Simple Bible Reading Guide
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"The revelation of Your words sheds light, giving understanding to the simple." —Psalms 119:130
God's word is intended for all people. For thousands of years God has communicated to millions of simple people through His word. In fact, many things are hidden from the learned and clever but revealed to the merest children (Lk 10:21). Of course, God's word is sometimes so difficult to interpret that we need the Church to teach us. Therefore, highly academic Bible study has its place, but it is not the principal approach to God's word. The word is not primarily for an educated elite but for everyday people praying and reading by the power of the Spirit.
Nevertheless, not many books about the Bible are written to help the average person. What most people need is something short, simple, and practical that encourages, motivates and guides. We need something that will help us read the Biblical texts and not just about the text. This is the purpose of this simple Bible reading guide. "We have aimed to please those who prefer simple reading, as well as to make it easy for the studious who wish to commit things to memory, and to be helpful to all (2 Mc 2:25).
Note: The breakdown of the Bible into chapters (although not always adequate) has served God's people for centuries. So in general we will use a chapter-by-chapter structure for our comments.
Be sure to read each chapter of the Bible along with the introductory comments.
P.S. We have prayed before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament about our choice of the verses in this reading guide. We hope the Scriptures will have a prophetic, life-changing power for you.
Gn 1 — OUR BEGINNINGS
"In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters." Genesis 1:1-2
During the Babylonian exile after the fall of Jerusalem (587 B.C.), the Israelites were shocked that their entire lives had fallen apart. They decided to go all the way back to the beginning, to their roots, that they might understand what had happened to them. In the first chapter of the Bible, they assert that there is meaning and order in life, creation is good, humanity is very good, and we have the power to "fill the earth and subdue it" (1:28). Life is indeed worth living.
Prayer: Father, may my life be rooted in a totally committed relationship with You.
Promise: "God created man in His image; in the divine image He created him; male and female He created them." 1:27
Gn 2 — PARADISE
"The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being." Genesis 2:7
The human person is both made in the image of God and formed from the earth. We are spiritual and material, co-creators and created. We are to cultivate God's creation, and with the Lord even create new life through the gift of marriage and sexuality.
Prayer: Father, may I have a profound respect for every detail of Your spiritual and physical ecology. Give me an awe, respect, and fear of You, which is the beginning of wisdom (Ps 111:10).
Promise: "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body." 2:24
Gn 3 — PARADISE LOST
"So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it." Genesis 3:6
Mankind sinned by trying to be a god instead of being in God's likeness. With sin, we brought into the world death, pain, suffering, lust, shame, and alienation from God. In His mercy, however, God left us a ray of hope by promising us victory over Satan: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel" (3:15).
Prayer: Father, may I hate sin as much as You do.
Promise: "When He expelled the man, He settled him east of the garden of Eden; and He stationed the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword, to guard the way to the tree of life." 3:24
Gn 4 — ESCALATOR
"If Cain is avenged sevenfold, then Lamech seventy-sevenfold." Genesis 4:24
With sin comes death and a cycle of more sin and more death (Rm 6:23). The first death in the Bible was the murder of Abel by his own brother, Cain. Lamech escalated the conflict, and death began to reign (Rm 5:17).
Prayer: Father, through repentance may sin decrease and You increase in my life.
Promise: "If you do well, you can hold up your head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master." 4:7
Gn 5 — LIFE-STYLE AND DEATH-STYLE
"When God created man, He made him in the likeness of God." Genesis 5:1
"Adam was one hundred and thirty years old when he begot a son in his likeness, after his image; and he named him Seth." Genesis 5:3
Adam's descendants lived to be almost a thousand years old. Death was not reigning with the vengeance we see today. Nevertheless, death was increasing and life decreasing. This chapter begins with Adam living 930 years; it ends with Lamech dying after 777 years.
Prayer: Father, I claim Jesus' victory over death and accept His gift of eternal life.
