GENESIS 37 – 38
Bible Study Notes Rev. Betsy Perkins
The focus of the Genesis story now moves to the next generation, to Jacob’s sons. The pattern of deception, and of deceivers being deceived in turn, continues. In this generation, Joseph will become the one who especially embodies the name of ‘Israel’ as God’s people, as ones who struggle with God and with others and as ones who are blessed to be a blessing to others.
o Why do we experience feelings of jealousy? What affect do those feelings have on us?
Joseph, The Dreamer (37:1-11)
o What do we already know about Joseph’s place in his family? What do we learn about Joseph in verse 2?
o What is the significance of the robe Jacob gives to Joseph?
o How do Jacob’s other sons react? Does Joseph recognize how his brothers are feeling?
o Have these kinds of feeling caused trouble in this family before? Have they caused trouble in families that you know?
o How does Joseph’s family respond to his dreams of his having authority over them? Why did Joseph share his dreams with his family?
o Were Joseph’s dreams from God?
Jealousy and Deception (37:12-36)
o What does the brothers’ jealousy lead them to do? What was the final provocation?
o Why does Reuben (the eldest) try to save Joseph’s life? See Genesis 9:6.
o Why does Judah (Leah’s fourth son) propose a plan to save Joseph’s life?
o What deception do they create with a slaughtered kid and a piece of clothing? Have those items been used in a previous deception that involved Jacob?
o What is Jacob’s response to the deception?
o In what situations are you most likely to feel jealousy? In what ways does it affect your relationship with God? What are steps you can take to deal with jealousy?
Judah and More Deception (38:1-30)
o How does Judah’s emotional response to the death of his sons compare to Jacob’s grief over his son Joseph? What is Judah’s response to the death of his wife?
o The practice of levirate (brother-in-law) marriage eventually becomes part of the Law for the people of Israel. See Deuteronomy 25:5-6. In this way a man’s memory is kept alive, his family is provided for, and his inheritance can be passed along. Why does Tamar’s brother-in-law not want to fulfill this obligation?
o What were Judah’s reasons for sending Tamar back to her father’s house? What would you imagine Tamar was feeling?
o What did Tamar receive from Judah for consenting to have sex with him?
o Cover-ups and double standards are frequently a problem in sexual misconduct. How does Judah’s reaction to Tamar demonstrate this? How do these defenses continue to be evident today?
o When Judah recognizes his seal and staff, what else does he recognize?
o Tamar has twin boys. What other twins does this story remind us of?
o Read Matthew 1:1-3. How does God take the difficulties and waywardness of his people and use them to fulfill His rescue plan for the world?
In light of this passage and our discussion, what one truth about God and about yourself stand out as something to “take to heart” this week?
Are there steps you will take, by God’s grace, to more fully apply it to your life?
Resources: Robert Alter, Genesis, 1996
John Goldingay, Genesis for Everyone, 2010
Max Lucado, Life Lessons with Max Lucado: Book of Genesis, 1997