About Genesis, is the creation story a sort of symbolism or were we actually made from this literal clay that we see now? Did God actually breathe into our nostril from His own nostril? Are we in His image now? Is He also made out of dust? Or is the image and likeness meant in Genesis 1:26-27 a likeness in the aspect of "Rulership" over other creation. Then, how did Moses know the story, is there any proof of how he knew the creation story?
Genesis is not symbolic but literal. That does not mean that there is not some "language of accommodation" there is but that is a far cry from interpreting everything away into nothing. The seven days are literal. The creation of Adam's body from the dirt and Eve's from Adam is literal. The "breathing in" of the spirit is what creates Adam as a person; and that is the case for all his descendants: we become "us" when at birth God creates a spirit in us. Moses knew what he knew through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who guided him to write what he wrote. The same is the case with all scripture which is "God-breathed" (1Tim.3:16). The image of God is a direct parallel (we are made "in" His image): we all are given free will which is a parallel to the Will of God; "likeness" is a less exact parallel (we are only made "according to" His likeness): there are multiple human beings but that comparability to the Trinity is not as direct (since the Trinity is ONE in a way mankind is not). So it is all true and is the truth. You can find all the details at this link: "BB 3A: Biblical Anthropology".
Were Adam and Eve Gentiles? Since the Jewish people were established thro Abraham, were those before him Jews?
Abraham was born gentile but became the first Jew.
Did God call Abraham as an unbeliever? So when Gen. 12:8 says Abraham called upon the Lord, does it mean for salvation? So he didn't just believe in Gen 15:6?
We don't know when Abraham was saved but it was no doubt early in his life and definitely before Genesis 12:1-5.
When it says He appeared to Him (v. 7), does it mean pre-incarnate Christ?
The Canaanites were already in Canaan, so Abraham and his family were just scouting the land by tents? Going around it and not inside it?
They traveled and lived within the land itself. Things were different at that time than they are today. One could just cross over a border as an individual and probably wouldn't invite scrutiny as long as there was no hostile intent or pilfering of fields and the like. There was also a lot of territory which wasn't occupied.
Was Terah trying to settle in Canaan based on God, but settled for Haran?
Genesis 11:31 tells us that Terah had set out for Canaan, but it doesn't say that he was told by God to do so. Abram definitely was (Gen.12:1).
Did Abraham tell Sarah to lie to the Pharaoh because he was anti-Semitic? Did Abraham do wrong by doing this? Seems like the text implies he tried to sleep with her.
Sarai was not violated. I do think it's fair to infer that Abram telling her to lie about being married reflects a lack of faith. There are, however, times when we are not required to tell the truth, specifically, when doing so would endanger others and when the people demanding the answer are enemies or criminals. Figuring out the difference requires a measure of spiritual maturity (see the link: "Is it ever justifiable to tell a lie?").
Was the Pharaoh's sin in ignorance? Taking his wife thinking he was the sister? And did he accept that the punishment came from God? Because the text doesn't say how he came to learn why he got the disease just that it was about Sarah.
Scripture doesn't say whether Pharaoh was told this by God, but later we know that Abimelech was told by God, so it's a fair assumption to make in Pharaoh's case as well.
What does Genesis 2:5 mean?
Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground.
God created vegetation on the third day according to Genesis 1. The story in
chapter 2 is about the sixth day, right? How do I put Genesis 2:5 together with
God's creation of man on the sixth day?
Also, am I right to consider the creation of the animals before the creation of Eve as the reason why Genesis 1:24 presents the creation of the animals before the creation of mankind? That is, the creation of mankind was not complete until Eve was created. So, if the animals were created before her, then, mankind was really created last even if Adam was created before the animals.
Yours in our priceless Lord Jesus Christ
To take your questions here in reverse order, it is certainly possible that both Adam and Eve we're created on the sixth day:
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Genesis 1:27 NKJV
We are told at Genesis 2:19 that God allowed Adam to "figure out" that he needed someone by bringing the animals God had created to Adam and allowing him to name them. But Adam was a genius so there is no reason this all couldn't have happened very quickly. Eve is created thereafter. Here is how I translate the context:
Then the Lord God said, "It is not a good thing for the man to be alone. I will make for him a helper compatible with him". Now the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky from the dust of the ground and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever he called any living thing, that became its name. So Adam gave names to every beast and to all the birds of the sky and to every wild creature, but he did not find [one that could be] a helper compatible with him. Then the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and when he was asleep, He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh behind it. And the Lord God sculpted the rib which He had taken from the man into a woman, then He brought her to Adam. And Adam said, "This now is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh. She shall be called woman, because from man she was taken". For this reason, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, for the two will become a single body.
The fact that verse 19 says that "God formed every beast" does not mean (nor
even imply in the Hebrew) that He had not made them all before Adam was created.
Genesis 2:5 begins a more detailed treatment of creation, one focused on mankind, our "generations" as opposed to the "generations" of the physical world just treated (Genesis 2:4 is a summary statement looking backward; see the link). There is nothing in the narrative to necessitate our understanding that this all did not take place on the sixth day.
Do feel free to write me back about any of the above.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Thank you, sir. Why does it say though that no shrub of the field was yet in the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprouted? Is this a focus on products of the field as against trees and seed-bearing plants which were created on the third day?
Then in the email that I sent just before this one you answered, sir, I asked a followup question about ranks. If ranks mean that in the eternal state some of us will be greater than others, is it correct to respond to the temptation to pretend to superiority over other believers by serving them with your gifts? I am sometimes tempted to think that it is just a cover for arrogance when you actively try to resist the temptation of counting yourself superior to others by working harder to serve them with your gifts, that it is in fact another way to pronounce your superiority over them. This is not true, is it?
Yours in our precious Lord Jesus Christ
As the verse (Gen.2:5) says, the reason for this lack was that there had
yet been no rain; at this time plant life was watered by a mist, a
condition that would continue until after the flood (which event
changed the dynamics of
the earth's ecology dramatically; see the link).
On your other question, you have this exactly right. Here is what our Lord had to say about this, precisely in the context of the disciples arguing about "who was greater" (cf. Matt.18:1-4; 23:11-12; Lk.9:46-48):
And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.
Mark 9:35 NKJV
Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called benefactors. But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves."
Luke 22:4-7 NKJV
No greater service was ever performed than that of dying for our sins
something only Jesus Christ could do. And as a result He has won "the Name which
is above every name" (Phil.2:9-10), and is thus preeminent in all things, His
"first place in rank" having been won on the battlefield with His victory at the
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Thank you very much for your kind explanation.
Forgive me for still having to ask about Genesis 2:5 but I don't understand it well yet. I realize that there was no rain yet but I thought that there would be vegetation in the earth from the third day regardless. Does it mean that the sense in which God had created them was that He had called them into being even if they were not yet there because there was no rain? I still don't understand.
