Introduction to the Patriarchs | (2024)

How was your summer? Was it restful? Did you relax? You say you’ve got to be kidding, my busiest time of year at work, kids at home, company, hot Ok, but did you get your summer projects done? I hear a groan. I almost did. My goal was closets. June I did my clothes closet, skipped July, 3 weeks ago my husband and I, this was really scary, tackled my study closet and the game room. My study took all day, the game room took all weekend. We took everything out, he made shelves and we went to Container store 3 times. By the end everything had a “place”. Need to admit not everything is really organized yet, it just has a place. My photos are in that closet= all are there, but they exist in 3 huge plastic boxes, not organized, but in one place. Next summer= organize them or maybe the Lord will return first? Truthfully, I did get a little “sidetracked” because I started looking at them, reminiscing, remembering special times, people, places. These photos, family albums, are so much more than just pieces of paper, part of my life, witnesses to who I am, where I have come from, that part of the narrative, the story of my life: parents, grandparents, great grandparents, hospital where I was born, siblings, second grade class, college sorority, husband, my children, my grandchildren, my life.

I thought of how the Bible is the photo album of mankind, snapshots of people and events throughout history, epic narrative of us all. From that perspective, I started to get more excited about our study this fall. We are opening up photos from one family, the family of Abraham. If you weren’t part of our study this spring on the Life of Abraham, that is not going to matter, because this is a continuing story that you can jump in at any point, and we’ll do a little review along the way as we look at photos of the Patriarchs and their families.

The burning question we have to ask and answer is “Do these photos that we’re going to look at together, do these life stories, can they say anything really relevant to us today? If they can relate to our lives, if God wants to speak to us thru them, question becomes what will be our response? As we study, will we ask individually the question God what do you have for me, for my life, for right now. You are not the same person you were a year ago, even months ago. The situations of your life are not exactly the same as they were a year ago, and we know they will change tomorrow, life is like that. Today, God what do you have for me today through the study of your Word, promise you if you ask that He will speak to you. Let’s take an overview of what’s ahead for us.


I. Family Tree (people) (slide)

II. Family Life (themes)

III. Family Legacy (faith)

I. Family Tree (people) (family tree slide)

Numerous family members over period of approx 260 years from the birth of Isaac to the death of Joseph. These are the sons of Abraham who was called from Ur in Chaldees (MAP) to move to Canaan, Promised Land. God made a covenant with him (slide) promised basically 3 things: Genesis 12:1-3 Land, Nation, Blessing. Genesis 15:6 Abraham was declared righteous because he believed God. Good news, gospel of the OT/same in NT= our righteousness comes through believing God, what He says. (Hebrews 1:2) in these last days he (God) has spoken to us by His Son. Belief in Jesus, trusting Him that is how we are right with God, not because of any good works, deeds that we’ve done, but “by grace through faith that we are saved, gift to us” (Ephesians 2:8,9).

When Abraham was 100 Isaac, the son of the promise, was born.

1.Our study will start in Genesis 25 when Isaac at 60 years old becomes a father, after dealing with infertility for 20 years, many prayers, God gives him twin sons, Esau and Jacob. Even before they were born they were fighting in the womb, pushing and shoving to the point Rebekah, original very pregnant desperate housewife, prays and asks God “what is going on? did I really ask for this?” God tells her, these boys are never get along, live separate lives and by the way the younger is going to be the boss, he’s younger but he’s the chosen one to inherit the covenant, his older brother will serve him. Prophecy comes true. The way is becomes true is through manipulation, taking advantage, favoritism and deception…sounds like a tv show. Jacob acquires both the birthright of the older son and the blessing of the covenant. Esau is left with very little regarding the inheritance but he is left with a great deal of anger, frustration and bitterness to the point of planning his brother’s murder. That probably would have happened if Rebekah had not stepped in and arranged for Jacob to leave home, go back to her family with the pretext of finding a godly wife. Jacob and Esau at this point are about 75 yrs old. Step back just a few years, when Esau, the older, was 40 he married 2 pagan wives, he married outside the faith, these wives “source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah,” NET= “they caused Isaac, Rebekah great anxiety” Esau will just slowly move off the radar of our main story as we follow Jacob to Paddam Aram, Rebekah’s family, to 20 years of joy and misery with his uncle Laban. (Map)

