Monday, February 24, 2014

Theocratic Ministry School - Highlights of Genesis 32-35

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Theocratic Ministry School

Highlights of Genesis 32-35


‒‒ Genesis 34:1, 30.
The trouble that “brought ostracism” upon Jacob started because Dinah made friends with people who did not love Jehovah. We must choose our associates wisely.
When his father Jacob was encamped near Shechem, Simeon, together with his next younger brother Levi, displayed a vengeful anger that was unreasonably harsh and cruel. Arbitrarily, without their father’s knowledge or consent, they set about avenging the honor of their younger sister Dinah by slaughtering the Shechemites, bringing ostracism upon Jacob’s whole family.—Ge 34:1-31.

—Genesis 32:24-30
The Scriptures abound with examples of those who put forth concerted efforts in seeking Jehovah. One such person was Jacob, who strenuously grappled with God’s materialized angel till dawn. As a result, Jacob was given the name Israel (Contender with God) because he “contended,” or “persisted,” “exerted [himself],” “persevered,” with God. The angel blessed him for his earnest endeavor.—Genesis 32:24-30, footnote.

—Genesis 32:24-30
Just as Jacob did, we can make the inheritance sure. His mind and heart were on the promises from his youth. He evidently spent his time learning all he could about God’s dealings with his father Isaac and his grandfather Abraham. He was a man who prayed to God. He worked hard and endured many trials but, throughout, maintained mildness of spirit and strong faith.
‒‒Ge 32:29
Personality. Some may deny distinct personality of individual angels, claiming they are impersonal forces of energy dispatched to accomplish the will of God, but the Bible teaches otherwise. Individual names imply individuality. The fact that two of their names, Michael and Gabriel, are given establishes the point sufficiently. (Da 12:1; Lu 1:26) The lack of more names was a safeguard against giving undue honor and worship to these creatures. Angels were dispatched by God as agents to act in his name, not in their own name. Hence, when Jacob asked an angel for his name, he refused to give it. (Ge 32:29)

‒‒Genesis 33:14
In leading us, Jehovah is tender and patient. A shepherd considers the limitations of his sheep, so he leads “according to the pace of the livestock.” (Genesis 33:14) Jehovah likewise leads “according to the pace of” his sheep. He considers our abilities and circumstances. In effect, he adjusts the pace, never asking more than we can give. What he does ask is that we be whole-souled. (Colossians 3:23)

‒‒ Gen. 34:31; 38:21
Dinah failed to act with discretion. The Bible says that she “used to go out to see the daughters of the land.” (Gen. 34:1) The inhabitants of Canaan were immoral people, prostitution evidently being common. (Gen. 34:31; 38:21) Dinah apparently had no business being out by herself among them. Likely her parents had warned her about associating with the girls of the land. If they had, she failed to listen, and this led to trouble.

‒‒ Genesis 25:8; 35:29
Concerning men of faith, such as Abraham and Isaac, the Bible says that they reached the end of their lives “old and satisfied.” (Genesis 25:8; 35:29) What made the difference? These men had faith in God. They were convinced that in God’s due time the dead would live again, and they looked forward to the time when God himself would establish a righteous government for all mankind.—Hebrews 11:10, 19.


Theocratic Ministry School Review January - February 2014


The following questions will be considered at the Theocratic Ministry School during the week beginning February 24, 2014.

1. What did Satan get Eve to focus on, and what did Eve show by eating from the forbidden tree? (Gen. 3:6) [Jan. 6, w11 5/15 pp. 16-17 par. 5]

^ (Gen. 3:6) Consequently, the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was something desirable to the eyes, yes, the tree was pleasing to look at. So she began taking of its fruit and eating it. Afterward, she also gave some to her husband when he was with her, and he began eating it.
^ ***w11 5/15 pp. 16-17 Who Is the Most Important Person in Your Life?***
5 Satan also distorted the facts. He implied that God was unfair in demanding that Adam and Eve “must not eat from every tree of the garden.” Next, Satan got Eve to think about herself and how she could supposedly improve her lot in life, becoming “like God.” Eventually, he got her to focus on the tree and its fruit rather than on her relationship with the One who had given her everything. (Read Genesis 3:6.) Sadly, by eating of the fruit, Eve showed that Jehovah was not the most important Person in her life.

