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10 Things You May Have Missed in the Book of Genesis

  • Lori Hatcher Contributing Writer
  • 2019 21 Jan
10 Things You May Have Missed in the Book of Genesis

If books of the Bible could compete, Genesis would win every Oscar the industry has to offer. Packed with heroes and villains, triumph and tragedy, victory and defeat, the first book of the Bible paints, in literary Technicolor, the history of the world. It contains familiar stories of creation, the fall of mankind, the rise of the patriarchs, and the founding of the nation of Israel. The cast of characters reads like a biblical Who’s Who: Adam, Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. 

But buried among the headliners are less-familiar names, faces, and stories we’d do well to pay attention to, for it is in the obscure details that we often find the greatest treasures. Here are 10 things you may have missed in the book of Genesis.

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  • 1. Genesis covers more time than the rest of the Bible combined.

    1. Genesis covers more time than the rest of the Bible combined.

    The opening curtain lifts on the book of Genesis to reveal the beginning of the world as we know it. The earth was without form and empty. The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. As the narrative begins, we see God creating the heavens and the earth, the sun, moon, stars, animals, and mankind. At the final curtain call, we witness the death of Joseph. Genesis covers nearly 2,300 years of biblical history, the most of any book of the Bible. All the other books, from Exodus through Revelation, cover just over 1,800 years. (Unless, of course, you consider that Revelation also encompasses our forever existence in eternity.)

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  • 2. The Trinity was present at creation.

    2. The Trinity was present at creation.

    Genesis 1:2 describes God the Holy Spirit hovering over the face of the water. The New Testament book of John, in a striking parallel to the first chapter of Genesis, declares, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” John, later in the chapter, identifies “the Word” as Jesus, who “became flesh and dwelt among us.” This places God the Son on the scene as the primary Creator.

    But the clincher that ties all three persons of the Godhead together is Genesis 1:26, which says, “Then God [singular, one God] said, ‘Let Us [plural, three parts of the Godhead] make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” While the original language has no word for Trinity, it’s obvious from this and other passages that the three persons of God appear throughout the history of the Bible.

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  • 3. Two- or four-legged, talking snakes may have been part of the original creation.

    3. Two- or four-legged, talking snakes may have been part of the original creation.

    While this statement is purely speculative, hear me out. Satan came to Eve in the form of a serpent, literally a large snake. After he invited her to question God and eat from the Tree of Knowledge, God cursed it. What did he say to it? “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go” (Genesis 3:14 NKJV).

    If God had originally designed the snake to crawl on its belly, this sentence wouldn’t be much of a punishment or change, would it? But if it had originally walked, possibly on two or four legs like the cattle God likened it to, then this would be a significant change. Not to mention a serious curse. Quadrupeds (four-legged creatures) and even bipeds (two-legged creatures) are typically much swifter than creatures that slither on their bellies.

    To speculate even further, I wonder if animals could talk in the Garden? Otherwise, why didn’t Eve think it was strange when the serpent spoke to her? Instead of screaming and running, she engaged it in conversation without any indication of surprise. 

    In the Holman Old Testament Commentary on Genesis (Holman Reference, 2002), the author proposes, “Perhaps before the alienation that would come with the fall, mankind and animals could communicate.”

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  • 4. Reuben was away when his brother sold Joseph into slavery.

    4. Reuben was away when his brother sold Joseph into slavery.

    Almost everyone knows the story of Joseph’s abduction and enslavement, but most miss some of the specifics of the crime. Although Joseph’s brothers considered their sibling arrogant, impudent, and delusional, Reuben had a soft spot toward the young upstart. When his jealous brothers hatched a plan to kill him and tell their father a wild animal had eaten him, he intervened.

    “Let us not kill him. Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit which is in the wilderness, and do not lay a hand on him” (Genesis 37:21-22 NKJV). Scripture reveals his plan to return to the pit later and rescue him. We can imply from subsequent verses that Reuben was away when a Midianite caravan strolled by, inspiring the brothers to alter their plans once again and sell him into slavery. Genesis 37:29-30 describes how Reuben returned to the pit later and discovered him gone.

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  • 5. Tamar seduced her father-in-law and he didn't even know it.

    5. Tamar seduced her father-in-law and he didn't even know it.

    Smack dab in the middle of the narrative about Joseph sits a disturbing incident more suited to a daytime soap opera than the Bible. But stories like these are some of the strongest evidences for the Bible’s authenticity. Unlike manmade accounts of family history that Photoshop the blemishes, Scripture displays the patriarchs, warts and all.

    Judah, Jacob’s fourth son, unknowingly engaged in a one-night stand with his daughter-in-law, Tamar. Tamar’s first husband had died years earlier, and her second husband (her brother-in-law) refused to father a child to preserve her deceased husband’s line. Despite his promise, Judah refused to allow her to marry his third son, Shelah, leaving Tamar with no hope for children. In Bible days, a childless woman was usually socially-ostracized and destitute. 

    In desperation, Tamar took matters into her own hands. Disguising herself as a prostitute, she positioned herself by the roadside where she knew Judah would travel. She enticed him to lie with her and became pregnant by him. When confronted with the evidence of his deed, Judah acknowledged of Tamar, “She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son.”

