Isaac means laughter. Not, just laughter, but mockery. Jesus was, and still is, mocked. Who would believe that some guy that died on a cross, the worst, most despicable, most shameful death you could die, was the Son of God? This is why Paul wrote in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
Isaac is a type of the Son, Jesus. Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (Colossians 1:15) He is the man of heaven. He changed our perception of the Father, which is seen in the name change from Abram to Abraham. But, Jesus does not change. We always see him as the lamb slain before the foundation of the world, even on the throne in heaven. Hence, Isaac’s name never changes.
Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob. They were twins, but Esau was born first, then Jacob. Genesis 25:22 says that the two struggled even in Rebekah’s womb. God told her in verse 23, “the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.”
Genesis 25:25 says, “The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau.” The Hebrew word for red is the root word for earth and the name Adam. To say his body was like a hairy cloak is to say he was covered in hair like a goat and that was his glory. Esau means hairy, rough. Edom, the nation that come from Esau, meas red. The point of Esau’s name is that he was of the earth, of the dust, natural – just like Ishmael, just like Adam. Esau came first just like it says in 1 Corinthians 15:45-49.
Genesis 25:26 says, “Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob.” Jacob means heel-catcher, supplanter. A supplanter is one that comes after and overtakes the first – just like the Lord told Rebekah in verse 23.
But, we don’t get the full picture of what this means until Jacob’s name is changed to Israel.
In Genesis 32, Jacob wrestles with a man all night. Jacob says he won’t let the man go unless the man blesses him. So, the man asks him his name, and he says Jacob. In Genesis 32:28, the man says, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Israel means “he will rule as God.” So, Jacob, the supplanter, becomes Israel, the one who will rule as God.
While Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, he wasn’t called that right away. God and others continued to call him Jacob. Until…
Until Genesis 35. What happens in Genesis 35? Jacob is about to have his last son, Benjamin. Benjamin means the son of the right hand. This is a picture of Jesus. Right before Benjamin is born, God appears to Jacob again and says, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” (Genesis 35:10) It’s Jesus that is the key to the name change.
Jacob is called Israel several times in the remainder of the chapter. But, have you ever noticed that throughout the rest of the Bible Jacob is sometimes called Jacob and sometimes Israel? He may be the only one in the Bible whose name change wasn’t permanent. Why is that? Typically, when we see him called Jacob he is acting in the flesh, as one who is carnal, in that situation. And, when we see him called Israel he is acting in the spirit, as one who is spiritual, in that situation.
So, in a sense, Isaac did not have two sons but three – Esau, Jacob, and Israel.
Without directly saying it, Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 2:14, Paul says, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” This is Esau, the natural man. As one example, he couldn’t understand the spiritual aspect of the birthright. So, he sold it. Then, in 1 Corinthians 3:1, Paul says, “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.” Paul is saying that he couldn’t address the Corinthians as spiritual people, Israel. He had to address them as people of the flesh, carnal people, Jacob.
So, in Esau and Jacob/Israel, we have a picture of the natural, carnal, and spiritual man. It is through this that we get a picture of the Holy Spirit and see his work.
Remember, Jacob’s named changed to Israel when the Son of the Right Hand, Jesus, had come. But, he was only called Israel when he was walking in the Spirit. What an incredible picture of us. And, what a picture that it is of Jesus, the life-giving Spirit, who sends his Spirit, who brings the change from Jacob to Israel. One day all Israel, all those who believe and who walk in the Spirit, will be saved.
Now, we have an understanding of why it is “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Our conception of God has forever changed, symbolized by the permanent change of name to Abraham. Isaac, is always the Son, the lamb crucified, Jesus. Therefore, there is no name change. God is, always is, the God of Jacob, the carnal person. They are simply infants in Christ. Eventually, Jacob becomes Israel. He becomes the mature man, the full stature and measure of Christ. Today, to say that God is only the God of Israel would be to exclude Jacob, the carnal man. Paul doesn’t exclude them in 1 Corinthians. The carnal man is still part of the church, Christ’s body. But, when Jesus comes again, we will all become like him. We will all be in his image. We will all be Israel. We will all rule as God.
Jesus is the key to understanding the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
In today’ reading, Jacob has 11 sons by his wives Leah and Rachel and their servants Zilpah and Bilhah. We need to skip ahead to Genesis 35 to see the 12th son both to Rachel. (It’s interesting that only the 12th son is born after God changes Jacob’s name to Israel.)
