Bible Study

Genesis 39: Walk Like an Egyptian

1) Historically and archaeologically, we are entering the Hyksos period of Egyptian history, approximately 1900-1500 BCE. Egyptian records, though not complete, show that beginning in about 1900 BCE, due to famine, natural disaster and war, successive waves of displaced Canaanites were granted permission to settle in northern Egypt. These people were called Hyksos by the Egyptians, which meant “rulers of foreign lands.” The word did not specifically refer to an ethnic or religious group, rather any and all of the different foreign peoples settling in northern Egypt. By all accounts they were prosperous and by 1600 BCE the region was semi autonomous with a mix of Egyptian and Hyksos administration. Eventually, ethnic, religious and economic tensions became too much and the southern kingdom of Egypt essentially reconquered the north, reducing the locals to menial and even slave labor. After 1500 BCE, accounts differ as to the ultimate fate of the Hyksos, either way they disappeared from the Egyptian record. Some historians say they were driven out by the Egyptian military and chased all the way past Jerusalem; others say the Hyksos sacked the northern Delta and carried off its spoils across the Levant.

2) Based on this history, many see parallels with the history of Israel we read in the Bible. Given the vast size and diversity of the Hyksos population, it is quite possible, even likely, the people we know as Israel lived among them. It is also possible, some suggest, the characters of Joseph, Pharaoh, Potiphar and his wife, and others are not designed to be read as living individuals but rather characters representative of a people, their history and their collective faith experience. In this reading, Joseph is a tribe of Israel and his exploits are parables and histories about the tribe’s dealings with Egypt and other peoples.

3) The very name Joseph suggests a grand plan in action. His name itself is a pun based on root words and pronunciation:. Asaf means to take away while ysp means to add. Both are root words for the name Joseph and both sound similar to “Joseph” in pronunciation.

4) The text explicitly tells us Joseph was blessed by God and therefore successful and prosperous in all he did. Yet, the chapter ends with Joseph broke and in jail. What kind of blessing of prosperity is this?!

5) We see the word Hebrew used in the text to refer to Joseph. Meanwhile, in Egypt at this time we have inscriptions about the Habiru, a word that essentially meant raiders, pillagers, pirates, thieves, etc. – not an endearing term. The Habiru appear to have been a people among the diverse Hyksos and historians disagree as to whether Habiru and Hebrew – though sounding very similar – are one and the same. We will discuss why this seemingly obvious similarity is a little more complicated and surprisingly relevant.

6) Have you ever been falsely accused of something? How did it feel?

7) Have we seen Joseph complain at all?

Genesis 35 & 36: Previously on JacobVision…

1) In these two chapters we get a recap of sorts. Why?

2) It’s expected Jacob would tell his family to get rid of their foreign gods but why the instruction to change their clothes?

3) What is the significance of Jacob burying the gods at Schechem?

4) What does Rachel name the boy who would be known as Benjamin? Why does Jacob change it? Note the name change is very complimentary of Rachel.

5) How old is Isaac when he passes? Who buries him?

6) What is important about this?

7) In chapter 36, why do we have a genealogy of Esau’s descendants and how could it remotely be relevant to our faith walk? Possibly to demonstrate God keeps promises and we are all connected. (We are the literal family of God.)

Genesis 34: I never saw this on Veggie Tales

1. “Affluenza” is yet another new word for the age-old phenomena of sin. It is defined as: “a social condition that arises from the desire to be more wealthy or successful. It can also be defined as the inability for an individual to understand the consequences of their actions because of their social status and/or financial privilege.” Could we see this in the actions of Schechem, son of Hamor the Hivite?

2. What happened to Dinah? What is her perspective on all this?

3. Jacob’s sons were “shocked and furious” – Does this describe our reaction to evil and injustice sometimes? What do you do when you feel shocked or furious?

4. Much of the reason people can have low opinions of lawyers is because lawyers are often tasked with putting a price on someone’s dignity to settle a dispute. Hamor is offering what seems like boundless sums of money and privileges in exchange for the person of Dinah. How do Jacob’s sons react?

5. The sons feel justified in their lie that Shechem can marry Dinah if the whole clan gets circumcised, meanwhile they are being deceptive and planning something brutally violent. Do we ever feel tempted to justify an untruth? What about violence – maybe not perpetrated by us specifically, but by those we tend to view as “the good guys”? Are Jacob’s boys justified in their actions?

