Foundational Themes in Genesis – Study 94
Foundational themes in Genesis – Study 94 (Key verses: Gen 37:12-17; Gen 38)
The theme of spiritual glorification is intimately connected to the caring for God’s flock and the salvation of all, as we also see typified in the life of Joseph. The following words come from the mouth of Joseph as written in scripture. These words Joseph spoke to his brothers after they sold him to slave traders who brought him to Egypt where he eventually through much tribulation ended up as ruler in Egypt under the Pharaoh:
Gen 45:5 Now do not be troubled or angry with yourselves for sending me away, because God sent me before you to be the saviour of your lives. (BBE)
Gen 45:5 Now do not be upset or blame yourselves because you sold me here. It was really God who sent me ahead of you to save people’s lives. (GNB)
Gen 50:20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.
Joseph was sent ahead of his brothers by God not only to supply food for his own family, but eventually to save many people’s lives. This is what God’s elect is called to be – saviours, but they are admonished by scripture to be diligent even in the process of caring for those who have been given to them in this age (Oba 1:21; Joh 21:15-17; Rom 12:10; Gal 6:10; Php 2:4; Tit 1:5-10; 1Ti 5:8; 1Pe 5:2-4):
Pro 27:23 Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.
The elect of God are called to be good shepherds, among other things, but we all need to be aware that there are also thieves and robbers who are indeed strangers and bad shepherds among God’s flock whom we need to be able to discern (Joh 10:1-5). The distinction between the good shepherd and the stranger is something few are given to discern properly in this life. But the basic distinction is first given to us in the lives of the first two sons of Adam and Eve – one who loved to feed the sheep which points to an honest caring attitude for others. The other son was more focussed on “the ground” – focussed on the self and ensnared in what man thinks and says (Deu 1:17; 1Sa 15:24; Pro 29:25; Gal 2:12):
Gen 4:2 And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper [Hebrew: “râ‛âh” = feed/pastor/a companion] of sheep, but Cain was a tiller [Hebrew: “âbad” = servant/in bondage/worshippper] of the ground [Hebrew: “ădâmâh” from “âdam” and link to “âdâm” = man].
But this distinction between the two types of shepherds becomes more disguised and needs much deeper discernment as we are all fooled by our own deception (Jer 17:9). This is also what we learn through the family of Jacob while they lived in the promised land. Under the direction of God, Jacob gathered a special breed of flock for himself in the last six years of the twenty years he worked for his uncle Laban in Haran (Gen 31:10-12). Back in Canaan Jacob trusted the care of his flock to his sons, but they did not always inform their father concerning the wellbeing of these flocks. Jacob had a keen interest in his flock and regularly inquired as to the wellbeing of this flock and the welfare of the sons, as he also appointed his favourite son, Joseph, to help in this regard:
Gen 37:1 And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan.
Gen 37:2 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.
Gen 37:12 And his [Joseph’s] brethren went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem.
Gen 37:13 And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here am I.
Gen 37:14 And he said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again. So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.
In this instance Jacob was under the impression his sons were attending to his sheep in Shechem, but Joseph could not find them there. They were not at the appointed place. Even a certain stranger whom Joseph met in the field knew more about the whereabouts of these ten sons than what Jacob knew at this point in time:
Gen 37:15 And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou?
Gen 37:16 And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks.
Gen 37:17 And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan.
The manner in which these ten brothers cared for the flocks of their father became more apparent when we read that they even killed a kid of one of the goats of Jacob to cover for their evil deed of selling Joseph to the slave traders:
Gen 37:31 And they took Joseph’s coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood.
The way they treated Joseph, their own brother, is a further testimony against these brothers’ shepherding and caring attitudes. These brothers of Joseph not only had no respect for the life of Joseph and the father’s flock, they also saw no problem in using lies and deceit in the process of reporting to their father on the status of their own brother and the flock:
Gen 37:32 And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son’s coat or no.
Gen 37:33 And he knew it, and said, It is my son’s coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces.
Gen 37:34 And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.
Gen 37:35 And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.
Although Reuben, the eldest of the twelve sons of Jacob, was the first to save Joseph’s life by giving his fellow brothers the idea to cast Joseph in a pit, the role of one of the other brothers, namely Judah, also becomes very interesting:
Gen 37:26 And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood?
Gen 37:27 Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content.
The words “for he is our brother and our flesh” reveals something about Judah’s caring heart which will become more apparent as we follow this man’s life as he also distanced himself physically away from his brothers after this ordeal with Joseph:
Gen 38:1 And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.