2. Jacob will travel a couple hundred miles to Paddam Arram, one night along the way, he encounters God through a dream, sees a ladder reaching to heaven, angels. God, Himself made the same covenantal promises to him that He had made to Abraham and Isaac, Jacob believes, God becomes real and personal to him. God has no grandchildren, you can’t inherit your faith from your parents, grandparents. You personally yourself have to encounter and embrace God as your God, to inherit, Jacob had to do this too. It is our Parental responsibility is to live their faith authentically in word and deed before our children, teach them God’s truth, God’s ways, words, that’s how we strive to pass on our faith. But ultimately each child, each person must make their own way with God, receive, trust, believe the gospel themselves. Probably at Bethel that Jacob confirmed his trust and faith in Almighty God.

3. He reaches uncle Labans house and immediately falls in love with Rachel, the younger daughter and is more than willing to work 7 years in order to marry her. But he had no idea how painfully he would learn “what goes around, comes around.” Uncle Laban pulls a fast one and substitutes the older daughter, Leah, that wedding night for Rachel (never quite figured that one out). Wakes up angry, makes new deal works another 7 years for Rachel and finally wants to go home. Not quite so fast, uncle Laban offers him another deal, stay with me, you can build your own business, right here among the family. Amazing in the next 6 years God so blessed Jacob that his portfolio went sky high, business boomed to the point his brothers in laws got really jealous, started false rumors about him. Tense. During the 14 years of his marriages he also has 11 sons and one daughter. He has himself a big family, lots of flocks and God comes again and says, time to go home, time to leave and return to Canaan. While Laban is out of town, in the middle of the night, pack up and everybody leaves and sneaks out of town. Seem to get away with the escape, but Laban catches up and family confrontation, thanks to a God intervention, they part somewhat friendly. That’s just the first family confrontation, Jacob now begins to fear meeting his brother Esau, because even after 20 years he still may be mad enough to kill. Again, right when he needs God’s presence, his assurance, again, in the middle of the night, God comes, this time, Jacob wrestles and clings and receives a significant name change= he is no longer Jacob, he is Israel, God’s man.

4. As Israel he re-enters the promised land, he meets his brother, peacefully. Sets up an altar, this man needs a vacation, buys some land, from Hamor, the father of Shechem settles down for a while. Whether Jacob was too permissive with his children or just wasn’t watching, daughter Dinah visits the city, alone without her brothers or mother or father. She is raped by Shechem, son of Hamor, pretty prominent family. Shechem wants to marry her asks his father to get permission from Jacob. When her brothers found out, enraged, ready to avenge, their plan involved, (surprise), deception and manipulation. Raid the city, kill all the men, they plundered the city taking the women and children as slaves and confiscating all the wealth for themselves. When we read this and we say with Jacob “What have you done, ruined our reputation, this will make all the others around want to attack us?” God again intervenes says “yes, get out of town” go south, back to Bethel, clean up your family, get rid of idols, take control” After leaving Bethel=south, Jacob suffers first great loss, first great broken heart= the love of his life Rachel dies giving birth to his 12th son, baby Benjamin. There are no words in the scripture here to describe his grief, days ahead would be very hard without her.

5. Our story now shifts to focus on Jacob’s son Joseph who everyone knew was his father’s favorite of all the children, he got special treatment, wore special clothes, clothes dad had made just for him. He was favored which had disastrous implications for the rest of the brothers. They hated him. That’s exactly what happens with favoritism; it breeds resentment, comparison, envy and unfair pressure to the one who is favored. It’s really a “no win” situation, provided the basis for great injustices done to Joseph.

Our story picks up when Joseph is 17 yrs old. Do you remember what that was like? Young, immature, full of life, know it all, world circles around you. At this age, Joseph has some dreams, dreams that would guide him and assure him of God’s purposes, God’s plan for his life, dreams that would encourage him in the darkness.