6. Does Jacob condone his sons’ behavior? (Hint: Jump ahead to Genesis 49:5-7)

7. Did God order them to do it?

Genesis 32 & 33: LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE…and then reconcile

  1. Jacob is a changed man, complete with a new name – Israel, meaning wrestles with God. Next time you want to get down on yourself for a lack of faith, just remember our spiritual heritage runs through a man who literally wrestled with God and had his name changed to wrestles with God. We all wrestle with faith and that is the point. If we don’t wrestle it, examine it, test it, flex it and feel its own strength in return, we don’t know how truly powerful it is. In other words, every Bible commenter agrees on at least this point: it is more than OK to ask questions, in fact, questions are encouraged.
  • Notice the play on “messengers” and Jacob’s attempt to emulate the divine order. Jacob is visited by two angelic messengers; Jacob sends two messengers ahead to Esau. The angelic messengers are honored by two camps – one for Jacob and one for them; Jacob splits his household and stock into two camps. Jacob wrestles a supernatural foe; Jacob prepares himself to contend with a powerful human (Esau). Jacob is blessed by his foe after the struggle and vice versa; Esau blesses Jacob and vice versa. What do you make of these parallels?
  • Who did Jacob actually wrestle? The text only identifies the combatant as a “man,” meaning human male person; however, the word used iysh is usually used as an adjective to describe somebody’s role or occupation: the guardsman, the huntsman, a male attendant, etc. Here, only the adjective is used, leaving the man’s “role” defined only by context. That context suggests the “man” is supernatural or divine – a man of no earthly description or connotation. Tradition nowadays holds the “man” is an angel or God Himself. This was not always the case. Some traditions in the past held that the “man” was no friend of Jacob or his God but rather a malevolent river spirit or Esau’s guardian angel. (NOTE: This last point fuels my hypothesis that the ancient redactors of the Patriarch narrative were drawing distinctions between their faith in the unseen, non-anthropomorphic singular God and prevailing cultural beliefs in a plurality of very humanlike deities. If we take the local river spirit position, we have a reenactment of Baal/Hercules/Gilgamesh/Thor smiting the evil water spirit to calm the seas; only with Jacob, it ends not in bloody victory and a poem to heroism, but a recognition of the real God by both combatants.)
  • Euphemism alert! The significance of Jacob’s hip being injured and causing a permanent limp has been debated over the millennia. Moses’ dietary laws prohibit eating the sciatic nerve of any animal, even if it is a “clean” animal under the law. Some readers see this passage as a pre-Moses divine prohibition on eating the sciatic nerve. Some readers see it as an etiological explanation of why Jacob walked with a limp. Because “hollow of the hip” may also be a euphemism for the groin or genitals (the Bible is quite fond of euphemisms), some see the breaking of the “hollow of the hip” as a euphemism for breaking Jacob’s libido and/or ego, forcing him into a more mature mindset.
  • What do you think of Jacob’s charm offensive, his parade of tribute if you will, towards Esau?
  • How did Esau react to seeing Jacob?
  • What happened to our red headed hothead, the man who was living to spite his parents and get revenge on his brother?! Notice the time honored lesson for people of all faith walks: time, honesty and the Spirit of God are essential for true reconciliation.

Bible Study! Tuesday 2/2/21 10:45 AM on Facebook live, in-person at Odessa First

Genesis 31: Hit the Road, Jake!

  1. “I will be with you.” God says this to Jacob and to us throughout scripture. What does it mean to YOU that God is with us. Note: a title for Christ, Emmanuel, means God is with us.
  2. It had nothing to do with sticks: God told Jacob in a dream that white speckled and striped livestock would be born through regular animal husbandry. Scientifically, we know spots and stripes are genetic and would show up in the population. Why the sticks then? Probably, a contrast between God’s natural order (ie, the predictability of genes) versus Laban’s belief in folk magic.
  3. How do Rachel and Leah react to Jacob’s invitation to leave?
  4. Jacob is gone for 3 days before Laban gives chase. Do you see a foreshadowing of the resurrection here?
  5. Laban’s household gods were likely small statues, replicas of Mesopotamian gods like El, Asherah, Baal, and others. Why did Rachel take them? Why would Jacob want Laban to have his gods back?
  6. Does Laban make a valid point in verses 33 and 34? Is Jacob’s case against Laban valid?
  7. The first mediation! How does the mediation between Laban and Jacob end? Why did they pile rocks?

Bonus:  Jacob is often seen as a “trickster” for all of his schemes and switcheroos. Meanwhile, Hermes, god of travelers, thieves, boundary markers, shepherds and orators is also seen as a trickster for his own exploits. Hermes’ name means “stone heap.” Jacob is a traveler, shepherd and orator for Yahweh who has thieved at times and our chapter ends with a stone heap boundary marker. Could we have a contrast of Jacob (Yahweh’s trickster) vs Hermes (Zeus’ trickster)? Is there a message about holding humans up as godlike? Watch for more similarities and contrasts between Jacob and mythic gods and heroes.  

Bible Study – Tuesday 1/26/20 10:45AM, Facebook Live and limited in-person at Odessa First

Genesis 30: “Success, Superstition, and Selfishness.”

  1. What’s in a name?
    1. The Sons of Leah

REUBEN (meaning “LOOKS ON“) so named because Leah said, “God has looked upon my affliction,” referring to Jacob’s not loving her as he did Rachel. She said, “Now my husband will love me.”

SIMEON (meaning “HEARD“). God had heard her prayers.

LEVI (meaning “ATTACHED“). Leah believed Jacob would then be attached to her.

JUDAH (meaning “PRAISE“). She said, “I will praise Jehovah.”

  • The Sons of Bilhah

DAN (meaning “DECISION“). So named because Rachel said, “God has judged me.”