It is especially through the story of Judah and his life away from his brothers, that certain aspects of Judah’s life are brought to our attention. We also know through Jacob’s words at his deathbed that Judah’s future role in his own family and in God’s plan becomes clearer:
Gen 49:8 Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee.
Gen 49:9 Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?
Gen 49:10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.
It is through the generations of Judah that the true kingly offspring and pastoral leadership of the physical Jews came, as we also see in the life of king David. This, of course, typifies the rulership of Christ and the role of God’s elect who will be kings and priests (shepherds) for God in the symbolic thousand year reign on earth and judges in the spiritual eon (1Co 6:2-3 Rev 20:4-15). Judah took leadership among his brothers in many instances, especially on his return to the family later in negotiations with Joseph, whom they did not recognize at that time (Gen 37:26; Gen 43:8-10; Gen 44:14-34; Gen 46:28). The word “Jew” is an abbreviation of the word “Judah” which gives us an idea how his leadership eventually covered all the twelve tribes of physical Israel, also in the unified kingdoms under David and his son Solomon. But here again we see the relationship in the roles of Judah and Joseph and why both these typify vital aspects of our own position of rulership within the spiritual kingdom of God:
1Ch 5:2 For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birthright was Joseph’s.
So while Joseph would endure thirteen years of hardship in Egypt, the spirit of God brings our focus to Judah’s life in this same time period. But before Judah’s leadership was further entrenched among his brothers, he mingled with the uncircumcised of the land and had an intimate relationship with one of their daughters in his time away from his brothers:
Gen 38:2 And Judah saw there [when he was with his friend Hirah] a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah [in Hebrew this means ‘wealth’]; and he took her, and went in unto her.
Spiritually Canaanites symbolize the false shepherds who have uncircumcised hearts, meaning also our own time when we are still filled with pride and the lusts of the flesh although we understand spiritual things and are within the promised land (Gen 24:3; Gen 27:46; Gen 28:1; Deu 7:3; 2Co 6:14-16; 1Jn 2:16). Through this marriage of Judah, he fathered three sons, which also indicates the process through which our own heart is revealed to us and how we will be established as a true shepherd of God:
Gen 38:3 And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er.
Gen 38:4 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name Onan.
Gen 38:5 And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bare him.
The place where Judah lived at this time was called “Chezib”, which means “falsified” relating to living a lie. The names which Judah gave to these three sons are also significant in terms of this falsified state of his thinking at this stage. We all encounter this part of our journey when God works out the old false shepherd in our own hearts to establish the characteristics of the true Shepherd in us. The first characteristic of a true shepherd in the flock of God is revealed through the name which Judah gave to his first son – he called him Er, and it means “to be watchful”. Er married a certain Tamar whom Judah chose for Er as a wife:
Gen 38:6 And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar.
Tamar means “palm-tree” which is also the stature of the bride of Christ as seen on the doorposts, doors and walls in the spiritual house of God, which is His temple and His heavenly city (Son 7:7; 1Ki 6:29-33; Eze 40:16; Eze 41:23-25). Here are a few characteristics of the palm tree and the true shepherds who are watchful:
Psa 92:12 The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Psa 92:13 Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.
Psa 92:14 They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing;
Psa 92:15 To shew that the LORD is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
This stature of the true shepherds is a reflection of God’s righteousness with unfeigned love of the brethren:
1Pe 1:22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.
Not to be watchful and sincere in our love and care for our heavenly Father’s flock is a wicked thing, and what happened to Er is a serious admonition to God’s shepherds:
Gen 38:7 And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him.
God admonishes His true shepherds to always be diligent in taking “heed unto thyself” first of all, but also in their watchfulness in leadership within the flock of God as we are our brother’s keeper (1Co 16:13-14; Eph 4:11-12; Col 4:2; 1Th 5:6; 1Ti 4:16; 2Ti 4:5; 1Pe 4:7; Rev 3:1-3). The sheep need a constant watchful eye because the spiritual wolves are always busy bringing their worldly care, which is just a camouflage to enlarge their own profile (1 Sam 17:34-35; Isa 40:11; John 10:11; Heb 13:17 Rev 7:17):
Act 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
Act 20:29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
Act 20:30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
Er was the firstborn of Judah, and he died without fathering any children, and this also links to our own firstborn, our flesh and its failure to be a true shepherd of God’s spiritual offspring. There is truly little profit in fleshly care as that will not bring us to spiritual glorification (1Co 15:50; 1Ti 4:8):
1Co 1:29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
The second son of Judah was named “Onan”, which means “to be strong or courageous”. This is another important characteristic of a true shepherd, especially seen in the life of David, who is another example of a true shepherd of God (1Sa 17:34-36). Judah gave Onan a special command:
Gen 38:8 And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.
