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References to the Theocratic Ministry School
Program of the Theocratic Ministry School: Week Starting March 24
Mar. 24 Bible reading: Genesis 47-50
No. 1: Genesis 48:17–49:7
No. 2: The Events Associated With Christ’s Presence Take Place Over a Period of Years (rs p. 341 ¶1-2)
No. 3: Abimelech—Presumptuousness Ends in Personal Disaster (it-1 p. 24, Abimelech No. 4)
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Highlights of Genesis 47-50
Highlights for the Week of March 24-30, 2014
Gen 47:19 - *** w87 5/1 p. 15 pars. 2-4 Preserving Life in Time of Famine ***
(Genesis 47:19) 19 Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land in exchange for food, and we together with our land will become slaves to Phar′aoh. Give us seed so that we may live and not die and that our land may not become desolate.”
2 The seven years of plenty ended, and the famine began as Jehovah had foretold—a famine not just in Egypt but “over all the surface of the earth.” When the famished people in Egypt began to cry out to Pharaoh for bread, Pharaoh told them: “Go to Joseph. Whatever he says to you, you are to do.” Joseph sold grain to the Egyptians until their money ran out. Then he accepted their livestock in payment. Finally, the people came to Joseph, saying: “Buy us and our land for bread, and we together with our land will become slaves to Pharaoh.” So Joseph bought all the land of the Egyptians for Pharaoh.—Genesis 41:53-57; 47:13-20.
Provision for Spiritual Feeding
3 Just as the grain distributed by Joseph meant life to the Egyptians, so true spiritual food is essential for sustaining Christians who become slaves of Jehovah by their dedication to Him through the Greater Joseph, Jesus Christ. During his earthly ministry, Jesus foretold that his anointed footstep followers would bear the responsibility of dispensing these provisions. He asked: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so.”—Matthew 24:45, 46.
4 The faithful remnant of this “discreet slave” class today go to any Scriptural lengths to see that Jehovah’s dedicated witnesses, as well as interested people out in the world, receive life-sustaining spiritual food. This trust is recognized as a sacred duty and is performed as a sacred service to Jehovah. Moreover, the “slave” has organized congregations and supplied these with Bible literature in such quantity that they have ample Kingdom “seed” for scattering publicly in their assigned fields. This corresponds to Joseph’s day, when he gathered the people into cities and provided them with grain not only for sustenance but also for sowing with a later harvest in view.—Genesis 47:21-25; Mark 4:14, 20; Matthew 28:19, 20.
Gen 47:21 - *** w87 5/1 p. 15 par. 1 Preserving Life in Time of Famine ***
(Genesis 47:21) 21 Then he moved the people into cities, from one end of the territory of Egypt to its other end.
IMMEDIATELY after his appointment as food administrator, Joseph toured the land of Egypt. He had matters well organized by the time the years of plenty began. Now the land yielded its produce by the handfuls! Joseph kept collecting the foodstuffs from the field around each city, storing it up in the city. He kept “piling up grain in very great quantity, like the sand of the sea, until finally they gave up counting it, because it was without number.”—Genesis 41:46-49.
Gen 47:22 - *** it-2 p. 684 Priest ***
(Genesis 47:22) 22 Only the land of the priests he did not buy, because the rations for the priests were from Phar′aoh and they lived on their rations that Phar′aoh gave them. That is why they did not sell their land.
This provision for the priesthood, though abundant, was in contrast to the luxury and financial power attained by the priesthood of pagan nations. In Egypt, for example, the priests owned portions of the land (Ge 47:22, 26) and by crafty maneuvering eventually were the richest and most powerful men in Egypt. James H. Breasted, in A History of the Ancient Egyptians (1908, pp. 355, 356, 431, 432), records that during the so-called Twentieth Dynasty the Pharaoh was reduced to a mere puppet. The priesthood had possession of the Nubian gold country and the great province of the Upper Nile. The high priest was the most important fiscal officer of the state, next to the chief treasurer himself. He commanded all the armies and held the treasury in his hands. He is represented more prominently in the monuments than the Pharaoh.
Gen 47:29 - *** it-1 p. 217 Attitudes and Gestures ***
(Genesis 47:29) 29 The time was approaching for Israel to die, so he called his son Joseph and said: “If, now, I have found favor in your eyes, place your hand, please, under my thigh, and show loyal love and faithfulness to me. Please, do not bury me in Egypt.
