4. Genesis: The Patriarchs
[Please note: you are asked to read only the passages that are found in bold print. The other Bible passages are listed only if you are interested in reading more about the material. You are not required to read those passages!]
What kind of covenant did God make with Abraham?
Read Genesis 15.
- It is important to note that Abraham (Abram) was already 75 years old when he first traveled to the land God promised him. (Genesis 12:4)
- It is also important to note that God promised this land to Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 12:7) -- and He promised Abraham that his descendants would be so many that they could not even be counted.
- Yet it is also important to note that his wife Sarah was only 10 years younger -- thus 65 years old.
- It seems way too old for them to be having children!
- Yet God promised -- and they believed
Why was Abraham considered the “father of faith”?
- God repeats his promise--and seals it with a covenant agreement (like a legal contract).
- Note that this agreement required Abraham to sacrifice animals. Did Abraham burn these animals himself? Who or what burned them? Why do you think this sacrifice was important?
Why is it most important of all that we trust God with our lives--rather than just do nice things for Him?
- Reread Genesis 15:6
- Now turn to the New Testament and read Paul's letter to the Romans 4:13-25.
- Paul is declaring that it is by faith in God--not by works (religious works or social works)--that God views us as being righteous (fully good in God's eyes)
How does God test Abraham's faith?
- Why did Abraham succeed--where Adam and Eve failed?
- How does trusting God gives us strength and power for life?
- Read Genesis 22:1-18
Why was Jacob considered such a schemer?
Jacob (or "Israel")
Was it his schemes--or was it Divine mercy--that finally delivered Jacob?
- Remember: he tricked his brother Esau into giving up his birthright by catching him when he was hungry and offering a bowl of soup in exchange for Esau's birthright. (Genesis 25:27-34)
- Then Jacob and his mother Rebekah trick Isaac into giving his blessings to Jacob by making his old and blind father Isaac believe that he was blessing Esau! (Genesis 27:5-29).
- Then Jacob ran away from his angry brother Esau--to live with his uncle Laban in Syria.
- [But note: along the way, Jacob had a dream in which God promised to Jacob the same things he promised his grandfather Abraham. Note also how Jacob responded to God much as Abraham did. (read Genesis 28:10-22)]
- His uncle proves to be an even bigger schemer--by giving Jacob his older daughter Leah in marriage, when Jacob thought he was getting Rachel instead! (Genesis 29:1-30)
- But Jacob tricks his uncle Laban back by getting most of his herd of animals --by following the instructions of an angel of the Lord that showed him the trick (Genesis 30:25-43 and 31:1-16)
- Then after many years of service to his uncle Laban, Jacob sneaks away from his uncle and takes his own family and animals back to his home. (Genesis 31:17-55)
- Isn't it strange that even after all these underhanded schemes, God was especially kind to Jacob--simply because God keeps his promises!
- (read Genesis 32:7-12). Notice how Jacob prayed very much like this as he was returning home--and was still very afraid of the anger of his brother Esau.
- But God had softened the heart of his brother Esau--and Esau received him in joy, not anger. Even here, God had provided!! (Genesis 33:1-14)
- In the end--God renewed with Jacob (now also called Israel) at Bethel the covenant he had once made with his grandfather Abraham. (Genesis 35:1-15)
- Isn't this story a reminder that we are, above all, to have complete faith in God--to trust Him with our lives, even when we mess up--because our God is faithful?!!!!
How did God prove to be the author of Joseph’s dreams?
- Remember that in his youth, Joseph made his older brothers jealous, not only because of the pretty coat his father Jacob gave him, but because of Joseph's dreams that showed his brothers (and even his parents) bowing down to him!!!! (Genesis 37:11)
- Rather than kill this detested Joseph, the older brothers agreed to spare his life and sell him as a slave to people journeying to Egypt. (Genesis 37:12-28)
- But Joseph was a capable and honest man--who gained success among the Egyptians--until the wife of his master failed in her effort to seduce Joseph, and then lied and had him put in prison to cover her shame and anger. (Genesis 39:1-23)
- Nonetheless, God was with him in prison--and Jacob proved to be not only a leader but also a very capable interpreter of dreams--which eventually brought him to notice by Pharaoh.
- Moreover, it was his ability to interpret Pharaoh's dreams about the 7 years of plenty and the 7 years of famine that brought Joseph to be the manager of much of Egypt's public works.
- This in turn brought his brothers to Egypt during the famine to find grain for their families--only to bring them in their need to the powerful Joseph--whom they do not recognize (though he recognized them).
- Joseph is not angry with them, but does play them along a bit, mostly in a desire to see his younger brother Benjamin, who was not among them in their visit to Egypt.
- Read Genesis 45:1-15
- In the end, he reveals himself to them as the brother they had intended to do away with, the one who in the end, by God's own intended purpose, was able to save them from starvation.
- In turn, all of Jacob's (or Israel's) family was invited to settle in Egypt, where over the years they quickly grew in number.
Note: we do not always understand what God is doing with our lives as we go through life!!! But we may be sure that if we trust Him, God will use us to best advantage to glorify or bless us, others and ultimately Him Himself.
Continue on to the next section
Return to the Table of Contents: "Our Story" — Material for a Confirmation Class
Return to the home page: The Spiritual Pilgrim
Miles H. Hodges - 2002