Knowing the meaning of names is important to reading the Bible in the language of Son, to hearing the witness of the Bible to Jesus, and to seeing Jesus in all the scripture. Let’s look at the meanings of the names of Jacob’s sons in the order they were born.
Rueben – to see, show, or behold a son
Simeon – to hear, listen
Levi – to accompany, to join oneself to
Judah – praised, celebrated
Dan – to plead one’s cause, to contend, to quarrel, to argue, to execute judgment
Naphtali – to wrestle
Gad – fortune
Asher – to consider fortunate, to call happy
Issachar – he will bring a reward, there will be recompense
Zebulun – to raise, lofty residence
Joesph – to increase, to add, to continue to do, to do again
Benjamin – son of my right hand, the highly regarded son (although Rachel, as she was dying, called him Ben-oni or the son of lament)
What’s also interesting is that Leah and Rachel spoke a sentence when each son was born. These sentences include the meaning of the name and help tell a story about Jesus and Israel. Here are the sentences.
Rueben – Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction, my husband will love me.
Simeon – Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.
Levi – This time my husband will be attached to me.
Judah – I will praise the Lord
Dan – God has judged me and heard my voice.
Naphtali – With many wrestlings I have wrestled and prevailed.
Gad – Good fortune has come.
Asher – Happy am I for women have called me happy.
Issachar – God has given me my wages because I gave my servant to my husband.
Zebulun – God has endowed me with a good endowment and now my husband will honor me.
Joesph – God has taken away my reproach. May the Lord add to me another son.
Benjamin – The son of my right hand. The highly regard son.
We should remember throughout the Old Testament Israel was pictured as God’s wife. So, we can string these sentences together to tell a story about God, Israel, and Jesus.
“The Lord has looked upon my affliction and heard that I am hated. My husband will be attached to me and I will praise the Lord. God has heard my voice and judged me. I have wrestled and prevailed. Good fortune has come. I am happy. God has given me my wages because I gave my servant. God has given me a good endowment and will honor me. God has taken away my reproach and will add to me another son, the son of the right hand, the highly regarded son.”
That fits the overall story of Israel that is laid out in the Old Testament, which makes since given that it is the birth order of the Jacob’s (Israel’s) 12 sons.
The 12 tribes are almost always listed in a different order in scripture. And, eventually there are 13 tribes as Levi is set apart as priests and Joseph’s tribe is split into Manasseh and Ephraim (a sentence is spoken over them too). Out of the 13 tribes, typically 12 are listed. But, it’s almost always a different 12 in a different order. Usually you can take the meaning of the names and the sentences spoken at the birth of the sons and form a sentence that fits the context of the story where the tribes are listed.
In Genesis 35, the family is completed by the birth of Benjamin. Israel was journeying from Bethel. They were leaving the house of God. Israel pitched their tent beyond the tower of Eder, or the tower of the great herd. Then they were reunited with Isaac (who is a type of Jesus) at Hebron, which means to join together.
The 12 sons are now listed in a different order from their birth.
What is the story now?
“The Lord has looked upon my affliction and heard that I am hated. My husband will be attached to me and I will praise the Lord. God has given me my wages because I gave my servant. God has given me a good endowment and will honor me. God has taken away my reproach and will add to me another son, the son of the right hand, the highly regarded son. God has heard my voice and judged me. I have wrestled and prevailed. Good fortune has come. I am happy.”
Notice how this time the giving of the son of the right hand, Jesus, is in the middle story. Here, Israel’s wrestling and prevailing is after Jesus is given. But, in the end, good fortune has come and Israel is happy.
What is a well? What is God trying to communicate through the picture of a well?
A well provided water. Without a well, there was no water and life could not be sustained. In and around Israel, wells were dug through a thick layer of limestone. It was underneath this thick layer of rock that water was to be found.
I believe the well is a picture of Jesus. Jesus is the rock and we have to dig deep into him to get the water we need for life. Water is a symbol of the Holy Spirit throughout the Bible. The Holy Spirit, the water we need for eternal life, comes from Jesus, the well. Remember that after his resurrection, Jesus became a life-giving spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45).
