What does it say?

God tells Jacob (Gen 35) to build an altar in Bethel. This is time of repentance and seriousness, as God confirms the name change from Jacob to Israel and reconfirms the promise of the land and great blessing (35:9-13). Rachel dies giving birth to Jacob’s twelfth son, Benjamin, in Bethlehem. Following a summary of the Jacob’s 12 sons and their birth mothers, Isaac dies.

Genesis 36 lists the descendants of Esau (Edom). Again, don’t feel the pressure to try to pronounce or even read each name, much less keep them straight.

Joseph comes center stage as the final section of Genesis opens (Gen 37). Jealousy motivates Joseph’s brothers to sell him to a band of Midianites (descendants of Ishmael) for 20 pieces of silver. They take Joseph to Egypt where they sell him to Potiphar, a high-ranking official of the Pharaoh.

What does it mean?

From the promise of the woman’s seed in Genes 3:15, we are following God’s story that culminates in the arrival of the virgin-born Messiah. From the staggering promise of blessing to Abraham (Gen 12), we now see the development of Israel’s 12 tribes.
Genesis 35 records Jacob’s spiritual growth, gradually beginning to live up to his new name. The chapter has both death and beginnings of life. Bethlehem appears as the birth scene of a long-awaited son, looking forward to another birth there centuries later.

The long list of Esau’s family (36) shows God love and concern for every individual born to Esau, though the promise of the Seed went to Jacob. Never forget that the Old Testament is not just about God and Israel, but about God’s love for all the families of the earth and his passionate desire to redeem and restore them. That mission is why God chose to bless Abraham to be a blessing to the nations.

Joseph will dominate the rest of Genesis and is perhaps the most detailed prophetic picture of the coming Christ in the Bible. If you have time, see how many parallels you can find between Jesus Christ and Joseph as we move through Genesis.

How will I respond?

I, too, am blessed to be a blessing. And I am part of fulfilling the Great Commission as I continue learning to love God with all my being and my neighbor as myself. Do I err, like Israel often did, in losing sight of God’s mission? When I pray, study the Bible, assemble with other believers and worship, is it more about me, or the mission? What one decision will I make today that has everything to do with God’s mission and very little to do with me?