Promise: "Then Enoch walked with God, and he was no longer here, for God took him." 5:24
Gn 6 — SEX, SIN, AND THE FLOOD
"He said to Noah: 'I have decided to put an end to all mortals on earth; the earth is full of lawlessness because of them. So I will destroy them and all life on earth.' " Genesis 6:13
"The sons of heaven had intercourse with the daughters of man, who bore them sons" (6:4). "When the Lord saw how great was man's wickedness on earth, and how no desire that his heart conceived was ever anything but evil, He regretted that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was grieved. So the Lord said: 'I will wipe out from the earth the men whom I have created, and not only the men, but also the beasts and the creeping things and the birds of the air, for I am sorry that I made them' " (6:5-7). The flood was an attempt to remove the cancer of sin, while leaving a few people to begin a new creation. It failed, since even Noah and his family were cancerous. Every human being was in sin (see Rm 3:23).
Prayer: Father, thank You for the waters of baptism in which I was drowned and from which I rose as a new creation.
Promise: "With you I will establish My covenant; you and your sons, your wife and your sons' wives, shall go into the ark." 6:18
Gn 7 — "RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY"
"The Lord wiped out every living thing on earth: man and cattle, the creeping things and the birds of the air; all were wiped out from the earth. Only Noah and those with him in the ark were left." Genesis 7:23
The flood lasted for one year and ten days and destroyed everything but Noah, his family, and a few survivors from each species of animals. All creation groaned and was in agony because of our sins (Rm 8:22).
Prayer: Father, may I recognize sin as the first and greatest evil on earth and in my life.
Promise: "Noah did just as the Lord had commanded him." 7:5
Gn 8 — COME, HOLY SPIRIT
"Then God remembered Noah and all the animals, wild and tame, that were with him in the ark." Genesis 8:1
As in the first creation (1:1), the wind swept "over the earth. The waters began to subside" (8:1), and Noah sent out a dove to see if the waters had gone down. The Spirit renewed "the face of the earth" (Ps 104:30).
Prayer: Lord, send forth Your Spirit and renew the face of the earth. Give us a new Pentecost.
Promise: The Lord "said to Himself: 'Never again will I doom the earth because of man, since the desires of man's heart are evil from the start; nor will I ever again strike down all living beings.' " 8:21
Gn 9 — SOMEONE OVER THE RAINBOW
"As the bow appears in the clouds, I will see it and recall the everlasting covenant that I have established between God and all living beings all mortal creatures that are on earth." Genesis 9:16
God said to Noah what He had said to Adam: "Be fertile and multiply; abound on earth and subdue it" (9:7, see also 9:1; 1:28). Thus the Lord began the new creation after the flood the way He had begun the first creation. God even gave a rainbow to Noah and all creatures as a sign of His covenant to never destroy the earth by another flood. Despite all this, the flood did not destroy all sin. Sin was still in Noah. The flood was a failure.
Prayer: Jesus, You are the Someone over the rainbow Who has died to wash away all sin. I adore You.
Promise: "I set My bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth." 9:13
Gn 10 — GENERATIONAL CURSE
"The chief cities of his kingdom were Babylon, Erech, and Accad, all of them in the land of Shinar. From that land he went forth to Asshur, where he built Nineveh." Genesis 10:10-11
Canaan, Noah's grandson, was cursed by his drunken grandfather. From Canaan descended Babylon and Assyria, the nations that would later destroy the chosen people.
Prayer: Jesus, thank You for setting me free from the curse.
Gn 11 — CONFUSED BABBLES AND DEATH RATTLES
"That is why it was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the speech of all the world. It was from that place that He scattered them all over the earth." Genesis 11:9
This chapter ends the introduction to Genesis. The 11-chapter introduction is not primarily about creation but about the origins of the chosen people through the patriarchs. It concludes with the peace and harmony of creation having been reversed into the pride and confusion of Babel. Because of sin, death was gradually taking over the world. When sin and death first entered the world, people lived close to a thousand years. At this point, our life-span was cut by one-half to two-thirds.
Prayer: Jesus, thank You for eternal life instead of ever worsening death.
Promise: "Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot, son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and brought them out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to go to the land of Canaan." 11:31
Gn 12 — ROOTS
"I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing." Genesis 12:2
After the Babylonian exile, the chosen people wondered whether they were chosen for greatness or for destruction. They went back to their roots, to Abram, the founding father of the nation, to see why they were destroyed. They concluded that, without a doubt, the Lord had promised Abram that he would be the father of a great nation. He had even "struck Pharaoh and his household with severe plagues" to protect Abram's wife Sarai (12:17). God's promises are true; He backs them up.
Prayer: Father, may I be what You want me to be without the slightest omission.
