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Theocratic Ministry School - Highlights of Genesis 36-39

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References to the Theocratic Ministry School

Program of the Theocratic Ministry School:


  • Bible Reading: Genesis 36-39

  • No. 1: Genesis 37:1-17

  • No. 2: Why Resurrected Ones Will Not Be Condemned for Their Past Deeds—rs p 338 par 1

  • No. 3: Abigail—Display Qualities That Honor Jehovah—it-1 p20-21, Abigail #1


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Highlights of Genesis 36-39


(Genesis 36:9) 9 And this is the history of E′sau the father of E′dom in the mountainous region of Se′ir.
A third possibility is that Moses obtained much of the information for Genesis from already existing writings or documents. As far back as the 18th century, the Dutch scholar Campegius Vitringa held this view, basing his conclusion upon the frequent occurrence in Genesis (ten times) of the expression (in KJ) “these are the generations of,” and once “this is the book of the generations of.” (Ge 2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10, 27; 25:12, 19; 36:1, 9; 37:2) In this expression the Hebrew word for “generations” is toh•le•dhohth′, and it is better rendered “histories” or “origins.” For example, “generations of the heavens and of the earth” would hardly be fitting, whereas “history of the heavens and the earth” is meaningful. (Ge 2:4) In harmony with this, the German Elberfelder, the French Crampon, and the Spanish Bover-Cantera all use the term “history,” as does the New World Translation. There is no doubt that even as men today are interested in an accurate historical record, so they have been from the start.
For these reasons, Vitringa and others since have understood each use of toh•le•dhohth′ in Genesis to refer to an already existing written historical document that Moses had in his possession and that he relied upon for the majority of the information recorded in Genesis. They believe that the persons named in direct connection with such ‘histories’ (Adam, Noah, Noah’s sons, Shem, Terah, Ishmael, Isaac, Esau, and Jacob) were either the writers or original possessors of those written documents. This, of course, would still leave unexplained how all such documents came to be in the possession of Moses. It also leaves unexplained why documents obtained from men who were not distinguished as faithful worshipers of Jehovah (such as Ishmael and Esau) should be the source of much of the information used. It is entirely possible that the expression “This is the history of” is simply an introductory phrase serving conveniently to divide off the various sections of the long overall history. Compare Matthew’s use of a similar expression to introduce his Gospel account.—Mt 1:1; see WRITING.

Gen 37:5 - *** w87 5/1 p. 12 par. 11 Death-Dealing Famine in a Time of Plenty ***
(Genesis 37:5) 5 Later Joseph had a dream and told it to his brothers, and they found further reason to hate him. . .
11 Joseph’s father, Israel, came to love him more than all his brothers and favored him by having a long, striped shirtlike garment made for him. Because of this, Joseph’s half brothers “began to hate him, and they were not able to speak peacefully to him.” They found further reason to hate him when he had two dreams that they interpreted to mean he would dominate over them. In like manner, the leaders among the Jews came to hate Jesus because of his loyalty, his persuasive teaching, and Jehovah’s obvious blessing upon him.—Genesis 37:3-11; John 7:46; 8:40.

Gen 37:22 - *** it-1 p. 561 Custody ***
(Genesis 37:22) 22 Reu′ben said to them: “Do not shed blood. Throw him into this waterpit in the wilderness, but do not harm him.” His purpose was to rescue him from them in order to return him to his father.
When a shepherd or herdsman said he would keep or guard a flock or herd, he was indicating legal acceptance of the custody of these animals. He was guaranteeing the owner that they would be fed and not stolen, or else compensation would be paid. However, his responsibility was not absolute, for the above law absolved the guardian of liability in the case of an occurrence beyond normal human control, such as attack by wild beasts. To be relieved of the responsibility of custody, though, he had to submit evidence to the owner, as, for example, the torn carcass. The owner, on examination of such evidence, was bound to return a verdict of innocence on the part of the custodian.
The same principle applied in general to any entrusted property, even in family relationships, for example, the oldest brother was considered the legal guardian of his younger brothers and sisters. Hence, we can understand the concern that Reuben as an eldest son had for Joseph’s life, as recorded at Genesis 37:18-30, when the other brothers spoke of killing him. “He said: ‘Let us not strike his soul fatally.’ . . . ‘Do not spill blood. . . . do not lay a violent hand upon him.’ His purpose was to deliver him out of their hand in order to return him to his father.” And when Reuben discovered Joseph’s absence, his anxiety was so extreme that “he ripped his garments apart” and exclaimed: “The child is gone! And I—where am I really to go?” He knew that he could be held accountable for the loss of Joseph.