    Although Tamar’s methods were appalling, we see evidence of God’s grace toward her. One of only four women listed in the genealogy of Christ, we read her name in Matthew 1:3.

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  • 6. Joseph was a boy wonder.

    6. Joseph was a boy wonder.

    Despite losing his mother at a young age, being bullied by his brothers, thrown into a cistern, sold to traders, carried away from his family, auctioned on a slave block, falsely accused of rape, and unjustly imprisoned, Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph, rose above his difficult past and made quite a name for himself. 

    Genesis 41:46 tells us Joseph was only 30 years old when he rose to power as Pharaoh’s right hand man. As second in command, Joseph’s duties included supervising Pharaoh’s household, administrating the national treasury, and overseeing the citizens of Egypt.

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  • 7. Joseph was tenderhearted.

    7. Joseph was tenderhearted.

    Scripture records that Joseph’s emotions ran deep and wide. And no wonder. He’d experienced a lifetime of tragedy in a few short decades. Instead of becoming bitter and angry over the injustices of his life, however, he remained tenderhearted. While he could have become cold and cynical, he instead allowed himself to experience and display his emotions. In poignant detail, the book of Genesis records seven instances where Joseph wept. Contrary to what you might expect, though, he seldom cried tears of sorrow. 

    In Genesis 42:24, Joseph wept when he encountered his brothers for the first time since they had sold him into slavery. His brothers’ expressions of remorse over what they had done to him so long ago moved him to tears. 

    In Genesis 43:30, Joseph wept from happiness when he saw his brother Benjamin again. And Genesis 45:1-2 records his most dramatic outburst. When Joseph revealed himself to his disbelieving brothers, he wailed so loudly all the Egyptians in the palace heard him. He cried again when he embraced his beloved little brother (Genesis 45:14-15).

    Genesis 46:29 finds Joseph weeping with joy when he reunited with his father, Jacob, after years of separation. Genesis 50:1 records the only instance of Joseph weeping in sorrow. After Jacob had breathed his last, and was “gathered to his people,” Joseph flung himself upon his father’s face, wept over him, and kissed him. 

    Genesis 50:17 captures Joseph’s final outburst. Witnessing his brothers’ lingering guilt and fear over the dastardly way they had treated him, he wept as he comforted them, assuring them, “You meant this for evil, but God used it for good.”

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  • 8. Joseph's little brother, Benjamin, wasn't as young as you think.

    8. Joseph's little brother, Benjamin, wasn't as young as you think.

    Whenever I see artists’ renditions of Joseph’s reunion with his baby brother Benjamin, the paintings always portray Benjamin as a young, slender, smooth-faced lad. Scripture doesn’t tell us how old he was when he traveled with his family to Egypt, but we know he was younger than Joseph, who scholars calculate was 41 years old at the time. 

    In the years since his brother had left home, Benjamin had been a busy young man. He’d married and fathered 10 children! Genesis 46:21 lists them immediately following Joseph’s short list of two descendants. 

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  • 9. Jacob bestowed the double blessing of the firstborn on Joseph's sons, not Reuben.

    9. Jacob bestowed the double blessing of the firstborn on Joseph's sons, not Reuben.

    Although big brother Reuben had a soft heart toward Joseph, he also had a wandering eye. In Genesis 35:22, we read how Reuben had sexual relations with Bilhah, his father’s concubine and the mother of his step brothers, Dan and Naphtali. 

    Although Reuben’s failed and totally inappropriate attempt to usurp his father’s position as family leader had no immediate repercussions, it eventually doomed his family’s future. When the time came for Jacob to bestow his blessings on his sons from his deathbed, Reuben received the full payment for his adulterous actions. Instead of bestowing upon him the rights and blessings of the firstborn son, a double-portion of his inheritance, Jacob gave them instead to Joseph.

    In Genesis 49:3, we read Jacob’s final words to his son: “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might and the beginning of my strength... you shall not excel, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it.”

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  • 10. Jacob (Israel) adopted Joseph's two sons.

    10. Jacob (Israel) adopted Joseph's two sons.

    To make it official that Joseph’s sons were to receive his double portion of the family inheritance, complete with all the rights and privileges granted to them and their posterity, Jacob had to formally adopt Ephraim and Manasseh. Scripture records the conversation between Jacob and Joseph in Genesis 48:5.

    “And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine;” he told Joseph, “as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine. Your offspring whom you beget after them shall be yours.”

    This is why lists of the 12 sons of Jacob (Israel) name Joseph, but lists of the 12 tribes of Israel, substitute Ephraim and Manasseh in Joseph’s place. 

    Lori Hatcher loves to find the obscure buried in the obvious. Her fascination with the overlooked is the driving force behind her current work in progress, tentatively titled, Uncommon Insights for an Unbounded Life, 66 Unusual Devotions from Every Book of the Bible, due out with Discovery House in the spring of 2020. Lori is a blogger, women’s ministry speaker, and author of the Christian Small Publisher’s 2016 Book of the Year, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women. A Toastmasters International contest-winning speaker, Lori’s goal is to help busy women connect with God in the craziness of everyday life. She especially loves small children, soft animals, and chocolate. You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God. . . Starving for Time. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter (@lorihatcher2) or Pinterest (Hungry for God).

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