Promise: "I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you." 12:3
Gn 13 — CAN'T LOSE
"If you prefer the left, I will go to the right; if you prefer the right, I will go to the left." Genesis 13:9
Abram let his grandson Lot take his pick of the land. Of course, Lot chose the golf course and left the desert for Abram. However, Lot's well-watered land was eventually devastated by the fire and brimstone that fell on Sodom and Gomorrah. So, by God's sovereign power, everything worked out for Abram's benefit (2 Cor 4:15). The moral is: "God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His decree" (Rm 8:28).
Prayer: Jesus, be Lord of every detail of my life. Turn all my messes into blessings.
Promise: "After Lot had left, the Lord said to Abram: 'Look about you, and from where you are, gaze to the north and south, east and west; all the land that you see I will give to you and your descendants forever.' " 13:14-15
Gn 14 — BLESSED
"Blessed be Abram by God Most High, the Creator of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, Who delivered your foes into your hand." Genesis 14:19-20
Everything Abram did turned out great (see 12:2-3). He rescued Lot from the kings who had captured him. On the way home from this mission, Abram met Melchizedek. Abram "gave him a tenth of everything" (14:20) he had, and thus began the practice of tithing. This experience was also a prophecy of a new priesthood "according to the order of Melchizedek" (Ps 110:4; Heb 5:6).
Prayer: Father, by tithing may I let You love and bless me.
Promise: "He and his party deployed against them at night, defeated them, and pursued them." 14:15
Gn 15 — COVENANTED
"It was on that occasion that the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: 'To your descendants I give this land.' " Genesis 15:18
As with Noah, the Lord made a covenant with Abram. He would be Abram's God, make him the father of a great nation, and give him the promised land. As great as God's covenant with Abram was, the new covenant (Jer 31:31) He has made with us makes the old one look like nothing (2 Cor 3:9-11).
Prayer: Father, I covenant with You. I abandon my life to You.
Promise: "Abram put his faith in the Lord, Who credited it to him as an act of righteousness." 15:6
Gn 16 — ISHMAEL
"You are now pregnant and shall bear a son; you shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard you, God has answered you." Genesis 16:11
Everyone and everything Abram touched was blessed. Since Sarai was barren, she told Abram to have intercourse with her maid Hagar to raise up offspring. Thereby, Hagar conceived Ishmael. Although her son was not part of the chosen people, he was blessed as the father of countless people.
Prayer: Father, may every baby be seen as a blessed gift.
Promise: "To the Lord Who spoke to her she gave a name, saying, 'You are the God of Vision.' " 16:13
Gn 17 — 90-YEAR-OLD WOMAN EXPECTING BABY!
"This is My covenant with you and your descendants after you that you must keep: every male among you shall be circumcised." Genesis 17:10
Abram was 99 years old and his wife Sarai 90. They were childless. Nevertheless, the Lord had covenanted with Abram to make him the father of a great nation. After the Lord changed the names of Abram and his wife Sarai, "Abraham prostrated himself and laughed as he said to himself, 'Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Or can Sarah give birth at ninety?' (17:17) The Lord promised: "My covenant I will maintain with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you by this time next year" (17:21). As a sign of the covenant, Abraham circumcised himself and all the males of his household.
Prayer: Father, circumcise my heart so I will not prevent You from doing anything You want in my life (Jer 4:4).
Promise: "No longer shall you be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a host of nations. I will render you exceedingly fertile; I will make nations of you; kings shall stem from you." 17:5-6
Gn 18 — SPECIAL ED
"Indeed, I have singled him out that he may direct his sons and his posterity to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord may carry into effect for Abraham the promises He made about him." Genesis 18:19
Abraham found it difficult to believe that he was to be the father of a great nation. He may have believed that God had the power to give a child to a couple nearly a hundred years old but may have doubted he was important enough for God to work this miracle for him. However, the Lord considered Abraham so special that He visited him personally and, through his intercession, would have spared the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Prayer: Father, may I believe that I am Your child and therefore have power to change nations through my intercessory prayer.
Promise: "Is anything too marvelous for the Lord to do?" 18:14
Gn 19 — HIGHWAY TO HELL
"Last night it was I who lay with my father. Let us ply him with wine again tonight, and then you go in and lie with him, that we may both have offspring by our father." Genesis 19:34
As the Lord was raising up Abraham as the father of a great nation, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of their sins, especially homosexual relations. Also, Lot got drunk and committed incest with his two daughters. The desperate need for a savior is apparent.