Yours in our precious Lord Jesus Christ
The qualifier in Genesis 2:5 "of the field" (הַשָּׂדֶה) is the key. This
is the Hebrew way to say "wild" or "not garden-cultivated". There were
as yet no wild plants, no "thorns and thistles" and no cultivation of
cereal grasses "of the field" wherewith man would have to wring out his
living with the sweat of his brow. That would follow the fall and the
flood (for the most part). Until the fall, only the vegetation of Eden
was necessary for the sustenance and pleasure of the first couple
(Gen.2:8 planted after the creation of man). It doesn't mean that
there wasn't vegetation, but that the vegetation was different from what
those reading Genesis even for the first time would be familiar with,
vegetation which was not wild or "of the field" which required rain to
grow, but vegetation more like herbs in a greenhouse where the mist kept
them fresh and green.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Thank you very much for your answer. So it is just the type of vegetation that was the point. If so, is it possible that the translation "there was no man to till/work/cultivate the ground" could be better put as "man was not yet made to till etc the ground"? That is, the issue is not about the existence of man per se but about the kind of conditions that produce that sort of vegetation?
Yours in our precious Lord Jesus Christ
It's an ingenious suggestion. The way one proves or disproves such ideas
is always by recourse to the original language and the original text.
That is always the "proof of the pudding" which is why facility and
ability in Greek and Hebrew are so important for a teacher (or
prospective teacher such as yourself) who really wants to get to the
bottom of what is actually meant.
On the specifics, the essence of the difference is how the take the infinitive "to work"; i.e., whether we are talking about the existence or the purpose of man. Theoretically, that could go either way although the traditional translations strike me as the more natural way to read the Hebrew. Add to that the larger "fly in the ointment" that in the verse after next we are told about the creation of man which does seem to lend credence to the interpretation that the end of Genesis 2:5 is speaking about man's existence. That said, there is still value in your point, namely, that "to work the land" is a condition which will not obtain until after the fall; in Eden, there was no necessity for tilling land at all. So the Bible actually does relate the two things in this verse, namely, plants that need cultivation and the fact of cultivation by man, something that never happened in Eden.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
I actually don't, but I had never quite seen it that way until now. I was just always puzzled about the idea that after God had created vegetation on the third day, it could still be saying that there was none on the sixth day and after He had made all the animals before making man we would still hear that He made them all after creating Adam. This discussion has helped me understand both issues.
So, Genesis 2:5 was speaking of a condition that just didn't exist until after the Fall and it is not at all impossible that Genesis 1:24-31 is really a snapshot of Genesis 2:7-25. About the latter, the only difficulty that I still see is the creation of the birds as well on the sixth day if they were made and brought to Adam as well since God actually made them on the fifth day (Genesis 1:20-23). But the language in NIV84 in Genesis 2:19 suggests that God didn't make the animals then: it says, "now the Lord God had formed... " If that translation is right then the only necessary meaning to take from there is that God brought the animals and birds that He had already made [at some time that would have to be supplied from information elsewhere] and had Adam name them. Also, as you said, it is entirely possible for God to have done a partial creation then too, although if NIV84 is correct it is not a necessary conclusion to make.
I have other questions:
In what way did the Lord put enmity between the serpent and the woman? I assume that in that statement He was addressing Satan not the vessel he used.
Yes, I think you have this all exactly right; a nice synopsis of what Genesis says in both chapters and how they relate to each other without contradiction in fact.
As to your questions:
Yes, the Lord is addressing the devil here through the vessel he possessed. Here is how I translate the verse:
"And I shall place hostility between you and the woman, that is, between your seed and her Seed. He will attack you head-on, but you will attack Him from behind".
As you can see from this translation, the enmity between the serpent and the woman is symbolic of and explained by the next part of the verse: this is really all about Christ and Christ's crushing of Satan in the end (with a prophecy of antichrist in the middle of the verse). That is why I translate the third waw not with another "and" but with the English word "even", because what follows is an explanation and expansion of the original statement. There is hostility between the evil one and all of us who belong to Jesus Christ because we are replacing the devil and his minions (see the link: "replacement"), and because the devil is fighting his rebellion against the Lord primarily by opposing believers (he is Satan, "the adversary", after all) but the hostility mentioned in Genesis 3:15 is not exceptionally leveled or uniquely so upon Eve (or women vs. men).
An observation: that part about eating dust put me in mind about the marching formation of the hordes of Israel as they travelled to the Promised Land. Could it be that this was the Lord's prophecy that Satan would spend the rest of the war in defense? Because I have not been able to figure out how snakes actually eat dust.
It's a nice application. In terms of interpretation, we infer from this statement that serpents originally did not crawl on their bellies but walked on all fours in the manner of other animals; this curse of being physically abased is a memorial to the event whereby the serpent was used to bring about the fall of mankind.
The Lord said He would "increase" the pains of childbearing for womankind. That made me wonder if she had already been birthing without pain (or, at least, without great pain although any pain would be weird seeing as they were perfect until the Fall and lived in Paradise so that any pain at all would be confusing). If she had, what happened to those children? How did the Fall affect them? Somehow, I feel that there were no children but is there a way to know for sure?
At Genesis 4:1 we read:
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, I have acquired a man from the LORD.
Genesis 4:1 NKJV
This is the first mention of Eve conceiving. And her language here certainly
seems to be an expression of the fact that this was a "first time" and that Cain
was her firstborn. For we find no such memorialization for either Abel or Seth.
It is not unusual for the Lord to delay giving children immediately to married
couples, especially believers, when He wishes to cement their marriage bond
through the enjoyment of one another before children complicate things (and note
that with many of the pre-flood believers and post-flood patriarchs, children
came late: at 99 for Abraham in terms of the child of promise). And since Adam
and Eve would have remained youthful forever absent the fall, there was no
reason to hurry the production of offspring. We don't know the exact time they
had in the garden of Eden before the fall, but by my calculations it was less
than fifty years certainly not an inordinate amount of time compared to the
(potential) eons ahead wherein they might have had an untold number of children
(and they did of course after the fall, but most of these are not recorded in
the Bible, only the line of faith: Gen.5:4). So it was neither unusual nor
unfair (in terms of not allowing Satan to corrupt only part of the human race)
for God to have done as He did. So, no, there were no children in Eden.
As to the multiplication of the pains of childbirth, therefore, this a multiplication of pain in proportion to what would have been the case, had the fall not occurred not to actual prior births which had not in fact occurred.
Finally, an observation from Genesis 5. I thought of the pre-Flood
civilization as a much more comfortable existence than today. In fact, I
started to wonder at a point if perhaps the curse on the ground took a
while to come into play. But verse 28 does destroy such possibilities,
doesn't it? No matter how much better than today that period may have
been, the cost of providing daily sustenance was significant.
