Friday, August 26, 2011

Genesis 36

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

As we come to chapter 36, the genealogy of Esau’s family, we are tempted to skip over it, because the names are impossible to pronounce, and we would really need a visual family tree to grasp it! To be perfectly honest, we might all be thinking, “Why is this in here? Do I need to read this???” So, I’m thanking Jon Courson, who starts his commentary of this chapter with the above reminder from Paul to Timothy: ALL scripture is God-breathed. Not some of it. Not just the parts that agree with my viewpoint. Not just the “words in red” of Jesus. ALL of it! If the Creator and Sustainer of the universe can’t keep His Word uncorrupted, then how can He possibly be of help to us?

Even when Paul,himself, says, “These are my thoughts not God’s,” (I Cor 7:12), his words were purposefully included in the scripture to give us a better understanding of Paul. While the books are all God-breathed, they were written by men who had distinct personalities and voices, which in my mind is further proof of their authenticity. Anyway, all this to say that God included genealogies in scripture to teach us! They certainly provide historical context, but they also help explain other passages - and they teach us lessons.

Coincidentally, (I actually believe it was a God-incident rather than a coincident), my pastor is teaching from Romans all this year, and this past Sunday he was teaching from Romans 9, which is about the sovereign choices of God, specifically in choosing Israel. Within that choice, God has made more specific choices as He narrowed the group from which the Messiah would come. He chose Isaac over Ishmael, even though Ishmael was the firstborn. He chose Jacob over Esau. In fact, Paul quotes Malachi 1:2-3 to prove his point: “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I hated.” (Rom 9:13) Those are strong words, but Genesis 36 gives us insight into why God would sovereignly choose Jacob over Esau - because Jacob chose God, while Esau turned his back on God. Here’s the tension of predestination vs. free will of man. The Bible doesn’t explain it - just affirms that they both work together somehow...

This is the account of Esau (that is, Edom).

Esau took his wives from the women of Canaan: Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite— also Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth. (Gen 36:1-3)

Esau chose women who were pagan and had no part in the promises of God, including Basemuth, the daughter of Ishmael. While he had much in the way of material goods (vs.6-7), he lacked a relationship with God. This family became the nation of Edom, the enemy of Israel, who settled in a desert region southwest of Jerusalem. They harassed the Israelites, even cheering when they were conquered and taken into captivity by Babylon. In fact, the Edomites went in and looted Judah afterward. The book of Obadiah is a prophetic pronouncement of judgement against the Edomites, “because of the violence against your brother Jacob.” (Obadiah vs.10) God is very clear that an enemy of Israel is an enemy of God!

Jon Courson points out that while Jacob represents the spiritual side of man, Edom is a type of the flesh in scripture. And our flesh is always at war with God! It never ceases to amaze me how one family (Abraham’s or Isaac’s) can produce both godly and ungodly progeny. In Genesis 12:2-3, God promises Abraham, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all of the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” However, in Obadiah vs. 2, God indeed curses Edom: “See, I will make you small among the nations; you will be utterly despised.”

And where is Edom today??? When was the last time you met an Edomite? The last time they had any prominence was in Jesus’ day. King Herod’s family was from this line. But after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, they vanished from history. Yet, God preserved His people, the Jews - those He sovereignly chose - even though they were scattered throughout the world. He has brought them back together as a nation again. Proof that God’s Word is true and that He fulfills His Word. The fact that Israel is at the epicenter of the world’s focus even today - that this tiny nation is surrounded by nations waiting to annihilate her - is all part of God’s great Plan. We watch on tiptoe as events unfold in the Middle East. Surely His promise of the LORD’s return is near!

So, even if you can’t get interested in who bore whom in Esau’s line, at least you now know how Esau’s descendants figure into God’s story of His people. And you can see how the way we treat Israel matters! It’s surely relevant in our time! We need to pray that our nation will never turn its back on Israel, or, like the Edomites, we will be cursed!

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