The picture of Jesus as the well providing the living water of the Holy Spirit helps us to see Jesus in Genesis 26.
Genesis 26:1 says there was a famine in the land. Throughout the Bible, famines are a symbol of a period of time where God’s presence is not to be found (Jesus is the bread of life after all). It was during this time of famine that “Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech king of the Philistines.” Names are important in the Bible, and knowing what Gerar, Abimelech, and Philistines mean gives us a picture of what was going on with Isaac.
Gerar likely means to drag away or ruminate. Abimelech is not so much a name as it is a title. It means my father the king or father of the king. The Philistines represent people of the flesh. I think the sense here is that because of the famine, the lack of God’s presence, Isaac is being dragged away to the flesh as his king. Isaac is battling between the spirit and the flesh
However, Isaac has not fully reached the place where the flesh is ruling over him. I think this is the case because the Lord appears to him and tells him not to go down to Egypt, which is a symbol of the world. God tells him to sojourn in this land and that he will be with Isaac and bless him. Isaac was to sojourn, to move about, but not to plant roots in the land.
Genesis 26:12-14 says, “And Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. The Lord blessed him, and the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy. He had possessions of flocks and herds and many servants.” The only possible way Isaac could have become so wealthy was if he had wells of water to support his farming and livestock. This is a picture of a man growing in his life with Jesus. In Ephesians, Paul talks about forgiveness according to the riches of Jesus’ grace, an inheritance through Jesus, the riches of Jesus’ glorious inheritance in the saints, God’s richness in mercy, the immeasurable riches of grace and kindness in Jesus, and the unsearchable riches of Christ. Riches are a picture of a life with Christ.
But, the Philistines were envious of Isaac. Remember the Philistines represent the flesh and they dwell in a place of dragging away. This is a picture of the flesh being envious of the spirit, or one living a life supplied by the wellspring of living water. So, what did the Philistines do? They “stopped and filled with earth all the wells that his father’s servants had dug.” The Philistines filled with earth the wells of the living water of Jesus, spiritual life, that made Isaac rich. The earth represents the flesh (man is made of the dust of the earth but God’s breath or Spirit makes him a living being). So, out of envy and jealousy, the king of the fleshly people tells Isaac to go away from them. The flesh is trying to take over and rule the spirit.
So, Isaac leaves Gerar and goes to the valley where he digs the wells of water again that the Philistines had stopped. Isaac gave these wells the same names that Abraham gave them. Notice that Isaac didn’t insist on staying where he was, remaining in the flesh. God told him to sojourn. So, Isaac picked up and moved to a new place. In the new place, he dug wells again. Isaac was seeking the life of Christ, seeking to overcome the flesh, so that he could be blessed again.
When Isaac’s servants dug the first well, the herdsmen of Gerar came and quarreled with them. Those of the flesh came and said “This water is ours.” So, Isaac named this well Esek. Esek means to quarrel or wrangle. When we are going deep, digging through the rock, to get to the water of eternal life, Jesus, the flesh is going to quarrel and wrangle with our spirit. The flesh is going to try to claim the blessing of God as its own. The flesh says, “This is my water. This is my life.”
So, Isaac’s servants went and dug another well. Despite the flesh, the spiritual person keeps digging a well to connect with Jesus. But, the herdsmen came a quarreled with Isaac’s servants at this well too. The flesh does not give up easily. Isaac called this well Sitnah. In the Hebrew, the name of this well is actually two words – sitnah and satan. Basically, the name of this well means the adversary or opponent comes with a charge, an accusation, an indictment. Not only does the flesh quarrel with the spirit, but the flesh becomes an adversary that accuses and indicts the spirit.
But, Isaac remains a sojourner, moving about the land. So, he goes and digs another well. Finally, Isaac had a well where there was no quarreling. Isaac called the name of this well Rehoboth. Here again, the name of this well is made of two Hebrew words. The first means an open place. The second, while similar, means to open oneself wide. Isaac had reached an open place where he could fully open himself to the fullness of the eternal life flowing from the well of Jesus. The spirit is overcoming the flesh.
From this well, Isaac went to Beersheba. Beersheba means the well of underground water. And, it was there that the Lord appeared to Isaac. Isaac’s sojourning and repeatedly digging wells until he finds the well of underground water is a picture of the struggle we all face between the spirit and the flesh until we find the abundant life in Jesus. For Isaac, that very night the Lord appeared to him and said, “Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.”