Another method of confirming an oath was to place one’s hand under the other’s thigh (hip), as Abraham’s steward did in swearing that he would get a wife for Isaac from Abraham’s relatives (Ge 24:2, 9), and as Joseph did for Jacob in swearing not to bury Jacob in Egypt. (Ge 47:29-31) The word “thigh” applies to the upper part of the leg from the hip to the knee, in which the femur is located. According to the Jewish rabbi Rashbam, this method of swearing was used when a superior adjured an inferior, such as a master his servant or a father his son, who also owes him obedience. And according to another Jewish scholar, Abraham Ibn Ezra, it was the custom in those days for a servant to take an oath in this manner, placing his hand under his master’s thigh, the latter sitting upon his hand. This signified that the servant was under his master’s authority.—The Soncino Chumash, edited by A. Cohen, London, 1956, p. 122.
Gen 47:30 - *** it-1 p. 377 Burial, Burial Places ***
(Genesis 47:30) 30 When I die, you must carry me out of Egypt and bury me in the grave of my forefathers.” Accordingly, he said: “I will do just as you say.”
Jacob was seriously concerned that his body not be buried in Egypt but, rather, with his forefathers. (Ge 47:29-31) This necessitated the embalming of his body, which otherwise would have putrefied during the hot journey from Egypt to the cave of Machpelah. (Ge 50:1-3, 13) Joseph expressed a similar desire, and his body was likewise embalmed and placed in a coffin, awaiting the time of the Exodus for transferal. (Ge 50:24-26; Jos 24:32) This desire doubtless related to their sharing the same faith in God’s promises and was an expression of their conviction as to the eventual fulfillment of these.—Heb 11:13-22, 39.
Gen 48:22 - *** it-1 p. 97 Amorite ***
(Genesis 48:22) 22 As for me, I do give you one portion of land more than to your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Am′or•ites with my sword and my bow.”
Shortly before Jacob’s death in Egypt, that patriarch promised Joseph: “I do give you one shoulder of land more than to your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorites by my sword and by my bow.” (Ge 48:22) Since the word rendered “shoulder” in this text is shekhem′ in Hebrew, some have claimed that Jacob was here referring to the plot of ground he had purchased near Shechem (Heb., Shekhem′). (Ge 33:18, 19) The purchase was a peaceable transaction, however, and there is no record of any battle waged by Jacob in connection with the land. While Jacob’s sons later did make a savage attack on the people of Shechem, Jacob disavowed responsibility for the act at the time (Ge 34:30); and on his deathbed he cursed the anger of Simeon and Levi that had motivated the attack. (Ge 49:5-7) Thus, it seems more reasonable to understand Jacob’s promise as a prophetic utterance in which he envisioned by faith the future conquest of Canaan as though it were already effected, with Jacob ‘taking the land of the Amorites’ vicariously through the sword and bow of his descendants.
Gen 49:1 - *** it-2 p. 206 Last Days ***
Jacob’s Deathbed Prophecy. When Jacob said to his sons, “Gather yourselves together that I may tell you what will happen to you in the final part of the days” or “in days to come” (AT), he meant in that future time when his words would begin undergoing fulfillment. (Ge 49:1) Over two centuries earlier Jehovah had stated to Jacob’s grandfather Abram (Abraham) that his offspring would suffer affliction for 400 years. (Ge 15:13) Therefore, in this case, the future time referred to by Jacob as “the final part of the days” could not begin until after the 400 years of affliction ended. (For details on Genesis 49, see the articles on the sons of Jacob under their respective names.) A later application of the prophecy that would involve the spiritual “Israel of God” could also be expected.—Ga 6:16; Ro 9:6.
Gen 49:3,4 - *** it-2 p. 795 Reuben ***
Jacob dealt with Reuben first, saying: “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my vigor and the beginning of my generative power, the excellence of dignity and the excellence of strength. With reckless license like waters, do not you excel, because you have gone up to your father’s bed. At that time you profaned my lounge. He went up to it!”—Ge 49:3, 4.
Jacob recalled a disqualification for Reuben that affected his future privileges. Reuben had disgraced his father. He had committed incestuous immorality with his father’s concubine, Bilhah, the maidservant of Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel. This was shortly after Rachel died following her giving birth to Benjamin. The Bible record does not explain whether firstborn Reuben violated the maidservant Bilhah to prevent her from taking Rachel’s place in Jacob’s affection, thus becoming more favored than Reuben’s mother Leah, or whether Reuben acted out of sheer lust for Bilhah. It simply says: “And it came about while Israel was tabernacling in that land that once Reuben went and lay down with Bilhah his father’s concubine, and Israel got to hear of it.” (Ge 35:22) The Greek Septuagint adds: “And it appeared evil in his sight.”—Ge 35:21, LXX, Thomson.