Prayer: Jesus, Savior, save us from lusts and compulsions.
Promise: "Flee for your life! Don't look back or stop anywhere." 19:17
Gn 20 — 24-HOUR PROTECTION
"Therefore, return the man's wife as a spokesman he will intercede for you that your life may be saved. If you do not return her, you can be sure that you and all who are yours will certainly die." Genesis 20:7
Abraham again passed Sarah off as his sister rather than his wife (see 12:10ff). When Abimelech took her as his own wife, he became sick and his wife and maidservants barren. Therefore, he returned Sarah to Abraham. The Lord takes care of His people.
Prayer: Lord, may I trust You to protect me rather than trust in my own efforts.
Promise: "Abraham then interceded with God, and God restored health to Abimelech, that is, to his wife and his maidservants, so that they could bear children" 20:17
Gn 21 — 100-YEAR-OLD MAN FATHERS CHILD!
"The Lord took note of Sarah as He had said He would; He did for her as He had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time that God had stated." Genesis 21:1-2
God was with Abraham in everything he did. At the age of a hundred, Abraham finally fathered a child with his wife Sarah. Even Ishmael, Abraham's son by Sarah's maidservant, was to be the first of a great nation. Abimelech, king of Gerar, could see that Abraham couldn't lose so he made an alliance with him.
Prayer: Father, thank You for fulfilling every promise You've ever made (Jos 23:14). Increase my faith (Lk 17:5).
Promise: "Don't be afraid; God has heard the boy's cry in this plight of his. Arise, lift up the boy and hold him by the hand; for I will make of him a great nation." 21:17-18
Gn 22 — FATHERS AND SONS
"God put Abraham to the test. He called to him, 'Abraham!' 'Ready!' he replied. Then God said: 'Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.' " Genesis 22:1-2
Abraham waited twenty-five years to have the son God had promised him. Then, as a test of faith, God told him to offer up the boy as a sacrifice. However, the angel of the Lord stopped Abraham at the last moment from sacrificing Isaac. This was a prefigurement of God the Father loving us so much as to sacrifice His Son on the altar of the cross. But unlike Isaac, Jesus was not spared. Instead, He suffered and died for us.
Prayer: Father, thank You for loving us so much as to give Your only-begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life (Jn 3:16). I offer my body to You as a living sacrifice (Rm 12:1).
Promise: "I swear by Myself, declares the Lord, that because you acted as you did in not withholding from Me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore." 22:16-17
Gn 23 — BURIAL PLOT
"Thus Ephron's field in Machpelah, facing Mamre, together with its cave and all the trees anywhere within its limits, was conveyed to Abraham by purchase in the presence of all the Hittites who sat on Ephron's town council." Genesis 23:17-18
For the burial of Sarah, Abraham purchased his first plot of land in the promised land. God's promises of a son, a great nation, and now a land were being fulfilled.
Prayer: Lord, may I not fail to claim all Your promises to me.
Promise: "After this transaction, Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave of the field of Machpelah, facing Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan." 23:19
Gn 24 — DIVINE MATCHMAKING
"The girl was very beautiful, a virgin, untouched by man." Genesis 24:16
Everything came up roses for Abraham. The Lord even showed His limitless love by providing just the perfect wife for Abraham's son Isaac.
Prayer: Lord, may every marriage be made in heaven and in obedience to You. (Pray this prayer for a young person you know.)
Promise: "Then Isaac took Rebekah into his tent; he married her, and thus she became his wife. In his love for her Isaac found solace after the death of his mother Sarah." 24:67
Gn 25 — CAMPBELL'S TOMATO SOUP
"He said to Jacob, 'Let me gulp down some of that red stuff; I'm starving.' (That is why he was called Edom.) But Jacob replied, 'First give me your birthright in exchange for it.' " Genesis 25:30-31
As the first-born son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, Esau had a tremendous birthright. However, "Esau cared little for his birthright" (25:34). He sold it to his brother Jacob for a bowl of red soup. We are adopted sons and daughters of God, and heirs with Christ (Rm 8:14-17). But we can sell-out for such things as money, food, sex, or TV.
Prayer: Lord, may I never sell my eternal birthright for anything.