2. How may Abel have developed his strong faith, and in what did it result? (Gen. 4:4, 5; Heb. 11:4) [Jan. 6, w13 1/1 p. 12 par. 3; p. 14 pars. 4-5]

^ (Gen. 4:4, 5) But Abel brought some firstlings of his flock, including their fat. While Jehovah looked with favor on Abel and on his offering, 5 he did not look with any favor on Cain and on his offering. So Cain grew hot with anger and was dejected.
^ (Heb. 11:4) By faith Abel offered God a sacrifice of greater worth than that of Cain, and through that faith he received the witness that he was righteous, for God approved his gifts, and although he died, he still speaks through his faith.
^ ***w13 1/1 p. 12 “He, Although He Died, Yet Speaks”***
The apostle Paul was inspired to say this about Abel: “Through it he, although he died, yet speaks.” (Hebrews 11:4) Through what does Abel speak? Through faith. Abel was the first human ever to develop that sterling quality. So powerfully did he demonstrate faith that his example is alive, a vibrant standard that we can apply today. If we learn from his faith and seek to imitate it, then the record of Abel is speaking to us in a very real and effective way.
^ ***w13 1/1 p. 14 “He, Although He Died, Yet Speaks”***
Imagine Abel seeing those cherubs when he was a boy. In their materialized form, their appearance surely bespoke immense power. And that “sword,” ever flaming, ever turning, inspired awe as well. As Abel grew up, did he ever find that those cherubs got bored and left their post? No. Day and night, year after year, decade after decade, those intelligent, powerful creatures stayed right in that spot. Abel thus learned that Jehovah God had righteous, steadfast servants. In those cherubs, Abel saw a kind of loyalty and obedience to Jehovah that he could not find in his own family. Surely that angelic example strengthened his faith.
Meditating on all that Jehovah revealed about himself through creation, divine promises, and the examples of His servants, Abel found that his faith grew ever stronger. His example speaks to us, does it not? Young people in particular may find it reassuring to know that they can develop genuine faith in Jehovah God, no matter what their family members do. With the wonders of creation all around us and the entire Bible at our disposal, as well as many human examples of faith, we have ample basis for building faith today.

3. How can parents protect their children from admiring worldly “mighty ones” and “men of fame”? (Gen. 6:4) [Jan. 13, w13 4/1p. 13 par. 2]

^ (Gen. 6:4) The Neph′i•lim were on the earth in those days and afterward. During that time the sons of the true God continued to have relations with the daughters of men, and these bore sons to them. They were the mighty ones of old times, the men of fame.
^ ***w13 4/1 p. 13 He “Walked With the True God”***
Parents today may well sympathize with Noah and his wife. Our world is likewise poisoned by violence and rebelliousness. Even entertainment directed at children may be saturated with such themes. Wise parents do all they can to counter such influences by teaching their children about the God of peace, Jehovah, who will one day bring all violence to an end. (Psalm 11:5; 37:10, 11) Success is possible! Noah and his wife succeeded. Their boys grew up to be good men, and they married wives who were likewise willing to put the true God, Jehovah, first in their lives.

4. What can we learn from the account about Lot and his wife, as recorded at Genesis 19:14-17, and 26? [Jan. 27, w03 1/1 pp. 16-17 par. 20]

^ (Gen. 19:14-17) So Lot went out and began to speak to his sons-in-law who were to marry his daughters, and he kept saying: “Get up! Get out of this place, because Jehovah will destroy the city!” But to his sons-in-law, he seemed to be joking. 15 As dawn was breaking, the angels became urgent with Lot, saying: “Get up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here with you, so that you will not be swept away in the error of the city!” 16 When he kept lingering, then because of Jehovah’s compassion for him, the men seized hold of his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his two daughters, and they brought him out and stationed him outside the city. 17 As soon as they had brought them to the outskirts, he said: “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you and do not stand still in any part of the district! Escape to the mountainous region so that you may not be swept away!”
^ (Gen. 19:26) But Lot’s wife, who was behind him, began to look back, and she became a pillar of salt.
^ ***w03 1/1 pp. 16-17 Now More Than Ever, Stay Awake!***
A Lesson From Lot
20 Of course, even faithful servants of God can momentarily lose their sense of urgency. Think of Abraham’s nephew Lot. He learned from two angelic visitors that God was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. The news could not have surprised Lot, who “was greatly distressed by the indulgence of the law-defying people in loose conduct.” (2 Peter 2:7) Still, when the two angels came to escort him out of Sodom, he “kept lingering.” The angels almost had to drag him and his family out of the city. Subsequently, Lot’s wife ignored the angels’ warning not to look back. Her lax attitude cost her dearly. (Genesis 19:14-17, 26) “Remember the wife of Lot,” Jesus warned.—Luke 17:32.