Reuben was not disowned and cast out for this. It was years later, when he blessed his sons, that Jacob said to Reuben, by divine inspiration: “Do not you excel.” Thus Reuben was stripped of privileges that would otherwise have been his as a firstborn son. This was because he acted with “reckless license like waters.” He proved himself either unstable like waters or turbulent and headlong like waters bursting a dam or raging down a torrent valley. Reuben should have exercised self-control. He should have shown a son’s respect for his father’s dignity and for the honor of the two sons of Bilhah, his father’s concubine.
Gen 49:7 - *** g98 4/22 p. 30 From Our Readers ***
(Genesis 49:7) 7 Cursed be their anger, because it is cruel, and their fury, because it is harsh. Let me disperse them in Jacob, and let me scatter them in Israel.
Anger In the article “Why Control Your Anger?” (June 8, 1997), you say that Simeon and Levi were cursed by their father. I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that it was their anger that Jacob cursed.
Our reader is correct on this point. “The Watchtower” of June 15, 1962, explained: “Jacob did not, in his dying breath, curse Simeon and Levi themselves. He cursed their anger, ‘because it is cruel.’ He cursed their fury, ‘because it acts harshly.’”—ED.
Gen 49:8 - *** it-2 p. 124 Judah ***
(Genesis 49:8) 8 “As for you, Judah, your brothers will praise you. Your hand will be on the neck of your enemies. The sons of your father will bow down before you. . .
Superior Among His Brothers. By his concern for his aged father and his noble effort to preserve Benjamin’s freedom at the cost of his own, Judah proved himself to be superior among his brothers. (1Ch 5:2) No longer was he the Judah who in his youth had shared in plundering the Shechemites and who had been party to wronging his half brother Joseph and then deceiving his own father. His fine qualities of leadership entitled Judah, as one of the heads of the 12 tribes of Israel, to receive a superior prophetic blessing from his dying father. (Ge 49:8-12) Its fulfillment is considered below.
Gen 49:9 - *** re chap. 15 pp. 83-84 par. 5 “Who Is Worthy to Open the Scroll?” ***
“A lion cub Judah is. From the prey, my son, you will certainly go up. He bowed down, he stretched himself out like a lion and, like a lion, who dares rouse him? The scepter will not turn aside from Judah, neither the commander’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to him the obedience of the peoples will belong.” (Genesis 49:9, 10) The royal line of God’s people stemmed from Judah. Starting with David, all the kings who ruled in Jerusalem until the Babylonians destroyed that city were Judah’s descendants. But not one of them was the Shiloh prophesied by Jacob. Shiloh means “He Whose [Right] It Is.” Prophetically, this name pointed to Jesus, the one to whom the Davidic Kingdom now permanently belongs.—Ezekiel 21:25-27; Luke 1:32, 33; Revelation 19:16.
Gen 49:10 - *** w11 8/15 p. 9 par. 6 They Waited for the Messiah ***
6 The Messiah was to be born of Israel’s tribe of Judah. In his deathbed blessing of his sons, the patriarch Jacob foretold: “The scepter will not turn aside from Judah, neither the commander’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to him the obedience of the peoples will belong.” (Gen. 49:10) Many Jewish scholars of the past associated those words with the Messiah. Starting with the rule of Judean King David, the scepter (royal sovereignty) and the commander’s staff (power to command) resided with the tribe of Judah. “Shiloh” signifies “He Whose It Is; He to Whom It Belongs.” The regal line of Judah would end in “Shiloh” as the permanent kingly Heir, for God told Zedekiah, the last Judean king, that rulership would be given to one having the legal right to it. (Ezek. 21:26, 27) After Zedekiah, Jesus was the only descendant of David to whom kingship was promised. Before Jesus’ birth, the angel Gabriel told Mary: “Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule as king over the house of Jacob forever, and there will be no end of his kingdom.” (Luke 1:32, 33) Shiloh must be Jesus Christ, who was a descendant of Judah and David.—Matt. 1:1-3, 6; Luke 3:23, 31-34.