NAPHTALI (meaning “BOUT“). Rachel said, “I have wrestled with my sister and have prevailed.”

  • The Sons of Zilpah

GAD (meaning “FORTUNATE” or “LUCK“). So named by Leah who was glad to be gaining more ground on her sister.

ASHER (meaning “HAPPY“). Leah said, “Happy am I.”

  • More Sons of Leah

ISSACHAR (meaning “HIRED MAN“). She had purchased a night’s sleep with her husband for her son’s mandrakes.

ZEBULUN (meaning “DWELLING“). Leah then believed that, “Now my husband will dwell with me.”

  • The Sons of Rachel

JOSEPH (meaning “ADD“). This name amounted to a prayer by Rachel that she might have another son.

BENJAMIN (This name means “SON OF THE RIGHT HAND“, a name given by Jacob. Rachel called himBENONI, meaning “SON OF MY SORROW,” for she died in giving birth to the baby). This is related in Genesis 35.

2. “Give me children, or I die …” This is called Rachel’s rash prayer, for God indeed gave her children (but she soon dies in childbirth). “Bilhah, go in unto her …” (verse 3) The giving of Bilhah and Zilpah to Jacob for childbearing is consistent with archaeological findings of Mesopotamian Bronze Age law codes that allowed a woman to give her female servant to her husband in order to have children, specifically sons, and retain her married status.

3. What is a mandrake? In verses 14-17, when Rachel saw Reuben with the mandrakes, she seems to think she found out Leah’s secret for bearing children, so she traded one night with Jacob to Leah for the mandrakes. Mandrakes, common in Palestine, were called “the Love Apple,” possess a mild narcotic effect and were thought to have aphrodisiac properties. The use of mandrakes as an aid to women who wish to bear children was popular in folk medicine and their consumption was noted in connection with pagan fertility rites. In the next chapter, we will find Rachel took personal charge of Laban’s household gods (Genesis 31:34), leaving the impression she was not immune to worldly influence.

4. “Send me away …” Why did Jacob want to leave Laban’s household? Why did Laban want him to stay?

5. “And Jacob took him rods of fresh poplar … almond … planetree, and peeled white streaks in them …” Did Jacob really think exposing mating animals to white wood would give them white stripes and spots? Here are two popular possibilities for this action: 1) This was a folk medicine superstition, just like the mandrakes, or (2) it was an order from God Himself delivered to Jacob as a test of his faith. More on this next chapter. Stay tuned!

Bible Study Questions: Genesis 28: Jacob’s Ladder

Tuesday 1/12/21 10:45 am FB live and limited in-person at Odessa FUMC

1) Where is Jacob sent to find a wife? Why is it so important Jacob marry within his Semitic kin?

2) Why does Esau marry one of Ishmael’s daughters? Could there be more than just trying to spite his mother? (Hint – Esau has now married into the Hittite tribe as well as two different Canaanite tribes. How might that be advantageous for him?)

3) What does the name “Bethel” mean? Why does Jacob name the area Bethel?

4) Reread Genesis 28:14 – to what does God compare the number of Jacob’s descendants in your translation of the Bible? The Hebrew word is ’aphar which transliterates to dirt, earth, sand, dust, mortar. However, each of these words mean very different things. We don’t plant crops in dust and when we go to the ocean, we don’t build dirt castles. Now reread the verse and substitute “dirt” – as in fertile planting soil – for “dust,” – does the passage become deeper?

5) Is there a message in the orientation of the ladder being set earthward and reaching up to heaven? Could it have something to do with who is responsible for initiating contact between God and humanity? Rabbinical tradition suggests the ladder’s orientation demonstrates contact between humanity and the divine is always initiated by the divine. “Man responds to God, not the other way around.” Picking up on this concept, Methodist theologian Adam Clarke, using John 1:51, suggested the ladder represents God’s initiation of perpetual interaction between the divine and humanity through Christ’s “mediatorial role.”

6) Another Rabbinical tradition posits that as God announced His presence and intent 4 times (verses 13 -15), the vision of the angels ascending and descending the ladder suggests four “episodes” of the vision which correspond to the four exiles/occupations of Israel (Jacob’s descendants): Babylonian captivity, Persian captivity, Greek occupation, and Roman occupation. Esau, otherwise known as Edom, is the “angel” of Rome and his ascent does not stop in the vision, meaning Rome’s occupation of Israel would last indefinitely, until the arrival of the Jewish Messiah. Early Christian writer Gregory of Nazianzus (4th Century BCE) continues this idea of the ladder as a symbol for struggle towards deliverance. To Gregory, each rung of the ladder represents successive, slowly made steps toward perfection. 14 centuries later, Wesley picked up on the steps towards perfection in formulating his concept of Sanctifying (or perfecting) Grace. These views line up nicely over the more than 2000 years of interpretation: one view looks at the struggle of a people to survive in the face of opposition, the other to the soul of the individual to survive in the face of opposition. Both represent the struggle of a community of faith and the faith of the individual to endure in the face of opposition.