Promise: "Isaac entreated the Lord on behalf of his wife, since she was sterile. The Lord heard his entreaty, and Rebekah became pregnant." 25:21
Gn 26 — LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
"The same night the Lord appeared to him and said: 'I am the God of your father Abraham. You have no need to fear, since I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for the sake of My servant Abraham.' " Genesis 26:24
Almost everything Isaac did turned out great since he was the child of the promise. The Lord protected Isaac's wife and made him extremely prosperous in crops, flocks, and herds. And, even in the desert, Isaac struck water when he dug a well.
Prayer: Father, may everything I do prosper because I delight in Your law (Ps 1:2-3).
Promise: "We are convinced that the Lord is with you, so we propose that there be a sworn agreement between our two sides." 26:28
Gn 27 — THE LOSER
"First he took away my birthright, and now he has taken away my blessing." Genesis 27:36
Jacob swindled Esau out of both his birthright and his father's death-bed blessing. Although God has promised us victory over death and eternal life, we too can lose God's blessing in our lives by selling out to the world.
Prayer: Father, may I never let myself be bribed, cheated, or manipulated by the world.
Promise: "Let peoples serve you, and nations pay you homage; be master of your brothers, and may your mother's sons bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, and blessed be those who bless you." 27:29
Gn 28 — STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN
"May He extend to you and your descendants the blessing He gave to Abraham, so that you may gain possession of the land where you are staying, which He assigned to Abraham." Genesis 28:4
Jacob received the same promise as his grandfather Abraham. Jacob saw a stairway to heaven, and God promised that a great nation would come forth from him and all nations would be blessed in him. Like Abraham, Jacob also promised to return a tenth part of his possessions to God. We too can choose to be like Abraham in inheriting God's promises, in tithing, and in faith.
Prayer: Father, keep me from interfering with the work You want to do in my life.
Promise: "In solemn wonder he cried out: 'How awesome is this shrine! This is nothing else but an abode of God, and that is the gateway to heaven!' " 28:17
Gn 29 — DIRTY TRICKS
"Then Jacob kissed Rachel and burst into tears." Genesis 29:11
Jacob got a taste of his own medicine. After he had played a couple dirty tricks on Esau, uncle Laban cheated him out of the bride whom Jacob had worked seven years to marry. On the wedding night, Laban replaced Rachel with Leah. So Jacob had to work seven more years in exchange for marrying Rachel.
Prayer: Father, I repent of my sins before they come back to destroy me.
Promise: "When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He made her fruitful." 29:31
Gn 30 — FIERCE COMPETITORS
"When Rachel saw that she failed to bear children to Jacob, she became envious of her sister. She said to Jacob, 'Give me children or I shall die!' In anger Jacob retorted, 'Can I take the place of God, Who has denied you the fruit of the womb?' " Genesis 30:1-2
Jacob had competed with Esau. His wives competed with each other to see who could have the most children. Moreover, Jacob continued to have a battle of wits with Laban.
Prayer: Father, I repent of all rivalry, competition, envy, and jealousy (see Phil 2:3).
Promise: "The man grew increasingly prosperous, and he came to own, not only large flocks, but also male and female servants and camels and asses." 30:43
Gn 31 — HOME, SWEET HOME
"Jacob had hoodwinked Laban the Aramean by not telling him of his intended flight." Genesis 31:20
After twenty years of being ripped off by Laban and yet somehow always coming out on top, Jacob decided to go home. After much controversy, Jacob and Laban parted in peace.
Prayer: "May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are out of each other's sight" (31:49).
Promise: "I am the God Who appeared to you in Bethel, where you anointed a memorial stone and made a vow to Me. Up, then! Leave this land and return to the land of your birth." 31:13
Gn 32 — BIG-TIME WRESTLING
"Jacob was left there alone. Then some Man wrestled with him until the break of dawn." Genesis 32:25
Since Jacob had "ripped off" Esau and fled from him twenty years ago, he wasn't looking forward to a family reunion. Before this encounter, Jacob met a Man Who wrestled with him all night long. Jacob walked away from that wrestling match limping, and with a new name. The Wrestler said: "You shall no longer be spoken of as Jacob, but as Israel, because you have contended with divine and human beings and have prevailed" (32:29).
Prayer: Father, may I wrestle with unresolved conflicts in my heart until I am under Your will.
