“The Scriptures are shallow enough for a babe to come and drink without fear of drowning and deep enough for a theologians to swim in without ever touching the bottom” – St. Jerome
Reading and studying the first book of the Bible, Genesis, has been a rewarding experience. From understanding how and where oaths were taken to patriarchs who lied to save their own skins; a different world opens up as one digs deep into the Word of God.
Beyond cultural and social discovery, patterns are also revealed as we read this cornerstone book of the Bible. Noah portrayed as and pre-figuring a second Adam, for example. Or Abram (later named Abraham) hearing the promise of God, believing the promise, and then credited with righteousness without works according the Law. This pre-figures Christian righteousness.
Toward the end of the book, we read about the son of Jacob named Joseph. He went through quite a lot. His brothers thought he was arrogant, so the sold him to Midianite merchants.
He is then taken to Egypt. He has both ups and downs, but two gifts come to the surface: the gift of God enabling him to interpret dreams, and the gift of administration. Both of these play into a meteoric rise to power as the Pharaoh’s right-hand man. He becomes the ‘governor’, or chief administrator in Egypt.
When famine hits the world, Joseph had already stored enough grain for Egypt for seven years. He did such a good job of reserving a stockpile of grain that the whole world came to him to survive. Eventually, his brothers came to him, too.
As the account goes, they didn’t recognize him. He uses this to get back at them a little. Finally, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. They go back to Canaan and bring their father, Jacob and all the family and livestock into Egypt.
As if this account weren’t lively enough, in Genesis chapter 46, God meets the traveling Jacob on the way to Egypt. He says:
“Here I am,” he replied (Jacob speaking).
3 “I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. 4 I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.”
God is assuring that this is a good move. God won’t abandon Jacob because he is going to Egypt. Instead, He will make Israel a great nation there.
At the time Jacob and his sons go down to Egypt, though, they are not a nation. They are merely a tribe. They are shepherds. It’s hard to see what they will become.
Now this is where it gets interesting. God was “seeding” Egypt with Israel. That is, Egypt was impregnated with the tribe of Israel. A gestation period of four hundred years would follow. Then, the painful labor came. This was through the plagues and exodus of Israel as a nation out of Egypt. But, the separation from “mom” wasn’t complete until they crossed the Red Sea. At that moment of separation, Israel was truly born.
Thus, pregnancy is an important motif alluded to through Israel’s growth and birth out of a foreign nation. And, what an unlikely pregnancy and birth this was! Who could grow a nation within another nation but God?
As you read and study the Scriptures, keep an eye out for motifs that run throughout the Bible. You may find that you are swimming in the deep end. Dive in! And may God bless you as pursue understanding.