Gen 37:27, 28 - *** w92 7/15 p. 4 Does the Bible Contradict Itself? ***
▪ Who sold Joseph into Egypt?
Genesis 37:27 says that Joseph’s brothers decided to sell him to some Ishmaelites. But the next verse states: “Now men, Midianite merchants, went passing by. Hence they [Joseph’s brothers] drew and lifted up Joseph out of the waterpit and then sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty silver pieces. Eventually these brought Joseph into Egypt.” Was Joseph sold to Ishmaelites or to Midianites? Well, the Midianites may also have been called Ishmaelites, to whom they were related through their forefather Abraham. Or Midianite merchants may have been traveling with an Ishmaelite caravan. At any rate, Joseph’s brothers did the selling, and later he could tell them: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt.”—Genesis 45:4.

Gen 37:33,34 - *** w10 8/15 p. 15 par. 14 How the Ransom Saves Us ***
(Genesis 37:33, 34) 33 Then he examined it and exclaimed: “It is my son’s robe! A vicious wild animal must have devoured him! Joseph is surely torn to pieces!” 34 With that Jacob ripped his garments apart and put sackcloth around his waist and mourned his son for many days.
14 The cost of the ransom can also be illustrated by an incident in the life of Jacob. Of all his sons, the one Jacob loved most was Joseph. Sadly, Joseph’s brothers envied and hated him. Yet, Joseph was willing to be sent by his father to see how his brothers were faring. At the time, they were shepherding Jacob’s flock some 60 miles [100 km] north of their home in Hebron. Imagine how Jacob felt when his sons returned with Joseph’s garment covered with blood! “It is my son’s long garment!” he exclaimed. “A vicious wild beast must have devoured him! Joseph is surely torn to pieces!” All of this had a great impact on Jacob, who mourned over Joseph for many days. (Gen. 37:33, 34) Jehovah does not react to situations exactly as imperfect humans do. Yet, meditating on this incident in the life of Jacob may help us to grasp, to some extent, how God must have felt when his beloved Son was mistreated and cruelly put to death as a man on earth.

Gen 38:15,16 - *** w04 1/15 p. 30 Questions From Readers ***
(Genesis 38:15, 16) 15 When Judah caught sight of her, he at once took her for a prostitute, because she had covered her face. 16 So he turned aside to her by the road and said: “Allow me, please, to have relations with you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. However, she said: “What will you give me that you may have relations with me?”
What circumstances caused Judah to have sexual relations with a woman he thought was a harlot, as stated at Genesis 38:15, 16?
While Judah did have sexual relations with a woman he thought was a harlot, in reality she was not a harlot. According to Genesis chapter 38, this is what happened.
Before Judah’s firstborn son had any sons by his wife, Tamar, he was put to death because he “proved to be bad in the eyes of Jehovah.” (Genesis 38:7) At that time, the custom of brother-in-law marriage was practiced. This required that when a man died without an heir, his brother was to provide the widow with the basis for an heir. But Judah’s second son, Onan, refused to fulfill his obligation. Hence, he died as a result of divine judgment. Judah then sent his daughter-in-law Tamar back to her father’s home until such time as Judah’s third son, Shelah, was old enough to be united with her. As the years went by, however, Judah failed to give Shelah in marriage to Tamar. So when Judah lost his wife in death, Tamar devised a plan to get an heir by Judah, the Israelite who had been her father-in-law. This she did by disguising herself as a temple prostitute and seating herself on the road along which she knew Judah would be passing.
Not knowing who Tamar was, Judah had relations with her. For her favors, she shrewdly obtained tokens from him, and by these she later proved that she had become pregnant by him. When the truth came out, Judah did not blame her but humbly said: “She is more righteous than I am, for the reason that I did not give her to Shelah my son.” And most fittingly, “he had no further intercourse with her.”—Genesis 38:26.
Judah acted wrongly in that he did not give Tamar to his son Shelah as promised. He also had relations with a woman he thought was a temple prostitute. This was contrary to God’s purpose, which was for a man to have sexual relations only in the marriage arrangement. (Genesis 2:24) In reality, though, Judah did not have relations with a harlot. Rather, he unwittingly took the place of his son Shelah in performing brother-in-law marriage and thus fathered legal offspring.
As for Tamar, her course was not an immoral one. Her twin sons were not considered to be the sons of fornication. When Boaz of Bethlehem took the Moabitess Ruth in brother-in-law marriage, the elders of Bethlehem spoke favorably of Tamar’s son Perez, saying to Boaz: “May your house become like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, from the offspring that Jehovah will give you out of this young woman.” (Ruth 4:12) Perez is also listed among the ancestors of Jesus Christ.—Matthew 1:1-3; Luke 3:23-33.