Promise: "Jacob named the place Peniel, 'Because I have seen God face to face,' he said, 'yet my life has been spared.' " 32:31
Gn 33 — "TO ERR IS HUMAN, TO FORGIVE IS DIVINE"
"Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming, accompanied by four hundred men." Genesis 33:1
When Jacob met Esau, instead of the unforgiveness, hatred, and vengeance that he expected, "Esau ran to meet him, embraced him, and flinging himself on his neck, kissed him as he wept" (33:4). Esau forgave as God forgives (Lk 15:20). Jacob said to him: "To come into your presence is for me like coming into the presence of God, now that you have received me so kindly" (33:10).
Prayer: Father, give me the grace to forgive with the love and affection You have shown in forgiving me (Eph 4:32; Col 3:13).
Promise: "God has been generous toward me, and I have an abundance." 33:11
Gn 34 — CHIPS OFF THE OLD BLOCK
"Jacob's sons replied to Shechem and his father Hamor with guile, speaking as they did because their sister Dinah had been defiled." Genesis 34:13
After years of trouble, Jacob and his family seemed to be at peace but not for long. Jacob's daughter Dinah was raped by the Hivite Shechem. Shechem wanted to marry the girl. Her brothers deceitfully agreed to this only on the condition that all the men of the region be circumcised. So "all the males, including every able-bodied man in the community, were circumcised. On the third day, while they were still in pain, Dinah's full brothers Simeon and Levi, two of Jacob's sons, took their swords, advanced against the city without any trouble, and massacred all the males" (34:24-25). Where did these boys learn to be so deceitful?
Prayer: Father, I choose to repent of sin, be born again in Jesus, and be freed from generational sin.
Gn 35 — THE LULL BEFORE THE STORM
"We are now to go up to Bethel, and I will build an altar there to the God Who answered me in my hour of distress and Who has been with me wherever I have gone." Genesis 35:3
God appeared to Jacob again at Bethel and blessed him. Jacob needed all the blessings he could get because his wife Rachel would soon die in childbirth. After that, his son Reuben would have sex with Jacob's concubine, Bilhah. Then Jacob's father Isaac would die. The Lord often strengthens us before extreme trials.
Prayer: Lord, I wish to know how to share in Your sufferings by being formed into the pattern of Your death (Phil 3:10).
Promise: "The lifetime of Isaac was one hundred and eighty years; then he breathed his last. After a full life, he died as an old man and was taken to his kinsmen." 35:28-29
Gn 36 — "DISHONORABLE" MENTION
"These are the descendants of Esau [that is, Edom]. Esau took his wives from among the Canaanite women." Genesis 36:1-2
Genesis' priestly author ties up the loose ends of this section by giving "dishonorable" mention to Esau and his descendants, the descendants of Seir, and the early kings of Edom.
Prayer: Lord, may I not throw away my life as Esau did. May I be what You want me to be.
Gn 37 — FOCUS ON THE FAMILY
"Come on, let us kill him and throw him into one of the cisterns here; we could say that a wild beast devoured him. We shall then see what comes of his dreams." Genesis 37:20
Jacob's family continued the problems of the past. Rebekah favored Jacob over Esau (27:5-6). Then Jacob favored Rachel over Leah (29:30). He also favored Rachel's sons Joseph and Benjamin over his other sons. Because of this, the other sons hated Joseph. They wouldn't even greet him. They almost murdered him and finally sold him into slavery. Then they lied to the "old man," their father. Jacob's family was involved in lying, cheating, murder, incest, rape, hatred, and unforgiveness. And you thought your family had problems.
Prayer: Father, may my family repent of all unforgiveness and be healed.
Gn 38 — THE TRIBE OF JUDAH
"Judah got a wife named Tamar for his first-born, Er. But Er, Judah's first-born, greatly offended the Lord; so the Lord took his life." Genesis 38:6-7
Judah failed to recognize his daughter-in-law, thought she was a prostitute, and committed incest with her. She conceived and gave birth to twins. This shameful event was nonetheless used by the Lord as part of the family record of Jesus Christ (Mt 1:2).
Prayer: Father, may the most shameful sin in my family's history be repented of and turned to the good (Rm 8:28).