To conclude the story, Abimelech comes with his adviser and the commander of his army. Isaac asks why they have come to him since they hate him. He thinks the flesh has come to attack the spirit again. But, Abimelech says that they clearly see that the Lord is with Isaac. Abimelech asks that they make a pact, a covenant, that they will not do each other harm. Abimelech says, “You are now blessed of the Lord.” So, they have a feast and exchange oaths. “And Isaac sent them on their way, and they departed from him in peace.” The spirit has overcome the flesh, sends the flesh away, and has peace.
Having sent the flesh away, that same day Isaac’s servants came and told him of the well they dug. They have found water. And, Isaac called the well Shibah and the name of the city was called Beersheba. Shibah means to give in abundance, to be abundant. Isaac has found the well that is Jesus, the well of abundant life, the well of living water, the well that he can drink from and never be thirsty again, the well whose water will well up to eternal life in him.
Jesus is the well of living water that we all thirst for.
Yesterday, I wrote about how Jesus meets the outcast woman at a well. In Genesis 21, God met Hagar, a Gentile woman, at a well. He saw her and gave her water to drink. This was a picture of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman, a Gentile, at a well. Jesus saw her and gave her living water, the water of eternal life, to drink.
In Genesis 24, we read another story of a woman being met at well. The story gives us another angle on theme of God meeting women at wells. This time the picture is of Jesus’ bride, the church, being found at a well.
There is some key background from Genesis 22 to seeing Jesus in the story of Genesis 24. In Genesis 22, Abraham took Isaac to Mount Moriah to offer his only son to God. This whole story is a picture of Jesus’ death and resurrection. So, let’s look at Genesis 24 and see Jesus meeting his bride.
Verses 2-4 say, “And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, ‘Put your hand under my thigh, that I may make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.”
Remember, Isaac, as a type of Jesus, was crucified and resurrected in chapter 22. In chapter 24, it is as if Jesus has ascended to the father. So, in this chapter, we see Abraham, as God the Father, sending out his servant to find a bride for Isaac, as Jesus. This helps us to see Abraham’s servant as the Holy Spirit.
The servant has been put in charge of all that Abraham has. Speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus says in John 16:15, “All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” What the Father has belongs to Jesus. Isaac is Abraham’s heir. All that Abraham has belongs to Isaac. But, the servant has “charge of all.” Just like the servant in the story, the Holy Spirit takes, or is given charge of, all that the Father has given to Jesus.
Also, the servant is told that he should not find a bride for Isaac in the land that Abraham dwells. Rather, the servant should go back to Abraham’s country and kindred to find a bride for Isaac. Abraham’s kindred were not Jews, they were Gentiles. The servant, the Holy Spirit, is sent to find a Gentile bride for Isaac. The church, Jesus’ bride, is largely made up of Gentiles.
In verse 5, the servant asks what he should do if the woman is not willing to follow him back to the land of Canaan. What happens if the woman is not willing to follow the Holy Spirit back to the promised land? The servant asks if he should take Abraham’s son to back to his country to get her.
In response, Abraham says in verse 6, “See to it that you do not take my son back there.” The Holy Spirit is not to physically bring Jesus to his potential bride if she is not willing to follow the Holy Spirit.
Further, in verse 8, Abraham says if the woman is unwilling to follow the servant, the Holy Spirit, then he is free from the oath to find a bride for Jesus, “only you must not take my son back there.”
So, the servant takes ten camels and all sorts of choice gifts from Abraham, his master. The Holy Spirit is sent to bear witness of Jesus. John 15:26 says, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” As the servant was sent by Abraham, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. And, like the servant, the Holy Spirit brings gifts. According to 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, 11, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone…All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”
So, the servant makes the camels bearing the gifts to lie down by the well of water outside the city in the evening, because that’s when women go to draw water. Abraham was a sojourner, a man who lived in tents. So, the servant waits outside the city. And, he waits by a well of water. Will there be a woman who comes out of the city to get water, to quench her thirst? Will there be a woman searching for God?
However, it is the time when women come to draw water. So, there should be lots of women at the well. But, the servant doesn’t want lots of women. He wants just one for a bride for his master’s son. So, the servant says to himself in verse 14, “Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink’ and who shall say, ‘Drink and I will water your camels’ – let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac.”