Gen 49:19 - *** w04 6/1 p. 15 par. 5 Blessed Are Those Who Give Glory to God ***
5 How would the tribe of Gad fare under such unrelenting pressure? Centuries earlier, in his death-bed prophecy, their forefather Jacob foretold: “As for Gad, a marauder band will raid him, but he will raid the extreme rear.” (Genesis 49:19) At first glance those words may seem gloomy. In reality, though, they amounted to a command for the Gadites to strike back. Jacob assured them that if they did so, the raiders would make a humiliating retreat, with the Gadites pursuing their extreme rear.
Gen 49:21 - *** w02 8/15 p. 12 par. 10 “I Set the Pattern for You” ***
(Genesis 49:21) 21 “Naph′ta•li is a slender doe. He is speaking words of elegance.
Inspired prophecies had suggested that the Messiah would speak with ‘charm on his lips,’ using “words of elegance.” (Psalm 45:2; Genesis 49:21) Jesus fulfilled those prophecies by keeping his message fresh and alive, using “winsome words” as he taught the truths he so loved. (Luke 4:22) No doubt his enthusiasm animated his features, and his eyes shone with a lively interest in his subject. What a pleasure it must have been to listen to him, and what a fine pattern for us to follow when we talk to others about what we have learned!
Gen 49:24,25 - *** it-2 p. 110 Joseph ***
(Genesis 49:24, 25) 24 And yet his bow remained in place, and his hands stayed strong and agile. This was from the hands of the powerful one of Jacob, from the shepherd, the stone of Israel. 25 He is from the God of your father, and he will help you, and he is with the Almighty, and he will bless you with the blessings of the heavens above, with the blessings of the deep below, with the blessings of the breasts and womb.
Being from God, Joseph had Jehovah’s help. He was with the Almighty in that he was on Jehovah’s side and therefore was a recipient of his blessing.—Ge 49:24, 25.
The blessing of Jehovah also was to be experienced by the tribes to descend from Joseph through Ephraim and Manasseh. Said Jacob: “He [the Almighty] will bless you with the blessings of the heavens above, with the blessings of the watery deep lying down below, with the blessings of the breasts and womb.” (Ge 49:25) This assured Joseph’s descendants of needed water supplies from heaven and from underground, as well as a large population.—Compare De 33:13-16; Jos 17:14-18.
Gen 49:27 - *** ia chap. 16 p. 142 She Acted Wisely, Bravely, and Selflessly ***
A Prophecy Fulfilled
In fighting for God’s people, Esther and Mordecai fulfilled an ancient Bible prophecy. Over a dozen centuries earlier, Jehovah inspired the patriarch Jacob to foretell regarding one of his sons: “Benjamin will keep on tearing like a wolf. In the morning he will eat the animal seized and at evening he will divide spoil.” (Gen. 49:27) In “the morning” of Israel’s kingly history, Benjamin’s descendants included King Saul and other mighty warriors for Jehovah’s people. In the “evening” of that royal history, after the sun had set on Israel’s kingly line, Esther and Mordecai, both of the tribe of Benjamin, warred effectively against Jehovah’s enemies. In a sense, they also divided spoil, in that Haman’s vast estate went to them.
Gen 50:2 - *** w02 3/15 p. 29 Embalming—Is It for Christians? ***
(Genesis 50:2) 2 After that Joseph commanded his servants, the physicians, to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel,
JOSEPH honored his father’s request by taking advantage of a custom that prevailed in Egypt at the time. He commanded “his servants, the physicians, to embalm his father.” According to the account found in Genesis chapter 50, the physicians took the customary 40 days to prepare the corpse. The embalming of Jacob allowed for the large, slow-moving caravan of family members and Egyptian dignitaries to travel about 250 miles [400 km] to take Jacob’s remains to Hebron for burial.—Genesis 50:1-14.
Is it possible that Jacob’s embalmed body will be found one day? The chances are, at best, remote. Israel was a well-watered region, which limits the type of archaeological artifacts discovered there. (Exodus 3:8) Ancient metal and stone objects abound, but most of the more fragile items, such as cloth, leather, and embalmed bodies, have not withstood moisture and the vicissitudes of time.
Gen 50:13 - *** it-1 p. 377 Burial, Burial Places ***
(Genesis 50:13) 13 His sons carried him into the land of Ca′naan and buried him in the cave of the field of Mach•pe′lah, the field in front of Mam′re that Abraham had purchased from E′phron the Hit′tite as property for a burial place.
