God shows His grace by bringing Jacob back to the land he left and has graciously changed Esau’s, heart. Where Esau was intent on killing him on his departure, he now greets him with open arms and joy.
At first glance, this appears to be an inconsequential story, yet a danger confronts the chosen line. Hamor and Shechem embody the threat with their words, “ Let us take their daughters in marriage, and give our daughters to them. . . . Will not their livestock and their property and all their animals be ours” (v21,23)? The danger posed here by intermarriage is one that would derail the promise of God to make the people a peculiar people, set apart for God. Sadly, Simeon and Levi take into their hands the vengeance that belongs to God alone.
As God calls Jacob to Bethel, he calls his family to remove the foreign gods and be a peculiar people who worship the Lord alone. Additionally, Jacob is again given the new name Israel, pointing to his union with the Lord. Sadly, his sons’ wickedness is once again on display as Reuben goes into Bilhah, an act that will cost him significantly at the time of blessing.
Jesus rebukes the Pharisees at the beginning of chapter 12 because they misunderstood God’s purpose in the Law. He points to David’s eating of the consecrated bread, showing that the priests had mercy on David and his companions, and the priests who, through their work on the Sabbath, break Sabbath regulations. Thus, his indictment that God desires compassion over sacrifice highlights an outward adherence to rules without an inner change of heart.
The lineage of Esau shows God’s kindness to him in spite of his unfaithfulness. Esau is blessed with many descendants, though there will be tension between Esau’s line and Israel’s line in future generations.
The rest of the narrative now shifts to focus on Joseph. We first find that he is loved by Jacob because he is the son of Rachel. Moreover, God gives Joseph two visions foretelling of the time when his family will come and bow down to him. This will not be fulfilled apart from great toil and heartache in the land of Egypt.
Jesus continues attacking their duplicity by healing a man on the Sabbath. The Pharisees would be content to leave him lingering in despair, but Jesus offers hope. Tensions would rise causing him to retreat from the area. However, He would continue standing against their wickedness by
This story seems to break up the narrative in an awkward way. However, this chapter should be read in contrast the following section, thereby highlighting the righteousness of Joseph.
The key phrase throughout this portion of the story is the simple affirmation in verse 2, “the Lord was with Joseph.” While hope seems lost, God is actively bringing about the fulfillment of the visions given to Joseph.
Here Jesus again takes on the traditions of the Pharisees and Scribes. He chastises their refusal to believe in the work of the Spirit to cast out demons and attributing it to the work of the devil saying that, “whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him . . .” He later rebukes their desire for a sign since they have had so many and promises only the sign of Jonah, pointing to his death and resurrection.
In the midst of unjust imprisonment, God is with Joseph as he serves faithfully. While he will labor for many years in this most unfortunate of places, God is graciously setting the stage for Joseph’s release and ascension.
God now sets about of raising Joseph to a place of prominence, though he has spent many years in servitude and prison. Those who are supposed to interpret Pharaoh’s vision cannot because, as Joseph says, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer” (v. 16). Joseph recognizes his incompetence as well as God’s sovereignty.
Jesus now begins another of his teaching sections with the parable of the sower, perhaps one of His most famous. He then explains why He teaches in parables, which amounts to a form of judgment on those who hear but do not understand because of unbelief. While such an explanation may seem unsettling, this fits well with Jesus’ call to repent, seen first in Matthew 4.
For the first time since he was a young man, Joseph experiences the joys of being highly favored and placed in a position of prominence. Now as God has raised him to a place of prominence, He gives him children, and by exalting him in the land of Egypt, he puts him in a position to which his family will bow down, fulfilling the vision given in chapter 37.
After managing the land well for seven years, the famine begins ravaging the ancient world, including the land where his brothers and father lived. Joseph recognizes the fulfillment of his visions (v. 9) though his brothers are ignorant about the identity of the man to whom they bow. Therefore, Joseph sets a plan in motion that will ultimately rescue his family.
The Parable of the Tares and Wheat and its interpretation are interrupted by the Parables of the Mustard Seed and Leaven. These point to the way in which the kingdom of God grows and permeates. The former parable points to God’s gracious postponement of judgment so that His people are not swept away with the wicked.
While the story progresses much the way that one would expect, Moses adds one detail that is incredibly pertinent to Joseph’s plan found in verse 34, “but Benjamin’s portion was given times as much as any of theirs.” While one may think that he is merely showing favoritism toward his younger brother, it appears that Joseph is testing his other brothers to see if their jealousy still burns. When the meal goes without a hitch, it becomes apparent that God has indeed changed their hearts.
In what can only be described as the ultimate reversal, Joseph stands over his brothers with the power to have them put to death. But in this interchange, Judah offers himself up on behalf of Benjamin. Bu this act of sacrifice, Judah shows that their change, though not perfect, is complete.
Jesus again highlights the worth of the kingdom of God and that only some are fit for such a great inheritance with the three parables. But then Matthew shifts and recounts the beheading of John the Baptist. Such a remembrance serves to highlight the opposition to the grace of God on the part of those who have not believed.
As Joseph weeps with his brothers, he acknowledges the grace of God in the midst of incredible wickedness. By His grace, God sent Joseph ahead of his family to save them from the utter devastation to come during the famine. And like another father, Jacob receives a son back from the dead who saves his people from destruction.
As Israel goes down to Egypt, they are a mere sixty-six people. God, over the next four centuries, will do another work by making them into a numerous people who will come out in the same way they came in, through His divine providence.
God again supplies proof that Jesus is the Messiah for who else can feed five thousand with five loaves and two fish. The disciple’s response in verse 33 is correct, “You are certainly God’s Son!”