Gen 38:18 - *** si p. 17 par. 26 Bible Book Number 1—Genesis ***
(Genesis 38:18) 18 He continued: “What security should I give you?” to which she said: “Your seal ring and your cord and your rod that is in your hand.” Then he gave them to her and had relations with her, and she became pregnant by him.
26 Chapter 38 digresses momentarily to give the account of the birth of Perez to Tamar, who, by strategy, causes Judah her father-in-law to perform the marriage due toward her that should have been performed by his son. This account again underlines the extreme care with which the Scriptures record each development leading to the production of the Seed of promise. Judah’s son Perez becomes one of the ancestors of Jesus.—Luke 3:23, 33.

Gen 38:26 - *** w04 1/15 p. 29 par. 4 Highlights From the Book of Genesis—II ***
(Genesis 38:26) 26 Then Judah examined them and said: “She is more righteous than I am, because I did not give her to She′lah my son.” And he had no further sexual relations with her after that.
38:26. Judah was wrong in his dealings with his widowed daughter-in-law, Tamar. However, when confronted with his responsibility for her pregnancy, Judah humbly admitted his error. We too should be quick to acknowledge our mistakes.
Gen 39:4 - *** it-2 p. 107 Joseph ***
(Genesis 39:4) 4 Joseph kept finding favor in his eyes, and he became his personal attendant. So he appointed him over his house, and he put him in charge of all that was his.
As Joseph had been diligent in furthering his father’s interests, so also as a slave he proved himself to be industrious and trustworthy. With Jehovah’s blessing, everything that Joseph did turned out successfully. Potiphar therefore finally entrusted to him all the household affairs. Joseph thus appears to have been a superintendent, a post mentioned by Egyptian records in association with the large homes of influential Egyptians.—Ge 39:2-6.

Gen 39:9 - *** w13 11/1 p. 9 Talk to Your Teenager—Without Arguing ***
The Bible tells us about Joseph, a young man who had a strong sense of identity. For example, when Potiphar’s wife urged him to have sex with her, Joseph replied: “How could I commit this great badness and actually sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9) Even though a law forbidding adultery had not yet been given to the Israelites, Joseph perceived God’s view of the matter. More than that, the words “how could I” indicate that he had made God’s view his own—a part of his very identity.—Ephesians 5:1.

Gen 39:10 - *** it-2 p. 107 Joseph ***
(Genesis 39:10) 10 So day after day she spoke to Joseph, but he never consented to lie with her or to remain with her.
Consequently Potiphar’s wife became infatuated with him. Repeatedly she asked him to have relations with her. But Joseph, trained in the way of righteousness, refused, saying: “How could I commit this great badness and actually sin against God?” This, however, did not end the danger for Joseph. Archaeological evidence indicates that the arrangement of Egyptian houses appears to have been such that a person had to pass through the main part of the house to reach the storerooms. If Potiphar’s house was laid out similarly, it would have been impossible for Joseph to avoid all contact with Potiphar’s wife.—Ge 39:6-10.

Gen 39:21 - *** w02 5/15 pp. 14-16 pars. 11-12 Benefiting From Jehovah’s Loving-Kindness ***
(Genesis 39:21) 21 But Jehovah continued with Joseph and kept showing loyal love to him and granting him favor in the eyes of the chief officer of the prison.
11 Next, let us consider Genesis chapter 39. It centers on Abraham’s great-grandson Joseph, who was sold into slavery in Egypt. Nevertheless, “Jehovah proved to be with Joseph.” (Verses 1, 2) In fact, even Joseph’s Egyptian master, Potiphar, concluded that Jehovah was with Joseph. (Verse 3) However, Joseph faced a very serious test. He was falsely accused of sexually assaulting Potiphar’s wife and was imprisoned. (Verses 7-20) It was “in the prison hole” that “with fetters they afflicted his feet, into irons his soul came.”—Genesis 40:15; Psalm 105:18.
12 What happened during that particularly trying experience? “Jehovah continued with Joseph and kept extending loving-kindness to him.” (Verse 21a) A particular act of loving-kindness set in motion a series of events that later led to relief from the troubles Joseph was experiencing. Jehovah granted Joseph “to find favor in the eyes of the chief officer of the prison house.” (Verse 21b) Consequently, the officer assigned Joseph a responsible position. (Verse 22) Next, Joseph met the man who eventually brought him to the attention of Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt. (Genesis 40:1-4, 9-15; 41:9-14) In turn, the king elevated Joseph to the position of second ruler in Egypt, resulting in his performing a life-saving work in the famine-stricken land of Egypt. (Genesis 41:37-55) Joseph’s suffering began when he was 17 years old and lasted for more than a dozen years! (Genesis 37:2, 4; 41:46) But throughout all those years of distress and affliction, Jehovah God manifested his loving-kindness toward Joseph by protecting him from utter calamity and by preserving him for a privileged role in the divine purpose.