7) Time to meet one of my favorite philosophers of all time: Philo of Alexandria! Philo was a devout Jew in Alexandria, Egypt, during the first half of the first century CE/AD. Philo observed similarities between his Jewish faith, a few schools of Greek philosophy and the practice of Buddhism. The two biggest similarities he saw were: 1) the belief of the existence of a divinely created soul in each individual, and 2) the need for one to practice spiritual disciplines (study, prayer, service, ritual) to truly develop their faith. Philo, also taking his cue from the “four repetitions” saw four interpretations, all simultaneously overlapping and possibly cyclical

:a. The angels represent souls entering bodies at birth and leaving at death. Going one step further, because the angels continually (cyclically?) descend and ascend, some see scriptural support for reincarnation, which is historically found in some Jewish practice, especially around the time of Christ. (See the Dead Sea Scrolls)

b. The ladder is the individual human soul. Angels, out of pure compassion, pull us up to comfort us in our distress and descend to serve us in our times of need.

c. The ladder is the life of the spiritual practitioner (what he called simply a “practicer”) with the steps representing the ups and downs of the “practicer” in our struggle between personal virtue and sin.

d. The angels represent the continually changing affairs of men against the backdrop of the constant and unchanging God.

BONUS: Now that we have used the word “angel” in our discussion, let’s define it. Sometimes we see “angel” transliterated as “messenger.” The duty of messenger is just one element to the definition of the word as a whole. The Hebrew word here is Mal’ak, which more closely means “ambassador,” “representative,” or “agent,” – all three of which connote much more power and authority than a “messenger.”

Tuesday 1/5/20 In Person and on Facebook Live
Genesis 27: Karma Police, Part 1
1) Reread Genesis 25:23-26. Who receives the prophecy? Reread Genesis 27:6-10. Whose idea is it for Jacob to impersonate Esau?
2) Frequently, when the Bible mentions someone is blind or vision impaired, it means they lack perspective. (Isaiah 42:6-7; Mark 10:46-52; John 9:35-41; Acts 13:11; Romans 2:19; 2 Peter 1:9) What perspective might Isaac be lacking?
3) How many times does Isaac challenge Jacob about being Esau? How many times does he ask Esau to confirm his identity? Is this an important detail? Why or why not?
4) When Isaac refuses to also bless Esau, is it because he CAN not or WILL not? Why?
5) Reread Genesis 25:39. Is Isaac cursing Esau’s future, or predicting it?
6) Wow. Rebekah has strong feelings about the local Canaanite and Hittite women, to the point she threatens suicide if her son marries a local girl. What could be her reasons? Is there really a reason – meaning, is she perhaps using hyperbolic language as a pretext to quickly shuttle Jacob away to safety? Or are they that bad? It might be important to know some Canaanite and Hurrian fertility rites were definitely not “fun for the whole family.”
7) Add it up: After reading the chapter, ponder it from each person’s perspective: How do you relate to Jacob? Is it difficult? Do we feel empathy for Esau? Does that change after we experience his angry reaction and spiteful behavior? Do things make more sense from Rebekah’s perspective now than when we read the chapter the first time? Was Isaac tricked, complicit, or just sidelined?

Bible Study QuestionsTuesday 10:45 AM on FB Live & limited in-person at Odessa FUMC
Genesis 26: Living with Philistines
1. Why does Abimelech not mention the last time he encountered a nomadic man who passed off his beautiful wife as his sister? Probably because this is not the same Abimelech who knew Abraham over 100 years ago. Abimelech, meaning, “My Father is King,” could be a standard address like “your highness,” a title as in a Sumerian/Mesopotamian/Semitic equivalent of Pharaoh or a changed name upon ascending to a rank akin to that of English Monarchs (the current Elizabeth being the exception). Giving weight to this consideration is three of the five individuals in the Bible noted as “Abimelech” are Philistine kings.

2. Why does Isaac pass Rebekah off as his sister? Because the land was so lawless and brutish it was likely someone with enough power and protection from what little law existed could simply murder Isaac and take Rebekah for himself or worse, sell her into slavery. According to John Gill’s commentary: “so great a regard had they in those times, and even in Heathen countries, to the laws of marriage, that they chose rather to be guilty of murder than of adultery, though a lustful people; and therefore would, as Abram feared, take away his life, that it might be free and lawful for them to marry Sarai.” This sad reality likely applies to Isaac as well. Further, and more importantly, we should give thanks to God this sad reality is no longer a cultural norm and work to ensure our society not only never degrades to this point again, but that we continually expand the path of freedom and respect for life.

3. When Abimelech observes Isaac and Rebekah, he sees them acting in a way that brothers and sisters should not act – even in those days. Some translations say Isaac was “caressing” Rebekah. Others use “sporting” or “playing.” What does yours say? The Hebrew word used is tsachaq, which means to “laugh, mock, or play.” We previously encountered this word when Abraham laughed when told Sarah would have a child (Gen. 17): when Sarah herself laughed upon receiving the same message from an angel (Gen. 18); when Lot’s sons-in-law thought he was joking about Sodom’s imminent destruction (Gen. 19); and, when Sarah named Isaac, saying people will laugh when they hear the story (Gen. 21).

