Numbers 16:1-3: “Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men: And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown: And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?”
Today’s Covenant & the Cross quote about the Bible is from John Newton. He said: “I know not a better rule of reading the Scripture, than to read it through from beginning to end and when we have finished it once, to begin it again. We shall meet with many passages which we can make little improvement of, but not so many in the second reading as in the first, and fewer in the third than in the second: provided we pray to him who has the keys to open our understandings, and to anoint our eyes with His spiritual ointment.”
Our topic for today is titled “Just Looking for a Home (Part 5)” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.
Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb expressed sorrow at this state of affairs and tried to sway the people back to seeing God at work. But the people refused to listen and attempted to stone their leaders. At this point, God intervened, showing forth His glory from the tent of meeting. In front of the people, He told Moses to stand back so that He could destroy them, but Moses interceded on their behalf, pointing out that the issue was God’s honor. I am sure it was humiliating for the people to hear directly from God that the only reason He was not destroying them was that the leader they had just rejected had put in a good word for them. But the next words were even more sobering. Every adult in the camp who had observed God’s works and had refined to believe God’s words would indeed die in the desert. The only exceptions would be Joshua and Caleb.
Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 27:1-4 which reads: “And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his eldest son, and said unto him, My son: and he said unto him, Behold, here am I. And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death: Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison; And make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die.”
Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Reformation Study Bible by Dr. R.C. Sproul:
The theme of family conflict, between the parents and between the twins, now becomes full-blown in pursuit of the patriarch’s blessing. Isaac depended on his fallible senses rather than divine guidance, and Rebekah used deception. Esau broke his oath and Jacob blasphemously lied. Though the blessing is passed on according to God’s good pleasure, the divine verdict on their actions is pronounced in the disastrous consequences: Esau resolved to murder Jacob and Jacob fled the land. Rebekah died without memorial, and Isaac lived on without significance.
Implicit here is a contrast between Abraham, who in faith provided for Isaac’s future according to God’s elective purposes, and Isaac, who seems to have made no attempt to find suitable wives for his sons, and who tried to thwart the divine election.
Today’s quote about the Bible is from Karl Paul Donfried. He said: “The one thing the New Testament forbids us to do is to treat it as a static document to be used as a set of proof-texts for instant solutions to complex and controversial contemporary problems. To misuse the New Testament in this way is to deny its dynamic character and to fail to realize that the Word has to be applied in a specific context. …A static interpretation of the New Testament is dependent on a frozen Christology.”
Our topic for today is titled “Jacob and his Tribes” (Part 2) from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin. And, I want to remind you to take advantage of our special offer. If you enjoy this podcast, please feel free to purchase a copy of this book — “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin. It is available on our website for just $20. You can make your purchase today at covenantandcrosspodcast.com.
He goes on to say…
Isaac blessing Jacob (Horst, Gerrit Willemsz)
Sometime later, Isaac, getting on in years, realized that he was nearing death. The text does not indicate how old he was at this point; however, by carefully piecing together other chronological data, we estimate his age to have been about 136. (According to Genesis 35:28, he would then live another forty-four years.) But the text also notes that he was blind, which may have contributed to his foreboding. He therefore planned to bless his favorite son, Esau. Before he did so, however, he asked Esau to go hunt for some wild game to make a savory dish. As the account unfolds, we find Rebekah scheming with Jacob to prepare similar food from a kid. She disguised Jacob as his older brother, using Esau’s clothes; she also used the hair from the kid to emulate Esau’s hairy skin. The charade succeeded, and Jacob received the blessing that was intended for Esau.
The relationship of the meal to the blessing is unclear. There is only one other instance of an aged father blessing his son before he dies, and that is the same Jacob later in this same book. In that case, there is no mention of a meal. In fact, Isaac’s blessing itself raises questions. Clearly, it is distinguished from the birthright. The issue is especially confusing when we see the content of the blessing. For the most part, what Isaac said to Jacob indicated a life of prosperity, a “blessing” that easily could have been given to Esau as well (with the caveat that he would, indeed, serve his brother). So why did Isaac assert to Esau that the blessing was gone?
