Backdrop of Joseph - the Structure of Genesis
Updated: Sep 17, 2022
Complex lives have complex backgrounds, and Joseph’s is no exception, so before we start to think about the detail of the Joseph narrative, we need to step back and set it in the context of the rest of the book of Genesis in order to give depth to our understanding. Since the story of Joseph’s life comes at the end of Genesis, that background is considerable. Yet, this background enriches the story considerably since the book is a unity. After all, the author of Genesis anticipates that you read all of the book and not just the last part.
As is the custom in that part of the world, Joseph would have grown up on a diet of stories of the great heroes of Israel’s tribal history. He would have been steeped in the fascinating narratives of his father, Jacob, his grandfather Isaac, and his great-grandfather Abraham. But not only that – he would have been acquainted with their prehistory right back to the beginning. In other words, he would have known a good deal of the plotline of the book of Genesis, so it is there that we must begin, for we need to be reminded of some of what Joseph knew.
Genesis is more than a story; it is foundational. It is the preeminent story giving us a grand framework for our understanding of the universe and life. The author gives us help in understanding how he has arranged the book as he uses a key phrase (“These are the generations of…”) in six key locations to indicate the main sections of the book. The six main sections the phrase indicates are: 1:1-2:4; 2:5-4:26; 5:1-9:29; 10:1-25:11; 25:12-35:29; and 36:1-50:26. Several of the sections have more than one instance of the repeated phrase in order to delineate subsections.
The first part of the book consists of three sections that record the creation of human beings in the image of God. The second part of the book consists of three sections that cover the lives of the patriarchs. The first section in the second part ends with the death of Abraham, the second section with the death of Isaac, and the third section with the deaths of Jacob and Joseph.
Above all, Genesis tells us about the God in whom Joseph believed, the God he learned to trust. Join us as we begin our new series concluding the book of Genesis this Lord’s Day, and as we learn what it means to trust the Lord.
This Sunday we have the joy of participating in covenant baptism. The biblical background is why we baptize little children, for, as Peter declared on the day of Pentecost, the promised gift of the saving Holy Spirit is for our children as well as for us (see Acts 2:39). In faith we trust our Lord’s promise and offer to him the children with which he has blessed us.
For Christ and His Kingdom,
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