You will find an introduction and outline of Genesis, here.
A prayer of John Calvin to use before you read:
May the Lord grant that we may engage in the heavenly contemplation of the mysteries of God’s heavenly wisdom with ever increasing devotion to God’s glory and our edification. Amen.
IV. The Story of Joseph 37:1-50:26
D. 42:1-45:28 Joseph and his brothers reconcile:
45:1-28 Joseph reveals himself dramatically to his brothers. Not surprisingly, the brothers are terrified (NIV) or dismayed (NRSV). The phrase in verse 8 “father to Pharaoh” is a title for the Pharaoh’s counselor. Notice the language Joseph uses and how it echoes earlier themes; ( and themes yet to come) “sold into Egypt”, ruler and lord (remember Joseph’s dreams). Joseph tells his brothers three times, that God is the one who was ultimately at work in all that happened. What do you think about that statement? Does God manage human affairs or does God work through human actions? What is the relationship between God’s will and human actions?
Notice in verses 16-20 that Pharaoh affirms Joseph’s actions. What do you think about Joseph’s statement to his brothers (v 24) “Don’t quarrel on the way.”?
E. 46:1-47:27 the Descent into Egypt: Remember that Jacob and Israel are the same person. God guides Jacob by vision and presence and Joseph by dream. Notice in verse 3-4 the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are repeated. God continues to be with Abraham’s family. Notice that Joseph goes out to meet his father, rather than waiting in Pharaoh’s palace. Verse 29, more weeping. In the previous chapter Pharaoh promised Jacob “the best of the land of Egypt” (45:18). Joseph wants his family to settle in Goshen. Goshen was a border province and somewhat removed from settled areas in Egypt. Is Joseph trying to keep his family apart from the Egyptians? Is he trying to reassure Pharaoh that his family is not a threat to Egypt? What do you think is going on here? ( Commentators vary in their opinion.) Remember that in the next book, Exodus, “..a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. …the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites…” (Ex 1:8,12).
Verse 7-10 Jacob blesses Pharaoh. Recall the promise to Abraham and his descendants that they would be a blessing to others.
Verses 12-26: Joseph saves his family and the Egyptians. Pharaoh is made wealthier by Joseph’s actions, (Blessed?). Commentators note that a payment of 20% ( one fifth) to a king was a “modest” percentage by ancient standards. The severity of the famine evidently required new ways of distributing and paying for food. These are difficult verses for us because our worldview and systems are different than ancient Egypt’s. Some commentators believe that Joseph’s actions were opposed by the aristocracy (other than Pharaoh) and that the loans Joseph made ruined the aristocracy- the ones who would have had land and livestock to sell. Plaut in his commentary on Genesis writes “The Bible calls Egypt the “house of bondage” not only because Israel was enslaved there but also because its people accepted their own bondage as a normal condition of life.” (Plaut, 299).
F. 47:28-50:26 Jacob’s death, Israel’s sons reconciled: These chapters originate from a variety of sources and bring the story of Jacob and Joseph to a conclusion.
47:27-31 The people of Israel thrive in Goshen. Seventeen years is the same length of time that Jacob had with Joseph before he was sold into slavery. Joseph lived with Jacob for 17 years and now Jacob lives with Joseph for 17 years.
Read More About It.
The following are several good general reference works to aid your reading of the Torah.
Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, “Understanding the Old Testament” Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.
Keck, Leander E., ed. “The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 1. (Nashville”Abingdon Press) 1994.
Mays, James L. ed. “HarperCollins Bible Commentary” (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.
Metzger, Bruce M., Roland E. Murphy, eds. “The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books” (New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.
Plaut, W. Gunther, ed. “The Torah: A Modern Commentary” (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations) 1981.