We find a key in the final phrase of the blessing: “May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.” The relationship of this phrase to the promise God gave Abraham in Genesis 12 suggests that perhaps what we are seeing is the insertion of this son into the line of the Abrahamic covenant. That would explain the distinction between blessing and birthright. It would also help explain why, after the death of Jacob, no blessings are recorded. After that time, all descendants of Jacob were included in the line of blessing, that is, the line of the Abrahamic covenant.
Jacob had no more than left his father’s tent after receiving the blessing when Esau showed up with a savory dish made from the game he had brought back. At that point, Isaac realized what had happened and acknowledged that Jacob had indeed been given the blessing. After tremendous protest, Esau talked his father into giving him a “blessing” also. This, like the blessing given to his brother, was really a prophetic declaration regarding his descendants. It had its positive aspects, but it pales in comparison to the promise that had been given to Jacob. Esau was furious. Suspecting that his father was on his deathbed (and certainly Jacob’s fraud would seem to hasten the event along), Esau let it be known that once Isaac was gone, Jacob would also be history. At that point, Rebekah intervened again.
Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 39:2-4 which reads: “And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand. And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.”
Today’s quote about the Bible is from Napoleon Bonaparte. He said: “The Bible is no mere book, but a Living Creature, with a power that conquers all that oppose it.”
Our topic for today is titled “Joseph in Egypt” (Part 1) from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.
Now the author returns to Joseph in Egypt. There are three phases of his life there. The first phase was his time as a slave in the house of Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. God caused Joseph to prosper while he was working in this household, so Potiphar gave everything into his hands, worrying only about what he would have for his next meal. After some time, Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce the young lad, who resisted her advances. Rejected, she accused him of attacking her, and Potiphar had Joseph put into prison.
The second phase of Joseph’s life in Egypt was the period he spent in prison. Even there he prospered and was put in charge of other prisoners. When Pharaoh’s chief butler and baker were cast into prison, they had dreams, which Joseph interpreted for them as prophetic. The interpretations were correct, and as Joseph predicted, the butler was returned to his office but the baker was executed. The butler promptly forgot his helper.
Two years later, Pharaoh had two dreams that paralleled each other. Pharaoh’s dream interpreters were totally baffled, and he was frustrated. However, the butler finally remembered Joseph, who was cleaned up and brought out of the prison. Through God’s guidance, Joseph interpreted the dreams as foretelling seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine. He also gave advice on how to prepare the nation for these two events, and his advice was so sound that Pharaoh put him in charge of carrying out the preparations.
Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 48:3-5 which reads: “And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me, And said unto me, Behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession. And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.”
Today’s quote about the Bible is from Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He said: “The observant man recognizes many mysteries into which he can not pretend to see, and he remembers that the world is too wide for the eye of one man. But the modern sophists are sure of everything, especially if it contradicts the Bible.”
Our topic for today is titled “The Incubation of Israel” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.
First, let’s take a closer look at the famine that caused Jacob and his family to seek aid in Egypt.
The fact that both Egypt and Canaan suffered famine suggests that it was divinely caused. Egyptian agricultural success is dependent on the flooding of the Nile River, which is a result of monsoon rainfall in central Africa. Agricultural success in Canaan, on the other hand, is dependent on rain that normally comes in from Europe via the Mediterranean Sea. The experience of Joseph stands in contrast to that of Abraham in Genesis 12, who went to Egypt because of a famine in Canaan.
Now, let us consider how Israel was incubated in the land of Egypt.
While the reunion of the estranged brothers is the obvious climax to the story, the writer of Genesis has a few loose ends to tie up, showing that there is much more to the account. We need to recall that this section relates “what became of” Jacob. In this sense, there are two key aspects: first, what became of Jacob personally, and second, what became of the line of Jacob, the descendants of Israel.