To raise a seed for one’s brother was also codified later in the law of Moses (Deu 25:5-6). This is just another way of saying that life comes through death, which the flesh is also incapable of producing (Joh 6:63; Rom 5:12-21). It is only through Christ, the life-giving spirit, that anyone can be a good shepherd to do the Father’s commandments (Joh 15:16). The true Shepherd is strong indeed and will see to it that the sheep will be cared for and that they will produce and bring forth the fruit of the spirit to the glory of the Father (Gal 5:22-23). But Onan revealed a cowardice and selfish spirit and did not honour his father’s request:
Gen 38:9 And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.
This spirit in Onan also reveals how those fleshly shepherds are “measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves” (2Co 10:12). Flesh is selfish and is always looking for its own glory and whatever benefits it can get hold of as quickly as possible. Self-centeredness runs in every fiber of the first Adam, and no-one is immune to that. This is the spirit that rules in the false shepherds who live from the sheep instead of caring for the sheep:
Eze 34:2 Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?
Eze 34:3 Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock.
Onan was also slain by God as flesh can never please God in terms of the true caring for others (Mat 7:22-23; Rom 8:8):
Gen 38:10 And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.
Another characteristic of a true shepherd is revealed through Judah’s third son, whom he called Shelah, which means “to make a request or petition”. True shepherds always look for green pastures for their sheep. Spiritually this also links to being meek and humble in making petitions on behalf of our brethren in Christ with words of encouragement and deeds of compassion (Psa 23:1-2):
Gal 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
Gal 6:2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
Tamar typifies the church and its elected shepherds who are patient to be rewarded with an offspring (1Co 15:58; Gal 6:9; Jas 5:7-8):
Gen 38:11 Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy father’s house, till Shelah my son be grown: for he said, Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. And Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house.
Judah reneged on his promise to Tamar and his duty to look after the welfare of his daughter-in-law, whom we have seen is a type of the church. Judah was more concerned with the preservation of his own physical offspring which again admonishes God’s true shepherds as to where their compassion and care should be:
Mat 10:37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Mat 10:38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
Mat 10:39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
Judah’s own wife died afterward, and after his time of mourning he and his friend Hirah went to Timnath to his sheepshearers there. Again this theme of shepherding is taken to another dimension through the life of Judah:
Gen 38:12 And in process of time the daughter of Shuah Judah’s wife died; and Judah was comforted, and went up unto his sheepshearers to Timnath [Hebrew: “timnâh” from “mânâh” – to count/an assigned portion], he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.
True shepherds are more interested in feeding the flock to the glory of God and for the benefit of the Father, as typified in many of the Old Testament types like Abel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and David (Gen 4:2; Gen 37:2; 1Sa 17:15; 1Pe 5:1-3). Shearing of our flocks, in its negative application, reveals our desire to benefit personally from God’s works in being preoccupied to give ourselves a reward in this life (Gen 31:19; 1Sa 25:1-4; 2Sa 13:23-24; Isa 53:7). The false shepherds are more attracted to the shearing or fleecing of the sheep – receiving benefits for themselves (Gen 31:19; 1Sa 25:2-3; 2Sa 13:23-24; Eze 34:1-8). This fleecing and covering ourselves with wool is not allowed in the clothes of God’s true priests who serve the inner court of the temple:
Eze 44:17 And it shall come to pass, that when they enter in at the gates of the inner court [of the temple], they shall be clothed with linen garments; and no wool shall come upon them, whiles they minister in the gates of the inner court, and within.
This fleecing of the sheep of God is also connected to the covering provided by a self-righteous heart and the glorification of self and our own fleshly works, as also seen typified in the life of Job:
Job 31:19 If I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering;
Job 31:20 If his loins have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep.
We are admonished to recognize that all things are of God, and to Him we bring honour and glory for His covering of righteousness for us (Rom 11:36):
Deu 15:19 All the firstling males that come of thy herd and of thy flock thou shalt sanctify unto the LORD thy God: thou shalt do no work with the firstling of thy bullock, nor shear the firstling of thy sheep.
Tamar heard about these activities in the life of Judah, and she removed her own clothing of mourning (that is when we stop to die to self), and wanted to get what is rightfully hers as was promised by Judah:
Gen 38:13 And it was told Tamar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Timnath to shear his sheep.
Gen 38:14 And she put her widow’s garments off from her, and covered her with a vail, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife.