Talk #2 – Why Resurrected Ones Will Not Be Condemned for Their Past Deeds


*** rs p. 338 Resurrection ***
Will some be raised simply to have judgment pronounced and then be consigned to second death?
What is the meaning of John 5:28, 29? It says: “All those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.” What Jesus said here must be understood in the light of the later revelation that he gave to John. (See Revelation 20:12, 13, quoted on page 337.) Both those who formerly did good things and those who formerly practiced bad things will be “judged individually according to their deeds.” What deeds? If we were to take the view that people were going to be condemned on the basis of deeds in their past life, that would be inconsistent with Romans 6:7: “He who has died has been acquitted from his sin.” It would also be unreasonable to resurrect people simply for them to be destroyed. So, at John 5:28, 29a, Jesus was pointing ahead to the resurrection; then, in the remainder of verse 29, he was expressing the outcome after they had been uplifted to human perfection and been put on judgment.

Talk #3 – Abigail—Display Qualities That Honor Jehovah


*** it-1 pp. 20-21 Abigail ***
(Ab′i•gail) [(My) Father Has Made Himself Joyful].
1. A wife of David. Originally, the wife of wealthy Nabal from Maon, a city on the edge of the Wilderness of Judah, W of the Dead Sea. (1Sa 25:2, 3; Jos 15:20, 55) She was “good in discretion and beautiful in form,” while her first husband, whose name means “Senseless; Stupid,” was “harsh and bad in his practices.”
Following the prophet Samuel’s death, David and his men moved into the area where the flocks of Abigail’s husband were pastured. David’s men thereafter were like a protective “wall” around Nabal’s shepherds and flocks, night and day. So, when shearing time came, David sent some young men up to Carmel to call Nabal’s attention to the good service rendered him and to request an offering of food from him. (1Sa 25:4-8, 15, 16) But miserly Nabal screamed rebukes at them and insulted David as if he were an inconsequential person, and all of them as if they were possibly runaway slaves. (1Sa 25:9-11, 14) This so angered David that he girded on his sword and led about 400 men toward Carmel to wipe out Nabal and the men of his household.—1Sa 25:12, 13, 21, 22.
Abigail, hearing of the incident through a disturbed servant, showed her wise perception by immediately rounding up an ample supply of food and grain and then sent these ahead of her in care of her servants, much as Jacob had done before making contact with Esau. (1Sa 25:14-19; Ge 32:13-20) Without saying anything to her husband, she rode to meet David, and in a long and fervent plea, which manifested wisdom and logic as well as respect and humility, she convinced David that her husband’s senseless words did not justify the unrighteous shedding of blood or the failure to trust in Jehovah to settle the matter in a right way himself. (1Sa 25:14-20, 23-31) David thanked God for the woman’s good sense and quick action.—1Sa 25:32-35; compare Pr 25:21, 22; 15:1, 2.
Returning home, Abigail waited for her husband to sober up from a drunken feast and then informed him of her actions. Now “his heart came to be dead inside him, and he himself became as a stone,” and after ten days Jehovah caused him to expire. When the news reached David, he sent a marriage proposal to Abigail, which she did not hesitate to accept. She shared David’s affections along with Ahinoam, a Jezreelitess, whom David had previously taken as wife. David’s first wife, Michal, had already been given by her father Saul to another man.—1Sa 25:36-44.
Abigail was with David in Gath on the western edge of the Shephelah and later down in the NW Negeb at Ziklag. During David’s absence a raiding party of Amalekites from the S burned Ziklag and carried off all the women and children, including Abigail and Ahinoam. Assured by Jehovah of success, David led his men in pursuit and, in a surprise attack, overcame the Amalekites and retrieved the captives and possessions.—1Sa 30:1-19.
Back at Ziklag, three days later, the news of Saul’s death arrived. (2Sa 1:1, 2) Abigail now accompanied her husband to Hebron of Judah, where David was first anointed as king. Here she gave birth to a son, Chileab (2Sa 3:3), also called Daniel at 1 Chronicles 3:1. David’s wives increased to six in Hebron, and neither Abigail nor her son receive further mention in the account.—2Sa 3:2-5.

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