Jacob, personally, was finishing his spiritual pilgrimage. Once more he was about to leave the land, but the circumstances were much different from those related in chapter 28, when he was fleeing Esau. Now it was under God’s direction, and God appeared to him before he left the land to give him an assurance that what he was doing was correct. So Jacob and his family, seventy strong, arrived in Egypt. Jacob and five of the brothers were introduced to Pharaoh and then moved to the land of Goshen.
Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 37:3-5 which reads: “Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him. And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.”
Today’s quote about the Bible is from Isaac Newton. He said: “There are more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history.”
Our topic for today is titled “From Jacob to Joseph” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.
After giving the account of Isaac’s death, the author turns to Jacob’s brother. Esau had a number of sons who became leaders of the Edomites. For the Israelites at Mount Sinai, this information would be important for several reasons. Edom would eventually be a neighbor, one they would dominate (as indicated in the “blessing” Isaac gave Jacob). There would be animosity between the two nations, and the toledot sections of Isaac and Esau explain why. Moreover, although the Israelites did not yet know it, those under the age of twenty and their children would have to go around Edom to get into the Promised Land, and they would not be allowed to interact with the Edomites during the journey.
The last toledot section in the book of Genesis is that of Jacob, even though we have been told about him for a number of chapters. Further, as soon as we read in Genesis 37:2, “This is the account of Jacob,” the text focuses attention on his son Joseph. Clearly, Joseph was critical to what happened to Jacob.
Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 31:9-11 which reads: “And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands. Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.”
Today’s quote about the Bible is from Bruce Barton. He said: “The Bible rose to the place it now occupies because it deserved to rise to that place, and not because God sent anybody with a box of tricks to prove its divine authority.”
Francesco Hayez: Esau and Jacob reconcile (1844)
Our topic for today is titled “Jacob and his Tribes” (Part 4) from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.
“Even after twenty years, Jacob feared returning to meet his brother. He divided his property to make it less of a target and sent bribes on ahead to placate Esau, only to find that his brother had mellowed and become prosperous in his own right. En route, Jacob wrestled with God and was given the new name Israel, ‘One who strives with God.’ It would seem that it was only after this event that Jacob really became a man of faith, albeit a faith that wavered (perhaps up to the point when he learned that Joseph was alive in Egypt).”
Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 28:10-12 which reads: “And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.”
Today’s quote about the Bible is from Robert Murray McCheyn. He said: “When you are reading a book in a dark room, and come to a difficult part, you take it to a window to get more light. So take your Bibles to Christ.”
Our topic for today is titled “Jacob and his Tribes” (Part 3) from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.
Jacob Encountering Rachel with her Father’s Herds (Joseph von Führich, 1836, Oil on canvas, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna)
“Using the undesirable character of Esau’s wives (who were both Hittites) as an excuse, Rebekah persuaded her husband to send Jacob to Haran to get a wife from among their relatives. Thus, Jacob fled the wrath of Esau, but he really left home with nothing and did not know when he would return. While en route, Jacob had an interesting encounter with God at Bethel. There he received from God the promise that Abraham and Isaac had also been given—the land, many descendants, and a future worldwide blessing. His response to this revelation suggests that his spiritual state was very open to question. After the vision, he promised that if God were to be with him during the journey, and bring him back safely, then he would make Him his God.”
Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 25:20-21 which reads: “And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padanaram, the sister to Laban the Syrian. And Isaac intreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.”
Allow me to share with you some further commentary on this passage from the Reformation Study Bible by Dr. R.C. Sproul:
The next generation after Abraham also had to learn that the seed of promise is a gift of God’s grace, and sovereignly chosen by Him. Both Isaac’s wife and offspring were secured through prayer.
Today’s quote about the Bible is from C. S. Lewis. He said: “We must sometimes get away from the Authorized Version [of the Bible], if for no other reason, simply because it is so beautiful and so solemn. Beauty exalts, but beauty also lulls. Early associations endear, but they also confuse. Through that beautiful solemnity, the transporting or horrifying realities of which the Book tells may come to us blunted and disarmed, and we may only sigh with tranquil veneration when we ought to be burning with shame, or struck dumb with terror, or carried out of ourselves by ravishing hopes and adorations.”