5. How did Abraham demonstrate his faith both in the resurrection and in Jehovah’s promise that an offspring would be through Isaac? (Gen. 22:1-18) [Feb. 3, w09 2/1 p. 18 par. 4]

^ ***w09 2/1 p. 18 The Greatest Proof of God’s Love***
A three-day trip followed, giving time for somber reflection. But Abraham’s resolve did not weaken. The words he spoke revealed his faith. Upon seeing the selected mountain in the distance, he told his servants: “You stay here . . . , but I and the boy want to go on over there and worship and return to you.” When Isaac asked where the sheep was for the offering, Abraham said: “God will provide himself the sheep.” (Verses 5, 8) Abraham expected to return with his son. Why? Because “he reckoned that God was able to raise him [Isaac] up even from the dead.”—Hebrews 11:19.

6. What important truths can we learn from the prophecy recorded atGenesis 25:23, which states that “the older will serve the younger”? [Feb. 10, w03 10/15 p. 29 par. 2]

^ (Gen. 25:23) And Jehovah said to her: “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples will be separated from within you; and the one nation will be stronger than the other nation, and the older will serve the younger.”
^ ***w03 10/15 p. 29 Jacob Appreciated Spiritual Values***
In no way did Jacob usurp Esau’s inheritance. Before the boys were born, Jehovah said that ‘the older would serve the younger.’ (Genesis 25:23) ‘Would it not have been easier if God had caused Jacob to be born first?’ someone might ask. What followed taught important truths. God does not reserve blessings for those who feel that they have a claim on them, but he does show undeserved kindness to those whom he chooses. The birthright thus went to Jacob, not to his older brother, who did not appreciate it. Similarly, because the natural Jews as a nation showed the same attitude as Esau, they were replaced by spiritual Israel. (Romans 9:6-16, 24) Good relations with Jehovah today never come by effortless inheritance, even if one is born into a God-fearing family or environment. All who would have divine blessings must strive to be godly, truly appreciating spiritual things.

7. What was the significance of Jacob’s dream involving what some translations call a ladder? (Gen. 28:12, 13) [Feb. 10, w04 1/15 p. 28 par. 6]

^ (Gen. 28:12, 13) Then he had a dream, and look! there was a stairway set on the earth, and its top reached up to the heavens; and there were God’s angels ascending and descending on it. 13 And look! there was Jehovah stationed above it, and he said: “I am Jehovah the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you are lying, to you I am going to give it and to your offspring.
^ ***w04 1/15 p. 28 par. 6 Highlights From the Book of Genesis—II***
Scriptural Questions Answered:
28:12, 13—What was the significance of Jacob’s dream involving “a ladder”? This “ladder,” which may have looked like a rising flight of stones, indicated that there is communication between earth and heaven. God’s angels ascending and descending on it showed that angels minister in some important way between Jehovah and humans who have his approval.—John 1:51.

8. Why was Laban so anxious to retrieve the stolen teraphim? (Gen. 31:30-35) [Feb. 17, it-2 p. 186 par. 2]

^ (Gen. 31:30-35) Now you have gone because you have been longing to return to the house of your father, but why have you stolen my gods?”31 Jacob answered La′ban: “It was because I was afraid, for I said to myself, ‘You might take your daughters away from me by force.’ 32 Anyone with whom you find your gods will not live. Before our brothers, examine what I have, and take what is yours.” But Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them. 33 So La′ban went into the tent of Jacob and into the tent of Le′ah and into the tent of the two slave girls, but did not find them. Then he came out of Le′ah’s tent and went into Rachel’s tent. 34 Meanwhile, Rachel had taken the teraphim statues and put them in the woman’s saddle basket of the camel, and she was sitting on them. So La′ban searched through the whole tent but did not find them. 35 Then she said to her father: “Do not be angry, my lord, because I am not able to get up before you, for the customary thing with women is upon me.” So he searched on carefully but did not find the teraphim statues.
^ ***it-2 p. 186 Laban***
Laban was very concerned about retrieving the teraphim, or household idols, which Rachel, unknown to Jacob, had stolen. These he was unable to find, for Rachel kept them concealed. Laban may have become influenced in his religious ideas by the moon-worshiping people among whom he dwelt, and this may be indicated by his use of omens and his possession of teraphim. However, it should be noted that it was likely more than merely religious reasons that made Laban so anxious to locate and retrieve the teraphim. Tablets unearthed at Nuzi near Kirkuk, Iraq, reveal that, according to the laws of patriarchal times in that particular area, possession of such household idols by a woman’s husband could give him the right to appear in court and claim the estate of his deceased father-in-law. Hence, Laban may have thought that Jacob himself stole the teraphim in order to dispossess Laban’s own sons later. This may explain why, on failing to locate the household gods, Laban was anxious to conclude an agreement with Jacob that would ensure that Jacob would not go back with the household gods after Laban’s death to deprive his sons of their inheritance.—Ge 31:30-35, 41-52.