6. He’s sent to check on his brothers, finds them, they capture him, sell him as a slave, ends up in Egypt. Life for Joseph for the next 13, 14 years are a series of trials, start in Potiphar’s house, forgotten in the jail, all these life circ*mstances seemingly spiral downward, we wonder why? Why all this suffering for this good man? It is amazing, that through it all, Joseph never became bitter, he never became hard, instead his character and his faith grew stronger as he clung to God and his trust that God was working all things out for good in and through his life both for himself and for others. He had rock solid faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

7. Finally God uses a famine to bring together one of history’s greatest family reunions. While he’s still in prison, God enabled Joseph to help the baker, the butler and eventually Pharaoh by interpreting their dreams. Seems that Pharaoh had a reoccurring dream that really haunted him, No one surrounding him could recount the dream or its meaning. He became so frustrated that he planned to kill everyone, including the butler who finally remembered Joseph back in prison, how Joseph had the ability to interpret dreams. Joseph is brought to Pharaoh, giving glory to God, he interpreted the dream, 7 years of plenty and 7 years of famine, at 30 yrs old was promoted to head the Department of Agriculture, to oversee the coming national disaster. Part of the perks of the job, was given a wife and they started their family, had 2 sons. Finally things are looking up for Joseph. Meanwhile, back at family ranch, Canaan, the famine spreads, people are starting to feel hungry, no food- but the rumor is that there is food in Egypt. So Jacob sends 10 of his sons to get food, but Benjamin, now favored son, stays home. Can’t you imagine the scene when they are brought before Joseph to ask for grain? Joseph devise a plan to discover what kind of men these brothers are now 20 years later, is his father still alive, what about his younger brother, how do they feel toward him? After two difficult trips to Egypt, Joseph reveals his identity to them, weeping, hugging, and kissing beginning with Benjamin, the brothers are reunited at last. Joseph had every reason to hate these men, to punish them but instead he showed grace and forgiveness. His personal relationship with God strengthened his courage/determination to love and show mercy instead of seeking revenge. Does that describe your life too? Does your faith and trust in God and his help point you in the direction Joseph took?

Turn with me to think about Jacob, back home with the women, waiting, hoping, praying for his sons to return. See him pacing outside when he sees the carts, camels, wagons loaded with food pull up and all the sons run up and start talking at once. Overcome with joy and hope, Jacob packs up everything, everyone, heads to Egypt. Can’t wait until we study that chapter, that reunion of Joseph and Jacob. God intended it all for good.

8. Good place to end, but this story is not over. In the last chapters, Jacob passes the blessing and the birthright on to... you have to come back to hear the rest of the story.

II. Family Life (themes)

If you study the Life of Abraham and then the rest of the Patriarchs, you see some familiar, repeated themes, but these themes are seen through new people, who lived totally unique, individual lives, rooted in time, they each have their own story, just like us. However the themes we’ll see are not so unique, in fact they are common to all of us, common to humanity. This “commonness” is part of what makes their lives applicable and relevant to us. We’ve already looked at a few themes: family conflict, favoritism, suffering, lying, deception, but also woven into this story are snapshots of: love: marital love, parental love, love for God. Along with love we’ll see great family loyalty- see how that develops over time. One of the most moving, beautiful monologues you will ever read is Judah’s plea to Joseph: to exchange his life for his brother because he loves his father, he has learned how important the family is to each other. Also going to see great character development as these men learn to trust God and let him shape them. Perhaps most important of all is the legacy of faith they guarded and have passed down to us. They are truly sons of Abraham. As we think of their family legacy of faith..

Family Legacy (faith)

We’ll see how their faith is in God Almighty, the one true God, maker of heaven and earth. Their legacy to us is based on believing and trusting in His Sovereignty and His faithfulness to keep His promises, His covenant, His prophecies, His true Word. Their lives testify to us that in the midst of living in a sinful, self-centered, morally corrupt, power-hungry world, you can believe God’s Words and you can give your life to following Him. You can be that Covenant Keeper and pass the faith to the next generation.

Ie. Dr Campbell. A couple weeks ago I stopped by Starbucks after second service. If you ever do that you will always see Dr Campbell and his wife drinking coffee and reading the Wall Street Journal because they go to first service, he teaches at second and then Starbucks. So I sat down with them for awhile and we caught up and what’s going on in our lives. He shared with me that he’s teaching Psalm 119, verse by verse, he always wanted to slowly go through it and savor all its richness. I asked him, what had God been teaching him as he studied to teach others. He said something like this “I was reminded again how the Word of God is the tool that the Holy Spirit uses to change me, to change my life”. The teacher of teachers is changed by the Word. That’s my challenge to you and to myself. This fall, will you commit to coming and studying with us, will you commit to let the Word change your life? Will you? Prayer

© The Biblical Studies Foundation ( Winter 2001

Homework questions are available in the student study guide which may be downloaded from the "Related Media" box on the series home page:

Introduction to the Patriarchs | (2024)
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