Doesn’t all of this sound like the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4? Jesus sits at the well waiting for a woman to come to it for water. The woman that comes out is a Samaritan, a Gentile. “Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.'” (John 4:7).
(As an aside, we have to remember that none of the Old Testament pictures are replicated perfectly and exactly in the New Testament. But, we are to connect all the similar stories, in this case women met by God at wells, to see the complete picture of Jesus.)
So, Rebekah comes to the well and does exactly what the servant prayed one of the women coming to draw water would do. She answers the servant’s question by giving him a drink and watering her camels (which, by the way, was a lot of work). Verse 21 says, “The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether the Lord had prospered his journey or not.” The servant observed Rebekah’s work to see if she was really the right one to be Isaac’s bride. Does not the Holy Spirit silently watch us to see how we work and if the Lord has chosen us to be his? (To be clear, I’m not saying we are saved by works.)
The servant finds out that Rebekah is from his master’s kinsmen. Rebekah goes back to the city, just like the Samaritan woman in John 4, and tells her family about the servant. Eventually, Rebekah’s brother Laban, like the townspeople in John 4, comes to meet the servant.
Then from verses 34-49 the servant recounts the entire story so far to Laban. Note that the servant never talks about himself. He only talks about his master, Abraham. He tells how great and wonderful his master is. Also, we never even learn the name of the servant. This is a beautiful picture of the Holy Spirit who only comes to bear witness to Jesus and the Father. The Holy Spirit never draws attention to himself.
After hearing all this, Laban says, “Rebekah is before you, take her and go.” In verse 53, “the servant brought out jewelry of silver and gold, and garments, and gave them to Rebekah.” The servant has found the bride for Isaac. Rebekah, as the bride of Christ, is adorned with silver, gold, and garments. This speaks to us, as the bride of Christ, being adorned with Christ’s redemption (silver), Christ’s divine nature (gold), and Christ’s righteousness (garments).
In John 4, we subtly see the Samaritan woman at the well become the bride of Jesus. John 4:16-18 says, “Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come here.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had fives husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.'” The woman had had five husbands. Now, she was living with a sixth man who was not her husband. But, at the well, where a woman goes to get her thirst quenched, the woman meets a seventh man who sees her as she is, a man who offers her living water that in her will become a spring of water welling up into eternal life. The number seven represents perfection and completion in the Bible. The Samaritan woman has met a seventh man, her perfect and complete husband, who gives her drink so that she will never be thirsty again.
Rebekah’s family asks the servant if she can stay with them for 10 more days. But, the servant says he should not be delayed. So, the family asks Rebekah if she will go with this man. Keep in mind that at this time she has never seen Isaac. She has no idea what he looks like. Rebekah has only heard the testimony of the servant. But, she agrees to go. What a wonderful picture of us. We hear the testimony of the Spirit through the gifts that he gives and what he reveals about Jesus and the Father. And, without ever physically laying eyes on Jesus, we agree to leave everything behind and follow the Holy Spirit as he leads us to Jesus.
As she leaves, Rebekah’s family speaks a blessing over her, “Our sister, may you become thousands of ten thousands, and may your offspring posses the gate of those who hate him.” (Genesis 24:60) Jesus, in Matthew 16:18, says, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Instead of the gates of hell prevailing over the church, Jesus’s bride, the church is given the keys of the kingdom of heaven to bind and loose things on earth, in effect a taking possession of what once belonged to the one who hates us.
At last, Rebekah goes with the servant to meet her husband. Isaac is waiting in the field and sees the camels coming. Rebekah lifts up her eyes and sees Isaac. She asks who this man is coming to meet her. And, the servant says, “It is my master.” Throughout the entire story the servant had said that Abraham was his master. But, now, as he brings Rebekah to Isaac, the servant says this is my master. The Holy Spirit brings us to Jesus. We see him at last. And, the Holy Spirit says this is my master, this is God.
I would guess that most people would see the title of this post and think my reading this morning was John 4. That’s the story where Jesus meets a Samaritan women at a well – a pretty famous story in the Bible. But, that story is the not reason for the title of this post.