Our topic for today is titled “Isaac” (Part 2) from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.
As Yogi Berra is supposed to have remarked, “it was deja vu all over again.” Or, we could say, like father, like son. In his dealings with Abimelech, the Philistine king, Isaac attempted the same deception that Abraham had used twice with Sarah. The results were similar. Although Abimelech accepted Isaac’s word that Rebekah was his sister, Isaac was discovered behaving toward his wife in a manner appropriate only for married couples. Abimelech was irate, but he recognized that God was with isaac, so he invited him to stay in the land under his protection.
The three incidents of deception involving the wives of Abraham and Isaac have striking similarities, and some scholars argue that they all are variations of one story. The settings are dissimilar, however, and the resolution differs drastically in each.
We might make a correlation to Henry VIII (8th) and five of his six wives: Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr. A quick glance shows several parallels: These wives had only two names among them (Anne and Catherine). The first two wives were rejected because they did not produce sons. Catherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves were divorced. Catherine Howard and Anne Boleyn were executed. All these similarities might suggest that Henry’s escapades really are different versions of the same story from different sources. Of course, we know from historical records that these events all happened and that Henry’s problem was even more complex than this summary suggests.
Later, Isaac and Rebekah had twins. There are several signs that Rebekah’s twins were significant. First, we learn that the mother was initially barren, a sign that almost always serves to emphasize the importance of the subsequent birth. Second, the pregnancy was an answer to Isaac’s prayer on behalf of his wife; after twenty years of marriage, she conceived. Third, the two fetuses struggled within the womb. What Rebekah felt was evidently far in excess of the normal movement for a fetus, for she specifically asked God what was happening. Notice the way her question was worded: “Why is this happening to me?” That is, if this pregnancy was of God, then why was it so hard? The answer was important and twofold: Rebekah was to have twins, and they both would father a nation; more significantly, the older would serve the younger. Fourth, this event seems to be reported out of chronological sequence. It is likely that the birth of the twins occurred after Isaac passed his wife off as his sister. As we read on, it soon becomes clear that most of this section under the name of Isaac is really about his son Jacob.
Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 24:7 which reads: “The Lord God of heaven, which took me from my father’s house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence.”
Allow me to share with you some further commentary on this passage from the Reformation Study Bible by Dr. R.C. Sproul:
Abraham assigned the important mission of finding a wife for his son to his most trusted manager, perhaps Eliezer of Damascus. He made him swear that he would not take a wife for his son from the Canaanites. The loins were viewed as the source of vital and procreative power. Such an oath was inviolable, even after the death of the one to whom it was sworn. Abraham sets an example for his descendants to secure wives from the blessed Semites, not the cursed Canaanites. Claiming God’s covenant promise, Abraham looks forward to God’s continuing guidance and provision. Abraham had learned from his experience with Hagar not to trust the flesh to secure the promise but to rely on God’s supernatural provision.
Today’s quote about the Bible is from William P. White. He said: “The Bible is a harp with a thousand strings. Play on one to the exclusion of its relationship to the others, and you will develop discord. Play on all of them, keeping them in their places in the divine scale, and you will hear heavenly music all the time.”
Our topic for today is titled “Isaac” (Part 1) from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.
Rebekah and Eliezer at the well.
Given all of the issues leading up to his birth, we expect to find Isaac a very special person. Instead, we get the impression that his only importance was as the son of Abraham and the father of Jacob.
The first thing we are told about Isaac is how Abraham procured a wife for him. He sent his servant back to Haran to arrange a marriage with a relative. Why go all this way for a wife? This decision may be a sign of the downward spiral of the local inhabitants. Approximately sixty years had passed since the rescue of Lot, and Melchizedek may well have been dead. As is often the case after the death of a great spiritual leader, the Jebusite community may have begun moving away from God.