4. Isaac goes from being under the personal protection of the king to being kicked out due to locals being jealous of the foreigner’s prosperity. Do you see a foreshadowing of Israel in Egypt?

5. Why did the Philistines stop up the wells? By right of Abraham digging the wells, Abraham’s descendants would be able to not only use the wells, but in effect lay a claim to the land by establishing some kind of permanent presence. The text indicates this right around the time Abimelech confronts Isaac. If the Philistines wanted Isaac and his people to leave, erasing the well would be a good way to deprive them of both a necessity for survival in the area and any evidence of claim to the land.

6. The names of the wells are interesting. Esek/Eseq means contention, Sitnah means strife. However, the Philistines, after filling in the wells, see Isaac as blessed (and possibly a danger down the line) and seek to make a treaty with him. Why? What is the significance of the new well, “oath,” dug by Isaac’s men?

7. How did Esau make Isaac and Rebekah’s life “bitter”? Bitterness and regret, for starters, perhaps. Notice what people Esau married into: the Hittites, known as master horsemen, charioteers, and raiders. The Hittites made life miserable for many people in the area starting around 1900 B.C.

FUN FACT: The Hittites are thought to have originated in the Russian steppes, expanding south through Turkey into the Levant as far south as Egypt, as far east as northern India, and as far west as Greece, introducing the Indo-European language family along the way.

Genesis 22: Abraham and Isaac Go Camping

1) Abraham has argued with God almost every time prior when God asks something of him or vice versa. Where is Abraham’s fighting spirit here?

2) Why would God ask such a thing from Abraham, especially as the Israelites will later be commanded, again and again, to obliterate entire peoples for practicing child sacrifice?

3) Was this just a random question by God out of the blue or is there a larger context we are missing?

4) “Isaac never gets enough credit for his faith and patience,” say many a Bible commentator. How did he demonstrate these qualities?

5) How many prefigurations of Christ do you see?

6) A good leader never asks their people to do something they would not do. Is there symbolism or meaning in God stopping Abraham’s sacrifice of his son but God proceeding in the sacrifice of His son for the seed of Abraham?

7) Who stays in Beersheba and who does not?

BONUS FUN FACT: Some scholars suggest Isaac could have been as old as 37 at the time of his binding, based on the placement of the event and his being still unmarried. Other scholars suggest he was probably around 12 and this event was tied to a more common – and usually less fatal – ritual of passage into manhood.

Genesis 20 & 21: Righteous Kings, a Beauty Queen, and General Zod

Bible Study Tuesday 11/17/20 10:45 AM Facebook live and in person at Odessa FUMC.

  1. Fun Fact: Abimelek/Abimelech is likely more a title or a royal name than a familial given name as it means My Father is King; and, a number of kings in the Old Testament are referred to as Abimelek. Extra-Biblical traditions say this particular Abimelech built Jerusalem for Melchizedek. Think about the symbolism of a man named My Father is King building a holy city for a king named the Righteous King.
  2. Whoops, Abraham did it again. Why? He acted out of fear. Do we make our best decisions from places of fear?
  3. What a looker! The Bible says Sarah was beautiful. Consider just how beautiful she must have been seeing as she was 90 and still desired by a king. The previous occasion, in Egypt, she was in still knocking them (almost) dead in her late 60’s or early 70’s.
  4. Some scholars maintain Sarah was not passed off to a king twice; rather, the same “story” is told twice: once occurring in Egypt, once in Mesopotamia. The position is, the story elements are almost identical, including being followed by Hagar’s blessing by a well, and having two geographic settings could be reflective of a merger of the Northern and Southern traditions.
  5. A study in 2000 showed that post menopausal women, despite not producing eggs, can safely conceive and carry a child with a donor egg implanted in the uterus. To me, this fact replaces the “magic trick” of a 90 year old new mommy with more confidence in its possibility. Even so, the narrative is about the why and not the how. Why does God choose to do this miracle?
  6. Hagar and Ishmael vindicated: two tribes still existent – and quite successful – in Saudi Arabia today trace their lineage to Ishmael. The Anazzah tribe was dominant during the Ottoman Empire and the current Saudi royal family has a matrilineal line to the Otaibah tribe.
  7. Of Phicol and Philistines. Like Abimelech, Phicol was probably a title and not a given name as it appears in later passages in similar circumstances – as a military commander. Superman fans thinking about General Zod right now are probably not too far afield.

Bible Study Questions: Genesis 17 & 18 – A Funny Way of Showing It Tuesday October 27 10:45 AM In-person or on FB Live

1) After reading about the centrality of the circumcision covenant, read the following scriptures: Romans 2:25-29; Galatians 5:2-3; and, Galatians 5:12. Is circumcision still required of the covenant?

2) The earliest historical evidence of circumcision as an official practice comes from Egypt circa 2500 BCE. To enter the Egyptian priesthood, males had to be circumcised and slaves, POWs, and other “undesirables” were circumcised as an insult to them and intentional impediment to physical relationships with Egyptian women. With this in mind, could early Abrahamic circumcision prefigure Christ’s declaration that the last would be first and the least would be greatest? Does it suggest something about the nature of all of God’s people being priests?