Yours in our priceless Lord Jesus Christ
In terms of Genesis 5:29 (which I assume you are referring to), the fact
that comfort will come from future toil through Noah who will "invent"
(in the etymological sense of discovering) wine with alcohol content,
just as that comfort is prophesied as future, so the toil that requires
it is largely to be understood as future. Secondly there was toil and
pain in producing a living before the flood but it became much more so
afterwards. So the toil and pain is relative: significant when compared
to Eden (where none existed); but far less than what would obtain after
the flood. After all, the rigors of life in the world after the flood
reduced the human life-span to 70-80 years on average (cf. Ps.90:10),
whereas before the flood the lifespans of the godly reached nearly a
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Genesis 17 Verse 15. Does God change Sarah's name through Abraham rather than directly because of the authority relationship that He has instituted between man and woman?
That may have something to do with it, but Sarah is not part of the conversation at that moment, not being present.
In verse nine to fourteen, this is rather clearly God giving a Covenant that He calls "everlasting" which involves a physical circumcision. I know from Romans that this was only symbolic of more solid realities to be revealed later in Christ and from Hebrews that Abraham did at some point come to appreciate that all of God's promises to him were necessarily of an eternal rather than merely a temporal nature so that even the marking in his flesh mattered only in so far as it spoke of an inner, more solid marking. But when one reads this, it is easy to come away with the thought that physical circumcision does count for something. What can you tell me about that, sir? Is it sufficient for the reader to remember that by Romans and Hebrews the true meaning and import of God's sayings and doings here become clear? Or did physical circumcision really count for anything before the Cross? Was one really saved and accepted by God just because he got circumcised? And what does this say about women anyway? What was the equivalent for women or did the men's circumcision suffice to cover the women? In short, sir, what does all of it mean?
It is the circumcision of the heart that counts for the Lord (Rom.2:29). And all of the OT covenants all amounted to the same thing: a relationship of blessing with the Lord based upon His grace actions and looking forward to the cross which would pay for it all (link).
Verse seventeen is really a description of spiritual faltering on Abraham's part, isn't it? And in spite of this verse, verse twenty three evinces a general attitude of confidence in and obedience to God. Does NASB's "in that very same day, as God had said to him" mean "the same day that God told him to" either in the sense of his obeying at once or obeying precisely so that it was on some specific day that God had commanded him to carry out the circumcision that he did? The context seems to me to suggest the first, however.
I don't think so. We have it from scripture very affirmatively that Abraham did not waver (Rom.4:18-22). Just as Zechariah was wrong to doubt Gabriel, but Mary was not wrong to ask a question about something that was physically impossible, so Abraham is not to be faulted for expressing joy in something about to happen which would not be possible absent a miracle. As to the when of circumcision, I agree with you that it was "that very day".
Genesis 18: Everything in verses two to eight suggests that Abraham knew who those men were. Could that be true or am I reading too much of our modern ways into that passage? Then in verse nine, when they ask where his wife Sarah is, he does not appear surprised to know that they knew her name. I suppose that it is possible that they overheard her name in all of that running around or that we are to assume that he must have introduced himself to them with all the pertinent information necessary to eliminate the atmosphere of unfamiliarity and suspicion between strangers. But we readers know that this was the Lord so He did not really need to be told who Abraham's wife was. But did Abraham know that this was the Lord? Or is there something I am missing here?
I'm not sure we can conclude that. Abraham recognized that this must be the Lord with two of His servants (two angels). How he recognized this we are not told, but there are no doubt numerous ways that this could have been the case. At any rate, it was the case.
Also, three "men" who appear to all eat and drink what Abraham sets before them... In light of Jesus's eating the bread and fish after His Resurrection to further demonstrate that He was truly not a spirit but a resurrected human with a spirit in an actual material body leaves me a little confused. Is it that angels possess a corporeality similar to man but with different properties so that they can eat meals, push large gravestones aside, wear robes and sit on surfaces like us but can also be invisible among plenty other unknown stuff? Or is this the "assum[ing] quasi-material appearance" you mention elsewhere such that they are typically not material at all and do not normally eat etc unless they assume such an appearance?"
It seems clear that their "eating", whatever it involved, was not the same as our eating before or after the resurrection.
In verses thirteen through fifteen, why does God remonstrate with Sarah for laughing but not with Abraham in the previous chapter?
God knows the attitude of our hearts completely. If we laugh at something it doesn't mean we don't have confidence that it will happen - but it may. It seems that in Sarah's case her question represented some element of doubt which was not the case for Abraham, and that is why the Lord says, "Why did Sarah laugh?".
Genesis 23: Verse 6. Why do they call Abraham a mighty prince? Also, why does the footnote say "literally, prince of God" in NASB?
The Hebrew literally says "prince of God"; the only justification to translate as does NASB and KJV and others do is that the word 'el means "mighty one", so that the plural, while it most often means "God", occasionally also does mean "mighty ones" or "gods" and since the plural is used of God as a plural of majesty, the feeling I suppose is that such is the case here. This is all quite a stretch and goes a long way to avoid having these Hittites acknowledge that Abraham was revered by God. But after all, they could not help but be aware of his martial prowess in rescuing Lot and the entire nation of Sodom and Gomorrah. And I would think that in his conversations with them Abraham had made it clear that God was his God. Since I don't know of a parallel where 'elohiym is used in the construct as it is here and has this same claimed effect, I would much prefer ESV's "prince of God".
Verse 8. The footnote for wish reads "literally, soul" in NASB. Is that correct?
Hebrew nephesh, like Greek psyche means "soul" in the sense of "heart / inner person" (so also what the inner "us" may want or desire). This can be a real problem, that is, the misunderstanding of these words based upon the fact that in English "soul" sometimes means (to users of it) the invisible spirit of a person (but that is not the biblical usage; see the link)
Genesis 24: Why was it important to Abraham that Isaac have a wife from his family and later on to Isaac that his two sons take wives from his father's kin? Why not from Gerar, for example, where the king had demonstrated a fear of God? And when Jacob's sons grew up, there wasn't any indication that they were obliged to do as their father and grandfather did: was this because by then Abraham's kin had become just as idolatrous and sinful as the Canaanites?
We have to give Abraham, who was there on the scene (we weren't) and who was a man of tremendous spiritual discernment and closer to the Lord than all but a very few have been in this life at that point in his life, the benefit of the doubt that he was correct in his evaluation. His family was at least ostensibly composed of those who worshiped the One true God, whereas Canaan was filled with idolaters (and so the Israelites would later be commanded to eliminate them stock and stem). And Rebecca turned out to be the perfect wife for Isaac. Sometimes arranged marriages work when God is the One doing the arranging, that is.
Genesis 25: Verse 6. Who were Abraham's concubines? Does the term refer to Hagar and Keturah or are there other unnamed women being spoke of here?
Very observant! Hagar and Ishmael had long ago departed. So this verse does suggest that Abraham had other concubines as well but Isaac was his sole heir and he took pains to make sure that nothing complicated his inheritance (contrast Gideon: Judg.8:30 - 9:5).
Gerar appears to be the ancient land of the Philistines. Does that mean that well before the establishment of the nation of Israel, the Philistines were a God-fearing people who strayed and joined the nations of Canaan in wickedness?