Tamar is indeed a type of the church, and here she shows the road we all must travel, even playing our part in the veiled harlot church which we cannot recognize as such when we are in that state of delusion, as seen here through Judah’s inability to recognize Tamar. Tamar in her blinded state sexually seduced her own father-in-law to enable her to be impregnated by his seed.
Gen 38:15 When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face.
Judah in this context also represents the false shepherds in that harlot church who are veiled from the truth:
Gen 38:16 And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.) And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me?
Gen 38:17 And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it?
Judah’s payment for this was a kid from his flock which he pledged with his signet, bracelets and staff which he gave to this veiled woman who was also unknown to him at this stage:
Gen 38:18 And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff [Hebrew: “maṭṭeh” /“maṭṭâh”] that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him.
Gen 38:19 And she arose, and went away, and laid by her vail from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood.
Two of these symbols, the signet and the staff, point to election, strength and rulership in the scriptures (Isa 14:5; Exo 7:12; Num 17:2):
Hag 2:23 KJV In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the LORD, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the LORD of hosts.
Psa 110:2 The LORD shall send the rod [Hebrew: “maṭṭeh”/“maṭṭâh”] of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.
The bracelets connect to divine authority and leadership as the same Hebrew word is also translated as the blue laces which were to be found in the attire of the high priest in the physical temple (Exo 28:28; Exo 28:37; Exo 39:3). Judah’s leadership role among his brothers, typified by these three symbols and seen in the scriptures, was transferred in this sense to Tamar and the offspring that would be conceived through this act (Gen 37:26; Gen 43:8-10; Gen 44:14-34; Gen 46:28). When Judah wanted to fulfill this pledge to this harlot, she was nowhere to be found:
Gen 38:20 And Judah sent the kid by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman’s hand: but he found her not.
Gen 38:21 Then he asked the men of that place, saying, Where is the harlot, that was openly by the way side? And they said, There was no harlot in this place.
Gen 38:22 And he returned to Judah, and said, I cannot find her; and also the men of the place said, that there was no harlot in this place.
Gen 38:23 And Judah said, Let her take it to her, lest we be shamed: behold, I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her.
But afterward the veiled lady was revealed to Judah as Tamar, his own daughter-in-law, to the shame of Judah.
Gen 38:24 And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt.
The false shepherds in Babylon are very zealous, but not according to knowledge because they cannot even see that they are intimately involved in spiritual harlotry (Rom 10:2). The false shepherds want sinners to burn forever in the literal hellfire because they have no love in their hearts. But when we see that we are that harlot church the focus shifts inside. We all are ashamed of our deeds and words spoken in spiritual Babylon when this harlot is revealed to us (Rev 18:1-24):
Gen 38:25 When she was brought forth, she sent to her father in law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child: and she said, Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff.
Gen 38:26 And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more.
But God always uses evil for good, and twins were born to Judah through Tamar:
Gen 38:27 And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb.
Gen 38:28 And it came to pass, when she travailed, that the one put out his hand: and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, This came out first.
Gen 38:29 And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his brother came out: and she said, How hast thou broken forth? this breach be upon thee: therefore his name was called Pharez.
Gen 38:30 And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zarah.
The concept of a twin here all points to Christ, and it shows that Christ is both the first and the last (Rev 1:8; Rev 1:11). Pharez (or Phares) was a forefather of the fleshly Christ whom we meet first (Mat 1:3; Luk 3:33). The name of the twin brother of Pharez was Zarah, and it means “rising” or “east”, even as our spiritual Sun rises in the east “afterward” with spiritual healing for all (Mal 4:2; Rev 22:16).
1Co 15:46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.
1Co 15:47 The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.
Zarah showed his hand first which points to the spiritual Christ which was first with the Father, but appeared to us as the second born (Col 1:15-17; Rev 3:14):
Joh 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Joh 1:2 The same was in the beginning with God.
Detailed studies and emails relating to these foundational themes in Scripture are available on the www.iswasandwillbe.com website, including these topics and links:
Numbers in Scripture
Who Spiritually is Tamar?
Awesome Hands Part 27 – Twins Were in Her Womb
Awesome Hands Part 28 – He Thought Her a Harlot
God’s Four Sore Judgments – Part 3, Famine-A
Colors in Scripture – Red, Part 2
Numbers in Scripture – Three, The Process of Spiritual Completion
Other related posts
- What, Who and Where Is Jesus Christ and His Sheep? (July 12, 2014)
- Foundational Themes in Genesis - Study 94 (May 21, 2015)
- Awesome Hands - part 43: "A burning bush but not consumed" (October 2, 2013)