The title for this post comes from a story in Genesis 21 where the “angel of God” spoke to a woman at a well. You might be saying to yourself, “Yeah, but the title of your post is ‘Jesus Meets a Woman at a Well’ and Genesis 21 is about the angel of God, not Jesus.”
That is because I believe the angel of God and Jesus are one and the same person. Jesus is the angel of God made flesh, after the angel of God became a man. To see why I believe that we need to look at Genesis 16 and 21 in the context of John 4 because the actual story of Jesus meeting a woman at a well helps us to read the chapters in Genesis in the language of Son.
So, first, we need to go back to Genesis 16. This chapter is the first time in the Bible that God meets a woman at a well. The first time something happens in the Bible is significant. And, God, or a man, meeting a woman at a well is a recurring theme throughout scripture. That makes the Genesis 16 story, and consequently, the Genesis 21 even more important. Further, all these stories about women being met at wells are different pictures of the story in John 4.
In Genesis 16, Sarai was barren. So, as was the custom at the time, she gave Hagar, her servant, to Abram to produce a child for her. When Hagar became pregnant, Sarai looked at her with contempt. Sarai dealt harshly with Hagar, which caused Hagar to flee from her.
Genesis 16:7 says, “The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur.” This is the first mention of the angel of the Lord in the Bible. An angel is a messenger. But, this is “the” messenger of the Lord. If you study all of the references to the angel of the Lord, then you will find that he is not like any other angel. In many cases, the angel of the Lord is referred to directly as “the Lord,” as if he is God, yet he submits to God. Typically, the angel of the Lord is doing something that Jesus would do. When I take everything into account, I believe the angel of the Lord is the pre-incarnate Word of God, which when he takes on flesh is Jesus.
Therefore, in Genesis 16:7, we have a picture of Jesus meeting a woman, Hagar, at a well. In this particular case, Hagar fled from Sarai. So, the angel of the Lord told Hagar to go back to Sarai and submit to her. (Didn’t Paul say that if you are a slave to remain a slave – in other words don’t flee – but if you have a legitimate opportunity to be free to take it?) The angel of the Lord promises to bless Hagar. So, Hagar called the “name of the Lord” (the distinction between the angel and the Lord is blurred) the God of seeing, or the God who sees me. Hagar then names the well Beer-lahai-roi. After doing some research and thinking about Jesus, I would say she named the well “the underground well of water of the one who sees me and makes me live.”
With that as background, let’s pick up the story in Genesis 21. At the beginning of the chapter, Sarah conceives and bears Abraham a son named Isaac, which comes from a root word meaning to laugh, to joke. Genesis 21:6 says, “And God said, ‘God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.'”
I think what Sarah is really saying is “God has made a joke about me; everyone who hears will laugh about me.” I think this for two reasons. First, the words “for” and “over” are the same Hebrew word in Genesis 21:6. The Hebrew word means for, until, into, to or towards, away or from, and of or about.
Second, what Sarah says God has done to her needs to be in context of what Sarah does next. Several years later, after Isaac was weaned, “Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing. So she said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son.'” (Genesis 21:9-10). I think Sarah believed was God making her a joke to others, that everyone who heard her story would laugh about her. Therefore, when see saw Hagar’s son, Ishmael laughing, she projected her belief of what God had done to her onto Ishmael. The scripture does not tell us what Ishmael was laughing about. It only tells us what Sarah believed. Do we know another’s heart? Sarah projected this onto Ishmael because he was a rival for Abraham’s inheritance, which Sarah wanted to go to her son Isaac. Sarah flat out says this Genesis 21:10. Therefore, Sarah cast out Hagar and Ishmael.
This time, instead of fleeing, Hagar is cast out, or made an outcast. God tells Abraham to let this happen because he is going to make Ishmael a great nation. So, Abraham gives Hagar bread and water and sends her and Ishmael away.
Hagar and Ishmael wander in the wilderness. When the water runs out, Hagar leaves Ishmael under a bush. Then, she goes “a good way off” because she doesn’t want to see her son die. Hagar begins to cry out and weep. Genesis 21:17 says, “And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What troubles you Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.'”
So, Hagar has been cast out. She is all alone, wandering in the wilderness. She has no protection and no provision. But God hears her son and the angel of God calls to her from heaven. Now, I can’t remember any other time were a mere angel spoke to someone from heaven. Typically, angels appear to men or women in some sort of bodily form as a man in the Bible. But, Hagar hears the angel of God calling to her directly from heaven. Could that be because she already met the angel of the Lord once before in Genesis 16?