I don't find anything in scripture to indicate that this people were "God-fearing" in the sense we mean it. They were pagan idolaters at this time and later too.
Genesis 25: Verse 27. NASB says that Jacob was a "peaceful" man and puts in the footnote "complete" as an alternative reading. What does that mean exactly? How does either rendering contrast with "man of the field" as it seems to me to be the aim of the context?
Good catch! The Hebrew word tham means "having integrity" (as in Noah being "perfect" in his generations) and almost always has a moral aspect to it. So this indicates that Jacob was a believer but that Esau was not (cf. the negative picture of the huntsman in the case of Nimrod who opposed the Lord: "A mighty hunter AGAINST the Lord" (Gen.10:9).
Verses 29-34. I assume that it was possible to actually sell one's birthright then but without witnesses couldn't Esau simply have gone back on his word? Or should we assume that there were witnesses?
This incident serves to show the character of Esau who despised his birthright and Jacob who prized it, and the most IMPORTANT aspect of that birthright was the spiritual part as was the case with Ishmael and Isaac. In that case too the second born was the heir of promise, for spiritual reasons. The contrast between Jacob and Esau serves to show that even with the same mother as well as father it is still the spiritual seed which has God's blessing. As Paul says on this same point, for that reason "not all Israel is Israel" (Rom.9:6). So the transaction merely verifies what God had already decided based upon His prior knowledge of the hearts of the two men. After all, this is what He said to Rebecca before they were even born:
The LORD said to her, Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.
Genesis 25:23 NIV
Sir, what is the point of the story about Jacob's theft of Esau's blessing? Why are we told about it? Is this all somehow to demonstrate why or how the nation Israel came to be preferred when naturally it should have been Edom instead that inherits God's Promise to Abraham? Also, I am not sure what we are supposed to think about Rebekah's actions here or of Jacob's willingness to go along with her plan. I think that I understand Isaac's desire to bless Esau since even with the latter's profaning his birthright, he was still Isaac's first son and Isaac still loved game. I also understand that in God's Plan, Jacob was the one who would inherit the Promise so...maybe the story is about the how while the prior story of the birthright was about the why?
Yes, I believe so. See prior answer. Rebecca knew the prophecy AND also wanted it to come true. Isaac knew it too (he was no doubt the one to whom it was given when she "inquired of the Lord"), but sought to ignore it and do what he wanted to do. But in spite of Isaac's preference and with Rebecca and Jacob's actions not being at all decisive, God brought things about precisely as He intended.
Verse 33. Why does Isaac react this way? Was his love for Esau so great?
All parents have favorites. Also, he no doubt didn't take kindly to being deceived. But he did recognize that his blessing would stand.
Verses 39-40. Could you explain Isaac's "blessing" for Esau? And was that really a blessing?
Esau didn't think so. But there are elements of blessing in it. A blessing such as this is actually more of a prophecy than anything else (compare Jacob's blessing of this twelve sons at Genesis chapter 49, and Moses' similar blessing in Deuteronomy chapter 33). Because he was Isaac's seed, God blessed Esau and the Edomites in many ways, even though he was a godless man and they were a godless people.
Genesis 28: Verses 1-5. This blessing more certainly makes Jacob inheritor of Abraham's promise (verse 4). Am I right to assume that it is only a confirmation of the blessing in the previous chapter?
Yes, but confirmations are important because we human beings are emotional creatures (cf. Heb.6:16-17). So whenever we are delivered or facing hard times and we receive some confirmation of the Lord of His faithful deliverance or promise thereof, we certainly do appreciate it even though we should be able to do fine without it. This is the reason for the rainbow, after all a promise of deliverance from any such future worldwide inundation.
Verses 8-9. Was Esau thinking to please his parents by marrying Ishmael's daughter?
Yes, and it was of no effect other than to show that he had not a clue about anything spiritual.
Isaac was not to go back to Paddan-Aram in his own time but Jacob could? Why is that? What changed?
He needed to find a bride, but he also needed to put time and space between himself and his brother, otherwise there would have been bloodshed. Isaac maintains the presence of the people in the land until Jacob returns.
Verse 13. Is it "above it" or "beside him"? NASB has the latter in the footnote.
The Hebrew preposition 'al is flexible in this regard and might also mean "on top of"; and the suffix on the back can be either "him" or "it". So all combinations are possible. The difficulty in discerning what is meant has to do with the ladder reaching to the third heaven and that being considered by some translators as too remote for Jacob to also see Him in that case. But this is a dream/vision and "above it (i.e., the ladder)" is correct in my view.
Verses 13-15. This is the Lord Himself confirming Jacob as the heir of the Promise here, isn't it, sir?
Yes indeed, just as He had promised Rebecca in the beginning.
Verse 17. Bethel is not Jerusalem, right, sir? So, this is merely an emotional statement that is not necessarily inspired on Jacob's part? Jerusalem was the place that God chose for His Name. But I wondered if Bethel was Jerusalem. Nothing I remember from other parts of the Bible suggests that.
Bethel is traditionally understood to have been to the north of Jerusalem while Bethlehem is to the south. The name means "house of God" whereas Bethlehem means "house of bread". The etymology of Jerusalem is apparently, "possession of peace" (cf. shalom). For this place to be Jerusalem, we would have to understand Bethel (and also Luz, the local name) as an alternative for "Salem", because Salem, whence Melchizedek came to bless Abraham, is most definitely Jerusalem.
Verse 22. The mention of the tenth here has to do with accepting God as His King, right, sir? I don't know the history but it seems to me from other uses of the tenth in the Bible that the tenth was the portion of the king in that culture?
It is a common tax level, so, yes, Jacob is accepting God as His King by saying this. I don't, however, find any evidence of this pledge being fulfilled (except historically in the support of the Levites under the Law), nor would it be easy to fulfill to whom would the tithe be payed? But perhaps Jacob knew about Melchizedek and his family priesthood.
Genesis 30. I think it is comforting to know that God does things like what He did for Leah, blessing her with sons in a marriage where she must have felt like a third wheel. But I can't help wondering how it must have felt for Rachel to feel forgotten by God like that. At the same time, I feel that it is altogether possible that in the background of the story - which is hidden from us - Rachel's beauty may have made her arrogant so that what happened was to humble her. I think it is very telling that when Leah has her first son, she attributes the gift to the Lord Himself while Rachel in her envy of her sister holds Jacob responsible for her own childlessness rather than crying to God just like Hannah did much later in her own barrenness and that it was Rachel who later stole her father's household idols too. Even in the naming of the children born in her name by Bilhah, there is some difference between her and Leah: apart from Levi whose naming came from Leah's joy to have three sons and her consequent (and ill-founded, in my thinking) assurance that Jacob would now be attached to her, all her other sons were named to honor YHWH as the Giver of children to her; on the other hand, Rachel named the first honoring "God". It seems significant to me that she does not here use YHWH as her sister did three times and then in the second birthing, she treats the child as a personal victory over her sister apparently wrought in her own strength. Perhaps these things suggest a poor relationship to the Lord. What do you think, sir?