Gn 39 — VICTORY OVER SEXUAL TEMPTATIONS
"When his master saw that the Lord was with him and brought him success in whatever he did, he took a liking to Joseph and made him his personal attendant; he put him in charge of his household and entrusted to him all his possessions. From the moment that he put him in charge of his household and all his possessions, the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake." Genesis 39:3-5
Obviously, Jacob's boys had serious problems with sexual sin (35:22; 38:18). Joseph was also tempted to commit adultery with his master's wife. "Although she tried to entice him day after day, he would not agree to lie beside her, or even stay near her" (39:10). In retaliation, she lied about Joseph and had him thrown into prison. "But even while he was in prison, the Lord remained with Joseph" (39:20-21). A key to Joseph's greatness was his victory over sexual temptations.
Prayer: Father, may I resist sexual temptations even to the point of shedding my blood (Heb 12:4).
Promise: "The chief jailer did not concern himself with anything at all that was in Joseph's charge, since the Lord was with him and brought success to all he did." 39:23
Gn 40 — DREAM LAND
"They answered him, 'We have had dreams, but there is no one to interpret them for us.' Joseph said to them, 'Surely, interpretations come from God. Please tell the dreams to me.' " Genesis 40:8
Joseph got into this mess by interpreting dreams (37:5-9). He eventually got out of prison by interpreting dreams.
Prayer: Father, speak to me through prophecy, wisdom, knowledge, visions, and even dreams.
Promise: "So if you will still remember, when all is well with you, that I was here with you, please do me the favor of mentioning me to Pharaoh, to get me out of this place." 40:14
Gn 41 — THE DAYS OF MY LIFE
" 'I hear it said of you that the moment you are told a dream you can interpret it.' 'It is not I,' Joseph replied to Pharaoh, 'but God Who will give Pharaoh the right answer.' " Genesis 41:15-16
Joseph started off the day rotting in prison. A guard came to take Joseph from his cell. Joseph was told to shave and change his clothes. "He came into Pharaoh's presence" (41:14), interpreted Pharaoh's dreams, and immediately was made the second most powerful man in all Egypt. "Thus was Joseph installed over the whole land of Egypt. 'I, Pharaoh, proclaim,' he told Joseph, 'that without your approval no one shall move hand or foot in all the land of Egypt' " (41:43-44). The Lord knows how to exalt the humble and keep all His promises. Alleluia!
Prayer: Father, give me the faith of Joseph of the Old Testament and Joseph of the New Testament.
Promise: "He named his first-born Manasseh, meaning, 'God has made me forget entirely the sufferings I endured at the hands of my family'; and the second he named Ephraim, meaning, 'God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.' " 41:51-52
Gn 42 — PERSISTENT GUILT
"They said: 'Alas, we are being punished because of our brother. We saw the anguish of his heart when he pleaded with us, yet we paid no heed; that is why this anguish has now come upon us.' 'Didn't I tell you,' broke in Reuben, 'not to do wrong to the boy? But you wouldn't listen! Now comes the reckoning for his blood.' " Genesis 42:21-22
Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery at the age of seventeen. More than thirty-two years later his brothers were still burdened with guilt, and their father was depressed. Time doesn't heal when we don't repent of our sins.
Prayer: Father, may I repent and let You banish guilt from my life.
Promise: "When Joseph recognized his brothers, although they did not recognize him, he was reminded of the dreams he had about them." 42:8-9
Gn 43 — BROTHERLY LOVE
"When Joseph's eye fell on his full brother Benjamin, he asked, 'Is this your youngest brother, of whom you told me?' " Genesis 43:29
Joseph was reunited with his full brother Benjamin. "Joseph had to hurry out, for he was so overcome with affection for his brother that he was on the verge of tears. He went into a private room and wept there. After washing his face, he reappeared and, now in control of himself, gave the order, 'Serve the meal' " (43:30-31). "Benjamin's portion was five times as large as anyone else's" (43:34).
Prayer: Father, may we love our brothers and sisters in Christ as Joseph loved his brother Benjamin.