3) Abram means “exalted father” and Abraham means “father of a multitude.” There is also the word play of “father” as a figure, like “the father of baseball analytics,” versus “father” as parent. What is significant about Abram’s name change to Abraham?

4) Does Abraham’s enthusiasm for hospitality seem strange, especially as he did not know they were divine visitors? Providing excellent hospitality was, to use a phrase from the show “The Big Bang,” a “non-optional social convention,” in the ancient world and this tradition is still present in Jewish and Islamic cultures.

5) Reread Chapter 18, Verses 11 and 15 – is it comforting to know even the great matriarch faced issues confronting her age and resulting physical limitations? Does the Lord ever give you strength and ability to carry out God’s will?

6) Has God ever caught you laughing at your promises from God?

7) Reread Chapter 18, Verses 22-33. What do you think of Abraham’s negotiating skills? Have you ever bargained with God? How did that go?

BONUS: Abraham is sometimes referred to as the first criminal defense attorney in history. Are you moved by his sincere and zealous representation of the people of Sodom & Gomorrah? How do you feel about criminal defense attorney’s today?

Questions for Bible Study, Tuesday October 13 10:45 AM Facebook Lice and in-person at the church

Genesis 15: Let’s Cut a Deal

  1. Melchizedek revisited: Keeping in mind Melchizedek, King of Salem means Righteous King of Peace, read Hebrews Chapter 7 and 1 Peter 2:5-9. What does it mean to have a priesthood? How might a priesthood after Melchizedek differ from a priesthood of Aaron? What is the priesthood of all believers?
  2. What danger is Abram in requiring God’s shield for protection? Is it general danger or a specific threat?
  3. FUN FACT: Remember when Abram and Co. dwelt in Haran? You can take the man out of Haran but not the Haran out of the man. Allowing foreign-born slaves to inherit property and titles appears to be a singularly Hurrian custom at the time as archeology has unearthed Hurrian artifacts attesting to this practice. However, in overall Canaanite and Semitic (including Hebrew) culture at the time, normally, kinship dominated any childless or non-specified inheritance, much like going through probate today. Watch how this concept of the “grantor of the inheritance can choose anyone he darn well pleases to be the recipient” plays out in the lives of the Patriarchs and throughout the entire Bible. What bearing might this concept have on Christianity?
  4. Who does God promise will be Abram’s heir? How does Abram react?
  5. How does God mark the covenant with Abram? This IS a Canaanite custom and is still ritually practiced today in parts of the Middle East, especially around marriage ceremonies. FUN FACT: This practice is where the term “cutting a deal” comes from. No joke!
  6. What future events does God reveal to Abram?
  7. What does Abram see as a representation of God? What future event does this appearance foretell?

Questions for Bible Study, Tuesday 9/29 10:45 AM Facebook Live and in-person at the church
Genesis 12: L.A. via Omaha
1. GEOGRAPHY QUIZ! HOORAY! Where was Ur of the Chaldeans? Where was Haran? Where are they in relation to Canaan? Why does this matter?

2. FUN FACT: One of the kings of the Ur in Babylon was named Ur-Nammu, which translates roughly to “Make Ur Great Again.” Further, the temple to their moon god, Nan, was a building called “the White House.” To quote Mark Twain, “History may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme.”

3. FUN FACT: Jewish (and later, Christian) legend tells us Abram’s father, Terah, owned an idol shop – a store where idols to local gods were made and sold. One day, Terah left Abram in charge of the store. When Terah returned, he found all the idols except the largest one smashed, and an axe in the hand of the larger, remaining idol. When Terah asked Abram what happened, Abram said the larger god smashed all the smaller gods. Terah responded, “That’s impossible, they are just dumb idols!” Abraham said the ancient equivalent to BINGO and asked his father, rhetorically, “Then why do we worship them?”

4. God tells Abram to pick up and move his entire household, businesses, and herds to go to a “land that I will show you.” Have you ever packed up your entire life and moved across the country or, especially, out of the country? Can you imagine doing that with no set destination, resting entirely on faith to tell you when you arrived at the right place?

5. As mentioned last week, Christianity, Judaism, Islam and, to varying degrees, Hindu and Buddhist tradition recognizes Abraham and Sarah. With that in mind, reread verses 2 and 3. Does that knowledge deepen the text’s message from God to Abram?

6. Re-read verse 6. Does your Bible mention a tree? Oak or Terebinth? Why would this be important?

7. What happened between Abram, Sarah and Pharaoh?

BONUS: Google the following peoples of Abram’s journey: Hurrians, Mittani, and Canaanites.

Tuesday 9/15/20 10:45 AM in-person & Facebook live

Genesis 9 & 10: Death of a storm God, birth of a family

1) God knelt down and congratulated the man named Comfort and the nations that followed after him, saying “Happy hunting, little archers.” Genesis 9:1 PJT (Pastor Jeremey Translation) This is an alternate translation of the words that comprise this verse. Notice how far the PJT version is from the actual scripture. What can happen when we substitute our own knowledge for that of God?