Good observations. We can't know a person's heart except from signs we get from their words and deeds, and these are all excellent points to keep in mind. To my mind, the only one in that family besides Jacob who definitely showed a close relationship to the Lord was Joseph. A good reminder that many are saved but few make it their life's work to walk closely to the Lord as Abraham did.
Verse 35. This verse has puzzled me for a long time. Because of the next verse, I assume that this is Laban who is removing the speckled, spotted etc sheep and goats, not Jacob. What exactly was he doing? Was he removing them to give to Jacob later or to deny him of them? The rest of the story suggests to me that it was the latter. But it seems very brazen to me. He acted like he could cheat Jacob impudently and get away with it. Is that something we should assume from the reading here?
We don't have all the details of course, but later Jacob fills out the picture:
"Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me. If he said thus: The speckled shall be your wages, then all the flocks bore speckled. And if he said thus: The streaked shall be your wages, then all the flocks bore streaked. So God has taken away the livestock of your father and given them to me."
Verse 36. How does he put three days' distance between himself and Jacob? Does he move away from Jacob? Or does he offer Jacob a place to live himself that is that far from him? Can we speculate as to why he does so?
It would seem that Laban likes the deal but wants to make sure that it is impossible for Jacob to cheat on it.
Genesis 32: Verse 2. Why does Jacob use the plural of camps, "Mahanaim"? Was he counting his company and the group of angels as two companies? Why was it remarkable?
I take this as an emphatic plural.
Verse 10. This seems a striking contrast to me with his earlier stance when he was starting out to go to Paddan-Aram. At that time, he was making a deal with God. And now, he seems to be so humbled by God's generosity toward him and his own unworthiness of it that he is now just asking humbly for what he desires at God's Hand.
Jacob has definitely learned a thing or two spiritually over these decades but many believers nowadays have little to show for longevity in Christ.
Verses 24 - 30. I get that this is a demonstration of Faith, a testimony to the steadfastness and unyielding nature of Jacob's faith. But I don't understand why Jacob's hip was set out of joint. What is the lesson there?
Don't resist the Lord.
Best to give you the links on this:
Genesis 33: Verse 2. This order appears to reflect Jacob's love for each group. Is that true? Does Jacob set Rachel and Joseph last because he loves them most and wants them to be the last to face danger and the maids and their children first because he is more willing to lose them than he is to lose those behind them?
Yes, it is clear that just as Isaac had a favorite (Esau) and Rebecca had a favorite (Jacob), so also Jacob has favorites and that will be the impetus of Joseph being sold into slavery. Interestingly enough as well, Jacob preferred Rachel because of her relative beauty to that of her sister in an analogous way to how Isaac preferred Esau for worldly reasons.
Verse 10. What does Jacob mean here? Is it right for him to compare meeting Esau to meeting God?
It is over the top language and a measure of the fear he still feels for his brother. There are times when a certain amount of deception and flattery may not be out of place (if dealing with a band of criminals, for example, which is no doubt close to how Jacob viewed this situation); but this is not a passage one would cite in giving examples of strong demonstrations of faith.
Verse 17. Jacob built a house. This suggests permanence. Is this literally a house or was it just another tent but perhaps more elaborate?
The Hebrew says "house". It is notable that if Jacob did have plans for ending sojourning and settling down that it did not work out that way. God clearly had other plans. A good lesson for us whenever we are tempted to invest too much emotion in permanence in this temporary world.
Verse 19. Jacob bought land. Although Abraham did the same, the previous mention of a house appears to suggest that this is a deliberate effort to acquire a permanent stake in Canaan. Am I reading this right? Also, this suggests that he moved from Succoth. Did he or is this the same place? It seems to me that if this is a move then it makes sense to think that he is deliberately staking claims on Canaan. Is this a sensible way to interpret this story?
We don't know how the Lord communicated to Jacob that he needed to move on from Succoth, but we see in this incident that he still hadn't learned that lesson, and this time the cost was higher. Abraham's buying of the lot for burying Sarah is a different thing entirely, manifesting faith in God's promises that the land would one day be his and his descendants forever.
Verse 20. Is it normal that Jacob should name an altar? Or is this an early teaching for us that the altar is really a representation of a Person, uniquely the Savior of the human race?
I don't know how unusual that was; we can only go from the examples of building altars in the OT, and if they were named, most of the time scripture doesn't say so; exceptions: Moses (Ex.17:15) and Gideon (Judg.6:24) both name altars to the Lord in commemoration of victory; but your point about the significance is a good one.
Genesis 34: Verse 7. Is this an allusion to the idea that Jacob's household had assumed a separate cultural identity from other "nations" around it?
They certainly had a very unique cultural identity.
This is still about 20 years since Jacob first arrived at Paddan-Aram, so his sons must have been teenagers mostly with Reuben near or just twenty then, right, sir?
As far as I know, we don't know how long Jacob had so far been in the land. In the next chapter, Isaac dies at the age of 180. He was 60 when Jacob and Esau were born (Gen.25:26), and it was ca. 40 years later when Jacob left and began working for Laban (cf. Gen.26:34). Jacob's sojourn was 20 years (Gen.31:38). So there is a lot of leeway here with which to make the calculation. Benjamin seems to be young during the time Joseph is in Egypt, but this is a family of great longevity and also one of getting to marriage and childbearing later in life; so we need not assume anything dispositive on that basis either. We also know that according to Genesis 37:2, Joseph was 17 shortly before he was sold into Egypt.
Verses 30-31. Despite the fact that I am not a brave person, I can identify with the outrage that Jacob's sons felt. It may have been a very reckless thing they did but it wasn't wrong, was it? Not only had their only sister been raped, she had been kept with Shechem although he was not married to her then. It seems to me then sort of thing that justifies the sort of response that Jacob's sons gave. But later when he blessed his sons, he treats this event (or, at least, it seems to me that it was this event that he was alluding to with his words at that later time) as a reproach somehow. And I think his words then were inspired? How are we to read this?
This is a historical account. All such in the Bible relate what happened, not what God thinks about what happened. We can perhaps find fault with Jacob for going to Shechem and purchasing land; we can perhaps find fault with Dinah for socializing with these people (and her parents for allowing it); we can perhaps find fault with how Jacob withheld the information, or how he dealt with it, or how his sons dealt with it. These things all happened, however we may feel about them. But based upon Jacob's attitude then and his blessing which has an everlasting effect on Levi and Simeon, I don't think we can justify their conduct or certainly not take it as any sort of model. Anytime we are motivated to do something out of revenge we are almost certainly making a mistake, even if we have "just cause". Vengeance belongs to the Lord (Deut.32:35; Rom.12:19; cf. Prov.25:21-22).
Genesis 37: Is it important or significant that Jacob is sometimes called Israel and other times Jacob? That is, is any kind of point being made when one name is used rather than the other? I ask also because Genesis 32:28 is similar to Genesis 17:5. Abraham is never called Abram after that point again but Israel is sometimes Israel and sometimes Jacob. Does that mean anything?