Promise: " 'Be at ease,' he replied; 'you have no need to fear. Your God and the God of your father must have put treasures in your bags for you.' " 43:23
Gn 44 — DUMBFOUNDED
"Then your servant our father said to us, 'As you know, my wife bore me two sons. One of them, however, disappeared, and I had to conclude that he must have been torn to pieces by wild beasts; I have not seen him since.' " Genesis 44:27-28
Joseph made it look as if Benjamin stole a silver goblet from him. He used this supposed theft as a pretext to keep Benjamin with him. Judah explained to Joseph how losing Benjamin would kill their father. Finally, everything came to a head and Joseph revealed himself as their brother. " 'I am Joseph.' He said to his brothers. 'Is my father still in good health?' But his brothers could give him no answer, so dumbfounded were they at him" (45:3).
Prayer: Father, bring to a head and heal any unresolved problems in my life.
Promise: "Fill the men's bags with as much food as they can carry, and put each man's money in the mouth of his bag." 44:1
Gn 45 — SHOCKER
"I am your brother Joseph, whom you once sold into Egypt. But now do not be distressed, and do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here. It was really for the sake of saving lives that God sent me here ahead of you." Genesis 45:4-5
Joseph's brothers were shocked when he revealed his identity. His forgiveness of them was even more shocking. "Thereupon he flung himself on the neck of his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin wept in his arms. Joseph then kissed all his brothers, crying over each of them; and only then were his brothers able to talk with him" (45:14-15). Then the brothers were sent home to bring back their father for a miraculous family reunion.
Prayer: Father, reconcile every hurt in every family who ever reads this.
Promise: "God, therefore, sent me on ahead of you to ensure for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives in an extraordinary deliverance. So it was not really you but God Who had me come here." 45:7-8
Gn 46 — THE REUNION
"Joseph hitched the horses to his chariot and rode to meet his father Israel in Goshen." Genesis 46:29
After fifteen years of depression and chaos, Israel (Jacob) was reunited with his son Joseph. When Joseph saw his father, "he flung himself on his neck and wept a long time in his arms. And Israel said to Joseph, 'At last I can die, now that I have seen for myself that Joseph is still alive' " (46:29-30).
Prayer: Father, change my mourning into dancing (Ps 30:12).
Promise: "There God, speaking to Israel in a vision by night, called, 'Jacob! Jacob!' 'Here I am,' he answered. Then he said: 'I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you a great nation.' " 46:2-3
Gn 47 — THE "HAVES" AND THE "HAVE NOTS"
"Take us and our land in exchange for food, and we will become Pharaoh's slaves and our land his property." Genesis 47:19
"Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the region of Goshen. There they acquired property, were fertile, and increased greatly" (47:27). In contrast, everyone else in Egypt, except for the priests, had to turn over their livestock and land to the state in exchange for food.
Prayer: Father, by Your grace may I flourish even in the worst of circumstances (Jer 17:8).
Promise: "Joseph settled his father and brothers and gave them holdings in Egypt on the pick of the land." 47:11
Gn 48 — SECONDS FIRST
"Your two sons, therefore, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I joined you here, shall be mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine as much as Reuben and Simeon are mine." Genesis 48:5
Before Israel died, he made his grandsons, Manasseh and Ephraim equal in inheritance to his sons. Moreover, he intentionally gave the blessing of the first-born son to Ephraim, the second-born son. These shocking changes of the rules of inheritance prefigure the adoption of all those baptized into Christ as adopted sons and daughters of God and heirs with Christ (Rm 8:16-17).
Prayer: Father, thank You for giving everyone in Christ the first-born blessing.
Promise: "Then Israel said to Joseph: 'I am about to die. But God will be with you and will restore you to the land of your fathers.' " 48:21
Gn 49 — ANIMAL CRACKERS
"Jacob called his sons and said: 'Gather around, that I may tell you what is to happen to you in days to come.' " Genesis 49:1
Jacob (Israel) had death-bed prophecies for each of his twelve sons. He blessed Judah, the lion (49:9), and Joseph, the colt (49:22), but prophesied that the other brothers would reap the wages of their sins (Rm 6:23). He compared Issachar to an ass (49:14), Dan to a serpent and horned viper (49:16-17), Naphtali to a hind (49:21), and Benjamin to a "ravenous wolf" (49:27). What animal would Jacob use to describe your life? Why?
Prayer: Father, make me aware of the most important Scripture passage for my life's mission.
Promise: "All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said about them, as he bade them farewell and gave to each of them an appropriate message." 49:28
Nihil obstat: Reverend Ralph J. Lawrence, January 22, 1996
Imprimatur: †Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, February 5, 1996
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