The account of Abraham’s servant finding Rebekah is remarkable. He asked for a sign from Abraham’s God to show him the woman he had chosen for Isaac. The sign was to be that the right woman would volunteer to water his ten camels. Rebekah, the granddaughter of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, showed up, and the servant asked her for a drink. After Rebekah volunteered and had watered the camels, the servant learned that she was a relative of Abraham—just the people he had been sent to find. When he arrived at their house, he quickly related his quest and the sign that had been given to him. Rebekah’s father and brother, recognizing that Yahweh was in control, agreed that she should marry Isaac. Rebekah not only agreed to go but left the next day without a prolonged farewell. When they arrived in Canaan, she and Isaac were married.
Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 21:1-2 which reads: “And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken. For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.”
Allow me to share with you some further commentary on this passage from the Reformation Study Bible by Dr. R.C. Sproul:
The report of Isaac’s birth concludes the story of Sarah’s barrenness begun in Genesis 11. The covenantal arrangement is underscored: God keeps His promise to give Abraham a son by Sarah, and Abraham responds in obedience by naming him Isaac and circumcising him, while Sarah responds with praise.
Today’s quote about the Bible is from A.W. Tozer. He said: “The Word of God well understood and religiously obeyed is the shortest route to spiritual perfection. And we must not select a few favorite passages to the exclusion of others. Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian.”
Our topic for today is titled “Abraham” (Part 6) from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.
A painting of Abraham’s departure by József Molnár.
The Birth of Isaac
Finally, after decades of waiting, the heir was born. Because God had told Sarah that despite her laughter at His promises she would bear a son, she said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” Thus, the son was named Isaac (“he laughs”).
With the change in Sarah’s maternal status, relations between her and Hagar deteriorated. The antagonism came to a climax when Ishmael began to ridicule his little brother on the day Isaac was weaned. Sarah was livid and demanded that Hagar and Ishmael be driven out into the desert. This time Abraham did pray about it. God told him to listen to his wife, so Hagar and Ishmael were sent out the next day. While God accommodated Sarah, however, He did not abandon Abraham’s mistress and son. They were protected by an angel, and Ishmael became a patriarch in his own right. This status is shown to us by the inclusion of a to-le-dot section devoted to Ishmael tucked between the lives of Abraham and Isaac.
It is generally accepted that the Arabs are descendants of Ishmael. The names of his sons are reflected in the names of various Arabian tribes and regions. Islamic tradition claims that the well where Hagar and Ishmael were revived was located in what is now Mecca, but this city is more than 700 miles (as the crow flies) from Beersheba, where Abraham lived when the incident took place.
From here we jump to the supreme test given to Abraham when he was well over a hundred years old (the exact age is not given). God told him to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering.” The point of the sacrifice was to bring out whether Abraham really trusted God. Earlier he had attempted to find substitutes for God’s promises—first, Eliezer, his lifelong servant; then Ishmael, his illegitimate son. Twice over the years, Abraham had argued with God that Ishmael should be the heir. Now it is clear that Isaac is to be the heir, and in Abraham’s mind, at this point there does not seem to be any consideration of an alternative. But how could that be possible if he killed the lad? The writer to the Hebrews
states that Abraham figured that God could resurrect the boy after the sacrifice. Of course, we learn that after Abraham showed faith and obedience, God provided a substitute.
Final Events in the Life of Abraham
After Sarah died, Abraham bought a cave near Hebron in which to bury her. Today, if you go to Hebron, you may still visit the site where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Leah, and Jacob were buried. It is a Muslim mosque situated over a cave that was last entered by the Crusaders in 1119. Since then (after the city was retaken by the Arabs), entrance has been forbidden to all. Sometime after Isaac grew up, Abraham arranged a marriage for him, which we will discuss later. Abraham then took another wife, whose name was Keturah. Through her, he had six more sons, and he also had other sons through concubines. These sons too became the ancestors of nations, but Isaac was the line of the blessing.
In summary, what do we know about Abraham? He was an ordinary man with a very human nature. He was called of God, and he struggled in his faith. More important, God finally did give him the son He had promised, who was the next link in the family line. At a minimum, this narrative showed the Israelites at Mount Sinai that God had long had an interest in them.