Also, notice who God comes to in this story. God doesn’t come to Sarah, the wife of Abraham, the one who dealt harshly with her maidservant in Genesis 16 and the one who cast her maidservant out in Genesis 21. No, the angel of the Lord, which is to say Jesus, comes to Hagar. The angel of the Lord comes to an Egyptian woman, a Gentile. The angel of the Lord comes to the one who is mistreated. The angel of the Lord comes to the one who is an outcast. The angel of the Lord comes to the one who is a victim.
“Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.” (Genesis 21:19) The Bible doesn’t say that Hagar went anywhere. Rather God, or was it the angel of God (again the blurring of the two), opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. God made her able to see the well of water that was with her. She then “filled the skin with water” and to the water her son. Remember, Hagar had gone “a good way off” from Ishmael.
So, summarizing Genesis 16 and 21, Hagar had fled from Sarai because of her mistreatment. Hagar meets the angel of the Lord, Jesus, at a well. She realizes this the God who sees her. She names the well “the underground well of water of the one who sees me and makes me live.” Hagar goes back to Sarah to continue serving her. Sarah thinks God is making a joke of her, sees Ishmael laughing, and thinks Ishmael is mocking her. Sarah sees Ishmael as rival to her son’s inheritance and demands that Hagar and Ishmael be cast out. The angel of God, Jesus, speaks to Hagar who has been cast out. He sees where she is and opens her eyes to a well of water that she takes back to her son so he can drink and live.
To paraphrase Hebrews 2:9, but we see Jesus! Let’s look at the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, keeping in mind everything we know from Hagar’s story.
Jesus left Judea and departed from Galilee and comes to Samaria. He is tried from journey. So he sits beside a well around noon, a very hot part of the day.
John 4:7 says, “A woman from Samaria came to draw water.” This woman was a Samaritan, not a Jew. Therefore she was Gentile and viewed as an outcast by Jews. Also, she came to the well at noon. This was not the time to get water as it was very hot and getting water from a well and carrying your water back to your place was hard work. The woman probably came out noon to avoid the other women at the well. This is a safe assumption because we later find out she has had five husbands and is living with a sixth man who is not her husband. This woman is likely the talk of the town and feeling like an outcast. So, not only is she an outcast according to the Jews but an outcast according to her own town. But, she needs water. This Samaritan woman is just like Hagar.
Jesus asks the woman for a drink. The woman recognizes Jesus is a Jew and is stunned “for Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” The woman knew she was the Jews saw her as an outcast and figured this man, who was a Jew, that her asked for a drink saw her as an outcast too. She figured that Jesus would victimize her just like everyone had done.
But, “Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.'” The woman wonders how Jesus is going to get this water since he doesn’t have anything to draw with and the well is deep. Remember that Hagar called the well she met the angel of the Lord at an underground well. That’s similar to what the Samaritan woman says about this well. Also, the woman wonders if this is really living water because she asks Jesus if he is greater than her father Jacob.
In John 4:13, Jesus says to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman responds by saying that she wants this water because she will never have to come to draw water from this well again. She’s beginning to see that if she drinks from the water that Jesus is offering she won’t feel that she is an outcast anymore. Just like Hagar, her eyes are being opened to the see the truth of water Jesus has provided for her.
Jesus then asks her about her husband to which the woman replies she doesn’t have one. Jesus tells her the truth about all her husbands. This woman knows that this man is prophet, one who sees. She is like Hagar in that she realizes the man at the well is the one who sees her. The woman says she knows the Messiah is coming. And Jesus says that he is the Messiah. Like Hagar, the woman now knows that it is God, Jesus, the Messiah, the angel of the Lord, who is the one who provides her water and sees her.
The disciples arrive and see Jesus talking to this Samaritan woman. They marveled that Jesus was talking to a Samaritan woman, an outcast. So, the woman takes her and goes back to town. This is like Hagar, who had to take the water the angel of God showed her back to her son who was “a good way off.”
