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
F. 47:28-50:26 Jacob’s death, Israel’s sons reconciled:
48:1-22 Grand father, father, and sons: Remember that Jacob and Israel are the same person. Joseph has not been previously told (according to the story as we have it) about God’s promises to Jacob. Jacob’s adoption of Joseph’s two sons appears to continue Jacob’s preference for Rachel’s descendants. Also this action places Ephraim and Manasseh on the same level legally as Jacob’s other sons. The story of a blessing given by an old man with poor eyesight who blesses the younger preferentially to the older recalls the beginning of Jacob’s own story. Commentators believe later Israelites used this story to explain the tribe of Ephraim having numerical and economic superiority over Manasseh. In Hebrew there is a subtle word play, the word for “crossing his hands” can also mean to act wisely. (And sounds like the Hebrew word for to act foolishly.) In the ancient world, the right hand had positive emotional and cultural associations the left hand did not. Deathbed blessings were believed to be irrevocable.
49:1-33 The last words of Jacob: Many think this poem- Jacob’s final words- is one of the oldest pieces of literature in the Old Testament. There are some interpretive and translation problems with the text that scholars believe occur because these sayings come from a variety of sources. These sayings seem to be about the tribes during the early centuries in Canaan (perhaps during the time of the Judges) rather than the particular persons. For example: Judah and Joseph have lengthy blessings and later historically dominate Israel’s (the nation, not the man) story. Reuben and Simeon receive negative words and later in history they disappear as tribes. Recall that Simeon and Levi participated in the violence at Shechem (34:25-30). The tribe of Judah rises to prominence during the time of Saul and David.
As Plaut writes in “Torah: A Modern Commentary”, Jacob’s final words to his assembled sons are a combination of prayer, blessing, curse, warning, psychological assessment, parable, recollection and hope. They are presented in poetic form; and like much other poetry, ancient and modern, their meaning is not always readily accessible. (Plaut, 307)
50:1-14 The Burial of Jacob: Jacob’s burial is depicted as a royal funeral. Notice even the Egyptians mourn his passing. Notice how, once again, Genesis portrays Egyptians in a good light.
50:15-26 Joseph’s final reconciliation with his brothers:The brothers are concerned that, now that Jacob is dead, Joseph will not feel constrained to treat them well. Joseph weeps again,as he has several times earlier. What does Joseph’s weeping tell us and how does his weeping function in the telling of the story? Notice now that Joseph’s brothers bow to him, as predicted by Joseph’s dreams, but Joseph now decides that a relationship of subservience is not appropriate. Reflect on Joseph’s word in verse 20 and think back on Joseph’s story. How has God been at work in the life of Joseph and his brothers- and for that matter for all of Egypt?
Now that we have read through the book of Genesis, take some time to reflect on it’s themes and the stories it contains. What themes do you see in Genesis? How are these themes carried forward into the rest of the Old Testament and the New Testament? What does Genesis tell us about God? About human beings? And about the relationship between God and humankind?
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.