9. What do we learn from the angel’s response to Jacob at Genesis 32:29? [Feb. 24, w13 8/1 p. 10]

^ (Gen. 32:29) In turn Jacob inquired: “Tell me, please, your name.” However, he said: “Why is it that you ask my name?” With that he blessed him there.
^ ***w13 8/1 p. 10 Why Are Some Bible Characters Left Unnamed?***
OUR READERS ASK . . .
Why Are Some Bible Characters Left Unnamed?
In the Bible book of Ruth, a man who refused to perform his duty according to the Mosaic Law is simply called So-and-so. (Ruth 4:1-12) Should we conclude that all unnamed Bible characters are likewise marred by bad traits or are too insignificant to be named?
No. Consider a different example. To prepare for his final Passover meal, Jesus told his disciples to “go into the city to So-and-so [“a certain man,” The New English Bible]” and get things ready at his home. (Matthew 26:18) Are we to assume that the man referred to as “So-and-so” in this verse was a bad man or that he was too insignificant to be named? Not at all; the “certain man” mentioned here no doubt was a disciple of Jesus. Since his name was not vital to the account, it was omitted.
Furthermore, the Bible record contains the names of many wicked individuals; it also contains examples of many faithful people who go unnamed. For instance, the name of Eve, the first woman, is well-known. Yet, her selfishness and disobedience contributed to the sin of Adam, which cost us all a terrible price. (Romans 5:12) By contrast, Noah’s wife goes unnamed in the Scriptures, but we owe much to her selfless, obedient spirit in supporting her husband in his vital work. Clearly, the omission of her name is no indication of insignificance or of divine disfavor.
There are other unnamed individuals in the Bible record who played important—even heroic—roles in Jehovah’s purpose. Think of the little Israelite girl who was a slave in the house of Naaman, a Syrian army chief. She boldly spoke to her mistress, Naaman’s wife, about Jehovah’s prophet in Israel. This led to a great miracle. (2 Kings 5:1-14) The daughter of the Israelite judge Jephthah also set an outstanding example of faith. She willingly gave up the prospect of marriage and childbearing in order to fulfill a vow that her father had made. (Judges 11:30-40) Similarly, there are composers of over 40 psalms who are left unnamed as well as unnamed prophets who faithfully carried out prominent assignments.—1 Kings 20:37-43.
Perhaps an even more impressive example is that of the faithful angels. There are hundreds of millions of them, yet only two are named in the Bible—Gabriel and Michael. (Daniel 7:10; Luke 1:19; Jude 9) The rest go unnamed in Bible accounts. For instance, an angel was asked by Manoah, the father of Samson: “What is your name, that when your word comes true we shall certainly do you honor?” The response? “Just why should you ask about my name?” Modestly, that angel refused to accept honor that was due only to God.—Judges 13:17, 18.
The Bible does not explain in each case why some individuals are named and others are not. But we can learn much from faithful individuals who served God without any prospect of fame or prominence.