Jacob is a significant name just as Israel is, but has a somewhat less positive meaning ("conniver" vs. "he who struggles with God"). When God is invoked as "the God of Jacob" it usually is in circumstances where Israel is under pressure or persecution, and in those instances it recalls the troubles and suffering of Jacob (cf. Gen.47:9b). As far as Genesis 32:8 is concerned, the only thing I can mention is that in the very next verse the Bible calls him "Jacob"; it does seem that "Jacob" is the human-viewpoint name/person, while "Israel" is the divine-viewpoint name/person and just as Jacob is found with both attitudes, sometimes trusting and exhibiting great faith, but sometimes doubting and resorting to all manner of conniving schemes, so it has been with the Jewish people ever after as well (not to mention most believers). So while Abraham is the model of true change without looking back (demonstrated on Mt. Moriah), Jacob shows the people of Israel with a foot in both camps.
Verse 3. Is it a "varicoloured tunic" or a "full-length robe"? Or are the two the same thing? And why is this detail important enough to be recorded?
The Hebrew phrase is cethoneth passiym (פַּסִּֽים כְּתֹנֶת), and while it is true that the second word is difficult, the first most definitely means "robe" (the cethoneth is the basic item of clothing in the Mediterranean world of that time, a long "t-shirt"). The second word is plural, the singular of which means "extremity of the body", namely "palm of the hand" or "sole of the foot". It has been suggested that this then refers to the exceptional length of the robe (cf. RSV: "a long robe with sleeves"), and that would seem to be correct. The Vulgate uses polymita which is from Greek meaning "many threaded", but this seems in turn to be a translation of the LXX poikilon, which means "variegated" and the variegation can be colors as well as textures. The sense, the customs of the day, the versions and the scholarship all go in the direction of length. The reason "many colored" persists is that it is a favorite cultural idea so that translating it differently is felt to be iconoclastic (rather than what it is, namely, correcting an error from the KJV and the Luther-Bibel).
As to the significance, this robe was "special", and it was a particular example of Jacob treating Joseph with special consideration as if I had twelves sons and gave eleven of them old-pickup trucks to work the farm, but to my favorite I gave a bright and shiny new Landrover: the other boys couldn't fail to understand the significance and no doubt would be jealous.
Verses 6 - 11. This reminds me of the replacement of Reuben with Joseph as firstborn. Joseph was given the double portion that should have been Reuben's. Still, in time, it was Judah that the Lord chose to bring the Messiah through so that Judah essentially rules over all Israel. I'm still not sure that I understand why or how Judah was chosen. Could it be because Judah took responsibility in 43:9? I thought that Reuben's offer of the life of his own two sons should have been on a par with this but perhaps his spirit was wrong even there: Judah did not offer his or his sons' lives if he failed to bring back Benjamin. He offered to bear the blame of it the rest of his life. I'm not sure if that was what made his offer better: his apparent understanding that killing his own children who were Jacob's grandchildren was no compensation for the loss of Benjamin should that happen. Even so, is this why God gives him the scepter in Israel (Genesis 49:10)?
The first and technical reason for Jesus' descent from Judah is the important fact that Jesus is THE "First-born" unique and only Son of the Father (Rom.8:29; Col.1:15; 1:18; Heb.1:6; Rev.1:5; cf. Jn.1:14; 1:18; 3:16 3:18; 1Jn.4:9), and Judah is the tribe of the first-born - by assignment. For although Reuben was technically Jacob's first-born son, he forfeited the double-portion rights of inheritance that would otherwise have accrued thereto through misconduct - and he lost them to Judah (cf. Gen.49:3-4; 1Chron.5:1). It is for this that reason the "ruler's scepter" belongs to Judah (Gen.49:10; cf. Num.24:17), who ever after receives the privileges of the first-born. While we are not specifically told why it is that Simeon and Levi, Judah's older brothers, were disqualified from taking Reuben's place, it no doubt has to do with the incident in Genesis chapter 34 (compare especially Gen.34:30 with Gen.49:5-7).
Verse 5. I am not sure what we are being told about Joseph in this bit of the story. What could have been the reason for which he shared the dreams he was given by God to dream with his brothers if they hated him? Was he just being naοve? Did he not know that they would hate being told that he was somehow elevated above them especially considering their father's preference of him to them? Or was he just gloating? It seems unlikely to me that he was gloating.
I think if a boy or young man received a fantastic set of dreams like this from the Lord it would be very unusual to keep quiet about it. I agree that there is no gloating present, merely an honest re-telling. The problem is with how the others act and react. Joseph was clearly the best of the lot, spiritually speaking, and it was for this reason the Lord used him. He is enthusiastic about revelation; the others are not (even his father, it seems), and his brothers only receive it terms of their own egos.
Verse 25. These Ishmaelites were descendants of Jacob's uncle Ishmael? Or who were they?
That is what the etymology suggests. We find the Ishmaelites closely related to the Midianites also at Judges 8:24 (cf. Judg.8:1-3). These both seem to have been nomadic peoples and may well have intermarried. We also have to consider that the term "Ishmaelite" may have become generic by this time. Just as in scripture all merchants are "Canaanites" but not all Canaanites are merchants.
Verses 26 - 27. This bit suggests to me that the superiority of Judah to Reuben is in his estimation of the lives of his relatives. It seems to me that this is why he makes the suggestion recorded in 43:9 when Reuben would offer the lives of his sons if he lost Benjamin. Still, he had his brother sold into slavery. Reuben wanted to rescue him and return him to their father. Why does that not count in his favor? His failure with Bilhah must have colored everything he did or said and even his own choices for the rest of his life.
Yes, Reuben lost his position as a result of that terrible offense. But Reuben did not lose his salvation, nor did he cease to be the patriarch of one of the twelve tribes (and the leader of the second division of tribes).
Genesis 38: Verse 2. This is now the fourth generation from Abraham and Judah is marrying a Canaanite. Could you explain this, sir? Is it, like I suggested in an earlier question, because Abraham's family was no longer much different from the Canaanites? Or is it because Israel has become large enough and powerful enough to preserve their own ways from the corrupting influence of marriage with other nations?
This is what happened. Abraham had only one son of promise. Isaac had only one son who received the blessing. Jacob had twelve sons, and doesn't seem to have been able to manage or restrain his family particularly well. By the time this event takes place, Judah is an adult and making his own decisions. Joseph married an Egyptian woman and that seems to have been a necessity consistent with the position the Lord placed him in. I don't see these marriages as being either commended or condemned by scripture. Preserving their unique identity for spiritual reasons was of course very important for the Israelites much of the Law has to do with this but they were never terribly consistent or scrupulous about this, and in the end it is the spiritual factor which matters. God makes this clear on may occasions (Rahab, also a Canaanite, and Ruth, a Moabite, come to mind, as does Tamar here, with all three women being in the line of the Messiah despite their ethnicity).