Jacob was seriously concerned that his body not be buried in Egypt but, rather, with his forefathers. (Ge 47:29-31) This necessitated the embalming of his body, which otherwise would have putrefied during the hot journey from Egypt to the cave of Machpelah. (Ge 50:1-3, 13)
Gen 50:23 - *** w95 9/15 pp. 20-21 Godly Families of the Past—A Pattern for Our Day ***
A glimpse into the affection that children commonly received is given at Genesis 50:23. There it says of the great-grandsons of Joseph: “They were born upon Joseph’s knees.” While this could simply mean that Joseph acknowledged the children as his descendants, it could also indicate that he affectionately played with the children, dandling them upon his knees. Fathers today do well to show their children similar affection.
Gen 50:25 - *** w07 6/1 p. 28 pars. 10-11 Elderly Ones—A Blessing to the Young ***
(Genesis 50:25) 25 So Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying: “God will without fail turn his attention to you. You must take my bones up out of here.”
10 Older ones can also be a good influence on fellow believers. In his old age, Jacob’s son Joseph performed a simple act of faith that had a profound effect on millions of true worshippers who lived after him. He was 110 when “he gave a command concerning his bones,” namely, that when the Israelites finally left Egypt, they were to take his bones with them. (Hebrews 11:22; Genesis 50:25) That command served as an added ray of hope for Israel during the many years of hard slavery that followed Joseph’s death, providing assurance that their deliverance would come.
11 Among those nourished by Joseph’s expression of faith was Moses. When Moses was 80, he was privileged to carry Joseph’s bones up out of the land of Egypt. (Exodus 13:19)
Gen 50:26 - *** it-1 p. 377 Burial, Burial Places ***
(Genesis 50:26) 26 And Joseph died at the age of 110, and they had him embalmed, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.
Joseph expressed a similar desire, and his body was likewise embalmed and placed in a coffin, awaiting the time of the Exodus for transferal. (Ge 50:24-26; Jos 24:32) This desire doubtless related to their sharing the same faith in God’s promises and was an expression of their conviction as to the eventual fulfillment of these.—Heb 11:13-22, 39.
No. 1: Genesis 48:17-49:7
Talk #2 – The Events Associated With Christ’s Presence Take Place Over a Period of Years
*** rs p. 341 Return of Christ ***
Do the events associated with Christ’s presence take place in a very brief time or over a period of years?
Matt. 24:37-39: “Just as the days of Noah were, so the presence [“coming,” RS, TEV; “presence,” Yg, Ro, ED; Greek, pa•rou•si′a] of the Son of man will be. For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.” (The events of “the days of Noah” that are described here took place over a period of many years. Jesus compared his presence with what occurred back then.)
At Matthew 24:37 the Greek word pa•rou•si′a is used. Literally it means a “being alongside.” Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford, 1968) gives “presence, of persons,” as its first definition of pa•rou•si′a. The sense of the word is clearly indicated at Philippians 2:12, where Paul contrasts his presence (pa•rou•si′a) with his absence (a•pou•si′a). On the other hand, in Matthew 24:30, which tells of the “Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” as Jehovah’s executioner at the war of Armageddon, the Greek word er•kho′me•non is used. Some translators use ‘coming’ for both Greek words, but those that are more careful convey the difference between the two.
Talk #3 – Abimelech—Presumptuousness Ends in Personal Disaster
*** it-1 p. 24 Abimelech ***
4. A son of Judge Gideon born to his concubine at Shechem. After his father’s death, Abimelech with presumptuous impudence sought to make himself king. Cunningly, he appealed to the landowners of Shechem through his mother’s influential family. Upon obtaining their financial support he hired some ruffians, went to his father’s house at Ophrah, and there massacred his half brothers upon a single stone. Of the 70 half brothers, only the youngest, Jotham, escaped the slaughter.
Abimelech was then proclaimed king, but Jehovah allowed a bad spirit to develop between the Shechemites and their new “king,” in order to avenge the bloodguilt of all those connected with the conspiracy. A revolt was organized by Gaal. Abimelech quickly crushed it, captured and destroyed the city of Shechem, and sowed it with salt. Then he attacked the vault of the house, or sanctuary, of El-berith and set it afire, and in the conflagration about a thousand of his previous collaborators, the landowners of the tower of Shechem who had taken refuge there, were burned to death. Immediately Abimelech followed up this success by attacking Thebez to the N, only to have a woman on the city tower hurl an upper millstone down upon his head. Abimelech’s three-year “reign” came to an end when his armor-bearer, in compliance with his dying request, ran him through with the sword, so that it could not be said that a woman had killed him.—Jg 8:30, 31; 9:1-57; 2Sa 11:21.