2) Do you see 7 commandments in verses 2-12? Someone did. They are called the Noahide laws, given to the Gentiles – (people not of the Jewish faith) – for their salvation in this life: 1) Do not worship idols; 2) Do not curse God; 3) Establish courts of Justice; 4) Do not murder; 5) No adultery or bestiality; 6) No stealing, and; 7) No eating flesh or blood torn from a living animal. If a nation upholds these laws, it is blessed and worthy of the respect of its people. If not, calamity and civil unrest is its due.

3) “I do set” is one of those Hebrew words (like many Hebrew and Greek words) that is a phrase in English. The word is Nathan. It is meant to show the seriousness of God’s covenant – God is using formal oath taking language. That is how serious God’s promises are to us. Take a minute to ponder where God has kept promises in your life. Take another minute to ponder the promises you made to God. Is the deal square? Can it ever be?

4) We picture the rainbow as we should, but now add another mental picture: the word used for bow, qeseth, means bow as in archery. There is that motif again. What is going on with the archery references? HINT – the majority of the culture around the writers of the Old Testament believed in Baal the storm God who shot lightning arrows from his bow. Could the authors be claiming God’s supremacy over false or cultural gods? What cultural gods surround us now? What is our message to them?

5) What did Noah get busy on right away? Before we judge Noah, consider this: many archaeologists and historians believe humans settled down to farm to grow grain not for food but to make beer. In other words, the love of beer may very well be responsible for modern agriculture. Noah was regarded as the most righteous of mankind before Jesus. Is it reassuring that the literal best of us can still have very bad days?

6) What was Ham’s sin? Why did Noah curse Canaan? Hint: Remember singing Joshua Fit the Battle? There is a connection here.

7) Historically, the progeny and dispersal of the three sons of Noah were seen as the beginning of the races and an explanation for differences and similarities in cultures despite our very obvious kinship. Bible Teachers since the dawn of time have tried to emphasize our connection, yet people focus on the division. Meanwhile, science, again complementary to the Bible, more and more shows race is a social construct and not biological. How can we show the world the scriptural and scientific truth – that we are family

BONUS: How many nations are mentioned in Chapter 10? How many evangelists does Jesus call in Luke 10?

Tuesday 9/8/20 10:45 AM in-person & Facebook live

Genesis 8 – It starts and ends with a prayer

  1. Verse 1 says God remembered Noah. Did God ever forget Noah? No. The Hebrew word is zakar. It is an ancient word and its meaning is to make note of, keep in mind, make an offering to, commemorate. Do you ever feel forgotten by God? If God did not forget Noah, God will not forget you.
  2. How long were Noah and his family on the boat? Could there be a message about instant gratification here?
  3. Where did the ark come to rest? Have we found it? (HINT: It is NOT in a government warehouse. That is another famous ark, courtesy of Indiana Jones.) People have sought Biblical treasure for millennia and have mostly come up short and/or peddled materials of questionable authenticity. Do we need old pieces of wood to bolster our faith today?
  4. Reread verses 6 – 12 concerning the birds. Notice two things: 1) Sometimes, you have to build your own windows, and 2) Do you get a sense of Noah’s gentleness with the birds?
  5. What other boat from antiquity came to rest on Ararat?How many men did Noah slay in battle during his time on the boat? How many treasures did he win for his wife?
  6. Reread verse 15. Is God calling you and/or your family somewhere or to something? Is God calling you out to the daylight? Do you just feel like hiding instead?
  7. Reread verses 20 – 22: What is it exactly that makes God promise not to destroy, ever again, all living creatures? Now you know why men love to BBQ. We’re just trying to save the world.

BONUS: Now that we know the meaning of remember used here, we know that chapter 8 opens and closes with a zakar – a commemoration. God commemorating (remembering) Noah and his family for their ordeal, Noah commemorating (remembering) God through sacrifice for their preservation. Can you think of anything else that begins and ends with a prayer?

Tuesday 9/1/20 10:45 AM In-person & Facebook Live

Study questions for Tuesday Bible Study, 10:45 AM Facebook live and in person at church: Genesis 7 – The Second Greatest Day in a Man’s Life

1. How much time did God give Noah to build the ark?

2. Has there ever been a time in your life that felt like 40 days of rain? Did God deliver you? If so, how? Are you still waiting on delivery?

3. Have you ever built or owned a boat? What kind? What did you/do you use it for?

4. How many times do we read Noah, his family and the animals entered the ark? See 7:7-9;13-16. Is this important?

5. In chapter 6 Noah is told to take one pair of every animal. In chapter 7 he is told to take additional pairs of clean animals. Why?

6. How are the animals wrangled on to the boat? See verse 15. 7. Does it hurt a bit to read of the animals and people dying? This is intentional language to remind the reader of the consequences of sin. Doubtless we have seen people in our own lives suffer through self inflicted or natural consequences from sin. Is it getting harder to remain compassionate?

BONUS QUESTION: What does Noah’s name mean?

BONUS BONUS question: just what IS the second greatest day in a man’s life?