Verse 25. Does this indicate that in that culture at that time, a condemned woman could bring the man with whom she committed such an act into judgment with her as well?
I don't think we can conclude that from Judah's reaction; he is man enough (and believer enough) to realize that he was the one who was in the wrong for his actions.
Is there any connection between Bilhah's adultery and Dan's later destiny as the progenitor of the Antichrist?
This is one of many factors that mark out that tribe as the tribe of the beast (see the link).
Genesis 36:6 - 8. This is very reminiscent of the split between Abraham and Lot. It also reminds me of Ishmael's separation from Isaac.
Yes. God has again used the prosperity given to the line of faith to produce a voluntary separation from family who are not of the faith or at least not of that line of faith.
Verse 14. Why does the footnote in NASB offer an alternative reading of "son" for the word "granddaughter"?
This is what the Septuagint reads (it's not in the MT Hebrew text which has daughter).
Genesis 42: Verse 4. Benjamin had to be in his twenties at least by this time. Was it that Jacob suspected that his sons had something to do with Joseph's "death"? Verse 36 appears to support this idea. Or was it just that he didn't want to risk losing his only remaining memory of Rachel? If the latter, Benjamin was already a father by this time, wasn't he? That should have meant that Jacob had other reminders of Rachel, right? But I suppose it would not have been quite the same as having Benjamin alive and with him.
No one wants to lose their children, and the point is that even if Jacob had no suspicions, at the very least one would have to say that in the past the other boys had proved themselves incapable of protecting each other since (to the human eye) Joseph and Simeon were now lost.
Verse 37. It seems to me that Reuben did not understand at all what the value of life was. To offer his children's lives in exchange for Benjamin's in the event of any harm befalling the latter seems to me to be asking Jacob to pluck out one of his eyes if something happened to the other. This kind of reasoning seems to me to be partly why Judah ends up seeming preferred to Reuben among Leah's sons in addition to his earlier failure with Bilhah.
I would agree but would say rather that this incident is indicative of Reuben's shortcomings of character which played out as you mention elsewhere as well. In addition to Bilhah, he was the oldest and yet unable to assert his authority sufficiently or effectively enough to save Joseph from being sold.
Genesis 43: For the first time while reading this chapter, it occurred to me that Joseph may have done what he did to make sure of seeing his brothers again. It may have been sort of coincidence that he saw them the first time since it may have been unlikely that he was personally selling grain to everyone who came. And the accusations that he faked against them may also have had the purpose of having some pretext for taking personal interest in them. Is this a reasonable way to understand the story?
Jacob was certainly an extremely wise man. It is clear that he had a plan, and also that the plan (with God's supervision of course) worked to perfection to "keep many souls alive" (Gen.50:20).
Verse 32. Was that just with the Hebrews or with foreigners entirely? The Hebrews were still too small a group then to matter that much, weren't they? They were just 70 (46:27) when they came to Egypt. Is there any way one can understand this abomination to be specific to the Hebrews alone?
The prejudice seems to be against shepherds: "for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians" (Gen.46:34 NKJV). No doubt the odor of animals on their clothing had something to do with it; the Egyptians with whom Joseph had daily contact were the elite who no doubt had a high standard of hygiene (causing Joseph to "tidy up" before he first appeared before Pharaoh: Gen.41:14).
Genesis 44: This chapter seems to be a test of Joseph's brothers by him to see if they were still the sort of men that they once were, right? And they seem to have changed especially with Judah begging to replace Benjamin in slavery so that the latter can go home to Israel.
Verse 28. Is this proof that he was replacing Reuben with Judah at that time?
It certainly shows Judah in the leadership role.
Verse 34. This seems to me to explain why the Egyptians wouldn't eat with Joseph's brothers at the time that Joseph entertained them earlier. It was probably because they identified them somehow as shepherds or keepers of livestock rather than because of their ethnicity?
The two things are probably largely indistinguishable. Compare today how people entertain stereotypes about certain peoples as a whole which may or may not be true of a large number of the group in question. People have a tendency to generalize. But God looks at the heart of each individual (1Sam.16:7).
Genesis 47: Verse 6. The Egyptians kept livestock and still found those who tend them abominable?
Yes. There is a difference between a farmer and a shepherd (or a "cowboy").
Verse 8. Can we see a reason why Pharaoh may have been interested in Jacob's age?
No doubt he looked very old and he was very old. And based upon the ages of his children it seemed amazing that he was still alive no doubt.
Verses 20 - 26. This seems to be a very pragmatic political move to strengthen the Pharaoh's hold on Egypt. Should we read it like that?
Joseph was a very shrewd administrator and he always took pains to do his best for those for whom he worked, even though in regard to his brothers it got him thrown into a pit and sold into slavery and in regard to Potiphar it got him thrown into prison. In the end, this was an excellent policy even though the people on whose behalf he was working were more or less worthy of such care Joseph was doing his job "as unto the Lord" . . . and we should take note.
Verse 28. If my calculation is correct, Joseph was 39 when Jacob came to Egypt so that he was born when his father was about 91. That seems to suggest to me that Joseph was much younger than most of his brothers and that Rachel had him and his brother in relative old age as well. Is that likely? I'm still not sure if Jacob married Rachel seven years after Leah or just one week after Leah. And I think he was 47 when Laban deceived him into marrying Leah.
Please see earlier discussions on the ages. This is not one of my strengths. If it were important, scripture would probably say more about it.
Genesis 48: Verse 5. I wonder if it is significant that the names Reuben and Simeon are used here to make his point since Reuben had lost the birthright in his eyes and Simeon and Levi were still outcasts, for want of a better word, in his eyes as well.
I don't think so. Reuben and Simeon were the two first born, so this makes the point more emphatic regarding Ephraim and Manasseh becoming Jacob's sons in terms of inheritance.
Genesis 49: Verse 1. This sounds like Jacob's blessing of his children recorded after this point were actually prophecies, and prophecies about "the end of days" too? The footnote in NASB says "end of the days" as an alternative reading to "days to come". So this is eschatology. Is this about right?
Yes indeed. So, for example, the prophecy about Dan indicates that antichrist, who is Jewish on his human, maternal side, will come from the tribe of Dan.
Verses 3 - 4. First, just as I read this, for the first time these words put me in mind of Satan and his fall. Like Reuben, he was "preeminent in dignity [and] preeminent in power" and a sort of firstborn too but what he did amounted to defiling God's couch. So, Reuben here is a type of Satan somehow? I've never ever thought of it like this. Is this a possible interpretation? If it could be, it would seem that in Israel all of creature history is captured if one keeps even Dan's own part in producing Antichrist in mind among other things.
That is a very interesting observation. Of course the key difference is that in the case of Reuben we have a single act of supreme arrogance a sin but not a pattern of rejecting the Lord in complete rebellion as in Satan's case. Reuben shows me that sin really is NOT the issue in salvation; rather the issue is faith in Christ. For even the worst of sinners can be saved, and even believers who commit the worst of sins are still saved . . . as long as they believe in Christ. But those who, like the devil, completely reject His authority (abandoning the faith to become apostates in the case of believers) are lost even if they don't commit sins of the horrendous nature of Reuben's.
