One of the things that I want to do for you in these reflections is fill in the story between the chapters we read. Today there is a lot of cover. We are introduced to some very important characters in the Biblical story: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Israel), Joseph and his brothers.

Isaac: the Son of Promise

We left off with Abraham and his son, Isaac. In the chapters that follow, God makes it clear that Isaac, not Ishmael, would inherit the promise that God made to Abraham. God would, through the line of Isaac, multiply a great nation.

Isaac, in a beautiful account found in Genesis 24, finds and marries a woman named Rebekah. Isaac and Rebekah have twin children, Esau and Jacob. Though they were twins, Esau was delivered first. Since he was the oldest he received the birthright. In a foolish episode Esau sells his birthright to Jacob. Through a series of events Isaac ends up blessing Jacob, not Esau, so that the younger of the twins would receive the inheritance. We see this happen a number of times, that God blesses, chooses and uses the weaker or inferior or barren person to move forward His plan to make a people for Himself and give them a land.

Jacob Marries Leah and Rachel

In Genesis 29, Jacob, because he is tricked by his father-in-law ends up marrying sisters, Leah and Rachel. Rachel is the one whom Jacob intended to marry and the one whom he loves. Rachel struggles to conceive a child, but Leah bears a number of children. By the time our account in Genesis 37, Rachel only has one son, Joseph. It is for this reason that Jacob loved Joseph, because he was the only son of the wife whom he truly loved.

God Names Jacob Israel

Genesis 35:9-15 is an extremely important passage. Here God renames Jacob, like He did previously to Abram and Sarai. By naming/renaming a person, God is showing His authority over them. God names Jacob Israel. Obviously, that name becomes one of the most important names in the whole Bible. It becomes the name of God’s people.

God also affirms and restates His covenant blessing to Jacob

Genesis 35:11-12
And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.”

Joseph and His Brothers

We quickly see the jealousy and rivalry of the sons of Jacob/Israel. We will also see Joseph’s ability to understand dreams become important a few times in his life. Here God shows Joseph that a day will come in which he will have authority over his brothers. We will see soon how Joseph uses his power over his brothers.

Joseph Sold by His Brothers

For now, though, Joseph’s brothers have power over him. In their jealousy they use this power to assault him, nearly kill him, and in the end sell him as a slave. Reuben, who as the oldest brother is responsible for Joseph’s life, attempts to rescue him, but fails and Joseph is ultimately sold into slavery.

Chapter 37 shows how Joseph came to be in Egypt. It is also the start of the explanation for how all of Israel (Jacob) and his children and descendants would ultimately end up enslaved in Egypt as well.


We also see Judah for the first time. Judah is one of the sons of Jacob and Leah. He becomes important because the city of Jerusalem will eventually be founded in the land given to his descendants. Jerusalem becomes the center of worship for all the Israelite people. Even more important is the fact that Jesus would descend from the line of Judah.

Notice that Judah isn’t a very good guy. It was his suggestion to sell Joseph into slavery. If you read Genesis 38 you find even more dirt on this guy. One of the evidences that the Bible is telling an authentically true story is the fact that it doesn’t clean up the mess in Jesus’ family history. The Bible isn’t afraid to tell the true story. The story of the Gospel isn’t a story of perfect people doing good things for God. It is a story of a perfect God working redemption for sinners.