The woman went back to the town and told them all about Jesus, the Christ, a man who saw her and all she had done. A man who, instead of treating her like an outcast, offered her living water that would become a spring of water welling up in her to eternal life. The people from the town go to Jesus and many believed in him. Just like Hagar took the water that the angel of God gave her to her son and caused him to live, so did the Samaritan woman take the water she received to her town and caused them to live.
So, what do we learn from all this?
Jesus sees those who are outcasts. He sees those who have been made victims. Instead of mistreating and victimizing them too, Jesus gives them a drink from his well of living water. Jesus sees their needs and meets those needs.
This story in John has other layers to it that become more clear when compare with it the other stories of women being met at wells.
In yesterday’s reading, scripture begins to show a difference between Abram and Lot. When there was strife between their herdsmen, Abram said, “Separate yourself from me.” Abram gave Lot the first choice of the land to dwell, and Abram would take whatever Lot didn’t choose. Abram was seeking the good of the other, Lot, not his own good. This is evidence of the spiritual man in Abram.
When Abram said this, “Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar.” Notice that it is Lot who lifted up his eyes. And, he saw a land that looked to him, like the land of the Egypt, which is a type of the world. So, Lot, lifting up his own eyes, a sign of pride, sets his heart on the things of world. This is evidence of the carnal man in Lot.
There were other signs of Abram’s growing in the spirit, including circumcision and the changing of his name. But, in today’s reading, Genesis 18:1 says, “And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day.” Abraham was a man who lived in a tent. He was a sojourner, a stranger, in the earth, “for he was looking forward to a city that has foundations, whose designed and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10) It was here, outside his tent, that the Lord, along with two angels, “appeared” to him. I believe when we see the Lord “appearing” in the Old Testament it is a reference to Jesus before he took on flesh and became a man.
So, Abraham was meeting with Jesus. He served him, and he did it quickly. Notice “quickly” is repeated several times in regards to how Abraham, his wife, and his servants served the Lord. Then Abraham stood there while the Lord and the two angels ate. All of these are marks of Abraham as the spiritual man.
The Lord tells the two angels that he has chosen Abraham, therefore he is not going to hide from Abraham his will. The two angels depart to go to Sodom, leaving Abraham with the Lord. Then Abraham and the Lord have a one-on-one conversation. Again, these are all marks of Abraham as the spiritual man.
However, in chapter 19, Lot is described much differently. Genesis 19:1 says, “The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom.” It was the two angels, not the Lord, that came to Lot. Lot could not here from the Lord directly. Instead of dwelling in a tent as a sojourner, Lot was dwelling in the gate of the city, Sodom, in a land that reminded him of Egypt. The gate of the city was the place where the city was ruled. Lot wasn’t just living in the city, but he was helping to govern it. Instead of sojourning and looking for God’s city, Lot was living in the world and participating in all the culture and activities to rule that city. These are all marks of Lot as the carnal man.
While Lot served the two men a feast and unleavened bread. Genesis 19:3 says, “And they ate.” Scripture clearly says that Abraham stood by the Lord and the two angels as they ate. But, the sense with Lot seems to be that he prepared a feast and ate with the two angels. Also, instead of Lot’s service being done quickly for the two angels, Lot “pressed them strongly.” I think the picture we see with Lot’s entire interaction with the two angels is a lack of submission, whereas Abraham was pictured as fully submitting to the Lord. This is a mark of Lot as the carnal man.
These two angels had to drag Lot out of the city. After the two angels dragged Lot and his family out of the city, they told Lot to escape to the hills so that his life would be safe. But, Lot rejected their instructions and asked to go to another city. Lot said this city was smaller, implying that even though it’s still a city, still in the world, it won’t be as wicked as the one the two angels dragged him out of. Despite the angels dragging him out, Lot was still longing for the world. This is a mark of Lot as the carnal man.
So, in chapters 18 and 19, we see Abraham as a picture of the spiritual man and Lot as the carnal man. For me, the most significant difference is that Jesus, the Lord, appeared to Abraham, the spiritual man, directly but only messengers, angels, were sent to Lot, the carnal man.
This brings to my mind Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. He tells them that you speak to spiritual men one and carnal men, men of the flesh, another way. 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 says, “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?”
The Lord could give Abraham solid food because he was a spiritual man. Lot could only be fed with milk because he was still living after the flesh, seeking the things of the Lord.
Let us be a spiritual people so that we can hear from Jesus directly.