Verses 5 - 7. This is still a part of Jacob's prophecy here that I stumble over. In this set of questions, I think that I have already asked about Simeon and Levi. What they did in Shechem seemed justified to me but it is held against them and they are both cursed for it here. The only way I can make sense of the curse here is that they took it upon themselves to act when their father had neither chosen to act in any way or given them leave to do so. Was that enough reason for this curse? What does this mean eschatologically as well? Then I also wonder about verse 7. The footnote offers "divided" as an alternative reading to "dispersed". In a previous answer that you gave me, Sir, I think you mentioned that Simeon's territory was divided somehow while Levi was scattered all over Israel. That makes me think that "divided" is the better reading here since that would allow verse 7 to capture both curses - that is, Simeon is divided and Levi is scattered. The cross-reference here is to Joshua 19:1-9. There Simeon seems to have a continuous territory but carved out of Judah's portion because Judah's territory is too large for them. What does this mean? If memory serves me right, it was Mannaseh whose territory was divided by the Jordan. So, how does Jacob's prophecy work here?
To note the distinction between what happens to these two tribes is a good observation. Jacob actually uses two different verbs, with chalaq "apportion" (divide) being best applied to Simeon (whose territory was contiguous but allotted within Judah's boundaries) and with and putz "scatter" (disperse) being best applied to Levi (where Levites were indeed dispersed throughout all the tribes). So this prophecy was fulfilled in the days of Joshua. Being a part of Judah, so to speak, was a blessing, and being a Levite was a blessing in and of itself, so here is a good example of God working things out for good, even when we are talking about what seems to be a curse coming as a result of bad behavior. Murdering an entire city because of the criminal action of a single individual strikes me as unjust by any measure and it was certainly unwise (for the reasons Jacob complains about at the time). I don't find any special eschatological significance here, none, at any rate, that we confirm with scripture since the Bible says nothing in particular about Simeon in this regard.
Verses 8 - 12. Clearly Judah gets the kingship here. I saw in https://ichthys.com/mail-Judah.htm where you said that Reuben lost the firstborn rights to Judah but here he gets just the kingship and the Messiah and in 1 Chronicles 5:1 which you quoted at the link, it is Joseph who is said to get the rights of the firstborn although Judah is emphasized to be the strongest among his brothers. Compare also Genesis 48:5-6. Was that a mistake on your part or is there something wrong with the translations?
Our Lord receives the double portion of all double portions: the Church and the millennial believers. The double portion in terms of descendants of Jacob does fall to Joseph (the two tribes), but all other aspects of the first born belong to Judah and to our Lord.
Verse 13. Does this mean anything other than that Zebulun will be a coastal territory? Why is it important for us to know that?
Yes on the Sea of Galilee, that is. Why is this important? That is a question believers ask all the time about all manner of things in the Bible. Sometimes the answer is obvious; sometimes less so. But we can be sure that if it is in the Bible, it is in fact important, even if we don't see it right away. The man leaning against the tower saw a brick sticking half way out which seemed superfluous. It was loose so he pulled it out . . . and the whole tower collapsed on him. This passage, for one thing, demonstrates for us God's complete control over all things in history. Zebulun is predicted to have the territory mentioned . . . and in the allotment of territory for the tribes, that is exactly how it turned out. Skeptics call this an anachronistic vaticinium ex eventu, that is, a "prophecy after the fact". But we who believe know that this prophecy was given centuries before the allotment, and that allotment happened as recorded and was from God alone.
Verses 14 - 15. What does this mean? Why does Issachar become "a slave at forced labor"? And what does the expression itself mean?
Not much is mentioned about the tribe of Issachar in scripture, but we do know that they fought with Deborah and Barak when other tribes demurred (Judg.5:15). These two verses taken together paint a picture of a sedentary tribe happy with menial agricultural labor in the good plot of land they had been allotted. They bend their shoulders to the work and are content to labor "like slaves". This doesn't read as negatively in the Hebrew. And after all, anyone who has ever been "down on the farm" knows that "slavery" is not a bad metaphor . . . because the work never comes to an end. Yet many who farm would not choose any other way of life.
Verses 16 - 18. Does verse 16 exist to speak of redemption for Dan in spite of 17 and 18?
While there are believers from Dan as with all the other tribes, verses 16-17 are a prophecy about antichrist (who springs from Dan on his mother's side), so that verse 18 is a prophecy of the second advent when the beast is destroyed.
Verse 19. What does this mean?
Taking the prophecy of Gad here in conjunction with Deuteronomy 33:20-21, we see the military theme in both places. So the prediction is of Gad being known for its warriors (cf. 1Chron.12:14-15).
Verse 20. What does this mean too?
The Jewish people are talented in every field known to man, a blessing from the Lord on Abraham's seed. The people of Asher were generally blessed as cooks.
Verse 21. This one too. What does it mean?
. . . and the people of Naphtali were blessed with notable physical beauty as their tribal characteristic.
Verses 22 - 26. What are "the blessings of the deep beneath"? Is it part of a whole that essentially means "be blessed with every kind of blessing everywhere" or is it a definite thing that has a meaning on its own? Also, why is the firstborn not also in possession of the kingship? I know from the history of the kings of Israel and Judah that the firstborn does not always become king or inherit the throne but in this case, the one blessed with firstborn privileges is deemed worthy of them but another is given the kingship through no fault of the first one's. Does that not require comment?
It's best not to think of God's blessings as being "zero sum". There is no end to the blessing God can provide. Joseph is blessed with two tribes who are in turn blessed abundantly in every way. In the history of the Jewish people, many have been wonderfully blessed in material terms with great prosperity. That is the predominate characteristic seen in regard to these two tribes, the offspring of Joseph.
Verse 27. What does this mean?
Again, this gives the key characteristic of Benjamin. We see in his history that the Benjamites were wolf-like, tending to keep apart from the other tribes, being tough in a fight, but also somewhat surly. Saul comes to mind, as does the incident at Judges 19-21.
Verse 31. Is it significant that Rachel did not make it to this burial site of the family?
She is as much a part of the family and will be also in resurrection nonetheless. But her early demise does demonstrate the folly of all human effort and desire. Jacob loved Rachel because of her appearance but ended up married to four women as a result and enduring much worldly suffering as a consequence and he lost her nevertheless.
Verses 24 - 25. Considering that Joseph was much younger than many of his brothers, perhaps of all but Benjamin, would they still be alive at this time for him to be speaking to? Could "his brothers" and "sons of Israel" refer to other younger descendants of Israel? Also, is it significant that he is the next person in the line of Abraham after Jacob to be recorded speaking of Canaan in this manner? Could it be connected to why his father loved him so much, to his becoming firstborn after Reuben's failure, to his being God's choice for preserving Israel during the famine?
These are his actual brothers. Longevity was greater for the patriarchs.