10. What is one way to avoid consequences like those that befell Dinah? (Gen. 34:1, 2) [Feb. 24, w01 8/1 pp. 20-21]

^ (Gen. 34:1, 2) Now Di′nah, Jacob’s daughter by Le′ah, used to go out to spend time with the young women of the land. 2 When She′chem, the son of Ha′mor the Hi′vite, a chieftain of the land, saw her, he took her and lay down with her and violated her.
^ ***w01 8/1 pp. 20-21 Let Force of Habit Work for Your Good***
In the case of the man mentioned at the outset, force of habit cost him only some time stuck in city traffic. When it comes to more important things, habits can reward us with success or lead us to calamity. Consider a few real-life examples found in the Bible that show how habits can help or hinder our service to God and our relationship with him.
Bible Examples of Good and Bad Habits
Noah, Job, and Daniel were all blessed with a close relationship with God. The Bible extols them “because of their righteousness.” (Ezekiel 14:14) Significantly, the life course of all three men showed that they had developed good habits.
Noah was told to build an ark, a vessel longer than a football field and higher than a five-story building. Such a tremendous project would have overwhelmed any shipbuilder of ancient times. Noah and his seven family members constructed the ark without the help of modern equipment. In addition, Noah kept on preaching to his contemporaries. We can be certain that he was also providing for the spiritual and physical needs of his family. (2 Peter 2:5) To accomplish all of this, Noah must have had good work habits. Furthermore, Noah went down in Bible history as one who “walked with the true God. . . . Noah proceeded to do according to all that Jehovah had commanded him.” (Genesis 6:9, 22; 7:5) Since he was pronounced “faultless” in the Bible, he must have continued to walk with God after the Deluge and even after the rebellion against Jehovah reared its head at Babel. Indeed, Noah kept on walking with God right down till his death at 950 years of age.—Genesis 9:29.
Job’s good habits helped make him a man “blameless and upright.” (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3) He customarily, or habitually, acted as the family priest in offering sacrifices in behalf of his children after each one of their banquets, in case they had “‘sinned and [had] cursed God in their heart.’ That is the way Job would do always.” (Job 1:5) In Job’s family, customs that centered on Jehovah’s worship were undoubtedly prominent.
Daniel served Jehovah “with constancy” throughout his long life. (Daniel 6:16, 20) What good spiritual habits did Daniel have? For one thing, he prayed regularly to Jehovah. Despite a royal decree against this practice, “three times in a day [Daniel] was kneeling on his knees and praying and offering praise before his God, as he had been regularly doing.” (Daniel 6:10) He could not forgo his habit of praying to God, even when that proved to be life threatening. No doubt this habit strengthened Daniel in a life course of exceptional integrity to God. Evidently, Daniel also had the good habit of studying and pondering deeply the thrilling promises of God. (Jeremiah 25:11, 12; Daniel 9:2) These good habits certainly helped him endure to the end, faithfully running the race for life to its very finish.
In contrast, Dinah fared poorly because of a bad habit. She “used to go out to see the daughters of the land,” who were not worshipers of Jehovah. (Genesis 34:1) This seemingly innocent habit led to disaster. First, she was violated by Shechem, a young man considered “the most honorable of the whole house of his father.” Then, the vengeful reaction of two of her brothers led them to slaughter all the males in an entire city. What a terrible outcome!—Genesis 34:19, 25-29.
How can we be sure that our habits will benefit us and not harm us?
Putting Habits to Work
“Habits are destiny,” wrote one philosopher. But they do not have to be. The Bible shows very clearly that we can choose to change our bad habits and cultivate good ones.
With good habits, the Christian way of life becomes more efficient and easier to keep up. Alex, a Christian from Greece, says: “The habit of sticking to a schedule for accomplishing various tasks saves me valuable time.” Theophilus, a Christian elder, points to planning as a habit that helps him to be effective. He says: “I am fully convinced that I would not be able to handle my Christian duties successfully without the habit of good planning.”
As Christians, we are urged to “go on walking orderly in this same routine.” (Philippians 3:16) A routine involves a “habitual . . . performance of an established procedure.” Such good habits benefit us because we do not have to spend time in deliberating each step—we have already established a good pattern that we follow by force of habit. Strong habits become almost automatic. Just as safe driving habits may guide a driver to make instant lifesaving decisions when facing dangers on the road, good habits can help us to make appropriate decisions swiftly as we walk in our Christian course.
As English writer Jeremy Taylor put it: “Habits are the daughters of action.” If our habits are good, we can perform good things with little difficulty. For example, if as Christian ministers we have the habit of regularly sharing in the preaching work, it is easier and more enjoyable to go out in the field service. Regarding the apostles, we read that “every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus.” (Acts 5:42; 17:2) On the other hand, if we share in the ministry only occasionally, we may feel anxious, needing more time to get into the rhythm before we feel confident in this vital Christian activity.
The same is true of other aspects of our Christian routine. Good habits can help us to be regular in ‘reading God’s Word day and night.’ (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2) One Christian has the habit of reading the Bible for 20 to 30 minutes before retiring for the night. Even when he is very tired, he finds that if he goes to bed without doing the reading, he cannot sleep well. He has to get up and care for that spiritual need. This good habit has also helped him to read the whole Bible once a year for several years.
Our Exemplar, Jesus Christ, had the habit of attending meetings where the Bible was discussed. “According to his custom on the sabbath day, he entered into the synagogue, and he stood up to read.” (Luke 4:16) For Joe, an elder with a large family who works long hours, habit has helped to create in him a need and a desire to attend meetings regularly. He says: “This habit keeps me going,

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