Tuesday 8/25 10:45 AM In-person & Facebook Live

Genesis 5 & 6: Numbers, Names and Nephilim

1) Wow these folks sure got old. Or did they? What have you read, been taught, and or thought about the long ages in Genesis 5?

2) There are 30 numbers mentioned in Genesis 5. All of them end in 0, 2, 5, 7 or 9. The chances of this happening at random are 1 in 1 hundred million. With that in mind, is it possible these numbers could be symbolic? Have you ever heard of the practice of gematria or numerology?

3) These numbers come from Babylonian mathematics, which uses a base 60, or sexigesimal, system. By comparison, we use a base 10 system. (About this: Base 60 systems make fractions and decimals easy, which accounts for their amazing architecture, weapons and chariots but requires memorization of 60 digits instead of 10. This might explain why Babylon and its successors were global superpowers from 3000 – 333 BC. That’s 2,667 years of technological supremacy.). Why would Babylonian mathematics be used to explain the ages of Biblical patriarchs? Can you anticipate issues and problems with reading foreign number systems in our own number systems, much like language?

4) Who and what are the Nephilim?

5) What are the sins that make God “regret” making humanity?

6) How big is a cubit?

7) Where do koala bears, Japanese macaque’s and opossum fit in to the flood narrative? Warning: this question is far deeper than it appears.

BONUS: What is the name of the band who sang about the humpty backed camels and the chimpanzees getting on Noah’s ark?

BONUS BONUS: True or False – unicorns were on the ark?

Tuesday 8/18

Genesis 4 – Call a Detective!

  1. What does your name mean? Did you give your children names with distinct meanings? Do you have or did you ever have a nickname?
  2. What does Cain’s name mean? What does Abel’s name mean?
  3. What was Cain’s occupation? Abel’s? (Keep a thumb on that word “shepherd”)
  4. Why did God not accept Cain’s sacrifice? Other translations of the word used as accept is to “look dimly upon” or to have “little or no respect.” Does that change the meaning of the scripture here?
  5. Did Cain mean to kill Abel? Would it matter here?
  6. Let’s parse a few things from verses 14 – 17: where did all these people come from? What is the mark? Where did the wife come from? Cities already?
  7. Are we ever truly out of God’s presence? Notice that while God banishes Cain from God’s presence, God gives Cain the mark as protection. So I ask again, are we ever truly out of the presence of God?
  8. BONUS: If we all spoke Hebrew, we would get the joke at verse 16: The Land of Nod is a play on the Hebrew word for nowhere, Nowd, which is also the word for vagrant. The Land of Nod translates literally into The Land of Vagrants and/or The Land of Nowhere.

Tuesday August 11, 2020 10:45 AM In-Person and Facebook Live

GENESIS 3 – There’s a Snake in my Boot!

1. FUN FACT: The Hebrew word for serpent used here is nachash, pronounced nah-HAHSH, which is an onomatopoeia word for a snake’s hiss.

2. Why a serpent? Is Satan ever mentioned in Genesis 3? Where do we get the idea of Satan being the serpent? (Hint: start with Revelation 12:9 and 20:2)

3, When does God go walking in the Garden? What does that say about the weather in Eden? It must be important because it is in the Bible. What makes this bit about the weather important? (No wrong answers!)

4. Verses 16 and 17, and much of the story of the fall, frankly, can feel a little what modern readers may call sexist. But, I am a man and not a woman. I invite women in our class, as you feel led, to share your feelings and experiences with this scripture or others like it.

5, Read Galatians 3:28. Also, reflect on Jesus’ interactions with women, which were extraordinarily egalitarian for the time according to the apostles around him. Does Christ lift this “curse of dominion” in verse 16?

6. True or False: John Wesley believed in original sin.

7. Guess what else is onomatopoeia? (Hint: we hear this word several times in the movie Wall-E.)

Thursday August 6, 2020 In-Person Facebook Live

Genesis 2 – Between Four Rivers

Read Genesis 2 and ponder some or all of the questions below:

  1. How do you picture God resting?
  2. Where are some places you get rest? Inspiration? Rejuvenation?
  3. Do you read two creation accounts in the Bible or a continuation of a single story? (Hint – there are no wrong answers!)
  4. Do you have a favorite poem or poet? Why?
  5. Do men and women have the same number of ribs? How many each?
  6. What do you picture when you read “tree of knowledge of good and evil”?
  7. Pretend God has asked YOU to make the rules for a new Garden of Eden. What are your rules?

July 28, 2020: Genesis 1 – In the Beginning

Read Genesis 1 and ponder some or all of the questions below.

  1. When did your spiritual walk begin? 
  2. What do you picture when you read the words “formless and empty”? What about the “deep” and the “waters”? 
  3. Are you familiar with “the firmament” from Sunday School or other sources? BONUS: Are you familiar with creation accounts found outside the Bible in other cultures? 
  4. What does it mean to you that God speaks light, plants, animals and humans into existence? 
  5. How do you define a day? Is the Bible’s use of the word day limited to a 24 hour solar cycle?
  6. What is very good in your life? 
  7. FOR FUN: Carefully re-read Gen. 1:30. Notice something about who can eat what?